Friday, 30 April 2010

Queens day

We celebrated Queens day with our Dutch friends on board for the second time. Here is some of the fun:

Trying to catch biscuits hanging on string whilst blindfolded
Tug of war on the dock, Tom is the small red boy near the back, still wearing his t'shirt back to front from earlier
Tom and Elliot pulling a landrover  - thanks Elliot you made him very happy that he got to have a go!

wacky day

Tom decided what he was wearing - his clothes the wrong way round, his sunglasses on the back on his head and my slippers with his summer clothes. Tommy wore odd socks and shoes with cropped trousers, a shirt and tie and big hat. Josh didn't want to wear anything wacky, but settled with his PJ bottoms on his head. It was pretty funny seeing the ideas the bigger kids came up with...

Ok so start with the nursery/kindergarten - barely wacky, just enough to amuse themselves
Then Kindergarten - mildly more so...
then go through a few more grades, each getting sillier and sillier, here Tommys class looking quite striking!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

free health care for mothers and children in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone has launched a free healthcare plan for pregnant women, breast-feeding mothers and children under five years old. This is great news that will hopefully help them change the fact that children under five and mothers in childbirh are more likely to die there than anywhere else in the world at present. For more:

50 years of independence

Togo is celebrating its 50th anniversary of independence today. It seems to be a public holiday, our dayworkers are here but having a celebration on board this afternoon following a Togolese lunch.

It seems it was a big year for African countries gaining their independence:

More about how they celebrated on the ward here:

Monday, 26 April 2010

swimming in the waterfalls...

...was probably the highlight of our weekend so here are some pics:

 Driving to Kpalime was green like this most of the way
a view from where we started our walk to the waterfall
We survived the very steep climb down just as the tropical storm was ending and were pleased to finally see a waterfall!
See I really did swim under it!!
 Here we all are looking very wet!
Miriam and I on the way back


I headed off this weekend with Sam, Amy, Miriam, Natalie and Ben a couple of hours north of Lome to Kpalime (to where Tommy had already been on the high school retreat a few weeks back). We swam in the waterfall, explored the town, ate fan ice outside the fan ice building and wandered the markets in search of football shirts. I was introduced to a weird but hilarious game where I was a mutant needing to kill monsters or something, I really enjoyed eating off the ship for a change and survived the weekend without a single mosquito bite! So here are some pics of what we got up to in and around the town:

 Where we stayed (Sam having his finger dressing changed)
On the way to the town - yep 42 degrees!!
Eating fan milk seemed like the thing to do here (me, Ben, Amy, Sam, Miriam, Natalie not in this pic)
The out of place but very pretty church 
the streets of Kpalime looked like this - this was just a few metres away from the rather fancy church!

Sunday, 25 April 2010

how do you know you are in Africa??

A few of us went to Kpalime this weekend, sensible blog and pictures to follow when I have sorted them, but until then here are some of our experiences to share with you...imagine this...
  • you drive past an organised running event, a whole bunch of young men running in matching t'shirts to mark the 50th anniversary of Togo's independance, it all looks like any other race you might see back home until you realise some of them are running in flipflops
  • you get stopped multiple times by unofficial checkpoints requesting road taxes or are stopped by men with guns who tell everyone to get out of the car and walk along the road, they then shout at the driver until they pay the bribe and they are allowed to move on and pick you up
  • you get stopped in the car and asked if anyone is sick (by another man with smaller gun), once assured not he wants to know why someone was sleeping, seriously random!! I mean how dare someone sleep in a car assuming it is not the driver in question??
  • your driver just makes random stops to chat to people or buy some kind of wooden things that looked a bit like rough fence panels that are put in the roof-rack from a lady standing on the side of the road with nothing except a purple bucket - he did say something incomprehensible and check if that was 'ok?' with us, at least he wasn't trying to put chickens in the car with us or something
  • you have people shouting yovo at every opportunity, sometimes with the whole song "yovo, yovo, bonjour, ca va bien, merci" apparantly the only words white people are supposed to know, I can tell you if they were the only words we knew chances are we would be stuck in the middle of no-where now, hungry and without football shirts :-)
  • shops are named things like 'God is good' bakery and 'Jesus is Lord' hairdressers that you drive past making journeys a little more interesting, or you could go to 'winners gate' cafe or eat rice 'from paradise', honestly I should have had a notepad with me there were so many that make you smile
  • you book a 4 person room only to discover on arrival at the hotel that they don't exist - so would we like two rooms for 2 people and pay twice as much? Erm not so much
  • you get shown into a hotel room, given a remote control for the TV and A/c. It all looks promising if you don't mind Croatian TV but in the few minutes while you are settling in the power goes off and then it goes dark and they place tealights in the corridors
  • When the power temporarily comes back on, you get excited until you discover there is no running water and you can't seem to use the remote they gave you to turn the A/C on - so you ask the man if he can help - to which he replies - oh yes that doesn't work, you can turn the fan on instead (giving us the A/C controls probably threw us a little here), which would have been ok if the power had not gone off again and left us slowly roasting in the night
  • your guide for the waterfall walk does not think that we should walk in rain (interesting concept for a Brit who used to deliberately go out in the rain on 'rainwalks' with the boys just so they could jump in puddles) and when we eventually do go he is barefoot and then strips to his underpants at the waterfall to prove to us that it is ok for us to swim
  • when you are swimming in a waterfall surrounded by natural beauty someone reminds you of Dr Craigs talk on parasites and how some can get into your body through your legs as well as your GI tract, you are still trying to blot that thought when you try and get to sleep listening to suicidal insects trying to bang their way in through the mosquito netting on your window and wonder if any wil make it through to eat you alive in the night
  • everyone tries to charge you more than they orginally told you it would cost because of your yovoness- we thought the waterfall guide was cheeky enough wanting to charge all ten of us what it was supposed to cost altogether, until the driver wanted to charge us for 14 seats even though there were only 6 of us, (to be honest that wouldn't be that unusual here to pay for empty seats but for the fact that it was all confirmed before hand and was not supposed to be the case)
  • when you find football shirts for just a few dollars, probably plus or minus a few details it should have - one of the England shirts had the premier league badge on the arm - erm not sure that England is in the premier league - and that is coming from someone who knows nothing about football and would choose one just based on colour 
  • the above mentioned football shirts are all completely random teams, kits, sizes mixed in with market stalls selling soap and bread and whatever else you might trying to find the one you want in the size you need is like looking for a needle in a haystack, unless of course you are Sam and happy with any that fit (West African teams that is, not the random - read rubbish but popular - premiership ones that exist here)
  • you get woken at 6am by someone sweeping, it was loud enough to wake even those whose rooms weren't adjacent to the path being swept with great vigour at such a beautiful hour on a Sunday morning. Presumably someone wanted to get it done before it got unbearably hot or before they crossed the road and joined the very loud Africa church-like singing that stopped us from returning to our slumber after the path was dust free, although equally that could have been the fact we were slowly melting that prevented that?
  • you are in a town with red-sandy roads, people wandering around slowly no-one really up to much, eating frozen milk and can see a bunch of falling down huts and then out of no-where you see a modern neon sign- that tells you it is 42 degrees at 11.20am - always good to know that you really are hot and it is not all in your head
  • we all got to give Sam some moral support during his finger dressing change and a little lesson to the fascinated hotel owner about cleaning wounds with saline - following Mercy Ships model of passing on what we know to the locals even on our day off...
It was a truly fabulous break with some fabulous friends and family, my first time away overnight in West Africa and my first time without the boys since we came to the Ship, and it certainly was a memorable one! So who is up for the next adventure?

another way of coming to visit Togo... apparantly by cruise liner. Spending less than a day in Benin, the same in Togo and then Ghana the passengers on the Seven Seas Voyager have a fleeting taste of West Africa before moving on. If you are interested this is where they go on the world cruise, but our personal recommendation is come visit us rather than spend the $76000 but it is up to you...

looks quite nice in this pic, nothing like the enormous cruise liners we were so frequently seeing in Santa Cruz, but big enough to be out of place here just like us!!

To see it here docked in Lome, our camera batteries were needing recharging so we didn't get a pic ourselves:

Friday, 23 April 2010

British grub

Happy St Georges Day!! We have enjoyed a roast dinner and meeting up with the other Brits for Britsh snacks and puddings. There are just so many great puddings and things that we didn't know what to make and I have ended up feeling very hungry all week as I have discovered all sorts of great receipes this week that I had forgotten about or am now convinced that our kids have to try (because I want to make them all)!! Having a very special little helper with me (who managed to hide behind a fridge at one point, causing me to turn off the oven and go in search of him thinking he had left the crew galley) we decided to go with something easy - jam tarts. Apparantly they are too difficult for us though, not helped by there not being any cookie cutters or keep having to re-roll the pastry due to the special helper helping make holes in the middle of the pastry or my receipe failing to say what temperature they should be cooked at, but whatever we did wrong they were really not great! Obviously we both had to try one to confirm the suspicion formed by looking at them that they were not great, by which point the special helper was watching a DVD and probably didn't really notice what it tasted like or even know what it should have tasted like to protest that they were not like Delia Smith would make. Fortunatley we had made some flapjack too for the weekend, needless to say that went to the gathering and the jam tarts will be polished off here tomorrow no doubt :-)

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

check this out.....

there is a great picture of Tommy after the hair removal, as well as some stories of things happening, including that of Johns friend Vincent and bad scrubs day...

Friday, 16 April 2010

honouring your promises AKA going bald

What can we say - the day came, it had to, but took a while what with the travels and activities of the last few weeks since the Auction of Dreams that we had tried to hide the thought away for a bit. Yesterday was the day, which had had enough drama already to be honest, but a promise is a promise. I have possibly never heard so much laughter, so at least a few people were entertained as the hairdresser Paul did his work, and the people who had bid so generously got what they bid for - pink bows and all! To be honest it was good that he shaved half of it first - now we know there is worse than losing all your hair - losing half of it and aging by about 40 years all in a matter of minutes. And after the day we'd already had things were put into perspective significantly and losing hair really is not a big deal.

Here is a guide to hair removal...
Find a comfy chair, a willing and humourous hairdresser and a few people who need a good laugh
have half your hair removed, age about 40 years in 2 minutes
leave a little bit at the back til last, just for fun

remove the last bits of facial hair, add a pink bow that a so called 'friend' so kindly donated and then deny it all happened, eat ice cream and hope you are invisible :-)

The boys were asleep so saw their bald Dad for the first time this morning. Josh spent a minute or so just touching Tommys head and then later told Sarah maybe she should shave her head too (would take a LOT more money I promise you). Tom told him to wear a hat - or else everyone would laugh at him. It might be a little late for that judging by the number of people around last night!

So there you have it. The promised photos...I have the video too so the boys can watch it sometime, if we can ever bring ourselves to watch it. So the next Auction promise we need to fulfil is the Italian dinner tomorrow and then hopefully things will quieten down and the boys will get to see their Dad again, if they still recognise him after the last few weeks of trips and meetings. And you never know - he might actually have a minute one day to blog about what he has been so busy doing but don't hold your breath ;-)

Sunday, 11 April 2010

another one to read...

I hoped Natalie would write a blog about the miracle in the night and now she has had at least a little sleep she has:

what kids say

I was just catching up on some friends blogs and have just read the 'box ship news' blog. It is linked to on our blog in case you wnat to read more, and is written by some of Tommys students as part of their IT class (following them developing the school newspaper 'the box ship news'). Anyway, this one is an interview of the nursery and preschool kids. I have just discovered a few things about Joshua - that if he could sail the ship anywhere it would be to the alligators, but if being chased by a lion I shouldn't worry as he will kill it with his magic wand :-)

Friday, 9 April 2010

Sierra Leone

I just read this:

"We are thrilled to announce that our Founder, Don Stephens, and Swiss Board Member, Pierre Christ, have just departed Sierra Leone with a signed protocol. This now opens the door for our advance team to begin preliminary work for the ship to conduct our 2011 Field Service in Freetown, Sierra Leone!"

I know most folk back home know that we were excited to hear the news that provisionally we are heading to Sierra Leone next year. Well now the protocol is signed and things are starting to be prepared.

We are excited to meet up with Mike and Vi, friends from our home Church as well as check out the midwifery opportunities working with Katie, another friend in Freetown setting up a maternity centre. It will be exciting to see the fistula hospital where our friends Dave and Helen worked before moving on to a hospital in Uganda that we heard stories from. Tommy met someone at the conference last week who is going to put him in touch with someone there too and there is an International school we may be able to link the Academy with in some way, we'll see! Exciting stuff!

Thursday, 8 April 2010

more school pics

Well Auntie Amy asked for more pictures of us so here are some from the ship photographers:

Tom still squinting!
Josh at nursery!
Nursery class (since this was taken they now have two lovely little girls in their class too)
Nathanael, Xavier, Miss Dara, Josh, Max

We can show you the rest of the school pics in the summer!

Love Tom and Josh

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

miracle in the night time

Things have been tough of late down in the hospital, the medical staff have had some rough times. Losing a baby known to many of the staff who were here in Benin last year who then returned to us this year extremely malnourished hit them hard. Yet the latest talk is of the miracle in the night time while our friend Natalie was working and I hope she will blog about it once her nights end, but here is the story written by Ali

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Happy Easter!

Easter is such a celebration and we are blessed to be able to celebrate it with lots of friends here. Although we did pass on the 5.30am sunrise celebration (not brace enough to face the day alone with the kids after getting them up that early!) we made it to the 8am service, followed by a wonderful Easter brunch. It was so exciting to have a variety of fruit - Josh just wanted to eat grapes!

Tonight we are excited to be having fish and chips - in memory of the arrival of the Ship in Newcastle 11 years ago on Easter Sunday. It was just after the Ship had been purchased and it had been taken there for the renovations. The only place open to get food was fish and chips!

The boys were thrilled to see their Easter baskets outside the door filled with sweets and chocolate, but I think they understand now that Easter is so much more than chocolate. I hope yours is too.

Friday, 2 April 2010

hot cross buns with Miriam

'helping' Miriam

more 'help'

Helping Miriam 'try them'!

We haven't got much time for writing - sorry. The teachers seem to be in Kenya from reading the odd note posted by one or other of them. We are having a fun, but rather tiring time here between the day time activities and night time wakings. Hope the pictures tell a bit of the weekend story so far :-)

Good Friday fun

Today the boys have dyed easter eggs with the other kids ready for the Easter Sunday brunch