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;)