Mercy Ships

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

Friday, May 27, 2016

Coming Up...

My first year of school on the Africa Mercy is completed! Today is the first day of summer for the students!  After several required teacher work days (in which we do all the normal end of year school stuff and secure the Academy for sail) and a few last days traveling in Madagascar, I head home! First to Houston (arriving on June 7) and later to Wisconsin (at the end of June).

My top priority while I'm home is spending time with friends and family. So if you're in Houston, let's make plans! After that, I'm hoping to rest, take my dog to the dog park, eat all my favorite foods, drive a car again...

Speaking of cars, I sold mine before I left Africa, which seemed like a great idea at the time (and still is, except for the fact I will be car-less while in Houston). So, Houston friends, do you have, or know anyone who has, a car I could borrow for part or all of the time I will be home (June 7-18)? Maybe you're going out of town and you need someone to drop you off at the airport?

While I am super excited for a break and time to spend back in the States, I am also sad about leaving Madagascar.  When I return to the ship at the end of July, it won't be in the same place anymore. Right now, Mercy Ships and Madagascar are synonymous to me, but that is about to change...

About Benin

When school begins in August, we will be en route to Benin, West Africa. Benin is a French speaking country of about 9 million people. It borders Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Togo, and Niger. The ship will dock in the country's largest city - Cotonou, whose population is about 3-4 times the size of our current port city.  I expect life in Cotonou will be more "urban" and less "tropical island." Also, the weather is supposedly hotter (how can that be?).

I can't wait to see many of you soon! Happy summer!

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Animals of Madagascar

One of my favorite parts of exploring Madagascar is the amazing wildlife I have gotten to see. Hiking here is like a treasure hunt with exotic animal sightings as the reward for the patient and observant hiker. Seeing as how I am not particularly patient or observant, I've been lucky enough to tag along with others who are! The pictures below are from a hike at Andasibe (rain forest) with an excellent local guide who was able to spot the tiniest of creatures even in the dark!

Did you know chameleons sleep on the ends of sticks and leaves? People come to Madagascar to see the lemurs but the chameleon is my new favorite animal. They are fascinating! The thought occurred to me that I could get a pet chameleon one day when I'm back in the States. I did a little research and it sounds like a great idea...except for the part about feeding them live insects.  I think I'll just stick with a dog.

A well timed rest in the forest allowed me to get a glimpse of this gigantic spider's web way up in the trees. A zoomed in shot shows you how big the spider is. There are a lot of spiders in Madagascar. It felt like 50% of the wildlife we saw were spiders! It was not exactly what I was hoping for, but sometimes you take what you get.

                                                                             This frog was so well camouflaged I didn't even see it from just a few feet away. Even after I knew it was there, it still looked like leaves!                                                                                                                                            If you're still looking for it, it's just below and left of center. You can see it's black eye on the right side of its head.                                                                                                               Below is an interesting bird we saw, but I have no idea what kind it is!

Zebu (the type of cattle found in Madagascar) are all over; you see them whether you are in the forest, on the beach, or in town! Their horns are used to make jewelry, home decorations, and cutlery. 

Last but not least are the lemurs. There are between 50 and 100 species of lemurs (depending on the classification system used) and they are found only in Madagascar.  The nocturnal mouse lemur (below right) is the smallest primate in the world. On the left, you see a common brown lemur (I think) and an indri-indri. 

Seeing all these beautiful animals helps me when I really miss Sophie (my dog back home)! I can't wait til I'm in a place where I can have a pet again! If only we had a ship dog - a hypoallergenic poodle would be just the thing. I could train it to run errands around the ship and it could be a therapy dog for the crew. There's nothing like a fluffy dog to pet when you're feeling sad or stressed! If only! Well, at least I get to see Sophie in just a few short weeks...when I come home for a visit! More on that in the next post...