Saturday, 28 March 2015



Here I am on flight number 1:

Happy, right? HA! You should've seen me on flight #3. I was in tears because my 16 inches of personal space was being violated on both sides! I mean look at his leg. It is CLEARLY past the armrest that delineates MY AREA! Rude.

In addition to the legs giving me anxiety, the flight from Paris was delayed, so we got to Montreal at the time I was supposed to be boarding my flight for Toronto. Fail. I still had to go through customs and recheck my baggage. Thankfully there are flights going from Montreal to Toronto every hour, so I was able to get on another one that night. 

Before my breakdown, I got to see this beautiful sight as we were flying over Switzerland:

I will admit, it was a looooong trip, but it was absolutely worth it for this...

My Nonna says "You've got the zeppole now". She means that she wants me to eat zeppole (it was 10pm, just to be clear). That is hilarious for a number of reasons but mostly because zeppole is a pastry. So, in typical Nonna fashion, she is most concerned about what she is going to feed me even though she hasn't seen me in 10 months.

Have a wonderful Sunday everyone!

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Mo Money Mo Problems

For those of you who are wondering about the title here is the reference (DISCLAIMER: don't listen to it with children, or people who are easily offended near by):

Back to business. I always like to give those people who aren't in the country I am currently in, an idea of what the money looks like. The exchange rate is about 2800 ariary to 1 US dollar and 2300 to one Canadian dollar. Can we discuss how awful the Canadian dollar is right now? Seriously, it is very upsetting. Do you know what else is upsetting? I read that Target is closing all 133 stores they have in Canada! Is Canada really that bad for business? It really startled me that such a large corporation would "give up" after only two years. I guess if it doesn't work, then don't do it. They were doing just fine before they came to Canada anyway. I am just wondering who is going to fill all of those storefronts? Time to get back on topic...

The bills are kind of like Euros in that the greater the value, the larger the actual bill. I have had a few coins but they are so very worthless that I always forget I have them and often the store will just round to the nearest hundred. Really, 20 ariary is a fraction of a penny, and Canadians don't even use pennies anymore anyway! I mean, one day some kid is going to see and penny and say something ridiculous like "what does this do?" Anyway, the largest bill I have seen is 10000 and then 5000, 2000, 1000, 500, 200, 100.  The currency used to be Malagasy Francs until 2005, and that value is indicated on the smaller bills. Most of the bills I get are very clean and crisp. That being said, I have seen some very dirty and worn bills, I just never get them myself. Strange.

Have a wonderful Sunday (and partial Saturday, depending where you are).

Also, it is my favourite brother's birthday tomorrow. Yes, he is also my only brother, so you are thinking that he is my default favourite. Let me tell you right now, if he weren't as awesome as he is, I would certainly NOT claim his as my favourite. So if you are going to see him, please give him a hug for me!

Sunday, 15 March 2015

I'm Wrong... maybe

Living in a community with people who all have a heart to serve might seem like the perfect scenario. I'm not sure how I thought it was going to be when I got here but I knew there would be challenges in all facets of life. I can only speak for myself when I say that I am pushed everyday; to be better, to act better, to be more generous, more loving, more compassionate, more thoughtful, more intentional, more loyal, more respectful, more, more, more. I feel all of those things because I have so many people around me exemplifying all of those characteristics. I see them and I think that I should and can work harder to serve, and love with more, or everything that I have. At the root, all most all the crew is connected by religion. Although there are many different denominations, we can all call ourselves Christians (even though some Christians would not let Catholics be included in that group). A few months ago one of the traditions of the Catholic church was brought to me as contradicting scripture. The verse comes from the King James version, Exodus 20:4:

"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth."

The person who was talking to me said that Catholics have statues in their churches, pray to them, and even bow down to them! All true things, I had to admit. I wasn't exactly prepared to have a debate right there and then, but I tried to explain that the statues are not made as idols and we certainly don't worship them. That wasn't a good enough answer apparently, so instead of getting upset we just changed the subject and carried on. However, I left there and tried to do some research to figured out what happened. Did Catholics really make such a big mistake? My first question was to figure out the correct definition of a graven image. Merriam-Webster defines it as "an object (such as a statue) that is worshiped as a god or in place of a god." Alternatively it says, "an object of worship carved usually from wood or stone:idol." Well, from those definitions I can certainly say that the images and statues that Catholics have in their homes and in their churches are most certainly not graven images. However, I wasn't completely convinced. I did some more research and found that many people had the same question I did. Some of the points that were made included likening images to having a picture of a loved one that you use to remind yourself of, explaining that difference between intervening and interceding, and the other thoughts I had brought up initially. After a while I thought it important to bring it up again, so that I could bring up my newly found arguments. This time I wasn't prepared for a battle and that is what it felt like. It was as though the other person was saying Catholics were completely wrong, and they were certainly not prepared to consider my perspective. You know what? I admitted defeat. I said I was wrong and I felt completely dejected. I walked away from the conversation thinking that I would swear off Catholicism and that this was the end of it for me. To be fair, this isn't the only thing that has caused me to doubt and question my faith and the church in which I grew up worshipping God. Despite those feelings against the Catholic church, I felt a push to figure it out; to read the Bible and really take stock of what I thought I knew. My frustration was that even though I grew up going to Catholic school, going to church every Sunday, and saying my prayers at night, my knowledge of the Bible was (and still is) patchy at best. I promised myself I would dig in and learn for myself and not just go on accepting what people had been telling me I should believe. So I did. I was excited to read my Bible everyday. I had never had a great desire to read the Bible, especially the Old Testament, but I happily read in the morning before work, or at lunch, or before bed. It didn't feel forced, or like I was fulfilling an obligation. Even though I was excited for this journey, and for looking forward to reading the Bible, I was worried. As much as I don't want to think about what people say I was worried what people at home would think. I didn't want them to see me and think that the ship was brain-washing me. I would never want my own struggle to reflect badly on the organization. As the week wore on, I talked to friends and family, each with differing opinions on my decision. One friend really made me think about church history and how I wanted to read more about it.  How did we get to this place with so many different churches? How do I know that I am choosing the right one? Who has the right answers? What if I never figure this out? What if I choose wrong?

It must have been Wednesday when I thought I needed to re-read Exodus 20:4-5 in my own Bible, to see if I could make sense of my confusion. In the New International Version this is what it says:

"You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them..."

Right away, I thought, "that isn't true of statues and images in the Catholic church; they aren't idols!" That got me thinking how the slightest change of words, punctuation, grammar, and syntax can change the meaning of a sentence in the English language. I thought, how the heck am I going to figure this out when every version of the Bible is saying things in a slightly different way? Sure the base message is the same, but different words can change your understanding and interpretation of the text. Then I thought I would need to learn the language that the Bible was originally written in so that I could read the original words. Well, of course my next though was, it would take a long time to get to a place where I could comfortably read, interpret, and analyze a completely foreign language. That took me to a place where I considered that I could read everyday, all day, for the rest of my life, and I would never be able to read all the books about church history, Bible interpretation, and supplementary texts. I will never know everything, so I just have to make a decision with what I can manage to read and learn. That is a hard pill for me to swallow. I always want to be able to make the most well informed decision possible, but I spend so much time researching that a decision never actually gets made. So frustrating! 

So, I went from almost renouncing my Catholic faith on Sunday to sitting in mass at the local Catholic church on Saturday night. I wasn't comfortable receiving communion because there is still too much I am trying to uncover. Sometimes I feel a little crazy because my opinions change so quickly on the ship, but I believe it is because there are so many people providing a good example that I think they can all be right. The hard thing is they are sometimes running on slightly different interpretations of the same belief and I end up feeling pulled in all different directions.

I really wish Christians were united. I wish that everyone could worship the same God and we could help each other grow and develop spiritually. Unfortunately we are not there. There are so many things that people take issue with when it comes to the Catholic church. Sometimes I don't have the answers, but I am looking for them. I'm not sure I will ever find the "right" church, or know for certain that I am saying,  and doing the right thing, but I suppose that is what this life is all about. It is a time to do your best, to search, doubt, question, and grow. It is overwhelming to think how many hateful things people could say to me to make me want to turn away from the church. I don't claim to know or understand why things happen a certain way, or why we do things differently but I will try my best to educate myself to a point where people can't say one thing that makes me turn my back on the Catholic church. 

On another note... 

I think that ports get a bad rap as being dirty, full or rats, cockroaches, diseases, and corruption. I have to say there are a few cockroaches around but this place can be really beautiful.  

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Rainy Days

It is 9 o'clock in the morning and I have already cleaned the bathroom and done my laundry. I figure that means I could potentially call it a day at this point. I was really hoping to get some sun but, alas, rainy season is in full swing and this is what it looks like outside:

Not so bad, especially since it isn't particularly cold outside. Even with the rain, life goes on: the patients are being taken care of on Deck 3, the fishermen are pulling in their catch on the beach, and the pousse pousse drivers are driving through the big puddles.

The ship has been moving quite a bit lately. When I went out to take pictures of the gloomy day I could hear the ship pressing the Yokohama fenders against the dock and yesterday I could hear the ropes straining to keep hold. If you have never seen one of these fenders up close, they are huge (way taller than me); I suppose it makes sense given that the ship is also huge. I was just used to the little bumpers that we use on the boat at home. Now, having seen some incredibly big ships, seeing a little 24 footer will never be the same. 

Enjoy your weekend! Now to figure out what to do with the rest of my day...

Sunday, 1 March 2015

What's for Lunch?

In Madagascar there are lots of foods that I have never seen before, or that I may have seen in the grocery store but would never know how to eat it, cook it, or even begin to get it open. For example, passionfruit. I knew it tasted delicious but I have no idea it looks like this:

Whenever someone it making something with passionfruit in the crew galley it smells beautiful!

This past week I got to try two new foods that are common in Madagascar: breadfruit and rambutan.

I was in the crew galley, on one of many occasions, and one of the other ladies that is in there all the time had roasted breadfruit and offered me a piece. If it isn't meat, I am always happy to try it! The moment I tasted it, it sparked a memory. It tasted exactly like something I had eaten many times before, but I couldn't put my finger on it. In fact, I still haven't figured it out. I asked how you choose a good one, and she wasn't sure. The picture below, is from the internet but that is what it looked like. I was told not to eat that dark part in the middle. The outside is my favourite part because the pattern is so beautiful, but you can't eat it. When it is raw the outside is green.

At lunch and dinner we always have at least one fruit option. Since litchi season is over we haven't seen those in quite some time. However, this guy showed up last week...

Cute huh!? Many people were calling it a Chinese litchi, but upon further investigation, it looks like it is actually a rambutan. Not to be confused with Rasputin. Rasputin makes me think of Russia, the Disney movie Anastasia, and the song that used to get played at weddings all the time. You know the one that made people dance in a way that made you think someone was going to pop their knee. For anyone who doesn't know what I'm talking about or who would like to go down memory lane, I have included a video below. NOTE: I will not be held responsible for any injuries that come as a result of dancing to this song!

I hope everyone has a wonderful week! Maybe you'll get to try something new (don't be scared)!