Saturday, May 28, 2011

Speak + read + write x 3?

The title might sound confusing so let me give you an explanation, but first, check out this sign:

Have you ever wondered how your life would be if you didn't know how to read? Or write? We often take it for granted - heck, I know I did. I love reading, I love writing and I cannot imagine my life without it!

A few weeks ago I wanted to put up a sign outside the gate in 3 languages: English, Krio and Thimne. (Keep in mind that my native language is Hungarian.) I wrote a note in English and ran down to the hospital deck to find a translator. I bumped into a German nurse. I spoke to her briefly in German and asked for a Krio speaker. She brought one to me. I told her what I needed, she said (in English) that she could translate. But when I gave her the paper she shook her head. As it turns out she UNDERSTANDS English, SPEAKS Krio and Thimne, but CANNOT WRITE. She was around 30...

She walked away and a few minutes later came back with another day worker. That guy didn't SPEAK Thimne, but he could WRITE. They assured me all is well and I can come back in 10 minutes. I went back a bit later and there was still no progress. I asked why. They told me they needed one more person who could READ my English words... At this point I was so taken aback that I just smiled at them and said "No problem, we find somebody."

What I expected to take only 5 minutes took over 30 minutes and 3 people:
- One guy read the sentence in English
- One girl translated it to Krio and Thimne
- One guy wrote down her words.

It put things in perspective, isn't it? It sure makes me grateful that I CAN read, write and speak not only 1, but in 3 different languages...

My office...

Several people asked me to show some pictures about the office I work in so here you go...

This is the infamous white board - with all the events we need to organize. The last week of May is an exceptionally busy time with lots of things happening at the same time. The International Board is having a big meeting on board and we had multiple challenges with last minute arrival and departure changes, transportation issues, booking rooms, setting up conference calls, clashing appointments...etc. The school accreditation is in it's final stage and a small committee is here for a few days. Thank God it's not our responsibility, however we had to coordinate with their people. And on top of everything, the President, Vice President and several ministers of Cabinet chose this Friday to visit the ship. Hopefully the busyness will end on 1st June after a huge fund-raising event is finished on board. As you can imagine, life is NEVER dull in our department! :)

This is my desk. Yes, it looks a tad bit messy, but have a closer look. Everything is needed there! The fan is a crucial part of the office as the A/C often goes out. On the walls you see several calendars, I mark different things in each of them. :) The cables and adapters under my desk help me use my devices in a British plug environment. From my windows I can have a decent view of the gangway and the dock, which is quite neat!

And finally my desk: Besides the usual "office stuff" there are some strange things. Malaria pills, for example. But what's even more strange is that we have lots of mosquitoes INSIDE the ship; some came through the ventilation system, some just fly in as the door is always open and we are right next to the main entrance. So, we have (and often have to use) mosquito repellent. Yes, that means we all stink in the office, but at least we all have the same smell :) A glass of water is always present as well - we are in Africa after all and it can be really hot sometimes, specially when the A/C is off. Another weird thing is a pile of candies and lollipops - I have no excuse for that besides the fact that I LOVE THEM! :) There are also 3 funny looking balls (orange, blue, green), they are mostly used as stress releaser, sometimes for improving my juggling skills. And my keys - the key(s) to survive ship life, quite literally... Once I read a quote: "Only mediocre people keep their desk in order, the genius oversees the chaos." :) 

Tour of the Africa Mercy upper decks

A guided tour on AFM by yours truly... :)

It's already 11 minutes and I walked around only on deck 5 and up. Sometime soon I will do another one on deck 4 and below. Enjoy! :)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Road Trip to Makeni

On Wednesday I accompanied some of my team members on a road trip to Makeni. Our destination was a city/town 3 hours drive away from the capital city. We took the only road that goes towards the North, which is quite ironic considering that Makeni is clearly towards the East of Freetown. :)

The Dental Team (20 people) used 4 chair and did mostly extractions. It seems very basic, but if you consider that the nearly 2 million people who live in the greater Makeni area has NO DENTIST whatsoever, four trained professionals' arrival is an amazing improvement. 3 of them were from our ship and they invited 1 dentist from Freetown to join them - he brought his assistant, too. This way they not only help with the excessive workload our dentists face each day, but they also receive further training. As a result after this outreach is over, they will be even more effective in their own district.

While we were filming (the official video will come out soon!) a girl in line kept on catching my eyes. I said hello and we started talking. She spoke quite good English. Maturi heard about the free dental care and traveled from far away. She came to the hospital and stood in line since 4 am! She is a student, but she had severe pain in her wisdom teeth that prevented her from focusing in school. Even though there are dentists in Freetown, their price was way above what Maturi could have afforded. So the pain stayed.

She was so nervous. I asked her is she wanted me to go in with her. She flashed a wonderful smile at me. We walked in together for the first 2 injections. It was fast and relatively painless thanks to Dr Dag's skillful hands. We went outside to sit down and wait for the numbness to kick in. It became difficult for her to speak, so she asked me to tell her more about Mercy Ships. :)

Soon it was her turn. She grabbed my hands and never let them go. (Our videographer was filming during the entire procedure.) Since she was holding on to me for dear life I had to stand right next to her. That means I had to witness the entire process. I can tell you, I had tears in my eyes for her! There is a distinctive sound when a tooth breaks... something I will be able to pick out of a million other sounds if I hear it again.

After both teeth were out she stood up and tried to smile at her "painkiller". It was quite a sight. She was unable to speak so she tried sign-language to ask for my number. I hope she will call me and I can follow up with her. Until that moment I wasn't sure what was the real reason for MY going there. But now I know: she was alone and scared. She needed a friend and I am so glad I could be there for her!

Enjoy the video! :)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The letter that...

... changes everything?
... sums up what we do here and why?
... makes it all worthwhile?
... is soooo precious that it had to be shared?

She is a 7 year old girl who had operation on board the Africa Mercy last week. Her native language is Krio, so you gotta give her credit for writing in English.

On a personal note, from now on if I say "I am in a place of un happy" you'll know what I mean :)

Storm in Freetown

Since my camera is stolen I have to use my iPod Touch to make videos. :(
We took these pictures and short clips last night as a storm was passing by. I hope the quality is good enough and you can see. It was beautiful and soooooo refreshing! Yay for the rainy season! :)

Enjoy the video...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

On the beach...

Without going into much details about the beauty of the beach here, I post some photos we took today - Gerrit, the hospital manager wanted to celebrate his birthday on the beach with his Gateway group (people who joined with him in January 2011)

The party was interrupted when the rain started, yet, we had a great time!

Do you recognize the birds on the boat?
No? Look again...

Yes, vultures. On the beach...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

My new Heroes

The name of the game: SPOT THE DIVER

There is sooooo much trash floating down the river each day that sometimes you don't even see the water. The problem (besides the obvious) with this is that it blocks our pipes under water and it makes our engine cooling impossible. The first thing that goes is always the A/C. We are having issues with it every day. Now, A/C is a wonderful thing, but let's be honest, we can survive without it. Power, on the other hand is a much more serious issue. We already faced several sudden black outs throughout the entire ship.

The solution is "simple". We have people on board with PADI license. And the most amazing thing is that they are soooo willing to go down each day to clean the pipes. Last week one of the volunteer divers said that the visibility is practically ZERO down there...

3 of my friends volunteer to submerge into that yuck each day. 1 is an ICU nurse, the other is a ward nurse, the third one works at Reception. These guys are girls signed up to work with patients. When their shift is over, they change the scrubs to wet suit and jump into the water to keep us in business.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Walking in town

Today was my day off so a couple of us decided to walk to town. There is a nice bakery about 25 min walk away. I thought you guys might want to join me in crossing town...

Enjoy the video! :)

The only things you cannot get from this video is the HEAT and the SMELLS. It was above 40 Celsius (above 100F) and the smells... hmm, indescribable. And today was a relaxed, non busy Saturday! :)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Rainy Season

This will be the typical view for us in the next coming months...

The rainy season is from May to November. The 1st of May was a beautiful sunny day. We thought all is well. Today was the first Monday and still, the weather was just fine. I asked our day worker today in the office:
- When does the rainy season start?
- This month.
- OK, but when? In 2 weeks maybe?
- On Friday! 

:) You gotta love African people! Well, Bassey, you were wrong. The first rain arrived today...