Greece – The Gravity of a Graveyard

To be honest, I am not even sure how to write about this adventure. I know I have to share about it, as it was one of the most impactful things I have ever experienced, not just on this trip but also in life but where do I even begin…

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I guess it starts with the fact that for a while I didn’t think I was actually going to make it up to Molyvos to see the life jacket graveyard. From the moment I heard it existed it was something that I knew I wanted to go see but at an hour drive from Moria/Panagiouda where I was staying and a bit off the beaten path it wasn’t super convenient and I was here with a mission to serve not as a tourist.

Here is the google map pin if you ever want to check it for yourself. Even the satellite view I screen shot gives some pretty crazy perspective on just how big the graveyard is.

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As I was saying though, I didn’t think I was going to make it up there as I was nearing the end of my stay and hadn’t yet made the trek. I also had told Marianne from EuroRelief that I would work right till the end of my time on Lesvos so there was no foreseeing the opportunity to go. To my surprise though when I got the schedule for the next week I had been given Monday off even though I would leave Wednesday. My first thought was this is my opportunity to run up north to Molyvos to see the Graveyard and Sykaminea Camp After a brief conflict in my heart between going and spending an extra day in Moria (the thought of leaving was already grieving me) I decided that this was a door God had opened and I needed to take it. As I write this I cant actually believe that I almost didn’t go. Two months later as I sit here and write and look through these photos my eyes well with tears at how overwhelming the whole experience was.

After deciding to go, I discovered that there were other volunteers who had the same day off and hadn’t been up there yet, so now I not only had an adventure but I also had a crew to join on it. (LIFE HACK – Adventures are better with a crew) Six of us in total myself, two of my female compadres from the Mytilene Apartment and the Mennonite contingent of the Panagiouda Crew were set to go!

I got up early Monday and headed in to Mytilene to rent a car, picked up the crew and off we went down the winding mountain roads of Lesvos to see what we could see. The car ride itself was a bit of a joy in that even though you spend 8 to 10 hours a day with these people, it is always during work so there aren’t always great chances to hear peoples story and who they really are, so this gave great opportunity to hear about and get to know some of the people had spent so much time with over the past month. Not surprising that in itself was a total privilege. Hearing stories of how God had provided for their trip in unusual ways and hearing their hearts for the people we were working with, that in itself would have made the trip worth while.

And then we pull up to this…

As foretold it was a ways off the beaten path, but not super hard to find even though the  GPS map on my phone is wonky. But after ten or fifteen minutes of bouncing down a goat trail of a path we caught the faint view of orange in the distance.

I don’t really know how to describe my feelings in this moment, other than there were a lot of them. You look at the piles of life jackets understanding that each and everyone of them was worn by someone desperate to change the direction of their life and you begin to gain a realization of how fully broken our world is.

You step out of your vehicle and stare at three huge mountains of orange and black nylon and your mind is blown away when your companion informs you that these are not just piles of jackets but rather these are actually pits that have been filled to overflow.

In the depth of your mind you begin to see the faces of the men you have spent your last month serving and working alongside.  Your heart sinks as you realize that each one of these faces, each one of  your new friends is represented by one of these jackets.

The grief in my spirit was overwhelming and I remember choking back tears, even now as I write this my heart just aches. How do we let this happen? Thousands upon thousands of people in desperation crossing a cold dangerous sea all for a glimmer of hope that rests on the other side.

I had my camera and so under the guise of getting a good shot I left my group to try and make some sort of sense out of all that was happening in my heart. Walking through the piles upon piles of jackets. The winds were also crazy that day adding a poetic touch to the experience as a storm of emotion raged inside me.

There really isn’t much you can do to make sense of it all. I think thats the most frustrating thing for me. There is no apparent solution. Just do what you can to counteract the negative by pouring out yourself in love where you can.

Eventually we loaded up and carried on our way. Silent for the first while as each of us was impacted by the sheer volume of what we had jsut seen. But soon the silence was broken and we were back to chatting. Before heading onward to Sykaminea Camp we wanted to explore the town a bit and find ourselves some lunch.

Molyvos is a beautiful little town and because it was a local holiday we got to take in some sort of a celebration happening in the town square. If anyone can explain to me what is going on here I would appreciate it. There were also people in costumes and such. There are often people in costumes in Greece it seems and I never understand why. Haha

Molyvos also has unreal pita. Definitely a highlight.

After our lunch and tour of the town,  including a super sweet little church we continued onward to our next destination, Sykaminea Camp. Sykaminea Camp is the first place a refugee goes after making the sea voyage from Turkey. At the height of the migrant crisis this place was packed with people and continual activity. When we were there it was still winter in Greece so not many boats were tempting the trek across the sea so it was pretty quiet when we arrived. Located a few hundred yards from the beach you can look out over the ocean from here and see Turkey in the distance. It seems so close but in a dingy overfilled past capacity it must feel like a million miles to cross.

From there we went down to the beach. For me this is where reality of what the refugees face really set in again. This beach is the closest point between Greece and Turkey. Something like 2.5 miles of water is all that separates the two countries and so it is here that the refugees will make the attempt to cross the sea that separates. Two and a half miles doesn’t sound like a lot and really as you look across there is a part of you that says I could make it across.  At the same time with the wind howling and waves crashing, the feel of the cold mist on your skin there is something almost sinister about it at the same time, an underlying understanding that you would not willingly choose to make this trip unless there was no other option. I remember a quote I heard that said “no woman would ever put her child on a boat unless there were no there option” and as I stared across the straight, the gravity of that truth genuinely set in.

Knowing how dangerous it is to cross and hearing the stories of bodies washing ashore from those who did not make it fuelled that same surreal experience. Walking along the beach and coming across the remnant of a boat that hadn’t been cleaned up yet. I say boat but really it was just a fibreglass shell set out across the sea well over capacity. My mind wanders and wonders was this a successful trip or did this shell of a vessel abandon its precious cargo somewhere along the journey. Again my mind wanders, this time to one of the translators description of his journey across. Forced at gunpoint by smugglers onto a dingy with far too many people aboard, supplied with just enough gas to almost get you across, praying that you make it through the freezing cold waters.

Its overwhelming. I am not even sure what I can add.

It was life changing.

 

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The Next Adventure

So things moved pretty fast once I got home. I arrived in Choiceland on Wednesday and barely had enough time to recover from my last adventures when my next was set into motion.

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Photo Credit: Tour Guide Canada
I have been trying to sell my car for over a year now, I had felt it was time to move on from it, and right now I am in the process of setting up a new endeavour that will require greater cargo space.  So I threw it up on Kijiji knowing I’d be back soon and before I even arrived in Choiceland I had a guy wanting to come see it. Friday he showed up cash in hand and within a few minutes I was officially without a car. So long little Focus. You were a great ride!

Not long after an alarming fact hit me. I have no car. Uh oh. In Choiceland, no car, limited budget. This could be interesting. Luckily I had already been perusing Kijiji in search of an appropriate vehicle to create VanLife 2.0. Last summer I spent 6 weeks touring Western Canada living out of this beauty and with some of the adventures I have in development for this summer I was anxious to find a vehicle which I could customize to take the Van Life experience to the next level. 2016-05-12 14.45.02

Last years model was comfortable, great for driving but not really set up as a camper and too nice to destroy by camperizing so I decided to sell it at the end of the season and start from scratch this year.

So, As I said, I had already been looking and had found a few contenders, one of which I had messaged about the previous week and hadn’t heard back from. That is until that Thursday before I sold my car, no wanting to get ahead of myself and not wanting to look to eager I waited to call the guy back but now with the sale of my car complete I needed to get things moving.

But was I really going to buy another van? I live an unusual life, I accept that. Most days anyway. Some days I question my own sanity and really facing another summer living in a van is not exactly conducive to being a grown up and there is a part of me that after 2 years of school and 2 months of vagabonding my way around the world is craving stability. However, let’s be real I am pretty good at quieting that part of my soul. In reality, I just said a prayer, the same one I often say “Lord if you want this to happen make it straight and clear” So I set up a meeting for the next day, convinced my fabulous parents to go for a drive, and early the next afternoon we were on our way. Going in I had preconcieved deal breakers all set in my head. I had a price in my head that I wouldn’t budge above and told myself if I had any reservations I would bail immediately and try to forget about this idea. We got there, checked it top to bottom, needs a windshield, pretty dirty, but the right size for what I want to accomplish and really not in bad shape over all. Turn the key and fires right up, take it for a test drive, shifts nice and has V8 power, not bad at all. OK it passed the reservations test. Let’s talk price – “So what are you looking to get out of it?” “Well, I’d take $2500 for it” CRAP THAT’S EXACTLY THE NUMBER I WANTED. Now I debate pushing him further but really that was the price I felt I was going to pay ahead of time and so my response… “Write it up!”

Well looks like I am doing this! The guy selling turned out to be a pretty good dude too. Runs an importing business bringing in tires and batteries from China, gave me a few tips about the process after I mentioned that my new endeavour involves importing. Pretty cool experience all around.

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So now I have a van! My hours of Pinteresting ideas are about to pay off, but where to start? We stopped at Canadian tire on the way home and I picked up some supplies to start with. They had touch up paint and also a power inverter on sale so I picked those up.

The next morning I went at it making a trip into town to get the necessary supplies to add a bed to my new project. Once home, I started ripping the seats out but what a gong show that became, I ended up ripping all of the trim off of the sides to get to the seat belt bolts. Was missing the right tools to take some of the support plates out. By the time it was getting dark I was sitting semi defeated amidst a pile of rubble. (Displayed in the video below lol) SO I decided to give up for the night and run into town the next day for the right tools.

The next morning I went and got the tool I needed got most of the pieces out and then put the trim back on. I haven’t decided yet if I am going to take it right down to steel or if I should work around what is there for now. Working with what is there is more budget friendly, but stripping it will give a way cooler finished product. So will see, I flip flop on the subject daily ha.

But also that morning I got a call from my old accounting firm and they needed some emergency coverage for tax season and knew I was available, so out of that conversation I ended up with a contract doing tax for a couple weeks. Which on my end is a huge blessing. I live pretty low key financially but its been a while since I have had steady work so this will be a great little boost financially. So since then I have just been in Regina, working my buns off trying to raise the start up capital I need for my next venture.

I have also had a few “interesting” opportunities pop up so stay tuned in the next few days who knows where my next post will be from! haha

Cheers for now

Dave

 

 

Canada – Around the world in 65 Days

65 days ago I took off from Edmonton International Airport on a journey that would see 18 flights through 16 different airports (Edmonton, Toronto, London, Athens, Mytilene, Athens, Istanbul, Abu Dhabi, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Krabi, Bangkok – BKK, Bangkok – DMK, Phuket, Bangkok – DMK, Bangkok – BKK, Shanghai, Vancouver, Abbotsford, Edmonton, Saskatoon) Yesterday when I touched down in Edmonton on my way to Saskatoon I had successfully circumnavigated the world by air! Bucket list – CHECK, haha.

Now as I sit here on my parents couch and reflect on the journey I am absolutely overwhelmed at the entire experience, my heart is full with amazing memories and incredible friends old and new that have journeyed with me along the way. Thank you to each and every one of you, this adventure has been one for the record books. Thank you, Jesus, it is exactly what my Spirit needed after 16 months of beating my brain with academia.

I left Thailand early in the morning on March 31, en route to Vancouver. Along the way though I had a stop over in Shanghai, China. This was the first time I had ever been in China and it was interesting to say the least. First off, because I was only there for about 10 hours I decided not to get a local SIM, this… was a mistake, haha, as the availability of public WiFi was pretty tough to find without one and so Google Maps ended up no use to me. I must admit, it’s a bit alarming at what a crutch Google maps is for me when I travel as without it I was more than a little lost at times, haha. Thankfully, some screen caps and research I had done earlier combined with the help of a friendly concierge at a random hotel I was able to maneuver my way through this adventure unscathed.

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My Shanghai adventure begins with a trip on the MagLev train, a high speed train that got up to 431 KM/h how crazy is that! We were zipping by! And most importantly it turns a long trip downtown into a manageable hour as it took me a good 1/2 to 3/4 of the way down the regular transit path. Arriving downtown I attempted to find a dumping house that a friend had recommended, I wandered for a bit using my screen caps on Maps but in the end this is where I discovered that WiFi for tourists without a local SIM is pretty much not gonna happen, oh well. I wandered some more finally consulting the concierge at the Park Hotel on how to get to the Oriental Pearl which as was only a train stop away thankfully. It definitely was a cool sight, but I didn’t go up as I was being cheap and it was foggy/smoggy anyways so I was not confident on the view I would get from it, that and I was already hungry and should be heading back to the airport soon. So instead I went to a little Ramen place and got some food, which was ok but I got the feeling this was like the McDonald’s of ramen and dumplings so I won’t judge China’s cuisine by it haha. From there I got back on the train and headed back to the airport. I did go the wrong direction for 2 stops first (a pretty typical DaveLife move) but eventually I did make it back to the Maglev and Airport. Onward home!

Arriving home in Canada did not stop my adventures. I got in Friday night and had set myself up at the Holiday Inn Express at the Vancouver Airport, nothing beats a comfy bed after a long flight and to my joy they upgraded me to a King bed, ahhhhh. I instantly crashed, only to be woken at 1am with the jet lag hunger pangs, oi, so there I am searching the hotel for food at 1:30 in the morning, but it is a new hotel so none of that has been set up yet, no room service and not even a vending machine. So there I am ordering and subsequently gorging myself on pizza at like 2:30 in the morning.

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The next day I laid around in my comfy accommodation till check out, hoped back on the airport shuttle to the car rental place and after some minor confusion (FYI Alamo YAY, National Nay), hit the road to North Van to meet up with my buddy Kevin where I would be staying for the night. Looking for a mini adventure Kev had tickets to the Capilano Suspension Bridge and I had never been so off we went! Great little park there, I love BC, it is so green and air so crisp it really is a fabulous place to spend time. (TRAVEL TIP: There is another suspension bridge not to far from here called Lynn Canyon and I believe it is FREE, so if you are not lucky enough to know someone who has tickets to Capilano and are looking for a little more budget friendly experience I would recommend it because as cool as Capilano was I don’t quite see the value of $40 per person)

After, I met up with my friend Alana for a coffee (ALWAYS a delight) before returning to Kev’s for an evening watching sports. You have no idea how much I missed hockey while overseas. Super pumped to come home to my Flames in the playoffs! Haha, way to go boys!!! We did do a little tour of North Van though, man this town is gorgeous! Definitely not opposed to the Lord moving me out here.

The next morning I headed off to Langley, to check out Sunday morning service at Sonrise Church where my buddy Chris is the lead pastor. GREAT SERVICE! Holy Spirit was kicking some butt this morning. Was so grateful to be able to worship with this crew, definitely felt the love.

The next few days, I were spent fighting jet lag, contemplating life and moving my existing blog posts over to this new venue. If you haven’t noticed yet, I was pretty unhappy with Bloggers user interface so have shifted to a WordPress site. Please let me know what you think of the changes. Hopefully this one will work better for all involved. I have really enjoyed blogging and intend to continue, so please click follow down below and make sure you never miss a post 🙂

Anyways that takes us to yesterday where my touch down in Edmonton completed my circle of the world, and my touch down in Saskatoon ended my journey. Props to my pops for driving the 2.5 hours to Toon town to pick me up.

Thanks everyone for following along and stay tuned for posts sharing all the things I have learned along the way.

Cheers!

Dave

Malaysia – Dave Life Squared

Originally Posted – March 27, 2017

Upon my departure from Istanbul, I made my way through Abu Dhabi and Kuala Lumpur to my next destination – Penang, Malaysia. 

Within moments of my arrival to Malaysia, I had a new SIM card, pocket full of Malaysian cash and was ready for adventures! The first of which was my very first UBER ride. Yes, I realize I am one of the few people to never have used this service before but man was I impressed. As a traveller I am always nervous in a new city, there are way too many stories of getting ripped off by cabbies at the airport. UBER let me watch the entire drive towards my destination with their real time map, talk about piece of mind. Add in the fact that it was about $10 for a 45 minute drive across the city and we will call that a win. 

Touring around on the back of Dave’s bike, snapping pics as I went

Post UBER experience I arrived at my friends Dave, Tasha and family’s condo which was big, beautiful and way less to rent than mine back home, these expat guys are doing something right I think haha. After getting settled, Dave took me out to a great Chinese place for  dinner and then we just hung out at cool spot on the beach and caught up. Why am I eating Chinese food in Malaysia? Fun Fact: there is a tonne of Chinese influence on Penang as they have heavily invested in the area.

Most of my next day was spent relaxing in Dave’s pool while he worked. The downtime was good as there is a lot to process on this trip. It’s an odd season of life and floating in a pool in a tropical climate is definitely welcomed as I sort out the next moves of my life. We did meet up with a friend of Dave’s for lunch and had awesome bbq steaks and satay for dinner so the day wasn’t without any adventure.

The next morning we went a bit more touristy. Ate breakfast near Dave’s son’s school, I forget the name of what we ordered but it was some Malay dish. After we went the “Wet Market” basically a farmers market/butcher shop, all the fruits and veggies of a typical farmers market but also dead chickens, pigs, fish (I don’t remember if there was beef or not) all being cut up and served direct to customer. Pigs ears hanging from the stalls, fully plucked chickens with their heads still attached, was definitely a sight, but we got our order of chicken breasts and carried on. After dropping off our groceries and a quick stop at home we were off to meet with another connection of Dave’s who is an expat working in the area, was great to hear his experiences as he works with a missions organization throughout South East Asia.  After lunch Dave and I scooted off on his motorbike down to the Georgetown area of Penang, this is an older hippy vibed area that has a bunch of street art. We toured around on a pedal cart and I will do a separate post later with all the art pictures I took as there were a lot. We ended the tour with some delicious cake at a cool spot called China House, sugary goodness for sure. I can’t remember the name of the spot we had dinner that night, I want to call it AVA but not sure. It was cool though, lots of food stalls all in a lot, which let you choose what you wanted that evening, lots of very strange choices and I of course chose something that I had no idea how to pronounce, haha. All in all a super fun filled day!

My last day, we went out for Nazi kandar for lunch, basically a Malaysian form of Indian food. Definitely delicious and like everything else here super cheap. After lunch we spent some time at the mall which I wandered while Dave ran errands, found a very cool marketing exhibit for the LOGAN movie which I will also post separately later. The rest of the day was low key as Dave needed to prep for a speaking engagement he had on the weekend, so I hit up some floating in the pool and then after dinner checked out the night market. Night market was cool lots of little shops selling knock offs of all sorts, picked up a sweet pair of “Raybans”, found a barber and got a fresh cut, and closed it off by finding a Starbucks and strolling my way down the beach. 
The next morning I hopped another UBER to the airport and was Railay Beach bound 🙂