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.;)