Sunday, 31 May 2015

¡Adiós Amigos!

In the wake of a substantial amount of crew members coming to the end of their commitments, there have been lots of sad faces around. Really, these last two weeks have been a platform for 80+ crew departures. Among the tears, and goodbyes, I would say there are a whole lot of excited, thankful, and joyful faces around as well. I have often found that it is incredibly easy to find something that hurts, or doesn't make sense, and let it take hold of me and be at the centre of my life. Today I have too many things to be happy about to not let them own the day (and hopefully the week/month/year). I hope that you can see past the hardship, trials and tribulations, and know that there are lots of things that are going right in your life. This isn't because you're better off than someone else, but because you are where you are right now, being who you are, and living the best way you can, for you. I'd like to point out that I am often comparing myself to others; my successes, my failures, my burdens, my dreams, the way I look, the way I feel, and almost everything else. I am thankful for the following things without comparison to anyone else's circumstances, better or worse.

1. Unexpected notes that remind you that someone sees the good in you
2. People who bring you a wonderful sense of calm and peace just by being who they are
3. A long awaited software update for my computer (now my ipod and my laptop can understand each other - this is HUGE) and the fabulous people who brought it to me!
4. Welcoming back wonderful AFM alumni
5. New life and growing families
6. Dance parties on deck 7
7. Being told I dance like an African (by an African)
8. Discovering new music and listening to it all weekend on repeat
9. Farewell parties that are full of laughter, dancing, and incredible amounts of food
10. Space to search for what makes sense (or doesn't)
11. Possibilities for the future

A very good friend of mine started a 215 day count of gratitude and random acts of kindness as a part of one of her ministries. You can check it out here: or on facebook at

"Don't be dismayed by good-byes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends." - Richard Bach

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Family Vacation

Last weekend I got to go on a family vacation! This was especially exciting for me because my biological family didn't take very many vacations together when I was growing up.
When I went to Texas last year, to start my Mercy Ships journey, I spent those first few months with the same people everyday, getting a crash course in areas that would get us ready for long-term life on the Africa Mercy. We got to know each other quite a bit more than you would if you had just rolled up to the ship and dove in to the community. As this year has passed, a whole lot of things have changed and that means that we are saying goodbye to A LOT of the people. That is okay, because they are going on to other, fantastic things, but that doesn't take away the sadness that comes with your family breaking up. Yes, we are a family. I was thinking and we really are a family for many reasons:

1. You don't talk to everyone in your family all the time, but you know that if you need them they are there for you
2. You know that they are a familiar face in a new situation, and that is terribly comforting when you feel like everything is changing/falling apart around you
3. We are often dysfunctional
4. We have jokes that other people don't understand
5. We get together to celebrate birthdays 
6. We have shared traumatizing (and not so traumatizing) experiences
7. We support each other
8. Each person contributes something different
9. We annoy, upset, and frustrate one another (on occasion)
10. It is hard to say goodbye

All that to say, we had a nice weekend, with lots of love, some tears, and a few group hugs...

Photo credits go to the always wonderful, Walter Pretorius.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

What You Don't Know Won't Hurt You

Post number 50! How could I possibly have so much to say that I have written about myself and my experiences 50 times?
I will warn you now, before you get too far in, that this post is no fun. I really wish I were a more fun individual but, alas, that is not the case. This is not a pity party, because someone has to be the responsible one!
Some have said that I over think things. To that I say, you are absolutely correct! How do I turn off my brain so I stop over thinking, and over analyzing everything about my life, and the world? As far as I know it is not possible, but if someone knows otherwise please tell me! Here is my current thought process.
Today, I was finishing up the long weekend at the beach (I'm no longer fooling anyone with my insistence that I dislike the beach), and I heard something distressing. Just down the beach from where our group was staying, was a large group of Malagasy people gathered together. As we are curious creatures, we were wondering what was going on, and thought maybe it was a church gathering. Well, one of the ladies who worked at the hotel had walked over to the group, and when she walked back someone asked her what was happening. She responded that four fishermen had gone out on Thursday and never come back. The fishermen in Madagascar work out of canoes. I don't believe they have any food stores, life jackets, or any way to signal for help. So, you see, for a few men to be gone for three days is a big deal. That got me thinking about all the people around the world, and how many things happen to which we are completely oblivious.
I just finished reading a book called Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. In the book she describes the awful realities of some of the countries she lived in, including Kenya and Somalia. She describes unthinkable living conditions, and people in hopeless situations. I had no idea any of this had happened, and could never even come close to understanding what she went through at that time of her life. With all of the recent natural disasters, and challenges the world is currently facing, I have heard more that one person, in more that one part of the world, ask if this is the end. This combination of facts just made me keenly aware that awful things happen all over the world, all the time. The thing that dictates whether it impacts our thoughts is awareness. How many natural disasters happen that we don't know about, because they don't affect a large amount of people or are not in an area that is in the public eye? How many injustices occur everyday that cause oppression among people, that we don't know about? I'm not saying that we can possibly know everything that happens everywhere. I am just making an observation that our understanding of what happens on this Earth is so limited and there is not a whole lot we can do about it. Sure, you can take the time to inform yourself by reading the news, traveling to new places, and meeting new people, but even then you can't know everything. I just wonder how many times people around of world have looked at their circumstances, or heard of things in neighbouring lands that caused them to think that the end of world was coming.
I don't know where the balance is in understanding and accepting vs. inquiring and questioning. The other thing I have been told is that I want to know everything. I certainly don't want to know everything, because that is a lot of responsibility but I am definitely not a stranger to using the word "why". Sometimes I ask "why" and I get an answer that I wasn't prepared for, or that I really didn't want to know because it was too personal, or became a burden to know. However, I wouldn't have been able to make that conclusion without the information provided. Kind of a paradox I suppose.
I often can't accept an answer without having some idea of how the answer was formulated. I am sure that this can be extremely frustrating, because of how disrespectful, and distrustful it is to always be questioned. I want to have faith, I want to be okay with not having empirical evidence, or a clear understanding of the thought process or the concept, but I don't know how to do that. How can I be less inquisitive, less skeptical, more accepting, and more trusting? This is how I have gotten to a place where I am questioning the very basis of religion, and that is so incredible stressful. Who really wants to rethink the foundation of their life? I think that it might be nice to be on the opposite side of the spectrum and live in a state of oblivion, but I know that wouldn't make me happy either (or maybe it would because I wouldn't know any better). I'd like to find a happy medium. Please help!

Have a wonderful week. If you are celebrating Victoria Day in Canada, I hope you enjoy your long weekend and your short work week.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Oreos for Breakfast

I was browsing Amazon for things to send myself on the container (things to look forward to) and I was mildly worried when I saw that Mega Stuffed Oreos were found under breakfast food. Where did we go wrong? I suppose some might argue Amazon has it right, and maybe it falls along the same line as Bill Cosby justifying chocolate cake for breakfast.

Now that I have gotten that out of my system I can get down to business.

Happy Mother's Day!

Don't forget to tell your mother, your grandmother, or someone who has been like a mother to you, that you love and appreciate her. Never take them for granted because you never know how long they will be around.

There is one very important woman who is not pictured here. My mom's mother passed away almost 28 years ago. I count myself lucky to share a name with her, and to have a mother who was loved and taught by someone who was clearly a wonderful, caring, intelligent, and brave person.

I believe great loss can only exist where there is great love. Take the time, and be there. Love, listen, and show that you really care. Have a wonderful day and a fantastic week!

Saturday, 2 May 2015

I could have been to Paris by now!

You may think I have been shirking my blogging duties yet again. However, I will let you know that I have an excellent excuse yet again... I was in Mahajanga! Mahajanga is a city on the West coast of Madagascar. It is a 12 hour drive from the capital Antananarivo (Tana). The drive could be much shorter if the road were straight, but it is never that simple. I went with a friend from the ship, Andrea. We flew from Toamasina to Tana and stayed with her aunt and their family over night and then took the bus, bright and early, the next morning to Mahajanga. Before I get into that, let me tell you about the coolest thing that happened on the short 45 minute flight from Toamasina to Tana: we were seated next to a guy who is from Togo but lives in Toronto! He works for SNC-Lavalin which is a company that has a branch responsible for planning and builds mines. So he was in Madagascar inspecting the Ambatovy mine that they built a while back. So cool! This world is so small sometimes. Anyway, back to the journey... In the twelve hours it took to get from Tana to Mahajanga I could have been a lot of places, including Paris. Oh well, I had some great travel buddies (Andrea and her super sassy aunt) and some lovely scenery to look at along the way.

Once we got there, we promptly went to Andrea's aunt's house, showered, and got ready for bed. At that point it was 8:30. If I'm tired I am okay to go to bed but Andrea is of the school of thought that she has to wait until later so that she doesn't wake up at the crack of dawn. Fair.

We didn't do any exploring or sightseeing, we just went to relax. And relax we did. Even the stray dogs understood our intentions...

We had three full days there, and went to the beach everyday. I KNOW. I DON'T LIKE THE BEACH. I think I might be changing my mind on that one. I still don't like sand getting all over me but it isn't that bad. 
While we were on the beach, we saw lots of ladies with impressive balancing skills. The other thing was that many women had mud masks on their faces to protect them from the sun. I think it made them look a little scary, but skin care is important when the sun is that strong.

It was a great few days, and I am so thankful that I got to be a part of it. Now I can say I have seen some more of the country!
After we took the 12 hour bus ride back to Tana we found out that our flight got postponed. No big deal, that means we got to sleep in until 8 instead of waking up at 5 am. The only bad thing is that I was supposed to be working, and I don't want to give the impression that I don't take work seriously.  When we got to the airport that morning we found out that our flight had been cancelled again and they re-booked us on the 4 pm flight. So now I am really freaked out about missing another whole day of work. I got over it eventually, once I had called work and realized that there was absolutely nothing to worry about. We spent the next few hours with the Tana team. They work for Mercy Ships but are stationed in Tana and help facilitate crew arrivals and overnight stays in the capital before taking the 8 hour bus ride to the ship. They do a whole lot of other things too, but I know the most about them taking care of the crew. Next to their house were some poinsettias in the garden. They just grow wild here; Christmas all the time!

That's all for now. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!