This week when so many of my friends have flown back to their floating home, I am back in Australia and I am staying.
My departure from the ship in June wasn’t really like I thought it would be. I have been the one saying farewell one hundred times over the years and it was actually nothing like I imagined.
I have gone on holidays away from the ship so many times now, that other than having to pack up ALL of the things I have bought and accumulated in the past 5 ½ years, it felt pretty much the same. Walking down the gangway for the last time felt like every other time. Hugging my friends didn’t feel different. Sure, there was an element of sadness but I also felt fairly numb. I walked away from the group of ship family standing on the dock to the waiting car, feeling nothing. The bandaid had been coming off so slowly and painfully during the past month that it was really just time to rip it off. So I moved through the motions of goodbye, waited for the others, hopped into the car, buckled up, waved goodbye and looked behind me twice as we drove off, trying to feel something. Nothing. Blank. Apparently I'm a post-griever.
Several weeks later, it still doesn’t feel real.
I flew out of Durban, through Dubai and on to Seattle. The plane from Dubai to Seattle was pretty empty and so when the opportunity to have four seats to myself arose, I jumped up, covered myself in a blanket and promptly went to sleep laying flat, a rare luxury on a 14 hour flight.
Have any of you watched the BBC series Call the Midwife? It’s one of my favourite TV shows and comes with a 50% chance of tears. Well the airline entertainment had season 5 which I had never seen before, so being overtired and already emotional I sat in my row of four seats and watched Call the Midwife and cried. Eventually I turned the show off and just sat staring at the flight plan on the screen in front of me, thinking about all that had just happened leaving my ship home and cried. Not just silent tears either. Face screwed up and nose streaming sort of tears. No one even noticed.
Arriving in Seattle I was greeted by my friend Molly, who took beautiful care of me. After a shower and a perfect cup of coffee, we hit a Seattle highlight, Pike Place Market. I took in the colours and smells of freshly cut flowers, arts and crafts, seafoods, teas and all sorts of yummy foods. We met up with another ship friend and headed out for a sushi dinner. Around that time I hit a jetlag wall of tiredness and eventually crawled into a dreamy bed and fell fast asleep.
The next day Molly drove me out to Pier 66 where I found my friend Heather and her family, along with the Norwegian Jewel cruise ship for the next adventure. With a mixed apprehension and excitement I boarded the largest ship I’ve ever been on. So many parts of living on a ship were familiar, including the crowds that you fight everywhere to get anywhere. Of course this cruise ship was completely different to the AFM (Africa Mercy). The Norwegin Jewel is 14 decks high, it is also double the length, too many restaurants and bars to count, an art gallery, spas (hot tubs), pools and water slide, a casino and carpeted almost everywhere, just to name a few differences. There are 1,200 crew and I knew none of them, although they were all very friendly. You can eat almost all hours of the day and before you are even hungry it is time to eat again. An event is always taking place and if I hadn’t already learnt how to live with constant activity around me, and fear of missing out (FOMO) I would have been a basketcase. Instead we spent most of our hours on board staring out the windows, eating, reading, eating, playing games, eating, watching shows in the evenings and did I mention eating? Our favourite time of the night was going back to our cabin (called a stateroom on a cruise) all the way down on deck 4 forward and finding our origami towel creation on the bed.
|Deck 7 walkways practically disappeared from view they were so long|
|Unfortunately mid June is too early for Salmon in Ketchikan|
|Us at the Mendenhall Glacier, outside of Juneau|
|Heather checking out the glacier|
|The train from Skagway|
|One of the seven origami towel creations that we found in the evenings|
We visited Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway (all Alaska) and Victoria (B.C. Canada). We walked around each town looking in their local stores, learnt a little bit of history, watched the Lumberjack show in Ketchikan, walked to the Mendenhall glacier in Juneau, took the train up the White Pass and Yukon Route in Skagway and walked the streets of Victoria. It was fun and so beautiful. We saw dolphins and whales, glaciers and icebergs, waterfalls and snow-capped mountains. All the while my mind had intermittently been churning thoughts of returning to Australia and all that comes with it, but to keep my head in the game I tried to concentrate on where I was presently and focus on that.
From Seattle we travelled down to my friend’s town Medford, Oregon. Then the following day after a beautiful morning outdoor church service, different friends (Tim and Karin) picked me up and we drove back up to Portland. There we tasted some of Portland’s delicious foods, Pip’s Original Doughnuts and Chai, Salt and Straw for gourmet ice-cream, schwarmas from a street food truck to name a few. We hiked trails and drove the Fruit Loop tasting wines and ciders while catching up and talking of old times.
|Chai and doughnuts at Pip's|
|Cider tasting at the Hood River Fruit Loop|
Onward from Portland I flew to Durango, Colorado where I joined Mercy Ships friends from all over the US, Canada and even my kiwi friend who’s living in Northern Togo. We squeezed into every bed in our generous host’s house, some overflowing into tents, others in pop-up camper vans. Every day held adventures, hiking trails in the mountains (we got hailed on and froze when the temperature dropped significantly and it rained the whole walk down), soaked in the hot springs in Ouray, went white water rafting down the local river with Durango friends, a day out on a shooting range, lots of BBQs and meals together, Dutch Blitz, bocce ball and cornhole games. It was so fun to see so many friends that I hadn’t seen in years. I love it when you can just pick up exactly where you left off.
|Ouray Hot Springs|
|Look at the size of this thing!|
|Hitting the 200yd, 300yd and 400yd targets took just 4 bullets!|
|The mark where my bullet hit and then ricocheted off and hit Mirm in the forehead|
|Soothing baby Bennett took some African mama style|
|The American cornhole game|
After Colorado I flew to Virgina to see Stacia and her family. I always think it’s interesting to see where your friends grew up and all the things that are normal for them in contrast to your own ‘normal’ upbringing. From Virginia we drove through Charlotte, North Carolina for a quick stop and onward to Nashville, Tennessee where we got to join our friends Josh and Katie for their wedding! Another beautiful ship love story became until-death-do-us-part in a gorgeous outdoor ceremony in the woods of Tennessee.
The plan was to explore Nashville the next day and after driving around the music recording studios, walking the streets and eating lunch in a pub with great live country music, I had expired and was reduced to tears in the airport car park after dropping Heather off. I was exhausted and wanted nothing more than to lie down and close my eyes, but with nowhere to go and an 8+ hour drive the following day, we said goodbye to other friends in the city and knocked 2 hours off our drive for the next day, enjoying the golden hour of sunshine hitting the trees as we drove and ending up in a random town, hotel and the 12th bed I'd slept in that trip.
Do you feel tired just reading this? Yeah me too. Let’s take a break.