If You’re Reading This, I’m Still Here

6 Mar

This week was tough. Mentally, emotionally and physically. There were moments where I flung up my arms because I just didn’t care any more. There were moments where inside I wanted to cry but I kept it together and kept it moving. There were moments where I had to drag my limbs to take that next step and to keep it going. This week was tough. But I made it. I’m here. If you’re reading this, I’m still here. Hopefully still kicking butt and taking names, but if not, you can bet your bottom dollar that I’m giving it my all and I’ll eventually get there.

The last time I felt this emotionally, mentally and physically exhausted was after climbing Mt. Adams last summer.

The last time I felt this emotionally, mentally and physically exhausted was after climbing Mt. Adams last summer. (I’m in the red.)

Let me rewind. The last time I wrote, it had been just over a week since I returned from my trip to Greece and met some of my biggest supporters and followers, my friend Jamie’s sixth grade classes. That was nearly a month ago. Over the course of that month, I had started writing blog posts and updates in my head but they never quite made the transition from my mind to browser and keyboard. (And there are still a few more posts about my trip to Greece that I want to write about. Specifically around ego, where the funds I raised went, and what to consider as you consider making a similar trip yourself.)  Like I say every time that I go a little while without writing, so much has happened since then. I’ll summarize it for you in a few sentences: I “moved” to Northern California (there are quotes because all of my stuff is still in Portland and I’ll probably go back and forth). F-unemployment is over and fun-employment has begun. I’m in a 6 week training program to become a flight attendant with Virgin America. (For the record, flight attendants do more than just smile and serve you drinks and food–way, way, WAY more than that. Be nicer to them.) It’s been exhausting and intense and busy, but I’ve been loving every minute.

Every ending is a new beginning. From f-unemployed to fun-employed!

Every ending is a new beginning. From f-unemployed to fun-employed!

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Support and Inspiration from the Sixth Grade

12 Feb

It has been just over a week since I left Lesvos to return back to the USA and I just got home on Monday. I took the longest route home, partially because it was cheapest and partially because I made a detour to see some friends on the east coast. Since getting back to Portland, it’s been a whirlwind few days as I tried to get my bearings, as I pack for a move to the Bay on Saturday and as I try to say hi (and bye) to as many people as I can. One of the highest items on my to do list during my 5 days in Portland was to stop by my friend, Ms. Maynard’s, sixth grade class. (Remember when they made my day?) My friend, and their teacher, had told me how the students would come in as ask if I had posted anything new, and they would read my blog. MY BLOG. I seriously sometimes think that my mom is the only person who reads this thing (Hi Mom!) and am always, always, always over the moon anytime someone mentions, even in passing, that they enjoy reading my blog. I’m flattered and honestly honored that you give me your time and attention.

 I can’t remember the last time I was in a middle school, but there I was, at 1pm on a Thursday, waiting for three sixth-grade classes to file in…to see me?! I always remembered assemblies and guest speakers from my childhood and the impact that speakers would have on me–and now the roles were reversed. I was a little nervous but mostly excited. I’m not afraid of public speaking, even though I get butterflies every time, but this was different. The students knew me as “Sej”, they would discuss the posts that I wrote, they followed along like they were there. When I saw them walk into the auditorium after lunch, I saw some faces light up, lots of waves and felt this energy that I can’t even describe. It was amazing. The time flew by, hugs and high fives and smiles were exchanged, and I even had a group ask me to dab (which I don’t know if I really know how to do, but I got their seal of approval)!

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The Tears That Did Not Fall

3 Feb

A month ago I was packing my bags for what I know was the biggest adventure I’ve had to date. A month later, I’m sitting at the Thessaloniki Airport, enjoying my last bit of genuine Greek food, waiting to take the second of seven flights to eventually get me back home to Portland, OR. Once I get back to Portland on Monday, I have 4.5 days to catch up on what I’ve missed, pack up what I need, and say my farewells as I leave for San Francisco on Saturday for 5.5 weeks of training. Yes, it’s a crazy schedule. Yes, I chose to do it this way. No, I don’t regret it (at least not yet). And maybe it was on purpose, so I could jump from one hustle to another without giving myself too much downtime. Because downtime means time to think, and reflect, and to process–some things I’m happy to do that with, others I don’t want to.

Yesterday was an emotional roller coaster of a day. It started with heartfelt hugs and loving farewells to people who went from strangers to friends to confidantes to partners in adventure. It’s incredible how quickly and how deeply you can connect with people, especially in circumstances and the environment that we were in. It was the kind of goodbye where you hug, and say bye, and don’t want to let go, but eventually do, and then you hug again. Those kind. While I know that we’ll all never be in the same place again, physically or emotionally, I have full faith that we will meet again someday, somewhere, somehow. You can’t escape from me that easily–and you have your cards to redeem! The tears almost came, but they did not fall.


After my last ‘See you soon’ hug, it took all of 3 minutes to check-in at the Mytilini airport which afforded me the opportunity to take a walk outside by the coast. This is the coast where I had spent several nights doing boat patrol. It’s the same coast that we had welcomed boats of newcomers to safety. It’s the same coast where we gathered under a dazzling sky, sometimes with a beautiful moon, sometimes with a shy one, and bonded with fellow helpers. It’s the same coast where we sat in silence and prayer, waiting to hear back on a distress call. It’s the same coast from where you can see the silhouette of Turkey on the horizon. I couldn’t help but think about all of the people who have, who will, who want and who need to make that voyage across the sea in hope of a better future. Again, the tears almost came, but they did not fall.

From my window seat, I was able to catch a pretty killer view of Mytilini from up above. I could pick out the restaurants and cafes we frequented, and the building where people sought shelter, and the travel agencies that we developed relationships with (the ones who didn’t rip off refugees by boosting their ticket price), and the coast guard ships that were picking people up off the boats in the sea to safely bring them in to the port (a new development as of a few days ago). And then, in the middle of the sea, with Mytilini in the background, there was a ferry ship. I’m not sure where this ship was headed, but I know it was full of people–some that I may have met or helped or treated–who were continuing on their journey towards a better future. I almost lost it then, when I thought about all that they have been through and all that is still ahead, but the tears did not fall.  Continue reading

The Worst Phone Call 

29 Jan

The mood around the bonfire when on night boat patrol is usually jovial as volunteers chat with each other in the warm of a cackling fire while keeping an eye on the horizon for a speck that turns into a boat. Usually. But not tonight. Tonight I made the worst phone call I’ve ever had to make.

Ready for night patrol and looking official!

Earlier in the evening, my friend and I started chatting with some of the other people on watch as volunteers normally do. What’s your name? Where are you from? How long have you been here? How long are you here until? What have you been up to? We saw a few friends we had made on previous boat patrols, we met some new friends, and we did a few ‘I’ve seen you before but I don’t know if we’ve been introduced…’ as well. One of the new faces I met tonight played a voice note that he just received. I don’t think I will ever be able to forget it; it was in Arabic but at the end there was the undeniable voice of a child yelling, “Mama! Mama!” over the sound of waves. He told us the part in Arabic was, “We are going into the water. The boat is going down.” This was a message from a sinking boat.

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