Tuesday, April 30, 2013

50 Things I Will Miss

When we leave from this phase of life, this community, this part of the world, and this journey, there are many things I will miss. Here are just the first ones that popped into my head, in random order, like my brain works:

  1. The delicious smell of snuggling a clean, beautiful, African baby with those gorgeous brown or black eyes trying to figure you out.
  2. Playing connect four, ludo, checkers, memory, or reading with patients.
  3. Spontaneous worship on the wards with day workers and patients singing and dancing in hospital gowns, scrubs, tubes, bandages, casts, and all.
  4. Various greetings to crew members or friends that are like secret handshakes: a curtsy with Bright, a "ca-caw" like a parrot to Miriam, a two open hands pumping the air like you're telling someone to lower the limbo bar meaning Agbaza myenga (the body is weak) - Dede wé (take it slow) with my Fong speaking friends.
  5. Listening to a voice or a laugh coming from in the hallway (or through the paper thin walls) and being able to identify the person it belongs to without seeing them.
  6. Hearing French spoken all around and getting to practice it with various people throughout the day.
  7. Fresh mangoes, coconuts, bananas, avocados, and pineapple available for sale at a roadside stand.
  8. Tuesday Night: African night in the dining room with fried plantains!
  9. Dancing on the dock with patients, caregivers, day workers and crewmates. 
  10. Exercise class with Bill Foley and others at 6:15 am three times a week - roll out of bed and within 10 minutes be in class with up to 35 others for 30 minutes of strength training.
  11. Not worrying about the weather or road conditions to determine if I'll be running in the morning!
  12. Game time, anytime!  You want to play a game?  When you live with 400, you are bound to find someone else to join you!
  13. The crazy sights you see when you are out: a man on a motorcycle carrying 300 bananas, a live goat strapped to the top of a taxi, someone balancing a suitcase (or a front door) on their head, or some other surprise nearly every day. See the goat?
  14. Knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are safe behind the protection of our trained Gurkha security guards - 24/7.
  15. Watching the sunset over the ocean with a sea breeze and various fishing boats coming in with their day's catch.
  16. Listening to my African friends pray so reverently, sing so freely, and dance so completely. 
  17. The raw beat of the djembe drum where fingers work magic to create a plethora of rhythms, tones and volumes.
  18. Watching the light bulb go on for the adult I'm teaching how to read - hearing "W-O-W" become "wow" on the first attempt.
  19. The sense of small community and sharing a common goal and purpose with everyone in your "neighborhood."
  20. Teaching beginning and intermediate computer skill classes to those eager to learn.
  21. Exploring countries that many have never even heard of. 
  22. A wet-unit bathroom which you can use the detachable shower nozzle to completely hose down and the vacuum drain will suck up the puddle.
  23. Along the same lines: a vacuum system for the toilet!  No clogged toilets for 28 months!
  24. Living among 30-40 different nationalities and learning people's life stories and treasures of experience.
  25. The glorious free-cycle boutique!  Best place to find a new treasure and leave something you've tired of.  I've been ruined for shopping!
  26. A long commute means you've stopped to have a chat with someone in the hall.  You can return your library books, schedule a hair appointment, swing by the bank, post office, and store in three minutes time and within 300 feet of your front door.
  27. Children excited to see you because (well, because of the color of your skin), and excited for the chance for you to take a picture of them! 
  28. Ample activities and opportunities to learn and grow as new crew are constantly sharing their gifts, talents and interests with others.  Swing dance? Karate? Zumba? Frisbee Golf? Trivia night? Ping-pong?  A night practicing your surgery skills (on a dummy, of course)? You name it - it can happen. 
  29. A library in the same building as my home!! What more could I ask for?
  30. Always someone around to do something with!
  31. Getting to know patients at the Hope Center as they spend many days, weeks or months with us.  Having them recognize you by face and name and greeting each one or leaping into your arms. 
  32. Walls that are steel so magnets stick to them- you can hold anything to a wall with a strong enough magnet - lights, mirrors, fans, pictures, projectors, etc.
  33. Funny language foible signs: want some patato salad? Cold slaw? Backed beans? Horse sauce?  All have been part of dinner in the dining room.
  34. Did I mention the fact that I haven't had to cook a meal for 28 months?
  35. A rolling screen in the dining room and reception that reminds me of everything I need to know.
  36. The adventure of those days when you are in town and you are reminded: T.I.A. (This Is Africa) - this just happen differently here.
  37. Being shouted at because of the color of my skin as I walk down the street.  In Sierra Leone I was an Öpoto or Whitegirl, in Togo I was a Yovo, and in Guinea I'm a Foté.  
  38. The uncertainty of never knowing what is going to happen at a local church - will there be only two offerings, or five today?  Will we dance at the front of the sanctuary with Bibles on our heads?  Will we be segregated by gender?  Will there be a special "Thanksgiving"service so it lasts for five hours? 
  39. Watching the girls have the safe opportunity to practice being little adults: going to dinner with their friends and eating at their own table, preparing snacks together in the crew galley, getting themselves to their various activities throughout the week. 
  40. The freedom from STUFF: no vehicles, no credit card statements, no utility bills.
  41. Along the same line, the convenience of having the dentist, doctor, pharmacy, and hairdresser all in one place on a needs basis.
  42. Watching lives transform physically (and emotionally and spiritually) right before our very eyes. 
  43. Having the privilege to be able to wander onto the wards and hang out with someone who is waiting for or recovering from a major surgery.
  44. Watching a caregiver and sometimes their baby wiggle out from underneath a patient's bed from the mattress where they call their bed.
  45. Fufu with friends!
  46. Drive by shopping - nearly anything can be purchased with just the rolling down of a window and an exchange of cash while you are in traffic.
  47. Pressure-free health services:  going to the dentist and only getting done what is necessary- there is no benefit for our dentists to recommend more services or extra features.
  48. Being able to schedule a get together with 10 of your friends, a few hours in advance, and everyone can make it! 
  49. Watching people wash the outside of my windows while wearing life jackets and standing on a board secured with two ropes. (I think of Curious George EVERY time and wonder if he'll find a way to come in a window and paint a beautiful jungle scene in our room! )
  50. Dance Parties onboard - no sleazeballs, no drunk gropers, just being free to bust a move and watch your children do the same.
  51. On that note, watching my daughters dance with their grown up male "big brothers" and seeing them interact in a multi-generational social setting.
  52. Joking with my middle-school students during math class and seeing them succeed!
  53. Fresh soda out of a bottle.
  54. Feeling like each day serves a greater purpose just in waking up and stepping foot out of the door.


  1. Love you 4 so so much, and I can't wait to see the purposes God brings into your lives as you step into the States and do life here for a while!! Felt like my heart stopped so many times while I was reading your wonderful post--it's true: living on a Mercy Ship is one-of-a-kind! I'm so glad you all have had the experience! We are a blessed family, to be sure!

  2. Beautifully written! Made me remember all the blessings of my own time on the ship and in West Africa. Thankyou for putting into words your experiences! They have helped me remember the true joy our Lord gives us when we serve Him wholeheartedly! May He bless you and your family as you move forward to the next chapter of life:)