Sunday, 29 August 2010

The whale that waved

How many of you can say that a whale waved its tail to you on your birthday?
Another Sunday at sea has been survived by eating copious amounts of cake, spending time with friends, playing sock golf (and Mum we didn't lose any socks this time, and yes Sam won again), watching the waves and the whales from the bow.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

carnival day

We played games. We played the egg and spoon race, we had FUN! We put coloured icing on cookies to decorate them and put chocolate chips and sprinkles on them. Then we ate them and they were very very very very good. I had a tattoo and it was a picture of 3 crosses.
by Tom Farrell.

One of the teachers and the school classes had come up with some ideas for carnival games so this morning the children all headed to mid-ships to have some fun. In addition to the games Tom mentioned there was the traditonal (?) pin the ball on the dolphins nose, shooting tin cans with nerf guns, throwing table tennis balls into cups, bean bags onto a score board and a basketball into a laundry basket, cup stacking, face painting, apple bobbing, craft corner, water relay and balloon stomping. It finished with the children taking turns smashing the pinata with a cricket bat, very amusing and slightly terrifying.

Friday, 27 August 2010

'Ocean' dress up

Today the Academy had an ocean themed dress up - anything in, on or around the ocean. Tommy was the ocean, Tom was a fisherman and Josh a pirate.
Here are the class pics:
Pre-school - Nemo, our pirate and the Africa Mercy. Most of the pre-school were not there - maybe as the clocks had changed and it was too early
Kindergarten: a mermaid, iceberg, pirate, penguin, octopus and our fisherman. And evidence that it really was too early, the clock should have been 8am but it certainly felt like 7am!
The ocean showing off his white caps, a sea cucumber and a jelly-fish

South of the Southern most point

We sailed past the Cape of Good Hope so are now making progress, it seems very slow.

 This was our first sighting of land:
Later we sailed past Cape Agulhas - the most Southern point of Africa. That also means we are now sailing in the Indian Ocean for the first time. We took this picture around then:

We have seen some whales throughout the afternoon, both from our window and from deck 7, and some dolphins too although they were a little way out by the time we saw them. We failed to take any good pictures, in this one you can see the whale blowing in the top left and where it looks like there is a line across the sea near the top it is actually a line of dolphins but you might have to take my word for that! 

Wednesday, 25 August 2010


Today we sailed past the mouth of the Orange River, which means we are now sailing off the coast of South Africa. Yeh - it finally feels like we are getting closer.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010


The up to Force 10 gale has been causing a rocky ride, the waves were pretty big yesterday and obscured many a window at times. I went up to the Bridge Sunday evening and watched some waves hit the windows up there. Things are getting a little better, still not exactly pleasant yet, but moving the right way! We did manage some sleep last night, our cupboards were bursting with cushions and towels so we didn't hear much rolling about at all.

Today we have played trains and had fun watching them move by themselves as the ship rocks, whilst trying to keep a good eye on the horizon. I tried to get further with the packing (having not really started and we are moving as soon as we arrive in about a weeks time), but gave up after opening a cupboard and having an array of things fall out. We had a little time of running on deck (as I deemed it too rocky for the wiggle cars still remembering one of the boys hitting a railing on one on the last sail when the sea was rough) and watched the bird flying over the waves. We met friends at the cafe and somehow filled another day at sea.We will be pleased to arrive...

Monday, 23 August 2010

night time events

Well I guess the night is only just starting, but it has started by our bigger-than-me ice machine falling over and leaking water which was running across the deck. The water is now all cleaned up - here is it's new position as the Officers decided to leave it where it is right now.
What else will the night bring? Less rattling I hope as our cupboards are now full of towels and cushions, but the crew galley has started its percussion music and suprises you with the occasional loud crash....

some thoughts on sailing

Its the little things that become normal when you sail for over two weeks. You forget what is actually strange.

The shower curtain moves of its own accord, one way down the rail and then the other, and then back. And the curtains will do the same given the chance.

Once you have run out of towels to shove in drawers of things that rattle (which happended quite quickly to us as Sam and Amy had a flooded cabin last week and have half our towels) you shove your jumpers in with your cups because the alternative is to hear them rattling all night.

You lie in bed awake at night wondering when the drawer of cutlery is going to leave the space where it resides preferring the freedom of flying across the room.

You have to tell your children they need to hold on to their bowl of cereal and that they can only have a drink once they have finished holding their bowl and can hold the cup instead.

Your shoe rack strews your shoes all around the floor and you just leave them there and walk over them as it would become a full time job fighting the waves trying to keep the shoe rack tidy.

At lunch you hear shrieks when there is a big roll and everyone goes to grab their cups and plates. Baby Emma moves across the dining room in her high chair while you hear the odd plate drop to the floor. Tom is convinced that the Ship will sink soon as the waves cloud the vision through the dining room windows and is quite relieved when Captain Tim leaves the dining room as now he can save us all.

You go outside and find yourself standing in a most undignified pose with wide legs just to keep yourself upright, committed to the idea of videoing the waves even though slowly freezing to death at the same time.

You start ranking the waves and the rolling according to which things have and haven't fallen over,whilst questioning whether it is because you have secured things better than the last sail that they are staying put.

I'll have to see what else we think of as the sailing continues...

some sailing pics from today

 For pics of the water hitting the bow and some interesting angles see:

the rollercoaster you can't get off

We have had a sleepless night with things falling over and sliding around in cupboards. The swells are a fair size and we are rocking around enough that it is hard to walk in a straight line. Our shoe rack just fell while I wrote this, I don't think there is much more that can fall. We do need to stop some things moving in one cupboard that keep banging into each other but need to wait a little while before we risk opening the door. We are back on the seasickness pills as a precaution, the boys seem fine without any so pray that continues! We hope this will only last a day or two and that we will find some calm waters again soon.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

the Blues enter the olympics

The Olympic Games on board the Africa Mercy were HobNob themed (as HobNobs are available while sailing to those people who are feeling seasick). Our first activity: HobNob bowling.
 Followed by a little bit of HobAVLIN action. Javelin with HobNob boxes. 
Later a little tower building with empty HobNob boxes. 
And a little bit of vuvuzela action while waiting.
Other games included working out how any packets of HobNobs were hidden around the shop, the McVities Toss ('the bag game' or throwing bean bags at a platform with a hole in for the uninitiated) and a HobNob quiz where correct answers gave you time to eat dry weetabix and try and win points. Lets just say we were terrible at the quiz which was quite a relief that we didn't have time to bother attempting the dry weetabix challenge. 
If you are in a need of filling a couple of hours in the middle of a neverending ocean adventure you will need a significant number of HobNob boxes and a few friends and then you can create your very own Olympics. If you want to keep the stress levels low don't have a three year old on your team when games involve them guiding you through a maze blindfolded and memorising the position of 25 numbers on a grid :-)
And lastly, as I am writing this rather than Tommy - just to say Claret and Blue forever, don't be fooled by the outfits, there is a reason why they were cheap.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Pirates, pirates everywhere!

Today was pirate day and sure enough pirates were appearing all over the ship. The kids watched 'the pirates who don't do anything' movie and had a kids treasure hunt. After dinner there was a team treasure hunt taking photos all over the ship which was a lot of fun, a pirate themed quiz and then costume judging. Here are some of our pictures from the day:
 The modern day, ipod listening, safety conscious pirate at lifeboat drills this afternoon
 Our photo of an X marked on a treasure map
Our pic holding the yellow and black stripey pole
On 'poop deck', the most aft you can go on the Ship, even though on our ship there is not water aft of it as there is a deck lower that is not accessible
Boys costume judging.

cooking and sailing

I have some advice.
Think carefully if you want to cook while sailing. We decided that what better to do on a Saturday morning in the middle of the ocean nearing Namibia than make some lunch with friends. Probably sitting out on deck getting some fresh air would have been better but then we would have missed the fun of watching Sam trying and work out which third of the quiche didn't have mushrooms.
So to the thoughts on cooking...
Things on surfaces move. Do you have enough hands to grab them or wet tea towels at the ready? The answer is almost always no by the way.
Saucepans on hobs have to be held at times. Usually the clue is when the saucepan starts to leave the hob and slide towards the edge that the moment has arrived to commence this holding action, given the alternative is being covered in hot stuff.
Quiche filling leaves the quiche every time the ship rocks and makes a big mess on the tray under it, maybe just avoid making quiche. It is a bad idea. So was boiling pasta on the hob. I think cheese scones might have been the answer to todays 'what shall we make for lunch?' question. Unfortunately I only just realised that now.

The weather is about to change and get worse, so my next advice would be once you can hear the pans banging around the crew galley as you near it, turn around and walk the other way and don't risk cooking anything. Although my dear boys have their heart set on making peanut butter cookies this week before the crew galley closes and Tom has asked Miriam to help him make a suprise something for next weekends birthday celebrations so lets hope its not too rocky! It might be our last chance to cook until next January - arrghh!

Friday, 20 August 2010

Jean Loko (Max Fax Patient)

“ Thank you, Mercy Ships. Now I came back to life ,” said a jubilant Jean Loko.

For 18 years, this 60-year-old tailor had been dealing with a tumor that grew in a double row, curling like an inflated collar around the back of his neck and down his back. It forced his neck and head to stretch forward, impairing his balance. He found it difficult to walk. With stark simplicity, he stated, “I was afraid I would die.”

In 1992, Jean was caught in a battle between opposition and government forces on the Cotonou Road in Benin. The soldiers began beating the people, and Jean tried to run away. But a soldier hit him on the back with a bat, causing a wound that began to swell. And the wound kept growing.

Medical care in Western Africa is limited. The local hospital told Jean that they could not help him.

Jean tried to continue working, but his range of movement became more and more limited. He could not cut and sew the fabric of the garments without constant pain. Soon, he could no longer run his business, so he had to abandon his only source of income.

Jean also had to battle the cultural aversion to deformities, which were seen as a curse. The father of seven, Jean was rejected by his two oldest sons because of the growth.

All Jean could do was sit in his house. There was no joy in his life.

Then he heard a radio ad that brought a glimmer of hope. A Mercy Ships team was coming to hold a medical screening near his home. Although he was a little fearful that he would meet disappointment again, he went to the screening anyway. “But I was chosen!” he said with a combination of surprise, disbelief and elation.

The volunteer doctors aboard the Africa Mercy successfully removed the tumor that had caused him so much misery. When he realized the growth was gone, his usual sombre expression turned to a brilliant smile. “I just thank Mercy Ships for what they have done for me. They gave me my life back.”

Story by Elaine B. Winn
Edited by Nancy Predaina
Photos by Liz Cantu

water and not much else

I am lacking things to say really, there has been nothing to see outside besides vast expanses of water or the occasional bit of sunshine. We did see some whales the day we left and then yesterday finally we had an announcement about a dancing whale. Which turned about to be a couple of what might have been dancing dolphins but pretty cool whatever they were.
Our friend Shellys picture is on Sam and Amys blog:

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

pre-school pics

This weeks pre-school blog shows a picture of Josh playing with shaving foam in messy play. There is also a picture of Josh and his friend Max, and looking at it an explanation of why Josh came home one day and said he called Max 'princess'. Princess complete with cell phone!

Monday, 16 August 2010

Shellbacks and pollywogs

We have been warned about the bump that may happen as we sail across the equator so we're obviously excited by that ;-)

Crossing the equator by sea is a big deal to sailors. Wikipedia says:
'The ceremony of Crossing the Line is an initiation rite in the Royal Navy, U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Marine Corps, and other navies that commemorates a sailor's first crossing of the Equator. Originally, the tradition was created as a test for seasoned sailors to ensure their new shipmates were capable of handling long rough times at sea. Sailors who have already crossed the Equator are nicknamed (Trusty) Shellbacks, often referred to as Sons of Neptune; those who have not are nicknamed (Slimy) Pollywogs.'

It was quite a joy to discover that my nearest and dearest are all 'slimy pollywogs', but soon they will join me as part of the trusty shellbacks!

This is the text from a certificate issued on a Royal Navy ship during the Second World War:
Whereas by our Royal Consension, Our Trusty, Well Beloved .................... has this day entered Our Domain. We do hereby declare to all whom it may concern that it is Our Royal Will and Pleasure to confer upon him the Freedom of the Seas without undue ceremony. Should he fall overboard, We do command that all Sharks, Dolphins, Whales, Mermaids and other dwellers in the Deep are to abstain from maltreating his person. And we further direct all Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen and others who have not crossed Our Royal Domain, to treat him with the respect due to One of Us. Given under Our Hand at Our Court on board H.M.S. .............. on the Equator in Longitude .....° on this ..... day of ..... in the year .....
Cancer — High Clerk
Neptune — Rex

This is the text from a certificate issued on a United States Navy ship during the 1960s:
Know ye, that .................... on the ..... day of ..... , aboard .............. appeared at the equator at Latitude .....° , Longitude .....° entering into Our Royal Domain, and having been inspected and found worthy by My Royal Staff and was initiated into the Solemn Mysteries of the Ancient Order of the Deep. I command my subjects to Honor and Respect him as one of our Trusty Shellbacks.
Davey Jones — His Royal Scribe
Neptunus Rex — Ruler of the Raging Main

So there you have some more random sailor facts from the middle of the ocean somewhere near the equator! And hopefully should we ever end up swimming with 'dwellers in the deep' that they will respect our status and not eat us.

Kossinovi and Amavi Amento

Amavi and her baby sister, Kossinovi, are from a family of eight children. They share a distinctive characteristic – they were both born with a cleft lip. In the West African culture, such deformities are viewed with superstition and ridicule.

Little Kossinovi is only seven months old – too young to suffer from the harsh remarks of unfeeling friends. But Amavi is twelve and has felt the sting of sharp tongues all too often. An eighth- grade student, she has struggled to make friends. But her classmates find her disfigured upper lip a good reason to belittle her and call her names. Her mother says when she sends Amavi out to play, there is always a fight, and she comes home crying. Amavi has coped by becoming shy and retiring, keeping to herself to avoid hurtful remarks.

The children's mother has been very concerned about their future, but surgical repair has been out of reach because of the cost. So when a friend at the local hospital told her that the volunteer doctors with Mercy Ships would do the surgery without charge, she quickly made arrangements to get Amavi and Kossinovi to the Africa Mercy . Following a medical screening, both children were admitted to the hospital ward. They received successful surgeries and went home the next day. They will return to the ship for post-operative care until they are totally healed and released.

Amavi, who usually says very little, expressed her happiness about the successful procedure. She hopes to train to be a nurse after she graduates from secondary school.

And the children's very relieved mother said, “ Thank you Mercy Ships for what you have done for my children.”

Story by Elaine B. Winn
Edited by Nancy Predaina
Photos by Liz Cantu

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Josh has grown...

...and now needs a childrens life jacket rather than an infant one. And is not too impressed by any of it as they are far less comfortable!

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

The pharmacy and the pharmacist :-)

Lynn, Miriam and Tatiana -  I am in awe of your job and definately wouldn't want to do it for real!

Since arriving back I have been working in the Pharmacy -best imagined by the idea of working in a big cupboard with many shelves jam packed full of stuff. While the hospital has been closing down and packing up the Pharmacy has still been busy, especially as Miriam is the only Pharmacist since Tatiana left a couple of weeks ago. In fact I am amazed they ever get any work done the number of interuptions and queries (and that is without the hospital being in action!), but maybe that is why they usually have two pharmacists. 

The most important job (in my view) was making sure the seasickness pills are packed ready for crew. The most important job according to Miriam, who actually knows about such things, was to make sure that we had all the drugs on the Mandatory Sailing List stored in the right places ready for the sail so that we are obeying the law. The pharmacy is still open for crew while at the same time has been receiving drugs back from the wards, dental team, palliative care team etc. The boxes of returned drugs seemed to be multiplying faster than the drugs could all be checked and entered back into the pharmacy stock. We have had to destroy any drugs (that have not been able to be donated locally) that are expired or about to expire as we will not be running a pharmacy in South Africa. This seemed a little painfully slow, having to empty all glass vials, scribble on all drug labels going in the general waste and tear drug boxes, but all in an effort to ensure our waste is not turned into a dodgy business by someone who gets their hands on them! This is Africa after all, and all the waste is rummaged through regularly. That all done things have now been packed up and the tedious process of weighing every item before the sail has commenced. Fortunately many hands make light work and last week we had the help of some Mercy Team folk, and this week help from the lab and palliative care. Once this is finished we lock them all up, brace the cupboards for the sail and get ready to supply the crew with sea-sickness pills.Well, Miriam does :)

So to finish, it is eye opening how much goes on in the big cupboard, I wouldn't fancy working there all the time, but it is fun to play down there with pill bags, syringes and weighing scales for a while at least.
Oh and Happy Birthday Miriam and Tatiana!!

the lorry that got stuck in the hole

Here is the lorry that got stuck in the hole
  This is apparantly the number of people required to watch the lorry be rescued from the hole

Dental team teaches kids

Nearly one hundred elementary school children sat very still in a cramped, dim Togolese classroom. Mercy Ships Dental Hygienist, Donna Bartholomew, stood in her blue medical scrubs at the front of the room, smiling at all of the children.

“Raise your hand if you have a toothbrush,” Donna asked.

Half of the children's hands shot into the air. The other half glanced at their peers, realizing they should probably put their hands up, too. Up they went.

Donna laughed and said, “How many of you brushed your teeth this morning ?” Twenty-five, or roughly one-fourth of the kids, raised their hands. Donna's goal was that, after the day's session, all of the kids would know how to take care of their teeth properly – and brush every morning.

The Mercy Ships Dental Team went to Ecole Primair Publique de Be-Klikame to educate the kids on dental hygiene. This school is a public elementary school in Lomé, Togo. Most of the kids attending the school come from households that struggle to feed and clothe their children. Hygiene, especially dental hygiene, had never been taught to them.

“Dental health is very important. Learning to take care of their teeth now, as children, can prevent large cavities in the future. Our team perform s many extractions every day in the dental clinic. We hope education at a young age will help,” said Gini Porter, Mercy Ships Dental Coordinator.

Donna told the children that there are two things they can do to keep their teeth healthy. First, they need to keep them clean, and second, they need to eat the proper food. She held up a chart with colorful pictures of fruits and vegetables.

“Bad health will lead to cavities – holes in your teeth that will pain you,” Donna told them. Then Donna held up a large model of a mouth and teeth, and an oversized red toothbrush. She asked if a volunteer would like to demonstrate how to brush correctly.

Out of the crowd nine-year-old Rodrique was selected. He came to the front and, using the large brush on the model of a mouth, showed the rest of the class the correct way to brush your teeth. The kids watched, smiled, and nodded their understanding.

Before the lesson came to an end, Donna asked the kids to now become teachers – to show their friends and family members how to brush their teeth and maintain good dental hygiene. They all promised to teach one person, thus sharing their newfound knowledge.

As the kids filed out of the classroom, each was given a red toothbrush of their very own. Unlike in more developed parts of the world, receiving a new, free toothbrush was quite a treat for these kids. Judging from the looks on their faces, one would think they had been given a brand-new toy.

Nine-year-old Ange lives just around the corner from the school. Tightly gripping her bright red toothbrush she told her friend that she doesn't want a hole in her tooth. She declared, “I'm going to go home and tell my brothers about this, so they don't get holes in their teeth either.”

She has never had a toothbrush of her own.

One classroom at a time, Donna, Gini and the rest of the Mercy Ships Dental team are trying to work themselves out of a job (in a good way). The need is so great that eliminating their job is not a realistic possibility. But, with every speech and every toothbrush handed out, they are getting closer to eradicating poor dental hygiene in Lomé, Togo.

Story by Claire Bufe
Edited by Nancy Predaina
Photos by Tom Bradley

Monday, 9 August 2010


 Rikiata was one of the women in the first of the 2010 VVF dress ceremonies - the celebrations that we have when women are leaving us to go home, no longer leaking urine. The first women pictured below I got to know well through teaching and craft work, Rikiata helped us translate for some of the other women. They were a lot of fun, watching them get ready for this dress ceremony was an honour and filled with much hilarity. I hope you like the fabric - a few of us went to the market to buy the fabric when we were getting the beads for their necklaces. Below is an article written by the communications department:
Rikiata is a spirited and capable woman, full of good humor and common sense. The mother of four children ranging in age from 6 to 17, she discovered almost two years ago that she was pregnant again. Although she had a C- section in the hospital, her baby died, and she was left with a vesico-vaginal fistula (VVF). This is a very common problem that occurs in poor countries where medical assistance is very limited or inaccessible. The injury is caused by prolonged or difficult labor. Often the mother is too small or too young for unassisted childbirth.

VVF results in incontinence. The constant leakage of urine soon destroyed Rikiata's trading business and her life. So, she went to visit her mother and stayed there.

Rikiata knew about Mercy Ships and called to see about a screening, but at that time the ship was in Benin. When the Africa Mercy came to Togo, the doctor called her and told her that she should come to a patient screening. Mercy Ships provided transportation for Rikiata and several other people from her village in northern Togo.

In just a few days, her life was dramatically changed! Her surgery was successful. During her recovery time in the ward, she was a great help as a translator because she knew the languages of the northern part of the country. Overjoyed that she was dry once again, at meal time she would say, “When they give me food, I tell them I am already full of happiness.”

All the women who have had a successful VVF surgery participate in a dress ceremony in the ward. They are each given a new dress and a chance to share their testimony. The drums begin, and the singing and dancing follow, as the ward echoes with the joyous sounds of happy women celebrating the return to a normal life.

Resplendent in a royal blue and gold dress and matching head-wrap, Rikiata led the group into the ward. Her brilliant smile reflected her great joy as she gave her testimony, “I wake up dry. I am overhappy! I can start my business again . Even my children are happy!”
Story by Elaine B. Winn
Edited by Nancy Predaina
Photos by Liz Cantu


Josh is now in preschool, which is much like playgroup would be back home. They have their own blog  you can read about the first week here, but I'll add their link on the side too with the other links so you can see what they are up to at other times if you wish:

Friday, 6 August 2010

page boys

Here are some pics of the boys for those people who wanted to see them at the wedding. Ok so there are quite a few sorry, I couldn't really decide which ones from the million pics that were taken.
 Getting ready with the big boys
Our big boy
 Josh, Uncle Sam and Tom before the ceremony
Us four!
 Well the ring pillow is upside down, but he did really well
The slow walk that turned into a sprint down the aisle
 Us and the Slennetts making some interesting faces!
 We got to write Uncle Sam and Auntie Amy a message