Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Happy New Year

Happy New Year, dear reader. We hope you have a lovely evening, and a great New Years Day tomorrow. Tonight, we are having a ball in the Africa Mercy's International Lounge, at at midnight we will watch the Port's spectacular firework display from Deck 8, and be thrilled at the sound of all the ship's horns welcoming in 2009. Until next year then! Olly

Libby Language

Libby's language is quite entertaining. My favourite example is that she talks about going to lunch at "Old McDonalds" instead of "McDonalds". There are many other examples, but I can't remember them now. Olly

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Mirky drinking water

The rough sail from Liberia to Tenerife revealed that our water tanks are long overdue for a good clean. The movement of the ship stirred up a lot of sediment that sits at the bottom of these tanks, making our drinking water less than appealing. The photo (courtesy of Drew Rawson, our Waterman) shows drinking water AFTER it has been through filters. Libby called it "water-juice" because of its colour. Olly

Are we rain gods?

I told our kids the other day that it never rains in Tenerife. How wrong could I be? It drizzled on Christmas Day (most un-typical of Tenerife)...and today we opened the curtains to find real European rain - not the torrential short lived rain of West Africa, but the miserable, long-lasting cold rain that soaks you to the skin and makes you cold. So I think we'll have a day on the ship. Our Deckies are trying to unload shipping containers on the dock today - poor guys. Olly

The best sausage and chips south of the UK?

On Sunday after church in Coral Mar Shopping Centre in Silencio (which was brilliant, by the way, Bill!), we climbed one flight of stairs to Stella's English Cafe, where Stella fried us a variety of sausage and chip meals (sausage, chips & beans; sausage egg & chips; sausage & chips etc). The sausages were the best we've tasted in years - a beautiful combination of fat and breadcrumbs that only us Brits know and love. The chips were home-made and magnificant, and even the beans and eggs tasted better than anything we can remember. And we had great company too - Drew & Laura (from the ship) and Ken & Caroline (from Silencio) ate with us, and we enjoyed chatting to other ex-pat Brits in the warm sun, about their lives in Tenerife. Long live Stella's Cafe! Olly

Friday, 26 December 2008

Boxing Day, and a new berth

Despite being Boxing Day (and a ship holiday), the Port asked us to move the Africa Mercy this morning from the cement terminal to the cruise-ship terminal. A handful of volunteers and I moved our 17 Land Rovers and Nissans the 8 kilometers around the port, whilst the ship moved the few hundred yards from the end of the East Pier, across the open water of port entrance, to the end of the West Pier. And what a difference such a short move had made - we are now on an immaculate dock, surrounded by cruise ships and tourists, and are only a short walk from the city centre.

We are now at the northern tip of the Av de Francisco La Roche pier, shown yellow on the map. Our previous berth was on the southern tip of the un-marked pier shown white, to the NE on the map. Olly

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Christmas Day in Liberia

We just phoned our friends in Monrovia. Our hearts and minds are with them as we are so far removed from them. It seems a malaria epidemic is sweeping the nation - our friend Gary is just recovering, and both Musu and Samual are just starting treatment. Can you pray for those we left behind, especially the Dunseath family, the Ecklund family, the Shank family, the Chapman family, and Musu and her family. Olly

Christmas Day on the Africa Mercy

Whilst we were asleep last night, Father Christmas and his elves were busy at work. We awoke to find the kids stockings full of useful things like shower gel, a toothbrush, a bath sponge and candy, and outside our cabin door was a pile of presents from other Africa Mercy crew (as is the ancient Mercy Ships tradition). We had our traditional Christmas meal last night (turkey, ham, green bean casserole etc) before the Christmas Eve service, and this morning we had a long brunch (ham, eggs, cheese, sausages, fruit, breads etc). Photo of Noah and Anna in the corridor outside our cabin surrounded by gifts. Olly

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas, dear reader. We hope you have a lovely day. And don't forget, Jesus is the reason for the season. Olly

Our temporary berth

Our temporary berth at the cement dock in the industrial part of the port of Santa Cruz is turning out not to be quite so temporary. We were going to move to the empty cruise ship dock on Monday morning, then Monday afternoon, then Tuesday morning, then Tuesday evening (you get the picture)...Last night the first of our supply containers arrived; this morning another came, and we have started pumping fresh water aboard, so it looks like we will remain at this berth (6 kms from town) until after Christmas. If we ever move to the cruise ship dock we will only have 1km to walk into town, along an immaculate wharf; in the meantime we have to walk 1km to the nearest bus stop along a wharf covered in cement dust, navigating cement hoppers and loaders, moored bunker barges, and a moored oil rig. Still, mustn't grumble. As long as you've got your health (etc etc)...Olly

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Christmas Play

Last Wednesday, at the height of the storm during our sail north, the kids in the Africa Mercy's Academy performed their Christmas play. Libby was a cow (photo below with Daniel, the other cow)...
And Noah was Joseph, photo below with Josie as Mary, with the cows and a donkey (Mirium)...

And Anna was an Angel (photo below with Joyce).

They all did well! Olly

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Chinese company promises 2.6 billion dollar iron deal to Liberia

A Chinese conglomerate has promised to spend 2.6 billion dollars on Liberia's main iron ore mine in the biggest investment ever made in the African nation, Investment Minister Richard Tolbert told AFP on Saturday. Tolbert said the China Union company had promised that within 12 months it will have built a one million tonne a year capacity refining factory at the Bong iron mines, about 150 kilometers (95 miles) north of Monrovia. "It is the highest investment in our country's history. They have already won the bid in a transparent manner and we are now concluding the signing of the contract," Tolbert said in an interview. The minister said China Union would give the government 40 million dollars just to sign the contract in January. "This is the highest amount any company ever gave us upon the conclusion of our negotiations. This is the cash the government will receive, to begin to fix the infrastructures of this country, and some of the social needs of our people." He said there would be 3,000 jobs created by the project with up to 15,000 following indirectly. "That is within two to three years. In the long term they have assured us that the direct jobs could be as many as 10-15,000, and the indirect ones as higher as 70,000." For full article click here.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Tenerife sunrise

Santa Cruz de Tenerife is a beautiful and spectacular city to spend a few weeks in. The port is sheltered by steep cliffs to the west, and each morning we see an amazing sunrise to the east from our cabin windows. Today we spent the whole day in the city, primarily enjoying the beautiful parks and playgrounds. The place has a very Mediterranean feel about it, thanks to the very strong Spanish culture.
Above, sunrise silhouetting the neighbouring island of Gran Canaria.

Above, the port facing South. The city is hemmed in on 3 sides
by mountains, with the sea to the fourth side.

Above, the port facing North

Above, Santa Cruz's wonderful Botanical Gardens at the Parque Garcia Sanabria, which is also very child friendly - amongst all the immaculatly maintained vegetation and fountains are three childrens play grounds. Olly

Friday, 19 December 2008

Tenerife Day 1

It's been a busy day. After an early start, Moses and I washed 12 Land Rovers and 5 Nissan Patrols, and then we helped the Deckies (God bless 'em) unload them all, leaving 9 of our older Land Rovers up on Deck 8. Thus we have provided 158 opportunities (ie the number of seats between all 17 vehicles) for crew to get away from the ship and travel the 6 kms into town. I am delighted to have our department up and running again. This is probably the most boring blog entry I have ever written in my life. Please feel free to comment and reassure me otherwise. Olly

Reverse Culture Shock

Since we joined Mercy Ships in 2003, I reckon we have been exposed to Reverse Culture Shock six times. I felt it most after our first Outreach to Liberia in 2005 - I remember standing in McDonalds in East London (South Africa), and having to work hard to control my emotions. Three years later, we seem to have become quite immune to the condition (such is the very nature of living on a Mercy Ship and returning to the developed world once a year). Today, as soon as the kids finished school, we headed for the local hypermarket, and thoroughly enjoyed immersing ourselves in the fresh fruit aisle. We saw more beautiful fruit in ten minutes than in 4 years in Liberia! Sally has just got the Tenerife fruit bowl out, and filled it with real (not mango) plums, yellow (not green) bananas, and orange (not green) oranges. Olly

Santa Cruz de Tenerife

The Pilot came on the ship at 6am this morning, and we are just mooring as I write (7.20am). Our real berth is still not available for another couple of days, so we are in the industrial port until then, surrounded by the cranes and hoppers that the bulk carriers use to discharge their cement clinker into trucks. We are miles and miles away from the main city - probably a good hour's walk, so maybe we won't get to see much of it until we move nearer. In the distance, on the other side of the port, we can see three big cruise ships. In the meantime I guess we will spend the day unloading gangways, vehicles etc. It's great to be on an even keel again. Olly

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Christmas activities on the sail

To alleviate the boredom and to prepare for the fast approach of Christmas, we've had a couple of activities to keep the kids quiet...

Above, at Kids Craft Night, Libby and Aly are putting beads on pipecleaners...

Above at the Cookie Bake, Libby and Aly are covering themselves with flour and eating cookie dough until they felt ill (or was that the rough seas?)...

And Santa came to visit. Olly

Day 6 at sea

We woke after a good nights sleep to calmer seas, with hardly any wind, and a beautiful sunrise. Hallelujah! It put us in a very "Tenerife" mood - the sea and sky and sunrise and air temperature all remind us that Tenerife is not very far away. Technically we should be there by now, but the storm slowed us down a bit, and yesterday we learnt that the Spanish Navy have taken over our berth, so our arrival has been delayed until Friday morning. So, hopefully, this will be our last day at sea! Olly

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Day 5 at sea

Guess what? Its still choppy, and the ship is still rolling all over the place. We were woken a couple of times by things falling off shelves, and things banging against the walls. This morning I spent only a few minutes on Deck 8, but came back inside freezing cold with a headache from the wind - I guess its not really all that cold (after all, we are now off the coast of Western Sahara, which is still Africa!), but the wind makes it feel very cold and wintry. This sail seems to be going on forever; it will be such a relief to get to Tenerife, so we can open our cupboards up again and put away the things that have been cluttering up the cabin for days. Olly

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Day 4 at sea

The weather is a lot cooler today, with more cloud cover and a fierce wind blowing saltwater spray all over the ship (which is absolutely coating the vehicles on Deck 8 with salt). Sea still choppy, which the Africa Mercy really can't handle very well. I find the constant effort of compensating for the ships movement to be very tiring, and I'm falling asleep every evening by 7pm. And today we seem to be losing satellite connections a lot, so every email takes ages to send out. We are only moving at about 10 knots, so will probably arrive in Tenerife a day later than expected. Too bad. Olly

Monday, 15 December 2008

Day 3 at sea

The sea is still rough (in our opinion!) although the waves are less viscious and the ship is pitching less. Our sleep was still disturbed with things banging and crashing around us, and the bed actually bouncing around due to the shaking of the whole ship as it crashed back down again into the water, but Sally & Noah are feeling much better today. Thanks for your prayers. Olly

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Day 2 at sea

Weather conditions deteriorated during the night, and the ship is now pitching into a big sea. Thankfully it is not rolling from side to side; most movement is from bow to stern. We just did some Christmas Cookie decorating in the Dining Room, which overlooks the bow, and we all feel very sick now - Sally has vomited and Noah is flat on his back and looks like he will be joining her shortly. Our cabin as right aft, and is bucking alarmingly, so we may have to camp out mid-ships with the other refugees from aft before too long. The weather forecast is the same for the next 24 hours. Yippee. Olly

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Sailing again

Thus our six-day sail to Tenerife has begun. The weekend of forced relaxation for many of us gives us the chance to reflect on our time in Liberia, and relax. As I write, we are somewhere off the coast of Sierra Leone; the sea is calm, the sky is clear and the sun is hot. The sea is a wonderful deep blue, and our wake is totally white. We have seen one school of dolphins so far, and expect to see many more over the next few days. On Monday we'll all go back to work - I'll be tinkering with our Land Rovers and Nissans on Deck 8, and the kids will be in school for the last week of term before the Christmas holidays begin. Olly

And finally from Liberia

Yesterday we left Liberia on the Africa Mercy, along with 294 other crew. It goes without saying that we will miss the country, and all the friends we made there. We will return one day, to see Libby's birth place, and what progress has been made. Olly

Above: the empty dock (the scene of so much activity over the past ten months), minutes before we sailed, with a few friends to wave us off.

INTERPOL to help in Liberia's prison break

INTERPOL is to deploy its Incident Response Team (IRT) to Liberia to support the national law enforcement authorities in a chase and capture of some more than 100 fugitives following the escape of 202 prisoners from the capital's South Beach prison. The team which will also beef up the INTERPOL National Central Bureau in Monrovia, will help in capturing the 151 prisoners said to be still at large. 51 of the fugitives have already been arrested following quick action by Liberian authorities. The fugitives, who have been convicted of a range of crimes including murder and attempted murder, armed robbery, theft, burglary and rape, are said to be posing a clear threat to public safety. For full article click here.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Nepalese Medal Parade -v- At Sea Emergency Drills

Yesterday Sally and I (and several others) were honoured to receive an invitation to the neighbouring Nepalese Armed Police base for their annual Medal Parade Ceremony. The invitation was delivered to Sally buy one of our own Nepalese Ghurkas; the ceremony will be quite grand, with a guest appearance by the UN's Special Representative to the Secretary General and other dignified guests...Sadly, we can't go, which is a big shame as the Nepalese have been our close friends for the last 3 Field Services here, and have allowed us to use their parade ground for games and sports events. Instead, we will be enjoying more drills and a stowaway search before we sail out of Liberia (sometime)...Olly

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Drill, drill, drills!

Two days before we sail! Plenty of drills to enjoy! Olly

Gateway Kids

Here's the latest photo of the Peet/Chapman/Eveleens kids, who first met over 5 years ago on (in September 2003) in Texas, where we all were attending our Mercy Ships Gateway course.
How they've grown! Olly

Top row (left to right): Anna Peet, Lauren Chapman, Joyce Eveleens.
Bottom row: Noah Peet, Taylor Chapman.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Last dance in Liberia

Last night Anna and her friends danced for the last time in Liberia. They performed to "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" in the Africa Mercy's Mid Ships Lounge, directed by Chenel & Carys (two big girls!). Soon many of the dancers will be going in separate directions - Lauren and Kaitlyn will remain in Liberia, and Joyce will be going home to Holland.

Left to right: Lauren (USA), Joyce (Holland), Josie (Ghana), Jana (Germany), Anna (UK), Fride (Norway) and Kaitlyn (USA)


This week loading of the Africa Mercy began in earnest in preparation for our departure from Liberia at the weekend. Amongst the things going onto Deck 8 are 26 vehicles, 4 shipping-containers, a drilling rig, 4 trailers, and tons of scaffolding used by the construction teams. Photo taken from our cabin window of a Land Rover mid-flight. Olly

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

State Funeral

Today I witnessed the procession of the State Funeral of Senator Isaac Johnson of River Gee County. It was headed by a police pick-up with flashing lights & sirens, followed by an empty hearse, and then a big flat-bed truck, draped in purple, displaying the Senator's coffin covered in the Liberian flag. This was follwed by dozens and dozens of mourners lead by many brand news Republic of Liberia cars and pick-ups, and then some of his more distant friends, relatives and business associates (judging by the increasing age of the cars at the back of the line)...The whole procession took ages to pass, and was quite a spectacle. Olly

School photos again

Here are the kids latest school photos:


...and her class.


...and her class.


...and his class.

And the whole Academy (nearly 50 children and a dozen teachers). Olly


On Monday afternoon 202 prisoners broke out of Monrovia's Central Prison, leaving another 600 behind. A jail-break of such proportions is of no surprise to me - I only visited the prison once over a year ago, but thought that security was poor and a coordinated rush by a large number of prisoners would be successful. The guys that are left behind will be grateful for the space provided by those escaping, before it is filled up following the orgy of looting that happens every year around Christmas as desperate men steel things to buy food for their families. Currently, 32 of the 202 escapees have been re-captured. The city is in a high state of alert, with road blocks at frequent intervals and all available Police and UN personnel involved in searching for the escapees. Meanwhile, the Africa Mercy's Prison Ministry team was called upon to deliver emergency food supplies to the prison, as the escapees raided the food stores on their way to freedom, leaving the remaining 600 inmates hungry. Our Prison Ministry delivered 6 sacks of rice to the prison yesterday via the Prison Fellowship.Olly

Monday, 1 December 2008

Farewells begin

Yesterday our kids said goodbye to their good friends, the Dunseath kids. Here they are after their showers before we headed back to the ship. Noah was trying very hard to hold back the tears...Back row, left to right: Anna, Micah, Jedediah, Noah. Front row, left to right: Matea, Libby, Hadassah.