Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Too beautiful for words

My head is spinning once again trying to take it all in and write something down that might make sense. Hmmmm… I’m just shaking my head trying to work out how I ended up sitting on a bed in a cabin the size of a postage stamp with 400 others (not in the same cabin) from 30 something different countries, sailing on my way back to Liberia? Was that ever in my plan? I don’t think so!

Yesterday I was treated to another dolphin show extraordinaire as a pod of them came alongside the ship and played for a while, then as a special treat a school of whales came by and as if to show off God’s incredible beauty, I saw 4, yes 4, shooting stars a few moments before I lay my head down to be rocked to sleep. Today I have seen flying fish and am bracing myself as I feel the air getting warmer and the humidity rise. I have missed Africa and can sense we’re getting nearer. It’s just too beautiful for words.

It has been so good to have some downtime these last couple of months. Right up until the last minute of being in Liberia, it was frantic. I thought my head was going to explode and my body was crying out with tiredness! After closing down the ward, just the day before we sailed, we ended up having to evacuate a crew member who had malaria and was getting progressively sicker. She’s doing fine now which is great, but it all added to the craziness of our supposed ‘wind down’. Just after that however, we were treated to a 5 day sail to the Canary Islands so the ship could go into dry dock. I really think it should be integrated into every job in the world! We were still working but the gentle pace of the sail calmed our spirits and renewed our energy. I was filled up to the brim with the sights of vast expanses of twinkling blue sea, dolphins playing, clear night skies pickled with stars and gentle breezes that got cooler the farther north we came. Too beautiful for words.

It was good too to spend time at home and catch up with friends. Though if I am honest, I find it frustrating to pretend to connect with people in such a short time. There’s just too many lovely people and quick hellos and goodbyes don’t really satisfy. I’m hoping in the next year that I’ll be able to take a longer period of time off and quench my longings to spend more time with you and just do life together. I’m finding I’m in two minds when I come home as well. In one sense I am literally repulsed at the utter greed of us who have so much (Christmas may be isn’t the best time to come, I know). I find myself ‘needing’ to buy things that I don’t even really need and as I do so, images of people who have nothing clash in my brain and challenge my own greed. It repulses me. And then there’s a side that really would quite like to have a place of my own and deck it out with nice stuff and have cosy times. It’s not necessarily wrong I know and I have to remind myself that the worlds are just so different you cannot compare. But then there are times when need becomes more like greed and that is where I struggle. Anyway, seeing friends and family was still great. Having cuddles with my niece and nephews, cosy nights in, frosty walks, roast turkey, cox’s apples, chocolate money, mulled wine, Christmas lights, hmmm, too beautiful for words.

After the whirlwind of home it was good to spend 2 weeks with Mum and Dad in Tenerife and for them to meet some of my ship family. That was precious and has probably added to me missing them even more – but it was worth it. My favourite time in Tenerife was meeting Mount Teide. We had lots of nice times together and I even got to climb it! It’s the highest mountain in Spain and at 3718 metres it is by far higher than Ben Nevis (1344m). I am of course not fit so the bit in the guide book that described this walk for the ‘very fit’ as it is ‘highly strenuous’ and the, ‘high potential for altitude sickness’ left me with some slight apprehension as we set on our way. My muscles hardly complained but my lungs and heart wondered what on earth was going on. Walking up and down the dock in Liberia for the last year had somehow not prepared me for such an ascent! But my, oh my, was it beautiful! Stunning scenery, clear blue sky, snow, ice, crisp air, physical exhaustion (there’s something satisfying about that, eh?), friends with a great team spirit, the satisfaction of making it to the top and the joy of walking down and just enjoying the views and not wondering if my heart was going to conk out… it was truly too beautiful for words.

As I look to the year ahead, I feel a mixture of excitement and apprehension. I have never managed a team of 50 nurses and a ward of 70 beds before, nor did I have any intention of ever doing so. It kind of crept up on me. But the lessons I learnt on the mountain, though not new or deeply profound, were precious reminders of how to tackle it.
  1. Take one step at a time – don’t look up too often or you may be daunted!
  2. Surround yourself with good friends to encourage and have fun with
  3. Take plenty of rest at regular intervals
  4. Be prepared – get fit – spiritually, emotionally, physically
  5. And as I came down the mountain, I realised I didn’t even recognise some of the paths and even began to wonder if we were on a different track. Some of them were just so long and steep… did I really climb up this? It was then that God whispered to me that sometimes He has to carry us because sometimes it is just too much on our own. There’s paths He has to protect us from seeing in case we freak out! And there are paths we just don’t have the strength to tackle on our own. God’s amazing grace. I don’t know where I would be without it. Too beautiful for words.

So that’s the story for the last couple of months. It’s been a good one. I’m feeling happy but slightly scared that the pressure of the next year might get the better of me. I know it doesn’t need to and I know I don’t need to be fearful. So if you’re the praying type, would you pray for JOY… I never want to lose the joy and just being kinda silly. I wouldn’t feel like me if I lost that.

As we return to one of the poorest countries in the world ( On the UN Human Development Index – the UK is number 16, Sierra Leone number 177 and Liberia doesn’t even register), I am excited that we can re-connect with friends there and show some love to people who have been through so much and have so little. We have 10 months of surgery ahead of us, meanwhile other teams will be re-building orphanages, building schools and clinics, digging wells, giving some basic health education, working together with local churches and anything else that comes our way! I look forward to sharing some of the excitement and challenges ahead.

For now, I best go. Thanks so much for all you mean to me. Keep in touch… with love and God Bless, KWW