Sorry it took me so long to begin this blog about The Gathering. I was busy living it up on the roadtrip, and I was partying my ass off in Helsinki. I also didn't know whether to do this as just a meet writeup, or a travelogue.
Then, I got back to Djibouti and spent 3 weeks working 4AM-12PM, then I spent as much time as I could with one of my best friends here before she left last week.
I loved Finland!!! Another place joins Australia as the place I would have to revisit more than once in my lifetime.
Mostly, though, I had a hard time figuring out where to begin. That's because this trip was a revelation, a shot in the arm, and just about everything I needed right now.
I will have been in Africa for almost two years when I leave in December 2009. I've been through a lot, and some parts of my old life won't survive it, despite my best intentions. I've looked to the future nervously, trying to figure out what my first steps should be. I might even be developing a job itch.
And I've been there before. When I headed off to college, when I signed papers to join the Navy in 1993, when I left for Africa in 2008 knowing I would be gone from my wife and child for a long time. Each time hoping If I was doing the right thing.
In Africa, I found joy and simplicity. My life was stripped bare, and I learned how to make that work for me. And I met a few people (a Filipina, a Marine, the Puerto Rican National Guard (ie. the 1/65th Infantry Battalion, Bravo Company, etc.) who gave my perspective a makeover.
My trip to Finland changed me the second I realized that it was mostly made up of things that I did not plan. Oh, I planned the weight training stuff that led up to it, and the VirtualMeet, meeting Christian and Måns,and the trip to Finnish Lapland. Maybe even some skirt chasing in Helsinki (Wink! Wink!).
But I never planned to trek through Norway or North Cape, didn't plan too much of the camping stuff much, or some of Helsinki. I didn't plan on seeing so much, as evidence by several hundred (over half a K) pictures. Come to think of it, I never planned on any of this happening when found Tsampa.org, I emailed Kris in early 2000-something on his first website, or seeing Toffee's Gym. I never planned on getting married, ever, but I did. I didn't ever think that Africa would put this trip within my reach. In the grand scheme of things, I didn't see of a lot of things happening in my life as they did, and yet not seeing it did not lessen my enjoyment or appreciation of it. The biggest thing I take away from all of this is that I don't have to see, know, predict, or control everything. I just had to be ready to respond to it. And that the best things in life come with some discomfort.
After everything that has come before, long plane ride, sore, being tired after a 4+K hike, legs on fire, tired, face wet and cold after being rained on, that's why I'm smiling in this picture.
And to Kris, Måns, Christian, Sanna, Emma, Kris' mom and pops; my wife and Marissa; Dan: my son Eric; The Navy, for the plane ticket; Kris' brother Andreas for the crazy discount on a hotel suite at the Sokos Hotel; the Turkish guy at the kebab place close to the hotel; to the people I met at Butterfly. . . . . . thank you.
And to Minna, a girl I met on my first night in Helsinki, thank you and I'm sorry in equal measure.