Mercy Ships

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

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.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

An African Field Trip

In the Academy, we try to go on one field trip each quarter. Since we're in a different country each year, that means new opportunities for unique and interesting field trips.

Last month, we were able to visit a local school that teaches practical skills, such as sewing, to at-risk kids who might otherwise end up on the streets. While we were there, they taught us the art of batik, in which you use heated wax to stamp images on cloth before you dye it.

You can also use string to create designs similar to tie-dye.

Dying the cloth after it's been stamped

Rinsing the dyed fabric

Laying them out to dry
Finished Product!
Students from the school pose with our English teacher and PE teacher

After spending the morning making batiks, we were able to visit a local Cameroonian family who invited us to their home and showed us how to do some of their daily tasks. We saw the community water well and took turns using a bucket to draw water. We tried to carry the water on our heads, but unlike our Africa friends, we had to use our hands to help! We also experienced cooking over an open fire and washing clothes by hand. 

Checking out the water well

A look inside the well
Don't forget to tie the rope around your wrist first, in case you accidentally drop it!

Peter, our translator, shows students how to use a ring of cloth for cushioning and balance.

One of our Dutch students tries his hand at making sugared peanuts

Washing clothes in buckets

Our field trip was educational for the students, but just as educational for me! One of the benefits of being a math teacher on a ship!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

An African Adventure

My first big adventure in Cameroon was to Pongo Songo, a wilderness area where it's possible to see chimpanzees, both in the wild and at a small reserve where they care for orphaned baby chimps.  A group of us ventured out in 2 land rovers despite the rain and mud, driving for over 4 hours. The roads were bumpy, but the scenery was beautiful and it was my first chance to see Cameroon beyond the city of Douala.

To see the chimps in the wild, we took a boat ride and our guide threw large pieces of fruit onto shore in hopes the chimps would come out of the forest. It took awhile of boating around while the guides kept calling for the chimps and I thought we might not see any, but our perseverance paid off and we saw the trees shaking as a whole group of chimpanzees slowly made their way to the shore. We stayed on the boat (for safety) but Saul was able to get these great close-up photos.

The highlight of the day for me by far was getting to see and hold the baby chimps at the reserve.  There were about 4 or 5 they brought out; some of whom were quick to jump into our arms. Others were more interested in playing with each other and swinging in the trees. They were also quite mischievous and the caretakers advised us to leave any watches, jewelry, and even glasses in the car as they are apt to get swiped by the chimps. I experienced this firsthand when a lively chimp stole the hairband straight out of my hair!

On the boat ride back to the vehicles, we stopped to meet the grandpa of our boat driver who was blind in both eyes. It just happened that Therese, who works on the eye team on the ship, was part of our group and was able to see him and give him information about how we might be able to help him. 

It was a long day with lots of driving and we arrived back on the ship wet, muddy, and dirty. But it was a day I won't soon forget!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Hello Cameroon!

This post is a little delayed as we've been in Cameroon for over three weeks now! The hospital has opened and surgeries are in full swing! 

Arrival day is always an exciting day where teachers and students alike are excited to get out of class to greet our new country as we sail into port. 

Crew members wave flags from their home nations - over 30 in total.

The ship looks her best on arrival day with her "dress flags" up.

Everyone wants a glimpse of our new home!

Find me 2nd to the left in this photo.

Cameroon: our new home until June!

After 12 days at sea, we were all ready to get off the ship and go exploring; however, we had to wait until our vehicles were registered with the port and all crew members went through immigration which meant 5 more days on the ship with no shore leave.

I was content to enjoy the new view out my classroom window which includes trees and even a bit of grass! Also you can be sure we got in a game of Ultimate Frisbee on the dock as soon as they got the gangway in place and allowed us down.  It's rainy season here with rain most days and clouds the rest. In fact it is always so cloudy, that is was almost 2 weeks before I realized there was a mountain outside my cabin window.  Most days it is completely obscured by the clouds, but it is an impressive view on the rare sunny day. The mountain is Mount Cameroon, the tallest mountain in West Africa at approximately 4000 meters (12,000 feet). I'm hoping to climb it later this year.

Mount Cameroon

I am teaching 4 math courses (6th grade math, Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and Statistics) in the Academy this year and I continue to serve as the Head of Junior High/High School. I have really enjoyed welcoming our new teachers to the ship and helping them get acclimated to our school culture and all our quirky ways of doing school on a ship. It's hard to believe this is the beginning of my 14th year of teaching! Even still, I still am finding there are so many ways I want to improve as a teacher. As always I am constantly thinking about how to make math fun and engaging while getting students to understand the concepts behind what they are learning. I recently had a #teacherwin when I created a math version of the game Connect Four which had students practicing simplifying radicals. My students (even the ones who don't like math) were begging to play again.

We have over 40 students in the Academy this year ranging from infant to 12th grade, with 16 students in the Junior High/High School. They come from Australia, U.K., Holland, Brazil, U.S.A., Ghana, Ethiopia, Congo, and the Philippines.

Whole School Photo

My Fellow Teachers