Sunday, 28 December 2014

Mirary Krismasy!

Mirary Krismasy! (Merry Christmas in Malagasy)

I am currently on day 5 of Christmas vacation and let me just say, I am unsure how and why these days have gone by so quickly! Here's the run down of all that has happened this week.

There were no surgeries last week but there were some patients in the ward so some nurses were still working. For the most part though, many people were on vacation. HR was open on Monday and Tuesday but it has been very quiet because there have not been many people coming to the ship lately. In the new year there will be an BIG influx so I am profusely enjoying the calm before the inevitable storm. Unfortunately I didn't get to go to the retirement home last Tuesday. Apparently they were having important visitors so they asked us not to come. That's okay, I signed up to go this week; hopefully it will actually happen. On Tuesday there was some trouble in town due to some difficulties surrounding the consistency of the electricity. As a result, people were protesting, or demonstrating, or doing something; I am not too sure. I can only tell you what I heard because I was on the ship and didn't see anything first hand. However, the Captain informed us that they were calling people, who were out, back to the ship and our shore leave was suspended until further notice. Well, we were allowed to get off the ship the following morning but we had an early curfew on Christmas Eve (7 o'clock). That really messed with my plan to go to evening mass. There was no way I could go to 6 o'clock service and be back in time. That meant plans had to change; it is all part of the experience. Christmas morning started at 4:30am. We put our shoes out again and it was fun to see people roaming the halls during the night, making their deliveries.

After I made my deliveries I went for a run. Yes, I am slightly deranged. However, I certainly wasn't going to do it later on in the day, after I had eaten my weight in carbs. Then I got myself to 7 am mass, which I quite enjoyed; Christmas tunes are universal so even though I wasn't sure what everyone was singing I could sing along in my head. When I got back there was free Starbucks, some pre-brunch snacks, and Trevor getting his fill of hugs:

After that I went down to my cabin and passed an open door along the way. I got to visit with the Silversteins, a wonderful couple that was in my group in Texas. We chatted for a while and then headed up for brunch. The dining room was decorated beautifully for the occasion. I was most intrigued by the napkins! Look how cute:

Then came the part of the day that I was warned about: the afternoon. After brunch is over there is a whole lot of dead time. Time to think about home, family, and potentially wallow in self-pity. Luckily I had a friend who suggested we play Scrabble. That, coupled with doing laundry, kept me nice and busy. By the way, Christmas is the perfect day to do laundry on the ship because either people are not around or they aren't thinking about doing chores on Christmas. There was also an impromptu jam session that kept us entertained.

Then we had leftovers for dinner and got ready for open cabins. Open cabins is a ship tradition where people (typically families and people who live in singles) open their doors and offer treats, a place to relax, and some great company. I really enjoyed seeing how cabins are made into homes and it was a nice chance to sit down with someone you might not typically talk to on a regular day. And with that, Christmas was over!

I hadn't intended to run on Boxing Day but I think my carbo load from the day before gave me a lot of energy, so off I went. It was a GREAT one; I love it when that happens. Then I hung out on Deck 8 and enjoyed the beautiful day; not too hot or humid.

It was also my intention to make the Silversteins oatmeal raisin cookies for Christmas because they quite enjoy them, and I enjoy making them and giving them away. That being said, the crew galley was CRAZY the days leading up to and including Christmas, so there was no way I was going to insert myself into that chaos. Seriously, I would have had to keep my elbows up just to get some personal space; not the way I like to bake, or do anything for that matter. So I postponed baking until the 26th and this is what I found:


Then the weekend came, and I got to recover from Christmas! The timing worked out very well.

Back to work tomorrow but we do have Thursday off, so it is still a short-ish week. I hope everyone has lots of fun ringing in the new year (don't get too crazy)!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

It was one of THOSE weeks...

This week has been fairly uneventful but when you are on a ship, that means lots has still happened. A public statement was made to announce our return to Madagascar for the next field service. That is a great blessing in many ways: we can take advantage of the infrastructure investments that have been made here for the Hope Centre (long term recovery centre) and dental clinic, retaining some of the 200 day crew will be a great help because the hiring/training process will be far more simple, we can really make a great effort to learn Malagasy well and know it will be helpful for another year, and Mercy Ships can make an even stronger impact by having a continued presence here in 2015-2016. All of these things are wonderful but part of me is disappointed. West Africans are still suffering because of Ebola. The teams that are try to help combat Ebola are being seen as the cause. Think about it: people in these crazy looking suits come to get your friend, mom, sister, brother, dad, uncle, and a few days later they bring them back in a coffin. It is hard; hard to understand, hard to manage, and I cannot even begin to imagine how hard to live through. Even though it is not international news anymore, please keep these countries in your thoughts, and prayers.

The ship is a little quieter than usual. Many people have departed the because their service is over, but many more left to go away for Christmas and will be back. People have been asking me if I am going away over the holiday (we have the 24-26 off). My standard response has been "No, I am going to revel in the quietness of the ship". That usually gets a smile and a head nod, because people know how great that can be.

The container that left Texas in June finally got to the ship! It went to Benin first and then had to get re-routed to Madagascar. That means I now have sunscreen! That is great news in and of itself but I also have enough toiletries to last a very long time, my huge Canadian flag, extra sheets, travel mug, and picture frames.

One of the nurses was commissioned to decorate the door of the HR office. She is absolutely amazing, as you can see. We all have our own elves! I'd just like to note that I hold the naughty/nice list; how appropriate.

The upcoming week will provide far more blog worth information that the last. I am going to a seniors home on Tuesday with Mercy Ministries and we have lots of Christmas festivities. Have a wonderful Christmas everyone. I hope that you can find the joy wherever you are, in whatever you are doing!

Sunday, 14 December 2014

What does home look like?

My week in pictures...

A very thoughtful member of the deck department knew that I was missing hockey and gifted me this "puck". Pretty close! This is the result of drilling a hole in a huge tire.

We made a friend. The Peace Boat, Ocean Dream has been keeping us company for the past few days. That means there is another boatload of vazas (foreigners) in town. 

Gingerbread House Contest

Let me tell you, this was not necessarily what I had anticipated it would be when my co-worker asked me if I would help by being a judge. Naturally my response was "I am very judgmental". Armed with that skill set I was perfect for the job! Finally all those years of being a perfectionist were going to come in handy. However, it was to be discovered that whoever signed up to coordinate was responsible for making the pieces to compose the houses. Well, I was also happy to do that as well. So April and I set to work on Saturday making enough walls and rooves for 11 houses. 6 hours, and a few near breakdown later we were done! Today we got to see the fruits of our labour being put to good use!


Transportation to the display table was a challenge for some.

Teams were required to bring their own base; this team used the shape of Madagascar!

Winner for most photogenic

Overall winner! It is a ship... seriously, people are awesome. 

Most likely to be lived in; complete with an outhouse, and well!
This was actually last week but I really wanted to share. I had an extra cupcake and my bunkmate was just getting up to work the nightshift (Bill Cosby says chocolate cake for breakfast is perfectly acceptable). I later found this note on my bed. Yes, people are actually this nice!

I hope everyone has a great week!

Sunday, 7 December 2014

'Twas Three Weeks Before Christmas

The gangway all decorated with garlands and lights!

Christmas is coming!!!

How do I know? Well besides the whole calendar thing, I got cookies in my shoe, Sinterclaas came, and we had a Winter Wonderland! Now for an explanation...

Sinterclaas (St. Nicholas) is a tradition that the Dutchies on the ship carry out. As an aside, I have been informed that Germans also celebrate Sinterclaas. Anyway, you put your shoe (only one) outside your door and Sinterclaas' assistant a.k.a. Black Peter (don't ask, it is a point of contention) delivers treats to your house. Generally kids will also put out a carrot for the horse. Typically there are huge chocolate letters and marzipan involved. There is also a big televised parade that is broadcast throughout the Netherlands (Santa Claus parade anyone?) Thanks to the serious efforts of many dedicated Dutchies on the ship we had little bags of spiced cookies in our shoes in the morning. They were baking ALL day! It was insane and smelled absolutely delicious if you went anywhere near the crew galley. Think 14 pounds of tiny, button sized, hand rolled cookies. Wow! Anyway Sinterclaas arrived to the ship via Tuk Tuk (how nice of him to embrace the Malagasy culture) and gave the children a gift, only after they sang a song, or performed a trick.

Then on Saturday, there was a really awesome craft and food fair that allowed all the crew to enjoy the hard work and talents of our fellow crew members. I went to evening mass and didn't return to the ship until 7:30. At that point there were already vendors that had sold out! It had only started at 7:00!!! Oh man, people really know what they like. There were cookies, cupcakes, chai tea, donuts, smoothies, apple turnovers, jewelry, greeting cards, a photo booth, snow cones, Christmas ornaments, and much more! I thought long and hard about signing up to have a booth and decided against it for a couple of reasons: 1. I already had cupcakes that I had been commissioned to make for that day. 2. I knew the crew galley would be FULL of people preparing treats and I don't work well with others, or in perceived chaos. 3. I really wanted to attend Saturday evening service. 4. My heart wasn't excited about making anything in particular, and without love it just isn't the same. I do intend to make some confections to distribute on Christmas Eve. That way I can make whatever I choose, on my own terms, and there is no pressure to produce anything specific. I am thinking the questionably named "Christmas Crack" because who doesn't like that? I have a ton of graham crackers that I could make it with, instead of saltines. It doesn't require many ingredients (all of which I can procure here), and it is easily packaged/stored. Whoop! Already excited about it.

Then this morning (Sunday) I went down to worship service in the ward. It was great to actually see patients and be able to sing with them and see the joy on their faces as we all thanked God together! No pictures allowed, sorry folks.

Earlier in the week we had a Malagasy cultural evening on the dock. The staff development manager had organized locals to come and set up stands to sell hats, cards, souvenirs, food, and there was even a dance team! We had our dinner set up outside (thank you to the galley and dining room staff, because that was a lot of extra work for them). I absolutely adored seeing everyone outside, eating, laughing, and just enjoying each other's company. Sure, that happens in the dining room all the time, but somehow being outside made it less stressful and intimidating, and far more fun and carefree.

Yup, the lady in the front, centre, is balancing a bottle on her head... while dancing. Skills