Uncle Brian

Brian Maan

“I’m going up to the farm. Leonard knows, but I won’t be on the bus,” Uncle Brian told me as we were getting ready to leave the Rawlings Center after GET 10.

“You’re going to the farm now?

“Yeah.”

“Why are you going to the farm now?” He shrugged.

“Are you going to stay at the farm until we get there?”

“Nooo. I’ll be back tonight.”

“Ah, I get it. You’re going to the farm because you’re an adventurer.”

Uncle Brian (Brian Maan) is an adventurer. He’s an explorer. Within a day or so of checking into the Siem Reap Riverside, he had reconnoitered both markets and shopped them both in the early morning and the evening. Within an hour of settling into the Green House in Phnom Penh, he had located the Russian Market. Among the throng of savvy, wisecracking students, he’s the one who knows the way to the restaurant or the NGO headquarters or back to the hotel. Uncle Brian is the first one in the group–composed mainly of fit, young people–to say, “We can walk from here.”

Uncle Brian is an investigator. In a group that contains at least one person who interviews for a living, he is the first one to strike up a conversation with a new person. “Did you see that guy I was talking to?” he’ll ask me. “He works as a tour guide, and he says he couldn’t afford to stay in the hotel here or have a nice meal. He has some bitterness about it …” A lot of times, when I’ve tried to tell Brian about somebody I’ve interviewed, he’ll be nodding his head. He’s gotten there first.

He says the secret to bartering is to state your price and walk away. He offers Dutch licorice or peppermints at just the right moment. He is an insightful critique of life and culture.

When not wandering abroad, Uncle Brian works as a parole officer in a city outside Toronto. Sometimes his work brings him into contact with pedophiles, and he handles that with the same ease he handles negotiations with a tuuk-tuuk driver. “They’re just people, like you and me,” he says.

Uncle Brian went ahead to the farm, and even though it wasn’t likely to happen, he saw a cobra in the road. Of the farm, he told us, “Ït’s rustic.” He’s prepared, if not excited, to sleep in the open air. “Ï’m here for the ride,”he says.

He’s not my Uncle Brian; he’s Leonard’s Uncle Brian, but all of the students call him Uncle Brian too. “Call me Brian,” he said when I met him. “Can’t I call you Uncle Brian?” I asked. “If you must,” he said.

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1 comment so far

  1. Ann DeRooy on

    I can hear Uncle Brian’s voice in these statements. You have assessed him well, Myrna.


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