25 hours of travel time later, I am safely aboard her majesty the M/V Africa Mercy :) holla. i actually just woke up a little while ago and the clock says its 10:21am but my body is slightly disagreeing with that.
the traveling part wasnt bad at all. i prayed before i got on the flight from chicago to Brussels that i would for some reason get bumped up to first class (because i dont sleep on planes. ever. i can only sleep laying down or something...and with a standard sized medium firm pillow, half cotton, half feather..), and before i got on the plane, i just asked the woman at the desk straight up if there were any empty seats in first class, and she said no, but if i wanted it there is an entire exit row with extra leg room that is empty if i wanted that one....and the crazy thing is that they usually need a pretty strong guy who would be fearless in case of emergency to sit there and open the emergency exit door (kind of like your basic everyday hero, like a fireman, or thor), so we were perfectly able to fit each other's needs. praise Jesus. the exact same thing happened on the 8 hour flight from brussels to gambia to freetown.
i met a man in the row next to me that is basically the main frontrunner for human rights and for the peace process between the rebels and the victims from the Sierra Leonean civil war that ended in 2002. his name is named John Caulker, and he may have been one of the most incredible humans that i have ever met. he just wrote a book, and his close personal friend, Ishmael Beah (author of the book A Long Way Gone) wrote the forward for it. anyway, for about 3 hours he told me of all the stories of peace and reconciliation that have happened between mothers and sons, brothers, tribal members, and families through his organization and all of the progress that has been made. some of his stories left me in tears (check him out...http://www.fambultok.org/about-us/staff-profiles). for our whole conversation, he explained to me the culture that i am about to move into and the difficulties that are faced in the reconciliation process...he described it as "a land where former soldiers live again alongside the women they raped or whose husbands they killed, or the men whose hands they cut off. They didn't apologize; didn't acknowledge the past. They just moved back in. Fambul Tok (his organization) is trying to bring restoration to these people."
so much to get used to, and so much to learn. he asked me if i would come for a 3 day trip with him to see what he does in the villages to understand first hand the state that this country is in. if they let me, im in.
I am in the internet cafe right now on the part of the ship that they call the town square, and it is a huge lounge with a starbucks cafe(ish....they dont use real milk. other than that its starbucks), games, a big piano, and lots of tables for people to sit around and drink coffee and talk and stuff. lots of love connections going on at the moment. its like asburys student center, but smaller, no one is laying on anyone else, the people are a little older, and it rocks ever so slightly back and forth. i feel home. i have 4 roomates, one from Benin, one from South Africa, one from Holland, and my bunk mate is british. all great guys.
in the brussels airport i talked with a sweet old british man who introduced himself to me as Ian. we all talked with him for about 30 minutes in the airport he was HILARIOUS and one of the most interesting people ive met. he is a short term surgeon on the ship for about 3 months per year. to give you an idea of what he was like, i asked him what he thought the cause of all the riots going on in his home town was. he paused for maybe a half second, looked at me, and in his little british accent he says, "well probably original sin i should think." and that was it.
it wasnt until i got on the ferry that someone told me i was talking to Lord Ian McColl, one of england's most renown surgeons, who also happens to be a member of the House of Lords (English Parliament....http://www.parliament.uk/biographies/ian-mccoll/26780). i had been talking to royalty like he was my grandpa in our tree fort. woops.
so i have some great news, and some not so great news. starting with the great news, i am in Sierra Leone, and healthy as a little baby clam. not even a sore throat or stuffy nose or anything. bad news is that the video blog and skype maybe a no go. they really limit the amount of things you can do on the internet because of limited bandwidth, so skype is a no for sure i think, and ill have to get back to you on the videos. but i can for sure do pictures!
i gotta go. love you all very much, continue to pray for me please as i begin to learn my way around this gigantic ship.