Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Missing you...

Every night before I go to sleep(at least lately) I like to write in my journal. It helps me get things off of my mind and helps me process the day a bit. I thought there'd be no way for me to have anything to write every day... but man have I!:) It relaxes me and gets me ready for bed.
Last night, I wrote and wrote and wrote about something I had no idea was even bugging me... I thought I'd share some of those thoughts with you.

I didn't get to hear much of the service last night, since I was working, and people were being super chatty in reception, so I couldn't hear anything, butttt... I did her something along the lines of this... Some people were really happy to leave Sierra Leone(I'll call it Salone from now on.. fyi...;)) because they couldn't stand the traffic, the grime, the buildings that are fallign down, the slums and corruption. Then others, people like me, were completely heart broken and didn't want to leave at all... we hardly saw the devastation, but saw the beauty of the people we'd formed incredible bonds with and were so sad to leave them...

For me, at first in Salone, I was in shock- the buildings were abandoned and destroyed in the war, some were still occupied but were not liveable to my standards, it was just sad... Then, one day was we were walking around, someone was talking about how beautiful the buildings were- how amazing they must've been when they were just built by the English who colonized the region... honestly... stunning...

Once I saw this, it was almost like I saw it all with new eyes. I didn't mind the building so much, but I saw the people- their smiles, their warm welcomes, the kids who scream "HELLOOO!!! OPATO!!!!!!" To us as we walked by... I miss it terribly.... I miss all of those friends I left behind who are so dear to me.. the children, my day workers, the patients, everyone...

Being in Ghana is just so... sad in comparison. Ghana is much more developed... 1/2 developed as we deemed it the other day... one second you're in this giant super market selling things for a thousand dollars, but just across the street are slums and the food market- the Africa I know and love...You take the highway(weird) and pass these HUGE sky scrapers and buildings and the mall where people spend more in a minute than most people make in 6 months... It just all seems very wrong to me... I'd rather have the people of sweet Salone, than the wealth in Ghana....

I'm honestly quite happy I'm going home now. I think it's time. It'll be nice to have my little comforts, though surely I'll be thinking twice about everything I do. I'll have to put aside the culture I've learned for the last year and put back on the American culture, at least a little bit, in order to rest up and enjoy my holiday. Ghana is nice... really- it has beautiful hotels and it has great looking hospitals and the infrastructure is a bit more stable... but... it's not where I want to be right now.. I think 6 days is the perfect amount of time- I saw a bit, but then I'm gone... my heart is still in Salone. I'm sure Togo and whatever country is next will steal my heart as well.. but I think Salone will FOREVER be in my heart...

Ghana has beauty in way of wealth... but.. I'd much prefer Salone- the beautiful people and beautifuulll scenery... I truly hope that one day I'll be able to return to Salone... maybe if we wind up in Guinea we'll have a road trip... go back to the land I love...

For now, I'll be going home.... mmm home... sounds great.... the land of constant electricity- no power outages during dinner, however charming those are, garunteed water, food and general safety... all commodities here in Africa... Thank God for the officials in Ghana though... really... they donated our berth, which would be thousands of dollars a day, donated water, garbage removal... its just... wow... but I am looking forward to not having to worry about conservation quite so much. Still something we should all be doing... but not to the extend where you're scared if you dont turn off your water between soaking your hands and soaping them when washing hands, you wont be able to take a shower or do your laundry that week...

Anyway... just a piece of my mind at the moment.... Oh sweet Salone... how I miss thee.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Adventures in Ghana Part 2...

It was beautiful. Lovely even... I loved just sitting and taking it in... didn't get close to the railing though... I was terrified of the heights... I"m not a heights kind of a person. Then we got to walking some more... and some more.... we came up on a market, but decided we wanted more of a craft market than a market market. So we turned around, went right back where we came from.
As you already know from previous posts, I love coconuts... I made this known from the beginning of the trip that I would love one. So, we came up on a stand. The others were like 'no... i'm okay' but my friend turned and looked at me and asked if I wanted one... I paused. They looked an awful lot like super young coconuts, but I decided to sit and watch for a moment to decide. The vendor decided not to let me wait and handed me one. I was super parched by this point. We were in great need of finding some water, and this was perfect for the moment.. I looked at the coconut, and lo and behold- my favorite kind! 1/2 and 1/2 :) They just peel them differently in Ghana:) Honestly, they were a bit stronger and sweeter than the one in Sweet Salone, but I love them all the same:) So, we ended up all having one.
Then we found water. ICE COLD water... man.. I felt like I was in heaven. Drinking water here(as it is in all of West Africa) comes in a bag. You bite off the corner and sip away. I did that for a bit then dumped it into my water bottle. So great.

Then we made our way to the Cultural market. It was pretty fantastic. VERY touristy, which I've gotten tired of a bit, but really cool at the same time. At least a hundred little stalls that go back and back. I had a few people persue me pretty intensely. They all asked my name and where I'm from and tried and tried to get me to come to their shop. After a while, I got tired of saying no and told this one guy- Ishmael- yes. I got suckered into it, but was glad I did.

He took me to his brother's shop, where I bought many of the things I'm planning on selling at my silent auction. Pause there. For those of you who aren't aware- I'm holding a Silent Auction at my church on January 8 at 12:30 until we're done... comment for more information.... resume... Now, I picked out a ton of different necklaces, statues and bracelets I thought people would love. At first he gave me hard prices... like.. way too high. Then I reminded him he promised me a discount for walking all the way to the back of the market where his shop was... and then I asked him for another since I was buying so much from him. He agreed... what I didn't realize is that it was not his shop- it was his brother's...

They wound up in a VERY heated argument over pricing. I knew the price would go up after this, but he kept saying "don't worry... it's not you... I'm just trying to understand my brother"... hah. So.. I waited... then I started running late... and waited more... finally with an increase of about 2 dollars, I was ready to meet my friends, when Ishmael said "Wait- you should come to my shop where you can see my passion- my paintings!!" I couldn't deny him...

After a bit of looking I found things I liked, he gave me a good price quickly, then came my running around with my head cut off... I was looking for my friends... store owners kept saying "Over here Over here!!! they're here!!!" Really- they weren't... and they made me look foolish. Then one man looks at me with a serious face saying... "they left you... they're gone..." I was so upset with him... he placed a seed of doubt in my head, but my friends knew the day I'd been having and I knew they wouldn't just leave me... so.. I kept walking.

Finally I found them. That's when we met 'Colin Powell".... haha... he claimed that was his name... he was INCREDIBLY smart... told us to name a US state and he would tell us the capital... then countries- he knew someone in areas near where all of us live and it was just wild! So great... we told him he needs to be a professor because he's nice and smart and fun... and an amazing salesman.. by the end almosteveryone bought something... I didnt' want anything though.. I'd already gotten all I needed.

Then we headed out. 1/2 of the group still wanted to go see the castle and we all seriously debated for a minute- I was honest and told them I'm not sure how much longer I could keep walking and yet again was almost in tears. My body had been driven to its limit the previous week, and now it was 1000% in overdrive... I knew I wouldn't handle much more... not without an emotional breakdown.

We decided to head back... we got in a tro-tro at the 'station' and once we were full to the max, we left. The ride home was nice.... we went on the toll road and it was very fast and great. People trickled out of the car one by one, then we pulled into a station.... I dont think any of us were prepared to go to the station... we thought they'd take us to the port.... and a new adventure begins...

We got out, after being in traffic for a while, we got to the station. It was now dark... not a great sign, but we were all confident and just kept going. We were in search of the Melcom- basically a 3 story walmart.... not super walmart... just walmart... so we asked for directions... it was going pretty well until we got pretty far down a road and was asked a man where we needed to go... he pointed forward... then we asked someone else where to go after another 5 minutes or so(enough to go a ways down the road), when she says "oh.. back that way.. the way you came from..." haha... seems to be a trend... people thinking it's funny to tell you the wrong details....

Finally we made it, walked around, stood in awe of all of the merchandise, hailed a taxi back. Now, something about Africa.... well.. West Africa... they really love pointing it out when you're bigger... Now... by nature... I'm big... I'm pretty tall for a woman and naturally heavy set due to my German Ancestry.. No matter how hard I try, I will NEVER be 'thin' or fit what those stupid BMI charts say... not a shot... I've accepted this, mostly, but you know.. human fault often enters my mind.... so when a man says to me... "you..the big lady... get in the front of the taxi so the rest can fit..." Not the most confident moment of all.... kinda stinks... but... it is what it is.... great way to end a great day...not.. hah:)

Anyway...we got to the ship, ate some dinner(I'd hardly eaten all day) , I made popcorn, watched a movie and crasheed.....

What a day!!!!! Phew!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Adventures in Ghana Part 1

Until yesterday, I thought I'd made lots of progress in my 'control freak'edness... but man was I wrong.

I had a LONG week... it was COMPLETELY fantastic and wonderful(I got to direct every day for hours and hours), but EXHAUSTINGG... By Saturday morning I just wanted to lay there and not move. However, since I have such a short time in Ghana, I decided to push myself and push forward.

I had a nice and calm day planned- I was going to go to the mall with a family I'm good friends with to celebrate Kylie's 11th birthday... she's pretty much my adopted niece(as is their 8 year old Savannah). We were going to go have lunch at the mall, followed by a movie and come back. All was good, until we got separated...

We all walked to the gate, where there are a ton of taxis waiting. Each family(3 in total) had 2 kids and 2 parents- fit perfectly in a taxi, then there were 5 of us... at this point I almost said 'I'll just go back' and just be sad all day, and part of me wishes I had, and the other part is glad I didn't. We told the taxi to take us to Community 1, where we'd then grab a tro-tro(a small bus) to the mall. The driver tells us to get out and of course tries to charge us almost twice the amount we were willing to pay, but I told him no, we told him where we were going, and that's all... he didn't argue;)

We're told to grab a tro-tro to Accra... I actually knew 0 of these things before we started, which had me on edge, but you know.. I went with it... thought it'd all pan out for me in the end..... We wound up in the car for over an hour and 1/2 when we were told the mall was only about 45 minutes from the port, and on back roads with crazy traffic- not quite as bad as Salone, but close... I wasn't too happy but was looking forward to the fun day at a mall...

The driver was taking a turn in what was very clearly Accra, and suddenly we heard a sound, felt a bump then heard a crazy grounding sound, the tro-tro leaned to 1 side, and I thought I knew what had happened- a flat... that makes sense, right? No. The driver gets out, and everyone files out- they know the drill. We got out and I was in shock.... our tire wasn't flat... it fell off... with the axle attached... and the car made a huge scratch in the pavement... it was impressive.... truly.

We got out and asked someone if they could tell us where the mall is. They laughed at us. My heart just sank. He said we were over 30 minutes past the mall and it'd be a long way to get back to it. Then the people I"m with explain how they were planning on dropping by the mall for a bit, but planned to go to town to see a castle, light house, cultural fair, fort and palace. I'll admit... I was very upset. Not so much angry as just sad and disappointed. I was greatly looking forward to relaxing and just hanging out with some great kids and families I enjoy, but I knew that on this track, I'd have to walk miles and would be miserable...thankfully the day had some redeeming factors. I was worried that I'd disappoint Kylie and her family more than anything... it felt like I'd abandoned Jordan on a promise I had... JUST like that... and I was almost in tears most of the day... it was something I so looked forward to.... but... just like that ... it was impossible.

We talked about the day, and I knew no matter what I ACTUALLY wanted, it wouldn't happen... and I wasn't about to go off alone and get terribly lost in a place I didn't know at all yet. So, we set off. Almost immediately, we found fanice... now... in Benin, I discovered fanice. It's a lot like putting ice cream in a sealed bag and freezing it... To get to the ice cream, you bite the corner off and just sweeze it. I'd compare the flavor to that of a yahoo(for the chocolate version), and they also have vanilla, plain yogurt and strawberry yogurt. I love them. Really... its NICE and cold and wonderful. It cheered me up for a few minutes... kept me from busting into tears like a fool. The closer I get to having my vacation and going home, the more and more emotional I"m finding myself... it freaks me out a little bit....

We got to walking and got there pretty fast. The kids loved us... swarmed us really... they got my attention by hitting me though, which I totally do not dig. We came up on the lighthouse. We took a 'tour of the palace', which honestly was a vacant house that the king of the village lived in and has weird rules that contradicted themselves and was overall very unimpressive... Then the light house...Longs story short, we made a deal to go up for a good price, had some lunch(which a friend provided for me, since I had planned on eating at the mall) and came back down with great caution. The staircase was fine- a little narrow for my huge feet, but the ladder... well... it was very... African.... huge pieces missing, uneven, very easy to lose your footing and fall down to the stairs to a certain death, and then it got uncomfortably narrow at the end... fine for thin african Men.. not so much American women... just sayin...

To be continued...

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Come Sail Away!

I have so many mixed emotions today. I'm exhausted, sad, totally excited, nervous, anxious, and so much more...

We just left our home in Freetown, Sierra Leone and we're headed off to Tema, Ghana, where I"ll be for about 5 days and then fly home. The sail is pretty short and is only about 5 days long.. for me that seems like a long time, but their last sail was about 3 weeks... so can't complain.

As we pulled way from our dock, I was overwhelmed. Friends who leave in a few days were on the dock with another friend who is staying in freetown and working, along with day workers and locals who made their way to the dock to wave us off. I was okay until they all started cheering, and our ship along with the others were blowing their horns.... I suddenly just wanted to BAWL my eyes out- my life for the last 11 months is drastically changing all of a sudden... It's not just me that is leaving... its a whole community- a whole town of people... so bizarre.

I'm sitting here and writing, and the rocking just set in... ooo boy this'll be fun... i'm taking sea sick meds as well as wearing sea bands... so far so good, but on top of recovering from a migraine last night, this might get interesting... So, I"m just going to relax the weekend away.

NExt week starts a new fun adventure. I'm taking on my drama teacher role full time Monday- Friday and I'll be directing the acting for the Christmas Musical- called Chris-myth Busters... it's really sweet. We haven't started- we start on Monday and have until Friday to pull it together... it'll be a lot like my camp I did a few years ago- super high stress and intense, but I think we'll be awesome... I"m super excited!!! Yayy!!!!

Looking forward to what's to come, though it's hard to say goodbye- not just to a few friends, or a few locals, but to alll of my incredible kids and day workers I've worked with from the beginning, and a whole country... it's just... sad. But... we've got people who need our help in other places. I really hope I get to come back to Freetown at some point in my life... maybe the next time the ship is here... maybe when we're in Guinea(if we go there) we can take a road trip.. something...

Please pray for us as we're taking on this crazy journey! It's nuts, but totally incredible.... looking forward especially to the stars and the DOLPHINS!!!! :) Yayy!!!


Ps I totally have Come Sail Away blaring on my computer as I write this... totally fitting and EPIC!!:)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Last trip to town

Today was quite the day.

It started off not so great, actually. I woke up and was not too happy about it...I wanted to sleep more I needed to get up, eat something and meet my friends at 11.... 11 you say? Isn't that late, Michelle.... not really... I went to bed at 2.. so... yeah;) Haha. I didn't sleep well at all. Something was bugging me to my core last night and I had some really crazy dreams... my mind wouldn't stop reeling. Anyway... waking up was sort of welcome relief from the dreams.

I met up with my awesome friend Noel. I honestly just wanted off the ship. My only goal for the day was to have a coconut. I hadn't had a coconut since February, and it's my favorite treat here. Honestly, when I first tried them, I didn't like them a whole lot, but forced myself to drink the milk and eat it because it has a TON of good electrolytes in it, and I needed the electrolytes from being in the hot sun day after day in February. Now it's just a sweet, sweet memory. I got a 1/2 and 1/2, which is right between a young and old coconut. The old is what you think of when you think coconut- brown, hard, and young is green and pretty much all water, but the 1/2 and 1/2 gives you an awesome milk and some soft flesh... so great.... anyway... that was all I wanted.. that and a walk.

We got out and noticed town was a bit busier than normal.... now... when I say this... it means that it's about 100x worse than anything you'd ever see at home. Think Black Friday crowds in the street times probably at least 5... Think about this for a minute... To get 3 miles driving here... just 3 miles, can take up to 2.5 hours... each way... that's how bad traffic can be... walking is always the best option...Now, I said it was worse than normal.... meaning it'd probably take about 2.5 hours at least to get anywhere in that mess... the crowds were obscene. At one point I was like ... "wow... someone could mug me now and no one would ever catch them..." Bad thought, I know... but it was INTENSE.

Finally, we reached the fabric street. Noel wanted fabric, so we went down, she spotted what she wanted almost immediately. The street was nice and calm, which was a sweet break from the previous 40 minutes of mayhem. We strolled along and looked at fabric. I found a few I liked, but they were hiking the prices up. I told them "no white man price- give me good price- I have been here for 11 months- good price. No liar prices." No one was up for bartering today, so I walked away and washed my hands of it.... I've learned never to fall in love with fabric- chances are you'll either pay way too much or it, or not get it at all....

Then we walked up the road a bit toward our next destination. Noel stopped right in front of the coconut place- I'm glad she did- I didn't see any others all morning(strange). We stopped, drank our coconut milk, the man selling them cracked them open for us and scooped the flesh with his machete... probably unsanitary... but oh well.. i've done it a ton of times;) Then we kept walking up the street to our next sweet stop.

Noel loves getting Shwarmas.... now... a little history. In West Africa, there are many influences on culture- normally the French have a large presence. In Sierra Leone, however, it's English, Chinese and Middle Easterners who have left their mark. The English for their colonization of the country, the Chinese for coming to their aide post- war and their construction efforts(they're viewed pretty positively here, but not always), and the Middle Easterners own MANNNY shops .... it's like that all over West Africa... probably a pretty good business. Now the Shwarma shop was owned by a few Middle Easterners(Lebanese is the most common), but run by Sierra Leoneans... I wish I'd been to this place before today... it was awesome.

We waited in line- Noel knew just what to do- she was a frequenter of this spot... I wish it hadn't been my first time- it was incredible. You walk up, say what you want and how much spice(HOT AFRICAN PEPPER) and they make it for you. Man those peppers are so kicking, I wont put it near my mouth- I got mine without pepper at all. They prepared the pita bread, put cabbage, tomato, french fries, sauce, and beef from a spit onto the bread, and wrap it up nice and neat, then put it on a press to get hot, then they wrap it for you to go. Each one costs a little under $2.... awesome. Next door is an ice cream establishment. They have a bench, where customers sit, they take their order, bring it to them, and they eat the ice cream while sitting... at home that'd be normal... here- it's just plain bizarre. So,as we waited for our Shwarma to be done, we had a strawberry swirl ice cream(when I say Ice cream I mean soft serve). :) Delightful. Perfect treat.

We packed our Shwarmas in the classic black bag- all things bought at stores in West Africa are put in black grocery bags- always... unless its a fancy place. Then we began our trek back.

A few stories that I want to share... they're... special:)

So here, if you want to say something like "ohhh!!" you say "ehh bo!" I so I was saying that to someone. Then she looks at me and says, "Why you say "ehh bo!" and then looks at my retainer and decides she needs to touch it and starts questioning me on what it is... I said "It's for my teet(teeth)." and she was still curious, so I walked away before she got a hold of it... then 3 minutes later, someone else asked what it was... oh man.. haha. You'd think they'd never seen a retainer before... oh.. wait... they haven't...;)

Noel and I both wore tye dye today... That's pretty normal for both of us.... but I wear it while out so whoever I"m with can spot me easily... people kept commenting on the fact we matched(really the only similarity was that we wore tye dye- completely different designs) and we had people say they 'liked our style..." :)

On the hike back, A woman came to me and grabbed me and pulled me the opposite way of where I was going rather forcibly... it freaked me out and I noticed she had a police officer pulling her arm, so I pulled the other way and got her off of me, when I was yelled at from another direction and just was I realized what was happening, I was hit in the back by a huge stack of boxes being pulled on a giant cart... I quickly got out of the way and felt bad for responding to that lady so poorly. Often here we think someone is trying to hurt us or get something from us, when really, most of the time, they're just looking out for us- such great people.

We also came across a man who was quite sketchy. He was wearing a helmet and an army-type jacket with a fire engine sewed on the back... he was flirting with my friend and told her she will marry him and that he has diamonds for her. For anyone not knowing what diamonds mean to Sierra Leone... just got watch Blood diamond... enough said... we're not allowed to touch diamonds here.. nor would I really want to... they say they're 'conflict free' yet peoples families are killed all the time due to these diamonds... anyway... back to the story... He said she was going to marry him, and she just kept saying "no!" He touched her and I got angry, then he fell back and started with me. The second he touched me, I smacked his hand away and told him to leave us alone... he did.... more on him later...

We then came across a store selling batik, and I definitely wanted some- it's Salone's trademark... African Tye Dye;) I found 2 fabrics- 4 yards each. I talked these women down and they were much more reasonable than the person before. I got 8 yards for the price the man back on the fabric street was asking for 4 yards... I paid 75,000 leones- I wanted to pay 70,000, but the woman begged me for the other 5,000 so she could eat, and I told her it was to bless her, not because she talked me into it;) In Us Dollars, that'd be about 15 dollars- a real bargain I'd say.

We got walking again, when mr diamond man came back... Noel out of frustration said something like "Oh no! Really!!!" He was coming at her even harder.... once he touched her again, I yelled at him and said "Do not touch her. She no want marry for you" and he walked right away.... A few weeks ago, I was sitting on deck 7 learning phrases from patient's caregivers, and I didn't know this one would ever come in handy, but it sure did today... for me I'd say, "Me no want for marry you".... so I just adapted it... "Me no ready for marry" haha;) Funny... but useful....

Finally, we got to the lovely back way we can take to the ship, which is all gardens and a small little village set up, then back to the ship. I delayed showering because I had a hunch we'd have an emergency drill today, which we sure did only moments after I delayed(good thing I didn't shower.. that cold've been interesting considering I need to be one of the first people to respond to an alarm)... then it was time to say a few goodbyes. I honestly thought saying goodbye to these friends would be fine... one is probably coming back, and honestly I didn't take that one too hard, but the other... I was fineee until I hugged her goodbye... then it was just like ... "oh crap...". She was in my gateway and we have quite a few memories to laugh about. We honestly didn't spend much time together over the past few months for whatever reason, but honestly, it felt really bad. It felt a lot like when I said bye to my family coming here... it felt a lot like a sister who I'd gotten only in February had left and I have no idea if/when I"ll ever see her again... but alas... tis life on the ship...

I came back to my room, let it out for only a minute, then I started getting our room ready for the sail. I've learned over the past few days that cleaning is really my way to cope with stress of any kind.... Often I'll be in some kind of a sad/bad mood and then I'll be like ... "oh look... i need to do this or clean this or wash this..." and I have at it... other times, I let clutter build up all around me and I"m fine... but then when I"m in a mood... things get donne!!

Our ship leans and rocks and sways sometimes up to a 45 degree angle, so... pretty much anything that will lean and fall off a shelf needs to be secured... therefore, I ran around the cabin doing just that.... then my can of oatmeal busted, so I had to vacuum, then I decided to clean the bathroom, then I finished up my room, put laundry away from last night, then I gave myself a break... I made some popcorn(I'm getting realllly good at it!!), made hot coco because the cafe was closed(I was aiming for a chocolate mint frap), then layed in bed, cut up pictures for the kids I'm saying bye to tomorrow, and watched most of Polar Express.. and here I am:)

It's really surreal that this was my last trip into Freetown... I'll be going out to say goodbye to my kiddos tomorrow, but it was my last time going DOWNTOWN... bizarre really... it doesn't feel real. It feels even LESS real that in 14 days, I will be home.... HOMMEEEEE.... the sail still feels like it's weeks away, and home feels worlds away... but... guess what... IT'S HAPPENING!!! I'm feeling so blessed right now- great week, excitement building, and I get to go home for Christmas this year... I had no idea I'd get to do that when I left.... I probably won't be home next Christmas... but ... gotta have at least 1 in Africa, right? ;)

I'm off to go watch the rest of said movie then see about bed.... I"m on swimmer's watch tomorrow from midnight to 2 am, then looks like I'll be working nights on Friday, unless we sail... which would be a hugeee blessing... truly... but we'll see what tomorrow brings:)

Nice job if you got through this one... ;) Thanks to my faithful readers.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

My Heart, My mind

I've been feeling like posting this lately, so I felt like now is the time.

Some of you who follow me might be like 'wow... she's really... emotional...' or 'wow.. she really puts herself out there'... 'Wow.. she is really honest all of the time', or "Wow.. she hates everything".

Really, where this comes from is years of pretending I'm constantly the happiest person in the world and I"m always doing 'great' or 'fine', when really I'm just not. I've gotten into being more honest about how I"m feeling. I'm still learning a bit about when I need to keep my mouth shut and when it's okay to express how I'm feeling. But, I'd rather be honest and real than be a fake Susie Cream Cheese(haah I like that saying... its funny).

I dont do this for attention. Mostly. Sometimes I do, but those are the times I regret it. It's a bit interesting, I have to say, when I've posted on facebook that I feel like I'm going crazy or having a terrible time or losing it, and someone comes up to me and says, "How are you?" and I say "I'm good" and they go "are you really? ... I saw your facebook... and it says you're not fine." Or my favorite- my boss saw a post where I compared myself to a hurricane and I warned all in my path to clear out, and he comes into my workplace and says "Oh- it's hurricane Michelle- beware!!" I had to then explain myself to my coworkers... But honestly- it's a good way for people to catch my bluff, which forces me to be honest not only online but in person;) I'm working on that one.

Honestly- most people who ask 'how are you' dont really want to know... The Brits have a thing they say when greeting someone- "Are you okay?"- They say it allll the time. They have told me up front that they do not like it when someone actually starts talking about their day. It's like here in Sierra Leone- they ask "How da bodi?" And the only way to respond is "da bodi fine" Nothing else. So, because of these customs, I have a REALLY hard time answering honestly in person- because 9/10 times no one really cares or wants to know. I do really appreciate it though when someone says, "No... really... How are you doing?? " :)

I know my facebook posts have been at best grim. Honestly- I'm having the time of my life. My downs do get noticed a little more than my highs only because they're so hard to handle here. When you're home, it's hard enough to keep your mood in check or cheer yourself up- but normally you just cuddle up to a movie on your huge couch, or have some ice cream, or grab a coffee from Starbucks(the real one), hang out with your closest friend, or take a nice hot bath. But.. here.. you dont have those options. You're either around people... or you're around people... or even better... you're around people...

I'm a HUGEE extrovert, however, after a while, I really just need to be alone. Despite my extroverted verbal processing tendencies- sometimes... I need QUIET...ALONE...JUST ME.... Here there's not a CHANCE of that. SOMETIMES the library is empty if you're lucky, but normally there's people in and out. There's nowhere to go to just let it all out, cry, scream, pray out loud, sing, etc. All things I'm sure most of you are embarrassed to admit you do, but I"m sure most of you do. Andd I'm sure since you're embarrassed to admit it, you'd never do it in front of someone intentionally... or even accidentally its a HUGE 'oh my gosh that was just plain wrong' moment... I sometimes forget where I am and start singing and go "oh man... crap... ' ahha: )

I truly am happy. I'm in a huge growing stage and I'm getting pushed and pulled in all directions. Growing is hard. Growing pains come, but in the end, it's all worth it. I know the reward will be great, but it's just getting to that point that feels impossible at times. I really am happy, I know God has put me here for this time, and I'm certain this is where I belong. No feelings of uncertainty on that level at all. I am VERY ready for a break-for the comforts of home- the people I love, the things I love, and the culture I miss so much- but I'm pretty certain by the time January 22 comes along, I'll be boarding that plane with a few tears, but mostly totally stoked to get back to my African home. Ready to start a new field service, in a new country, with new patients, new memories to be made, and new friends to be had.

Anyway.. I'll end my tangent with this. I'd rather be real than fake. Recently I watched the movie "Eat, Pray, Love". While I don't agree with all the movie talks about- I have to admit I really loved most of it. I especially love it when she learns the lesson of just doing it and getting over it. For example, if you want to cry, cry. If you're angry, BE ANGRY. If you are having a hard time, have a hard time, but do it then move on... don't dwell in it. Let the moment be what it is, then MOVE ON. Yet another life lesson I'm learning about...We can't dwell in negative emotion, we need to let it happen- because without those moments, happiness would mean nothing at all, but then we need to just move on and be happy.

This field service has been amazing. A great adventure. The biggest rollercoaster ride I've ever been on. So much has happened-tears, sweat, blood, laughing fits, friends, patients, life lessons, stories, experiences, tragedies, triumphs, uncertainties, live have been changed, people have been given a second chance. It's hard to see it all come to an end, but with an end comes a beginning. For me the start of that is going home. It will be a JOYFUL time for me- I know it(As long as I can keep my negative emotions in check;) ) Then back to Africa I go- to Togo- to begin once again.

Here's to Sierra Leone- where I'll leave a piece of my heart forever, the most beautiful place I've ever seen(really- its GORGEOUS!), the most friendly people, the best smiles, and the place it all began for me.
Here's to what's to come. May it be full and rich. May God draw me closer and closer as the days go by. May He captivate my heart more than ever before. And may we make a difference- not for our sake, but in the name of Jesus, who has taken all of us and changed us- taken me from a pitiful hopeless mess into someone full of hope and victory. May we all learn and change and follow his likeness more and more each and every day.

No worries- there'll be more to come from me soon I"m sure, but all of this was on my heart today, and I wanted to share it.

I dont know who all of my readers are. Sometimes I wish I knew who all was out there reading this blog- who has simply stumbled upon it, who reads faithfully, who checks in now and then- who is supporting me. Thank you all for your support. You have no idea how much it means to have people backing me up, when I have friends here with nobody in their lives who supports them being here.

All my love,
Michelle Joy;)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Random Ramblings of a Night Shift Worker

I've been meaning to post, really I have. I honestly dont know if what I'm writing will make much sense to me later on today when I awake from the slumber which I'm hoping will be sweet, unlike the restless mayhem I was in last night.

The past few days have been a whirlwind filled with unexpected surprises. Yesterday at Cheshire, we got out of the cars and realized something wasn't quite right. My nose was burning but I thought it was just my nose being weird. Then the girls I was with were saying their noses were seriously hurting them. That's when I realized mine was more than just dry- rather it was burning... completly burning and in a lot of pain, when my eyes started burning. We went to greet the other car in hopes whatever was aggravating us would be better in a spot further from where we entered. It was worse. All of us were in a lot of pain and just plain confused. We started asking what was going on when one of the Aunties said 'tear gas'. I was in a bit of a panic once I heard this- trying to figure out what we needed to do to escape the gas, when a 7 year old- one of my favorite sweeties from Cheshire runs up to me with his nose under his shirt and buries his head into my belly- I welcome this to offer him some refuge from the pain. Soon, we go insde and I flurry around trying to close the windows. Thank God it diffused quickly. It turns out there was a misunderstanding at the football match at a stadium very close to the home, and tear gas was used. Funny how you never really think about how those things affect the people around.

The goodbyes have started... I said bye to my patients- only to find out that many of them are actually still on board- I'm hoping to get down to say a real goodbye, but my sweet 4 month old Ali is gone... no more cuddle time with my sweet boy. I'll have a whole different kind of cuddle time on December 22nd though- when I see Jordan again for the first time in about a year... CRAZY how time flys but crawls at the same time.

My day worker's last day of work is today and we will say our goodbyes tomorrow. Tears are certain. If not in public, in private- especially after only 4 hours of sleep.

Night shift has consisted of water colors and small projects all week... not sure what tomorrow will be... maybe making ornaments... that could be good.

My mom sent the world's best package to me yesterday and it was the surprise I truly needed to lift my spirits... so blessed to have such a great mom who sends coffee when I asked for meds;)

That is all for now... more later...

<3 M

Monday, November 14, 2011

Alberta- my favorite one yet.

The following story was written by a fabulous ships writer- not me, but Alberta is easily one of the most wonderful patients I've ever met in my life. Super smiley, so fun-loving, always laughing and always finding something to sing about;) I loved Mariah as well... I miss them TERRIBLY, but am so happy they finally got to go home:)

Alberta Johnson

“Alberta loves dancing and singing gospel songs,” said Mariah of her five-year-old granddaughter. “She helps me shop, and when I do the dishes, she rinses them. She always wants to help.”

Since Alberta was eighteen months old, Mariah has raised her, allowing the child’s young mother to finish her education. Three years ago, Mariah was cooking over an open fire in front of her Liberian home when Alberta awoke from her nap. Still groggy from sleep, the little girl walked too close to the fire, falling near the cooking oil. It splashed over her left arm and leg, up her back and over the back of her head. The fire quickly followed. The little girl’s left arm was terribly burned, immobilizing its position at her side. Her leg, back and the back of her head were also severely burned and scarred.

For the next two years, Mariah searched in vain for someone who could surgically release Alberta’s arm so she could raise it above her head. The frozen arm caused much embarrassment for Alberta at her day care, where the children constantly taunted her and called her names.
Mariah is a member of the Eden Church in Liberia, where she coaches football (soccer) for a group called LACES. This group organizes teams for boys and girls, ages 10 and 11, teaching them about Christ through sports. The team members collected enough funds to send Alberta and Mariah to the Africa Mercy, a hospital ship where the volunteer plastic surgery team released Alberta’s burned arm.

Because burned skin and nerves were cut during the surgery, Alberta spent several weeks in recovery. An infection added more weeks of recovery time. But her bubbly personality helped her to make many friends among the crew, including the physiotherapy team that coached her through new exercises and the medical team that gave her post-operative care. Much of that care was painful, but most of the time she remained very brave, generously sharing her brilliant smile and even singing while the nurses applied new dressings. Such behavior is very rare among West African children.

“Sometimes she would fall asleep while I was changing her dressing,” said Nurse Becca Noland. “I love that girl. She’s amazing!”

“I am HAPPY!” said the five-year-old as she approached the end of her stay. “I can play and go to school!”

“She’s going to remember this. I will remind her repeatedly of everything she has seen here,” said Mariah. “It’s a miracle of God that she can have this surgery.”

Story by Elaine B. WinnEdited by Nancy PredainaPhotos by Debra Bell and David PetersonVideo by Beau Chevassus

Saturday, October 29, 2011


I got a few responses to my ‘your turn’ post that I wanted to be sure I addressed. For those of you with more questions- please send them my way- I’d love to answer them.

One of the questions was: How does Mercy Ships partner with local physicians, especially local health systems, to do follow-up care and health promotion/prevention?

Great question. Mercy ships send an advance team in before we go in to a new country. Most of the time, we’ve been to the country before, so the advance team checks out our previous contacts and verifies that all of our information is accurate. We assess what surgeries already have specialists in the field and how trained up they are.

For example, here in Sierra Leone, in the past we partnered with a local business that formed a women’s clinic in Aberdeen, which specializes in Vesciovaginal Fistula surgeries. Currently, the clinic is fully operational on its own- without our help, and we don’t perform these VVF surgeries in Sierra Leone because their own country can provide those surgeries to them. Now, if we find a surgeon who needs more training, often we’ll bring them to the ship and help train them up so that thy can perform these surgeries after we leave.

We try to focus on surgeries that cannot be offered in country so that we do not take away from the development that has already happened. We also do not do ‘medical’ cases, meaning we don’t do long term cases. We focus on surgical cases. For example, we cannot operate on malignant tumors because they need follow-up chemo, but we do treat benign tumors.

We also work hand in hand with a few local hospitals to help them learn how to provide follow-up for our patients. For example, we do a ponsetti training program to help treat orthopedic patients, which will be something the hospitals and programs can continue when we leave. We’ve also been aiding in treatment of Burkett’s patients in the local children’s hospital, which is also a skill that can be carried on.

As for prevention and health promotion, we don’t do as much of that- especially on the training front, but we do help host local conventions- such as an anesthesiologist convention. We also provide training for prevention and health promotion in our dental clinic, eye clinic and in our outpatient center for all patients who come through.

We also have our food for life program, which is our agricultural program. Through this program, we trained 16 locals in agriculture, who then took the knowledge to their villages and trained up local villagers. In this program, they learned lots about different fruits and veggies that promote different aspects of health and why, so they can pass the knowledge to local villages. I love that programJ I’m hoping I answered that question in the way you wrote it;)

Someone else requested more patient stories- I have TONS of those, so I’ll be sure to post more of them from time to time;) I’m frequently down on the ward visiting, so I’ve made friends with tons of different people- especially plastics patients(patients who have suffered burn contractures). More on that laterJ

As for me, I’ll be with the ship until somewhere between February and June 2013. We’ll see what happens. It’s possible I’ll be back- especially if we end up with an Asia Mercy, which is in the beginning stages- I’d love to see more of the world and serve, but we’ll seeJ I committed to 2 years, which is up February 27, 2013- I think I’d like to be home for Easter that year, but again- we’ll seeJ

Thursday, October 27, 2011

John Obey

Last weekend was quite possibly one of the most magical and glorious weekends of my life. Certainly in Africa.

A few weeks ago, I asked a friend who often goes on fun adventures off ship if she could let me know the next time she goes. It happened to be that they were going away for a friend's goodbye weekend, I happened to know the friend, and she invited me along. I was besides myself excited to say the least. A little part of me was certain something was going to get in my way of going on this trip- my first night off-ship since my gateway field service and my first FUN night sleeping away. Things sure did TRY to get in my way- I was schedule to work that whole weekend, I got cover, my cover bailed on me to cover for someone else, then an AMAZING high-schooler who is trained on my job volunteered to take the shift for me, then my roommate agreed to cover my other shift. THANK GOD FOR AMAZING PEOPLE.

Finally the morning of our departure arrived. I was snoozing away, excited to get to sleep in a tad, eat breakfast, pack a few sandwiches for the trip and be off. However, it went NOTHING like that. Instead, it went something like this.... I was sleeping when suddenly an EARSPLITTING alarm starts going off. This alarm was really, really, really long- much longer than normal. It took me a minute to figure out what was going on- I had my earplugs in, but I could still hear this sound... within maybe 3 seconds, I hit my light, pulled off my pajamas, threw on jeans and a sweater. Then I realized my roommate was in bed(duh) and I just changed in front of her... I got over it quickly as she asked “What is that sound?” and I was BOLTING around getting my glasses on, hair up, then she asked “Are you okay?” I said, “I HAVE TO GO...!” She was still in a daze and very confused. Later she figured it out.

Let me give you a little bit of a history. Now, on the Africa Mercy(AFM) we have 2 alarms. I get to explain this to all new crew, so I'll explain it here for you briefly. The first alarm is the Emergency Team Muster alarm, which is a beep that lasts NO LESS than 7 seconds... this one lasted at least 30. This alarm means all emergency teams need to get to their station as QUICKLY as possible. I am on an emergency team. All receptionists are on the “Muster Control” team. Now a “muster station” is where everyone gathers to be accounted for, so we are in charge of taking the names of crew who were missing from those muster stations and finding where those people are. It's extremely stressful, but we're pretty good at doing it quickly by this point. The reason I had to BOLT was because of all of this. The second alarm is the crew alert alarm which is 7 short beeps followed by a long one. This means that all crew not on an emergency team head down to the dock to muster, where your name is called out and you are hopefully accounted for.

This was not at all how I hoped to spend my first moments of my day. The trouble was, since the alarm was going off at 7am, I KNEW it was NOT a drill. They don't torture us in this way on the ship- it's mainly out of respect to the families with small children that they don't do that on a Saturday, but also to the dining room staff who need to get our breakfast set for us(which also includes sandwich items so we can all make a pack lunch for the day). I was on full alert. We all got to reception and just stood there as the captain looked at the fire panel for what was going on. As it turns out, someone put a piece of bread in one of our sandwich presses and left it there, causing it to burn and ALMOST start a fire, a detector picked it up and bam- we had an alarm waking everyone up. Because of this they found faults in the system, but thankfully after a few minutes, I was released to go to breakfast and then I went back to bed.. or tried to... no success.

I lugged my hiking backpack upstairs full of the things I'd packed the night before- ready to go- when I realized I might've overpacked. In the end, it turned out that I actually used almost everything I packed, but I did go drop a few things off in my room so I didn't have TOO much.

We walked out to the main road, where an amazing day worker who came with us, Harry, negotiated a great price for a Poda Poda- or a public transport mini-bus (80,000SLL to get there- meaning 6,000 a person which brought us to around $1.50 a person to go over 50 miles away), and we were off. I sat in the front due to my unfortunate curse of carsickness and we trucked on down to John Obey.

Now, a little history. John Obey is a village where a group of Europeans came in and set up an Eco-Tourism site. They trained the villagers in building using earth bags(rice bags packed with cement and dirt, stacked in a certain way, then covered in plaster, which builds an INCREDIBLE structure- so great!), using human waste as fertilizer(gross but cool), and delegating daily tasks to people of the village to ultimately make a great resort for people visiting Sierra Leone. I have to say, they were VERY successful in winning me over. All in all, my dinner, breakfast, and tent cost about $20 total with a few drinks included in that as well... WHHHAT ON EARRTHH?!?!?!?!

We settled in, got sunscreen on(though I still managed to be burnt to a CRISP at the end of the trip) and got on in the water. Now, for those of you who know me really well, you know that the ocean and I have a hard time with eachother. One day many years ago the ocean decided it wanted to eat me, and took me away in a rip current. With lots of help I survived, but it was pretty terrible and I was told by the guards I should've had a very bad injury, if not be dead. Alas, I had not a scratch on me. Still, after that, it took me about 8 years to get myself back into the water- which was this last March- but I'm still VERY wary of the ocean. Fortunately the water at John Obey was INCREDIBLY calm and friendly for me. At times, the pull scared me a bit, but I was fine:)

We layed on the beach all day long, watch the most AMAZING sunset I've ever seen in my entire life, then had an awesome chop barbecue dinner. Now, here Chop means to eat... so you say “Chop Chop” if you're hungry and want to eat.. Eat we suree did... we had a salad(which I was nervous about but didn't make us sick) with cabbage, cucumber, tomato and other things that weren't covered in bleach water, couscous cooked in some yummyness, Grilled fish- we're not sure what kind but it was AMAZING, onion sauce to put on it all, fried plantains and french fried 'sweet potato' which is really 'yam'-not sure what it's be called back home... I don't think they exist in the US, which isn't the same as sweet potato fries at home, but pretty dang good. Such a fantastic dinner. My friends brought a little wine and we just enjoyed eachother's company and great food.

As the sun went down, the creepy-crawlies made their appearance. At dinner, a crazy looking bug came up to me- I'm still not sure what it was... I thought it was a spider at first, but then realized it had antennae, and definitely not 8 legs... scared the wits out of a few of us. A few minutes later, I was going to sit on a hammock near our campfire, when I heard something moving. I used my flashlight to see what it was. It was huge and had many legs- I SCREAMED and RAN AWAY. Quickly Harry came to my rescue... come on... he's from SL- he's not scared of any of that.... he takes my flashlight and looks- it was a CRAB. Now, someone had warned us about the crabs coming up during the night, but I didn't really believe them.... HUGE thing... I was so scared I almost cried because I thought the thing was a huge tarantula, but really it was a crab. I had lots of these moments throughout the night.

After a few of the people in my group decided to go see the cool glowing fish in the water and we all watched(saw nothing though) I climbed into my little tent and TRIED to sleep. Probably one of the worst nights of sleep since I got here- the ocean was sooo loud and I was paranoid and uncomfortable, but alas- it was glorious- I didn't mind at all losing sleep over this amazing trip.

We got up in the morning, had a yummy breakfast, swam, read, spent time in the hammock, snacked away(I didn't pack a lunch- oops!) and got ready to go.

Here's where the REAL adventure began. We asked our poda poda driver to be there around 2pm so we could get back in time for dinner. I was looking forward to vegging out with my computer watching House for while before dinner and after a great shower(well as great as a 2 minute shower can be). Soon, I realized, I'd be lucky if I got back at all. Our driver never showed- we called and he was still in town. We called other people and they were all in town- over 2 hours away. In retrospect this might've been a better idea than turning it down. When all was said and done, I took a little nap in the hammock, then got up to realize we were about to go on a little hike. It was mayyybe 2 miles, with a couple of hills that I wasn't too too pleased with, but alas- we had to do it. I was burnt and could feel it as my heavy backpack pressed into it, just praying we'd get some help and get home before dinnertime was over.

In the village we waited in, we were greeted by many super sweet kids. They LOVED getting their pictures taken and seeing them. They would just laugh and LAUGHH when they saw themselves on the camera. They also got some special treats. We were all hungry by this point, so whatever we shared, they got some too. They LOVED showing off by running down the hill and completely wiping out at the bottom and piling on top of each other in the process(see below). Great entertainment in my opinion:)

We waited... and waited... and waited... Eventually, a Mercy Ships vehicle passed us..... and kept going. I think they realized we were in distress though and they turned back around to talk to us. They were PACKED OUT- so none of us could fit in. They did however say they could save dinner for us. There is a new rule where you can't call the dining room if you're going to be late to save you dinner- it's there for many good reasons. Though in times like these, it was hard to accept- it wasn't our fault we were late- we gave ourselves 4.5 hours to get back for dinner which SHOULD'VE been plenty of time.... but it wasn't. We were so thankful that the group could save us dinner-otherwise we would've been not only tired, burnt, and miserable, but starving.

Time passed by and we decided to make a new game plan- we'd take whatever option we could when it came to us and fly with it. A group of us piled into a taxi, and met the other at Tomba(a popular stop for transport). Harry went to get us a Poda, but while Harry did that, we found a taxi that could fit 7. We had 11. Note the problem? 11 people plus bags- large ones at that. We piled our bags in the back to the best of our ability- thankfully my big bag fit back there. The big bags and guitar fit in the back, the small bags were held. There were 4 of us per row that would've been tight with 3 of us and it was uncomfortable to say the least. The driver decided he'd take a back road once we got a bit of the way into the journey. I think it was to avoid getting a ticket from the police who were bound to be nearby. This was a TERRIBLE idea. The car was so heavy that the bottom of the car just scraped along and I truly thought we were going to be stranded up in this village area... Thankfully we got back around 7pm- after 5 hours from the beginning of that journey. I took a nice shower- I was SOOOO burnt so I put some aloe one and wandered up to eat some dinner. Just a sandwich but it was a good one.

One of the awesome teens on the ship ran up to me asking if I could help with the cafe that evening- its just too much for one person to take on. I agreed. Later I wondered why. It was great fun, but I was wiped out. I got in my bed just in time to fall asleep around 10 and be up around 6 for work in the morning. Cafe was indeed fun though and I discovered a new drink that tastes just like rice pudding... a vanilla and cinnamon steamer! Yummy!! New fave.

It was quite an adventure but totally incredible and wonderful. The weekend was full of alone time, or at least semi-alone time, where I was able to just pray and talk to God a bit. I finally had the TIME to chat with Jesus, which I totally lack on the ship. I try to fill every moment with something on the ship- if not with work or another activity or event it's reading, movies, etc. It made me realize that sometimes I just need to find somewhere alone... or sort of alone... and just sit. It did help over the weekend that I had great things to look at while I prayed that kept me plenty entertained- watching the sunset over the ocean which made the water look like gold, looking at the stars, watching the campfire. I just need to find my thing on the ship.

I wouldn't trade the weekend for anything. Beautiful.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Your Turnn!!

So- I KNOW a bunch of people look at my blog.... I'm once again at the point where I want to know what YOU want to read about. Do you want to know things about my life on the ship? Africa?

Some of you might be reading but have never met me- do you want my story(I've been thinking of doing that but want to know if people are interested), do you want to know what I want to do with my life/what I aspire to do? Do you want to know about interests of mine?

These things could have all or nothing to do about where I am right now... I just want to write something that you want to see....

now, please...don't let me down this time. Normally, when I post this on fbook or something, I get 0 responses... IF YOU ARE READING THIS... please post a question on my comments;) Please????

K. Thanks...

Ps- 9.5 weeks until I touch down on US soil for my month vacation!! Yehaw!!:)

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Dilemma

Sorry for the inconsistent writing over the last week or 2... I've had a bit of writer's block but think I've found something that might interest you... at least a little bit.

Something I've found to be a huge point of conflict on the ship is the turnover rate.

Let me explain what I mean..

We are a volunteer ship. Most sane people don't commit to more than a few weeks, or at most a few months to the ship because they have lives back home, kids, jobs, houses, cars, etc that they need to get home to. They're brave because while they're paying lots of money to be here, they also have to pay their rent and bills. I have immense respect for short termers because they've put their lives on hold for however long they're here. Some treat it as vacation, but most are here to serve and serve hard for their short stay. I have TONS of respect for the short termers who still have all of those things at home and pay rent and bills on them, but come for 6 or more months while doing all of that at home. That's amazing.

The insane bunch of us have sold all we have and given up everything- our jobs, families, houses, cars, lives- to be here. Mind you, I didn't have a job other than babysitting, my dad is taking care of my car, and true I do have very few possessions, but my parents still have a house I can go back to. I haven't given it ALL, but sometimes it sure feels that way.

Because of these things, most people come for as short as 1 week to the ship. With this comes a HUUGEE turnover. By turnover, I mean that people come and go so frequently that no department is ever really stable. Every part of the ship is always losing someone who was trained and gaining an untrained crew member. This can be insanely frustrating for the heads of departments as well as crew, BUT it's got its benefits. It truly is great meeting so many people and being involved in their adventure here. You meet so many kinds of people from all kinds of cultures- super cool.

With the huge turnover, means huge amounts of goodbyes. In the beginning, I didn't have many goodbyes, but the families I worked with in 2009 started going and that's when it was getting tough. These people I saw as a permanent fixture on the ship were suddenly gone and it felt like the whole ship changed. This has happened a few times for me before I started to turn off my emotions and not let myself get too close to people who were leaving soon.

And HERE lies the problem. I remember when I came the first time, most of the long termers flat out said "I won't be friends with short termers because they'll be gone soon- what's the point." Now, that's a TERRIBLE attitude to have. Yet, I've found myself thinking the same exact things. Why? Selfishly we all want to be COMFORTABLE and have our little groups we belong to, but that is NOT why we're here. We didn't come to Africa to feel safe and comfortable... we came to help the people and serve effectively- right? Yes- it stinks to constantly be in a state of goodbyes and it causes lots of heartache, but we can't just be hermits either.

I've gotten to the point where I've stopped saying by to people that I 'sort of' know' and only say bye to those I really know well. I've grown to realize that the short termers are actually a huge blessing to the long termers. They bring a new energy and vibe that we feed off of lots of times. Also, no one said that because they're here for a short time, we can't learn things from them. Some of my short term friends have taught me more than I thought possible and have taught me more in their few weeks with us than some of the people I've been with for 8 and 10 months!

It's so important for us to remember that we're not the only people on this ship- short termers come and go, sure- but they are just as effected by this place as we are. What I mean is that the interactions we have with them and they have with us go a long way. They're not just a part of our trip- we're a part of theirs. I know I will most likely not see any of them again- maybe a couple here and there, but how cool will it be a few years from now when we can say, "Yeah... we were in Africa together..."

I'm hoping this all makes SOME kind of sense- it's a bit disjointed, and I'm sorry for that, but hopefully you understand what I'm saying.;)

<3 M

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Lonely, I'm Mr Lonely.

DISCLAIMER: This is NOT meant to be a pity party or an attention getter- I'm sharing it merely because I felt like sharing it with you all.

Some of you might be wondering not about the things I'm doing, but HOW I'm doing.

I'll give you a bit of an inside peek at what's been going on for me and what I've been struggling with.

You'd think that with almost 500 people living on a ship, you would never get lonely. GUESS AGAIN. As most of you know, I'm very extroverted. I need interaction with people often in order to feel energized and re-booted. I am also an external processor- I need to talk things OUT LOUD to fully process and comprehend them. It's a problem here. I have friends, sure, but only very few people I feel comfortable running to if I needed something. Even when I do need something, we hit a bit of a conundrum. 1)They are probably working, 2)They are probably busy, 3)they might be a different kind of personality- introverted, etc. These are all problems at home, but they are amplified by a million here.

At home, even when I'm not around friends, I have my family. While that interaction may seem insignificant and routine, I've learned that I 100% took those interactions for granted. Sure- we got on eachothers nerves and didn't always want to be bothered and were running in 100 different directions, but at the end of the day, they were ALWAYS there. I know that both of my parents if I ever needed anything would be there. I could ask for a date and we'd make it happen, I could make dinner for them and they'd be there, I could ask to have Jo for a day, and they'd let me. Having people around that you KNOW are there for you and have always had your best interest in mind is extremely comforting. Having that stripped away, on the otehr hand is EXTREMELY painful. I don't have that here. 5/10 times I go to a meal, I sit alone.

Another problem with this is that I am NOT an initiator. While I'm an extrovert, I do NOT impose, and I do not initiate. If someone is sitting alone, most times, I don't join them unless I know them. If my friends are going off and doing something or just hanging out I do NOT invite myself no matter how much I might want to go. Here's where you hit a MAJORRR clash. Everyone is different. Some say 'If they want to come, the'll come'. Some say 'Lets invite everyone." some just don't think about it. Me- I don't like to go annnywhere unless invited. I've had too many experiences where that's backfired- I invited myself and found out later they did NOT want me there. That's hurtful and to preserve myself I just steer away from it. Is it right? No... but is it the way my mind and gut go? Yes. It's something to work on, but for now it's a huge wall.

I have always wanted to belong to a group. Up until this point I never once have, except for my family, which I desparately wish I had here during all of this. I have never been someone people invite places. It's never, "We need to invite Michelle" or "Michelle has GOT to come!!"It's always an afterthought. "Ohhh you should've been there". But.. if I didn't know about it.. how could I have been there? This sense of belonging has never happened for me, which is a bit funny because it's one of the top 5 things I've always wanted for my life.

I truly think that this is something God is trying to work on me in. I have this overwhelming sense that this is not what I want for myself. I don't want to constantly be in a state of loneliness and wishing that my life was what it isn't. I want to be content with where I am and just give the rest of the feelings up. I am sick of feeling constantly lonely. I've asked God to not just take this away, but to show me how to handle this. I have some past friendships that still haunt me a bit that I'd like to deal with. I have some serious deep issues in this department that I just want to work through and learn from, not just cast off. My hope and prayer is that I don't just get rid of these issues for a day or a few weeks. I don't want temporary releif, but I want COMPLETE relief... I want to be finished with it forever so that I never have to go through these things again. I don't want to question my sense of belonging and who I am. I want to be okay with where I am in regards to this. I'm not saying I'll never ever feel lonely again- not going to happen- it's a human emotion we all feel from time to time. I'm just asking for God to intervene and get RID of all of this with me.

I know this post is loaded. But, I'm hoping that by sharing this with all of you, you can do two things. I hope you can pray for me- for all of this. It's been a battle all the way back to when I started making friends. I've always thought people were my friends because they felt bad for me, which isn't true. Another thing I hope might come from this is that someone might read this and say 'wow.. that's me... or was me.." and would be willing to chat about it. I've asked God to bring people my way who can help me through.