This Blog serves as two things: a photo-diary of our lives between 2007 and mid 2011, when we saw some incredible things and met some amazing people; and a reflection of our more normal lives since then.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

YWAM Togo

This afternoon we joined Genevieve, a Belgian lady who has been living in Togo for over 20 years and working with Youth With A Mission. She runs a kids outreach one Sunday afternoon each month in a field near the YWAM house with six local staff, where hundreds of local kids come for silly games and Bible teaching. It was great to get hot and dusty and really involved with the local people again. Below, Sally making name badges for each kid. You can see the sound-system (that no self-respecting West African public function would be without) in the background.

Below, little kids drawing pictures.


Below, some cool dude in my sunglasses.


Below, Noah teaching paper folding.


Below, parachute games.


Below, Anna, Libby & Sally settling down for the Bible teaching.

Below, the YWAM team presenting in French and the local language.

Below, me with a lovely little girl who didn't want to be put down (photo by Libby, hence the finger in the photo).

It was a great (albeit hot and dusty) afternoon, and as usual we are in awe of the long-term missionaries who live ashore and carry out God's work in some of the poorest communities in the world. Olly

Togo elections

The people of Togo go to the voting booths this week for the country's Presidential elections. The eight presidential candidates are all working hard to increase their profile - which includes plastering every wall in the city with multiple posters, and driving the streets of Lomé blasting loud music out of vans:




This afternoon we got caught up in two massive rallies; firstly the yellow-shirted opposition party, and only a few minutes later the white-shirted Presidential party, where the President himself was making an appearance and every road in the area was shut by soldiers and police. The elections are on Thursday - please pray for a peaceful election day, and an outcome that will bring continued peace to the people of Togo. Olly


Togo update

All is going well here in Togo. The first surgeries took place on Wednesday, and although there are still only a small number of patients on the ship, larger numbers are arriving in the Hospitality Centre for admitting. Mini-screenings are still taking place 4 mornings a week, during which more patients are being selected. More later. Olly

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Disney Channel...so confusing!

Every Saturday morning the ship's satellite is tuned into Disney Channel for the kids...which often causes plenty of confusion for Libby (and little kids everywhere). The same actors appear in multiple programs in different roles and as themselves. This morning Libby didn't know if Selina Gomez was playing herself, a Wizzard, protecting a Princess, or playing Sonny. And it gets even more confusing when "parents" appear in different roles too - Selina Gomez's mum from Wizzards is today Demi Lovato's mum in Camp Rock. And the Jonas Brothers appear in just about everything. I think Disney keeps on recycling the same (well paid) actors. Huh. Olly

Thursday, 25 February 2010

New Liberia

My friend Harry took these photos of recently constructed buildings in Monrovia, the likes of which we never saw in all the time we were there, but are plentiful in other West African port cities. One of the new buildings even boasts an ATM - oh how life would have been so much easier if there were ATMs in Liberia when we lived there! Maybe one day soon Monrovia will be just like every other capital city in West Africa...Olly

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Look who was in Liberia yesterday

The UK's old Prime Minister Tony Blair, with President Johnson Sirleaf. Olly

Sunday, 21 February 2010

The German Seaman's Mission Lomé

Just outside the Port of Lomé is the German Seaman's Mission, which "attempts in word and deed to bring the message of God's Love to seafarers and their families". The mission has a bus that comes into the port every evening to visit all the ships and take seafarers back to unwind in their pool, or have a meal, or even stay a night in one of the rooms, and there is always a chaplain on hand to meet their spiritual needs too.
They also send their bus into the port on Sundays to take seafarers back to the Mission for services in English, French or German. And since we are technically seafarers, we are welcome to use their facilities too - in fact, they sent their bus to collect all the mums and kids on Friday whilst the school was closed for the day and the dads were at work. Click here for their website. Great work indeed. Olly

New Managing Director

The Africa Mercy has a new Managing Director. Yesterday, Donovan Palmer took over: he was CEO of the Africa Mercy whilst it was in dockyard in the UK for a few years up to 2003...and it's great to have him back. He has come straight from YWAM in the UK with his wife and three children, and we are all looking forward to hearing more from him, and getting to know the whole family. Olly

The dock

Here are some photos of the dock - my primary workplace for the next 6 months. Firstly, notice that there's no aft gangway - this dock is higher than any the Africa Mercy's has visited before, so at low tide the gangway would be scraped off. We will probably have to send all the patients up the main gangway. Below is my workshop and tent. The dock has railway lines that collect stinking and stagnant water, so I've had to fill the lines under out tent with cement so we can move around on the trolley-bed without getting covered in stinking water.





Below, a floor of pallets and hardboard is being constructed to keep the stagnant water out of the dockside tents...


...and below, the dockside tents are almost complete. They will be used as the Outpatient Clinic, the Eye Clinic and a covered waiting area for the patients - sun proof and rain proof.

To celebrate a hard week's work, Jesse threw a BBQ on the dock on Friday evening.

Although not perfect (and a far cry to the fantastic dock we had in Liberia), we are pleased to have this dock (with the stinking railway tracks, huge rats and cockroaches), and aim to take every advantage of it. Amen. Olly

Thursday, 18 February 2010

A Tiny Miracle

Our good friend Keith wrote this, from his Dental Clinic in Liberia:

A TINY MIRACLE: It's unusual and maybe wrong to refer to any miracle as tiny, but I'm referring more to the person than the miracle itself. Augustine is five years old, but from his size you would think he's only three. This is most likely due to malnutrition, confirmed by his condition—Noma, or Cankrum Oris, a flesh eating disease in which the normal bacteria in one's mouth takes advantage of a weakened body and begins to quickly devour the skin and even kill bone. Underneath the gauze bandage that he wore into our clinic, Augustine was missing nearly all of his right cheek, part of his right upper lip, and much of his upper jaw bone had died. The miracle? Augustine is from Zwedru, over a day's travel by public transportation from our clinic. His condition had started two weeks before we first saw him. Mortality rates for his condition before the days of antibiotics were estimated from 70 to as high as 90%. When I asked if he had IV antibiotics at the local hospital before coming to Monrovia, the answer was no. I thought he must at least have had tablets on his way down, so I asked his father. No. No medicine at all. I asked the father if he had prayed for him, he said yes. "That must be it then," I told him. "He's a walking miracle." And not only was he in reasonably good physical condition, but the disease did not seem to be in the active state. In a condition caused by a weak immune system, how can a body further weakened by the Noma heal itself? Almost impossible. What's more, Augustine sadly tested positive for HIV, which would further explain the reason for this condition, but make it even less likely that he would be in such good health considering the disease from which he suffered. We did a simple debridement of the area, kept him on antibiotics, and he continued to look better and better. Frieda, who asked the father more questions, said the father was told by many what even the nurses at the hospital have told our doctors about some conditions: "Medicine will not cure it. It's African Sign." This usually refers to the effect of a curse. Most everyone believes in this, Christian or not, educated or not. This father was different. He told us boldly that he did not believe this. We don't want to formulate anything, but there has to be something said of not allowing God to be smaller than evil, or even the possibility of evil. And there is something to be said, a child that is still alive against all odds. He has begun antiretroviral medication and will have a long road of facial reconstructive surgery ahead of him, should the chance even arise. But with the love and faith of his father, he will make it through it all just fine.

He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor.
1 Samuel 2:8

www.trinitydental.org


Wednesday, 17 February 2010

More pancakes

Yesterday, Shove Tuesday, a whole load of British mums cooked hundreds of crepe-style pancakes, and a gathering of hungry Brits scoffed the lot within seconds (except me: I had too many when I was 8, and still feel sick whenever I see one)...whilst thinking of home.

Photo of Sally and Sharon multi-tasking. Olly

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Diving in Togo

Today I dived for the first time in Togo. The difference between the ports in Togo and Benin is like chalk and cheese: Togo's port is relatively clean and garbage free - no plastic bags, no poo poo, no fishing boats dumping garbage, and no small ships dumping garbage (but less fish. Huh.) The water is so clear that I could see light from the other side of the ship, and that never happened in Benin (we needed flash lights and a compass to find light there!). But this berth is quite shallow; whilst cleaning one grate I was able to stand in the silt on the bottom. Good dive though. Olly.

Brits:

Don't forget the pancakes on Jif Lemon Day! Olly

Feeling Hot Hot Hot

I've just had my third shower of the day. Yesterday, the old air conditioning system on the ship broke down, leaving half the ship uncomfortably hot. Our cabin right now is 33 degrees C (91 F)...but I've heard of temperatures of 40 degrees C (104 F) in some of the offices on Deck 5. Fortunately our family is well prepared for such an eventuality and have a fan blowing on each of us as we sleep, but others are less fortunate and spent the whole of last night sweating in bed without any sleep. Please spare a prayer for our refrigeration engineers who are working flat out to rectify the problem. Olly, for ONN

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Fascinating facts about shipping containers

Did you know that shipping containers existed as far back as the 1830s, but each country had their own sizes and specification and none were compatible internationally. ISO numbers R668 and R790 (both 1968) and R1161 and R1897 (both 1970) suggested a series of compromises among international shipping companies, railroad companies and trucking companies...and thus the 20 foot and 40 foot shipping container was born. I can't imagine life without them. Can you? Olly

Hurricane

(It's a lazy Sunday morning with plenty of time for blogging, hence this endless dribble whilst Sally makes Valentine cards with the kids before we go to church). Last night we had a magnificent African rainstorm (almost a hurricane, in fact, I reckon). Thunder, lightning and near horizontal winds drove torrential rain hour after hour. It was a very wet night for those living ashore. It rained nearly all night, and this morning it is still overcast and cool and the dock stinks of rotting and fermenting grain (again). There are massive rats and cockroaches here, who live on the stuff! Anyway...Olly

Naval exercises

Yesterday, the sailors of the Togolese Navy had swimming practice alongside our ship. A couple had to keep hold of life-rings because they couldn't swim. Huh. Olly

Purest green

Yesterday was our first day ashore exploring Lomé. We visited the Team House and the Hospitality Centre, the Seaman's Mission and the beach, and ended up at a small hotel pool swarming with ship kids. The pool water looked OK, although there was a tell-tale line of green at the water's edge...and sure enough, as the day progressed, our things started to go green too, including my swim shorts and Noah and Anna's HAIR!

A liberal dose of vinegar made the hair blond again, PTL! What an exciting way to start our time in Togo. Olly (and the Vinegar Kids).

Friday, 12 February 2010

More photos of Togo

More photos of Togo: A film crew from Discovery Channel filming our arrival from the Bridge; dolphins swimming close to the ship; Libby and her class awaiting the arrival; nurses cleaning every square inch of the hospital in preparation for the first surgeries and patients; the Togolese Navy, berthed just across from our ship; and a sea-turtle, happily swimming in the port's garbage free waters (a big change from Benin!). Olly

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Land Rovers left behind

Today Moses and I, and a handful of volunteers, went to pick up the Land Rovers that were driven to Togo from Benin two months ago, and left behind at the Assemblies of God compound whilst the ship and the newer vehicles sailed to Tenerife. They were in a sorry state, as you can see - covered in a thick layer of dust, and with 3 flat tyres amongst the eight vehicles, although thankfully, not one flat battery (because Moses had the foresight to disconnect the batteries before they were left in Togo). Anyway, they're all safely back at the ship now, awaiting a wash. Olly

Timezones

Togo (in pink on th map) is the most eastern coastal countriey on the GMT timezone, whilst neighbouring Benin (highlighted in red) is the most western coastal country in the next timezone.


Consequently, even though Cotonou and Lome are only 70 miles apart, sunrise is at 6am in Lome whilst it is at 7am in Cotonou. It's quite unsettling to be woken at 6am by bright sunlight. And it gets dark early too - by 6.30pm it's almost totally dark. Huh. Olly

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Togo first impressions

Only a few hours after we were cleared by Togolese Immigration officials to go ashore, I went for a ride with our shore-based programs team to check out their house and the Hospitality Centre. It is good to be back in West Africa again. It feels like ages since we left two months ago, but it also feels like yesterday too. Things are familiar but different - the roads are dustier, sandier and with more potholes than Benin. Traffic is heavy. The port is filthy, huge and chaotic. And as for the rest of the city, I have no clue so far. I will explore over the coming days...Olly

Togo!

Wednesday 10th February, 11am: We have just arrived safely in Togo. As I write this, the long and hot arrival ceremony is still underway. Here are some photos of our arrival: Below, Libby and her friend Esther in their best African outfits, with the Togolese flag they made in school this morning:


Below: ships in the port discharging oil and cement. The port is well equiped, with even a conveyor-belt to take cement clinker straight to the cement works.

Below: The fishing port and small ships. On the right is the covered conveyor-belt and cement factory.

Below: a car carrier and the container dock complete with shore cranes. I reckon you can always tell the wealth of a country via the number of shore cranes in it's port. Liberia has none; Benin has 2 and Togo has at least 3, even though the port in Togo is less busy than in Benin. Sure enough, Togo is higher on the UN's human development index than Benin, thus supporting my shore crane/country wealth theory!

Below: our welcoming party, including the Assemblies of God marching brass band, some local staff, and some crew who have been living ashore and preparing for the ship's arrival in Togo.


Below: the dock - our home (and my workplace) for the next 6 months. It will take a lot of work to clean it up and make it sanitary.

Below: the view from our cabin window. Very nice. Must be our nicest view yet.

That's all for now, Olly

Monday, 8 February 2010

Fire

In Liberia in April of 2007, Land Rover #326 was completely destroyed within seconds by a fire originating in the a/c fan in the driver's foot well. Today, #102 (#326's identical twin) caught fire in the same place; fortunately Moses saw the smoke and put the fire out before it could spread. We are still sailing, and #102 is parked very close to a couple of other Land Rovers: a full scale fire would have destroyed both of those too and created a major incident at sea. Well done Moses, for catching it so early. Photo below of Moses just after he put the fire out...

...and photo below of the unfortunate #326.

Olly

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Sailing...continued

We're officially back in West Africa, although still four days away from our destination of Togo. The weather is hot, sticky and humid once again - great for the skin! I asked one of my colleagues, who is from this corner of West Africa, if there are any pirates in the area, and he said "no - we shot them all". Hmmm...reassuring! Olly

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Science Museum de Santa Cruz

On Saturday, our last day ashore, Noah took us to the Science Museum in Santa Cruz, where we enjoyed guessing the exhibits labelled in Spanish...the kids favourite was without doubt the mirror maze. Olly

Storm photos - and sailing update

Thought you might appreciate these photos of the damage caused by the 20 plus degree rolls we suffered until the small hours today...




...and GOOD NEWS...we seem to be leaving the storm. We are rolling much less, although that's partly because we keep changing course (like a sail-ship tacking) to find the calmest way of crossing the troughs...and partly because we're sufficiently far from the storm now. This evening the bow was opened (a good sign!) and we are enjoying an increase in the temperature, blue skies and blue seas once again. I hear it's been raining in Tenerife. Olly