Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Edge of Existence: Update on April 27, 2009

The last time I wrote an update I was yet ignorant to the splendor of what I like to think of as the edge of the western world (not geographically). Little glimpses could be caught of this glory as we sailed into harbor in Torshavn (which translates to Thor’s Haven or Harbor) and probably had the largest crowd this ship has seen for a welcoming. We also were able to go on a tour of the islands while we would have normally sat anchored just outside of Torshavn (I later found out that the fuel was paid for by a local). This all was given to us from a town of 20,000 people and a country of only 48,000! Little did I know that this was only the start of an amazing adventure on the edge of civilization.

Being on watch the first few days, I didn’t get to experience a whole lot. Sign up lists for on shore events were filled basically right as they were put up as our crew was desperate to get off of the ship. We were also forewarned of the hospitality of the Faeroes, which may have motivated some of us to try and get out more. Unfortunately I experienced little more that meeting a couple of kids the first few days (more on that later), but on my first off day I had an adventure that I will never forget.

It all started with a push from some friends. Like I had previously stated, I was too late to sign up for things all week, and this included a huge day on Monday (which is most everybody’s off day) which was an opportunity to go see the town a little better. This included many different things, and fortunately there was plenty of space for me to jump on one of the trips. We started by hiking around Torshavn to a nearby mountain (they are hard to miss here) then proceeding to hike around it. Our leader was a man whose name I can only pronounce as “Berger”, and was from a nearby town. He told us all about the history of the city, and the country. I rather enjoyed the history, and we even saw a restored ancient Viking ship (they founded the Faeroe Islands), and were told a story of some thieves.

When we made it through the towns, we were with nature herself. A couple of us climbed higher than the rest (almost on accident, but also because of pride) and got a glimpse of what surrounded us. I told the guys around us that if I were ever fortunate enough to write a book that this would be how I’d describe the edge of the world. The picture I have posted with this blog post is from this point. The reason I felt like I was at the edge of the world was probably because of the abrupt end to the mountains falling to the endless sea that commanded the horizon. The regality of the scene took my breath away.
After more walking around the mountain, with beautiful landscape to one side, and a rocky slope to the other, we stumbled upon a town, our destination. The place made me feel as though we had abandoned civilization for our own utopia in the middle of Asgard (had to use a Norse allusion). The green of the grass that rolled down the hill it sat upon and into a sea so beautifully blue and pure that it seems heaven isn’t so far. The few houses seemed to hold ghosts, and the silence was enough to put one to sleep. Apparently this town was rather important, as it held a few historic places. There was an old cathedral that was being built during the Middle Ages, but was never finished due to a massive loss of money as an effect of the black plague on Europe, and the Faeroe Islands. Also, this was the childhood growing place of a famous king that led the Faeroes away from paganism more towards Christ. It also had the oldest church that is still used today as a church in Europe. A lot of History in such a small place, so different from where we come from!

After the tour of the town we went back to Berger’s house for an early dinner. We were served infinite portions of pita bread along with all the things to go inside, salad, fruit, chips, juice, and other things. This was all topped off with a nice glass of tea and a delicious dessert. After this we were taken back to the ship barely able to move any more, but the day had just begun. After letting our stomachs settle down from all of the excitement, four of us embarked on a trek to find the swimming pool that was free to Ships Company. We eventually stumbled upon it and were able swim for 45 minutes and jump off all of the diving boards and things. We also used the sauna for 15 minutes. This was a nice experience, since it had been a while since I was able to swim. After the pool, we returned home once again just to leave a little bit later. We spent the rest of the night stuffing our faces (again) with pizza, and hanging out with some locals.

When we returned from the pizza extravaganza (I also tried whale meat, blubber, and rotten lamb, and I would never recommend any of these “delicacies”) I was surprised to see a foreign van just outside of the ship. Apparently, a man named Leif Erik has a ministry in the Islands that consists of taking things that are of little or no value to their original owner, and giving them to those who may need them. This guy was at our ship at least once a day giving us everything from bread and pastries to shirts and shoes. We also had some people from a local bakery give us their leftovers from the day every night. I think most of Ships Company gained about 12 pounds while we were in the Faeroes.

The kids I had previously mentioned seemed to never leave the ship. While we were in Torshavn, they were there literally every day, usually right after school until we closed at 11 pm. I was able to hang out with them often, and played basketball and a little bit of football. They made a bunch of friends here, and they are just a couple of many kids who spent a massive amount of time here. Both of them also want to come back to the ship when they graduate from school.

We set out from Torshavn after a week of bliss and blessings on Thursday to head to the nearby town of Klaksvik, which was a town of about 4,000. In this port, I honestly didn’t get out for as much sight-seeing as I’d like, but that was my fault. I did get involved in quite a bit of sport though. On Friday, a team of us headed out for volleyball at 9:30 but unfortunately things weren’t as we expected and we ended up just playing within our own group. That was okay, and we did talk to a few people from the area, but we didn’t get to play against them. On Saturday I had a busy afternoon. It was a day off, so I had the chance to sleep in until 1:30 before eating, and then hanging out with those same kids (they followed us to Klaksvik). At about 4:00 or so, I was asked if I’d like to play soccer and I agreed, since I wasn’t doing much anyways. We left and played for about three hours, from about 5 until close to 8. When I got back I ate and rested for I knew what loomed in the future. At 11:30 we went out for a prearranged night of basketball. This was an absolute blast, and ended up playing 5 on 5, with one girl each. It was basically Ships Company versus the locals, and what a time we had. We played until close to 2 am, and then came back and I was finally in bed by 3.

After a rather uneventful Sunday afternoon, we started work at 9:30 pm in preparation to leave by 12:15 am. Many of our officers thought this would be impossible but we proved them wrong. I worked with loading the cars onto the ship with the crane the whole time, which was rather fun. As we left the port, there was a large crowd of people singing and praying for us, with a band playing even. Just one last blessing before we left. As we pulled out of the harbor, the air was filled with the cheers and honks of horns, and with fireworks. You were a blessing Faeroe Islands, but now it’s time to get back into the real world.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Rock ‘n Roll: An Update for April 17, 2009

Here’s a quick poll: Who has heard of the Faeroe Islands before? I know I have never heard of them until I heard of OM Ships, then I went online to see what they looked like. They seemed pretty cool, and I was pretty intrigued by them. Well, here I am, anchored just outside of Torshavn, which is the capital of the Faeroes. They are quite pretty, but I wonder why in the world people would have ever first come here. The first thought I had of them as I walked up to the top of deck nine was, “Man, they’re just a bunch of big rocks!” We haven’t been able to get into port yet, but the sight of this place is awesome. There are only two islands that are plainly visible to me, each the size of about the greater Port Huron area. The population is whole of the islands is only about 45,000 people, of who care 98% claimed Christians (maybe it’s just a fad). The city we’re anchored outside of (Torshavn) is only about 20,000 people big, and it shows. The houses are spread thin and there isn’t a whole lot of space to be used. From here, it looks as if there isn’t a whole lot of commercialism, which is good because the temptation to spend money will be less. I’ll find out more details when we go into the port in about 4 hours.
The sail here was as smooth as a baby’s bottom, and God is to be praised for that. I came to the conclusion that I don’t really want rough seas (I had previously wished for rough seas) because getting seasick would ruin any fun that the waves would be. We were rolling quite a bit because the stabilizers weren’t out to stop us, but the sail here was like driving through Kansas; nothing was in sight. Miles upon miles of sea surrounded us and nobody was around (during my watch at least) to even look at. This didn’t take away from the peace that the sea seems to offer, and the comfort in realizing how much bigger God is, and how much he loves us. I mean, if he made something so massive as the sea and all the creatures in it, but chose to offer only us salvation, then we’re pretty darn special.
Saying goodbye to Scotland was sad, but I’m sure that I’ll go back someday, because it was an awesome place. As we sailed away I felt gloomy, but still excited that I would go to a new place. The last week in Scotland was built of a couple of E-days (after my break for camping) and some more walks around the town. It was truly a beautiful place, and a blessing to go to: Now to go explore the rock.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Wet and Wild: A Rather Lengthy Update on April 8th, 2009

The mooring into our berth in Scotland was something rather unexpected for me, and was a blessing. As we waited in the lock before the harbor, we could see the shopping mall next to where we’d be staying the next two weeks, and it looked empty. As we sailed closer we could hear a faint roar of cheers that was coming from our welcoming party. When we were ready to attach our ropes we caught full view of what was happening, and it was awesome. There was a worship band playing and hundreds of people were there cheering. This commotion went on until the customs had released us to let people on and off, but I couldn’t be a part of anything because as a deckie, we were forced to work until 8:30 at night until everything we needed was in place.
Scotland has been a place I have wanted to visit for years and years, and finally, by some astounding grace, I have arrived. This is a place that I could learn to love and nothing but the weather has been a negative here. The first few days were sunny and high 60’s, then fog set in for a day, and now I ha vent seen much of the sun in a while, but that’s nothing that could taint my visit. The first night here, in fact every night here, I went for a walk in the city. The city of Leith/Edinburgh is a beautiful town with a lot of old buildings. The people are pretty nice too and are sometimes very hospitable (I need not mention how amazing their accents are). It’s safe to say that Scotland is what I had hoped for thus far. I even had a chance to try Haggis, and it wasn’t nearly as disgusting as I thought it would be; I actually kind of enjoyed it. One evening I had a chance to explore the town by myself and ended up walking around looking at the scenery for 3 or 4 hours. I traveled past most of the commercialism and the industry to a boardwalk of pure green where you could see some small mountains and a bridge. People were playing soccer (not quite America) and having fires and enjoying the sun. This whole experience was so exciting and peaceful.
The day of ministry we get to experience was such a blessing here too. I was told to do tours, and was a little bit nervous at first, but the people here really made them fly by. I got to talk with so many different people, and like I mentioned, Scottish people are awesome. A few people even sounded very intrigued with joining. One guy worked at a refinery close by and asked so many different questions and seemed very excited. I think he may join some day.
As some of you may know, I had been planning a camping trip in the lowlands for a few days, which is now part of my past. I thank God so much for this experience and wouldn’t take it back. It all started by a water purification place…
On Monday night we set off from Leith into the wonderful nature that Scotland has to offer. We were dropped off on a one lane road and walked up a hill and through a forest and ended up camping on the edge. Luckily, the moon was bright because we were rather late in getting there. The night went by quickly, and the main problem was that we couldn’t start a fire (Great Britain is wet after all), so we just set up our tarps and laid down for our rest. The starts were shining trough and all was silent except the faint whispers of us guys. I was so excited and happy that I couldn’t fall asleep, but eventually the silence lulled me to sleep. We woke to a grey skies and cold weather. After a quick breakfast we headed out on what would turn into a long adventure.
After a quick march over the bare hills, we ended up coming to another forest. We found a path in it and took it through. This was not a wild forest for all the trees were in rows. This is what most of the forests we would come across would be. This made the trail easy to stick to and offered us a nice grassy path that was relatively dry. At the edge of the forest we came out to a little pond/ reservoir that seemed to be a popular spot for people to come to by the amount of trash lying around. Then we walked along the road the led towards our final destination. Morale at this point was very high, as the almost mythical sun poked out a few times. The road we walked upon was littered with sheep pastures and not much more. Eventually we came upon a logging company whose path cut right where we needed it to, and ventured on in that direction. After a quick lunch we hastily cut through the wooded road. When the road ended, we pressed on through the forest. This was one of the most challenging exploits, but also one of the most rewarding. We were forced to plow through the branches of what seemed a natural forest and to follow little streams. This meant that our shoes and socks all got soaked, but it wasn’t a big problem. The forest was as green as they come, the floor was covered with a spongy type of plant (not moss) that I wished we could sleep on, and all of the pine trees with gloriously green. Little streams made their way through the forest, and made a mess of mud. Once we were liberated of the tight forest we came upon a rather large stream (or small river) that led us in the direction of another road. We cut through somebody’s land (I know it was strange for me) with no problem, and made our way to the edge of another forest. There we found shelter for the night and built up our tarps once again for sleep. We did get a fire started and finally had a chance to eat some of our cans of food we brought. After a long day we all lay down at 7:30 pm for bed, and the worst night of my life.
That evening it started to rain, and it didn’t stop for the rest of our trip. During the night we realized our tarp had some small holes in it, and most of us found out how vulnerable our sleeping bags were to constant water. I was hit the worst as I had a puddle build up in my sleeping bag and all of the clothes I was wearing were eventually soaked. This made sleep very difficult, as to sleep I had to be away from the puddle, and the only way to do that was to sleep on my side, which when my leg fell asleep I would wake up. I also had a night full of dreams, and often times I was sad that they weren’t reality when I woke up to the nightmare of a soaked bag and clothes. At one point I even thought that I was going to get hypothermia.
The final awakening I had was a rather good one because the sun was finally out to give us a new day. The rain had calmed down, but not ceased, and I was freezing! When I managed to climb out of my bed and find my boots I ran out of the tent and ripped off all three shirts I was wearing. This felt so relieving and I was feeling better.
We set out pretty late, and were going to try and avoid the top of the hills, but this failed. We ended up climbing a hill directly above where we camped, and at the top we saw the glory of Scotland. We also saw rain whipping at us almost sideways, but that was no big deal. I was soaked anyways, and my hands were something like the hands of a drowned corpse. All day, in fact, my hand remained white and pruned. After the hill we ventures into the cover of another forest and wandered along a path there for a few hours. Eventually we reached the muddy end of the path and it took us to yet more hills. These hills were all wet (everything was) and the rain had not stopped. We traversed the hills and crossed some more streams trying to remain as dry as possible at first, and then gaining apathy towards the dryness of our bodies and clothes. At the end of the hills and a small valley lay our seemingly biggest challenge yet; a cliff. The danger had frightened a few of our group of seven, but we eventually went for it. The descent took no more than an hour, and no injuries had happened. Looking back up we saw just how dangerous it actually was, and praised God for keeping us safe. This was probably the most fun I had the whole time, as I was definitely challenged to keep a foothold and to use my numb hands. When we reached the edge of the hill, we stopped and ate our last time. We then went toward another hill to try and catch a glimpse of where we had ended up, and at the top we were caught by surprise. From a rather far distance we caught a sight of Loch Lomond, and it was beautiful. This was our original destination, but we bags and clothes hindered us from fully reaching it. We then finished up our journey through a last forest valley and yet another farmers property, and finally on the highway next to a wall built in the 1300’s. We ended in a city called Killearn, and at a tavern. There we contacted our ride back to the ship and ate hot food. It took a while for our driver to come, so we bought some drinks and sat around watching Soccer on TV (still not into it). I also finished the adventure by starting a new book and reading my bible with a glass of the local scotch. Praise God for his provision and his hand in keeping us healthy and safe!