What a four months it’s been! YIKES. With a new year beginning it’s dance I realize that regularly blogging is not one of my gifts. So I apologize for that..if you need an outlet please blame the internet connection, my procrastination, the mold I came out of, or the back seat that discipline has decided to take in my general way of life:)
With the season change has come snow!…that one time. It may have melted by the afternoon but it stayed long enough to take some photos. There’s nothing like waking up to an unexpected dusting of snow to the local surroundings. It’s times like this when I can hear God whispering “I know you miss home, here’s some on your doorstep.” I had a huge smile on my face all day because even though it’s the season for snow, I felt like it was for me.
The winter season has brought about a shift to our normal job of hosting youth groups, school groups and others into doing maintenance jobs within the fleet and onboard Trinity. With no groups onboard we spend the days as a team working on all of our boats, sanding, painting, epoxying, bolting, cleaning and everything else that needs to be fixed and looked after to make sure our boats are in good shape for the coming season.
The switch was a nice change of pace from the normal madness that comes with children on a boat and I really enjoy learning how to maintain and fix up our wayfarers.
Since we all have weekends off together now, the gap years and I have spent a lot of time together. We’ve all become an even closer family, spending our downtime in various ways, such as:
Headstands in the middle of the road:
Assisting the boys in securing their manhood:
And (my personal favorite) practicing our swagger:
Since it’s been so long since I’ve been able to write a blogpost, I feel slightly overwhelmed with the happenings that I want to write about, there’s so much that I want to share and I know as soon as I post something more memories with float to the functioning part of my brain, and knock on my skull for a dramatic exit.
The posts that follow will most likely be completely random and certainly not in chronological order, but their memories I want to share with all of you, because it’s because of you that I get to be here, and also fits with the completely random not chronologically accurate person I have chose to become. So Thank you!
It’s impossible to come into a year long placement with no expectations, but it’s funny how negative mine tended to be now that I look back, forward and up. I’ve always grown up assuming the worst so I could always come away with a smile on my face. “Prepare, prepare, prepare,” you could say. For example, when I knew I was going to be spending this year on the Lightship the normal positives of “Coolest. Year. Ever.” was quickly replaced with a panicked: “I’m going to be the first one to sink the Lightship,” and “Why would giving 30 children bows and arrows EVER be a good idea?”
This is incredible. The people here are incredible. The stories here are incredible. God is incredible.
I think this every day, but I still end the occasional grind exhausted from working sometimes 8am-11pm with kids screaming left and right, demanding they be fed, sailed with, or loved or whatever. It’s exhausting trying to expect everything to go wrong and still be surprised when other parts of your life chuckle “SURPRISE! This is wrong, you didn’t expect it, and there’s nothing you can do about it sucka.” Good, great or horrible, this happens to all of us.
I guess in the end expectations (any way, shape or form) are a ridiculous pastime. No matter how much time you spend laying out the possibilities or preparing for amazement or disaster, it’s always going to be the equivalent of baking a cake with no recipe, guidance or previous experience. None of us know what life’s going to be, that’s why we’re supposed to trust God I hear.
This week, as what happens all over the world in all different contexts, a tragedy ensued that could not be prepared for or fixed with one of my best friends from home. I spent my day off skyping, cursing, crying and attemping to understand why God could let incredible people be this hurt, heartbroken, and undeservedly sad. I struggle with the bad in life. Specifically death in life. It was a consuming day to say the least but when the kids were heading off to bed the in-house boyband I live with, who was completely unaware of what I had been dealing with all day, decided that today was the day to attack the American.
The next few hours were spent wrestling, karate chopping, being locked in the day room due to a series of knots and chairs and everything in my room sticky tacked to the ceiling. I was emotionally drained and physically exhausted but I was laughing so hard I couldn’t feel my face.
It’s the ridiculous moments like these that I find God.
Looking at the creativity of a few boys asking for war, I could feel God saying “I know there’s bad things in life that you don’t understand, but you can be blindsided by great things too.”
Horrible things happen to great people and sometimes great things happen to horrible people, but this is something we cant control. Sometimes the only thing that we can control is how hard we look for the good things in life, like the mountains in the background, the friends that make you laugh, the weird things that children ask, or even the cellphones that appear on your ceiling.
Training is over and we are currently hosting our second group of the season with no casualties but a blocked shower. This last weekend was a “Sail Away Day” where a few church groups with not enough people to come for a week can gather and come sailing for the day. We had an absolute blast, and I didn’t have to sail by myself! (or they wouldn’t let me sail by myself, whatever way you choose to look at it.) During Sail Away Day a ton of sailing volunteers come down for the afternoon to help out with boats, which included everyone but the assistant chef from last year. It was great to meet last years staff and hear about what they’re doing now, not to mention the amazing capsizing stories that were also told which left me confidence beaming at incredible heights.
After goodbyes had been said, the ship had been cleaned and the ridiculous amount of muffins had been put away, 4 of the current staff and I settled in to wait for 10:30pm to come around with enough water for us to powerboat back to the moorings…in the dark.
Since Trinity sits in a river that generally turns to canals of mud at low tide, when we do a day sail we sometimes have to tie the boats up to Fellowship Afloat’s moorings that are just outside of the river and around the corner where there’s always at least a little water to float on. After the day sail we tied up the boats to the moorings and walked down Fisherman’s Path around the Marina and back to Trinity. Occasionally, when we need to tow the boats back in, high tide happens to be late in the evening, this was the case last Saturday.
So after waiting for enough water to funnel it’s way into the river, the five of us powerboated across to the moorings which we could only see under the light of a sky’s worth of stars. We tied up every boat that Fellowship Afloat owns to Sandling, a big cement beast, and took a break to stare at the stars before we headed in. As we towed the line of 10 boats behind us, the water started to turn a speckled glowing green in our wake. In the water here, lives tiny organisms (some say plankton, some say not plankton, I say magic) that give off a flourescent glow when the water is disturbed a lot like a lightning bug. Even though my work day went from 8am to 12:30am that day, being in the presence of amazing people, billions of bright stars and glowing speckled water was something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
Saying that learning to tie several knots well in complete darkness was a blast seems like an understatement worthy of a politician, but in reality, it was one of the coolest nights of mi vida.
Normally I would end a post there but SURPRISE I have more to tell you! You lucky human you. Although Saturday was an incredible taster as to how things are run here, nothing could have prepared me for how hilarious and energetic our first school group is. I’m listening to their high pitched British accents eat lunch as we speak. Its a small group of only 20ish but they caught on to my accent and other oddities immediately.
They’re so awesome to watch experiencing Fellowship Afloat because they’re just as excited as I am. The tour of the ship was filled with “this is the coolest school trip EVER,” “Look where I can fit my head!” and “I’m stuck!” while sailing was filled with general screaming.
School groups also bring along so many opportunities for the gap years to get to know each other better as well. For example, a few of them were in awe of how much I lie to children because I think it’s funny, they say “lie”, I say “exaggerate with flair.” The example that was brought up however was my tables dinner conversation. , which went a little something like this:
“Where do we go rock climbing?”
“We have to drive to Tollesbury Mountain.”
“There isn’t a Tollesbury Mountain.”
“Of course there is, its down in the mud so it doesn’t get in the way of the boats and when it’s time to go climbing a few of us have to go into the salt marsh and crank it up with a big lever.”
“Really?……Wait, no there isn’t!”
“Why do you think it’s so foggy here sometimes? Because when we crank it up smoke pours out of it while the Jurassic Park theme song plays.”
(insert the entire table rolling their eyes at once here)
Needless to say, I love it here and am truly blessed every day.
I just finished my first week at Fellowship Afloat! I can’t believe it. It’s been such a whirlwind that it’s taken me this long to update by blog! Ahh!
For those of you who don’t know: I made it to the 1952 Light Vessel Trinity in Tollesbury, England last Sunday. SURPRISE. I’m alive and full of sea knowledge (theoretically), but more on that in a minute. First, I’ll catch you up:
After parting ways at the Guy Chester House in Muswell Hill, London, Sarah and I parted ways, heading to our various placements. It was a sad parting but I’ll see her in October at our first Time For God conference along with the rest of the YAGMs, so really it was more of a semi-sad temporary parting of the souls…but I digress. . After over an hour of lugging, and apologizing for my bags up and down the bus system, I found my train relatively easily and 40 minutes later arrived in Witham.
I was picked up by an enthusiastic Theo, one of the permanent staff, and driven to Tollesbury, about 20 minutes away via left side of the road. I’ve found that riding as a car passenger in England is awesome due to three exceptional reasons:
1. You don’t have to drive.
2. If you think of it like a rollercoaster, versus death machine, then it feels like a rollercoaster, versus a death machine, which is quite pleasant, just refrain from racing noises, it freaks them out.
3. You don’t have to drive.
I was listing these reasons in my head during our car ride when Theo asked me if I was excited to learn how to drive in Tollesbury this year. My outward expression came out as a polite form of “ughhhhhmmmmmmweeelllummm” while my insides were dance fighting with terror. In England, most students take at least one gap year in between what we call high school and college, usually to volunteer. So of the 5 onboard crew I live with, most of them are 18-20, all of them are boys. Many students/English in general don’t have their driver’s license as well, since the public transportation/train system is so good, which is why of the 7 gap year staff, I am one of 3 with a license and therefore have to learn how to drive on the other side of the road for errands/safety/convenience etc.
Later, after trying to laugh about my initial terror of this fact, the crew thought they’d make me feel better by saying “Oh you’ll do great, just don’t crash it like the last American did.” Thanks guys. Confidence = Obtained.
The cabin I’m currently staying in is the “Engineer’s Cabin,” which, as I’m sure you can figure out, used to be where the engineer would stay when he was onboard.
These first two weeks are purely training, which so far has been a mix of everything from certifications such as: first aid afloat, archery instructor, motor boat, sailing, etc. to everything else such as: fire evacuations, bilge alarms, team building games, bible studies and improv games.
Everyone that currently works here (including the gap years) has had a connection to the ship which has led them to apply. Most of them came to the program as kids or took sailing courses here, which is awesome. It reminds me a lot about my years at camp. People are connected to this place in a lot of the same ways that I was as a camper. It’s cool to be a part of another place that means so much to so many. I’m truly blessed.
As far as training goes, I have one more week to cram in information before our first group comes. Needless to say I’m terrified, but I’m having a blast while being terrified which is strangely a wonderful balance to be a part of.
More posting soon!
P.S. Here’s more photos:
(These next few are from inside the light tower)
(Two of the gap years I work with. We were checking out how the channel looked at low tide, helpful information when navigating around sloughs so your boat doesn’t get stuck atop the mud.)
(Tollesbury looking back from the ship, during high tide the water covers up the path and floods into the town. So. Cool.)
“Mama once told me, you’re only at home when you feel loved. I am lost in my mind, I am lost in my mind.”
We left Chicago yesterday for an 8 hour hop across the pond into the London airport and after a skeptical eyeing from the visa inspector skipped across the UK borders line into good ol’ Londontown.
During this last week’s orientation, I was too excited to process anything I was going through or feeling during the event itself, not to say that there wasn’t ample time or space to verbally process all of it, I was just not in the mindset to take the time I needed, which worked out really well at the time. However, sitting upright in a plane for 8 hours naturally gave me all the time I needed to finally process everything at once.
Needless to say I was in tears, but they were happy, overwhelming, “I just have something in my eye Mrs. British Lady Next to Me” tears. Everything up to this point has been a theoretical journey, how to get around WHEN I’m in to England, who to call WHEN I’m in England, WHEN to use “trousers” and WHEN to use “pants” WHEN I’m in England. And now I’m IN England trying to remember all the information I was supposed to use WHEN I was in England. It’s all a part of the process, and I’m learning a great deal from it. I’m greatful for this 10 day opportunity to close my door and prepare myself for Tollesbury when I need to, which reminds me, I should probably say a little about why I’m not at my placement yet:
After saying goodbye to the half of our group that were able to travel together, Sarah, Claire and I followed the field officer Chrissie through the tube to Claires train stop and onward about an hour to the outskirts of London where Sarah and I are spending the next 10 days “waiting” for our placements to start. Since our placement start dates aren’t until September 3rd, we had the opportunity to go home for a few days after orientation or go get used to the time difference in London. Needless to say I chose London, which is why I’m here with a smile on my face. The center we’re staying in is a community where students (usually international) can rent out rooms for the year. It’s pretty cool to be surrounded by accents, languages, and customs from different parts of the world, it feels a little more at ease knowing that those who are surrounding me probably feel as out of place as I do.
As overwhelming as beginning this incredible opportunity is, I take tremendous comfort in knowing I have an incredible support system in my family, home church, campus community, the ELCA and the other 56 volunteers who are probably just as terrified as I am, just in different languages. I would normally edit this post a little more so that it’s at least in chronological order, but I think it’s kind of a perfect visual to how “lost in my mind” I am at this point in my journey.
I love you all and am so blessed to have the support that I do.
This last weekend, my friend Sarah and I loaded up my car in Missoula and headed towards Flathead Lutheran Bible Camp, a beautiful camp on Flathead lake where both of us have spent many a summer working. When interviewing for my placement, the ships coordinator, Andrew, recommended that I get more sailing experience in preparation for my job since there’s only 2 weeks of training and not a lot of it is able to be spent on that whole “how to sail” business. Aaron Ells (the amazing adventure coordinator at FLBC) was gracious enough to allow us to commandeer one of camp’s sailboats for the weekend so Sarah could spew some sailing knowledge on my sponge of a brain, so we loaded up the car and other necessary good food store materials and began the all familiar winding drive to our beloved camp.
It’s always amazing to me how taking the final turn onto Lutheran Camp Road manages to send a shock-wave of over-excitement throughout my being every single time I see the leaning green road sign. Even when I was working there and spent the weekend in town the familiar feeling always awaited me at the turning lane. Camp as been a part of my life for at least 12 years, I’ve made that turn as a camper, dish washer, and counselor, and now was arriving as a visitor.
It’s a surreal feeling walking through camp and meeting the current staff who you don’t technically know, but kind of know because you both love and care for the spot your standing in. Without my summers working at Flathead I wouldn’t be preparing for a year in England. Camp gave me friendships, confidence in myself and my faith, and incredible memories that make me who I am today. Its easier to force how much you miss a place to the back of your mind if you don’t visit. However, I too easily forget how at peace I am there sleeping under the stars talking about peoples lives and how in the end I have a right to miss it and a wonderful excuse to be excited for those who get to experience all that camp has to offer as I have done for many a year.
But enough about my temporary break-up with camp, lets talk about how quickly I learned how to scare the crap out of the people your sailing with.
After a night of catching up with old camp friends and brand spankin’ new ones, Sarah, a recently returned Peace Corps stud named Katie and I loaded up the sailboat and took to the lake for a great day of tying knots, philosophical conversation, sudden tilts and great wind. After learning the basics, and navigating the sails to pick up the most wind, I quickly learned that Sarah makes the funniest noises when the boat tips in her direction, a fact that was well used by late afternoon when we docked the boat and headed to the dining hall in search of a golf cart.
All three of us not being back to see the new editions to camp in several years, we “borrowed” a golf cart to drive around the grounds, checking out the new courts, decks, patios and building names until we could take no more of the anticipation and headed into town to see the new Batman movie (rephrase: “the AMAZING new Batman movie,” watch it.)
The evening was spent explaining where I was going and catching up with friends I haven’t seen in years and friends I haven’t seen in months but it felt like years. For a weekend that I assumed would be filled with sailing knots and confidence in knowing my way around a boat, I came away with a lot more unexpected confidence in the adventure that I was about to partake in and how ready I am for it. I have been blown away by how much support I’ve received from all those I’ve been blessed with in my life and actually feel like I’m doing what I need to where I need to. It’s refreshing to rediscover a feeling I haven’t had since working at Flathead Lutheran Bible Camp, it makes it a tiny bit easier to make that turn back onto the highway and wave goodbye to the leaning green road sign.
If your interested in learning more about FLBC click HERE, you’ll love it. Promise.
After a thunderstorm filled afternoon of reading and thinking (two of my very favorite things,) I surprised my snoring St. Bernard (Lena), my put out Alaskan Malamute (Yeti), and myself when I creepily started to laugh out loud for what seemed like no real reason at all. I was initially confused until I conjured up my last thought.
I'm living on a ship...in England...teaching kids how to sail.
In preparing my visa application for the UK, I was forced to make a “biometrics appointment” at a “visa support” office out by the airport. My feeling of spy-like importance/excitement at a possible robot encounter was only heightened when I pulled into the parking lot that google maps had lead me to and walked into the building labeled “HOMELAND SECURITY.”
My realist side knew that I was only there to get my fingerprints scanned (by a robot) but I flexed my muscles anyway as I entered the building, hoping that they would see my muscle definition and offer me a job as an undercover spy, a gun, and a lollipop for joining the government.
The genuine excitement and happiness of the security guard (so much so that I felt that we needed to hug out our new friendship on my way out) however, reminded me that I was in Helena, Montana. Where spies don’t exist, just weirdly nice people. I left the offices with my stamped form in hand and couldn’t help but be disappointed in the lack of karate moves necessary for sending in my visa application.
So in short, what I learned today was a realization that could only go one of two ways:
1. Montana’s Homeland Security office is just an office full of super nice people.
OR (the more likely option)
2. Montana’s Homeland Security office is just an office full of super nice people…that are really spies…and/or robots.
Coming off of 2 months backpacking through 12 countries with my two besties (see “That Time We Lost Alex in Europe: 2012″), I initially assumed that this month in between two vastly different adventures would be completely chaotic, overwhelming, and completely terrifying. Week one and although all of these emotions are attacking me exactly as I expected them to, I’m completely surrounded by a peace that I can only describe as a self-don’t-you-dare-destruct mechanism.
My two month psycho journey was to see the monuments, the countryside and the culture in as little time as possible, a vacation for who I was at the time and a celebration of what I had accomplished. Preparing for my backpacking trip involved packing, train times, and making sure we had a bed waiting for us as we traveled throughout Western Europe.
I keep finding that preparing for England is drastically different not only in the pounds of paperwork littering my dining room table, but in preparing who I am for what I might see, experience, fail at, love, hate and become. And it’s delightfully terrifying.