Saturday, May 31, 2008
700 hundred words to sum up a year of experiences. The thought overwhelms me which brings me to current state of procrastination.
Really, I am going to start tomorrow.
I've been slowly disengaging myself here. I stopped writing patient stories. I've been packing my bags. I've been thinking about things. There is a lot to think about.
Tonight I was reading through my blogs from when I first came here. I remember it clearly. Seeing the ship for the first time; walking up the ganging way; sarcastically refusing to have my ID photo taken after spending hours traveling (it was not the loveliest picture).
For the two weeks before I cam I couldn't eat. My GI tract always seem to be the best indicator of how I am really feeling and I was nervous. I had never really lived away from home (home being my parents house). I had never flown across the Atlantic Ocean. I didn't know anyone who was going to be on the ship. Until I heard about Mercy Ships, I had never heard of Liberia.
But I was going. And I was staying. For a year.
And now I am going again. The year has gone.
I have a theory that time is like a rubber band. When we stretch it out, it becomes longer. However, the wider you stretch it the faster it snaps back to it's original state.
I find when my weeks are full and busy, they seem longer. However, time inversely seems to snap bye faster. Like a rubber band (sort of).
This has been a full year. Ship life gets innocuously busy. And it's gone bye very fast.
So what have I discovered? I am giving you fair warning that the next few paragraphs may be a sort of mental diarrhea (a lovely image, I know).
I have learned that the world is very big and very small. Before coming here i never had to identify myself as an "American". I had always been from Bucks County or perhaps the more global "Philadelphia". I realize as an American I am not use to thinking globally. Our country is big. Very big. And we only have two direct neighbors. I have been stereotyped by other's as "egocentric" but I really believe that much of that mindset stems from geographic location. If I grew up within a 5 hours drive of 5 other countries I would have a very different outlook. I think Canada is about a 10 hour drive away.
Living in an international community has taught me many things. Sometimes I have learned through blunders, sometimes through healthier experiences. It's made me question what I believe because it's Biblical and what I believe because it's cultural. It's made me less quick to judge others and forced me to find scriptural proof for my personal doctrines.
I realize that people are just people. Whether you are from Germany, England, Ghana, America, New Zealand, or South Africa. We need friends. We like to laugh. We enjoy good food. Little kids need there moms. Much of human nature is universal.
And yet, there are some cultural differences. I find African church over stimulating and I'm sure if a Liberian came to my church they would think no one loved Jesus because we are so mellow. There are some cultures that at first I found cold and abrasive; while I am sure they thought me loud and irresponsible.
It's been both wonderful and challenging to live with so many cultures, particularly when working on the ward. But I have found in working through those difficulties I have gained a great appreciation for my own culture as well as the world around me. It's neat to see that there is more than one correct way in most things. It has been fun to enjoy other viewpoints and other value systems. Differences should not divide; they should be celebrated. We have much to learn from each other.
And at the end of the day, we are all just brothers and sisters; children of God. One eternal family. It's the heart of God we think of one another as such. There isn't the "American" church or the "Chinese" church or the "African" church. There is the body of Christ. The family of God. Jesus prayed in John 17 that "We would be one, as You and I are One." That has a much broader meaning to me now.
During my year here I have said the same phrase more than once it friends of different nationalities,
"If we never see each other again on earth, I will see you in heaven."
How wonderful. Many of the people I have met I will never see again on earth, but we will spend eternity together.
I have learned how little I really need and how much I really have. Having only a bed and a small cupboard in a six berth cabin may sound unbearable. It really very small and sometimes is is a little frustrating to have no space that is your own. But it's really just fine. I have the Internet and air conditioning. Most of my patients didn't even have beds.
And even a studio apartment would seem large now (what? my own toilet and a sink? amazing.)
I have reinforced my strong distaste for non-governmental politics but realize they are something you probably can't ever get away from. You just have to digest the things you like and spit out what you don't.
I realize the importance of relationships. We are such relational beings. Living in an environment where people are always coming and going is really hard. And this is coming from a stone-faced cynic who never thought she "needed" people. But I do. We all do. And there is something to be said for stability in relationships. The constant "hey, where are you from..what do you..how long will you be here for...what do you like to do.." state in relationships can be exhausting. You can be very misunderstood; you have to explain yourself; there really isn't trust.
It's nice to simply be known. To speak without explaining where you are coming from. To tell a joke and know the other person will laugh (or at least won't be annoyed or offended). To have a bad day and know you will still be loved despite your gross imperfections. To verbalize frustrations and know they will just be taken at face value without any added depth or added intuition. To have the freedom to be vulnerable.
There is a real freedom in a good friend.
If I had to choose between being someone important, changing the world, or having a handful of people in my life that I really loved; I'd choose the latter.
Being "important" is not Biblical (Jesus was a man of no reputation) and Jesus has already saved the world. When I die, I hope someone will stand up and say "she was a faithful friend," of "She was a kind sister (Ben, Josh :)" of "She was a loving daughter". I think it's what most hope for but few ever actively seek out to live a life that is worthy of such an ending.
Well, I haven't learned to go to bed at a reasonable hour. But who really wants to be reasonable? I hear it's overrated.
Friday, May 30, 2008
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Superpower: the uncanny ability to shoot hot dogs from all ten fingers at warp speeds.
Weakness: Inability to neatly eat cucumbers.
catch phrase: "Who's Hungry?"
Superpower: Ability to make herself invisible at any moment.
Favorite Pastime: Singing and Dancing to synthesized karaoke songs.
Years of service: Invisigirl has been serving the people of the world for 10 years. To commemorate her service she is launching her own handbag line this fall.
Superpower: Ability to breath under water
15 minutes of fame: Ali successfully captured a series of photographs proving the authenticity of the Loch Ness Monster to the relief of the concerned global community. It looks like Japan isn't Nessie's only underwater ally.
Favorite food: FuFu
Superpower: Ability to freeze time.
Day Job: Surgeon.
Nemesis: Father Time.
How I am keeping myself awake on nightshift.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
As we sit on the cusp of rainy season the sunsets have been enthrallingly beautiful. We have started a bit of a dock club dedicated to the sincere appreciation of the painted sky.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Monday, May 26, 2008
Annie wobbled around the ward like an awkward duck. Her legs were bilaterally bowed into dim lit half moons which decreased her height by at least six inches. It looked terribly uncomfortable. However, she seemed unfazed. Annie boldly made herself at home in the ward, following around the nurses and demanding crayons.
Did I say she was 30% sass? Perhaps it was more like 50%...
I took care of Annie Friday, the day after her surgery. The day I had eight pediatric patients. Eight screaming patients under the age of six. It was a memorable day.
Annie was having some problems mixing pain with anxiety. She literally screamed all day. It took some serious couching and deep breathing exercise to calm her down. Thankfully, as Anne from "Anne of Green Gables" would say, "Each day is fresh with no mistakes."
When I came to work on Saturday Annie was a reformed-much-happier-not-screaming-at-every-moment child. Thankfully. Our friendship was solidified when I carried her and her two casted legs upstairs to the 7th deck for some fresh air.
Later that night Annie was visited by her father. He brought her some cookies and apologized for not bringing the plums she had wanted. I suppose in America it would have been the equivalent of bringing a new toy but being unable to bring the favorite cookies.
It makes me happy to think that Annie will be able to stand strait and tall. That her legs will keep up with her vivacious spirit.
I love Acan's ears. They pop out from the sides of his head and beg to be pulled.
Acan is back for his second club foot surgery. He's a sweet, smiley six year old. Acan's dad, who is staying with him, is very sweet and attentive to his needs. However, regardless of how wonderful your dad is, whether your a little of a big kid, there is just something really soothing about mom.
I remember being little and having my mom wake me up for school or church by gently rubbing my back. It was such a nice way to start the morning. (of course I also remember all the mornings of my dad standing at the door, loudly singing his own lyrics to some classic song that generally went something like, "Megan, you need to get out of bed, it's a beautiful morning and you have to get up"...the style differences between moms and dads :)
After I listened to his lungs and gave him his medicine, I tucked him in and sat by Acan's bed, gently rubbing his head and chest. He cracked a delighted contented smile, and then slowly closed his eyes and tilted his head towards me. I think kids need a women's nurturing touch. It's quite important actually.
Since his mother was not here to rub his head as he drifted to sleep, I figured I should do it for her. I'm sure she would be glad to know her baby was being loved.
Alfred is a bit of a legend in his own time. He has spent most of the outreach with us and his disembarkment from the ship does look like it will be in the near future.
You just have to love Alfred. He is a fun, sweet spirited, mildly sassy fourteen year old boy. He is here alone, with sporadic visits from his father. He is friends with Emmanuel, a fifteen year old who I have not seen have a visitors in the month he has been here, in the bed next to him. Together they play uno, laugh, and even play soccer in the hallway on their crutches. I am quite attached to them both.
On Saturday, Alfred brought a deck of card outside. He performed several very clever and nicely delivered magic tricks in which he discovered and uncovered the cards i had secretly chosen.
When I came on tonight both Alfred and Emmanuel said, "Oh sister Meggee, we'd be missing you today." Emmanuel asked me his typical, "Meggee, are you my nurse?" and then smiled when I said yes.
I tucked Emmanuel in before he fell asleep. He is a giant four year old trapped in a 15 year old body and I am sad for him because he has no parents with him. For a while, he was really having a hard time emotionally. It was sad. So I try to give him a little extra love.
It's funny how small things can make such a big difference to people. Emmanuel's smile when I tuck him into at night clearly shows how much he enjoys the special attention. It's nice to make someone feel special.
As I tucked Emmanuel in he asked me when I was leaving. I grew a little teary eyed. I really love being with the patients.
And I'm really going to miss tucking them in at night.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Friday, May 23, 2008
Hummus and pitas. yummm!
I love the Saaj!!!
Yesterday was my day off. It was also the day of a fire drill.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
4.6 months old. 20 lbs.
An excellent snuggler.
Born with two club feet; has since acquired two huge cheeks.
Possibly the largest Liberian baby I have cared for.
Patrick makes me love being a nurse. He is a docile happy baby, who obviously loves to eat. I have a strong belief that babies were never meant to be skinny. Skinny babies make me sad. Babies like Patrick, with rolling legs and inflated arms, make me happy. I feel they are what God intended babies to look like (that's not doctrine..just a personal bent :).
I can't help but steal Patrick from him mother on a regular basis. Today I visited the ward for that very specific purpose.
Last night, I took Patrick for a walk down the hallway, showing him off like a prize. The world needed to appreciate his robustness.
As I held him, he let his plump arm flop across mine and dangle by my hand. His head was carefully nestled into the nook of my neck and plump cheeks melted into me chest. As I stroked his hairless head, he fell asleep. I couldn't help but sing into his ears the song, "So this is love," from the Disney classic "Cinderella".
A baby asleep in your arms. The wealth of kings could not compare to such a beautiful moment.
Later, while he was laying in his bed I stick my face close to his as part of a strategic plan to make him smile. His eyes met with mine and he started talking. For almost 15 minutes he tested his growing lungs with a series of high pitched "ahhs" and "coos". His words were rather unintelligible to the adult ear but I convinced myself that he was spouting sonnets of love in my general direction.
A girl can dream, can't she?
Seven months old.
Born with bilateral club feet.
A smiley and happy baby.
Mesco is from up country. He has five older siblings who are currently under the care of his father. His mother brought him to Monrovia in January hoping that he could be helped on the ship. But the ship was not here.
Determined to help her baby, she stayed in Monrovia with a friend, hoping to make it to the ship when it returned.
She had nothing. She told me people on the street would see her and "the fine child," and they would help her, by giving needed money and food. She had to trust God to meet their needs while she waited for the ship. Her needs were always met.
In March, Mesco was screened at the ship and scheduled for surgery. He came this week.
At home, kids generally don't need surgery for club feet because the are treated when they are very young. Because the bones are still forming, the feet can be corrected through a series of casts and manipulation. We have been able to treat a few children here this way, which is wonderful because it is completely non-invasive.
Mesco is currently undergoing cast changes. Last night I assisted the surgeon while he changed Mesco's cast (I was covered in plaster when it was all over, which I found rather enjoyable..I looked as if I worked extra hard :). Mesco screamed and attempted to kick (however I had him in a complete body hold) while the angry and noisy saw temporarily freed his small legs. The wonderful thing about children is that they are quick to forgive and he was smiling and laughing moments after the saw was turned off.
Yesterday his mom platted his hair. You have to love his little platts.
I sure do.
While I thoroughly enjoyed my friends in the "A ward men's club" that I have been caring for for the past month, a peds nurse is always a peds nurse. This week the pediatric orthopedic surgeons are back, which means our cute double casted friends are retuning in droves.
Last night, as I cared for my assignment which consisted of no one over the age of six, euphoria was running through my veins. As the translators regularly tell me, "oh Meggee, she loves the children." These kids are so darn cute; it would be an impossibility not to love them.
I am going to dearly miss them when I leave.
more pediatric photos
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
It's hard to believe but I am leaving the ship in less than three years. Two years of intense googling and dissatisfaction on some level have resulted in a year spent aboard a floating hospital ship on the coast of West Africa. Through God's grace, I have left my very free-spirited-laid back and predominantly non-structured home and church environment and have somehow manged to live in the often necessarily rigidly delineated and completely structured ship environment. And I'm even going to come back.
I like gradual transitions. When I am enthralled by something I only know how to give it everything to it. All or nothing pretty much all the time. I have regularly been told that it might be beneficial to adopt the word "moderation" into my vocabulary. Because of this tendency I find processing and pondering the experiences of the day important, especially when they involve a change.
I am starting to let by brain disengage itself here. Slowly, but healthily. The Lord always moves forward to what's next. There is so much to think about. So many experience's to process.
It's funny how we find our security in our surroundings. We build our towers in the sand and think the will hold us when the tide comes in. But they are always washed away.
I have lived on a ship for a year. There is a long list of daily things that an outsider would find completely bizarre that I now subconsciously accept as the way things were meant to be. As much as I am so excited to see my family and friends at home, to drink Dunkin Donuts Iced coffee and walk through the grass in my bare feet, it's strange to think of the normalcy I have built in my heart and in my head being washed away. The tide of change is coming in as it always does.
Last week I was sitting outside night (one of the only quite times on the ship) and realized that this August I will celebrate my ninth anniversary of knowing Jesus. I clearly remember the beginning. When I first looked up at the sky and realized God had formed it and made it beautiful because He loves me. When He first spoke truth to my heart through His Word. When I realized that I wasn't alone and never would be. When I realized I was His daughter and His beloved. I remember the transforming Joy that entered my heart. And none of it was of my own accord. I didn't find Him; He found me.
She decked herself with her earrings and jewels, and she went after her lovers, and forgot me, saith the Lord. Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there as in the days of her youth.
On Saturday I had a rather significant scare. In the morning I tried to turn on my laptop only to find it completely unresponsive. Oh the panic. Fortunately, my friend and IT hero Josh was able to quite simply solve my problem, thus saving me from the pain of losing a beloved friend and companion. To celebrate the fact that I still had my photos and music, I made a few purchases on I tunes. I bought Jon Foreman's newest EP "Spring" and the beautiful song, "Your Love is strong."
As I thought beginnings today, I thought about the strength of His Love throughout time and eternity.
In the beginning GOd created the heaven and the earth.
He created a beautiful world for us to enjoy. He painted the skies; He delicately formed flowers; He encoded DNA strands. Science is simply discovering God's intelligence. Art is simply mimicking His creativity. He is the Author of it all.
O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt.
As He began His Crucifixion His heart was broken. He didn't want to die on the cross. But His great love for us compelled Him to obey His heavenly Father.
Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven devils.
His gentle heart was always reaching out to even the most unloved; even the most despised; to those that the world would judge and mock. He always saw His children; not their sins.
His love is so strong for so many different reasons. Strength is not linear. My soul can rest there.
TO know that I have done nothing to deserve anything I have been given. To know that He will completed the work that He has started. To know He only wants me to be his daughter. TO know that I am simply called to follow Him and nothing else. There is rest.
I pray that I will never find my security or my dreams or my goals in the towers of sand I so frequently build. Let them all be washed away, that my only security, my only hope, my only desire, my dream, would simply be Jesus.
Let all other sufficiency disappear.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Sunday, May 18, 2008
And what am I, that I might be called Your child
What am I, what am I
That You might know me, my King
What am I, what am I, what am I
As I look off into the distance
Watching the sun roll on by
Beautiful colors all around me, oh
Painted all over the sky
The same hands that created all of this
They created you and I
What a beautiful God
What a beautiful God
And what am I, that I might be called Your child
What am I, what am I
That You might know me, my King
What am I, what am I
That You might die, that I might live
What am I, what am I, what am I, what am I
"Beautiful" by Shawn McDonald
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Chrissy & I going to Penang for Malasian fusion food late in the night @ Christmas time
see the difference?
It's been about six weeks since Michelle left cabin 3426. Whenever a roommate leaves it is the appropriate response to leave something for their other cabin mates to remember them by (in other words, they leave the things they don't want anymore and/or cannot fit into their bags).
This collection of goods will first be put through and inspection by all members of the cabin, starting with the person's bunk mate, and then what did not pass will be taken down to deck two and placed in "the boutique", which is the equivalent of a ship run thrift store.
When Michelle left she carried on the tradition and I inherited several kinds of hair toiletries. Convenient, because my over sized bottle of shampoo and conditioner I had brought from home at Christmas time was just running out.
It took a week of using Michelle's products, what I had assumed were shampoo and conditioner, for me to realize that I probably should have read the bottles before using them ( alight oversight). When I finally read the bottle I realized I had two conditioners and no shampoo; I had been doubly conditioning for about a week.
My best friend Chrissy has been preaching the "Curly Girl" life style. Although it's not really life style, it's more of a religion (not really). Chrissy owns the book (which I have read) which explains in detail a proposed way to make your naturally curly hair even curlier. For example, not washing with shampoo, having a "curly" haircut, not blow drying it, and being weary of products are a few of the instituted regulations. When Chrissy started "following the rules" I must say I, who was rather cynical, became a believer. (your can read more about it here)
I had always wanted to try the curly girl way of life but was always to busy to put forth the non-effort needed. However, after not washing my hair with shampoo for a week, I decided there is not time like the present.
Last night was the first time I washed my hair with shampoo in 6 weeks. Chrissy would be proud. I don't know that I can say my hair felt mush curlier (although I never really bother to do anything with it here) but it did feel much softer and was surprisingly not greasy. Yesterday, I did purchase a bottle of shampoo, but I think I will only use it once a week.
Thus continuing my quest for curls.