Monday, 31 December 2007

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to you, dear reader. Wherever you are, whoever you are, may 2008 be a good year for you and may God's blessings shine upon you. Olly

m/s Queen Victoria

Today the latest Cunard cruise liner, the Queen Victoria, carefully manouvered into the port at dawn and moored alongside our ship. At 90,000 tonnes she is almost six times bigger than the Africa Mercy, and is the second largest ship in the Cunard fleet after the Queen Mary 2. She has only been sailing since 7th December and currently has over 2,000 passengers on board including Sir Jackie Stewart. As soon as her gangways were lowered a jazz band started playing to welcome the passengers ashore, and dozens of coaches and taxis arrived to start shuttling them into the city and to local tourist attractions. She will remain in Santa Cruz tonight, as we all wait with baited breath to see how the Canarians celebrate the arrival of the New Year. Photo of the magnificant Queen Victoria as the sun rises over Santa Cruz. Olly

Silencio Community Church

Yesterday we visited Silencio Community Church in south Tenerife, about one hours drive away from the ship. We were invited by Ken & Caroline Cumming, who used to go to our home church in Luton too. Silencio is a British community, with British shops, restaurants, bars and other businesses and even an Iceland Frozen Food centre which sells frozen traditional British food (even bread). The church does a great job in ministering to the ex-pat population, especially to those in need such as the young homeless and alcohol or drug dependent and those caught up in the sex industry. The churches also do a lot for the sick and bereaved, as the ex-pat population there is significantly older than average. During the service, many people gave their testomanies about how they had been saved during 2007 or about how God had helped them through a particularly hard time, and how they are looking forward to what God has in store for them in 2008. Have a look at the church website - for more details. After church Ken & Caroline took us to a British cafe and treated us to lunch of roast beef and Yorkshire puds. Wonderful! Thanks Ken & Caroline! Olly

Saturday, 29 December 2007

Cruise Ships

Our berth here in Santa Cruz is at the end of the Cruise Ship terminal. Yesterday morning we awoke to find three massive cruise ships alongside us - the Saga Ruby, the Black Watch, and the Thompson Destiny . They left in the night, to be replaced by the even bigger Aida Diva, which is more than four times the size of the Africa Mercy. Its lovely to see these immaculate ships with their glamorous passengers - the Africa Mercy looks positively small and grubby by comparison. Photo of the Aida Diva with her smiley face. Olly

Bigger than SuperWalmart?

Yesterday we went to a Spanish hypermarket called Al Campo, which I reckon is bigger than a SuperWalmart. I swear I couldn't see from one end to another. It even sold tyres. Olly

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Feliz Navidad!

Merry Christmas, or as they say in Spanish, Feliz Navidad! We had a great Christmas - a big turkey dinner with the rest of the crew on Christmas Eve in a beautifully decorated ship's dining room, followed by Christmas Eve service in the International Lounge, followed by putting presents out for our friends outside their cabins, in the usual Mercy Ships tradition. Christmas Day we opened presents, and had a long brunch in the dining room - with hot chocolate croissants, cinnamon rolls and fruit salad, all freshly prepared by our hard working galley crew. We spent the afternoon and evening playing and socialising, before putting the kids to bed. Then Sally and I and most of the adult crew headed for a huge stage that had been temporarily erected in the port, for the 14th annual classical Christmas concert by the Tenerife Symphonic Orchestra, which was attended by thousands of locals, and finished with fireworks. A great closure to the day. Today, Boxing Day, we are hanging out with friends and playing, and this afternoon we will walk to the magnificant park in town for the kids to let off steam and get some fresh air. Olly

Monday, 24 December 2007

Father Christmas visits early

Today, Christmas Eve, the Port Authority arranged for Santa and his Spanish helpers to visit the ship. Prior to his visit the ship's tannoy announced "Attention all crew, Father Christmas has been seen on the dock". It was a very special moment, as most ship kids either haven't seen a visiting Santa before or can't remember seeing one before. Photo of the kids and Spanish Santa and his helpers. Olly

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Santa Cruz de Tenerife

Last night at about midnight we docked in Santa Cruz on the Canary Island of Tenerife, following an uneventful four hour sail from Gran Canaria. We have been given a free berth for all five weeks of our stay here by the port authority at the passenger ship terminal. The ship is overlooked by volcanic mountains on one side, and the deep blue sea on the other. This morning we unloaded the ship's Land Rovers and Nissans, and then began two weeks of ship holiday. The last year in Liberia without any vacation has been extremely tiring for our family, and even more so the last two weeks of dry-dock. The whole ship's crew has welcomed the break, and nearly everyone went into town this afternoon to explore and buy Christmas presents in the warm sun. More later. Olly

Friday, 21 December 2007

I'm blogging this

A while ago I saw a guy wearing a t-shirt like this walking through Broad Street in Monrovia. I wonder if he knows what it means. Olly

Libby is three

Tomorrow Libby is three years old. It has taken her nearly all of the last year to grasp that she is "two" - lets hope it'll be quicker to get her to say "three". She will spend her whole birthday at sea. Photo of her on Watch on the Bridge recently. Olly

We're back onboard

At 10.30pm last night we finally re-boarded the Africa Mercy, four days and eight hours later than expected. Apparantly the ship was almost too big to be pushed back into the water - it is one of the largest ships the Astican Shipyard has handled, and it took five big diggers to do the work. Today the kids are tired and grumpy, and Sally is yearning to be back in a nice hotel again with the other mums. I'm delighted that they're back onboard. We were due to sail to Tenerife this afternoon, but our berth there is still occupied, so we are spending our last night in Las Palmas berthed at the oil terminal before our five hour sail to Tenerife through three or four metre high swell. Tomorrow our two weeks of holiday routine begins, where non-essential functions close and we all get some time off. Photo of the ship fighting its way through three metre swells on the way to Gran Canaria two weeks ago. Olly

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Back soon

We are currently living in a hotel in the tourist resort of Playa Des Ingles on the Island of Gran Canaria, whilst the Africa Mercy spends an extended time in dry dock. Last week a crack was found in one of the propellers, and it is being replaced right now. The ship is scheduled to go back into the water tomorrow, when we will move back on board. In the meantime, we owe great thanks to the RIU Hotel Don Miguel and RIU Hotel Wikiki, who have provided full-board accommodation to 4 ship families absolutely free. Olly

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Dry Dock

On Tuesday, 24 hours later than expected, all 10,000 plus tonnes of the Africa Mercy were lifted out of the water and onto a huge railway wagon, and towed into a parking space by four big diggers. We are at the Astican Shipyard in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. The shipyard guys are pressure washing the hull and respraying it with anti-foul paint and renewing some of the pipes and valves and the sacrificial anodes, whilst our own engineers and deck crew are carrying out other essential maintenance before the ship goes back into the water next week. We are surrounded by eight other ships all doing the same thing, and there is lots of noise and grit from sandblasting. The yard is unable to supply each ship with its usual electricity supply, so we are running on reduced power - there is no air conditioning or even air circulation, no laundry, no hot water at night and no hot meals during the day. Many of the crew have left their stuffy cabins and are now sleeping in cooler public areas. Fortunatly, all the families have been moved off the ship into accomadation at the south end of the island, where the kids spend all day on the climbing frames in the playgrounds. The dads commute an hour back and forth each day until we leave the dry dock early next week. Awesome photo of the Africa Mercy being towed across the shipyard. Olly

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Sits Vac 2008/2009

Volunteer Christian mechanics wanted from mid 2008 to maintain and repair Land Rover Defenders, Nissan Patrols and various other vehicles, to work in West Africa with Christian ship-based medical and relief ministry. Need to raise funds to pay crew fees ($600 US/month), medical insurance, flights and spending money. Email me for more info (with your email address). Olly

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

YWAM Denver shootings

Our prayers are with our friends at the YWAM Denver base, especially our good friends Keri & Angie who were on the Segue course on the Anastasis in 2006 - they are OK but Keri has lost a close friend. We continue to pray that God gives the whole YWAM community there strength to recover from the incident. Olly

Monday, 10 December 2007

Las Palmas shops

If you want to buy clothes in Liberia, you look for a man selling the types you need from a wheelbarrow or a market stall. Some men sell only jeans, others only t-shirts, others only socks, others only bras, etc etc. It makes shopping for specific items very hard - if you can't find a jeans man, you can't buy any jeans. There are virtually no shops that sell clothes. Sally regularly heads into town to buy clothes for the kids, only to come back with only a fraction of what she wanted. So imagine our delight when we were able to explore the shops in Las Palmas, which sell what we want where we'd expect it to be, and make stocking up for the coming year so much easier. Olly

Las Palmas port

We are currently berthed in the port of Las Palmas, on the island of Gran Canaria. I have never seen such a busy port, nor such a mixed variety ship types. Monrovia has one tug which serves nothing but container ships and bulk carriers, whereas Las Palmas has numerous tugs and pilot boats which control container ships, bulk carriers, ferries, cargo ships, yachts, tall ships, fishing boats, navy ships, Coast Guard boats, huge cruise liners and even bigger oil platforms. There is even a Senegalise freighter moored near us, that was recently seized by the Coast Guard as it tried to land illegal West African immigrants onto the island. From our window I can count over 30 shore cranes which are unheard of in most of West Africa. The port's most valuable asset is, however, a lift that can carry ships as much as 30,000 tons (nearly twice the size of the Africa Mercy) out of the water and place them in one of seven workyards. This afternoon we will see the Africa Mercy be lifted into such a yard for annual maintenance. More later on that. Olly

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Schistosoma Mansoni

We currently have some crew-mates with a laboratory-confirmed parasite infection called Schistosoma Mansoni, a parasite quite common in subsaharan Africa. These worm-like parasites are found in fresh water, where they penetrate the skin and then the larvae migrate to different organs of the body, become adult worms and can cause many symptoms which if left untreated can eventually cause organ failure and paralysis or death. There is high evidence that our crew-mates picked up these parasites whilst swimming in Bong Mines Lake in Liberia...which is precisly what we did in August. We now have to undergo a treatment of anti-parasite drugs to ensure we don't develop the symptoms and get sick. Olly

Thursday, 6 December 2007

We've arrived

Have you ever been land-sick? Right now, I definitely feel quite queasy. After six days at sea on a ship that rolls all the time, today we sailed into the port of Las Palmas and now we are moored and the engines have stopped. We could see the port shortly after dawn but we didn't pick up the pilot until late morning, but as we manoeuvred through the busy port the Captain saw that our berth was too small, and we had to go back to sea for a couple of hours, until eventually we made it to a larger and much better berth at the Passenger Ship Terminal which is three kilometres closer to the town than our original berth. We are surrounded by shops, restaurants and bars, and we can even see a Burger King from Deck 7. We are waiting for clearance by Immigration, then we hope we'll be able to go for a stroll ashore. Tomorrow is a regular work day, then we get the chance to explore and relax on Saturday and Sunday before the ships goes into dry-dock on Monday and the really hard work begins as we race against the clock to complete our maintenance and inspections in the allocated dry-dock time. Olly

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Christmas Mail

Our mailing address from now to 26th January:

M/V Africa Mercy – Olly & Sally Peet
Plaza de la Candelaria
Edificio Olimpo, Planta 2, Ofi 284
38003 Santa Cruz de Tenerife

Liberia Marathon

Over the last few weeks, the Academy kids spent every Wednesday evening clocking up miles by running up and down the dock (six lengths equals one mile). Tonight the awards were given for the miles run - Anna ran a total of 5, and Noah ran a total of 10. Five other kids managed a total of 20 miles each. The goal was to run a marathon, like Noah and Anna both did during our time in Liberia in 2005/2006, but I guess they all ran out of time in 2007. Maybe in 2008 they'll reach the 26 mile mark once again. Olly

Last day at sea

Tonight is our last night at sea. We are scheduled to arrive in Las Palmas at 10am tomorrow, and hopefully we'll be able to go for a stroll ashore tomorrow evening after being cleared by Immigration and Customs, and having had an orientation from our Spanish office to remind us about life in the developed world. The sail so far has been great, and we quickly became used to the ship's rolling. We met no particularly bad weather, and it is still quite warm. Thank you for continuing to pray for our safety. Olly

Christmas concert

The Academy had their Christmas Concert on Sunday afternoon. Anna and Noah played their recorders, and Noah was a shepherd in his Jedi cloak and tea-towel head dress. He got to hold the microphone during the songs, so all everyone could hear was his voice above all the other kids. Surprisingly, Anna wasn't an angel, but that will happen on Friday at her class's Nativity Play. Olly

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Advent at sea

Thank you, Rob (and Tom), for the Advent Calendars from England. They are a big hit although Libby wants to eat more than one chocolate every day. Yesterday we helped the Christmas Committee decorate the Town Square, although with limited decorations as most were left on the Anastasis and ended up in India, and also we can't put up too many because they'll fall over with the rocking of the ship. As I write, Noah, Anna and Sally are practicing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" on their recorders. Deep joy for all on Deck 7 Aft. Photo of Libby wanting more. Olly

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Sick crew-mate update

Thank you for praying for our sick crew-mate. She arrived at the hospital in Germany safely and her father is by her side. Her breathing has recovered sufficiently to come off the ventilator. If she continues to make an improvement she will be able to return to the States soon. Please continue to pray that she has no other set-backs or further complications. Olly