Mercy Ships

Mercy Ships
The largest NGO hospital ship in the world providing free medical care to the forgotten poor

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Highlights and Goodbyes

The Academy teachers did an informal teacher photo shoot! What a fun group to teach with!

We are ready for an adventure!

The iconic Mercy Ships picture with the orange life ring...we had to do it!

Another  Mercy Ships must have: the jumping photo!

Check out these other highlights from the last few months on the ship.

Cabin 4331: Best cabin ever even if the only communal space is the hallway!

My own Cameroonian style head wrap courtesy of one of our local day crew

My lovely small group (minus 2 who have left the ship already)

With such amazing African fabric all around, how can sewing not become a weekly hobby?

My running buddy Rachel - she has kept me running consistently this year!

Service project for pharmacy department with the 11th/12th graders.

Hanging out with kids at a local orphanage

Getting ready for Wacky Tacky Day 
Academy Wacky Tacky Day

The fuel trucks are finally here! 
Good-bye Tam - my very first bunkmate on the ship in Madagascar

I'm going to miss this view!

This is the season of goodbyes; as the field service winds down this month, every week more people depart - some for good, others for a much needed break before returning for the next field service in Guinea.  Even though I'm not leaving until the end of June, my emotional season of good-byes started in April when Anne, one of my cabinmates left. It was a hard goodbye because Anne, Steffi, and I have shared the same cabin since Benin.  Having the same roommates for 2 field services is quite unusual on the ship where many crew members are constantly coming and going.

In 2 weeks, the school year will end and I will say goodbye to about half of the teachers who will leave before we sail. The rest will stay for the sail and depart from the Canary Islands. All the emotions of saying goodbye are drawn out over these 3 months. It's like a band-aid that needs ripping off, but you can't take it off any faster.

The pain of goodbyes is intense but I remind myself of these wise words:

Friday, March 16, 2018

Going Home

Last month marked the 3 years anniversary of this blog! At this time in 2015 I started making plans to quit my job, sell my stuff, and move to Africa. Now three years later, I find myself again in a period of transition, making plans to return home in August. With 4 months still ahead of me on the ship it feels early to blog about the conclusion of my time with Mercy Ships; however, it is often on my mind.

I can't believe I've been blogging for 3 years!

In June, I will enjoy one last sail with the ship as we travel from Cameroon to the Canary Islands for our annual period of maintenance. On the way, we will stop in Senegal, where plans are being made to host the ship for the 2019-2020 field service. After a bit of traveling on the way home, I will return to the States at the end of July. I am excited to spend time reconnecting with friends and family all around the US and then settle in the Minneapolis area. I chose Minneapolis because I like the big city (thank you Houston) and it's only 1.5 hours from where I grew up and I'm ready to be near family.

I alternate between sadness about leaving my community and excitement for what lies ahead. The ship has been an amazing home; I love the spiritual vibrancy of this place, how easy it is to make friends, and the shared purpose and commitment of the crew. I love the adventures that await in each new country we travel to and the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. For these and so many more reasons, it will be incredibly difficult to leave the ship.

Why am I leaving? There are still dreams and goals I would like to pursue beyond the ship, the most significant being foster care/adoption. And so I am preparing to say good-bye to a place and people I love. To ease the pain of leaving, I'm collecting a list of things I'm looking forward to in this next season of life: being in driving distance of my family, being in the same time zone as my best friend, choosing my own food, getting a dog, living in a neighborhood instead of a port, having more access to nature, cool weather & the 4 seasons, learning to skate ski, not taking malaria medicine, and taking showers that are longer than 2 minutes.

When I first came to the ship, I missed a lot from home. I caught myself thinking, "When I go back to the U.S., then I'll have ________ and then I'll be happy."  This was counter-intuitive, since my decision to come to the ship was based on these thoughts: "When I live in community, then I'll be happy." Maybe one of the best lessons I have learned from living on the ship, is that in every season of life, there will be blessings and challenges, happy times and times of grief. So I try to remind myself, when I feel especially sad about leaving the ship, that there will be wonderful things about going home and hard things too, just as there are on the ship.

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Twin Lakes of Mount Muanenguba

Cameroon is often referred to as "Little Africa" due to its diverse geography, climates, and cultures. In Cameroon, you can find tropical rainforests, mountains, active volcanoes, black sand beaches, grasslands, and deserts, all in a country under 200,000 square miles (about the size of California).

I was lucky to see many of these different landscapes on a hike to two craters lakes up in the mountains. The lakes are side by side and separated by a large grassy ridge. The larger lake is considered the female lake. It is considered "gentle" and you can swim in it. The smaller lake is the male lake, which no one swims in.

 At 9000 feet, it was a strenuous hike, but well worth it. The temperatures got quite cold that high up and it was a nice break from the stifling heat of Douala. We hiked through forest, villages, and the wide, grassy slopes of the mountains alongside grazing sheep. Wildflowers and butterflies were abundant.

Female Lake

Male Lake

My hiking buddies Steffi, Des, Missy, and Anne and our 2 guides Aliou and Sebastian

A refreshing swim after our 10 km hike 

We stayed overnight in a small shelter above the lakes.

Relaxing at our shelter

The view around the lakes

While everyone else was enjoying our campfire...

...I was hanging out with s village kids who were fascinated by my "white person" hair.

Good thing I like braids!

Along the way

The forest section of the hike; see the butterflies?

I counted at least 20 different types of wildflowers, after that I lost count.

Hiking with the sheep

I tried to pet the sheep but they kept running away before I could get close enough!

Grazing cattle near the end of our hike

Thursday, December 21, 2017

This Month In Cameroon

From the mundane to the extraordinary, here is what's been happening on the Africa Mercy over the last few weeks.
My coffee and my calculator: just another typical day at work.

Teaching percentages to my class of 6th graders

In the Academy we celebrated "Favorite Book Character" day. I dressed up like Eponine from Les Miserables.
Our deckies keep the ship well maintained
Our surgeons faced some difficult orthopedic cases.

An extraordinary transformation for Ulrich
A weekend trip to the black sand beaches in Limbe, Cameroon

Limbe, Cameroon

We've been studying the book of Colossians in our Academy devotions.   We spent time reflecting on what
 it means to be "rooted and built up" in Christ (Col 2:6-7) and created artwork based on our reflections.

The junior high & high schoolers spent 3 days off ship for our annual retreat.
 Our theme was "Christ in you, the hope of glory" from Colossians.  

The teachers dressed up like characters from Aladdin to get students excited for
 the retreat which included an Arabian Nights themed murder mystery game. 

One of the highlights of the retreat was a bonfire on the beach. We used bamboo sticks to roast hot dogs.

Harmattan arrived early this year. It's not fog, that's sand in the air, blown in on the winds coming from the Sahara.

Our Christmas celebrations include traditions from all over the world. This is Santa Lucia, a Scandinavian celebration.

Christmas on the ship also includes our own craft fair/holiday market called Winter Wonderland.
My friends Jamie, Lee-Anne and I used African fabric to make a variety of items to
sell at Winter Wonderland.  We called ourselves The Scrappy Sisters.  

Steffi, Anne, and I decorated our cabin door for the Christmas door decorating contest.

The math game I created to help students review for final exams.

It's been a busy season and as first semester winds down, I am looking forward to Christmas break and some much needed rest and down time. I send you my warmest wishes for a joyous Christmas.