Did you know that Romania has 53 airports, or that Luxembourg has cheap gas? These are just two facts among several that my 7th and 8th graders have picked up in their European travels. Sometimes I hear them talking amongst themselves about this town in Switzerland or that airport in France, and I think to myself "Why am I the one teaching them Geography?" And then one of them tries to pass off a picture of an Alaskan glacier as part of Holland because it came up on their google images search and they didn't stop to wonder how a glacier might form in a country where almost a third of the land is below sea level. (Fun fact: the name "Netherlands" literally means "low country".) Then I think, "Right, that's why I'm the teacher."
The only thing more surreal than living on a ship that sits more than it sails, where helping the blind see and the lame walk, etc. is more or less a daily thing, is teaching on one. For someone who has given up home, job, family, Target, sushi, etc. to come to Africa and serve "the world's forgotten poor," I really don't see much of them. To put it another way, if you thought of the Africa Mercy as a giant body, my fellow teachers and I would be the equivalent of some sort of gland that secretes the goo that helps the muscles move the bones to walk and so forth. We all know glands are important, but when Michael Phelps won pretty much every gold medal in Beijing, nobody was saying, "That boy's got some impressive glands!" I'm not complaining, really. I guess I'm just trying to explain why with all the fuss I made about coming to Africa and asking you all to support me with your prayers/thoughts, letters, money, etc., I don't seem to have had much regular contact with the Africans I came here to help. On my low-confidence days, this bothers me a lot. But the truth is that my immediate ministry is with about twenty eleven to eighteen-year-olds, the health and well-being of whom directly affects the hearts and hands that heal the blind, lame, disfigured, and outcast. Moral of the story: if you can read this, thank a "gland."
Ooh, and speaking of eleven to eighteen-year-olds, did you by any chance, have a chance to watch this segment of last week's 60 minutes? It features one of my students! That makes me famous by proxy, and since you all know me, you are now famous by proxy once removed, as it were. You're welcome. Since watching American TV is a little complicated around here, we all watched the 60 Minutes report together on Tuesday evening, and it was a really cool (and slightly nerve-wracking) experience. One never knows how one will come across on television, and for the most part, I think CBS got it right. The only correction I would make is to point out that we are not a "mostly American" crew. There are in fact more than 30 nationalities represented onboard at present. But I'm not going to complain too loudly. It's pretty darn cool to be on TV.
Okay, time for a picture or two...