Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Crests and Troughs

Since I am on a ship I feel compelled to use marine nomenclature whenever possible, hence the title.

Educational and entertaining, what more can you ask for in a blog? 

I titled the blog crests and troughs because yesterday I had a day FULL of them and it got me thinking about what I see as the good parts and the more difficult parts of living on the ship. 

- There are some absolutely wonderful people here that are full of life and are very caring. I love that feeling you get when you are speaking to someone and you just feel great peace. I had a conversation yesterday that gave me that feeling, and it is nice to speak to someone who is actually interested in listening to what you have to say.
- Human interaction! HR means many different things to everyone but here I am so excited to see people coming in and out of the office freely. At this point where the paperwork is light, it is nice to see people and get to learn more and more names. At first I though I would never be able to remember all of these names but day by day, after multiple introductions, I am starting to get a few. It is always funny to talk to people and see them try and inadvertently look at your crew badge to get your name. I am trying to resist the temptation to do that because I know how it feels when people do it to me. 
- If you give me a badge, a key, and a lanyard I feel SUPER important. Really, the feeling of having something that shows belonging around my neck gives me joy. What can I say? I'm a simple girl.

- Because people have had to change their travel plans based on the location of the ship I have had to send LOTS of amended arrival notices. I know this is out of my control but I can just imagine people on the other end of my e-mails thinking "oh man, not another one from that crazy HR facilitator". Slightly irrational perhaps but I have a complex about making mistakes, so having to resend makes it seem like a mistake. Last week I felt worse about this, but this week I am just doing my best to make sure every detail is correct for the moment. 
- There are some people who you just don't connect with, no matter how many times you try. Yesterday I had a conversation that completely drained my self worth, I got up feeling terrible about myself. I know that I need to work on not placing my worth in the hands of other people. I also need to stop convincing myself that I need to be friends with certain people based on age or a single similar interest. It is also hard for me to come to terms with the fact that it is okay to just be an acquaintance and say hello in passing.
- Even with all of these people around, wonderful as they are, there is just something about talking to a friend who knows you. Someone who knows your personality, what you have done, and where you have come from so that you can vent without judgement and with understanding on the other end. Relationships are hard for me, so to have a friend like this on the ship may take until I am getting ready to leave. I can always try to pick up the phone but time differences and other people having lives (go figure) puts a damper on that option sometimes. 
- People drive me nuts. For no particular reason sometimes people will rub me the wrong way. However, I am fully aware that what is bothering me about them is completely ridiculous and not something that should be affecting me in any way whatsoever. This is such a problem for me and has been even before I got to the ship. On the ship it is slightly more challenging because I can't find a space to just let out whatever frustration, or anger seems to be troubling me so I just hold it in, and eat my feelings. Bad news. 

Anyway, thank you for putting up with my rant. Now that it is on the internet for all the world to see, I hope I didn't divulge too much information or make anyone reconsider their interest in Mercy Ships (the good stuff really does outweigh the bad, I'm just noisier on the bad days).

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Enough about me

I been away from home for months now and I feel as though I haven't been giving you a complete perspective. Especially now that we have been delayed it has been hard for many people who have been reassigned from their expected hospital jobs to working in the galley, dining room, housekeeping, or with the engineering department doing odd jobs. I can see some people becoming tired and frustrated, stuck in a place of limbo. However, the managing director of the ship told us, very explicitly at our community meeting this week, that we are most certainly going to Africa. Although this mission can do great and beautiful things for the volunteers themselves, there is a whole other side to the story, a whole other group of people whose lives are changed.

Here are some of the stats from the last field service in Congo, as provided by Mercy Ships:
1085 eye surgeries; 995 people can now see
604 maxillofacial surgeries; 483 people who no longer have to hide in shame
207 plastic surgeries; 179 people who have regained use of their limbs after being badly burned
60 obstetric fistula surgeries; 60 women who feel worthy again
78 orthopaedic surgeries; 60 people who can now walk
19,081 dental treatments; 7,410 people without a toothache
629 Congolese health care professionals trained

Also, I really like this video. Mercy Ships has an amazingly talented communications team that put this together:

Note: A very Happy Birthday to my wonderfully amazing cousin Alessia! Have a wonderful day and I am so proud of who you are and your selfless and loving spirit.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

I'm on a SHIP!

Hola amigos!
I have safely arrived and am fairly settled on the ship. The trip to Tenerife (Canary Islands, Spain) was a long one but also fairly uneventful and very beautiful. Check out this picture I took from my seat on the flight from Dallas to London. 

The other really great thing was that on two of three flights there were lots of empty seats so we had lots of room to spread out. That was especially helpful on the 9 hour, overnight, flight to London. From London we went to Madrid (where I was feeling very nostalgic) and then to Tenerife. Most of us in the group got our bags but there were three unlucky people who didn't have their bags come onto the carousel. We we waiting, and even though the steady flow of bags had stopped I was still trying to hold out hope, and then the carousel stopped all together... not good. Luckily their bags were close behind and they got them the next day. 
At this point the ship is not at full capacity for staff since we are still in the Islands and don't have the hospital up and running. However, from what I can see it is a great group of people and I am really looking forward to my time here. I felt very useless my first few days in the HR office because the one person who can train me is just so incredibly busy. However, I am gaining more and more information each day and hopefully by the end of the month will be well equipped to handle the influx of crew members when we arrive in country next.
Did you notice that? Country next? Interesting, huh. Well let me explain. The ship was supposed to sail to Benin yesterday (Friday the 15th) but because of the Ebola situation, management decided to postpone our sail to see what transpires in the countries surrounding Benin (mainly Nigeria). I appreciate that they are being diligent but it also creates a bit of a mess for all the people who were supposed to arrive or depart the ship shortly after our arrival in Benin. However, I am grateful for the opportunity to adjust to the ship in a country where I am comfortable with the language, still have the freedom to roam around town on my own, and with less people on the ship (finding a table at mealtimes is going to get stressful). Even though I am not fully useful in the office, I was able to help a couple that was in my group in Texas, to buy a mini fridge. Although I can't full understand all Spanish dialogue I can get the gist and express myself (in a roundabout way sometimes). At least I feel a little useful in that way. I went to church yesterday with a few people and we missed dinner on the ship. We ate at a restaurant in town and I was able to communicate with the waiter, David, and translate for him when needed. Just in case you were wondering, I had and AMAZING salad with goat cheese, almonds, avocado, and a whole lot of deliciousness. Aaaanyway... David liked us enough to bring us some post dinner shots (I went with it). Understanding the priest at church is a whole different issue (too fast, too quiet, dropping off at the end of his sentences). I can't forget that being in Tenerife has another important upside... gelato. Not quite as good as Italy, but still very, very, very good. Since I won't see it again for months I have given myself permission to eat as much of it as I can. 
Last week I noticed that while I was walking down the hallway toward my cabin, I started off walking on the right hand side and then somehow was bumping against the left wall, and then I was back on the right. No, I was not inebriated. It was just the ship gently rocking back and forth. Being in the port I have noticed some movement but thankfully it hasn't been bothering me at all. 
Yesterday we moved from the area of the port that is designated for passenger ships to the area with the container ships. I guess they hadn't anticipated that we would be overstaying our welcome. We can't easily walk to town anymore but they have organized shuttles with gracious volunteers taking an hour whenever they can. Mercy Ships has a whole bunch of Land Rovers (the serious ones, not like the ones at home) so we are making good use of them. 
As for my living quarters, I am in a four berth which means there are four beds in total but the way it is configured is that there are two beds in each "room" that has a curtain separating it from the rest of the cabin. I am on the top bunk and here is a picture:

My bunkmate and I each have our own closet and you can see there is a little vanity in the middle. My bunkmate, Martha, has been so helpful and patient with me being slightly disorganized and bumping around when I wake up early to go running. The other two ladies in the cabin were with me in Texas and they are both great so I am very thankful to be living here. We also have a small room in our cabin with a couch, a window (pretty lucky since not everyone has one), a table, some shelves, and a little refrigerator. 
Here's a picture of the ship where we were docked when I first got here:

Not a bad set up, huh?
Also, they are doing some work on the dock and they had the following sign out. I just love when things get mistranslated. 

It should probably say "risk of collision". I like it the way it is though. 
I am sorry I hadn't updated in a while but I hope that gives you all a better idea of what's going on and from here on out I should be back to my weekly post, barring any unforeseen circumstances. Let me know if you have questions. Have a great weekend!

Monday, 4 August 2014

Guess who's back?

Everyone arrived back from Haiti safe and sound, with a few stragglers (that customs line in Miami is a challenge). Haiti was far more beautiful than I had imagined and did more for my life than I think I realize. We have some fantastic photographers in our group so I left the picture taking to them. All the photo cred goes to Walter Pretorius; thanks Walter! Here are a few shots:

The Church

Going back to my farming roots

These guys walk around the ground with their guns really casual. They even have them beside them in the cafeteria. Apparently they usually just shoot rabid animals and not people (I asked).  

Church on Sunday

Once you're in Church you'd better stay until the end!

Building a section of the wall. A wall around your property in Haiti is a sign of legitimacy so they have been working on it, but the property is so big and they work at a fairly leisurely pace so it will be over a year before they are completely done. These Haitian workers were so meticulous and that wall was perfectly level; we need to get some of them to Canada! We had a pretty good time even though there was a bit of a language barrier. I now know some Creole!

We went to get some gravel from a nearby town and the kids were loving it!

Making progress

How cute is this little girl?!

We got to go to the beach!

A child in Ona Ville got his hands on someone's sunglasses

Praying in Ona Ville

Ona Ville didn't even exist until AFTER the earthquake. There are thousands of people in that area.

The travelling zoo as some called it. We were the animals!

The turkeys on campus. They went everywhere; in the cafeteria, in the kitchen, to church...
Tomorrow I leave Texas and head to the Canary Islands to meet the ship and then in a couple of weeks we head for Benin! There are a serious number of flights in my future starting tomorrow night at 8:10pm and continuing until 9:40pm on August 6. I am tired just thinking about it. Let's hope everything happens the way it should; without any drama.
Thank you for reading, loving, sharing, thinking, giving, and all the other things you all do for me that I don't know about!