“Did you beat the ocean?” “Not this time…”

Sailor’s code for “I’m seasick and I’ve fed the fishes!” I’m actually quite proud of myself because the sea was rolling so much we had about ten of us lined up beside the wheelhouse, eating dry cornflakes and being sick alternately. I read The Rime of the Ancient Mariner to distract us until it made me sick, which brought home to me the importance of memorisation.

An extract from my journal  before leaving Palermo:

One of the first things we have to do before sailing is secure the ship- essentially, make it shipshape, a phrase which makes me very happy. We start with making sure our cabins are clean and tidy- bunks sort of made, phone and laptop chargers tucked away, food and drinks un-spillable. Then the galley, saloon, skansen and deck all have to be made tidy and then the ship looks austere, professional and exciting. I’m typing this in the saloon where if only we’d hoovered the carpet it would look like the real deal. Sarah has just walked by in her Next Wave t-shirt ready for her un-mooring position on the aft deck; the tables are covered with grip matting to stop the plates and cups sliding when we eat, the cupboards and fridges are bolted or strapped shut and outside I can see the crew and other trainees preparing to cross to the other side of the port where we’ll be bunkering (taking on fuel.)

A note: one of my favourite things about being at sea is the alternative vocabulary for everything. I love words.

Taking on fuel… just another example of how much favour we seem to gain. One of the port officials has helped us get duty free fuel which costs half the price, on top of the free berth and water we’ve enjoyed in Palermo.

Today I’m the only trainee who wasn’t given a position on deck but I think I’ll go up and learn and join in the fun anyway. 11 weeks on board. I want to make every last minute count!

Now we’re in Messina, the home of Much Ado about Nothing. It’s cool. I will post again soon!

Ad Siciliam (just cos Latin)

So at noon tomorrow we set sail for Sicily! It’s roughly a 20 hour sail so we’re hoping to arrive on Tuesday. I’m on watch with Lasse, Martta, Seth, Tori, Rebecca, Kathryn and Bart from 4 till 8 AM and PM- sunrise and sunset! I am apprehensive and unbelievably excited.

The aim is to sail around Sicily and be back in Gozo for Christmas. However, we’re low on fuel so pray for favourable winds and fuel money for the ship! If we don’t have enough, we may not be able to complete the voyage.

I am exhausted and have to be up at seven tomorrow so signing out. It has been a crazy incredible week and I want to share our planned route with you all but 1 AM just is not the time.

Até logo!

 

Don’t shoot Albatrosses

Journalling is what I enjoy so here is what I’ve typed up over the past few days. A note: paper is vastly, immeasurably superior to keyboard and screen.

Sunday 12th October

One week until we sail to Sicily! Some of us (Anthony) are definitely getting itchy feet and wanting to get moving, but I will be kind of sad to leave Gozo. It reminds me of Zimbabwe- prickly pears and dust everywhere. And we’ve just made friends with the man at the gelato stand so he gives us free gelato sometimes. Life is pretty good but I assume sailing and discovering Sicily and the allegedly superior Sicilian gelato will be worth it.

Tuesday 14th October

A travelling friend whom I respect wrote me a poem before I left home, suggesting that my preconceptions and ideas would shift as I move in new places and amongst new people. This brought to mind a song I hadn’t listened to in ages, one by a friend of a friend

Am I misled by

What this world calls beauty

Have I bought into a lie?

Am I misled by

What this world says that I need?

And what it says will satisfy?

……

Let my heart seek what

Is eternal, what

Will not fade, and not

Pass away in time

Phil Baker 

I feel as if everything I am learning here, I am hearing for the first time. And this, whether the words are familiar or the expression as uncomfortable and raw as I should have a ‘right’ to feel. The effect of this is the sense of a huge release, and a daily choice: do I choose to jump off this cliff into what I know will be an adrenalin-pumping sea of blue, or do I continue to tell myself that I can do it some other time and that facing the fear will overwhelm me?

I have had a lot of I-don’t-want-to-face-fear-and-jump experiences (in the literal sense) and I have regretted it every time. I see the physical and spiritual cliffs as parallel because it’s exactly the same feeling. A Bastille quote that my friend Ashley showed me also expresses the choice:

“In one hand I hold the familiar

In the other the great unknown…” 

Recognising that I am called to the great unknown is both terrifying and deeply exhilarating. And if it’s not an oxymoron, there’s a complete peace that comes along with it which I suppose is best explained by the fact that spirit calls to spirit. Realising that as a person I am only fulfilled when my spirit is in touch with God means I can start to be fulfilled!

Anthony just came and said goodnight to me so I should probably go upstairs, post this and go to bed. (Introducing Anthony, fellow trainee, the most punctual of us all!) It feels like forever since we had a free evening but that’s probably only because of our evening lecture last night. Our lecture weeks normally look like this:

  • Monday: morning lectures, afternoon on-board maintenance, evening lectures
  • Tuesday: morning lectures, afternoon maintenance, free evening
  • Wednesday: morning lectures, afternoon outreach, evening community meeting
  • Thursday: morning lectures, free afternoon, evening bible study
  • Friday: journal and processing time in the morning, afternoon small groups, free evening.
  • Weekends are free as you know!

Any free time is bliss because we can do anything- read or play music in the skansen, climb up to the crow’s nest, or go night swimming. This evening we went to get gelato (pistachio again) and then I skived off for some blogging and introvert time. I still have no clue if I am an introvert or extrovert. According to my friends I am fairly extroverted as I would ‘seem more miserable if I was an introvert’. (I quote Ashley, who might have a point, since ship life does not really equate with introvert life.) I think I am laid-back enough to be happy most of the time, and when I need to practice my violin madly for half an hour or go for a solitary wander it’s usually enough to keep me people-oriented. There’s so much to explore. I even started reading ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’, which is thus far an excellent read.

Serious point though: it breaks my heart that in what would otherwise be an inspiring adventure story, the underlying desire of Man is to control or destroy his surroundings. In chapter 8 or so, while hunting underwater off the Nautilus, one of the men even shoots an Albatross. Had none of them read ‘The Rime of the Ancient Maryner’?

‘With my crossbow

I shot the Albatross’…

No good came of that incident.

Am I completely pacifist though? Joshua (introducing Joshua- official pirate) did his best to convince me that guns are not always terrible. And maybe they’re not. He made a convincing case for enjoying target shooting. But shooting albatrosses is still not OK.

‘At length there came an Albatross,

Through the fog it came.

As if it had been a Christian soul,

We hail’d it in God’s name!’

The Rime of the Ancient Maryner

What not to eat in Malta

IMG_4858

I did come to the ship with the intention of being vegan as much as possible. And then the second day we were here, we visited the gelato stand. I wrestled with my conscience for a little while and then decided to hope that Maltese cows were happy cows and just enjoy the gelato so i don’t spend the rest of my life regretting not fully experiencing the best of the Mediterranean. And I mean fully experiencing- our aim is to taste each of the 30 or so flavours before we leave Mgarr, which between us we might have achieved. Pistachio is what I would recommend at the moment, but apparently ricotta gelato in Sicily takes the ice cream experience to an entirely new level, so watch this space.

My other attempt on the vegan front was to buy tins of chickpeas and spinach so when we make our own lunch on weekends, I could enjoy some vegetarian goodness instead of slices of cheese and salami. All well and good until I actually sampled tinned spinach. By then it was in a burrito so I manfully ate it but suffice to say it wasn’t my favourite and from now I shall probably stick to dried fruit and peanuts for protein.

Photos at last! My fairy-lit bunk which has caused us to win the prize for the cleanest nicest cabin two weeks out of three, and above- the view from the rock I climbed to write my journal on Friday. It’s alright.

IMG_4817I’m going to take a swim or play my violin or make apple pie for Canadian Thanksgiving on Monday!

Auf Wiedersehen! (Oder Wiederschreiben…)

The sun came up upon the left

Out of the sea came he! 

And he shone bright, and on the right, 

Went down into the sea… 

The Rime of the Ancient Maryner

Sailor’s log- three weeks in

According to my journal of the 21st of September, ‘they’re all psycho!’ Whether I’ve succumbed to the depths of craziness or whether this has always been me, is left to your discretion. But lecture week two is now complete so this seems like a good time to update you all, beloved readers, on my actions. (And no, it’s not because I  was too lazy to go online and blog…)

Still on the 21st of September, I wrote ‘I’m learning that confession to and intercession with God is an on-going process and it’s great- I don’t have to come to him only when I’m full of emotion. I’m learning, as I said- excited, but a little bit worried as well..’ The main part is excited. A song by Kate Miller-Heidke made me smile… the air tastes different and I am excited!

I haven’t been myself, you know I haven’t been much fun

But I woke up this morning and the air tastes different

I love weekends on the boat. Today I lay in till 9:30 instead of getting up at 7. I missed the sunrise, but was up in time for Tom and Jerry cartoons while eating breakfast in the saloon. Basically on Saturday we get to be as lazy as we like, which I made the most of today. Since weekdays are full of lectures and maintenance on the ship, with Fridays as processing, Saturday is a good day to read, lie around and swim.

We discovered a charity shop in Victoria last weekend where I bought a record of Haydn’s Wassermusik- because we are classy and have a record player- as well as lots of books, so I started reading ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’ and also investigating Harry Potter. (Christian question- is Harry Potter evil or not? It’s one of the things I never read growing up. Then I went to English sixth form and discovered I was missing a major generational culture marker. I have decided there’s only one way to find out, and thus far my opinion is that Rowling can tell a story…)  But apparently it’s not the done thing to start reading the fourth book in, so I have to wait for someone to find me the first one.)

I did have to stop lazing around on the sofa after a while though, because today we had visitors- some friends from the ‘Fraternity’ mission over on Malta. I don’t know that much about what they do because I was shamelessly hiding in the skansen (the cosy reading room in the bow) feeling sleepy and antisocial. But they are some of the loveliest people I have ever met. They lead a really simple life- Hayden, who leads the mission, even wears the original brown monk’s habit- but they just seemed full of real life joy and the desire to connect with people.

Hayden asked if I played a musical instrument. When I told him about the violin, he asked if I played in worship. ‘Sometimes’, says I. ‘Why not all the time? Think about how when David played his harp, even when he wasn’t playing to worship, amazing things happened. If you have a gift, you should use it.’ He talked about how music can bring peace and bridge the gap between people. Then he asked me to play- eep! So I did- I played a folk waltz- and all of them told me to practice and pursue my gift and keep playing! One of the things I’ve really enjoyed in terms of getting to know Malta is meeting the Catholic community and seeing how they interact with the Protestants. It’s not all negative, the way I narrow-mindedly would have expected. It’s like if your relationship with God shines through whatever you’re doing, all the differences that people normally notice just don’t matter any more. Thought provoking.

After lunch we went swimming, because we can. Sarah got stung by a jellyfish but otherwise we survived without mishap and swimming is the only non-painful activity since I fell down the stairs yesterday. It happened guys- three weeks in, which I’m quite proud of. I hit my ‘noggin’ (as Seth calls it), elbow and bottom, and it hurt, but I’m alive!

My evening is all booked up with stage two of an extended edition Lord of the Rings marathon, so I’m signing out lovely people! I hope you’re proud of my third attempt to blog. I will be back. In case you had any more questions, over to Seth McDonald for the real deal captain’s log.

Captains log day 12. I have eaten……… well theres not much left to eat 😦 i have developed a bad case of the scurvy syndrome. i shall never be the same………. All teh homeschoolers corpses have been harvested for their nutritional value.  good ridance i says. theyre just homeschoolers anyways. this ship is relatively lonely however i have gotten a new crew. theyre far less homeschooled……. all be it completely imaginary……… still suits me just fine……………….. 😥 😥 😥 …………… im so alone……. end captains log 😥

Captain Sethy scally heel-hook #benderjive* #yolo laser#

*apparently in Canada ‘bender’ is non-offensive and according to Seth, we’re all benders on this boat.

The western wave was all a-flame, 

The day was well-nigh done! 

Almost upon the western wave 

Rested the broad bright Sun…

‘The Rime of the Ancient Maryner’, Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Homeless in a ferry terminal

I’m not homeless, because I live on a boat. But I am houseless and I have wifi only in the haven of this ferry terminal so here I am barefoot with someone else’s laptop living the life.

Two weeks into DTS already! The inspiring Daniel and Tamara Jackson taught us about worldview and missions last week- I learned that God wants to use me as myself. So much simpler than I thought, and now comes the challenge of living life to the full! This week we have Andy Sloan on evangelism, which involves overcoming another fear- going up and talking to people. Tomorrow we’re putting it into practice! If the idea of talking to someone about Jesus sounds weird, Andy showed us a clip of a weirdly bearded man who said, coming from an atheist background, about followers of God:

“If you believe what the Bible says, how much would you have to hate someone not to prosthetise?”

If I believe that what I’m living is true, how can it not overflow into everything I do and everyone I meet?

Meanwhile I am doing push-ups every morning in the bow, watching get the sun get lifted, molten and dripping, out of the sea. You know when you look forward to seeing certain people and visiting certain places? When you live for the weekend or summer? Usually that’s me. Not now because I feel like I have everything, right here, learning to be alive.

Leaving (again)

In which I leave home

I’ve been wearing a leavers’ hoodie for almost a year now. As I write it’s somewhere in the hold of this Easyjet airbus along with my necessities for the next six months- deodorant, board shorts and Bibles in three different languages- comfy and navy blue, with ‘Nyash’ and the names of the rest of my year group sprawling down the back in the shape of the number 14. But that hoodie is all about comfort, secure leaving. And as I walked round the corner of the security hallway in the airport and caught the last glimpse of my family, on tiptoe straining to wave goodbye, it occurred to me that I don’t get a leaver’s hoodie for this. For leaving home, which will never happen to me again.

Oddly enough, it’s an ‘again’ leaving for a reason as simple as falling asleep: I fell asleep. As soon as the plane took off I completely relaxed. I’m quite proud of my ability to sleep aboard any form of moving transport, but that’s because I’ve been travelling for very almost eighteen years. As I attempted to explain to someone recently, living as a TCK (missionary code alert: third culture kid) leaves its impact in terms goodbyes. In fact, I almost started getting panicky on Tuesday. Although I’d been ready to go, my reflex built up over the years was to prepare to leave forever. 

But although leaving what had just become my comfort zone- family, friends and the north of England- was scary, I know being a TCK has sundry advantages. It means I can pack well, fend for myself in an airport, and even adapt to the idea that I am coming back. It’s not about preparing myself for the ultimate goodbye. Instead I’m learning to be ready for anything- mentally flexible instead of protective- which could also be known as trusting God. 

I think that’s why I could savour walking round that corner, even though I’ll miss my family because they’re part of me. This is a combination of what I can and can’t do- walking the line between knowing I’m exactly where I’m meant to be, and being completely clueless. Now that’s adrenalin. And that’s not even including the next eleven weeks on a gaff-rigged ketch called Next Wave. 

I have  a mane of braids now, which makes me feel very grown up and glamorous because I can toss them over my shoulder instead of having to keep my usual afro tied up on top of my head. And I’ve done my best to dress them up with what I like to call ‘pirate bling’. Photos will be posted. 

That is a very superficial description of my excitement at this- stepping out into MY life. After all, this is MY blog and I can post what I like. But thank you for reading. I hope whatever you’re doing, you know you’re where you’re meant to be. If you don’t, I highly recommend the adrenalin of leaving and going somewhere new. So far (and for many years) it’s been pretty good.

I’ve just caught my first glimpse of the Mediterranean ever.

Goodbye!