Saturday, 31 October 2009

Happy 10th birthday, Noah

Ten years ago today, Sally and I were walking our dog around the YWAM base in Harpenden when her waters broke, one whole month before her due date. Thus along came Noah, at 8.08pm in Hemel Hempstead General Hospital, weighing 6lb 7oz. Today, we celebrated his birthday at Babs Dock, along with 50 other crew and had a great day in the sun. The highlight of the day (and his real coming-of-age) was when he was able to serve himself in the food line at dinner for the first time ever!

Photo of Noah blowing out candles on his Lego themed birthday cake (made by Sally), last night on board the Africa Mercy. Olly

Friday, 30 October 2009

Unfortunate accidents

Thanks to my good friend Torbjorn in Norway, who sent me this email which includes a photo of the Torm Alexandra capsizing in Liberia in 2004. Olly

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Three years in Africa

25th October 2009 marked my three years anniversary since I was last in the UK. I flew into Liberia on my own, and Sally and the kids joined me 3 weeks later after I'd spent some time fixing up the house we were due to live in...although we still had to wait a further 3 weeks before we could move into it. Ah, memories...Olly

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Giant fruit competition

Yesterday was the Peet family's 2009 Annual Giant Fruit or Vegetable Competition. Pictured is Libby holding the winning entry - a giant papaya. It will provide fresh fruit for countless thousands of people in Benin (well, 5 actually). Olly

Sunday, 25 October 2009


Yesterday we visited one of Cotonou's two fun fairs, Magic Land, near the airport. Entry was only $1 each, and the rides were the same - a whole lot cheaper than anything in the UK. This was Libby's first time in a fun fair, and it's been over 3 years since Noah and Anna went on one too. The rides were in fairly good condition, and on the small-and-safe size - just perfect for Libby! Below - little cars (Libby thought she was steering)...

a swing-boat (with an absolutely terrifying plastic bull in the background - she couldn't even look at it!)...

a helicopter...

an elevator thingy (which only N&A wanted to go on)...

and bumper cars (which Libby was scared of too)...

I found the rather graphic sign for the gent's toilet quite amusing.

A good afternoon out! Olly

Friday, 23 October 2009

Dredger FINALLY gone!

On 17th August I reported that the dredger Argonaut I had arrived to dredge the port of Cotonou. She departed on Wednesday 21st October - for two whole months she went backwards and forwards, sucking up silt, which she then dumped way out at sea. A vital job, but mind bogglingly boring for her crew. Bye bye Argonaut I. Olly

Congratulations, Liberia!

Congratulations, Mama Liberia. In the five years we have known you, you have crawled your way from the bottom of the UN's Human Development Index up to place 169 (out of 182). Below you lies only Guinea, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Burundi, Chad, D R Congo, Burkina Faso, Mali, Central African Republic, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Niger; the only other 13 countries in the world that are poorer than you. Incidentally, Benin (location for the Africa Mercy's 2009 Field Service) is at 161 in the HDI, and Togo (location for the 2010 Africa Mercy Field Service) is at 159. Olly

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Head injuries

One week ago, one of our Ghurkha security guards from Nepal was mown down by a motorcycle whilst jogging at dawn. He was running with a bigger group of crew, who scooped him up and bought him back to the ship, where he went into intensive care. He had massive head injuries, both internal and external, and we really thought the worst might happen. But praise God, he has made a good recovery. Although he was unconscious for a while, and remained under observation with a hugely swollen head and whiplash, he is already up on his feet and walking around the ship. They make them tough in Nepal! One of our senior nurses said it is nothing short of a miracle that he has recovered so swiftly without permanent injury, and it was only the power of prayer that brought him through! Praise God! And that's the beauty of living on a hospital ship crewed by a bunch of Christians. Olly

Monday, 19 October 2009

Skiing (in Benin?)

One of the challenges in last Saturday's Benin Games was walking a length of the promenade deck in skis built for 6, which was not easy, especially for a bunch of un-coordinated kids. Olly

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Africa Mercy Benin Games

So, just how do you keep 400 weary Africa Mercy crew entertained on a hot sunny Saturday afternoon in Benin? Answer: the Benin Games! Over 20 teams consisting of 6 competitors in each team tackled a dozen tasks around the ship, encouraged by hundreds (well, several) excited spectators. The teams included "The Pirates Who Don't do Anything" ...

...the "Tooth Fairies" (our Dental team)...

...some Scandinavian ladies with the Danish flag (I've forgotten the team name or why they are flying the Danish flag - they can't all be Danish)...

..."Team Tert", from our Operating Room staff...

...some moody girls who said "what...ever!" a lot (and made us laugh)...

...and us, the Rainbow Warriors!

We were absolutely the worst team of the lot - I'm sure we got the lowest score. But it's not the winning that counts, it's the taking part. We all had a great time, and received a certificate for being the youngest team (average age, I guess, minus us adults). Olly

Our time is running out in Benin...

Our time in Benin is swiftly coming to an end. We only have about 5 weeks of surgery left, yet we know that there are so many people in Cotonou who still need the operations we specialise in. I see people on the dock every day who ask me if we can operate on their hernias/goitres/burns/hemorrhoids etc etc...the only consolation is that our next location for active field service is in Lome in neighbouring Togo, only 3 hours drive from Cotonou, so maybe some of those who couldn't be helped in Benin can travel there. We will set sail in a little over 6 weeks, and we will be arriving in Spanish owned Tenerife two months today! The island has become almost legendary to the crew of the Africa Mercy - it's a place where many crew join or leave the ship or take vacation; it's a place where the temperature is a little more bearable, and the shops and restaurants are more recognisable that we're used to in West Africa. Our fruit bowl will soon be overflowing with glorious European fruit once more! Olly

Friday, 9 October 2009

Another cruise ship

The Bermuda registerred cruise ship Tahitian Princess came into Cotonou at dawn Friday, on her way along the west coast of Africa en route for Singapore. At 30,000 tons plus she is nearly twice the weight of the Africa Mercy, but there the similarities end...or do they? She is white, just like us...

And she has a mid-ships lounge, just like us...

And a pool on deck, just like us!

Here's a photo from the Tahitian Princess's bridge webcam showing the delightful Port of Cotonou.
And here's a photo of the Tahitian Princess sailing out of Cotonou (past the menacing cement hoppers) at dusk last night.


Thursday, 8 October 2009

Through the eyes of a child

One Friday afternoon, an elderly woman showed up at the Mercy Ship in Benin with her newborn grandson in her arms. The baby was a mere three hours old and did not yet have a name, but his need for immediate medical attention was obvious. Conjunctivitis that began in the womb had caused the lining of the baby's eyelids to swell. Two globular red sacs protruded from his eyes, blocking his vision and flipping his eyelids inside-out. This condition left his tiny eyes unprotected and exposed. Left untended, they would be damaged beyond repair. His mother, Janette, didn't know what was wrong with her baby and was horrified by his appearance.

"When I saw him, I was suffering," Janette said. "I thought my baby did not have eyelids." At the maternity clinic in Porto-Novo, they told Janette the baby needed to go to Cotonou, Benin's capital, where more advanced medical care is available. So, the baby's grandmother bundled up the yet-unnamed child and climbed onto the back of a motorcycle taxi, the primary mode of transportation in Benin. "When the motorcycle taxi driver saw the baby's eyes, he was afraid," Janette said. Still, he agreed to carry them to Cotonou. The doctors at the hospital in Cotonou told the grandmother to take the baby to the Mercy Ship. Fortunately, it was a Friday – the only day of the week the ship's operating rooms for eye surgeries are not booked full with cataract patients – so the baby was able to be seen immediately. Dr. Jim performed a simple operation to drain the infection and turned the eyelids in the correct direction.

The baby was given antibiotics and was kept overnight. The next day, Janette was able to leave the hospital and travel to Cotonou herself to see her baby. They were released to go home soon after. Even in such a short time, the visual transformation was dramatic. The baby, now named Desiré, returned for a post-operative appointment a week later. On the way back to the ship, Janette happened upon the same motorcycle taxi driver who had brought Desiré and his grandmother to the ship the first time. He could not believe the difference and told Janette how happy it made him to see the baby was healed. Janette certainly agreed with him. "The goodness that Mercy Ships has done makes me so happy," Janette said. "If Mercy Ships was not around, where would I have gone?"

From the blog of Stacy Adams.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Some flag!

This is the flag of the Benin Empire, which isn't actually in the Republic of Benin, but was in neighbouring Nigeria between 1440 to 1897. I'm glad I wasn't there then. Nowadays the flag shows a silhouette using a gun instead of a, just kidding. Olly

Guinea unrest

There appears to be some unrest in the Republic of Guinea, which shares borders with both Sierra Leone and Liberia. Hundreds of people have died in the last couple of weeks in riots and fighting around the capital, Conakry. I remember the same happening nearly 3 years ago when we lived in Liberia and I attended a meeting in Monrovia of UN officials and representatives from both local and international NGOs - we discussed what we could do if northern Liberia suddenly saw an influx of refugees escaping the unrest in Guinea. I'm sure I saw several NGO directors rubbing their hands in glee at the thought of more emergency funding coming their way. Maybe they are doing it again right now. Very sad. Olly

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Evening time

So what do we do with ourselves in the evenings (I hear you ask)? With no cooking or washing up, garden to maintain or DIY to keep us busy? Well, we usually play on Deck 8 until about 7pm, then bathtime and bed for Libby at 7.30, Anna at 8.00 and Noah and 8.30. Then Sally and I continue to wade through TV series on DVD - we've already watched all of Friends, Every Body Loves Raymond and House, and are now watching Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman's Long Way Round, Race To Dakar and Long Way Down. The last 3 are excellent and fascinating too, but the constant swearing makes them impossible to watch without cringing; a great shame because they'd make excellent geography lessons for the kids. Another fascinating blog entry by Olly.