Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Tom's countdown

Tom has realised that it is May this week, and after May is June and therefore his birthday must be 'soon'. He has worked out it is 5 weeks and 1 day until his big day using the calender. He is now giving thought to who he is going to invite to the party that I have not yet agreed to, so far he has decided that Uncle Sam was naughty at Kids Kingdom back in December and so he won't be inviting him.


Monday, 27 April 2009

Hard core aerobics

AKA the air conditioning is off

AKA complete stupidity (after all I have been simmering slowly in my cabin all day, and then got sleepy during French class as it was so hot so you would think that I might have thought the aerobics plan through beforehand but no I am not that bright)

AKA I have never been so sweaty in my whole life, but that might be more than I should put on the blog (and the question is do I admit to Tommy that I borrowed his shorts or just hope there is a washing slot early tomorrow before he might plan on doing any running?)

In my defence I would like to point out there was about 30 other people crazy enough to attempt aerobics in AFRICA with no A/C.


JOY is in this place AKA Agla Pentecostal Church

The women wore brightly coloured African outfits with matching head-dress, the children wore their Sunday best and cheeky grins, no-one seemed to pay attention to massive puddles brought about by the overnight rainfall, everyone was there to worship God...and worship we did...with (much) clapping and singing to the drum beat...and each time you thought they had finished - well you were generally wrong. Some of the service was in French, some in Fon but the praise and joy was obvious to anyone watching despite what language they spoke.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Dessert challenge

After my post this morning this may lead you to think that we are all food mad here, but anyway today is the day of the Dessert Challenge. Contestents had been given a list of possible ingredients a week ago and then the compulsory secret ingredient revealed a few days ago. Lots of very tasty desserts were created, all of which included nuts as the main flavour. A panel of judges assessed each on presentation, taste and use of the secret ingredient. Then we all got to try them (bet you are now wishing you were here...), Joshua ate more than perhaps we should have let him finishing off the pumpkin, white chocolate and hazelnut cheesecake and had a good go at the coconut and almond cake that everyone else thought was yummy but too sweet to eat much of (no comments on who he takes after there!)! Well done to Grace and Amy for coming third, we thought their pumpkin cheesecake was the nicest.

Sarah and Joshua - happy to try any desserts and make yummy noises anytime, just give us a knock, cabin 6211.

Maison de l' Esperance

This morning we have been sampling some freshly baked croissants and pain au chocolat from one of the organisations we are partnering with....

The ships Mercy Ministries team is working with an "Italian Catholic order, the Souers Salisiennes, who are running "La Maison de l'Esperance" in town - a ministry for market working girls (sometimes trafficked, exploited, abused) who either are part of an alternative schooling program (3 years instead of 6) or a 4 folded skills training (baking, pastry making, soap making and cooking) to enable them to sell and survive on the market. These 14 to 18 year old girls get an hour of literacy training in the morning and then spend the rest of the morning in their "formations". Lunch is free. The afternoons they spend selling their products on the market. They have to come up with their own evening meal and pay 50 CFA (= 10 US cents) for an overnight" (text from an email I received so that I get the facts right)

The ship is partnering with them in various ways, one of which is by us buying freshly baked pastries on Saturday mornings! What a great idea, and a tasty one!


Friday, 24 April 2009

Its pirate day....the photos tell it all...

Toms class showing the bigger kids that they can be scary pirates!
The scary preschool pirates! Including blue bear with his own patch, ruining the scary image slightly!
Meet Tommys colleagues!! The teachers line up and try their hardest to be scary (?)
The Farrell pirates, including blue bear and a little pirate duck instead of a parrot!

Thursday, 23 April 2009

happy St Georges day!!

Ok, so I had to look St Georges Day up on Wikipedia to be able to explain it to Tom, so that maybe tells a lot about how much it is normally celebrated. It did say that the popularity seems to be increasing gradually so maybe we are just jumping on the bandwagon! Anyway, today on the ship we are having a British dinner of roast beef and yorkshire puddings (the one time we had them before people kept asking what they were!) and then we are gathering after the community meeting for tea and scones, or at least the scones for those of us that are not English enough to drink tea :-)


The seasons

Toms class has been learning about change - such as the seasons. They have been comparing African seasons with those back home. Tom told me today that the seasons in England are Winter, Spring, Summer and the rainy season. I guess he is a muddled up and a little bit right!


Sunday, 19 April 2009

work experience with a difference...

A couple of weeks ago the high school students all had the opportunity to go on work experience around the ship. They all choose very different things to do - shadowing crew members such as the baker and photographer, working in the hospital or engine room..... To get an idea from three of them of what it is like to have work experience on a ship see their blog:

Our boys adore Emma, Chris and 'big' Josh - it was very exciting to spot them wearing their overalls and blue hats!


Saturday, 18 April 2009

a visit to the petrol station - kind of...

Today we moved to the oil dock - a very short journey across the dock to re-fuel. We are entertaining ourselves on board until the move back tomorrow when we will be able to leave the ship again. It happened only a couple of hours after the planned time which was impressive compared to the times we moved in Tenerife!! Please forward any ideas for keeping young children entertained in a confined space to Sam who will enjoy taking up the challenge tomorrow I am sure :-)

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Science and arts fair

Can you see the resemblance?
Tommy sticking up pictures, our boys playing with their high school friends
Toms class - i'm sure you would recognise them in the street after seeing these masterpieces!
Tom with two noses and mouths as he didn't quite understand that the nose and lips prints were the nose and mouth and so drew them on too - at least he now realises that his name is Tom Farrell rather than Tom zoom which he used to write on all his pictures from his old school!!!

This evening was a chance for the ship to come and see the Academys art work and some inventions. If you wondered how to turn off the light without getting out of your bunk bed, how to remove flies from the ship, think pancakes should come in pretty colours or need a burglar alarm to stop your siblings entering your room then you could have come and found the solution to your problem has in fact been invented by one of the students. Tom's class displayed their portraits featuring their senses - with hand, nose, mouth and ear printing! (We are secretly pleased to hear that Tom was quite reluctant to wear lipstick to do the mouth bit of the picture ;-)) We heard some poetry and musical pieces and ate cake to raise money to expand the Academy library. If you think maths teachers get out of doing anything for arty events think again - Tommy's students featured in photos Tommy had taken of them while on work experience and had done some 2 point perspective drawings which were impressive.


Sunday, 12 April 2009


Easter has been a lot of fun on the ship....Joshua has been saying 'happy eater' to people and that would describe how he feels today. The boys found baskets full of yummy things outside our door from the Academy and so after starting the day with the last of our hot cross buns at the sunrise service they continued by eating some chocolate from the basket (this was exciting at 7.30am!). They enjoyed opening some presents (thanks Rowena!!) before we went to an Easter brunch - an amazing selection of sweet and savory food all laid out with the dining room decorated and no plastic cups to be seen!!! The plates were decorated with a piece of paper that you unfolded to make a cross leading Joshua to announce 'IT'S A CROSS' really loudly while someone was saying grace. Warm cinnamon rolls might have to be a part of our easter traditions every year now!

Next - to take some chocolate nests that the boys made to their friends to say happy easter before trying some ourselves!!

Happy Easter, and happy eater to those of you who are enjoying a nice British easter egg or two! We would be missing them if we weren't so full of cinnamon rolls and handmade white chocolate truffles :-)

Driving in Benin

Here's some footage of how crazy it is driving here. This is us leaving the outskirts of Cotonou yesterday on the way to Casa del Papa, a trip of 50km that took almost two hours on the return leg!

(Don't view this if you are on the ship - streaming video alert!!! If you really want to see it just walk to the end of the dock and watch the traffic go by... or go to Hotel du Lac and use their internet connection)


Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again!

From the sunrise service:

Freely You gave it all for us
Surrendered Your life upon that cross
Great is the love, poured out for all
This is our GOD
Lifted on high from death to life
Forever our GOD is glorified
Servant and King, rescued the world
This is our God

My chains are gone, I've been set free
My God my saviour has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, Amazing grace
[Chris Tomlin]

Happy Easter!

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Casa del Papa

Having spent two days on the ship, and with most of the ship folk away on Safari in Togo, Ghana or somewhere else it was lovely to head out for the day with some great friends - the Rolland family - yeh!! While it was a bit of a trek to get there along the crazy road past Ouidah, (well over an hours drive to the West of Cotonou) it was a lovely place to spend a day off.

There were nice pools, a clean beach the boys could actually play on and good italian style pizza! Our boys had a great time playing with the bigger kids - especially when they taught them how to 'bomb' into the water and splash Tommy. Joshua was already well practiced at jumping into the 6 feet deep water totally fearlessly (before anyone panics he wears a floatation jacket which helps him bob back up again - he is slightly prone to jumping when no one is watching at close proximity but he can swim with the jacket on to get where he wants to go!) - he loves dissapearing under the water, swimming back to the side and climbing out up the LADDER (this is quite an important part of the fun for a fireman crazy boy!) and then jumping in again. Tom is usually much more water cautious - but with his float was swimming all around the pool and jumping in the deep end (and even attempted one 'dive' which is tricky holding a float!) - we are very proud of him!!

We are all tired out - an early night before the dawn service tomorrow is calling!!!

On the beach at the Gate of No Return, Ouidah
Josh jumping in the pool (above) The boys playing in the sand!My attempt at a holiday brochure snap!!

Friday, 10 April 2009

Good Friday

We are thankful for what we remember on Good Friday and are even more thankful and excited to be able to celebrate Easter Sunday this weekend. We have made hot cross buns for the first time ever - since Tesco is no longer supplying them to our area ;-) Tom and Joshua have made some easter nests ready for eating on Sunday and for sharing with our friends as well as Easter cards
Hot cross buns - ok so they didn't look exactly like the picture on the receipe but they tasted fantastic!!
Tom and Joshua making Easter cards - before they started making silly faces at the camera!

Orange juice ice lollies on deck 7 - the last ones we'll be having for a while now we broke the lolly molds trying to get them out!! Whoops! Anyone got any spare ones??


Thursday, 9 April 2009

A day off!!

The school here runs from January- Summer and then Summer-December (without the nice holidays we were used to back home), so having an extra day off school today to make a 5 day weekend is very exciting!!! We have been doing things we would normally do - but with Tom Daddy and Amy around to join in - yeh! Tom 'helped' Amy bake (mostly by licking the bowls clean) and we all froze in the pool and generally enjoyed watching everyone else still at work!

The boys getting in the pool - before they had turned blue!

Tom and Amy making brownies for her Safari trip this weekend

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

anyone fancy running the nursery??

We have really enjoyed the last few weeks with Miss Comfort helping at nursery, meaning it has been able to run four days a week. Parents have not had to help so much and so we have been a bit freer to do other things on the ship for a few hours. But Comfort has now been accepted for a job she applied for some months ago (and we are very pleased for her but sad for us!) so we are on the search for a new nursery helper...anyone interested???


its raining!!

We were woken by the rain at 5.30 this morning - we were trying to work out what the noise was - whether the boys were awake or whether someone was out on deck above our cabin, and then realised when we opened the curtains to grey sky and rain that it had been the weather!! People were still waiting on the dock this morning though despite the lightening storm that we saw from our window. The boys are pretty excited about getting very wet - in some ways it looks like we could be in England today but I know that as soon as we go outside it will be warm enough to get soaking wet and not care!! It is going to be one very wet wednesday!!


Tuesday, 7 April 2009

another vaccination...

The boys were due for their 4th Hepatitis B vaccination, so we visited Judy the crew nurse today. After being slightly anxious about how this would go after all the other jabs they have had, and with their unpleasant TB vaccination in their recent memory we are pleased to say that it was like a walk in the park compared to some previous occasions (that have scarred us and close friends and family for life). Ok, so some friends working in their offices in the hospital knew our kids were there and guessed what they were having done by the noise, but we all survived, and Tom was actually braver than Joshua. And now Tom knows the cafe sells lollies (as in the sweet on the end of a stick kind) and Joshua knows I do actually have some chocolate buttons left that I brought with me for special occasions!! And now it is true if I tell them there are no more injections for a long, long time....thank goodness....


Sunday, 5 April 2009

the titanic?

Since we arrived in Benin there has been a small boat half sunk a bit further down our dock. Tom has named it 'The titanic' and was fairly convinced that it must have hit an iceberg until we gently reminded him about the heat and lack of ice here. We went to look at it again as they have tied it up to something we thought might have been trying to get it out of the water, but they don't seem to be getting very far if that is what they are trying to do.

Tom is also concerned that if we sink we will be eaten by killer whales, although remains keen to see some more on the next sail!! We have been talking about him asking God to help him not be afraid each time he worries about the killer whales (and that killer whales are not found in the dock and eat mainly seals).

Saturday, 4 April 2009

The ship is turning white again!!

We have been following the progress of the day workers who are helping the deck department paint the ship. After all the needlegunning it is quiet, at least before the next section is done while they do some painting. The boys like waving to the men as they go past our windows and talk to them as they clear up their things on deck 7 most afternoons. We went out to the dock to watch them - Tom was very reassured to see that they were wearing life jackets as they hung up in the air.

Friday, 3 April 2009


So what do you do when it is hot (ok so that is all the time), when the boys are in need of a treat and a change of scenery???

Head to the cafe and order a frappuccino - without the coffee, but adding white chocolate and strawberry flavouring. Its the closest thing we've found to milkshake, although contains more crushed ice, only costs 50cents and is big enough for the boys to share (and a bit spare for me to try :-) ). So we'll return every now and then and try some different flavours - in the name of research obviously!


Thursday, 2 April 2009

fan ice and fruit shopping...

Sam and I ventured to the market to buy some fruit. We could barely squeeze through the narrow passageways, through the people trying to get you to buy everything and anything that they were selling and were followed by the odd person who thought we really wanted to buy a phonecard despite telling him no thanks. Anyway we had a lot of fun, and learnt an important lesson - you need to take cash in small change to pay for things. No one seemed to be able to change a 2000 cfa (about £3) note for the poor lady who we were trying to pay just over 1000cfa for our 2 pineapples and 3 mangoes, so we added in 9 miniscule bananas (which she just wandered over and removed from a different stall!!) and she was happy that she had enough change to give us. Sam gave me the full tour of the market which included live chickens and skinny little kittens and a rather off putting section of meat - where some goats heads sat looking at us and where men sat waving something over the meat to keep the flies off. I was glad that I had been introduced to chocolate flavour fan ice (a kind of frozen yoghurt thing from what people tell me) before the market as I might not have fancied it so much after, but then again it is so hot here I could possibly eat them all day long.

Photo above of the fruit we bought - one of these days I might brave taking my camera with me as it is quite a sight the way that all the women arrange the fruit in little towers!!


Wednesday, 1 April 2009

our little deckhands...

Tom and Joshua have been helping out on deck, rolling up the ladder (after being allowed to play with it!!) which was very fun!

off site visits - Benin Smiles (dental team)

The dental team is based at the Medical Clinic in Avotrou, Akapakpa, operating Monday-Friday. Somehow this clinic got built and then there was no funding for it to actually run so Mercy Ships has permission to use the site for our dental team, who are joined by the eye team on Fridays. This was a nice (but noisy) place to work and seemed very calm compared to the queues we had already seen at the eye clinic. Screening happens here twice a week and patients are scheduled for treatment in between. They have increased the numbers of patients from 30 a day to over a hundred a day, but it does depend largely on the experience of the dentists working. Over the last couple of weeks we met a lovely British dentist who told us a little more about how African teeth are much harder to extract due to their bone density being different and was ready for bed early each night after a hard days work. That is not a job I envy at the best of times, certainly not in a country with limited toothbrushes.

Their goal is to reduce the incidence of dental disease by providing dental education and treatments. Over the outreach they estimate they will provide dental care for 11, 500 people (19, 000 procedures) plus they offer a hygiene service, dental education to school children and aim to train 20 teachers of oral health and 2 Beninese dental assistants and dental hygiene instructors.


people waiting to be seen, already screened with appointments for today

more people waiting

our friend Roseann working in the sterilising room

part of the room where up to 6 patients can be seen at once, it gets pretty busy as each patient has a dentist, assistant and a translator! This was a quieter moment, a couple of minutes before and we could hardly get in the room!