Friday, 31 July 2009

summer programme ends...

Well our summer holidays are nearly over, today is the last day of summer programme celebrated with waffles this morning and a movie afternoon. We have one week with the boys at home and then back to school. Tom is needing a quiet week before starting school, so we'll be on board most of the time, hopefully persuading Joshua that he IS big enough to use the toilet now. The idea of potty training on the ship is even less fun than it would normally be so we will be praying he gets the idea very quickly...

Thursday, 30 July 2009

A great story...

...ok so I have nothing much new to write about, but have just read a good blog from one of the eye team...and so you can read it too....just click on it...

Monday, 27 July 2009

anyone fancy cooking or washing up for a few hundred people??

We are very grateful to our galley and dining room staff, but sometimes they are so short staffed that they ask the rest of the crew if they fancy a change on their day off and help them out. Yesterday there were willing volunteers to help the dining room staff and Sam and our friends went to chop salad and wash up in the galley. So anyone fancy coming to join us?? You can come for a working holiday??

refueling pictures...

Here is the tug pulling us round. If you look closely behind it you can see the line of landrovers on the dock where the ship is normally berthed. On the right is the fishing village.
Joshua: Daddy are we moving to a new cabin when the ship moves? Daddy: No Joshua the cabin will move as well. Later Joshua: (crying) I don't want the cabin to move.

Watching the tugs push us into our new position at the fuel dock

In between watching the tugs there was time for a little bit of tractor racing and other games!


Saturday, 25 July 2009

Our boys are wearing jumpers!

So this might not seem like anything strange to people back home, but I should explain they are wearing them because they thought it would be 'fun', not because it is actually cold. They are wearing them without t shirts underneath so they don't boil! Our cabin is always warm, the boys sleep without any covers every night (and one of them removes his PJ's most nights too!) and Tom is wearing a hooded jumper (that I bought in case he needed it in Tenerife) for the first time. At least it should still fit at Christmas when we hope to return back to freezing cold England for a few weeks break :-)


Friday, 24 July 2009

pre-school summer programme

The little ones have been on ship most days this summer, but have had their own fun baking, doing crafty things and playing games. We haven't stopped hearing about the cookie monster who took their cookies and how they had to hunt for them all over the ship! Today they have been out on their own trip for ice cream and then joined with the bigger kids for carnival games this afternoon.

Any guesses what kind of ice cream Joshua just ate??

Pre-school baking cup cakes for Miss Bethanys birthday AKA Miss Sam baking cup cakes for Miss Bethanys birthday and pre-school playing silly (very noisy) games with the big boys!

Some of the carnival fun!

Joshua really wanting to get his face painted but found it was so tickly that he just ended up with a red nose as he couldn't stay still for the rest!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Summer programme visits Porto Novo

Porto Novo is the capital of Benin, described in the guide book as 'a magnificent fading glory that is a capital but not actually a capital...' if that helps! The journey from Cotonou is pretty straightforward, 30km to the east, once there the city lacks the chaos of Cotonou with far fewer zimi's (still lots, just fewer!).

So what did we do...we visited Centre Songhai and Jardin des Plantes et de la Nature, two places needing a blog in themselves...

Centre Songhai - Porto Novo

Centre Songhai is a chain of agricultural research centres established by a Nigerian American for the promotion of the study of sustainable farming techniques. They grow crops and fruit, raise animals for eggs and meat, turn the crops into products (and make use of all waste products in one way or another) and then sell them...and they have a 'village' where people can come and learn the techniques they use.

Our guide took us all around the large site, explaining the way the planting is done so that they grow some plants in the shade of other ones and how some plants are grown for specific purposes - eg water purification near to the toilets for the waste water that is produced.
They grow many crops and then make products from them eg we saw soya oil and beans, and then we saw biscuits being made using the products.

There were many ovens around the site - each with designated use, this one was for coconuts, near to one for smoking chickens and one for smoking pigs! They try not to waste anything, so once things have been cooked in ovens the remaining heat is used to dry other things out. The outside of the coconuts are broken down and used for compost, other plant waste is stored in holes in the ground where the gases produced are used for cooking and the water produced is used for fertiliser.

They have a dark room where they grow mushrooms for cooking and drying.

They breed catfish, they are fed on waste produced elsewhere on the site which is made into fish pellets which is what Tom is feeding them here

They grow their own fruit. The mangos and pineapples etc are made into juices and jams.

And something we have become familiar with on the ship - green oranges!!

There is so much more to the Centre than it is possible to explain in a short blog. Be grateful to have been spared the pictures of the maggots and giant snails and fowl and the endless pictures of random plants!! One bizarre thing that I wish I had a decent picture of was what they called (and didn't know how to translate) the 'grass cutters' some creatures that were the size of beavers that none of us had seen before!


Jardin des Plantes et de la Nature - Porto Novo

We visited the botanical gardens in Porto Novo and now I am trying to remember the little bits I heard from the guide before the little ones got tired of listening and we went on a monkey search!! In the past it was a site for voodoo ceremonies and where people would be taken to be killed (nice!), one of the signs described it as the 'Sacred Forest'. There were apparantly trees 300 years old, aromatic plants and some of the plants used for medicinal purposes. The children were interested to see the (cocoa) 'plant where chocolate comes from' although we did get asked can we eat the chocolate? - er, no you can't.

There were lots of carvings dotted throughout the garden - we asked about them - they told us that when a tree dies they carve something from it as a memory to the tree.

The gardens used to be much bigger but the only bit that remains and has been restored was the part that someone important (King? Governor?) kept as their own garden.

The most exciting thing was the monkeys so that needs a whole post of its own!!

And the small, neglected playground was according to some of the children in our car 'the best bit' of the while day - it is the first playground like this we have been to in Benin so I guess you can understand that was quite exciting but did not compare to seeing the monkeys!!


Making Nanny jealous AKA feeding monkeys in the gardens

Here are the monkeys we saw in the Jardin des Plantes et de la Nature in Porto Novo. It was pretty amazing having them so close and being able to feed them bananas!

Tom and Mummy.

Monday, 20 July 2009

ward visits and teddies

Today the kids have visited the ward as part of their summer programme. They took felt teddy shapes and stuffing to make the teddies with the patients and then left them as gifts. The teddies had a card with them where the children wrote something the patient wanted them to pray for. Previous weeks they have made bracelets and butterfly pictures on the ward and given them to the patients. The bigger kids have been making visits to the Hospitality Center as well and Tom's group are helping play with the small children at an orphange this week. The kids have been great at showing love to the patients, even those who find visiting the ward outside of their comfort zone. It is great that the summer programme includes opportunities for the children to do things that are not centred around them. Tom said he didn't want to go to the ward today, but changed his mind after thinking about the patients and remembering they would feel happy if they have some visitors who make something special for them. Joshua and I went down to see that he was ok and Tom and Anna were happily helping someone called Denis make a teddy bear.

[No pics as we are not allowed to take photos on the ward/of patients]


Friday, 17 July 2009

visiting the dentist

Well I am very pleased that what I thought might be a tooth abscess developing is not. I have now visited the dentists on board, we feel very blessed to have a great, friendly dental team. Usually they work in an off site clinic, but this morning Dr Dag was operating on someone and saw me quickly afterwards. I saw the nurse at 9am and saw him by 9.45 after his surgery, and after a quick x-ray was back to my cabin by 10am!! And in a couple of weeks the mystery in my mouth should be better. Tom is home today so we celebrated by going to the cafe for waffles!! Yum!!


Thursday, 16 July 2009

soapmaking at maison de l'esperance

Some of the children on the summer programme visited the Maison de l'esperance today. This is the place we mentioned was making the croissants in a post a while ago. We were given a tour round and heard that the women are given a choice of learning bakery, patisserie, kitchen (general cooking so that they could work in restaurants) or soapmaking. The women also receive some education including basic French to use on the market to be able to sell their produce. While some of it was a little more than the little ones could really comprehend - how some of the women are as young as 14 having to survive alone, some sleep there as they have no where else to go, they enjoyed being involved with making some soap with the lady that was teaching which they have brought to the ship to wait for it to harden up and turn into soap! They also enjoyed being able to purchase and sample some of the things we had watched them baking!!

Here is the soapmaking in action...honey soap!!


Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Summer programme visits Obama Beach...

This is an enormous beach near to the nicer hotels and conference centres - Joshua on the right
Here there was enough space to fly kites - Tom and Linde flying them easily in the breeze
And here is our little sand angel - although he wasn't as sandy as Joshua (who had told Libby to throw the bucket of water over his head - which she did- so Joshua brought half of the beach home with him stuck to his very wet clothes)

What a nice way to spend a morning....

Saturday, 11 July 2009

cleaning the coolers AKA the blackout!!

So today while some poor people worked hard cleaning the engine coolers the rest of us tried to go off ship for at least part of the blackout day. We have had no power, a/c, working toilets or showers since 8.30 this morning, although it has just come back on. Fortunately it has not been too nice outside today so it hasn't got as hot as it might have done otherwise. We cleaned the boys up a bit with baby wipes, read their bedtime stories by torch light (as it gets dark here around 7pm- we don't have the long summer evenings like back home) and then sat around and chatted in the dark waiting for the announcement that we could use the sinks, showers and toilets!

Next weekends excitement - going back to the fuel dock. Who wouldn't want this level of excitement??


Wednesday, 8 July 2009

what is Tommy wearing on his head??

Every Thursday night after community meeting everyone heads to the middle of the ship where there is a cafe and lounge area and has ice cream. A different department or group of people serve it each week. This week was the teachers and summer programme team...
So here is the ice cream and rice crispie cakes (made by the children for anyone that dared eat them once they knew that!!) being served by the teachers in blue and summer programme leaders in green next to the cafe...

...and here is Tommy, obviously thoroughly enjoying wearing his new head's ok, i'm sure everyone else was jealous...and I am totally going to be in trouble for putting this awful photo on here!!


Sunday, 5 July 2009

road blocks

There is a long straight road running parellel to the port to the airport, which you have to take to get to the craft market, some of the swimming pools, the hypermarket etc. I guess I should describe it as a dual carriageway, there are two lanes on one side and two lanes on the other. Except it seems that no one minds if lorries park along it, not only that - it is ok if they double or triple park and block the whole carriageway.

Nearly every time we have had to pass along the road this week we have had one of the carriageways blocked by lorries - so what do you do??? Well your options are to drive in the ditch on the side of the road you are trying to go along, to cross over and and drive on the other side of the road avoiding traffic coming towards you while hoping they will avoid you, or to cross over and then drive in the ditch on the other side of the road when you find there is in fact a row of lorries parked in one of the lanes on that side too and now there are cars trying to drive both ways in just one of the four lanes that exist. We have done all of them, and the strange thing is how everyone thinks this is normal - maybe it is?

The funny thing is its so different to driving back home neither of us find it that stressful, but always highly amusing. Tommy says it is like driving at the fun fair or something. I must be concentrating on driving more than usual as I still find it hard to have a conversation while being in charge of a ten seater vehicle on the roads here!!


Saturday, 4 July 2009

Dining out.

To mark our anniversary weekend we went out to dinner, taking advantage of the very lovely and willing babysitter currently residing on the ship!! We went to 'Livingstones', also referred to by many as 'the English pub', although we are not quite sure why considering the menu is mostly pizza or steak with the odd item of frogs legs!! Eating out here seems pretty much like back home, its only really ex-pats and wealthy nationals that visit restaurants so the atmosphere in the area around the eating places makes you feel more like you are on holiday- quite a contrast to walking around near where we live, the food is usually good - today the pizzas were good enough to have come out of pizza express or similar. We sat outside on a terrace watching the world go by, analysing the people that were walking past, as you do! We are so used to people trying to sell us everything under the sun as we walk along the street that we didn't really think too much of the people who try and sell their necklaces, stone pots, bracelets and earrings or carved animals while we waited to be served. It became quite fun trying to guess what we would be offered next, then Tommy spotted a man coming over with a bunch of flowers (which is unusual here in the heat, we've only ever seen fake flowers being sold). We politely declined his offer of selling the flowers to us, so he gave me one (complete with about a million flies!) and said it was a gift. Then he crossed the road, removed a couple more from the front garden of someones house and went on his way. And once again, we are reminded we are in Africa.


Friday, 3 July 2009

Almost a weekend away for our anniversary...

So we decided a while back that we would go away to a town further down the coast called Grand Popo to celebrate our anniversary. Tommy had already visited there with the High School students for their retreat and Sarah's mum is around to babysit with the boys.

We booked the hotel and booked a rental car for the weekend. The fun and games started when we turned up to pick up the rental car. They didn't have the model of car we had booked so began by suggesting that we should pay twice as much to get the next car up. After discussing that we had already booked and payed for the car we had reserved they agreed to upgrade us to the next model. However, the next model wasn't actually there but at a different office in the city so it would take 1/2 an hour for them to drive it over. So far we had been there for half an hour and felt like it was going pretty well.

We sat down to wait for the car to come. After half an hour a peugeot 406 drove into the carpark but the people in it were just sitting there so we continued to wait. Half an hour later the two men got out of the 406 and walked in to the office and it turned out this was our car. They then told us the car was here and so was our driver...

...our driver? The booking had not mentioned a driver and we were not keen on having a driver take us to the hotel and then take us on to a restaurant and drive around randomly exploring the area, as we had planned. Also we were concerned that he would need somewhere to sleep and food to eat for the three days we had hired the car. We asked for the car without the driver but they insisted that we had to have the driver - they did offer that we could have him free of charge (but the thought of him sleeping in the car at the hotel was not too appealing!)

Since we couldn't get the car without the driver and didn't feel like we could have the weekend we had planned with the driver in tow we decided to cancel our weekend away. It then took us another 45 minutes to explain why we were cancelling and get a confirmation from the Paris office of EuropCar that we would get a refund. All in all we spent two and half hours not renting a car and feel like we have had a true West African experience now. I think it will be a talking point for us on our future anniversaries and we will laugh about it some day soon I'm sure...


Ten years on!!

Happy Anniversary Tommy!! It will be one to remember!! (maybe not one to repeat!!) Heres to the next ten, and the next...


Thursday, 2 July 2009

summer programme

While the school is on holiday we have a great team who have come to run a summer programme for the children. Each day is pretty much jam packed with games, crafts, baking, getting wet and having lots of fun! Hopefully Joshuas group are visiting the galley one day, so he can see where Uncle Sam works!! Mum has helped with Joshuas group a couple of mornings, Tommy has driven the bigger kids to a saltwater pool a couple of times and today Mum, Joshua and I went with the bigger kids on their outing to a local hotel where we swam on a day pass. We can see why the boys are so tired at the end of the day!


Wednesday, 1 July 2009

a big smile

This week we have moved our admissions department due to the noise of the generator they are using. We are currently sharing a room with the orthopaedic/physio team which is generally fairly lively with patients walking around, kicking balls and the odd very loud bit of screaming when they are removing a cast (due to the noise rather than anything else!). Today there was a lovely little boy, a bit bigger than Tom, so probably a couple of years older, smiling and waving at me as I sat admitting patients. He climbed up and down the three stairs many times, he walked around with some crutches, his caregiver looked on smiling. I later found out that he had not walked until now. I have no idea of medical history or anything really except I thought this was amazing and he was pretty happy!!