Saturday, 31 October 2009

Back to Benin

We got to the airport early, and then later found out the flight was late so somehow we managed to entertain the boys for endless hours in the airport by introducing them to McDonalds pancake breakfasts (thanks Uncle Sam!), read magazines (thanks Helen!), colour pictures and sit on some arcade driving games and pretend to drive for a good hour or so!

Flying to Libya was pretty smooth, Tom was an angel watching movies, reading and playing with 'the King' (thanks Nanny - I wish you had seen their faces when we got them out!!) -The king being the matchbox sized car that was 'the only thing he wanted for Christmas' - I'm sure he will think of something else before then! Joshua was a very sleep deprived, high maintenance two year old, prepared to have a strop at the slightest thing so the journey did seem eternally long. But it wasn't all bad, Joshua took a liking to the chicken curry - obviously not knowing the reputation aeroplane food has- and ate better than he does at home, he had a lovely time playing with fireman Sam and a little fire engine with an extendable ladder, even though fireman Sam was bigger than the fire engine. He made me smile while he watched a bit of Madagasgar 2 with some headphones - all was lovely and quiet for a few minutes until the whole plane heard him singing '...I like to move it, move it, I like to move it, move it...' - oh well it beat the whinging.

Flying from Libya to Benin was notably different, the stroppy toddler fell asleep and looked like an angel, although took up more than his fair share of seat space. The earlier angel became a tired little boy who found it incredibly difficult to get to sleep given the lights and lack of space, but who did fall asleep on the floor a good couple of hours into the flight. We might have joined him except that Joshua kept threatening to fall off the seats onto his sleeping brother.

Anyway, it is good to be back, to see Tommy, to have had some sleep, to know we are here with all our luggage and the pushchair returned to us.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

back in the land of bath-tubs

We had a very long night travelling via Cameroon and Libya but made it back only an hour late yesterday lunchtime. Josh slept through most of the night, Tom through some of the night from about 1-6.30 am and I slept for about 20 mins before one of the flight attendants gave me an almighty shake to wake me as he thought I would really appreciate some chicken and rice with a pasta salad on the side - at 3am! Seriously!

It was one of those days when you want your camera handy, but we had enough going on with children and hand luggage to actually get one out. It is just totally different flying from Africa than anywhere else. Well we wished we had taken some drinks as no one ever asked or removed liquids from hand luggage and we lost count how many times to boys told us they needed a drink! A lady picked up my hand luggage to see how heavy she thought it was, 3 kg overweight according to my scales but Tommy assured me that they never weigh hand-luggage (and I could have moved some things to Joshua's bag if they got funny) so maybe her arms weighed it lighter than my scales? 'Mercy Ships' are like magic words when the passport people are looking puzzled, presumably over the lack of visa. No one asked anything about the luggage - probably just as well as we did not strictly speaking pack all of it.

So how was flying Air Afriqiyah? Well the planes were just like any other, the food better than average, just not appreciated at 3am, but good at midnight and 9am when we were awake and hungry! It was the first time that the maps on the Tv's flicked to one showing the direction and distance to Mecca and the top of women's bodies fuzzed out on the films! I learnt that when the flight itinery said 'technical stop' they actually mean a passenger stop but we could just stay on the same plane, I thought we were getting fuel! - I understand now how it was an air-bus! We got to see a beautiful sun-rise in Libya, I really should have got the camera out then but it was tricky moving with small people sleeping on your lap. When we got off the plane in Tripoli the flight attendants wrapped the boys up in some blankets as they said they would be cold. 13 degrees did feel a little chilly - but I thought quite a nice change-but the boys appreciated them and are quite excited about having aeroplane blankets to play with now!

We had a good time travelling with our friend Judy, who we were sad to be saying goodbye to in London, we were grateful for Sam helping with the luggage and especially pleased that we arrived safely and could enjoy a warm bath (and yes Tom has already started praying that the plane on the way home won't crash into the ocean :-) )

I'm sure this post was going to be much funnier when I had it in my head whilst being kept awake all night but now I am just too tired!


Saturday, 17 October 2009


It has been a long week since we heard the news that Sarah's Grandad and our friend Hal died last Sunday. Sarah, Sam and the boys fly home tomorrow, to arrive Monday lunchtime.

In between tears Tom said '...but I wanted to see Great-Grandad at Christmas..'
I know so did we all. It is so sad having people you love so much not there any more. Our hearts are back home right now, constantly thinking of people we love, wishing Africa just wasn't quite so far away and wanting to go and give a few people a hug, but soon we will.

We live in the certainty that we will see him again, and in the meantime he is enjoying one great party with the God we are here to serve. We will miss him, but be grateful for having had such a wonderful Grandad.

Please be praying for us as we travel back overnight tomorrow, especially that the boys will sleep. We leave at 23.15 to arrive in Tripoli, Libya at 06.50 and then get our connecting flight to London at 08.30 to arrive at 11am.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Speech therapy on board

We are really grateful that Sally has been working with Tom in speech therapy and that he is making great progress. This is an article about what else Sally gets up to...

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

boo boos and stickers

Part of learning ship lingo is learning the term boo boo, maybe it is American, maybe universal, I have no idea, but I have just never used it. Anyway a boo boo seems to be the preferred term used by the under fives for any bump, scrape, bruise etc.

Todays boo boo was not so fun for Joshua, a big heavy door had a not so pleasant interaction with his finger. Without a first aid kit consisting of more than a few plasters I took him down to the crew nurse, leaving a small trail in the corridors so that Tommy and Tom could find us where we ended up in the hospital recovery room. We were helped by some very lovely nurses who cleaned and steri-stripped his finger, and found some yellow smiley face stickers. And then we waited for antibiotics and an incident form and MORE stickers!! We are lucky to live somewhere with so many fabulous nurses on hand, they were so sweet and gentle with him - Thank you Kristin, Rachel, Esther and Judy!!

We came home and steri-stripped teddies arm, Tom gave Josh the picture he had drawn him and told him 'Joshua you were so brave' to which he replied 'yes Tom I WAS so brave'. Quite right - and modest with it apparantly. Seems to have almost forgotten the whole thing now except for being puzzled about why the bandage has to stay on his finger and is looking forward to going back to the nurse tomorrow to play the crocodile game!! I notice no one said I was brave or gave me any stickers (probably coz I wasn't, all nurse instincts leave when it's one of your own kids).

Sunday, 11 October 2009

school library bags

Joshua now has a school library bag - made from African fabric like Toms - which he is pretty pleased with. He takes it to nursery on Fridays when they have library time with the pre-school and some nights after dinner when we pop in to change books.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Is Samuel changing?

Following on from the worrying sight of Sam (life-long West Ham fan) wearing a Chelsea kit we now have concrete evidence of a change of heart...

So who is that Sam is speaking to? None other than Ghana international, and Chelsea regular Michael Essien.

To say Sam was a bit excited would be an understatement. It turns out that the Ghana team are staying at the Benin Marina (our favourite place to swim) before playing Benin in a World Cup qualifying match tomorrow (pictures of that to follow).

One of the Mercy Shippers was speaking to their team doctor and invited them to the ship. We hope that they take up the invite to see the work being done here. A number of the crew are Ghanaian and would love to meet them. (Also the fact that Essien cost around 1/3 of the price of the ship means we wouldn't mind seeing a donation of loose change too).

Anyway, after the cruise ship yesterday this is becoming a run of surprising experiences.


Friday, 9 October 2009

cruise anyone??

Look you can see us...they have a bridge-cam!!
The Tahitian Princess
Here's a post for you Dad!!

We didn't know until today that you can come to Cotonou, Benin on a cruise liner!! But you can so who fancies it? It arrived here this morning...

We saw ourselves (meaning the Africa Mercy) on the bridgecam of the Tahitian Princess on their website...was about to post the link so you could see when we realised they were sailing out of the port as I was the bridgecam now just shows a large expanse of water....but you can see the picture from earlier above...

I can't find a specifically West Africa (or even an African) cruise on their website so am assuming we were just visited by the world cruise? (Does it really count as visiting Benin being here little more than 12 hours?) I still am bewildered by the fact that anyone would voluntarily sail large distances for fun but...I would rather sail out of the Port on this ship than any we have seen - we watch ships regularly and wonder in amazement that they don't topple over due to the angles they form leaving the Port and dread (not to the point that we have lost sleep over it yet I might add) the day when we have to sail out of here - but this one hardly rocked at all!

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Smile train

I have been completing paperwork for the Smile Train charity while working in admissions. They are a charity focused on a single problem - cleft lip and palate who partner with us and other organisations. Today I just found someone on the ship has written about a representative from Smile Train coming to visit...this is part of the story...

'......Ten-year-old Oscar didn’t like going to school.

“The other kids teased me because of my lip. When they teased me, I felt very bad,” he said. Living with a cleft lip, he regularly experienced rejection.

Born in a developing country, Oscar had never received corrective surgery. Members of his community believed his cleft was caused by a spiritual curse. “When Oscar was born, some people thought the child was a bad spirit and said I should abandon him,” said his mother, Florentine. Millions of children in the developing world share his stigma.

But today, Oscar is smiling. Through the financial sponsorship of The Smile Train, he received free corrective surgery on the Africa Mercy. His suffering has ended.

The Smile Train is a charity dedicated to the eradication of cleft lips and cleft palates. Through a network of global partnerships, they provide free cleft surgery to millions of children in developing countries. In the past decade, they have sponsored surgeries for more than 500,000 children worldwide. Additionally, they provide free cleft-related training for doctors and medical professionals.

Mercy Ships has partnered with The Smile Train since 2006......'

So that is a little more about what they do and how they help us to help more people.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

wearing pink

We have had a day on the ship of remembering our friends, and all those, suffering from cancer which has been marked by people wearing pink everywhere you look. I'm sure for everyone, there is someone or some people that they are thinking of, wishing they were a few thousand miles nearer to. We are thinking of many friends, Hal especially, and keep you in our prayers.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

construction team still busy

After blogging about the completion of the last construction project this is what they are now up to...(again taken from a longer article written by Megan Petock)

Mercy Ships Health Care Development team has begun the renovation and construction of a pediatric orthopaedic center in Seme Kpodji, Benin. Upon completion, the center will be used to provide rehabilitative and surgical care to disabled children.

The center will be operated by OSAREH, a local NGO (non-governmental organizational) dedicated to the care of disabled children. The president of OSAREH, Dr. Seraphin Gbenou, is a qualified pediatric surgeon and has practiced medicine in Benin for almost 20 years. Currently, he is a surgeon at a local pediatric hospital in Cotonou.

“When we initially looked at the project, we decided not to do it because the building was too far decayed. We went back about a month later with a specially trained architect, who knew it could be renovated, so we decided to take on the project,” said Construction Supervisor, Karl Schmutter.

Construction began six weeks ago, with a projected completion date of mid-November.

“We are renovating the old building, as well as putting up new buildings in the compound. When completed, it will be like a miniature hospital. There will be rooms for hospital beds, a surgical room, offices, and a consultation room,” concluded Schmutter. The building also includes space for patients to perform rehabilitation exercises and to be fitted for prosthetics.

Mercy Ships has hired workers from the community to complete the construction of the clinic.