I have two articles I need to write. One for the newspaper; One for the nursing magazine.
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.