Sunday, 26 October 2014

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's... the gangway

I saw this yesterday morning...

Which can only mean one thing... we are in Madagascar! Well, I suppose it could mean we made a stop somewhere else and set up shop, or turned around and went back to South Africa, or we stumbled upon an undiscovered land.  However, in this instance, it doesn't. Right now the starboard side of the ship has the nice view (which is pretty uncommon). It just happens that the starboard side is where my room sits. So here is what we can see from the ship (minus the tug boat):

Beach looks nice, huh? Too bad the sharks might eat you! We have been warned not to swim there but there is another beach a little farther down that is less shark infested. Seeing as I am not a big fan of ocean swimming I wouldn't worry too much about me playing with the sharks. 

My observations thus far:

1. It is hot... all the time
2. The sun comes up very early
3. The sun goes down very early
4. If you smile, people will smile back
5. This is going to be awesome!

Today when I went to mass I was sitting there with a friend and he made an interesting observation. What if you were a little kid and you have never seen a white person before? Naturally my first thought and my response, was "we're blowing their minds right now". The other thing I noticed was that even at 5'5" I felt tall in a church FULL of people. 

So here we are, safe and sound. This week we will have orientation for the Malagasy day workers who have been hired to staff many different departments on the ship. It should be challenging but oh so interesting. Have a wonderful week!

Malagasy word of the blog: Veloma! (ve-LOOMa) - Goodbye

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Adiós Cape Town

Here I am, same view, different sail. Cape Town is a beautiful place and although it takes forever to get there from home I would highly recommend a visit to anyone who is thinking about a big trip. While I was there I was able to hike up Table Mountain, go to Robben Island, enjoyed some very good company.
Table mountain is that iconic landmark that Cape Town is know for; it is one of the new 7 wonders of nature. Here are a few pictures... you decide for yourself.

A view of Table Mountain and Lion's Head from the ship on our way out

The Mountain covered with its "Table Cloth"

A view of Cape Town, Lion's Head, and Signal Hill from the top of Table Mountain

Can you see the little reptile?
Climbing Table Mountain was something that I really felt I HAD to do before I left Cape Town or I would have felt very guilty. However, I really just wanted to go at my own pace and take some time alone. The issue is that all the literature says not to hike alone. Oh well. I figured there would be lots of people around so I wouldn't have anything to worry about. Don't worry mom, I was right; there were a ton of people hiking on the trail I chose. I wasn't sure which trail I would take but I got on the City Sightseeing Bus and when I got off I took the first trail sign that I saw. It ended up being the most popular route called Platteklip Gorge. It was pretty difficult, especially since the rocks were formed like uneven stairs. I ended up seeing a few other people from Mercy Ships and since I was wearing my Leafs hat and a Canada shirt I got to talk to a few people. A couple from Edmonton gave me a hard time about my hat but they admitted that they couldn't talk because the Oilers are nothing to brag about. All in all, it was a tough hike but I have to admit going up was easier than going down. There is just something about falling downhill that makes you tense up.
When I got back down I hopped back on the bus and got to see the beautiful beaches. Seriously they are gorgeous!

Also, when I was on the bus, I got the only glimpse of snow I will get for a while...

I also managed to get to Robben Island, where Mandela served part of his sentence. The ferry ride was about 45 minutes and it was very rocky. Just think, there is no school on the island so the kids who live there have to take the ferry everyday! On the way back I asked one of the workers if people get sick on the boat and he said yes but that he thought I was doing very well. Well, of course I had to tell him I lived on a ship! So I got to talk to him about Mercy Ships and he couldn't understand that everyone is a volunteer. Anyway, the tour of the island and the prison were very interesting; it really made me want to do some reading on the history of South Africa. We got to tour the prison with a former inmate who was able to give us a good idea of how things used to look when he was there as opposed to how they look now. I didn't get emotional and wasn't awestruck but it was an interesting experience.

Have a great weekend! The sail is going well; thankfully I have managed to stay on my feet so far. Until next time!

Thursday, 9 October 2014

The Truth

A part of me feels like I need to make sure everyone is really clear on something: I am not spending donations on leisure activities. The generosity I have seen make me feel very blessed and I would never want anyone to think that I am taking advantage of that. So, thank you for everyone's continued support and that trip to do the safari came from a birthday gift. Being able to experience that was probably never going to be an option again so it seemed like a nice thing to treat myself to, especially among all the other changes that have happened in my life recently.
That being said, Cape Town is worth visiting, just thought I should put that out there. Yes, I know it takes days to get there by plane but there is so much to do and see it is fully worth it. I was wearing my Blue Jays cap the other day and I met a couple from Toronto that was visiting. That made me so happy and I got to tell them about the ship and they were very impressed. That is why, no matter how my hometown teams perform, I am always representing them; it brings people together.
We wrapped up the days of invite tours on the ship and all my standing outside got me a pretty nice tan. I was greeting people at the security gate and chatting with passersby who had questions or wanted a brochure. I have been told that the PR has really benefitted the recruiting effort here in South Africa; many applications have been received in the past few days. This is great news because as we prepare to get the new ship staffed, the bigger our alumni base the better!
Although I have been having a great time here in Cape Town there is a part of me that is getting a little tired. I see people reuniting with their families, and old friends and I long for that familiar face. The people on the ship are definitely becoming closer to my heart everyday but I still have to tread lightly and find myself apologizing for making a comment that people don't understand because they don't understand me, or my very odd sense of humour. As the days go by I continue to wonder what exactly I am doing here and where to direct my energy. There is so much that goes on that I feel conflicted on a daily basis on whether to engage, or to have the sense to take some time to separate myself from the crowd and sort through my feelings, or create memories on my own.
This is real life for me and that is so hard right now. There will be no Thanksgiving celebration; no stress cooking, setting the table, trying new vegetarian recipes, and the inevitable feeling that although some moments feel incredibly frustrating and hectic, I don't want the day to end. I am thankful for each and every member of my family, who they are, and how they have helped me become who I am today.
Just because I wish I were home sometimes does not at all mean that where I am right now is not where I am supposed to be. Everyday has its challenges whether I am at home or on the ship.
I am so thankful that we have phones so that I can call my mom and have the sound of her voice just turn my mood from grumpy to grateful!
I know that was a little all over the place but that's what's going on right now and that's the truth!
This weekend should be jam packed with activities before we get ready to sail next week. I'll report back soon!
Thank you to every person who reads these words; near or far, familiar or foreign, I am so thankful to have you with me.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Oh the animals

So we are in Cape Town! Not just anywhere in Cape Town, we are docked at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, where all the action happens!

We also have this view which is pretty awesome...

So this week the invite tours started on the ship. I was involved by taking names at the security gate before they entered. Port security is very tight and they won't let anyone onto the dock without having 24 hours notice. It makes for some grumpy people when you have to tell them their name isn't on the list and there is nothing we can do about it at this point. And, no, lady you cannot pretend to be someone else, especially when the name on here is most clearly a man's name. Apparently it went very well and there has been plenty of positive feedback. Since I have been spending my days suntanning on the pier I have had less time for work, which I have a lot of right now. As a result, I have been getting up bright and early and staying in the office late to make sure things get done. That is really easy to do when you live steps away from where you work, and you have a key!

Yesterday (Friday) we had a ship long weekend. I was planning to just stay near the ship; get some work done, wander around, but I got a last minute invitation to go on a little Safari. After some consideration I realized that I might never get the chance to do it again so I should take advantage. Consequently I got to see lots of beautiful landscapes on the drive there and some very big animals up close when we got there.

Jaguar that was rescued from an abusive situation that they are rehabilitating
Hippo butts
White Rhinos
Lions - he looked at us but he was too busy with his 5 women that he couldn't be bothered
Just some elephants... no big deal
So the rhinos are really in danger in South Africa because of the tremendous amount of poaching that occurs. Poachers just cut off the rhino's horn and leave them to die. If they continue to be killed at the rate they are now, it could be just three years by the time they are wiped out!
We drove right next to the lions. I kid you not. They were in their feeding area. The reserve supplements their diets so they don't eat the tourists. True story. There are strict rules about how much land is required for different animals. Each lion has to have 100 hectares! Apparently they lounge around about 21 hours a day; they really are oversized house cats. I couldn't stop thinking that I really wanted to pet them. That could have ended badly.
Their are only two elephants and they are both boys. The reserve is working on procuring some more land so that they can eventually bring in another elephant, hopefully a girl. Our ranger told us that these two elephants are both quite young; 17 and 20ish so they wouldn't even know what to do with a girl right now. He said that they would just be stupid and make her angry. Isn't it interesting, boys are the same across species.

It was a beautiful day and I was glad I decided to go. Today I made up for it and did lots of work! Now I feel better and less panicked about all the work I needed to get done.

There was also this conceited peacock at the reserve around the reception area. He was staring at himself in the window!

He was quite pretty...

Thanks for reading! Have a wonderful weekend.