Friday, November 30, 2012

D- 19 days... Fire Drills

Last year I made a short video of the fire drill on board. You can watch it here.

Basically every second Thursday afternoon something goes wrong (as planned) and it often results in us exiting the ship and mustering on land. That's when you realise that 450 people is really not that much!

Brian and I lead the Cabin Checker's Muster Station. Our job is to collect those who collect those who actually do the running and knocking on each door to ensure nobody is inside. As soon as the General Alarm goes off people start coming down the gangway - by this time we have to be down on the dock with other Muster Station Leaders. On a good day it takes about 15-20 minutes to finish the exercise; on a not-so-good day it can be much longer - it's often due to people not reporting to where they should be and we need to page for them.

I made some really cool time lapse videos, but due to terribly slow internet they need to wait. Until then, here are some pictures of yesterday's "fun". :)

Waiting with other Muster Station Leaders on the dock
This is Brian, my Muster Station Leader-partner.
 He couldn't be bothered to hold the sign up properly :)
... more waiting

Clearly people come prepared for the drill with chairs, umbrellas, games and books :)
When all our people are accounted for we need to go in and report to reception.
If somebody is missing, they need to use the overhead pagers to find them. 
Meanwhile the good people wait and wait and wait some more outside. Usually we don't see what's happening inside, how the brave fire fighters rescue the trapped and save the day...
For that you need to see the link and the video. :)

D-20 days... Community gatherings

We do get together as a community every Monday morning for general info-exchange, every Sunday night for a Service and also every Thursday night for worship. Every now and then we move these Thursday night happenings from the International Lounge to the dock. Though last year we had much more space on the dock to eat, sit, dance, socialize and pray together, we still managed to have a great time.

They serve dinner (grilled hot dogs and salads) on the dock at 5 pm so you can imagine the length of the food line. Around 4 pm they placed random items at reception and each time somebody went down the gangway they were encouraged to pick up something and carry it down. :) Waaaaay to go, chaplains! :)

Sitting outside to have a meal is always special - even more so when you can share it with 400 crew members, 200 local day workers and some of our patients! Many crew has their own chairs, but they also provided benches and some plastic chairs from the ship so we can all sit - well, some chose to climb up to the landies or just open the pick-up truck and do tailgating; :)

As night falls the music starts to get louder. Sadly Darren cannot sit with me as he is responsible for the sound tonight. The worship group starts with some slow songs in French, but we soon end up all dancing to the rhythm of the "Tam-Tams". Crew mixed with day workers dance in circles; while the white kids look hmmm... funny doing the African moves, the locals do it naturally.

Jabulani is OUR SONG - originated from South Africa the ship kind of adopted this song titled "Rejoice, Africa!" . You cannot sit and sing this song at the same time. You must not only stand, but dance as Ryan demonstrated (yellow t-shirt, legs straight up in the air).

A local pastor came up not to preach, but to say thank you and encourage us to keep shining for Jesus in this land. Profound, yet powerful words.

We ended up staying till 8 pm. The worship band started to sing less religious and more upbeat songs and soon the enetire dock was one big dance floor. Pretty amazing! Despite the humid air we all jumped and moved to those crazy African beats! Awesome night!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

D-21 days... my team

We always said that our team couldn't be more eclectic and it's still true :)

Finally we got around to take a group photo with (almost) everybody present:

Front row from left: Franck and his daughter, Mirabelle and wife Armelle from Benin, Cheryl from UK, Tori from US, Ryan from South Africa and Barry from UK. 
Second row from left: Reka from Hungary, Manon from Holland and Christoph from Austria. 
(sadly Eliphaz from Benin didn't make it as he is training people upcountry.)

GREAT PEOPLE AND GOOD TEAM - I will miss them for sure!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

D-22 days... Hungarian food

The first time I cooked Hungarian food in West Africa for my friends on board a weird guy with green hair came along. He admittedly liked my Gulyás (which was pörkölt to be honest, but non-Hungarians wouldn't understand that). 3 months later he asked me to marry him. I guess it was my cooking... The saying "the way to the man's heart is through his stomach' might be true after all...

Recently we started a new tradition; each Tuesday we get together in the Davies cabin and somebody cooks for the whole gang. After last week's meal I volunteered to cook the same meal again today. But unlike in Sierra Leone here it's much harder to come by the proper ingredients.

Since it's beef and it's Hungarian style the meat has to be cooked at low heat for as long as possible; I had a few hours this afternoon. It could have been cooked a bit longer if it was up to me, but the gang was hungry.

I also made my fav. cucumber salad with sour cream and garlic (THANK YOU KEN FOR YOUR HELP!!!). The gang has never heard of salad and sour cream in one sentence, but to my delight even the skeptical ones went for seconds - yes, for the salad as well. :)

The meal:

And the group:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Back to School for Fooday!

It's always special to have ortho kids with us, because they usually stay longer, thus giving us a chance to get to know them and love on them a little longer than cleft lip kids for instance, who come, have an operation and leave within 3 days.

This is again a great story form our ship's writers. As Christmas is coming (even though it's hot here), I try to give you more heart-warming stories like this. Enjoy!

"Volunteer nurse Melinda Kaney joyfully exclaimed, “The eight-plate surgery to straighten Fooday’s legs worked wonderfully!” Aladji, Fooday’s father, was so grateful that his eldest son’s journey to healing was complete. Fooday would now return to school and perhaps, one day, be a teacher – something his mother Yakha dreamed about for her son.

Fooday’s bowed legs started at the age of eighteen months when he began to walk. The prayers of his family for Fooday’s healing were answered when he was accepted for free surgery onboard the Africa Mercy hospital ship while it was in Sierra Leone.

 Eighteen months following his first surgery to straighten his bowed legs, Fooday, along with his father, Aladji, were transported to the Africa Mercy hospital ship, now docked in Conakry, Guinea. Fooday and other hospital patients enjoy a Bible story while staying at the Mercy Ships HOPE Center, which provides lodging for out-of-town patients before and after surgery.

Fooday’s start in life was tenuous, Aladji recalls. “Fooday was born prematurely. He was so tiny and weak, we didn’t think he would live. All of our family and the neighbors prayed for Fooday to pull through. By the grace of God, he did.”

When Fooday began walking at eighteen months, his parents noticed that his legs were bowed. The family’s meager income wasn’t enough to pay for the herbal poultices offered by the traditional healer. In desperation, Aladji resorted to beggging to raise money for Fooday’s sessions. Sadly, the traditional medicine did not help – the abnormal curve in Fooday’s legs worsened.
Volunteer physiotherapist Kalinda Ramsaran completes the assessment of Fooday’s leg movements. Fooday’s original eight-plate surgery was a complete success. The second and final step of Fooday’s journey, removing the eight-plates, was also successful. Fooday and his father, Aladji, both look forward to Fooday’s return to school.

Yakha explains how much they worried for their son. “Fooday had pain that kept him crying all night. But worse was the shame and hurt that I knew Fooday would go through with bent legs.” Yakha’s fears were well-founded. When Fooday started school at age five, other children continually laughed at him. After a few steps Fooday’s unsteady gait would falter, and he would fall. With each tumble Fooday faced another barrage of insults. Aladji and Yakha were heartbroken. The only safe place for Fooday was at home. He could no longer go to school.

Praying continually, Yakha and Aladji asked God for a miracle of healing for Fooday. Aladji clearly recalls the morning that their prayers were answered. “There was an announcement on the radio that a hospital ship was coming to provide free medical care. I heard that the hospital did surgeries for children with bent legs. Yakha and I were overjoyed.”

Within three weeks Fooday was onboard the Africa Mercy hospital ship for his free surgery. A small metal plate, in the shape of a figure eight, was attached to the outside of each of his leg bones. The eight-plate, designed to slowly correct the bow in Fooday’s legs, would also allow the bones to grow straight in the future. When successful, this technique avoids a much larger operation that requires the bones to be broken and reset.

Now Fooday can run, jump and play with straight and steady legs. He can return to school and be accepted by the other children. Fooday’s mother, Yakha, prays for her son to one day become a teacher.  
Fooday shows off his straight-as-an-arrow leg to his proud and happy father, Aladji. Fooday couldn’t wait to return home to tell his mother, Yakha, that he was completely healed and ready to go back to school.

Now, only one step remained until everyone could breathe a complete sigh of relief. After doing their straightening job, the eight-plates would need to be removed. Otherwise, the legs would bow out the other way! So, over the next eighteen months, while back at home, Fooday’s legs gradually straightened. His eventual return to school was a cause for amazement as his schoolmates could already see a dramatic change in his legs.

At the eighteen-month point, Aladji and Fooday eagerly travelled to the Africa Mercy hospital, now docked in Conakry, Guinea, for his final surgery.

Fooday’s reunion with nurse Melinda was filled with excitement, hugs and giggles. “Melinda took such good care of me when I had my first surgery, and I always hoped I would see her again. Now, here she is giving me the best hug of my life!” he declared.

As it turned out, Fooday’s eight-plate removal was not the only step in store for the family. To Aladji’s surprise, Mercy Ships had a greatly appreciated treatment in store for him too. For years Aladji had focused entirely on Fooday’s healing, while ignoring the pain of his own four decayed teeth and infected gums. At the same time that Fooday was in the Africa Mercy hospital, Aladji had an appointment at the Mercy Ships Dental Clinic. Aladji, with the tormenting dental pain completely gone, shared a warm smile with Fooday back at the ship. Aladji whispered in his son’s ear, “Fooday, thanks to Mercy Ships, it is happy teeth for me and back to school for you!! God is good!”

Monday, November 26, 2012

D-23 days... gateway friends

Last January I joined a 6 weeks preparation course (Gateway) with a bunch of others from all around the world before we could become crew. We quickly became good friends as we tried to survive the program... :)

We had some amazing memories over the last 2 years, but sadly one by one our friends leave the ship. Today was another Farewell party to a superwoman from Canada. Jane has short red hair and was wearing a turquoise top. We took her out to the International Club of Conakry - her choice of place for one last group activity. (some of the guys were just there, they weren't part of OUR Gateway group, but we love them anyway so they could stay for the picture haha)

We all agreed from day one that "when we grow up, we wanna be like Jane, because she is so awesome!" Indeed! Jane, we gonna miss you a lot!

Have I told you already how much I hate good-byes??? :(((

D-24 days... BBC

When I joined in 2011 January the Internet was very slow and many things were blocked like skype, youtube, any type of downloading or streaming media. Thanks to some very generous donors our bandwidth is now doubled, which means Darren and I can watch in our cabin some short news clips on the BBC website every now and then, so we can keep up with what's happening in the 'real world'. :)

This lazy Sunday morning was a perfect day to catch up with world news with ham and eggs in bed! :)

Here is the satellite dish that makes it all possible:

D-25 days... waterfalls

Welcome to MY TOWN!!!!

Honestly!!!! I traveled all over the world, been to 80+ countries and 25 days before I return to home I GOT TO VISIT MY TOWN!!!! In Guinea, West-Africa! :))))

Ok, fine, so the town is called Dubréka, but let's just ignore the 'du' part, shall we?

I organised a trip to this town with our friends, because they have a few very nice waterfalls - we were told. We even got instructions on how to get here (basically Ryan drew a map and said that if you see the little airplane, you know you went too far! :) ) Well, we took 2 Landies and Darren was driving the first one, Shelly the second. We drove past the little airplane 2x, I never saw it :)

The next set of Ryan's instructions included driving on the dirt road until you see a big trett in teh middle of the road. Ok, we did see this one, but somebody else said that we should drive for about 6 kms on this dirt road, so we didn't stop at the tree. The dirt road went through lots of bushes, but at least for a while we could see 2 tracks. Then suddenly one of the tracks disappeared and we were completely surrounded by tall sedge. Boy it was fun! Thank God after a few Kms, we got to a small clear area so we could turn around. We drove back to the tree in the middle, found the hotel and parked the cars. Apparently the waterfall was just behind the hotel walls.

We went down to the river; it looked like we had to cross the fast river first in order to get to the actual waterfall. Brian was the first brave man who rolled up his trousers and led the way. As you can see in the pictures, it was quite the challenge, but we managed to cross (all but 2).

At the actual waterfall there were many local MEN, the younger ones without clothes. It seemed this was the place for the guys; we weren't sure though were was a 'waterfall for females' so we stayed. The water was great and because the rainy season was still not finished  there was plenty of water. Maaaaan, did I enjoy my 20 min long shower!!!!

It was quite slippery, sometimes we had to crawl on our hands and feet. Darren slipped a few times, you can see me getting a heart attack as I watched him go down, knowing there is absolutely nothing I can do for him.

Some of us climbed up onto a rock just under the waterfall enjoying the view. We did the compulsory group shots, enjoyed the local's cliff-jumping and partook in some floating races (when you see on the pictures us showing hands and feet, that's the water taking us further down.

We took waaaaaay tooooooo many pictures of the same topics and it took me all day today to narrow it down to just this folder so please bear with me. Grab a coffee and enjoy the slideshow! Darren's and my pictures are labeled, the rest is from the others.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

D-26 days ... French Navy visit

When the port starts to build a container wall (the wall that we requested and were told 'no possible') you know another navy ship is about to arrive. And since this used to be a French colony we were pretty sure it's gonna be another vessel under the French flag. A few weeks ago we had a much bigger ship, but we couldn't go on board - unlike the President of Guinea, who visited both them and us within 2 hours!

I love living on a ship, because it gives me opportunities to visit other ships. Here are 2 older posts about visiting a US Coast Guard ship last year in Sierra Leone and the famous Swift in Togo.

We signed up into groups of 10 and just walked over. The sailor guarding the ship on the dock made us smile. I mean, come on, how can you take a guy serious with a funny little red bubble on the top of his hat??? :)

We were greeted by a very tall guy in very short shorts... (blush blush). His first question was 'who is the translator?' He was obviously pleased when one of the girls (who happens to be a French teacher on board) said she would do it. Heaven forbid, otherwise he would have to have spoken in a foreign language!!! :(

The boat (refuse to call it ship, it was way to small for that and French for crying out loud!) had 95 crew and 7 officers, all male. We got a short tour, which was great! Again, it made me realise how spacious our home is compared to navy vessels with 3 bunk beds above each other and super confined spaces.

Here are some pictures I took around:

The first one is - of course - me and my new video game. I got permission to have a picture taken with a gun turret, but I guess he didn't expect me to actually grab the joystick and try to aim... Man, was he quick to jump in and tell me no!  :)

Steep stairs with low decks
Engine control room
'Ze Engine Roum' as our guide said it :)
The tiny galley; 4 guys work here.

The Big Gun

The tiny capsule from where they control the big gun :)
on the Bridge

Looks like a robot to me :)
Our teachers standing in awe at the tall Frenchman with short shorts :)
Looking at our home from the French boat full of guns...