Wednesday, October 31, 2012

D-49 days

I am glad you guys like my little trip down memory lane...

Today I have a few pictures about the amazing sunsets that you can only experience in Africa! These are pictures I took last week from deck 8 (mostly).

In my recent blog (Weekend adventure part 2) you could see some more amazing sunsets so I didn't include them here - I guess you get the picture :)

A good couple of years ago when we first watched the Lion King they showed a huge burning ball descending into the ground. Well, back then I thought it's just Hollywood's way of enchanting you. Then I went to Kenya, East Africa and could see it for myself; the sun is indeed a huge burning fireball, much much bigger than back home in little Hungary. And here, in Guinea, West Africa it's the same!

This reminded me of the Norwegian Flag, only the white lines were missing,
 but you can clearly see the red and the blue cross.

D. Day - 50 days...

What's happening, 3 posts in 1 day???

The other 2 today have been finished for a while now, I just never had the time (or the proper internet connection) to add the pictures and post it. So, enjoy the rare opportunity of reading and seeing several stories on day! :)

The sad reason for this post is that

Darren and I are leaving Guinea and the Africa Mercy and Mercy Ships in 50 days. :(

When this realisation hit me I did a mental check of all the pictures I had and had to conclude that it is time to start taking pictures of 'everyday things' - things I took for granted while we lived here...

So, for the next 50 days I will show you the personal side of this ship, the way I perceived it. There will be normal posts, too, (fret not you need, young Padavan!) this is just a kind of closure for us as we get ready to pack up our wonderful life here and to ensure we collect all the good memories along the way...

The first picture(s) should be dedicated to our wonderful ship's family: the extended Davies family. We spent endless hours in their cabin every week discussing science, politics, history, sci-fi, food, ships' stuff; we watched movies and played games; celebrated birthdays and had late night cheese parties...and many many more wonderful memories.

I am not sure when the Nerd Herd expression first came on us, but if it means good discussions, tons of new information to expand my knowledge and even more laughter then I don't mind being called a nerd! :)

 Darren's 33rd birthday party - Shelly made an awesome chocolate-ice cream cake!

 SlashDot Party - it turns out we all have at least one iDevice...

All dressed up for the Film Festival. Charles, Shelly with Megan and Luke in the middle. Johan and Tom on the left of them; Brian, Darren, Reka and Penny to the right.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

...not in Bel-Air! (weekend adventure part 2)

... Finally we arrived to the place...

Which is called Sobane, BTW. :)

Now I am glad we agreed to keep our drivers for the whole weekend! We are in the middle of nowhere, far far FAR away from any public roads where we might be able to find a taxi! There is no way we could leave this place without them. Right there we decided not to pay them until we leave on Sunday as we didn't see any guarantee they'd be back for us if we let them go anywhere. Yes, that meant we had to pay for their meals as well...

Oh, and - of course - there is NO RECEPTION there! Good thing we all made sure we had cell phones in case of emergency... :)

After an African style group discussion with the maintenance guy there we managed to bargain down the price to an acceptable level. 1 bungalow with 4 double bed rooms and a living room for the 10 of us for 2 nights for 3.000.000 GNF. (you can do the math's). We just started to unpack when Michael came in: "why do you sit inside in the dark when there is a fabulous sunset outside?" So out we went with our cameras. Sadly it was low tide, actually the lowest low tide I have EVER seen in my life. The beach must be on some type of plateau as the waterline drew back about 600 meters! And the sunset... WOW! The waves left wonderful marks on the uneven sea bed, but as we ventured onto the sand it started to sink. Soon we discovered it was mud; it took about 2 seconds to sink all the way to your knees.

When we asked the guy for dinner he presented us with the 1 option: FISH. When I mentioned that I saw chicken running around he said that can be arranged, too. Funny thing is we didn't even expect him to elaborate on further options like what kind of fish, how we would like it to be prepared or what portion. We just ordered some fish and chicken around 6.30 pm. As we were settling in we saw him going out on a little boat fishing... Yup, you can guess when the food actually arrived to our table: AFTER 9.30 pm! The fish was edible, the chicken not so much. Poor thing being an 'African chicken' he didn't have a chance to grow up eating anything other than trash so no wonder he didn't have any meat on him just skin and bone - try chewing on a wooden stick with a rubber band around it and you get the idea.

Unexpectedly after dark the generator kicked in and the A/C in the room started working! Wow! I honestly didn't see this one coming; our rooms cooled down fast from 35 Celsius to an enjoyable 17. We locked the doors and sat outside in the dark. We did have some lights outside but they were attracting huge bugs and all sorts of flying creatures so we opted for the darkness. It's amazing how your other senses like hearing go overdrive when you can't see much! Suddenly all the noises of the night became super loud: birds, crickets, frogs, bats and (somewhere very close to us) the waves crashing into the beach - yay, the high tide was back! Above us a storm was dying, no rain left just lightning and thunder. Soon the sky cleared up and we could see the Milky Way while the sea was licking our feet! Friends together, we each had a cigar in our hands and were meditating on how perfect the moment was!

The generator ran out of fuel around 2 am. Why is it important? Because all went dark and hot in a heart beat. We woke up shortly after and were sitting on the beds waiting for a miracle. It came in the forms of another rain, which cooled down the air for a bit.

In the morning I had a cold shower, there was high tide again and we had coffee and a baguette we bought yesterday so life was good again. We tried swimming and failed due to the still shallow beach - not sure what we were expecting... it was still shallow and muddy. We went for a walk instead determined to enjoy the day. We passed amazing rock formations, million shells, saw a fishing village, goats and vultures fighting. Kids were playing football while men pushed some boats upwards into the sand for fixing. Splendid morning!

It made me think; where else can I be so free? Such a blissful place! It's October - the yucky part of autumn - yet we are strolling on the beach in Tees and shorts, it's warm and beautiful and above all: it's nobody there! *love*

Darren and I walked along the beach for hours. I was barefoot, he in his socks and snickers... (no comments) We saw little rivers ending up in the sea - oh how I wish my 5th grade geography teacher could see me now! :) We walked by trees with air-roots and trees that thrive in sea water. I picked up some little leaves that live in the open sea just floating freely. Walking on shells was a nice treat for my feet, I quite enjoyed it.

When you walk slowly you can see small movements on the ground. If you stop and stay very quiet, you get to see little crabs with only 1 big claw coming out of their holes. It looks like they enjoy the evening and just want to wave at each other. It's a really special moment and we would have missed it had we not taken the time to stop for a minute and observe the world around us! On the way back we behaved like proper tourists: we picked up plenty of shells; some for their prettiness, some for their cool shape. If you want to localise / geographically customise Rorschach Tests (psychological test in which subjects' perceptions of inkblots are recorded and then analyzed using psychological interpretation) SHELLS would be my way to replace the inkblots! :)

Sunset was amazing yet again! I am getting used to these spectacular sights and if you ask me now, I surely do NOT want to go back to Europe anytime soon only to be faced with dark, cold, grey, rain, wind...etc.

I didn't want to end up not being able to eat anything again like last night, so against my better judgment I ordered fish like everybody else. To my outmost surprise it was delicious! I did finish it all in one go. After eating our feet took us down to the water again. The tide was back and once again we found ourselves enjoying the cool night. The moon and the stars were out and we could see tiny fluorescent things swim in the sea. We called them the "Firefly of the Sea' - they look like small jellyfish that need water and movements to be able to work, so when the waves toss them way out of the sea onto the sandy beach they flicker for a short while then fade into nothing... until another wave comes again and relights their fire or (if lucky) it takes them back into the sea.

While the girls were swimming at night we tried to take long shutter speed pictures of painting with his cigar - when it didn't work we turned our attention towards the crab hole and with a torch we tried to figure out how deep the holes go and how to trick the crab inside into coming out to enjoy the 'sunlight'. It turns out the crabs are not stupid and instead of coming out they pulled more sand over them to hide completely.

Michael, Penny, Darren and I were sitting outside of the bungalow once again wondering when will we have a chance to be together like this again - the downside of our work. Good people come and go, they shape your life, you share wonderful experiences with them and then they disappear into another corner of the Earth. (in Michael's case he submerges under the sea with potentially staing under for 6 months... :(  )

Note to self: If you want to know where the tiny scratches and cuts are on your body just use a bug spray and you will know for sure! All of them! :)

We set the A/C for 17 C again, but just like last night as soon as the power goes off the room temperature rises and soon you find yourself awake. And that's when you realise the pitch black darkness can be blinding indeed! Just like the silence is deafening! It was a special revelation!

The rain started around 5 am that cooled the air once again. We woke up around 9 and through the open window (with broken mosquito screen) we were listening and watching the rain over the ocean. Snuggling in bed with husband on a lazy Sunday morning with this view... *like like*

Some were already up and greeted me with 'don't worry, coffee is coming'. :) Our drivers have disappeared; we hope they will be back in time. But as soon as the phrase 'in time' crosses my mind I start laughing. What's 'in time' for Africans? We didn't even tell them what time we want to leave. They have plenty of time all right and no watches...

So we wait... In the meantime we try to settle the bill... not an easy task! It turns out the chicken was a lot more expensive as the fish as it's 'harder to come by'. Really????? I have to pay extra for the food I couldn't eat because - let's be honest - there was NOTHING edible on that chicken!

We stuffed the cars again and embraced ourselves for a loooooong way home. 4 in the back is still too much, but at least the weather is nice so we try to divert our attention from the inside to the outside by taking pictures from the bumpy car. Great fun! Darren took pictures of a monkey, I captured some mud huts. We drove by many colourful clothes that are hung left outside on the dirt ground to dry. I will never understand this country!

Thank God our driver knew a shortcut to the shortcut and with some off road driving and driving on the part of the road that would be considered sidewalk in Europe we made it back home in a record 4 hours! Along the way we saw African travel at it's best. The general theme here:

"How many people can you put into an African vehicle?"

 On this picture if you look closely you can see an unpaid passanger on top of the bags:
a MONKEY! :)

This picture shows a check point - there are one too many on every road. Basically it gives police and military police an opportunity to make some money on the side and rest assured: they WILL find something that can be redeemed for some cash! I took this picture from the back of our moving car with good zooms, but you can still see how they stop each vehicle.

All in all this was a great weekend, we wouldn't go back to this place, but for a one time adventure, it was perfect!

But that would be another post...