Saturday, February 25, 2012

I. Dare. You.

Poverty.  Disease.  Starvation. 
 Those three words are hard to face.  No one likes to stand up to them, many people try though.  Many throw those three words around and try to change the world.  Or to motivate other people to change the world.  But no matter how much we agree that those words need to go away, there is another word that makes it practically impossible to do so.
What does corruption really mean? According to Merriam-Webster it is "an impairment of integrity, virtue, or moral principle; depravity."  This word will not allow anything else to change or get better while there is money to be made from the status quo. Why would one do the right thing when it so much easier to get paid and look away?  Why feed those orphans when they'll probably die anyway?

If that doesn't make you sick, then you're either part of the problem or too jaded.  Jadedness is oh so easy to acquire.  It sneaks up as we watch the news, read books, articles, etc on this hurting world.  Its even shows up in birthday songs: "Sickness, sorrow, and despair.  People dying everywhere, HAPPY BIRTHDAY! ..."  Only pictures can drive the numbness away.  Either that or getting out of the AC and off your tush and into the heat and stink of real life.

     "I want to change the world" is a common dream of kids everywhere. Yet for some reason the world seems to be much the same as before.  What if the goal changed slightly? What if we changed it to "Changing the world for one person at a time"?  Not only does the goal then become a lot more achievable but then the effects will become visible faster.  I dare you.  Show us what'cha got!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Camping, Africa Style

     Camping? Sure why not? I mean, it is in Africa, but how hard can it be?  I mean there are some people who want to "subject themselves to that kind of misery."  Rebekah was leaving and really wanted to go do something fun on her last weekend.  Kpalime (pronounced PAH-LUH-MAY) was chosen as our destination because it had waterfalls, we were packed, borrowed a tent, hammock, and mosquito nets and we were set!  After arriving at the bus station we all hopped into the bus and then waited for the bus to fill up.

     Now, in Africa "filling up the bus" doesn't mean filling the seat belts.  There are none, so that's beyond pointless.  They really know how to max the capacity of a vehicle.  In the end there was 19 people in the 8 passenger van.  Needless to say, we were squashed.  But Bronte, Rebekah, and Nick kept on saying how luxurious this was compared to the Poda-poda's in Sierra Leone so I couldn't really complain.  Well after about an hour squished between the side of the van and Bronte with my backpack on my lap, the lower half of my body alternated between numb and tingling.  But after 3 hours we arrived in Kpalime!

Traffic is usually a little closer than this...
    We had arrived in Kpalime, but we were in the city itself, not the mountains where we wanted to be.  So since none of us spoke French we proceeded to try to ask where the waterfall was.  And no matter how much Spanish you try, no comprehension is registered unless its on the faces of the other white people with you.  Nick has the best French, but even that is small small.  After about a half an hour we hopped into another bus (but just the four of us plus the 3 "guides") and proceeded up the mountain.  Along the curving, twisting pothole of a road they men pointed out a waterfall - a trickle coming down the rock - and the back door of the van kept popping open.  We were taken to a hotel at the top of some mountain.  Then we realized we had to explain that we wanted to camp and not just sleep in the hotel.  Thankfully the hotel owner spoke English and we were finally able to leave the people behind and just the four of us continued to climb the mountain.  Alone at last! Or not.

     Halfway to the top the rumble of a motorcyle could be heard behind us.  The two men on it offered us their services as guides, help to set up camp, and demanded we pay to camp.  Eventually we again refused all offers of help and had to pay.  Then we completed our escape to the top.  Camp had to be set up and the fire started before it became completely dark.  Thankfully the tent was a pop-up and was easy to set up, even though the tent site was less than desirable.  The hammock was slung between the trees and now dinner needed to be cooked.  The plan was was to get the fire down to coals and boil our Ramen.  Plan was well underway, until Motorcycle Man returned, this time with a English-speaking friend.  They laughed at our fire, built it up to blazing, cooked our Ramen to mush, and the friend said he could take us to a waterfall in the morning. 

     After eating the surprisingly delicious Ramenush and watching the fire die, we were bored.  So Bronte and I amused ourselves with a flaslight, camera, and mosquito net until we looked up and realized there was a flashlight about a hundred yards off.  It turned out to be the owner of the land and he was just checking up on us, to our great relief.  By then we were tired enough to try to sleep.  After rearranging ourselves to fit the lumpy, poky, extremely uncomfortable rocks, we fell asleep.

Our 6am Alarm Clock

      After waking up and stretching, we packed up camp and set off to meet our guide to the waterfall.  It was a good 45 minute hike, interspersed along the way by our guide pointing out interesting plants.  The best plants were the ones that were used for dyes. 

Bronte killed me

      After spending a couple hours playing around, it was time to return to the hotel to meet the taxi.  The driver was crazy.  Sorry Dad but you drive like an old lady in comparison.  The driver would crank it up to 80 kph on the straights and slam it down to 10 kph for the turns.  And that was on the mountain roads.  He ended up driving us all the way back to Lome.  Needless to say, the return trip was much faster than on the way there.  From the bus station back to the ship it was Zimmis - joy riding at its best!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Hitting the Ground Running

     So its official, surgeries started a week ago!  Its exciting to see the ship coming to life.  More and more medical crew have joined, mostly nurses, and now the patients have started arriving!  Hopefully I will get myself out of the kitchen and down several decks to visit patients and watch surgeries soon.  I've noticed that being a non-medical crew member on board a hospital ship is difficult at times.  If you don't make a visible effort, you can stay on board the ship and work and live "in Africa."  If you don't look out the window or go out in the humidity then does Africa really exist?  It can be so easy to say that "I'm tired" or that "I'll do it tomorrow."  The tiredness and tomorrows will never end.  Not only is it easier to avoid the real Africa, sometimes it can be difficult to want to get involved with the medical aspect.  Being behind the scenes can be frustrating, but it can be turned into a learning time.  During our devotions in the mornings our team leaders have stressed that we are not just serving the doctors, nurses, deckies, staff, visitors, and patients; we are serving God.  It helps to keep in mind that hope and healing for many is the end goal instead of receiving appreciation for your service.  It can be difficult, especially on days when nothing goes right.

   But, on the other hand, working in the Galley rocks because I can pretty much go in and cook or bake whenever I would like to.  It's easier to go after the other team is done working, or on break, or to get the needed ingredients and go to the Crew Galley.  My room mates have been asking me why I keep tempting them with all the goodies...  Chocolate chip cookies, cake, pudding pie, raisin bread, cheesy biscuits, mwahahahaha. :)

   My prayers lately have been to pray that the hospital can be run smoothly, surgeries are successful, and that people are changed -- not only the patients, but everyone involved in each step of the process.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


     Screening day went really well and was such an answer to so many prayers.  Most of the guys on board were all night-security at the stadium and then about 3 AM all the nurses arrived.  Apparently there was only about 100 or so people lined up until about 3 in the morning and then it just exploded.  Because Togo is a shorter field service, there are not going to be any orthopedic surgeries.  The programs that will be up and running in Togo are Mercy Vision (eye),  Outlook of Hope (maxillo-facial), Reconstructing Hope (plastics), Specialized Surgical Solutions (life-changing general surgery), Hope Reborn (VVF), Togo Smiles (dental), and Palliative Care on the medical side.  And then on the capacity building side there will be leadership conferences, Restoring Hope (mental health counseling), and the HOPE (Hospital OutPatient Extension) Center.  Plus Mercy Ministries which crew members who are not working can join smaller outreaches to prisons, orphanages, schools, neighoborhooods, etc.
     Patients arrived Monday! So far there are about 20-30 on board, but that number will increase shortly.  So as far as the Galley is concerned it just means that we now have a Ward Cook and that there is a more typically African meal prepared by the Ward Cook.  Yesterday was crazy with an event going on in the morning and team leaders gone or sick, and then the Ward Cook didn't show.  Thankfully another one of the day workers can cook and made AMAZING peanut soup!  The past two days have been crazy but this weekend our team leader will be back!