So it's been 2 weeks. But it feels as if it has been forever, and barely any time at all. Sometimes the thought of 5 more months is scary long, yet wimpy in comparison to 8 years on board. Ship life feels like a small town - except that practically no one is related to each other. The all-night discussions with roomies are the best, especially with midnight cooking sessions and dance lessons. The one thing about living on board is that you could spend all day every day on board and feel like you were in America...except for the slow internet...
Walking through the marketplace is a maze of people, wagons, cars, Zimmi Johns, and in your face demands. French drifts among the mangled English and dialect trails to create utter chaos. Add to that a group of white girls and you've got instant madness. Trying out bits of French is great in theory, except that when any white person manages to wrap their mouth around the Frenglish the average Togolese will assume they are utterly fluent. And no matter how many times you insist that you don't speak French, every Togolese and French dialect known will be tried before the limping English surfaces. Of course, because you are a white person and thus "completely loaded" the price is hiked up to 2 or 3 times its original value. Then the arguing and yelling and exclamations and explanations get underway. The most effective bargaining tool by far is to simply walk away. Immediately they will call you back and the process will begin again. If the price absolutely refuses to budge at all, then walk for good. The exact same item can always be found again to be sold by someone more willing to bargain.
Being on board ship means that not only are there different surroundings, but there is a constant turnover of people. On Monday there was almost 50 arrivals...and the hospital isn't even fully staffed yet! The galley has to make more and more food, except for the fact that most of the arrivals are female so the pork chops don't disappear as fast. Cooking dinner becomes even more of a challenge when we've got a small team. Sure the day-workers help, but they leave mid-afternoon. Our team leader is gone for a couple weeks so this could be interesting. Last night we begged for help to do dishes after dinner and surprisingly enough we had almost 10 people show! We were done in half an hour, including cleaning drains and floors. Work is fun, if challenging at times. The funniest part is when you hear what other people think about you. Apparently, I don't talk. At all. Funny really when you think about it. It must be the loudmouth American stereotype. But hello! Since when do I fit into any stereotype? C'mon!
Screenings start February 1st! Pretty much all available crew is going to be helping out that day. Dental and Eye Clinics will be ongoing throughout the field service. Please be praying that God will bring the right people to the clinics. That the people who come will have their lives changed. That the people who we can help are seen and are given a surgery date, and that we will say the right things. There was a story from the last outreach told at a meeting about a woman who because of a large oozing tumor protruding from her face had not been touched for 10 years. 10 years without a hug, a touch of the arm, a smile. She had been screened and told she could be helped, but she was a bit nervous. She had never been on a boat and now she was supposed to go and stay for a while on a piece of floating iron. One of the crew walked up to her during the screening day, reached down and touched her and spoke to her, saying that everything would be fine and not to worry. That simple touch, after 10 years of nothing, made her feel that she could trust Mercy Ships and that everything would be OK. Pray that what these people need will be given to them, even if it is only a kind word, a smile, a drink of water, or someone to talk to for a while. Also pray for the doctors and nurses doing the actual screenings. It can be exhausting to see so much pain and hurt.