Monday, 31 October 2011

I don't know where to start

All the blogs I have been meaning to write remain unwritten. There are just not enough hours in the day at the moment and nights of not very good sleep happening.

We are busy with each 'today', the never ending studying, working, family times and daily football playing that form part of each day, spending time with friends before we leave, helping Josh and his friends with their swimming lessons (that a lovely crew member offered to run for them, I'm not actually teaching them given I barely know how to swim myself, they just need another adult in the water because this is not just any swimming pool, this is a wave pool, the water rocks about with the ship) :-). It has been a bit of a shock returning to studying, especially at this time when constantly distracted by clearing out all the stuff we have accumulated, getting ready for an international move and still working at the birthing centre. At the same time I am loving it! The module I am taking is focused on how culture affects midwifery practice (and legal, political and ethical issues...) and is just so relevant and interesting to be studying this while working in West Africa. I am learning so much through both my reading and incessant questioning of the midwives in the birthing unit! I just wish the assignment would write itself though.

We are busy thinking about returning 'home' which is quite a strange thought really. We don't have our house anymore to return to, our boys don't remember much about living in the UK, we don't have work lined up yet, we can't apply for their school places until we have a tenancy agreement....and it is all so time consuming trying to work out the details. But we have already seen a miracle happen with provision of somewhere to live (which we must write more about sometime) and are really excited to have this time ahead. Our boys are generally very positive about the move, we are talking a lot at the moment about different memories we have, things that we will miss and things that we are looking forward to. And there are so many of each. I am excited to be able to make some photo books when we get back to be able to share some of our memories with you :-)
I had wanted to blog about Princess Anne visiting the ship and Tommy showing her around the Academy, but Ali has written about her visit to the hospital which I am sure she enjoyed a great deal:

I had wanted to blog pictures from our evenings sat out on deck 8 watching the children playing, watching sunsets and strange weather patterns, but Tiffany took some and posted them while we were out a couple of nights ago:

I have wanted to find out some statistics about how this field service is going, but you can read about how the dental clinic have treated 8000 people already on Gini's blog:

Or the more lighthearted (depending on who you are I'm sure) fork lift truck falling in the water and the subsequent attempts at rescuing it again):

There are some great pictures on these blogs and well worth a read - here's hoping none of them mind me linking to them ;-)

Sunday, 23 October 2011

would you want to live on a ship?

Two of the teenagers from Tommys class have written the reasons why living on a ship is better than on land, and the reasons why living on land is better than living on a ship. In case you were wondering how life is different or if you would want to live on our ship...check it out

I'm not sure that living on a ship or land are better than the other, just incredibly different. Certainly there are a lot of things you miss living on a ship in Africa but there are so many great things about it too. But as we start the countdown to leaving we do think more and more about the differences. The boys are excited that they will be able to play football properly soon in a space actually big enough to run around in, we are excited to be able to eat a bigger variety of foods, cook for ourselves and drink fresh milk. We will miss having friends in and out of our cabin all the time and everyone living just one minutes walk away, we'll miss wearing summer clothes all year round and dining room staff doing the washing up. We're excited that soon we'll have so many options of places to take the boys that we won't have time to fit them all in, but we'll miss going up to deck 8 in the evenings and knowing there will always be friends up there to play with and chat to.

Monday, 10 October 2011

a day at home

Today was a teacher training day, so the boys were home which was nice after a busy weekend. It's not been quite as productive as a Monday might otherwise have been but probably more fun. For our second breakfast we headed to the cafe for crepes. For our birthdays all crew get given a $2 voucher to spend at the cafe or shop, so with mine we bought 3 crepes and a kitkat for Tommy and they were making the crepes with chocolate chips in them which made the boys especially happy :-) For some reason no-one was hungry at lunchtime....

Since then the boys have played football, firstly outside on deck 7 in the rain wearing shorts and t'shirts and then they played football in the cabin wearing raincoats. Apparantly because they were pretending they are playing in Poland (got to love the imaginations). It would be too hot to wear raincoats to actually play in the rain so they do get the raincoats out to play every now and then. They played outside on deck 8 too, since the climbing frame went back up a couple of months ago, deck 8 has gradually returned to being the area where children and Mums gather after dinner.

I learnt an important lesson today - if you decide to clean the bathroom always be aware of what the resident four year old is up to. Or you might find they are helping you 'clean' (AKA drowning the kitchen with water) and it's quite hard to be cross with them for 'helping'. 

Since they went to bed Tommy and I have been brainstorming midwifery essay ideas (mostly me suggesting things and Tommy telling me they won't work). It is suprisingly difficult and restrictive to find something that is relevant to midwifery practice, influenced by culture, legislated either Internationally or Nationally, contains an element of practicing needing to change and that I am actually interested in. But we may have decided on one, we'll have to see if there is enough research out there, but any ideas welcome...

Saturday, 8 October 2011

celebrating women

This year's nobel peace prize was shared between three women 'recognised for their "non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work", this included Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, much respected in this region.

Closer to home, here in Sierra Leone there are things happening too. We met actress Eva Mendes this week while we were out shopping for fabric. We chatted about missing coffee and such things, told her a bit about what we are doing here on the Ship (and were called freaking rad, if you change the word freaking to something else). Eva was here filming a documentary on a book called 'Half of the Sky'. Their website says 'Half the Sky lays out an agenda for the world's women and three major abuses: sex trafficking and forced prostitution; gender-based violence including honor killings and mass rape; maternal mortality, which needlessly claims one woman a minute'. A few friends have read the book and really recommend it, so I really want to read it now! It sounds like they are doing some great work.

Today I was invited to the opening ceremony of the free fistula helpline. Women suffering from fistula can now make initial contact by phone, which will result in them coming for screening and hopefully surgery. The hope is that this will be another means of reaching the hard to reach, the women hiding away in shame. Even among the poor in Africa few people are without mobile phones, and most people would know someone to borrow one from for a free phone call.  Her Excellency Mrs Sia Koroma (the First Lady) declared it open after many speeches as well as testimony from one of the patients who had successful fistula repair surgery. It was a good day, not only to celebrate the new phone line, but also to celebrate the work being done here, the hundreds of womens lives that are changed by successful fistula surgery each year. And even closer to my heart, to celebrate the accomplishments of the maternity unit and to know that by providing good maternity care that fistulas are being prevented from occuring.

The current ladies recovering from fistula repair surgery were there to join in the celebrations at the launch. A few previous fistula patients are also currently staying at the centre as they approach their due date in a subsequent pregnancy. They are really a testimony for the other women, that there can be hope of a new life.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

getting the ferry

In Sierra Leone the airport is across the water from the city of Freetown so you have to cross by water taxi or ferry (unless you want a really, really long drive). The ferry takes 45 mins + to cross over the the airport side where someone meets people from the Ship and transports them to the airport. We ending up spending 2 1/2 hours waiting for the ferry last week to say goodbye to Sarah's Mum and sister and to help another friend drive one of the ships landrovers on the ferry to transport a patient over by car. I can't say I am looking forward to it much - but I guess an hour on a ferry to get the plane is preferable to sailing for a few days non stop.