We are a family of three; Andrew, Jodie and Jessica (aged 18) from Tasmania, Australia who are currently serving in Douala, Cameroon, Central 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 Africa home, as we seek to bring hope and healing to the poorest of the poor.

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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Big Night Out No 1.!

In June I was invited to a Dental Department dinner to farewell Chief Dental Officer, Dag Tvedt and his wife Jorid. After three years on the Africa Mercy they were headed back to Norway with their three kids, Linde, Bendik and Fride. We went to a "charming" little African restaurant/disco called 555 Spot. The music was so loud we could barely talk and the furniture, perched on the dirt floor, was a bit on the rustic side but Andrew and I hadn't been out at night for six months so we didn't care!

Surprise! Gini, Head of the Dental Department shows her great sense of humour by photo bombing us!

Margaret-Dental Sterilizer day worker all dressed in her African finest.


To add to the evening's entertainment we had several street sellers come in with their wares. This guy thought it was his lucky day after he sold a heap of ties to us. He insisted on me taking his photo! Maybe restaurants in Australia could start this trend-shopping while you wait for your meal and I'm not taking about the Salvo's magazine!

Like most West African eateries, what is on the menu is not always what is on the menu and it pays to have at least three other choices in your heard when ordering! But you can pretty much count on the staples of chicken, fish and rice. This is my meal above-fried chicken, chips, plantains and salad topped with tomato sauce. Andrew had "meat on a stick" which turned out to be pretty spicy! See below but minus the "stick".

Dag sporting his new tie and holding his gift from the dental day workers-leather shoes and an African shirt.

With the "doof doof" pounding there was much merriment and dancing. It was a wonderful, memorable night. We miss you Tvedt family!

Captain's Award!

Super proud of this award! Every now and then, in a totally random fashion, the cabins are inspected by crew from hospitality with their checklists. A little while ago our cabin was amoungst those inspected and we won the Captain's Award for best cabin of the day. We all got a free drink from Starbucks. I thought all three drinks were rightfully mine but I decided to be a sport and share! The award is now immortalized on our fridge!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Graduation-Jessica this time!

In June we celebrated alongside the Class of 2010-2011 at the Mercy Academy's End of Year Celebration. The children entered the International Lounge by class all dressed up, to the strains of U2's "It's a Beautiful Day".

The Elementary School Choir sang beautifully as did the pre-school class. They were very cute!

Every class teacher presented their students with a certificate with a bible verse and a character trait that they thought matched the student. Jessica received the trait of "Helpfulness". Her bible verse was 1 John 3:18 "Dear Children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth". Above are Jessica's 4th/5th grade class with teacher Miss Danae. 

The girls-Jessica, Anna, Fride, Kylie.  Anna and Fride have since left the ship with their families. It was a sad loss to the Academy and the ship as they paid tribute to, and farewelled many teachers and three long term families admidst the celebrations of the morning.
But the good news is that Jess has finally made it to grade 6!!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The End of an Era!

Above-Boutique regular Emmanuel.

The start of June was the end of managing the Boutique for me. This job was one of highs and lows. From the moment the door of the Boutique was opened for me in South Africa and I saw the mountains of stuff to be sorted out, I knew I was going to have my work cut out! It took me a week to sort everything into boxes on the floor to prepare for sail. I was given a spare cabin to help sort/store things in that I thought I had use of until March. However, two days before we sailed I was told that I had to get everything out of the cabin! So with the help of about five people from crew services we lifted everything from the cabin into the Boutique, creating chaos. I was pretty proud of myself that nothing shifted during the sail.

Once we arived in Sierra Leone the hard work continued. I had a week to get that place up and running! With donations continually coming in, I desperately sorted, stacked, folded, hung, cleaned, labelled, lugged and lifted. The doors opened to a flood of people and the Boutique continued to thrive. The record stood at 55 people in two hours one Monday evening! Sometimes this job was lonely, boring, repetitive and always hot. But the rewards were great. After arriving with only one bag of 23kg each it was nice to be able to pick up some things to make our life a bit easier and to transform our house into a home. I got to know so many of the crew and it was such a joy to bless them and other departments around the ship. I was also able to get a large amount of clothing and several baby items out into the community. Thank you to Gina and Lawrence, James and Alice. Thanks also to Clementine for delivering all the clothing to the ladies on the wards.

Regular -Gideon




My favoutie regular-James. You always put a smile on my face!

The last night.

The day before the grand opening-where it all began! Farewell Boutique!

Thank you to all the wondeful people who wrote anonymous notes on my whiteboard and those who bought me things. Thanks Dara for the iced coffees, Jess for the frappe, Megan for coffee, Ganesh for the fabulous dahl and curries, James for your wonderful singing and everyone who gave me lots of hugs! You made it worth while!

My sweetest note......

Monday, July 25, 2011

Seafood Feast!

Lobster is a bit out of our league in Australia but in Sierra Leone lobster comes at a much cheaper price. A while ago we went the the Team House for the day and we came away with fresh BBQ lobster for our dinner back on the ship. Thanks Chris! They were huge babies too!

All prepared to BBQ.

Cooked and ready to eat! Yum!

The Team House pool was a bit green but beggars can't be choosers so we all went in (nearly). We just kept our mouths shut-lol. Jess and Andrew above.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Africa Mercy Angels

At every port the Africa Mercy docks in, locals are employed as day workers to help fill the gaps, more like gaping holes, left in the many of the ship's departments such as engineering, housekeeping, hospital, dining room and galley, that cannot be filled by live in crew due to lack of bed space. It is also our way of establishing rapport and relationship with the local people in each country that we visit. They are paid $5USD per day which is right on average for an NGO and well above the national  average wage. 
These are photos of the Crew Services day workers. I may not work in Crew Services anymore but I love chatting with them and having a bit of fun. Here they are all dressed up waiting to hear their President during his visit. Above is Nancy with her beautiful smile.

Stunning Esther.

Lovely Mama Mimih.

Sleepy Sama. These guys have to get up at 5:00am to get to the ship ready to start work at 8:00am. They work hard scrubbing and polishing the ship all day and many of them have to go home to their children, cooking, cleaning and washing of their own. Some of the day workers are even studying. Margaret the dental sterilizer day worker often falls asleep too. But she recently passed her exams to become a registered nurse, which will be a great blessing to her people.

David-a young man of God.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Middle East Unveiled.

This semester the grade 4/5 class of the Mercy Ships Academy were required to do a written and oral presentation on a particular continent. Jessica did her presentation on South Western Asia (The Middle East) and North Africa. She worked very hard for months researching and writing out notes. The final result was a nine page written assignment and a 40 minute oral presentation. Jess is all dressed up (above) in her Middle Eastern robes (courtesy the Boutique).

Jess talking about her pictures.

Jess played a game where she divided her class into teams of two. Each team had two minutes to wrap one of it's members in toilet paper aka an Egyptian Mummy. The kids had great fun and Jess and her teacher, Miss Danae judged the results. The prize-well a very pyramid like Toblerone chocolate!

Jess and I made some Middle Eastern food for her classmates to try. This may sound easy but let's just say finding chickpeas, tahini, garlic and lemon juice to make hummus and cous cous in Sierra Leone was a bit of a challenge! Luckily most of the ex-pat supermarkets are owned by Lebanese so not only did we get the ingedients but they were actually imported from the Middle East. The genuine product! We saved some pita bread from Mexican night in the dining room the week beforehand and froze it. You really have to be creative here!

 I have never made hummus before and I must admit I over garlic-ed it and it stunk out Jessica's whole classroom however the kids loved it and lapped it up. It was making me nauseous just watching-lol.

After Jessica handed out bowls of cous cous she had a question and answer time. I was marginally embarrased that as she was answering the questions she was stuffing her face with left over cous cous and talking with her mouth full! Jess did a wonderful job though and got and A+. Well done Jess (and Mum!!)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The President is in the House! (or ship)

In May the Africa Mercy welcomed on board the President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma and the Vice President, Samuel Sam-Sumana. The ship was spit and polished and all crew were required to be in smart dress outside of their cabins. We were all invited to the International Lounge to hear the President address the crew, media and other dignitaries. The President was several hours late and kept security on their toes. Our cabin happens to be right opposite the International Lounge, Starboard side-right where the President and his entourage were to walk. We were either to be in or out of our cabin. Jess was at school but Andrew and I vacated to a friend's cabin a deck up. Above are Andrew and friend Ray in dress uniform.

Andrew gained a stripe on his epaulette bumping him up to officer status. He was most pleased!

Jessica's friend-nine year old Liberian born, Deborah handing flowers to the Vice President on the dock.

Captain Tim Trethaway welcomes President Ernest Koroma on board the Afrcia Mercy.

President Koroma visiting the ward and greeting a patient.

Vice President Sam-Sumana.

The President entering the International Lounge to give his address. We all dressed up and had to stand while the President and his body guards walked in and sat down.

Addressing the crew. In his speech the President thanked Mercy Ships for the wonderful work being performed in his country for his people.

The President and Vice President leaving the ship.

Minders running alongside the Presidents car as it departs the port.

Around 22 vehicles accompained the President, Vice President and Minister of Health who was also in attendance. There were plenty of soldiers with their AK47's. It was an interesting day to say the least! How many times in your life do you get to listen to a President?