Monday, 30 May 2011

Insane photo

This is one of the most insane photos I have ever seen. How many bullets did it take to pulverize this van?

Click on photo to enlarge. Taken in Vai Town, Mon, Lib: 2003. Olly

Friday, 27 May 2011

Life goes on...

The water company's engineers worked tirelessly to fix the broken main, and water is flowing once again into Freetown. Hallelujah. Water is running in the streets again - literally - and the local population can cook and wash again at no cost. on the Africa Mercy the laundry is open again and hot water is back on.

The President and Vice President of Sierra Leone are here right now, visiting the ship. Sally was on stand-by to make them a coffee in our Starbucks Cafe, but they went on a tour instead.

The International Board of Mercy Ships is also here, having jetted-in from all over the world for a Board Meeting this weekend.

And an assessment panel from the Association of Christian Schools International is here, finalising the accreditation of the ship's Academy after 3 or 4 years of work.

Meanwhile, life goes on. Just up the road, not even half a mile away, I saw a man carrying his dead baby out of a maternity hospital, wrapped up in a prayer mat. Olly

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Another water shortage

Imagine a city of 1.2 million people without water. Well, that's Freetown right now. The city water supply has been irregular since the war, but at least there was some water; the population got used to waking early and queuing for hours to fill their buckets and "gallons" from public taps and leaking fresh-water pipes.

Above, children carrying "gallons".

Yesterday the main water supply into Freetown was damaged leaving the whole city dry. 1.2 million people have no water for washing, cooking or drinking. The wealthier ones are able to buy water from trucks for 2000 Leones a gallon, but as the poorer people live on only 4000 Leones a day, they can either afford water or food. Please pray for them. Meanwhile on the Africa Mercy we have limited reserves so are back on rationing: cold showers, laundry closed, disposable crockery and silverware etc. Please pray that the water company gets the pipe repaired and water can flow again! Olly

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Temporary buildings

This, below, is a pre-fab building, made in Iowa and shipped to the Africa Mercy in Sierra Leone and assembled on the dock. It is very well insulated so lovely and cool when the a/c is on, and is used by the Eye Team. Also shipped and assembled are two bathroom buildings used at the Hospitality Centre, with state-of-the-art plumbing and a/c. Temporary buildings? I think not. They all took two or three weeks to assemble, and are all scheduled to be disassembled at the end of the Sierra Leone field service, shipped to the next location and reassembled there...

Sadly, my ten year old tent was finished by a monster rainstorm last week. It's original canvas was recently stolen from the dock here in Freetown, and we used local tailors to sew a new one, but it didn't fit well and collapsed under the weight of rainwater. A tent is a non-negotiable item for our dockside workshop - it gives us shade from the brutal sun and keeps the torrential rains off us, so my ever resourceful local staff made this new beauty out of locally bought timbers and spare canvas.

Temporary tent? I think so! It took a day to build, and will only take a few hours to demolish when a new purpose-made tent is shipped over from the US or Holland. Olly

Saturday morning on the Africa Mercy

This morning Sally and I awoke at the crack of dawn to watch the latest Disney movie, Lemonade Mouth. Surely we should have been sleeping-in whilst the kids got up early... something's definitely weird here in our upside down world. Sally and I sat and watched the whole movie on our own whilst the kids went out to play. Great movie though. Olly

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

New dive gear

We have just been supplied with a crateload of new dive gear: new masks, flippers, and flashlights. These will all make diving in these awful waters so much safer.

Above, Dan and Timo wearing the new full-face masks with built in radios. Olly

She got it!

This afternoon the British High Commission in Freetown issued Libby with a UK settlement visa!

PTL indeed. We are thinking of leaving the Africa Mercy at the end of June so we can head to the UK to work on her UK re-adoption and application for citizenship. Thank you for your prayers. Olly

Friday, 13 May 2011

Farewell Omega Tower

Since we first arrived in Liberia in 2005, I have been fascinated by it's Omega Tower. Built by the USA in 1976 as part of the Omega Navigation System (made up of 7 towers around the world), it was a 417 meters tall radio tower (the same height as the World Trade Centre) and the tallest structure ever built in Africa. The station was turned over to the government of Liberia in 1997 after the introduction of GPS and the closure of the Omega Navigation System, and sat disused for the next 14 years. I climbed the first three levels in 2007; some crazy (and suicidal) ex-pats I know climbed the whole thing without any safety equipment. Anyway, on Tuesday the Tower was demolished by explosives. It will be missed: it was a landmark that could be seen for many miles, and countless thousands of people lived in it's shadow. Below, a man with some of the massive cables used to support the tower:

...and the tower from a distance:

Funny story: I once drove past the tower after a rain storm. The cloud level was lower than the top of the tower, so all I could see was the top and the cables coming from looked all the world to me like an angel. Huh. Olly

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Garbage diving

Click on photo to enlarge. Olly

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Are you a designer?

Feeling creative? Can you design a new logo for the Africa Mercy's Dive Team? The logo could include images of ships, scuba divers, commercial divers, the blue-and-white "alpha" dive flag (not the red-and-white recreational scuba flag), full-face divers masks, Africa, etc. You are welcome to email a jpeg image to me - - or let me know where to look for it. There are now ten divers on the team, and between us we are having to dive DAILY! Thanks in advance for your help. Olly

Friday, 6 May 2011

The luckiest girl in the world

Two year old Josephine must surely be the luckiest girl in the world. Two weeks ago she choked a small pebble into her lung whilst playing. Her parents took her to one of Freetown's government run hospitals, where she sat for five days waiting for treatment, whilst the pebble began to cause infection and her lung collapsed. In frustration, her father went to the Ministry of Health to beg for help, where by chance he met Mercy Ships' Ann Gloag, who intervened. Ann arranged for Josephine to be taken to the Africa Mercy, where surgeons supported by top paediatric anaesthesiologists tried to remove the stone through her windpipe by key-hole surgery but were unsuccessful. Josephine's condition continued to deteriorate, and she twice needed resuscitation. Finally, Ann persuaded one of Kenya's top thoracic surgeons to fly to Freetown, and he removed the stone earlier this week. Josephine made a quick recovery, and today went home. Praise God. It lightens all our hearts to hear of such miracles right here on our ship. Olly

Me and Jay

Here's a photo that Alex took of Jay and me in the engine room yesterday during a fire drill. We were trying to look cool and heroic...guess it didn't work eh? Olly

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Us and the High Commissioner

Yesterday evening we had a visit from Ian Hughes, the British High Commissioner here in Freetown (who is also the British Ambassador to neighbouring Liberia). He was accompanied by Sam Bethel, the British Vice Consul. Sally and I gave them a tour of the ship, and then we had dinner together. Lovely people. Here is Ian meeting Anna and Libby...

...and Sally showing Ian the door to the operating rooms:

And Sally, Samantha, Ian and me (looking vacant) on the ward with Memuna, one of Sally's patients.

Great. Olly

PS The British High Commissioner is the same as an Ambassador, but is the term used for the role in a British Commonwealth country. In a non-Commonwealth country (like Liberia) the role is referred to as Ambassador.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Islands in the stream

Sierra Leone's rainy season has begun. We've had a couple of short showers which washed away the dust and cooled the air, and also partially cleared Freetown's clogged sewers and drains straight into the river, resulting in this:

...a MASSIVE island of garbage. If this thing hits the ship, our cooling-water intakes will clog and our generators will shut down, despite every effort by me and my colleagues in the dive team. Huh. Olly