Sunday, December 9, 2012

Observing Surgery

*Cataract Surgeries
*Maxillofacial Surgeries:
-Neck tumor
-Fibrous Dysplasia on the face
-Facial tumor

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Dinner on the Dock

Last Thursday was Dinner on the Dock.  Basically it just means that everybody, crew and dayworkers and patients, all get to eat and hang out on the dock followed by worship and dancing. Its a fun night, yet it means extra work for all the Galley and Dining Room teams.  So, all the hotdogs, buns, baked beans, coleslaw, and condiments was transported down the tiny gangway and set up on folding tables on the dock.  As per usual, we had fun grilling the hotdogs.  After dinner we all enjoyed the dancing and fellowship.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Dental Clinic - Guinea

Mama Grace
    Dental Clinic round two! No, I didn't get to pull any teeth this time, it was sad.  I was actually working in the sterilization room.  The team was short their sterilizer as she was sick so I stepped in to help.  Mama Grace was a dayworker that was a very patient and good teacher.  First step in the process is to collect all of the dirty instruments from the procedure room.  There were 4 dentists and 8 chairs so the dirty things would pile up rather quickly.  Then, back in the sterilizing room, the instruments would be scrubbed to remove any blood or tissue and then placed into a small machine.  I have no idea what the machines did, I think it was an ultrasonic deal, but the instruments were in there for 15 minutes.  Then they were dumped onto the table, dried, sorted, and packed into the sterile pouches.  Once we had 4 trays full of packaged instruments, we placed them in one of the 3 big steam sterilizers.  Once the 40 minute cycle was finished, they were set onto a table to finish drying and then finally to the instrument room to be used again.

    About 11 or 11:30 the power went out.  This Is Africa after all.  The generator kicked in to run the necessary machines but fans are less of a priority.  The power did not come back for the rest of the day.  So we began sweating.  It was worse in the sterilizing room because it was back in a corner and didn't get much of a breeze.  

    I was unable to really be in the procedure room, other than walking through to collect dirty instruments.  So I did not get to pull any more teeth. Sad day.  But since I was able to have so much fun and so many stories at the Dental Clinic in Togo, it seemed fair that they put me to work.  By the end of the day I was getting the whole sterilization process down.  Except for sorting the sterilized instruments into their homes.  They look a lot alike, color coordination was helpful, but it was confusing!  All in all it was a fantastic day.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Eye Screening

     Working security at an eye screening sounded like an adventure.  Getting up at 3 AM?  OK.  So by 3:30 AM I've rolled out of bed, filled my water bottle, and made PB&J sandwiches.  Fox News is giving minute by minute updates of the Election results on the TVs in Reception.  Ken and the 2 nurses show up by a quarter to 4 and we clomp down the Gangway down to the Land Rover.  Bangura jumps into the Land Rover with us and we're off.  Driving in the dark is completely different than day time.  At night there are no people, chickens, dogs, goats, babies, or carts to run over.  However, the headlights fail to pick out the potholes so the road can look deceptively smooth.  On the hour plus ride to the screening site I'd be jolted out of sleep by my head slamming into the roof or window or my arm.  When we turn down the alley to the screening building, the line is already 50 people in either direction.  There were 2 lines: the women's and the men's line.

      Running security at a screening is far from what it sounds like.  The security is not necessarily to protect the nurses and other medical staff, it is more to keep an orderly line, prevent line-cutters, prevent bribes, having to shatter the hopes of people who are beyond our help, and to make sure that no one gets past the pre-screening who was given a "no".  We arrived about an hour a half before the Eye Team so we started out by walking up and down the line in either direction making sure that everything was quiet.  When it started getting light, Bangura, a Guinean, would walk up and down talking through the megaphone saying that this was only an eye screening.  Only those with double cataracts could be helped.  Club feet, tumors, and other medical issues would have to listen to the radio or the TV to see when those kinds of screening would be held.  Either Ken or I would have to walk with Bangura because the people waiting wouldn't believe what he was saying unless a white person was seen to be saying the same thing.  I couldn't speak the local language but my confirmation of what Bangura was saying was enough.  Telling the mother with the 2 year old with club feet, the woman with a neck tumor, the crippled man, and the boy with a lazy eye that we were unable to help them right now was heart breaking.  Hope and Healing yes, but not for all.  The patients who did receive the yellow follow-up appointment cards were so joyful.

      The stark contrast between the despair and joy within meters of each other is such a part and parcel of Africa.  Walking along the streets and seeing children running around, laughing, playing football (or soccer for the Americans), and yelling "Fote! Fote!" at the white people makes you smile.  Yet when you think about the ship that you will return to, the AC, the safe food and water, and the medical care available 2 decks away, the ache returns to your heart.  Yet for the lives we can and do change, their joy is contagious.  The patient who had the cantaloupe-sized tumor removed from his cheek is starting to speak again.  His life has been altered dramatically.  Who can frown or be sad when faced with a smile so joyful?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Galley Update

     The past month has flown by.  So much has happened and is still changing.  So, starting in the Galley... I now co-lead a Galley team.  The previous team lead decided to switch departments and so another girl and I are leading our team.  Its a strange feeling.  I am in charge of Cold Side (again), the dish room, and making sure that overall the Galley runs smoothly and the food gets done on time.  Cold Side will prep the fresh fruits and vegetables, tuna/chicken/pasta/potato salads, desserts, specialty breads, dressings, and salad bar toppings.  Hot Side is being run by Martine.  She just graduated cooking school and is fantastic to work with.  There were some bumps throughout the whole process but now everything seems to be smoothed out.  The latest nicknames for Martine and I are: The Dynamic Duo, Trouble Twins, and Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton.  That last one is from an African who works with us and thinks its hilarious.

Making banana pudding in the Galley

     I've been able to see more of the medical side of things recently.  Next week I will be helping run security at a screening.  I love being out and about in Conakry and experiencing Africa.  I realize that I don't have as many pictures of Africa itself or of patients and such.  However, I would really rather not have my camera stolen in the market and we as crew members are restricted from taking pictures with patients.  I will do my best to take pictures!


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Here We Go Again!

      I'm back! Its been so much fun to see all of my friends again and catch up.  Its a little strange to be back, I know the ship yet so many faces have been replaced.  This time around I am in the 8 berth, with 6 roommates.  My bunkmate is my best friend from last field service, Sandy.  I am also back to work in the Galley, on cold side again.  Yes, the baking has begun again.  So far Pumpkin Pie and Cream Puffs.  I just injected and dipped the puffs into the chocolate, but it was fun and yummy! My roommates are already starting to develop a love-hate relationship with my baking: its good but we can't get those Mercy Hips!

     Last Saturday I joined the trip to the Baby Rescue Center here in Conakry.  The center is operated by a Canadian woman who has lived in Conakry for over a decade.  Unwanted babies are left in a market or other busy area and when the crowd realizes they have been abandoned arguments ensue over who should get the baby.  However, the reason for wanting the baby is not to have them join the family, by the time the child is 3, they have become household slaves.  They are not allowed to go to school or have "normal" lives. At the Baby Rescue Center there are currently 10 babies.  They are the cutest, sweetest things.  When the Mercy Ships crew visit they are shyer, quieter, and more inclined to snuggle.  When we first arrived, most of them were sleeping.  Eventually all of them woke up and stared.  3 of the babies are being adopted out of the country.  2 of them are ending up in the U.S. and 1 will move to Canada.  They steal and break your heart all at the same time.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Getting Closer All The Time

     One week till I'm on the ship again! I am so blessed to have this amazing opportunity.  I have learned so much throughout my Mercy Ships journey.  God has been faithful in providing the funds for these trips, providing in amazing ways.  I was able to receive the exact amount of funds that I needed just this past week.  Thank you so much to everyone who has been supporting me on this adventure through prayer, donations, and encouragement! Hopefully in about a week I can update ya'll on Guinea!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

37 Days and Packing

     I have just over a month until I leave for Guinea to serve in the Galley.  I'm so excited to see friends and my Mercy Ships family again!  The turnover on the ship is extremely high but there will still be a few familiar faces.  The best part about returning is that I know more of what to expect, where things are located on the ship, and what my job is.  There will be a few people in the Galley I still know, my favorite Canadian will be just down the hall, and hundreds of new people to meet!

     Its been great to be home.  It can be a struggle from time to time.  The hardest part about coming back is that while I've changed, everyone back home has continued on same as before.  That comfy little niche, with all of its problems, isn't as comfy anymore.  I'm still me, but a different me.  The hardest part is knowing how to blend the new you and the you that others expect to meet again.  Realizing that cross-culture jokes won't have quite the same vibe, recognizing the blank look on other's faces when you reply in another language, figuring out when you should stop talking about your trip because the other person is starting to zone out, and laughing at yourself when you accidentally call out for a friend...and realize they are literally on the other side of the globe.  I feel like I've matured, I can handle responsibility, take charge if needed, take the blame if necessary, and my sarcasm is getting less prevalent (well, depends on the people I'm with).  My cooking and baking skills have improved, and I'm realizing that I'm no longer that shy, awkward, homeschooled wallflower in the corner.  :)

     Traveling is always an adventure, especially in my family.  Growing up with my parents and learning to expect the completely unexpected was amazing training for international travel and Africa.  Things may not go as planned, flights can be canceled, signs may be in a different (undecipherable) language, travel companions are either helpful or nonexistent, bags hopefully arrive at your destination, and you're hoping you have a ride when you finally reach your destination.  I did a bit of traveling in Europe before returning home and lugging my heavy suitcases full of Africa memories was interesting and probably very amusing to watch. Knowing what to pack and where to stuff it is a skill only gained by doing the wrong way.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Adventure Continues!

     When I first started hearing about Mercy Ships and began thinking about joining the organization, I started to get the idea that this was almost addictive.  Both Rachel and Anna not only extended the first time they joined the ship but they also went back.  So, not wanting to break the mold I am going back to join the Africa Mercy this fall.  I enjoyed my time there so much.  I learned a lot: not only about cooking but also about myself.  I made so many good friends on and off ship.  Not everyone that I knew on board will still be there, but some of the best are still there.

     I started considering going back to the ship about a month before I left.  So, to see if there was any availability in the Galley I emailed the IOC in Texas.  When the reply told me that there was no spaces until next year, I figured that this wasn't God's plan.  Or not.  I talked to my boss Ken and told him I had tried but there was no spot, he said to wait and that someone on the other team was switching departments earlier than expected and there was a vacancy in the Galley.  So, Ken pulled strings and I requested those specific dates and everything fell into place.  I purchased my plane ticket and I will be in Conakry, Guinea from October 3rd to December 15th (ish) this fall!

     While raising support for my previous trip To Togo this spring I was blessed to receive more than I needed to go.  Those funds can and will now carry over for this fall!  I currently have 76% of the funds that I need to go back.  I am so thankful to everyone who supported me with prayer, well wishes, emails, and financially.  I invite you to join me in yet another adventure!

This is a video that one of the Academy Students on board made for her work experience week in the Galley.  Gives ya'll a glimpse of what happens on board!  

Monday, June 11, 2012

Au Revoir

You're gonna miss this
You're gonna want this back
You're gonna wish these days 
Hadn't gone by so fast
These are some good times
So take a good look around
You may not know it now
But you're gonna miss this

     Goodbye Africa Mercy.  Goodbye Lome.  I don't want to leave, but I can't stay.  I'll miss you.  But I have the friendships and stories to last a lifetime.  Thanks for the memories.  Au revoir mon ami.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Almost Done

     Its crazy to think that five months have passed.  Time passes differently here in Africa.  Some days will drag on, but most fly by.  The part that makes the days all blur together is that each day is full of so many different things that they can seem to be shorter.  There is always something to do, places to go, and people to see on board.  I will miss my friends on board and off-ship.  Especially my African friends.  There can be such a cultural difference and misunderstandings and laughter.  My favorite thing that they will tell me is to "shake your body for the Lord!" at the dance parties.  African accents are now much easier for me to understand, though there can be difficulties sometimes...

     The markets are bustling with people everywhere and it is easy to get irritated when they grab you or thrust whatever they are selling into your face and hissing at you to come over here.  Yet I've learned to play the game.  It is a complete game to them, to see how bad they can rip you off, how little they think you know.  So when I start playing by their rules and "become Togolese", they know you know.  One of the highest compliments that I have gotten is when a lady selling dresses at the market was arguing with me about the price and started laughing, saying, "you are Togolese, you are too stubborn!"

     One of the things that I will miss the most are the marriage proposals that come randomly and frequently everywhere you go.  From the taxi drivers, zemidjan (pronounced zimmi john) drivers, passersby, etc.  Walking along the street the conversations can go something like this:
African man - "Bon soir!  Ca va?"
Me - "Ca va"
African man - "(something in French or Ewe)...marry me?"
Me - "NO"
African man - "porquoi? porqoui?"
Me - "Goodbye!"

     I want to thank all of my supporters who made it possible for me to experience all of this.  It literally would not have been possible without all of your prayers and support.  The people who send are doing just as much as we who are sent.  I have enjoyed and learned so much while I have been here.

Ken, Carmen, and I with all the Galley Dayworkers

Saturday, June 2, 2012

60 Minutes

      60 Minutes was filming on board the Africa Mercy!  The crew was told about a month and half ago that the filming crew would be coming, and filming wrapped up last week.  The crew was banned from discussing it with anyone or on anything until just recently.  60 Minutes filmed quite a bit - roughly 1,800 minutes of footage.  They focused on the hospital, but also got a lot of footage of daily life.  When the camera was rolling around the dining room, it was the cue for me and some friends to get out of there.  But,  I was in the Galley when Ken gave the tour to Don Stephens and then I was on the dock when they were filming during fire the drill.  So that means I've got about 1/18th of a chance to make it into the 12 minute program that will air this fall.  It will be so cool to watch it and point out the people I know!!

Dental Clinic


     On Wednesday I had the opportunity to visit the Dental Clinic, my first day and its' last day.  My friend Ben was also there for his minor job as assistant Dental Sterilizer.  I was able to come because the Dental Team Coordinator, Sieh, had promised me that he would work out a day that I could come.  So at 7:30am sharp I met the Dental Team in Midships for their devotions and met the people I did not know.  Around 8:15 or so we headed out to the Land Rovers and left for the clinic.  Once there, we met the nine dayworkers and had devotions with the entire team.  Then Ben started sterilizing with Rosemary, and everyone headed down to the 2nd floor to start work.  Joyce and Abdulai worked admissions and the two dentists, dental hygienist, dental assistants, and dayworkers prepped for the patients.  I was told that they did not have a job for me, but that I was free to observe.  Which after about 3-4 hours of observing and lunch, turned into assisting.  Joan, one of the dentists, asked if I wanted to take over Devo's job of assisting. Why not?  So I took charge of the suction tube and was able to see even better. 

Pulling Teeth!

     Most of the work was pulling teeth.  Some teeth (the more rotten ones) came out really easily, but there were the stubborn few that had to be sectioned.  Once the tooth came out and the hole was cleaned, cow tendon was packed inside, the gum was sutured if necessary, the patient was given pain meds, explanations on how to take care of their mouth and sent on their way.  A patient came in who had serious infection in both jaws and needed to have a lot of teeth removed.  I pulled out 5 of his teeth.  It was like pulling a nail out of wood, but the pus that came out after the tooth was gross.  I was so thankful for the dental care that I have received back home.  

     After the last patient, the clinic was partially dismantled and packed up.  The rest of the packing will be completed next week.  I had fun while helping with Devo, Mawu, and Dodji.  Devo had taught them a hand slapping game and paper, rock, scissors so we were playing that off and on.  We had a lot of fun!

Rosemary is the Dental Team Sterilizer, basically she works in the hot and sweaty part of the clinic


Devo, Mawu, and Joan

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Papanie - A Joy to Work With

Mention the name of Papanie Turay around the Africa Mercy, and the response is immediate: “Perpetually happy!” These two words sum up the wonderful joy that Papanie shares wherever he is working onboard.
Papanie Turay is a diligent worker and takes great pride in a job well done.
Papanie’s kind and buoyant disposition is especially amazing when you consider the trials he has faced in his life. Prior to joining Mercy Ships as a day-worker in Sierra Leone in 2011, Papanie endured incredible hardship. Yet, he never abandoned hope nor his mission to “serve with all of my heart.”
Two of his brothers died in infancy before Papanie was born. Then, when he was two years old, his father died. People said that Papanie’s mother was cursed and that she would kill her infant son, Papanie, too. She believed the superstitious gossip. To save her son, she gave him to her sister Fatu, who did not have any children.
Life with his aunt was harsh. Papanie began work as a laborer at a very early age to help feed the family. The extremely heavy loads he carried caused excessive strain on his growing joints, particularly in his right hip. But Papanie could not afford to stop working, and the pain in his hip grew worse.
The remedies from the traditional doctor in his village offered no relief. Wrapping his legs in steamed leaves made no difference. In desperation, Papanie spent precious resources to get advice from the nearest clinic. The news was distressing. Papanie would have a permanent limp, and he must stop carrying any heavy loads to keep from completely losing his ability to walk.
At age fifteen, Papanie came to a Mercy Ships patient screening. The sad news Papanie had received from the clinic was confirmed. There was no treatment that could heal Papanie’s hip or limp.
Because he could no longer earn money as a laborer, Papanie knew he would be an unwelcome burden on his aunt and her family. He left their village and began living on the streets in Freetown.
With his visible limp, Papanie bore the brunt of ridicule and discrimination in addition to continuing physical pain. He said, “My life was survival of the fittest. Any money I earned I had to spend right away or bury. Otherwise it would be stolen from me. I went to school, but I had no lunch, and I could not afford to buy the uniform.”
The only family that Papanie had during these dark years was a group of teenagers who lived in Victoria Park in Freetown. While many street kids turned to theft to survive or to drugs to escape, Papanie did not choose that path. “I wanted a good way for my life, not one that was wrong or would cause the harm I had seen done in others who went this way,” he explained.      
When Papanie was first approached by a Christian organization called Word Made Flesh, he resisted the invitation to join their support program for street youth. “I was from a Muslim family and was taught to mistrust Christians,” he stated.
Cami, a warm-hearted Word Made Flesh volunteer, caused Papanie to have a change in heart. “Cami showed me so much love and care. My family never gave me love, and when Cami, who did not know me, gave me what I had missed so much in my childhood, I began to feel differently. I watched how everyone at Word Made Flesh gave love to others, and I decided I would be a Christian, too.”
In 2011, Papanie had his second encounter with Mercy Ships, thanks to his involvement with his local church. His youth pastor suggested that Papanie become a day-worker onboard the Africa Mercy. “I wanted to become a missionary, and I didn’t think I would have time for a full-time job. But I listened to my mentor’s advice, and, after working with the hospital housekeeping team, I was so glad. I discovered that the mission of Mercy Ships is also my mission. The work is hard, but I am able to serve with all of my heart,” he said.
Hospital laundry services are critical to keep the busy Africa Mercy  wards and operating theaters fully stocked with clean linens. Papanie Turay ensures that his work is done – above and beyond the call of duty.
Papanie’s family thinks that it is a great blessing for Papanie to be part of the Mercy Ships team. He agrees. “I have learned to serve others, and I have so many good friends in my life. I have put down my pride for a new way – I help others get up.”
A wonderful step in Papanie’s missionary journey was completing the Mercy Ships Gateway training in Ghana. “I learned a lot about leadership, God’s Word and how to work cross-culturally,” he remarked.
Papanie is now working diligently to raise the support needed to continue his service as a volunteer crew member onboard the Africa Mercy. He welcomes the opportunity to serve and to grow in his ability to be a servant leader.
“In my community, I help young children, especially girls, with their education. I led a Good News Club, and every Saturday morning children came from everywhere to worship, sing and share food. Now, I am talking to others to also start Good News Clubs in their communities. Everything I gain as a volunteer with Mercy Ships will help me be of more help to others,” he said.
Papanie has absolute confidence that his path with Mercy Ships is what God has in mind for him. “God has given me a lifetime supply of joy and the will to help raise others up through education, through mentorship, and through showing love. I am blessed to be His servant, and I know I will be blessed with the support to do the work He calls me to,” he said with great assurance.

March 13, 2012 Story by Joanne Thibault; Edited by Nancy Predaina; Photos by Debra Bell

Note from Tori: I had the great privilege to meet Papanie about a week ago.  My other Sierra Leonian friends introduced me over dinner.  The most exciting part is that Papanie became a crew member earlier this week!  He is now Hospital Housekeeping Coordinator.  Papanie lives down the hall from me and is such an amazing man.  He is so joyful, friendly, and praises God for everything.  I am honored to know him.

Radiatou - Part 2

     After years of waiting, the time had finally come for Radiatou to have surgery. Radiatou suffered from a large facial tumor that had been growing for years, causing her to hide in the shadows of life. Now she was onboard the Africa Mercy, waiting anxiously on her hospital bed – knowing that in the morning her world was going to change forever.  While crew members talked to her and prayed with her, she was constantly moving, filled with so much energy and excitement she could no longer contain it.
     Twelve hours later, Radiatou was wheeled into one of the hospital ship’s operating rooms to have the tumor removed. The surgery was complex, and Radiatou required a couple of pints of blood, which were donated by the crew, to help sustain her during the long procedure. Mercy Ships volunteer surgeon Dr. Luer Koeper was able to remove the tumor successfully, taking away the mass that had shattered Radiatou’s life.
      Radiatou spent a couple days in the ICU to ensure she did not need more blood transfusions. During this time, Radiatou’s new friends, crew members she met on screening day, came and visited her several times a day. Every time, Radiatou would reach out to hold their hands, giving a sigh of relief and falling asleep with her supportive friends surrounding her. Before long, Radiatou was well enough to move into the hospital ward with other patients. She counted down the hours until her friends came to see her. As soon as they entered the ward, she clapped her hand and performed a little dance on her bed. The love and support from the Mercy Ships crew soothed Radiatou’s aching soul and broke the shackles of loneliness that had held her captive for so many years.

     Within two weeks, Radiatou had healed well enough to go home. Her Mercy Ships friends drove her to her village, which was over an hour away from the ship. As the Land Rover pulled up to her home, it was immediately surrounded by people waiting for Radiatou’s arrival.  And the celebration began! This was the first time any of the villagers had seen her without her tumor. The response was overwhelming for Radiatou, her extended family, and her Mercy Ships friends. Loud sobs of joy filled the village as they all came to hug Radiatou. Many fell to their knees, raising their hands to the sky to praise God for the miracle in Radiatou’s life.
     Two months later, Radiatou’s Mercy Ships friends returned to her small village. Radiatou joyfully flew into their arms. She was healing well physically, and now she was dancing with her dearest friends in celebration.
     Radiatou came to Mercy Ships as an orphan who had just lost everything and everyone she knew. She was living in a home with people she had never met before and was engulfed with loneliness. In fact, she was so distraught that she attempted suicide but was stopped by her new family. The next day she heard about Mercy Ships, and a month later she found herself, for the first time in years, surrounded by people who cared for her deeply. They became her closest friends. Her tumor was removed, and so was her loneliness. She basked in the glow of love and acceptance of new friends.
     In a matter of months, Radiatou’s life was completely transformed by the power of love in action . . . the power of mercy. Now, she had a future and was getting ready to start her training as a tailor. She no longer had to hide from the world’s stares. With tears in her eyes, Radiatou said goodbye to her wonderful, supportive friends. “The love you have shown us has made us feel so welcomed, you have loved us as if we were family. You will always be family to me,” she declared.
Radiatou takes her first lesson in the art of being a tailor...and enjoys every minute of it!

10 May 2012Story by Nicole PribbernowEdited by Nancy PredainaPhotos by Debra Bell and JJ Tiziou 

Monday, May 21, 2012


        So a couple weeks ago, two of my roommates and I went with a local Ghanaian friend for a weekend away in Ghana.  Now, Ghana and Togo are very different.  They are about the size of a small state back in the U.S., but it is countries over here.  And the languages are very different, English and Twe in Ghana and French and Ewe in Togo.  But the biggest difference, at least for me, was the cars.  Now, as some (or most) of ya'll know, I like cars.  And the bigger, the faster, the better.  I'm not sure about my roomies but I have been dying for the sight of a nice car.  And, amazingly enough, I did.

Elsa, me, Benjamin, and Ana

     There is a lot to be learned about a city just by looking at the kinds of vehicles being driven around.  Here in Lomé the most common cars are old BMW’s and Toyota Corolla’s and Camry’s.  Most of which aren’t really in factory condition.  Semi-trucks are the most common vehicle in the port area – to haul the containers – and few have matching hoods, not to mention the wired together scraps that somehow is kept alive to form an engine.  Yet by far, the most common mode of transportation is the Motos, or Zimmi Johns as they are also known.  Sanyas, Hondas, Suzukis, Apsonics, Vespas, (and the rare Ducati) zip in and out of traffic, streets, alleys, and people.  After 4 months in a city, one can get used to this style of traffic, making it a bit of a shock to go anywhere else.

Accra, Ghana waking up

     Ghana, on the other hand, has nicer cars, more of a variety in the types and years.  I saw my first VW truck, the Amarok.  My favorite car was the silver Dodge Challenger with the nice scrape along the back bumper.  There were more Renaults, VWs, and Toyota trucks.  The big vans used as taxis are more commonly called Tro Tros, in which anywhere from 15-20+ people can be packed into.  Most of these are without AC, so it is a relief once the Tro Tro gets underway.  But the difference isn't only in the types of cars, but the roads.  In Accra, Ghana there is a 6-lane highway!! Talk about a huge culture shock.  And there are stoplights (that are actually obeyed), and a mall, and a parking garage, and big buildings.

     Honestly, Ghana started to make me miss home more than I have in all the months in Togo.  It was a good transition to my last month onboard.  I’m starting to do things for the last time, and doing things more often because I will miss them. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

All-American Apple Pie

     Last Thursday night I made apple pies for the whole crew.  I had planned on doing it earlier during the day, but it didn't work out, so from about 7:30p to 12am I worked on the pies (and left the next morning for Ghana).  It was a long process, but fun!  According to Ken they all tasted really good so success!  And yes, this was my first time really cooking pies...  Lesson Learned: don't be afraid to experiment!

I made a brown sugar, oatmeal, and cinnamon topping that went on top of the apples and under the top crust - mmmhmmmm!

End Result: 10 Pans of Apple Pie
1 Pan Cherry Pie
2 extra crusts

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Change. Is. Life.

     Change is good and bad.  It stretches, breaks, and grows you.  Recently one of my good friends who worked with me in the Galley left to go home and I am now stepping into her position.  Now I have the official title of "Cold Side Team Lead".  My job description doesn't change much but now I am responsible for making sure that everything is completed and completed well.  Cold Side in the Galley bleaches and washes all the fruit and vegetables; chops, slices, peels, or shreds the aforementioned; creates a salad bar with 6 different toppings (ranging from jalapenos to kidney beans to croutons to fruit, etc.), makes salad dressings, makes desserts or specialty breads, and scrubs floors and fridges.  Yes, that sounds like quite a list.  Not all is done at the same time though.  I was not looking forward to having to take over Emma's position.  She had been to culinary school and had worked as a chef for several years.  But, so far so good!  So up until Monday I was working by myself on Cold Side.  I always had Day Workers that I could pull from the dishroom to help me, but I was getting really eager to have another team member, ASAP.  Thankfully, Ken realized I needed all the help I could get and now Josh is working with me.  We've been having fun but now the girls in the kitchen are getting outnumbered...  Its funny to think that I'm in charge of one part of the Galley when I am literally the youngest one on the team.

     The last month in the Galley was one of the more difficult months.  The two main ovens that we use for heat and steam refused to work (one had a minor explosion), leaving us with one, smaller oven.  That meant no fresh bread from the baker (we bought local bread), desserts became more difficult, and dinner became more and more likely to be something fried.  Then the one steam kettle that was working decided it didn't want to anymore...but the electricians brought it back.  Then, Lucy 1 and 2, our vegetable choppers/food processors, worked only half the time.  Oh the stories....  It became laughable sometimes to see what was working.  Yet thanks to our patient and talented electricians, everything (except one steam kettle) is back!

   Anyways,  I finally took some pictures while I was at work, more will come eventually!  I promise!

The Coffeecake I made this morning, but that's only half of the pans...  It was really good!

Cooked coffeecake

"We're going on a fly hunt, I'm not afraid, got my trusty rag...."

Making bruschetta for a birthday party later that night, like my Ghana jersey?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Painful Thoughts

     Pain is such a relative idea.  For some people a simple needle prick practically requires a trip to the hospital while for some it takes a piece of bone sticking out for them to start to be concerned...  There have been many studies done on a person's pain threshold (the amount of discomfort it takes for a person to admit pain)  and people vary a lot.  Yet there seems to be one major factor in play.  It is so easy for a person in a well-developed country to admit pain and seek treatment.  Yet in many third-world countries where medical treatment is not readily available people are forced to ignore the pain and continue on as best they can.

    Recently I have experienced a lot of self-inflicted injuries to my arms, the left one in particular, and I have been down in the wards so my nurse friends can fix me up.  But I look around at the patients in the beds with tubes and wires connected to them, or large bandages around their legs or faces or jaws, and I cannot compare.  They have had to live with serious problems, most of their lives. 

So far during the field service in Togo, Mercy Ships has done:
430  Cataract Surgeries
64  Pterygium Surgeries
151  Maxillofacial Surgeries
16  Cleft Palate/Lip Repairs
66  Plastic Reconstructive Surgeries
134   Specialized Surgical Solutions/General Surgeries
(i.e. hernias and goiters)
5  VVF Surgeries
12  Patients in Palliative Care
88  Dentures provided
261  Clinical Dental Hygiene Services
5,117  Dental Care - tooth infections/decay procedures

Bringing Hope and Healing...

Monday, April 16, 2012

Engine Room

Deck 2 and Deck 3 are not the hotspots onboard, they're hot and humid and noisy.  Supposedly the real missionaries on board are the ones who have to live on those 2 decks... :)  A couple friends and I were special enough to receive a tour from Dennis, one of the Engineers.  From the giant engines to the AC units to the welding shop to the incinerator, there is a lot going on.  But, now I know what the alarm I occasionally hear is from: something is a little bit off with something.  Yeah, I really don't know what I'm talking about.  But it was really neat to see all that happens below us!

"The Chocolate Factory"