Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Anna and the President of Togo

On 26th November 2008, Anna presented flowers to a lady I admire very much, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, upon her visit to the Africa Mercy (click here and here to read blog entries). Today, Anna presented flowers to President Gnassingbe of Togo during his visit to the ship. She had to say "Your Excellency Mr President, we welcome you on board the Africa Mercy", and he asked her which country she came from (in French). Olly

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Another Harmattan

The Harmattan is a dry and dusty West African Trade Wind. It blows south from the Sahara into the Gulf of Guinea between the end of November and the middle of March. On its passage over the desert it picks up fine dust particles, and in some countries in West Africa, the heavy amount of dust in the air can severely limit visibility and block the sun for several days, comparable to a heavy fog. For a whole of this week the sky has been cloudy and visibility has been limited, and everything is covered in a thin layer of fine dust. But even worst: the air has been absolutely still, with no pleasant winds to keep us cool. We desperately need some rain to clear the air and wash down the decks, and we want the wind back! Olly

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Hospitality Centre

The Mercy Ships' Hospitality Centre in Lomé is 7 kilometres from the ship - in a very nice government owned, purpose built clinic. The photos show some of the Mercy Ships staff, one of the rooms, and where food for the patients is cooked. The purpose of the centre is to provide somewhere for patients to stay before and after surgery, thus reducing the amount of time for them on the Africa Mercy's wards and thus leaving more beds available for post-operative patients in the ship. Brilliant idea! Olly

Monday, 22 March 2010

Monday evenings

On alternate Monday evenings, Sally runs the Africa Mercy's Starbucks coffee shop, and Noah runs the snack bar, whilst I take Libby and Anna down for a frapachino before bed. Fascinating. Olly


On Saturday night the ship's air extraction system went into overdrive for some reason. Our cabin's extraction vents are now very loud, as they suck-in an incredible volume of air...and passing small children too. Olly

Sunday, 21 March 2010

On the beach

Yesterday, we hit the beach for the first time in Togo - Crystal Plage - only half a mile from the ship as the crow flies, but two miles by road. The beach boasts an extremely lovely restaurant - way out of our league though - and a nice beach to mess around in and jump in the sea, and a filthy pool. At the end of the day a load of French kite-surfers arrived and entertained us...

A lovely day out. The only customers (until the kite-surfers arrived) were dozen of Mercy Shippers. Olly

Mohawk Libby

This photo was taken mid-braiding. Not-a-happy Libby. Olly

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Welcome Joel

Welcome to a new crew member called Joel, who has driven all the way from Northern Ireland to the Africa Mercy in Togo, in a VW Camper van a bit like this (but less shiny, and blue, with rusty bits, and a different licence plate...but basically the same...)...6 weeks and 4 days, over 6,000 miles...very impressive!


An unfortunate incident

This afternoon, at the market with one of my local staff, I used a "urinoir" - a wooden booth with a bidet (yes, a bidet) in which one urinates - for 25 cfa (3 pence or 5 cents). The urine went through a hose into a 25 litre plastic barrel, which was emptied at regular intervals. Understandably, the booth stank and there was no toilet paper or water for washing hands. An hour later my friend said he needed "to relieve himself" and he disappeared in a urinoir, to come out five minutes later to confess that he'd been taken ill and had explosive diarrhoea in the bidet, and was unable to clean himself or wash the bidet. Poor guy. The urinoir staff were not to happy, and we had to pay a fine of 2000 cfa. C'est Afrique. Olly

Needle guns

Needle guns are an abominination in the eyes of the Lord, and me, but a necessary (and noisy) evil on ships. Olly

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Mango flies

Mango flies are really cool. The female fly lays her eggs in soil contaminated with feces or urine or on damp clothing or bed linens. The larvae hatch in 2-3 days and attach to unbroken skin and penetrate the skin, producing a swelling similar to a boil...

The worm can be squeezed out after using a hot compress - Anna had to go through the procedure twice when we lived in Liberia - and out pops the mango fly's larvae - an all singing, all dancing maggot:

So imagine our kids horror today when Sally gave Noah a plate of chopped mango, and a mango-maggot wriggled out of the fruit and across his plate. Both he and Anna spat out their last mouthfuls of mango and shrieked, convinced that they were infested with enough mango worms to eventually burst through their stomach walls. How I laughed! Olly

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Another hurricane

Yes, last night we had torrential rain and today we had another hurricane (OK - not the hurricanes Louisiana has experienced recently, Tyrone)...but enough to blow everything around on the dock, and rock the ship significantly. Look at the waves and the buoy and the flag...

...and the palm trees bending under the huge winds.
Huh. Olly

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Ship life

It's another quiet Sunday on the Africa Mercy. Anna is playing with her friend Laura; Libby is playing with her friend Esther; Sally is helping Jesse the cook prepare for a big function tomorrow...

...Noah is at Karate practice...
...and I am reading The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monsarrat (for the third time). Well, I'm not reading right now: I'm blogging. After the frantic week, I still find it hard to slow the pace at weekends. Huh. Olly

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Screening again

As Togo's Presidential Elections pass, Medical screenings are beginning again. 4 mornings a week, medical staff visit local hospitals, and select patients for surgery between now and the end of July. Sally goes with the screening team every Thursday - they usually leave the ship at 5.30am, and are ready to screen by 6am before it gets too insufferably hot. Olly

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

BBC: Togo Unrest

Source: the BBC. Click here for full In Pictures story. Thankfully we are all safe and a long way from the rallies and disturbances. Olly

Tuesday, 9 March 2010


A big scabby rat has taken up residence in the battery compartment of one of our Land Rovers. Yesterday I opened the compartment and saw him scurrying away; today the same thing happened. I must admit Moses and I squealed like little girls when we saw him, but that's more from the fear of Rabies, Bubonic Plague, Weils Disease, Lassa Fever and flees than from the rat himself...Currently the battery is disconnected whilst Moses works on the engine, but when it's reconnected Mr Rat is going to get a big shock when he tries to squeeze through the hole again and brushes against the positive cable which he's nibbled all the insulation off. Olly

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Liberian girls

Today, still with no shore leave at our disposal, we've been trying hard to amuse ourselves. Thankfully, Chris (from Liberia, below with Libby) offered to plait Libby's hair, thus half the afternoon disappeared in blissful silence...

Chris is one of our seven Liberian crew. She is a wonderful gal, and she loves Libby too. Great. Olly

Togo Elections - the provisional results

BBC: The current president of Togo has won re-election in a disputed vote, electoral authorities say. The election commission said Faure Gnassingbe, son of a late dictator, had beaten opposition challenger Jean-Pierre Fabre. He won 1.2 million votes of two million cast, officials said, considerably more than his rival's tally of 692,584. For full article click here.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Dancing in the dark

Last night, with no shore leave at our disposal, we had a barn dance on the dock. And my oh my, it was hot! I have never seen so many sweaty dancers before - everyone was literally dripping, and our hands and arms slipped and squelched every time we had to swing our partners and promenade. Despite the heat, it was brilliant fun - hundreds of crew were involved (most of whom I'd never seen before - where have they all been hiding?), and we were watched over by some Chinese sailors from a neighbouring ship who were most amused by the whole event. I guess it is a bit weird...a load of white people dancing to loud Country and Scottish music in a busy industrial port in West Africa...Olly

Togo Elections - update

BBC: Ballot fraud row simmers in Togo. The directors of Togo's 35 voting districts have been asked to bring all the ballot papers cast in Thursday's election to the capital, Lomé. The head of Togo's election commission summoned the directors after European Union observers raised concerns about the fairness of the presidential vote.They found a lack of transparency when results were sent to the national election commission electronically. Both the sitting president and an opposition candidate claim victory. For full article click here.

Another unique use of a Land Rover

Somewhere under this pile of nurses is a Land Rover. Huh. Olly

Friday, 5 March 2010

Togo elections update

Yesterday's Presidential elections in Togo were, by all accounts, peaceful and ordered. Now we wait with baited breath for the results. In the meantime, shore leave has been reinstated during daylight hours. Please continue to pray for a peaceful outcome and our continuing safety and security. Olly

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Election Day

BBC: Togo hopes for more peaceful presidential election: Polls are to open shortly in the presidential election in the west African state of Togo. President Faure Gnassingbe is running for a second term, and his main challenger is Jean Pierre Fabre of the Union of Forces for Change. The vote is being closely watched by the international community amid hopes of avoiding repetition of the violence that marred the last election. All parties have been stressing the need for a peaceful poll. President Gnassingbe is hoping to be re-elected in circumstances that will win the approval that was so lacking at the last election. For full article click here.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010


Tomorrow, Thursday 4th March, the Republic of Togo holds it's Presidential Elections. Please pray for peace and a fair result. Below: campaign posters by the candidates. Olly