Thursday, February 16, 2012

You got a Friend in me....

Some of you may be wondering "oh man.. what is up with Michelle? why is she so down lately?" Thought I'd fill you in and it'd be great if you could pray for me.

I think coming back was harder than I expected. I was fine until my closest ship friend left a few days after I got back, and it all went downhill from there. I haven't quite bounced back. As someone told me today, I'm 'grieving' the loss of that friend... at least in close proximity. We're still friends, of course but it's just never going to be like it was when she was across the hall and down a few doors. This began a downward sprial I'm still stuck in... its kind of like a weird vortex that brings me and in out of this funk and takes me quite deep into it sometimes.

I was getting better for a while, but then I realized alll of a sudden I really dont have any friends on the ship. Now, let me qualify that word.... my 'friends' are the people I go to when I need something and hang out with and such. My friends on the ship are almost all under 'aquaintance'... very few actually know me, know my full story, who I am, what I've been through, and what makes me tick. There are a few of my friend friends who know all of these things, but that's what deems someone a best friend;) Haha.. I know... my logic is a little weird, but you know... it's the way i think...

Realizing you have no true friends on a ship of 400 is really incredibly disheartening. It is extremely lonely. I find myself feeling alone in a crowd more times in a day than I care to count. One night, I was baking for people for Valentines day. I tend to do nice things for people and get nothing in return, which is how our intentions should be, but it's human nature and instinct to want something in return.... its hard to not feel wanted or appreciated. It's been a lifelong struggle of mine. I never feel like I belong anywhere. When I'm in one place, I'm dying to be somewhere else... As someone said, it sounds a bit like no where is home for me here, but rather I'm desiring something bigger- my heavenly home. True story. I dont like to think about it that way too much becasue it freaks me out haha but it's pretty much the truth.

Yet another valentines day goes by and I really thought it'd be better. I love doing nice things for people and normally that's enough for me, but by the middle of the day, I was homesick, wishing I had friends to spend the evening with and have fun with.... celebrate with... but I was all alone. I was also reminded the day before that it was the anniversary of my friend's death. The 13th was, not the 14th. My Junior year of High School, he committed suicide. I'm not sure if that's why this time of the year is always hard for me, if it's because it's always glaringly obvious how alone I am, or if it's just the time of the year, but man it sucks. If I was home, chances are I'd have made a beautiful dinner for the family and cuddled with Jordan and just had a date with him, or let my parents go out on a date while I guard the house and the child.

Its extremely hard not having anyone here that is your 'default'. I know I've said that before, but I feel like it's truer than ever... Most of my friends either have a group of people they hang out with or a family they're here with...

Moral of the story, I'm extremely lonely and dont feel I really have anyone to talk to and who I can count on to help me out when I'm upset and having a hard time, or to rejoice in the great things when they happen....

Pray it'll come soon. Maybe now is a time to reflect and to rely on God. It'd be nice to have a friend soon though;)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Many of you may be wondering what on earth I did during my time at home... well I'll fill you in;)

The day I arrived home, I tried to relax as much as I could. I arrived around 6am local MD time, so needless to say we were tired. We went to Panera on the way home and I was treated to a BAGEL and some awesome strong coffee. Then we went home, the parents went to sleep, I had Jordan and we watched lots of movies and things and just enjoyed eachother's company and took little cat naps. After a while, I made my way to Starbucks. All I gotta say is I'm not a gold card member for nothing...I went therre.... a LOT!! In the evening, my sister joined us and we went to Carrabba's for a FANTASTIC Italian feast of calamari, mozzarella sticks, bruchetta, Iced tea, bread with olive oil and spices, and an amazing angel hair pasta with a champagne sauce and scallops, shrimp and lump crab... A MDer's dream! Oh man was it great. For those of you saying "that doesnt sound all that fantastic or much different than normal... but for me it was like being the queen of the universe. Try not having all of that amazing food for a year and tell me what you think;) I stayed up as long as I possibly could that night.. I was dying to go to sleep around 6pm but stayed up successfully until 10pm and was falling asleep in the living room, so pulled myself down to my GREAT BIGGG bed and had the best sleep I'd had in a LONG time.

The next day I got to take Jordan to see Adventures of Tin Tin. I think I would've enjoyed it better had I not been so tired! We got kid packs to munch on(popcorn, fruit snacks and a drink). I decided to be the aunt for real that day and spoiled him with a slushi. I didn't anticipate them giving us a great big one... we each got one... talk about crazy! Sizes in the US are MASSIVE!! Some Smalls are too big for me even... :) At one point, Jo climbed into my lap and we both dozed off... thankfully the movie then picked up in speed and had us awake in no time:)

Christmas quickly followed my arrival home, so there was not time wasted on getting things together and wrapped. I brought 2 bags home, neither full... each about 30 lbs and over 3/4 of that stuff was Christmas presents, gifts to friends, or something for my silent auction. Within 2 days of my arrival, our house was hopping with family and some friends.

Christmas Eve was pretty normal for us. Thankfully this year Heather and Jeff were with us- they spend one christmas with us and then one with Jeff's family, but we had them this year:) We went to the Christmas Eve service, then came home to a feast of Shrimp, dips and chips. Some may say that doesnt sound much like a feast... but we don't eat dinner before service, and we had clam dip(my FAVORITE), French Onion, and Ranch dip along with Fritos, kettle cooked ruffles and tortilla chips... its a feast...;) It was incredible because I hadn't had shrimp bigger than a quarter that hadn't been previously frozen in a year. Carrabba's is indeed an exception, but these were at least 2 times bigger than the ones in that dish. AMAZINNG!!

That night before Jordan went to bed, he set out cookies for 'Santa'.... and I got to eat them;) Then I was truly a 'parent' type because I had to help lug all of the presents up out of the basement and lay them out nicely... my mom had fallen asleep and so we were helping my dad out a bit:) It wasn't fun per-se but it was nice seeing the end result... beautiful:)

The next morning, we decided to get up by 7;30 and have everyone show up around then because my parents were certain they couldn't wrange Jordan much longer than that. To our surprise he woke up around 7;15... very late for the boy. I made mini monkey breads and we just enjoyed the company of everyone- 4 generations... and just had a great day. Later in the day, family friends came over and played wii with Jordan and we all had CHEEESECAKE!!! :) It was a picture perfect day.

I had a very relaxing week and was a little disappointed I didn't get friend time until later in the week, but then boy did I. A friend took me to sushi and we watched HP 7 pt 2, 2 friends took me to On the Border(one of my more frequent haunts on the trip), and one took me out for high tea which was quite incredible for the girl lacking 1st world food and fun for that long:) On New Years Eve, I decided to throw a dinner party. So many of my friends had plans already when I asked if they'd be interested in coming for a party, so I decided if I did a dinner party, everyone could eat amazing food for free and enjoy the company then go when they're ready to their next party. Ellen came over after we went to a music making party, and she helped me make appetizers and this amaazing bow-tie pasta with sausage, wine sauce, sundried tomatoes, artichokes and amazingness. I also tried out an herb and cheese pullapart bread... I'd make it a little differently next time but good for a first attempt, and we just enjoyed eachother. Later we had ice cream sundaes to top off the evening. This began my week-long obsession with ice-cream sundaes, which sadly ended as soon as we ran out of whipped cream... probably best. Once everyone was gone, I got in my jammied and curled up and watched whatever it took to keep me awake, then once the ball dropped got hooked in with Les Mis in concert and had to force myself into bed:)

From then on, things seriously calmed down. I saw friends from time to time, but mostly was just absorbing the time I had to relax. Most mornings included me getting up at a semi-decent hour which was hard because my bed was so comfortable. though somehow I wound up going to bed at 1am most nights despite my extreme jet lag... I blame netflix... then I'd make some yummy eggy thing that included not fully cooked eggs since I dont dare with our local African eggs. Then I'd chill out in my dad's comfy chair and watch some Grey's Anatomy, which I fell head over heels for once again... oh dear... :)

I really think the last week was one of the most exciting weeks and fun... mostly;) We went out to PA to celebrate my grandparents 60th Anniversary, the same day Jordan had to be put under to retrieve 4 objects from his ears... which was interesting. Poor Kid. He did well on the trip, we got to go to the CRACKER BARREL, which was AMMMAZING. When we got to my Grandparents house though... it was SO COLLLD!! About 20degrees, and blustery.... raining when we got in... not sure how because it was so coldd, but alas. We just had a great time. It was a blessing to stay with my Grandparents. At first I was a little jealous of my parents hotel room the way they talked about it, but I realized I got some grandparent time I needed very much. I had Jo the first night so my parents could get some sleep- they'd been up for nights and nights with a screaming kid... he was great, though did really odd things, like rub my back and come up to my face with his face in the middle of the night... didn't sleep well but glad the parents did.

The party was flawless. Great food, they renewed their vows, they even had the original wedding party beside them... incredible. A friend of theirs even made a wedding cake which was absolutely STUNNING!! A knockout event in every sense. Us cousins got to catch up and just hang out and be goofy, and it was just wonderful. Afterwards, a bunch of us headed back up to the apartment(the party was down in the banquet room of their apartment building- stunning!) and just talked and laughed and had a great time:) Great trip all in all. The ride home was a bit tougher as we were all tired and Jordan wasn't having it. It was nice to be back to my bed. Then we went to soccer. The boy is a BEAST in soccer:)

Anyway.. The next day, I flew out to Rhode Island for 3 days to see Ellen. We had only gotten to see a little bit of eachother while she was in MD, and I just wasn't ready to say goodbye to her- only seeing the girl for 6 hours out of 2 years isn't okay with me... so I checked and Southwest was flying to RI for 41 dollars each, coming to a total of $103 for the whole purchase. It was an AMAZING time... I got some time with my greatest friend, got to see what her life is like first hand, explored a brand new city(I discovered I am in LOVE with cities while I was home), had incredible food, cupcakes, went to a brewery, spent time at her work and with the interns she works with, met with a ship friend... it was stunning... a great trip. :)

The night I flew home, however, I learned that Jordan needed emergency tonsil surgery, which was extremely stressful and heartbreaking. I was so glad to be home for that though and I was able to help my parents out through that. My Aunt came my last day with my Cousin and his girlfriend. We had pizza, went to target and just hung out...oh... and more SHRIMP! :) Then I went out with my closest friends bowling, which was HILARIOUS. I would either completely strike out for multiple turns or get 0 points at all...:) Then we headed to Pubdog and just had a blast with eachother. I headed home sad but excited for getting back to the ship.... then the next day happened.... see the previous blog for that saga:)

Overall it was a BLAST being home. It helped me realize I do love America, which is good. I'm glad I can hopefully come back one day and live there again and do great. I did notice a lot of things though.... the waste was the biggest thing that struck me. In some ways I never even realized how much it affected me. For example, mom was going to throw out some bottles of water that were opened during the party and I got really upset... so she watered plants...which were actually fake.. haha... but stilll... it really bugged me. Also, the waste of money in the US is absolutely ABSURD. But, I do hope one day to live in a city where I can walk most places and just enjoy the talllll building and hopefully it'll have a great art scene and I'll thrive:) One day. But for now... I"m here:)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Next Chapter has Begun....

My journey back to the Africa Mercy was no easy task. As I prepared to leave, I had a bad feeling, but wouldn't let my mind feed into it. I knew something would go wrong, but I just hoped and prayed it'd be a quick journey and I could be back on my floating home as soon as humanly possible. Of course, something went wrong. Anyone who knows me well knows that 9/10 times, things go wrong for me. Fortunately, over the years, I've gotten used to it and normally just let it roll off my back, but it is still quite disheartening and frustrating when these things happen.

The day of my departure was a bit of a whirlwind. My dad and I went to the first service at church, then went out to eat. The first restaurant we went to was packed out and would be an hour wait. The second place was a 25 minute wait- and we were doing fine on time, so we decided to wait. We realized that the restaurants were probably so packed out because the people who normally go out to eat later in the day were coming earlier because the big Ravens game was in the afternoon. It was worth the wait for my last dose of fantastic french toast and eggs overeasy(I dont risk making those on board due to unknown sources of our eggs). It was delicious, but made me nauseous....later I realized that was my nerves talking... and boy were they right for acting up.

After a few minutes at home and throwing things out of my bag because it was too heavy, I said my goodbyes to Jordan and my dad, which to say the least were heartbreaking. Jordan right before I left said, “Where are you going? PLEASE don't go!!” I was fine until that moment.... I held it together and walked out the door. I asked to drive in hopes it'd calm me a bit and keep my mind off of all I was leaving behind. It worked for the moment.

We missed the turn to the parking lot, so my mom dropped me off at the door to my terminal. It was probably better that way. I knew I'd see my mom in a few short weeks- she was the easiest goodbye because she is the only person I knew I'd see within a month of my departure.

I got to my check-in counter and the more I stood there, the more the tears welled up. Thankfully, my beautiful friend Noel was at the gate waiting for me, so I had SOMETHNG to look forward to. My bags ended up weighing in at 50.0lbs and 46.0 lbs... I was soooo happy I just made the weight and I was thankful my attendent at the check in(which is all electronic now minus a few helpers... strange...) was so fantastic to me and loved hearing about where I was going and all of that... he calmed me a bit.

Dulles is a really cool airport.... its huge but cool... I had to take a TRAIN to get to my destination.... crazyyy!! I soaked in what I thought would be my last few American minutes and basked in the beauty of the airport. I finally got to the gate, where I met Noel and got a super huge hug. We traveled home together, and traveled back to the ship together. It was nice to know I had a friend waiting for me:) I was feeling a little hungry by this time, so we went to a cute little restaurant that happened to have space for 2, ate clam po-boys(oh my goodness was it good!) and watched the Ravens game before we had to board our plane.

Finally, our plane was boarding, so we got on and I was really excited about it. It was nice and spaceous, lots of leg room, I was on the aisle so I didn't have to worry about disturbing anyone, we had personal screens that were controlled by us- so I could watch what I wanted when I wanted to... it was great! They even had an episode from where I left off in Dexter, so of course I had to watch that! We taxied, and made it to the runway... and then we sat... and sat... and sat.... I started realizing something was really wrong.... why else would we be sitting there that long?

Not too long after these thoughts rolled in my head, the captain came on and announced that a part of the system that controls the cooling of the engine failed and that we needed to go get it looked at back at our gate. When we got there, he announced we needed to get off the plane to ensure our saftey and they'd let us know by 10pm what was going on... at this point it was about 7:00- an hour and a bit after our departure was supposed to take place.. So... we got off.

We ended up meeting a few ladies who were headed the ship as well, which was great. Looking back, if we hadn't met them and if I was alone, I think the day would've been pretty much unbearable and I would've wanted to go home as soon as I could.

A little while later, we heard an announcement saying if we were going to Togo on flight 251, we'd miss our connection, and to go to Customer Service.... so... we did. We waited quite a while in line. When we finally got to the front, one of the workers realized we weren't in the right line, we needed to get back to our gate- the Togo flight they were talking about wasn't ours and we were going to miss our flight if we didn't run. I dont know how all of this happened... and it was all quite absurd... but it did.... so we booked it back to our gate. We were one of the only African flights allowed to board, as most others would miss their connections... and later everyone did. It was neat meeting people from all over Africa though- people headed to Cameroon and a group of missionaries from PA headed to Sierra Leone- first to Freetown to get materials then to Makeni... funny how small the world can get in one flight.

Some of us had to get new boarding passes, others of us ended up in the same seats. Thankfully Noel and I were still seated together. Now, this plane was NOT as nice... it honestly felt like a retired plane they were going to send out just for us.... the seats were UNCOMFORTABLY close together, still had a screen of my own, but it wasn't controlled by me, and when the person in front of me layed down, I couldn't see anything. I couldn't even stand up to go to the restroom. When I had to, I asked the man next to me(I was no longer on the aisle) to move, and I had to shimmy along hoping I didn't smack the seats of those in front of me.

We taxied on this plane, and got to the take-off zone, when the same captain comes back on. His exact words were, “And Our adventure continues...” . Not what you want to hear... everyone started laughing HYSTERICALLY... It was either that or sob... He said our hydraulic system had failed, which controlled our landing gear and lots of our general flight gear and he would not take off without this gear working... thank God we had a great captain... So we went back to our gate. This time they were able to fix it without us getting off of the plane, thankfully. After about an hour, we finally were able to take off after they de-iced our plane and we were off.

At this point, we would have about 40 minutes to get to our connection... it was possible. I was STARVING by now... I've very much learned the lesson of ALWAYS bringing some kind of snacks... oh BOY did I learn that. Thankfully they got our food to us fairly quickly after take off. I dozed on and off the whole flight, never really getting much sleep since I was so uncomfortable the whole time. As we got closer and closer, I guess we were going against the jet stream, because I saw the time of arrival getting higher and higher on my little map, until it exceeded our time limit. I talked with some of the girls from our flight, and they wanted their bags, but me and Noel didn't care- we had stuff on board. If it came down to it, I think ½ of us would've stayed in Brussels and ½ would've gone on if it meant we could get on our Togo flight.... unfortunately we had no choice in the matter.

By the time we landed and taxied, we had missed our connection by 15 minutes. Thankfully United did SOMETHING right that day... well sort of... by pre- printing our boarding passes for our next leg of the race. However, this is where things got REALLY interesting... 5 of the 6 of us got a pass to go to Addis Ababa then to Togo, all in all about 14 hours of flying left. 1 girl's pass sent her to Dakar over night alone to get a hotel and fly out the next day.... we didn't like that plan, so one woman stayed with her in Brussels over night, where they were promised a hotel room, but found out later the hotel was booked out, so they stayed somewhere and argued their way to getting the fee waived. We all got our bags, which took over an hour and ½ to get all of them. I had my moment of pure meltdown around this time because I was just exhausted and overwhelmed. We got our bags, got them checked, then went to use our meal vouchers at a diner in the airport... it was verrry underwhelming, but food nonetheless.

We made our way to the gate, my friend let me text my dad, and we were of on Ethiopian airlines to Addis Ababa. It was hilarious- I was so tired and just crazy that I kept asking people where were going. I had no idea where Addis Ababa was.... finally once we got on the plane, we looked in our little magazine thingy, and found out we were going to none other than ETHIOPIA..... WHHHATTT?!?!

The first part of the trip was a very empty flight, so we spread out a bit and I got some sleep. We stopped in Milan, Italy to pick up passengers, and things changed. Suddenly everyone was hitting me in the head as they passed and my patience was wearing extremely thin. Apparently Italians have a strong presence in Ethiopia.. who knew... but anway... this flight wasn't so great. It was crammed and the stewardess kept smacking me in the face with her butt everytime she bent over to get something... I felt like I was being tortured. Once we finally landed in Addis Ababa, we took a shuttle for our tarmac to our terminal.

It was wild beause we traveled from the MD time zone, to Brussels time zone, which is the same as Togo, to Ethiopia which is 3 hours ahead of Togo, back to togo.... talk about disorienting! When we landed in Addis Ababa, we got to our gate, but didn't really realize there was nothing there- no food, water, or bathroom. We did however have wifi... it was a great find and really cheered us up. At this point there were 4 of us. We realized quickly, we were suddenly the minority. People busted out their cameras and were taking shots of us... slightly amusing. We waited the 3 hours and boarded our plane with no trouble. I was just very thankful my body tolerated the abuse. I'm a little bit hypoglycemic, so when I don't eat properly- especially when I lack protein, I get shaky and dizzy. Thankfully that didn't happen until I had food availible to me. Also, when I don't get proper sleep and I dont eat well/at all, I get migraines, but thankfully my body didn't make that happen either:)

We got on our flight with no trouble, and left the BEAUTIFULLLLL Addis Ababa. Such beautiful mountains and it was breathtaking seeing the sun rise over them:) This flight was MUCH nicer than the previous flight... more leg room, and a bigger plane, which normally means a smoother flight. The men behind us, however, were extremely rude. We were EXHAUSTED by this point, and needed sleep. Noel put her seat back, and the man behind her, who was an African man, started yelling at her to put her seat up, that he had work to do and all of this... so she said, “I'm sorry but these seats are made to go back...” after arguing for a while, she told him he needed to deal with it, or he could move, and he yelled that she was an Arrogant American... honestly that was amusing... if he had the trip we did, he'd feel the same way we did. My seat automatically fell back a bit, and the man behind me, who was with the man behind Noel, started hitting it and kept doing it. I just ignored it as best as I could.

We finally landed in Togo around 12:40 pm Togo time, which was roughly 16 hours after we were supposed to arrive... it was a little bit nice to arrive in the afternoon instead of the night because I was able to unpack a bit and see my friends, but it was difficult because I wanted to go to sleep but had to force myself to stay awake for a while.

And that was my journey back to the AFM...probably the longest 3 days I've ever experienced in my life. I hope to one day actually fly Brussels Airlines.... Ethiopian treated us nice too, but one day...;)

United did try to compensate us, but we had a choice of 10,000 frequent flyer miles, $250 towards any flight in the us to us states, or 10% off economy. The thing is this.... 1) we were flying internationally... I'm pretty sure $250 towards US flights helps me NONE... 2)It expires on January 22, 2013....I'M NOT FLYING HOME UNTIL AFTER THAT....!!!! I might call united and see if there's something else we can work out- maybe see if they can extend the date or something....but I”m VERY unimpressed with that airline right now, and will probably try avoiding them in the future...At first I was like 'well we can't blame them' but really... 2 planes that malfunction in BIG ways, then they don't even compensate us fairly... people who give up their seats for others get MUCH better compensation....

Anyway... I'm just glad I got to the ship. The other 2 ladies, who stayed in Brussels, met up with us at 7pm that night... 1 got her bags 2 days later... 1 still hasnt gotten hers..... what a bummer!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Back On board

Don't worry... I havent forgotten all of my faithful readers. Life on board has been hectic to say the leAst and I fuuully intend to fill you all in on the next few days. Don't be surprised to see multiple posts. I'm doIng well and will catch you up very soon. No worries.