27 November 2011

good challenge, days 20 and 27

DAY 20: Document the Inside of your Fridge

Here is an annotated photo of the inside of my cabin's small refrigerator.  Any questions: just ask.  

DAY 27: Document Sunday Morning

Allow me to preface that it would be impossible for me to document Sunday morning, as I slept through the entirety of it.  

I did, however, document one of the first things I did after waking up.

What are those things, you ask?  That would be the two feet long antennae from the giant lobster I had for lunch.  

I've had lobster before, but never the entire lobster.  I always imagined my first whole lobster experience would  be at some little roadside shack in coastal Maine, sitting at a picnic table with butter running down my chin.  Or at the very least, it would be at the Red Lobster, where my family eats almost every Sunday after church.  But alas, I encountered my first whole steamed lobster in the dining room of the Africa Mercy.  This is how it came to be:

Friday evening at dinner, as the dining room was emptying, Ken, the new food services manager, came around to our table to see if anyone would be interested in lobster for lunch on the weekend.  He had bought some lobsters the week before (which were made into a delicious shrimp and lobster bisque for the crew); his lobster contact had called him, offering more of the crustacean at a very low price: only 26,000 Leones per lobster!  I immediately went and got the cash (26,000 Leones = less than $6.00!)  

So this afternoon, I got a phone call saying that lunch was being served!  I came upstairs to a small colony of the steamed-red critters, just waiting to be torn apart.  The ten or so of us sat down as we reveled at the plates, complete with a beef kabab and baked potato--a real surf and turf platter!  

To compliment the seafood, there was also a red-wine-butter sauce that was excellent.  Ken gave us all a tutorial in how to dismantled the spiky shell and get to the meat.  Despite being poked several times, it was all worth it.  The tail revealed a large chunk of sweet, white meat.  Definitely worth the six-dollar investment.    The funniest parts of the whole afternoon were the comments from the Davies children, Luke and Megan, whose parents were enjoying the meal.  Luke told his dad very definitively, "You can't eat that!  It is way too hard!" and then proceeded to tap the shell with a knife.  Megan's eyes grew large as her mom scooped out several spoonfuls of orange mush, the roe, and said, "That is a lot of baby lobsters."  

26 November 2011

good challenge, days 22 and 23 and 24

DAY 22: Document the Thing you Spend Most of the Day Looking At

Normally, when I'm working in the OR office, I spend a sizable chunk of my day looking at my computer.  As you may have surmised, a desktop computer is not the most interest thing to photograph.

This week, I have been working in the Mercy Ships Academy, the on-ship school for kids on board.  It covers all grades, Preschool to 12th grade.  I had mentioned to my friend Angie, the 4th/5th grade teacher, that I had done some substitute teaching back home, and when it came time for her vacation this week, I was asked to cover her classes!  It has been great being back in the classroom this past week (I have one more day left on Monday).  The best part is that I already knew the kids, just from seeing them around the ship or working with their parents.  On my first day in the class, I brought a bunch of scrub caps for the kids to wear, since that is normally part of my job.

The Ladies and Gentlemen of 4th and 5th grade (L to R): 
Theo, Rick, Caleb, Nathaniel, Eli, Kylie, and Deborah

DAY 23: Document a Mentor

This is Laura Z.  Yes, we pretty much always use her last initial in reference to her.  Laura Z. is a ward nurse in the hospital and serves as the Plastics and Orthopaedics Ward Team Leader as well as one of the Assistant Ward Supervisors.  A Ward is her realm, and she does a darn fine job at keeping those patients and nurses in check.  Laura has been serving with Mercy Ships since 2008.  I can't remember how we first met, but when I first arrived, she really took me under her wing and gave me a heads up as to how the organization, particularly the hospital, operates.  She quietly listens when I need to vent, and the advice she can offer from her long Mercy Ships experience is always welcome.  As for the crazed look on her face: I was interrupting her Thanksgiving dinner.  Oops.  

DAY 24: Document Giving Thanks

Knowing that I love pumpkin pie and that Thanksgiving isn't complete without it, I resolved several months ago to make pumpkin pies for this past Thursday.  Given that resources are limited on the ship, I had a challenge before me.  But nothing that a well-packed care package couldn't resolve!  In may (I think), I had my mom mail several cans of pumpkin, evaporated milk, and various spices to the Mercy Ships IOC in Texas.  From there, the box was placed in a container, then on a ship which eventually made it to Freetown, and then to my welcoming arms...the process took a mere two months.  Whatever, it didn't matter...the pumpkin made it here way before the end of rainy season, so all was a go for pie.  

Knowing that many people would want a slice, on Wednesday night I made two different recipes of dough--enough for four pies.

Enter Thanksgiving Thursday.  I had decided to take PTO (personal time off) that day so that I could sleep in, make the pies, and just generally enjoy a day that I have never worked on in my life.  My day could be divided into three main categories: sleeping, running from one end of the ship to the other, and eating.  That's pretty much what I did all day.  The night before, I had only found one pie plate in the crew galley (slight panic), so after talking to some folks higher-up, I managed to get another one plus a larger torte pan.  

Never having made pumpkin pie, I went with the Libby's classic recipe...the one on the can.  This filled the two regular pie plates, leaving me with two more heaps of dough and the torte pan.  Wanting to try something new, I had been searching earlier in the day on my go-to recipe site called foodgawker.com.  When I typed in "pumpkin pie," the first result was called "Pumpkin pie to knock your socks off!"  How could I not be intrigued?  The recipe was similar to others I had seen, with a few changes, like whipping cream instead of evaporated milk.  Additionally, it featured a pecan-struesel topping...need I say more?  Despite using a larger pan, the filling fit in perfectly.  I wished all three pies well as I placed them in the ovens.  (The crew galley has six separate stoves/ovens, so when it isn't busy, I can use multiple ovens at one time--it's great.)

Fast forward an hour and I have three, cinnamon-scented pies cooling, just waiting to reach eager stomachs.
The two Libby's pies: classic and time-tested.

The "knock your socks off" pie.  Yes.  Yes it did. 

Sorry Libby's, put this was easily the best pumpkin pie that has ever graced my palate.  Out with the old, in with the new.  Needless to say, I, along with everyone else who ate some, am thankful for pumpkin pie.  

Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!
Front Row: Gini, Ezra, Shannon, Alex.
Second Row: Cyle, Tim, Karin, David, Melissa, Jay, Melissa, Sharon, Rob, me.

I hope everyone had/has a wonderful Thanksgiving, Black Friday, weekend of leftovers, and ensuing back-to-work Monday!

20 November 2011

good challenge, days 12 and 16 and 17

DAY 12: Document the Highlight of your Day

This past Tuesday was another one of those days that was filled with great fellowship and community.  We had another family-style breakfast-for-dinner.  Home fries with sausage, egg bake, French toast, warm apple pie, and limeade filled our stomaches as we sat together in the cafe.  Later in the evening, some of us got together for a a game of Horses (The Really Nasty Horse Racing Game), with two special guests, Mae and Tom.  Mae is the wife of our managing director, Donovan.  Donovan was away on business in the states, so we invited Mae to join us; she was a cheerful addition to our group and we had fun writing down silly things she said and tallying how many times she said "shush!"  Our final count was 12.  Our other guest was Tom, a former photographer on the ship.  When he left the ship in the spring, he spent a few months in the Democratic Republic of the Congo photographing leprosy settlements before returning to do more photography work for NGOs in Freetown.  It was his last night on the continent before leaving for the U.K. and his next adventures.  His passion is leprosy and he will be working on a project for American Leprosy Missions as he travels and photographs leprosy camps world wide.  He is a talented and gifted photographer--I encourage you to check out his website at www.tom-bradley.com.  

Here is a photo at the end of our game where I came in second place (and my personal best) with 800,000 pounds!  Mae whooped us all with over 2 million pounds.  You can tell how some of the other fared by their facial expressions.

Left to right: Alex, Mae (seated), Tom, myself, David, and Jay

DAY 16: Document a Life

This past Thursday was the last day of surgery for the 2011 Sierra Leone outreach.  The day was very laid back--it kind of felt like the last day of school.  That afternoon, my friend Rob came and asked if I wanted to go with him to Auntie Fatu's farm.  Since we were finishing up early in the office, I was allowed to leave early, so I went and changed out of my scrubs. 

Fatu Williams is one of the ward day volunteers on the ship.  A native Sierra Leonean, I would put her in the same category as my friend Kit; she has such a joyful spirit, a servant's heart (she often clears our plates at dinner), and can always put a smile on your face.  Auntie Fatu had invited Rob to visit her farm outside of the city, so Thursday afternoon, we walked out the port gate, met her husband, and hopped in their SUV. (Note: Auntie/Uncle is a common term in Krio for a woman or man who is older than you/a sign of respect.)  To no one's surprise, the traffic was thick as we headed out of the city.  Being the person she is, Auntie Fatu even bought us water and cookies on the way out and refused any answer other than gracious acceptance.  Naturally, I fell asleep in the car and didn't wake up until we were almost to our destination, so I missed some of the explanation behind the farms, but not all of it!  As we pulled off the main road in Waterloo (about an hour outside of Freetown), we headed into small villages with names like Number Four, Fu Fu Water, and Joe Town.  

Several years ago, Fatu's husband became involved in the Alpha Course, an outreach ministry which seeks to explore the basics of the Christian faith.  You can read more about it HERE.  Since then, Fatu and her husband have become the Alpha leaders in the Freetown area.  Because of this and their connections with other organizations, they have been blessed with three large tracts of land which they currently operate as farms.  Her husband explained that rather than having the needy people near the farms steal from the them, why not employ them to operate the farms themselves.  The Williams' run the farms as cooperatives, where several villagers can apply for a plot of land to farm together.  Crops include cucumbers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, peppers, rice, cassava, and eggplants (called "garden egg").  Palm trees are cultivated, as well, to produce palm oil, the a staple in the Sierra Leonean diet.  They also hope to begin a poultry initiative in the near future.  Since the rainy season has officially concluded, the Williams' have been busy with the harvest.  Fatu repeatedly exclaimed "I love gardening!  I just love agriculture!"

Part of one of the farms.

Rob and I harvesting cucumbers.

It took only a few minutes to fill up with this basket with cucumbers.  The crops were very plentiful.

Rice growing on the edge of a farm.

After visiting the three farms and meeting several of their partners, the Williams informed that the large basket of cucumbers, and another one of eggplants was ours to take back to the ship!  Astounded by their kindness, we could only say thank you and admire their generosity.  

DAY 17: Document Something you Made

Add another skill to my resume--bookbinding.  A project I've been working on the past few weeks, I was tasked with with making the new surgery registers and schedule book for the 2012 Togo outreach.  Each of our six operating rooms gets a surgery register, which is where we record any and all surgeries that happen in that particular room.  We record information like patient name, start and finish times, surgeons, nurses, implants, etc.  Additionally, we have this big scheduling book where we hand-record all of the scheduled operations so that we can have something to compare to the computer database.  Besides just assembling the books, I also got to design the covers using photos taken from this year's outreach.  

good challenge, day 9

DAY 9: Document Inspiration
My friend Anna has always maintained that she can feel the presence of the Lord in the mountains.  I completely agree.  Now here in Freetown, these mountains are called "hills" and compared to the Rockies, or even the Appalachians, yes, they are hills.  But when you are hiking in them as we were on Friday, they are definitely mountains.  

The Psalmist writes:
  • "Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the ocean depths.  You care for people and animals alike, O Lord." -Psalm 36:6
  • "You formed the mountains by your power and armed yourself with mighty strength." -Psalm 65:6
  • "He holds in his hands the depths of the earth and the mightiest mountains." -Psalm 95:4

Now to juxtapose those thoughts on inspiration, I will share about my hiking experience on Friday.  As the last ship holiday before the sail, five of us decided to go on an afternoon hike on Friday.  At 2 o'clock, Miriam, Melissa, Sandra, Sylvanus, and I set out for Sugarloaf Mountain.  We arrived an hour later, parked our Land Rover, and set off down a narrow trail, following a water pipe along the side of a steep "hill."  

You can see the pipeline behind Miriam as she embraces a stalk of tall grass.  At a blue mark on the pipe, we turned right and headed on another narrow, overgrown path uphill into the jungle.  A bit further along, the we came to a fork where we were met by a shoeless, shirtless, old man carrying a machete.  His name was Lansana and he said he was mining coal.  He pointed us down one of the two paths, and we followed as he lead us from behind.  Later on we would regret following this crazytowner's direction.  As we went deeper and deeper, the path became more and more uphill to the point that we were bouldering our way higher and higher.  We soon realized that Lansana wasn't with us any more but we decided to continue upwards.  At one point, there was a clearing with no trees, but rather the ground become all rock covered with thick, tall grass.  As we hiked practically vertical, we stopped for a water break, to admire the view, and to call for chimps.  We did get a response!  (Although maybe it was a bird?  We'll never know).  If you're reading this, Taylor, Wes, Harvey, Buda, and Marissa, this mountain made Devil's Marble Yard look like a sandbox.

Sylvanus and Sandra.

Past the clearing, we realized that the path we were once on was long gone.  We decided to continue upwards hoping to reach the summit and find the path that was supposed to exist somewhere up there.  More and more hiking, climbing, shuffling, etc., ensued.  Eventually, at around 5:15pm and many false summits later, we decided that we reached high enough and that we should turn around in hopes of making it back to the care before dark.  At this point, we knew that the "trail" was long gone and that we'd be bushwhacking ourselves back down the mountain.  We passed back through the steep clearing and back into the dense jungle.  Every step brought a new challenge: low hanging vines, dead and crumbling logs, loose rocks, inch-long thorns, etc.  Meanwhile, high above us, the sun was setting...and fast.  The further we descended down the mountain, the more the dense vegetation choked out the sunlight.  We were lost.  One hundred percent, "Man Vs. Wild" lost in the jungle.  Drenched in sweat, there was both a spoken and an unspoken worry over our group.  We decided that our best option was to keep walking as long as we could see.  As the light faded, the vines became more frequent, tripping and catching us as we stumbled.  We stopped only to drink water and to pray.  Our prayer was short but intense.  We needed direction and we needed it now.  It was then that I realized we might not actually be leaving the jungle tonight.  With no cell phone reception, it wouldn't be until curfew that night that the ship would realize we were missing and even then, how would they find us A) in a deep jungle and B) with the limited resources that Sierra Leone has to offer.  On outside, I followed the group through the nothingness, but on the inside, I was filled with despair and hopelessness.  We were so lost. 

After many tumbles and branches to the face, Miriam came across what appeared to be a rocky creek bed. We decided to follow it, thinking that if it was in fact a creek bed, it would probably lead us to something at least somewhat helpful.  Following the rocky path ahead of us, we miraculously stumbled upon the trail!  I cannot tell you the last time I felt so overjoyed!  Just as the sun was slipping behind the mountainous horizon, we had made it back to the trail!  Making a beeline for the car, we managed to get in the vehicle just as the last bits of daylight retired for the night, around 7pm  Covered in sweat, dirt, bits of leaves, scrapes, scratches, blood, and relief, we drove straight to a local supermarket and indulged in cold water and ice cream bars.  We had been delivered from a truly desperate situation.  After a two hour drive, we finally made it back to the ship.

Filthy, tired, and most of all thankful to be back at the ship, we quickly scarfed down some chicken and rice, showered, and went to bed, contemplating how the mountains could be as equally inspiring as despair-inducing.  

19 November 2011

good challenge, day 15

Since my challenge is to "document" my life (not necessarily photograph it), I thought I would mix it up and try out a video for this assignment.  Ladies and gentlemen, I present the world premier of:

DAY 15: Document your Commute

As you can see, I have a very short commute!  I live on Deck 4, which is all residential space while the hospital occupies the majority of Deck 3.  It is great to be able to leave my cabin just a minute before work starts!

14 November 2011

good challenge, days 10 and 13 and 14

So I lasted a week before I fell behind on my GOOD Challenge.  It's okay though, because even though the "No one's perfect" lesson is rearing its ugly head, I'm pressing on with it.  Unfortunately though, the past few days will be somewhat out of order as I try to catch up.  Bear with me, and by the end of the month, I can assure you there will be a whole collection of the 30 assignments.

DAY 10: Document your Coffee Break

In the OR office, our afternoon coffee break (and sometimes the morning one too) has evolved into more of a childcare hour, for lack of a better term.  Needless to say, I love every minute of it.  Right now, there are still a few plastics kids hanging around, waiting for there surgery sites to completely heal, along with some orthopaedic kids from earlier in the outreach, having returned to have hardware removed.  Around 2pm each day, I walk down to A ward and return to the office with a gaggle of kids, mainly wanting to play with "da feesh," also known as Billy the Bass, the singing fish.  Other activities include making phone calls, using my camera, dressing up in goggles and scrub caps, and playing with Guy, our stuffed mannequin.

Lesha, holding her favorite crooning big-mouth.

Mohamed, fireman-carrying Guy down to A-ward.  

The remainder of today's post can be called "teeth, part 2."  Back in July, I spent a day at the Mercy Ships Dental Clinic (read about it HERE).  Today, I went back.

DAY 13: Document Hopefulness

The Dental clinic was busy today, with the staff seeing over 60 patients.  I'm comfortable guesstimating that at least a third of these patients were screamers.  Including this little guy, pictured above.  When I asked his mom if I could "snap" him, she insisted that he put his school uniform shirt back on.  Despite having just had a few teeth pulled, and with tears running down his face, I feel this photo represents hopefulness.  After a short, simple procedure like teeth extraction, this little boy will avoid a potentially disfiguring, painful, or life-threatening oral infection.  By simply removing a tooth, he can regain hope.  As of last Friday, the Dental Team has extracted over 33,000 teeth on over 10,000 patients here in Sierra Leone.  Yes, that was the sound of your jaw hitting the floor. 

DAY 14: Document a Friend

While at the Dental Clinic, I got to spend time with several great friends, including Gina (the dental coordinator) and Sieh (the assistant dental coordinator and my roommate!), and pictured above are Melissa (dental assistant) and Ali (dentist).  I met Ali back in March, during my overnight stay in Brussels on the way to Freetown (read about it HERE).  Ali was here for the first two weeks of the outreach and decided to return for the final two weeks.  It has been great having another member of "Team Brussels" back on board and I had fun time today shadowing and assisting him.  I pulled not one, but TWO teeth and even did a few more sutures.  If you are reading this, Taylor, somethings just never change!

09 November 2011

good challenge, day 8

Day 8: Document Something Funny

Today's assignment was a bit vexing, as many things that are funny are either a) not really photographic or b) one of those "you had to be there" moments.  I had my camera with me all day hoping I could photograph someone falling up the stairs or spilling their drink in their lap, but alas, I caught no ungraceful missteps today.

With Tuesday night dinner being African night, and having 8 month's worth of African nights behind me, a group of my friends opted to cook breakfast for dinner as an alternative.  The evening resulted in a great meal and lots of laughter, which is why I chose the following photo for the assignment:

Clockwise from far left: Gini, Angie, Alex, Sharon, Melissa R., me, Cyle, Shannon, Melissa D.  (and Rob, taking the photo)

As you can see, we had quite a spread.  Angie made homemade biscuits, I made homefries, Shannon and Melissa D. made French toast, Sharon made sweet tea, and Cyle made four HUGE sausage and cheese omelettes (they kinda of look like calzones in this photo.)  I think I can speak for the group when I say that everyone had an evening of great food and fellowship.  I'm definitely looking forward to a little family-style Thanksgiving meal in a few weeks!    

07 November 2011

good challenge, days 5 and 6 and 7

You say chimps, ruins, and a scarecrow.  I say GOOD Challenge Days 5 and 6 and 7.

DAY 5: Document Something New

On Saturday afternoon, we made a much anticipated trek to the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary.  Located on the distant side of Freetown, the drive took nearly two hours (mainly due to pre-holiday traffic).  Tacugama is easily the most organized thing I have encountered in this country.  It is truly a well-run operation.  You can read more about it's history at their website here.  The basic gist is the sanctuary takes in rescued chimpanzees, many of which were originally kept as pets.  They are rehabilitated and reintroduced to the wild after a lengthy reconditioning process, which includes an initial quarantine and reintroduction into a social group.  We gathered at the reception building for our 4 o'clock guided tour.  Our guide, Moses, was incredibly knowledgeable, spouting information as he guided us along wooded trails to the enclosure.  Our first stop was an enclosure where a group of chimps were devouring their afternoon meal.  This is where I took the above photo of a 7-month-old chimp...Something New!  We then went to a viewing platform high in a tree before returning to the holding area where the chimps first begin their rehabilitation.  I've included a few photos from the tour:

The entrance to Tacugama.  Note the incredibly steep hill.  4 Wheel Drive was engaged and we were practically reclining in our seats looking up the hill as we ascended.

A sign showing chimpanzee facial expressions.  Watch out EVERYONE!

The first enclosure where the chimps are reintroduced into wild terrain.

DAY 6: Document Art

On Sunday, another group of us Mercy Shippers made another trek, this time to Bunce Island, a place that has been called one of the most important bits of American history in Africa.  Located about 2.5 hours (by fishing boat--peeling paint pictured above) up the River Rokel, Bunce Island was once a very important British slave fort, dating back to the 1700s.  At that time, thousands of slaves were shipped from Bunce to South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and other colonies. (Mary Elaine, if you are reading, anthropologists have linked Bunce slaves to the Gullah people of the Carolina sea islands!)  It operated until 1807, when slavery was outlawed by the British Parliament, and by 1835, it was completely abandoned.  Today, the island is a national monument and lies in ruins.  The vegetation is incredibly lush, the ground carpeted with a weeds that give off a floral, mint-like aroma.  Mohamed, the captain of the fishing boat we chartered, showed us around the ruins and told us bits and pieces of the island's notorious history.  I took nearly 200 photos, so I've only posted a few.  All the more reason to catch up with me when I am home this winter!  In the mean time, you can read more about Bunce Island here.

A bank of cannons along a wall overlooking the river.

A wall near the interior courtyard.

A wall with a tree growing on top of it.  The white webbing is the trees roots.

Part of our group in the middle of the ruins. 

Day 7: Document Autumn

This is about as "autumn" as it gets here on the ship.  This is in the window space of my friends' (Laura Z., Deb, Kate, and Sandra) cabin.  Complete with scarecrow and a few real laminated leaves.  

04 November 2011

good challenge, day 4

DAY 4: Document Something Old

You've heard of her before, folks, and now here she is.  As a fixture in the OR for the past five years, Glenys has spent the majority of her adult life working as a medical missionary in Africa.  She leaves the Africa Mercy in a few weeks, and we are all hoping that she won't be gone for long.

On a completely separate note, do you remember those potatoes from yesterday?  Yeah, they served the leftovers at lunch today.  File that under "win."

03 November 2011

good challenge, days 1 and 2 and 3

It has been a crazy past few days, but I'm finally getting the chance to post about a new project I'm working on.

But first...potatoes.

As I've mentioned before, this blog serves not only as a way of telling you all about my time here on the Africa Mercy, but also as a record of memories that I want to look back on one day.  That being said, today was one of those days that was crazy, hectic, frustrating, exhausting, all of the above.  I felt like the energy had been zapped out of me--I just came back to room and fell asleep on the floor for a few minutes.  After showering, I headed up to dinner to find barbeque ribs and what appeared to be scalloped potatoes (I dislike scalloped potatoes).  Much to my surprise, the sliced potatoes were thoroughly cooked and fork tender and had a delicious cream sauce on them.  Topped with a little bbq sauce, I devoured two bowls of them.  They were soooooo good.  It was the gustatory equivalent of a pulling warm clothes out of the dryer.  These darn potatoes just made my crazy day melt away.  Seriously, they were magic potatoes.

Now that I've written out my love affair with these potatoes, on to more interesting/relevant stuff.

There is a website called GOOD.is (link) that has a monthly challenge and this month it is Document Your Life.  I signed up for it and each day they email me with a daily "Document..." challenge.  I'm excited to have this as away to record my last full month in Salone.  I hope to post these daily photos more frequently, but this is what I've got so far:

DAY 1: Document Street Style
For this assignment, I documented both my "street" and the style you would find on it.

Canadian OR Nurse extraordinaire Tilly sporting her gown, gloves, mask, and scrub cap.

My "street": The Africa Mercy OR corridor.  Six operating rooms and one "surprised" Glenys.

DAY 2: Document a Pet

This assignment was definitely a challenging one, given that having a pet on board goes against organizational policy and probably also breaks some obscure maritime law.  So I had to make do with what I have:

Harriet a.k.a. Beans, pawing at the camera.

Other pets include Jay (monkey), Jeff (sea monkey), and Christoph (squirrel?).

DAY 3: Document Happiness

Mohamed and Tamba Alie, Jr.  These two have been visiting the OR office the past few days and the absolutely love Billy the Bass.  Donning their souvenir scrub caps, I can't help but to crack up when they come running into the office multiple times a day like a tornado of pure energy.

Everyday is a surprise as to what the assignment will be.  Look for more GOOD challenge photos to be coming soon!

30 October 2011


A former crew member and friend, Tom, celebrated his birthday this weekend at Bureh Beach, just outside of Freetown.  Highlights included beautiful weather, a mellow sunset, very strange moon activity, grilled barracuda and crab, a bonfire, watching distant lightning, and bioluminescent micro-creatures in the rising tide.

27 October 2011


Today was Wednesday.

Today, the Africa Mercy had a guest.  Her Royal Highness Anne, Princess Royal, visited the ship today.  Daughter of Queen Elizabeth II, Anne was on an official visit to Sierra Leone and chose Mercy Ships as one of the local charities to visit.  As the ship was abuzz this morning, I learned that Glenys already met Princess Anne nearly 25 years ago.  You may recall that Glenys is our Ophthalmic OR Team Coordinator, a native New Zealander, and a career medical missionary in Africa.  I shouldn't have been surprised, but as it turns out, Glenys met the princess while working in a bush hospital in Zambia in the 1980s.  I joked with her that this may be her only chance at a royal reunion and when Anne stopped by the OR entrance, they were able to reunite!  It was not your normal Wednesday morning.

Today was Beans' birthday.  Beans, also known as Harriet, is serving as a palliative care nurse.  Not only does Harriet have to do standard nursing duties, she has to drive throughout Freetown, provide care to her terminally ill patients (often children), and cope with the emotional stress that this entails.  She is truly incredible.  We celebrated her birthday by eating dinner outside on deck, complete with cake, cards, and gifts.  It was a great way to relax and enjoy each other's company and ring in Beans' 29th year.  If you are reading, Happy Birthday Beans!

Today, we worshiped.  I recently joined a guy's Bible study that has been truly great.  A few weeks ago, we discussed the want for a time of open, intentional, unstructured worship.  What we came up with was 7@7.  Last week was our first and tonight was our second.  7@7 stands for Deck 7 at 7pm.  We get together on the ocean-facing outdoor Deck 7 area and just come before the presence of God.  Someone on a guitar, another on a djembe drum.  At least one person shares a scripture that has been on their hearts.  The whole thing is open-ended: people can pray, share thoughts, encouraging moments from the week.  You can sit, stand, lay down, stare out at the stars.  We have had a nice-sized group each week (15-20ish) and personally, I leave feeling filled up and nurtured.  The only way I can describe it is "good."  Good on so many levels.

Today, we played Horses.  Also known as the Really Nasty Horse Racing Game.  The abridged explanation is this: a board game; six horses race around a track, jumping hedges, etc.; place you bet on a horse, yours or someone else's; play "Really Nasty" cards, causing your opponents to fall of their horse, lose spaces, etc.; win money by betting on the winning horse; winner is the one with the most money at the end of six races.  Lots of shouting, pleading, and dirty tricks.  It's a ton of fun.  And it's on my Christmas list.

Today was a good day.

16 October 2011

just a few photos

Not so much a story for this post, but rather just a selection of photos I've been meaning to share.  Enjoy!

A few weeks ago, I returned to my room to find that we had won today's cabin inspection!  My cabinmates and I each received one dollar to the snack bar.  

My camera was hijacked while I was away from my desk.  The OR nurses love to tease me.  Also, the coffee-stained paper with the "S" on it is my "S.O.S." sign that I hold up when things are getting over my head and I need help from Missy (OR Supervisor).

The AFM Laundry Room with Erin, one of our occupational therapists.  Note: there are actually 10 sets of washers/dryers.  They can hold a lot more than what it appears.

Me and baby Ali.  I think it's safe to say that Ali is currently the favorite child on the ward.  I bring him to visit the OR office just about every day.  

Me and baby Ali.  In the background, you may spot "Evil Monkey" and/or a shot of live operation (we have cameras in all of the ORs so we can see what is going on from the office).