Preamble

We are a family of three; Andrew, Jodie and Jessica (aged 17) from Tasmania, Australia who are currently serving in Cotonou, Benin West Africa on the M/V Africa Mercy, the largest non-governmental hospital ship in the world, through Mercy Ships International. God has called us on a journey that has been many years in the making. For this season we call West Africa home as we seek to bring hope and healing to the poorest of the poor.



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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Hello Mr President!

Two hours notice until the President visits!!! Chaos reigns. Orderly chaos. The ship became a hive of activity recently when the President of Guinea, Mr. Alpha Condé made an impromptu visit to the ship. After visiting the French Navy vessel docked next door to us, the President decided to bring forward his visit, planned for several weeks later. With about two hours notice the management team, hospitality, crew services, security and the galley went into overdrive. It was fascinating to watch. Furniture was re-arranged, floors vacuumed, hor' dourves made, security sweepings of the ship took place, the International Lounge was prepared for the President to address the crew and seemingly instantly, people appeared dressed in their finest African dress.


President Alpha Conde shakes hands with the Africa Mercy Manging Director, Donovan.

The Guinean Navy Band plays up a storm.

Captain Tim, who was later heard to joke that the Presidents unplanned visit had now freed up the management team from dozens of meetings in the weeks to come.

The President makes his way up the gangway surrounded by his bodyguards. Security was intense with the presence of armed soldiers, holding hands to form a human barricade as the President walked from the French Navy ship to the Africa Mercy. In July 2011 President Alpha Conde survived an assassination attempt. It caused the country of Guinea to come to a standstill threatening it's first democratically elected government in it's fragile, early days. Guinea's government continues to be volatile with the sacking of the Minister of Health several months ago and just last week the shocking shooting murder of the Treasury Chief of Guinea, Aissatou Boiro whose zero tolerance towards corruption left her as a target.

The President adds his signature to the long list of officials, Presidents, Royalty and other dignitaries who have graced the hallways of the M/V Africa Mercy.

President Conde addresses the Africa Mercy crew in the International Lounge in his native language of French. Crew member Emmanuel translates whist the crew, whose ordinary day had ground to a halt, became a captive audience soaking in President Conde's words of encouragement.

After the President finished his speech his security detail was thrown into a spin as he began to work the room, insisting  on shaking dozens of crew members hands. Andrew managed to feature in the nightly Guinean news as the President's visit to the big white hospital ship made headlines.
 

A Presidential visit to the Africa Mercy would not be complete without a visit to the hospital. President Conde in the maxillo-facial ward.

Greeting long stay orthopaedic patient and one of my students, Yaya.

Speaking words of affirmation to another orthopaedic patient.

The Hospitality crew and Head Chef Ken surrounded by their hastily put together, but still professional hor'dourves.

Well done to all those involved in pulling off a last minute Presidential visit with finesse!