Saturday, 31 January 2015

Three in a Row!

This week was certainly better than last week. I was reminded that I have people who are advocating for me on the ship, and there are people who think I am a nice person and do nice things, despite my feelings of inadequacy. Lesson: people notice that you are trying, so don't give up! Also, I got to babysit for one of the families on the ship on Friday, which was so fun! I thought the kids could make Valentine's Day decorations. It ended up going over really well, and I taught them how to make paper-chains (you know the ones, with people holding hands). Such a fun way to spend my night, and it gave their parents a chance to do date night; WIN-WIN!

I went to the beach for the third weekend in a row. This is getting ridiculous, I know. I can hear you now: "Marina, all you do is go to the beach! What the heck?" I'm stretching myself people, you should be proud! I am going places I'm not particularly fond of AND I am spending time with new people. I was definitely the person that didn't make sense in the group, being the only non-African, but I was happy to have been invited. I thought about it for a while, and knew it would have been easy to say no, but in an effort to meet new people accepting the invitation was the right thing to do. If anyone needs a boost of self esteem, you need to come to Madagascar right this minute and walk on the beach or just down the street. In small doses this is definitely the answer to your woes. Staring has become expected-ish but I even got waved over to have a drink (even though I am trying to make new friends this is an offer I was fine to turn down). Although I was quiet, because I didn't know everyone very well, I still enjoyed myself. My hope is that it will be the catalyst to the start of some new relationships. My hope is that no one thinks I was rude, or boring because I wasn't involved in all the laughs, and didn't want to go in the water.
Something I noticed while walking along the beach today: the sand sparkles! It literally looks like there are gold flecks in the sand; it is absolutely beautiful (this picture doesn't do it ANY justice).

On another note... HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM! This woman is such a good example in every single facet of my life but especially the spiritual, personal, and educational parts. I love her so much! If you want to do something really nice for her you could tell her that at least one of her children looks like her. You can choose whichever one of us you like, just make sure you mean it. I mean, I don't want to condone lying, but she deserves to hear it after all the combined 27 months of pregnancy, countless pep-talks, back rubbing, soup-making, project/homework help, advocating, mediating, loving, caring, giving, sharing, sacrificing, and endless amounts of mothering activities that I don't even know about.

Have a great weekend! Happy Superbowl Sunday. Go Cowboys Go; oh wait, that definitely didn't happen. Love you dad! According to a recent poll, the Cowboys are the best at something:

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Oh my goodness, it's the weekend!

So after a week full of ups and downs, emotions going everywhere, and me being really ashamed of losing my temper and letting my frustrations get the best of me, I went to the beach. I know what you're thinking... yet again, "Marina, you don't like the beach". Well, I don't like the sand getting everywhere and the ocean water burning my eyes, but it sure is pretty to look at:

We packed up the Land Cruiser and headed North to Mahambo. It was nice to be in a group that was respectful and understanding of what people needed in order to relax. Everyone did what they needed: some kayaked, some swam, some sat in the sun, and some painted their nails. I sat and read my book. We had a lovely meal and just enjoyed where we were.

The restaurant even had some lemurs that were hanging around. See what I did there? Hanging...

While I was reading my book there were a couple of men setting a fishing net. They walked out into the water and put the net into a semi-circle. Then they started to pull in both sides onto the beach. At one point the fish started to jump out, and one of the men ran into the water to prevent any more escapes. I'm not sure if it was a good catch or they were just entertained that a crowd had gathered around them, but this guy looked pretty happy:

Over the course of the day, I realized that even though I am perfectly content to stay on, or close to the ship, I really need to get off more often, for longer than just a morning walk or run. My disposition on my way to the beach was a world away from how I felt coming back. On my way up, I was very quiet, I had my head resting on my bag, feeling tired, and not really wanting to interact with anyone. On the way back I had my music playing and I was dancing in my seat. The day showed me so much about what I need to be a better person, and to give my best to those around me. Being on the ship, so close to the office, makes me think about work all the time. It is so easy to pop into the office and look at my e-mail or answer a few questions. Yes, I am here to serve in that role and I want to give to people as much as I can. However, in the past few weeks and even months, it has become clear that I cannot continue to give without finding an appropriate outlet to refuel, and take time to disconnect myself from the ship and all that comes with it. I said and did many things that I am not proud of this past week. I am learning that I have such a long way to go in life. I just hope that I get to keeping waking up in the morning and getting the opportunity to make things right. Thank you to those people who continue to give me chances to make better choices after I have made the wrong one, at their expense.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

In the Shade

Just after I posted my blog from last week I was browsing the internet for some strategies to kick start making some changes in my life. This was the first article I read:

I had realized it before, but this article  just reminded me of a few things. First, I don't like giving up on people. I know I have lost a few friends over the years because of a lack of effort on my part, and not seeing past the challenges. However, for the most part, discounting people entirely is not something that I do lightly. I am always hoping I will be able to help or something will change. In addition, I know that everyone has great value, so to decide not to have someone in my life just make me think that I am above change, or challenge. Second, I say "yes" a lot. I am happy to say yes because I know it makes other people happy, which in turn makes me happy, but I shouldn't always be saying yes. I think the problem is in the fact that I am scared to say no. If I say no maybe the person will never ask again, stop liking me, push me away, be angry with me, or any number of other things. Third, how can I speak my mind if it offends others? That doesn't seem like a good way to act. Aren't we to have others' interests at heart, and put them before our own?

Do you see why I am so often conflicted and challenged?!

On another note, cyclone planning has put me on edge. There was something about knowing that if the ship has to pull away from the port, to avoid being damaged, that bothered me a whole lot on Friday. I was trying to think of an appropriate analogy but nothing seems to fit. I think because this situation is unlike anything else in life; there is nothing to compare it to. We live on a ship and our "house" would have to leave its residents behind. Strange. I would really like for life to make sense, but that seems like it is too much to ask at this point.

Apart from my sunburn, the beach was a great time. The drive was pretty bumpy in the back of the Land Rover, and the pool was a peculiar shade of green, but it was good to get away. It was hot. I mean, you couldn't stop sweating it was so hot. I'm going to say that was a serious factor in my sunburn. That and the sun showers. It was just too hard to keep the sunscreen on. At least it is just my back; I can keep that hidden. The day was spent laying around, reading, listening to music, and drinking coconut water.  The coconut men (surely this is their official title) cut off the top so you can drink the water out of it and then, if you want, they will cut it open so you can eat the "jelly" inside. I am not a huge fan of coconut water at home, but this is not so bad. I certainly wouldn't crave it, but it was nice.

On our way back from the beach we stopped to see the Banyan trees. The square is very close to the ship but tucked away so that you might never know it was there. The trees have created a big canopy that covers an area where kids were playing soccer and others were playing cards. It was so cool (temperature wise); such a contrast from the hot sun that touches you everywhere else you go. 

The seniors home was really fun this week; we did manicures. All the ladies chose their own colour and it was interesting to see that they all chose something different. We even got to do the nails of the caregivers. I'm thinking we might need to bring nail polish remover next week; no one looks good with chipped polish.

Wow, that was easy! I guess when lots of things happen in the week it doesn't take much to put together a good entry. Thank you for reading and I hope you have a wonderful week!

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Taking Stock

What a week. It was Wednesday and I was already utterly exhausted! It seems as though I made it, seeing as I am typing away but I never like to look at life in that way; counting down until the weekend. This week was really challenging because I was just run down. I'm not sure if I need to start going to sleep at 9 p.m., I am vitamin deficient, or if it is just a phase, but I want it to be over. I wake up tired, and the feeling stays with me all the live long day. Carrying that feeling around all the time starts to affect other parts of your being. I was doubting myself this week; who I am as a person, what I am doing, and where I am going. That shook me enough to throw me off completely. I started crying in the office because I was just so over everything; I didn't know how to be me, do what I need to do at work and in personal life (although that distinction is a whole lot harder to make here), how to be better, if I could be myself and be who everyone wants/expects me to be, and continually feel so empty. I really just needed a hug... from my mom. Luckily one of my co-workers was wonderful enough to give me a hug while I wailed, and reassured me enough that I got back to a place where I wasn't a blubbering mess. I am thankful for that because I know not everyone is capable of that kind of compassion. This place just makes me question everything all the time and continually challenges me in all facets of my life. That is actually a great thing, but sometimes it is just tiring. Think about doing staff evaluations, or writing report cards... all the time. YIKES! It is also my own fault because I am always comparing myself to others. I know that it isn't a good idea, but seeing the best in others and recognizing that you aren't exemplifying those same characteristics can be a good way to check how you are coming across. I know everyone has their own strengths (and weaknesses) but it doesn't hurt to follow the good example of others, especially when you really really really just want to pull up the covers, close your eyes, and shut out the world.

The best part of my week was the flash sale that took place in the ship shop on Tuesday. As a result of receiving a bunch of containers all at the same time, there was a surplus of items. Since the ship has a limited amount of space for storage, the Sales Manager had the brilliant idea to discount items for just an hour and get rid of some of the inventory. There were three stations: $0.25, $0.50, and $1.00. I helped at the $1.00 table (the expensive stuff, so classy). Our table had some crafts, boxes of cookies, bags of crackers, Pringles (lots of Pringles), t-shirts, and a few other things. Our table was the one closest to the start of the line, so this was the view prior to opening:

Yes, that is a garbage bag and the line does keep going past where you can see. It was beautiful chaos. People were stocking up on junk food like it was the only food group in existence. You might say to yourself, "aren't these supposed to be missionaries, doing without?". Let me tell you how much of a difference a little taste of home can do in your life. Is it necessary? No, (some might disagree) but it really does a lot for morale. Anyway, it was fun for me and it was easy to up-sell, being that items were only a dollar! There were no injuries that I know of, and lots of items were cleared out, so I think that makes it a success.

I was able to go to the seniors home again this week. I am still sitting back a little and just watching the interactions. I am not comfortable holding hands and giving support in that way but it seemed that type of interaction was appreciated by some of the residents. Also, we made a new friend! A man named Michael came and joined us. Previously he had sat in the general vicinity but never in the room. Also,  one of the most vocal residents, after much discussion with one of our chaplains, decided to commit himself to God. Pretty big stuff. In contrast to that, the tiny woman I described last week didn't join us. When I asked why, one of the caregivers explained she was hungover (well that wasn't exactly how it was said, but that's what was going on). Ha! So she was curled up on her bed recovering. Her bags were still packed. 

There doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day to accomplish all I set out to do, and yet sometime the time just draaaaags on. I can't figure that one out; let me know if you can make sense of it. Anyway, I am off to the beach on Sunday. I know what you are thinking, "Marina, you don't even like the beach", and you would be right. There is a pool though, and I love a nice big pool! I'd really prefer a lake, but I choosing not to be too picky at this point. 

Have a great weekend! 

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Happy New Year!

Dearest readers,

I hope you had a 2014 that brought you lots of lessons and opportunities to learn and grow. I'm pretty sure my 2014 can be described as mildly ridiculous when we all sit back and think about it. Anyway, back to the important stuff. I got to go to the retirement home on Tuesday! It was absolutely delightful; just the kind of ministry where I feel slightly comfortable. Apparently the home is run by the French government and there are only about 12 or 13 residents at the moment. They have bed spaces for 40 or so, but I am not sure why it is so empty. Well, actually I am not that surprised it is so empty because the elderly are well respected in Madagascar, so it seemed strange that this kind of place would even exist here. Anyway, there was one lady that was an absolute riot. She is 93 years old and when she was sitting in her wheelchair her feet were at least 4 inches off the ground. I was told that the owner of the home found this lady in a box. Yes, her kids were keeping her in a box. Why? I'm not sure, but maybe they didn't know how to take care of her, or they didn't know how to respond as she went blind and couldn't take care of herself anymore. Despite all that, she has her bags packed every morning, ready to go home. A few people were making bracelets and when one was given to her she said she didn't have anymore room in her bags. Also, she said that she knows everything that is in the bags, so she'll know if anyone takes something. We spent some time singing songs and one resident really liked that; she was smiling ear to ear and clapping along. It was a good morning.

New Year's Eve brought a beautiful storm. There was supposed to be a party on the dock but because of the storm that was supposed to roll in it got moved inside. It was a good thing because there was lightning that lasted for ages and it was just pouring! Despite that hiccough, the night was great. Chaplaincy even had an area set up for a time of reflection. They dimmed the lights, put on calming music, and provided scripture and points for meditation. There were different stations, if that is what you wanted or needed but I just holed up in a corner, read, and thought. This is the verse that stuck out:

"For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning." Psalm 30:5

It just made me think about going to sleep angry. How something can seem so frustrating and upsetting at the moment but if you just sleep on it, things can somehow be so different in the morning. I know this doesn't happen for everyone but knowing that even when things are so difficult and impossible to understand there is something happening. Something that will change who you are, your perspective, and prepare you for another experience along the way. If only it were that easy to remember in the heat of the moment.

Last night (Saturday) on my way to mass I was just moseying along, saying "salama" and smiling to people on the way. Apparently I unintentionally garnered the attention of a man driving a motorcycle. He pulled over and tried to talk to me. Clearly I didn't understand what he was saying. Then he tried to hand me a piece of paper with what looked like phone numbers written on it. I could have been wrong about what he was trying to communicate but in that moment I was so over being a foreigner. All I want to do is run or walk down the street without every other person staring at me. Sure, once and a while a smile and a glance doesn't hurt the self-esteem but I was just tired of it. Then I sat down in church and started to read the scriptures for the mass. Here is the first reading from Isaiah 60: 1-6

"Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; but upon you the LORD shines, and over you appears his glory. Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance. Raise your eyes and look about; they all gather and come to you: your sons come from afar, and your daughters in the arms of their nurses. Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow, for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you, the wealth of nations shall be brought to you. Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the LORD."

Does anyone else see the message there? Well let me just say I kind of laughed after I read it and I was no longer annoyed. Standing out can be a blessing, a way to reach people that you might never encounter. Maybe I am a light, who knows the impact you can make just through the smallest gesture. Now, if you think about THAT too much you might feel burdened and overwhelmed because that is a lot of responsibility. Some days you just don't want to be nice, or have a conversation in the lunch line, or indulge someone's request to do something that they could do themselves. I guess that is what this is all about though; learning how to serve every single moment of every single day, and loving everyone despite the challenges. 

Have a great week! I hope you all find something in this year that changes your perspective.

With love from Madagascar,