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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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Very Special Visitors!


After much anticipation and months of planning we finally welcomed my (Jodie) Mum and Dad on board the Africa Mercy while it was docked in Tenerife. There is something very special about having family on board and being able to give them a portal into this crazy life we lead. Above Jessica stands outside Mum and Dad's guest cabin on deck five of the Africa Mercy. It has long been a tradition on Mercy Ships to decorate the doors of new long term crew, returning short term crew, crew returning from leave and personal guests. When we first arrived in South Africa our door was decked out in various welcome signs and also when we came back from our leave back to Australia.

Mum and Dad's cabin door sign.

Take a peek into a two berth guest cabin. To the left are cupboards and behind the camera is a kitchenette. To the right is the bathroom. Crew couple cabins are larger than this with a double bed, a lounge area and more cupboard space. As personal guest of the Africa Mercy Mum and Dad got the nice fluffy towels and tea and coffee making facilities. It is much like a small hotel room.

Taking Mum and Dad on a tour of the ship with Jessica (Andy was at work). Up on deck 8 overlooking the mountains of Tenerife.

Mum and Dad's first 50 cent frappe at Starbucks Cafe in Town Square which is in the middle of the ship on deck five.

Ok so I mentioned that Tenerife was a lot about the food. Check out these cakes-the most expensive was about $2.00 AUD.

Here we are at Monkey Park, a little zoo filled with all kinds of animals but specialising in all kinds of exotic monkeys. There are enclosed areas where you can walk freely amongst giant turtles, lemurs and very large and scary looking lizards. It was fantastic to be so up close and personal!

Jess feeding some of the monkeys leaves from outside their enclosure that they really had a taste for. I wonder what kind of leaves they were????

Mum and Dad's tapas-true Spanish fare from a lovely place at Los Cristianos.

Andrew giving Mum and Dad (and me) and engine room tour. We all have ear plugs because it is very loud down in the bowels of the ship. It is amazing what is down there-who knew??

Cool part of the tour-walking up the stairs through the Africa Mercy's funnel. There were a lot of stairs!!

We took Mum and Dad on a day trip to spectacular Mt Teide, a still active volcano in the centre of the island of Tenerife. Mt Teide is Spain's highest mountain towering at 3,718 metres and is the third highest volcano in the world! Mt Teide is located in Tiede National Park, one of the world's most visited national parks with a total of 2.8 million visitors per year. The landscape ranged from  glorious pine trees and lush vegetation at a relatively chilly 17 degrees to sparse, volcanic lunar rocks at the baking temperature of close to forty degrees. It was breathtaking!

Andrew always likes to have a photo of the rental car.

Jess and Mum (below) on some of the rocky outcrops that were prominent as we went towards the volcano summit. The only way to access the peak of Tiede is to walk or to catch the overpriced cable car. Needless to say, we didn't make the summit!


The landscape around Mt Teide reminded me of the Grand Canyon and the deserts of California and Arizona. Rock alone can be ugly and boring but a huge rock perched at such a precarious angle seemingly defying gravity becomes a thing of beauty at this most famous of lookouts at Mt Tiede-Roques de Garcia. In winter the peak of Mt Teide is covered in snow despite the warmer temperatures below. 

Mum and Jess have such a special bond!

My  Dad who climbed rather high at the Roques de Garcia  lookout in order to claim this shot!

Another fun fact about Tenerife are the tidal pools and the crazy Spaniards who swim in and around them. This one was located at Peurto de la Cruz. The waves crash over the top of the retainer walls and there are jagged rocks everywhere but the Spaniards take it all in their stride and jump on in anyway.

Take a good look at this photo of the beautiful coastline of Peurto de la Cruz. Inside that rock wall is a restaurant. The food wasn't crash hot but it was worth it to just about feel the ocean spray on your face! We sat in the third window along. Photo below taken with camera resting on the ledge of the window.


Mum and Jess pose on one of the disused cannons in Peurto de la Cruz that were once used to help defend the Tenerife coastline.

Another natural phenomena of the Canary Islands as well as tidal pools, a volcano and sand sand beaches. You can only imagine how hot black sand gets at around 35 degrees! Ouch. Mum and Jess have a paddle. One look at the condition of the kids and their bathers was enough for me to stop Jess going for a swim. She wasn't too fussed about turning from white to back either.

Mum and Jessica's feet after about ten minutes on the black sand beach.

The mother of all trees-the ever popular 1000 year old dragon tree located at the quaint town of Icod. Check it out on Google Earth!

C'mon Aussies, have you ever seen a lamb shank like this??? And at half the price you would pay in Oz!! I cannot say how mouthwatering this was after not having any lamb for six months and the thought of no lamb for the next ten months ahead. I was in lambie heaven!!

Each time the Africa Mercy goes into dry dock in Tenerife, the islands of the Canaries make generous concessions to Mercy Ships. Above Mum and Jess at Loro Park, similar to Seaworld but without the rides and many more animals, who donated heavily discounted tickets to Mercy Ships crew for us to enjoy some down time.

 Car parking and picnic spots are somewhat lacking in the Canary Islands so here we are enjoying a concrete picnic at a small harbour in Los Gigantes participating in the European way of meat and cheese in a baguette. What you don't see is that we are sitting at the base of the spectacular Los Gigantes Cliffs, Acantilados de Los Gigantes, that rise from the sea to a height of 500-800 metres.
We loved having my parents on board a showing them a little of the weird and wonderful life we live and we enjoyed the Canary Islands very much from the kitchy souvenir shops to the soaring mountains, the cobbled streets to the amazing cakes, the temperate climate to the rocky tidal pools and the baguettes to the beaches! See you again next year! (We hope!!)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The AFM gets a Check Up!

Every two years the Africa Mercy needs to go to the doctor. Just like you and me, as the ships ages, it needs regular check ups. In order to have these check ups the ship needs to be lifted right out of the water to expose the hull. Unfortunately this cannot be done in West Africa and so we have to travel to a developed nation where they have special facilities for us to dry dock. Above is a birds eye view of the Africa mercy being pulled by tugs into it's dry dock berth.

The Africa Mercy high and dry.

Check out the huge propellers!

A close up of the tracks holding the Africa Mercy upright. they also allow the ship to be able to move forward, backward as well as left and right. After about a week and a half in dry dock the Africa Mercy had to move to one side to allow another ship into it's place.

One of the regular dry dock jobs is the cleaning of the barnacles off the hull.

On of the main reasons we went into dry dock this time around is to make essential repairs to the A/C units. To do this, a large hole had to be cut in the hull so the A/C units could be pulled in and out. We hope and pray that the holes were welded up very well-lol.

Andrew is so strong that he can hold up the ship by the propeller one handed!!! You can see how large the propellers are compared to the average male!

Just to get a better idea of the magnitude and importance of the dry dock phase, check out this clip!

What happens to the crew when he ship is in dry dock I hear you asking?? Well a large percentage take the opportunity to go on leave, many short term crew finish up their time and the remaining singles and couples stay living on board. However, maritime regulations state that children cannot live on board a ship when it is in dry dock due to the many occupational  hazards present.

The families who are left are board are required to stay in alternate accommodations. So we went off to a hotel which became our home for almost three weeks. The ship's dry dock berth was on another island of the Canary Islands called Gran Canaria. The Africa Mercy sailed from Tenerife straight into the berth, about a five hour sail. We took the Armas island commuter ferry (above) with all the ship's land rovers. The Armas ferry was just about the same size as the Africa Mercy but we made the sail in about three hours. The journey was a bit on the rocky side and I spent most of the time there and back feeling quite ill. Those on the Africa Mercy suffered more so with reports of hardened deckies throwing up.

The Africa Mercy land rovers all lined up ready to dive onto the Armas ferry.

Andy driving our landy on the ferry.

Relaxing on the ferry ride. Most of the mums who are ship's drivers drove one of the land rovers but they were short a few drivers so Andrew was able to take the day off work to help out. He looks very sad about it, don't you think??

Me as we sail out of Tenerife port right past the Africa Mercy which departed a day after us.

Goodbye AFM!


What a fascinating island Gran Canaria was! From the lunar landscape to volcanic rocks and black sand beaches. We didn't get too much time to look around as Andrew had to make the two hour round trip to the ship and back to our hotel evey day along with the other technical family guys. They left around 5:45am and got back around 6:45pm. I am not a ship's driver so I had to rely on the generousity of others who were going out or wait until the weekends to do some exploring with Andrew. Above are cactuses that are a common sight around the Canary Islands due to it's temperate climate all year round.

On one of our drives we discovered this amazing, man made beach, Playa de los Amadores . Perfect white sand, aquamarine waters and lots of interesting people watching to be had here! This is where I spotted Academy award winning actor Forest Whitaker

Another unique feature of Gran Canaria was the tunnels. Why build a highway over a mountain or hill when you can just drill right through it??

More amazing landscape-the sand dunes. You could even go on a camel ride!

The families were divided up amongst several hotels. Much of the accomodation was donated to Mercy Ships. On a few occasions we met up with the other mums at a local park. The kids had a ball and it was great for us all to catch up. It was kind of wierd living apart from those you see every day of your life. We are really like a crazy kind of extended family!

Our home for three weeks. Jess slept about a metre from the foot of mine and Andrew's bed. It was very romantic!

Our hotel had a kids club as well as plenty of other acivities offered througout the day. Above Jessica and others dance at the mini disco which happened every night.

Last night of kids club. The ship kids grew pretty fond of the leaders and they grew pretty fond of our kids too! We had a wonderful time on Gran Canaria, definitely a once in a lifetime experience!

After much hard work by our technical department, Mercy teams and projects teams The Africa Mercy completed her big check up and passed her physical with the various surveyors with flying colours, ready to sail back to West Africa to do what she does best! A hospital ship filled with crew from all nations representing, through Jesus, the face of love in action.