The eagle has landed. I repeat, the eagle has landed.
My friends – I AM THE EAGLE! My nest is Canada and I have landed in it.
After more than 18 months I am officially home in cozy Alberta. As I write this I’m looking out the window at a squirrel that is laying motionless on the deck. I’m fairly sure it’s alive, but I could be wrong, it hasn’t moved for the entire time I sat staring at the clouds trying to figure out what to write for my big summation blog post… which was a long time.
How do you sum up 18 months worth of new experiences, incredible people, exotic countries and life changing moments in a digestable, tasty little blog post?
Well, firstly, you can go back and read the other posts – that covers about 14 of the months right off the bat! But what about coming home? Surely that must be a radical change. I mean, no squirrels in Madagascar right???
Indeed it is. It’s Crazy with a capital C. Luckily I had a few things help ease me out of the Mercy Ships womb and into the real world.
Before I begin to list I must say a quick word on the last few months of the ship. As my time came to an end, things became a bit intense. Time seemed to fly by faster than a fly being sucked into a vacuum cleaner. There was a huge amount of handover to arrange – all for a person that I will never meet. This meant that I had to create easy to follow lists and instructions for whomever the next media liaison is going to be. My style has never really been ‘by the book’ and so I found it difficult to sum up my job in a few simple pages. On top of this we were still hosting media and doing our normal job.
Luckily I had my great partner Deborah to help me out!
She has now been promoted to assistant to the head boss of the ship but when I knew her she was a lowly media liaison like me. She’ll be serving on the ship for another year and if you’re interested in her adventures she too has a blog, as well as a support page which can be found on her previous blog link! Together we had some great adventures including being a part of a beautiful little girl’s story on the ship – Fitahiana. (pronounced Fit-eye-eeeeeeeeeena or at last that’s how I pronounced it).
She came to the ship with extensive burns down the front of her body that would have resulted in her growing up bent forward and without breasts. Mercy Ships released the contracted skin repaired her chest and … unmentionables… so that she can now become a normal happy woman one day! Deborah and I, though not surgeons, were her surrogate family while on the ship and I can now say with certainty that at least one girl likes me!
Secondly you may remember this guy! Sambany!
Well look again!
That’s right. Here he is in all his restored glory, his melting ice cream a symbol for his restored childlike joy. Or perhaps a symbol for how hot the sun in Madagascar is… If Sambany is a completely new shock for you check out my last blog on him heeeeerrrreeeee, or perhaps a nice little video we made about him which is HERE!
Thirdly there were tons of other adventures that I wish I had blogged about as they happened. There was a weekend hike into the jungle, where we hiked with a chicken and slept in a villagers hut.
I let my friend David cover that one 🙂 LINK TO GREAT BLOG ABOUT ADVENTURE
Then there was teaching english, where I heard some of the craziest stories I’ve ever sort of believed.
Great friends, creativity, beaches, media teams… and it all cumulated in the highlight of the finality. On April 26, the most important day ever if you happen to be me in 1991, my parents came to the ship to volunteer!
Yup that’s them. Now you know where I got my rakish good looks from.
They joined the ship for two weeks and worked in the Dental clinic onshore. To quote my Dad – “Malagasy people have the worst teeth I’ve ever seen!” I haven’t seen nearly as many teeth as my Dad, but I believe him – and I think I know why it is true. At the end i’ve included a typical Malagasy break-time snack. Spoiler alert – it’s 99% sugar.
My parents came to the ship and I got to show-and-tell all of my friends, tour them to our favourite spots, wow them with all the professional respect i’d garnered in my time there. A common ‘going home’ lament I hear is that nobody at home can relate to your adventures – well this nullifies that! I can now reminisce about my buddies and the ship and my parents know exactly what i’m talking about.
Surprisingly one thing did unnerve me about their visit. My parents know me pretty well, and when they first arrived I could tell that something was amiss. I was a little shocked when I figured out what it was – Me.
Now it’s time for a little serious talk. I’ll try to be brief.
Sometime in the last six months of the ship I had hit what we like to call ‘the wall’. Now that I’ve been away from it I can see it clearly, but at the time it felt like the world was conspiring against me. Volunteering with Mercy Ships can be intense – you give 100% of your time, your money, even your blood – if you’re not careful to focus on what is amazing about this place it becomes all to easy to only see what it is taking. I began to feel like I was in a bad relationship with a big inhuman robot that ingested all my humanity. I needed a break but due to the increased workload I couldn’t get away and when I did it was with friends who were in similar boats (hehe) and our talk always turned towards negativity.
When my parents arrived I saw it from an outside perspective and for the first time realized what I’d been doing.
I could hardly sleep that night. I couldn’t believe that I’d squandered so many amazing opportunities of the last few months. How many incredible people had I missed meeting? How many patients had I walked past that needed love? Where had this negativity come from?
That breakfast I decided to change it and focus only on the positive. It worked wonders. The last two weeks with my parents were some of the best. We met fascinating people, went on crazy adventures, and I appreciated the Africa Mercy as if I had just stepped on it that morning.
Even though I am sad that the negativity had to happen I have taken this renewed energy back with me to Canada and I’m super grateful for that. It’s incredible how much beauty and wonder is around us all the time if we choose to look for it.
Okay serious talk done. Let’s wrap this sucker up!
So my parents arrived and volunteered and it was great. Afterwards we travelled for a week around Madagascar with my friends Mark & Joey which I think is summed up well in this picture.
And now one of just the fam.
Afterwards Mark, Joey and I spent a few weeks in Europe acclimatizing to western civilization. This was the best way I can imagine to ease back into society. Our main focus was visiting our friends from the ship that had already been displaced back into real life. We helped each other reminisce about the ship while also trying to understand what we had all just done. This is not an experience that is easily understood by people who haven’t been there themselves – I know this because I barely understand what I did and I was there for 18 months!
And now here I am back in Alberta. My sister was married this week which meant I was thrust into a whirling sharknado of activity upon my return. During this time my buddy Laiton also got married and my university friends treated me to a long weekend in the mountains – it all amounted to a busy return. In fact today is one of the first times I’ve been able to be alone to start gathering my thoughts on Mercy Ships.
And now you’ve read some of them.
There is a lot more to figure out i’m afraid. Coming back from Africa is an intense time for many and I am no exception. I’m struggling to find activities that are as meaningful as on the ship while still trying to fit into ‘normal’ society. It was pretty clear that God took me to the ship and that He meant for me to leave… but what now?
Well i’ll tell you! I’m writing a novel! It’s kind of about the ship but not really. It’s going to deal with time and aliens and religion and hopefully lots of other great stuff. So pretty much exactly Mercy Ships.
My plan is to work on writing until the next opportunity presents itself. I don’t plan on going back to the ship but I’m a Yes man for God’s plan so I can’t really rule it out.
So if you have a cool opportunity that you want to employ me for you know how to contact me. In case you missed it that is an example of *SHAMELESS BEGGING!*
Thank you for reading this far. I’m going to update this with the last few patient stories and then Kyle Siemens Mercy Ships will be at an end. I’m moving on to a writing blog to document the stories and novels that I write as we move into the future. If you’re interested in that it’ll be showing up here soon.
Seriously though, Thanks for reading. If no one was reading this it would have been a lot less fun.
I hope to hear from you guys! Bye-o as they say in Congo!
And for the faithful readers – as promised here is a typical Malagasy breaktime snack:
1 Glass of Milk
1 Tube of Honey
30 Cubes of Sugar
Heat up the glass of milk in the microwave until it’s so hot it’s threatening to melt the cup. Squeeze honey into the milk. Get to the point where it’s piling up on the bottom of the glass and pushing up against the sides and then keep squeezing that bee sap into there. Only stop when the milk is starting to overflow. Drop as many cubes of sugar into the cup as you possibly can. If you can see sugar poking out above the milk then you know that you’ve made it correctly! Yum yum yum enjoy! Make certain to note the tingling you feel in your teeth – that’s your enamel rotting in real time!