I’m often told how strange/odd/unique/different I am. It’s true. I am. Just today I was trying to fill out one of those online password reminder forms. It wanted the street I grew up on. The city I lived in. My 3rd grade teacher…NONE of which I could answer.
So, here’s a bit of background on why I am such an alien. Happy alien. But still an alien.
I grew up on a ship. The Anastasis. She was a 522 ft. (183 m), 11,650 ton hospital ship that recently ‘retired’ (it was time. She deserved to sail away on still, aqua waters, forever. But, it was and still is, very hard to say goodbye). I moved onboard when I was nine.
See that third porthole back from the 4th deck up? I drew a yellow arrow for you…that’s my cabin…IS my cabin. ‘Cause in my head it’s still mine.
The facts are pretty simple. How I felt about it is more complex…which I’m sure will feature in future blogs, as its part of who I am.
The Anastasis belonged to Mercy Ships. A non-profit organization that brings hope and healing to the world’s forgotten poor. All their work is given for free. They perform all sorts of surgeries, like the cleft lip and palate repair on this little one.
Their crew of volunteers minister to those terminally ill.
Train local personnel to address mental, neurological and substance abuse disorders.
Maternal health training.
Varied construction projects to build local hospitals, training centers, orphanages, and other community service facilities.
And distribute food and other supplies to the World Health Organization (WHO).
During my ten years onboard, we sailed all over, usually spending half of each year in the world’s poorest nations (by WHO standards), and visiting 1st world countries the other six months, to gather supplies, support, and volunteers.
‘The Ship’ as everyone calls it that lived onboard, was like a floating village. There were upwards of 500 people and over 50 kids at any given time. We had school in a designated area, built-out with classrooms on the aft (back) of one of the decks. And unfortunately, Mom was the Principal for a while. I didn’t like that so much. She was great, but you can’t get away with anything when your mom is your teachers’ boss…
A nuclear submarine engineer and Chief Engineer taught my advanced trig and calc classes. During the summers we had to volunteer with the department of our choice. My favorite jobs were volunteering with the fire team, the aft deck snack shop, and working with a construction crew. I’m sure painting on my arm was really helpful.
These glimpses into my life don’t really begin to describe it. I loved every minute of it in many ways, and at the same time really suffered from it too (mostly because of who I am). One of the things I found the hardest was the constant goodbyes to friends, either as we sailed away and waved goobye to them and their country, or as other ‘ships kids’ and their families moved back ’home’.
But, growing up on the ship gave me an innate understanding and love for people of other cultures. That raises the question of what ‘other’ cultures are. Hmmm. Not sure what culture I am…But I know I am so very grateful for how blessed I was, and am. Growing up as I did was the amazing gift that made me who I am. That gave me the heart for development. That exploded my worldview. That gave me such a feeling of fulfillment and joy. That helped me truly see and really love people. All people.
And now, Dreamboat and I are about to take the kiddo’s back! Back to living with people from 149 countries. Back to making a difference. Back to doing our small part to change the world.
We start volunteering (yes, we’re PAYING for the privilege to work) on the Africa Mercy this fall. This ship will be in Guinea. My life, in an awesome and strange way, is coming full circle. I get to introduce my kids to my home. It will change their world…and make them odd too.
And by the way, I like being odd. It suits me and it will suit them