Saturday, 25 July 2015

Strange and Unusual

Being in ship yard means a lot of things are different. Let me give you a run down:

1. There are far less people on the ship than usual
2. There are no children allow on the ship during dry dock (so that mean all the families move off the ship to other accommodations)
3. You have to wear closed toed shoes all the time (because of the safety hazards). Consequently, my nude flats are starting to look quite dirty and my feet are always hot; it is a trying time
4. Lunch is served on Saturdays (usually no lunch is served on the weekends)
5. No air conditioning 
6. Fresh water is extra limited, so that means being really strict about 2 minutes showers and only one load of laundry per week. Yes, it can get smelly.
7. The ship itself is very quiet. I don't mean because there are less people around, but because there are less generators and engines running so there is literally less ambient noise
8. South Africa is definitely not as hot as Madagascar (that's really good- see number 5)
9. When the water gets turned off for the day we get food brought in from outside (last week we got amazing butternut squash soup)
10. When they spray for bugs we get food brought in from outside too (yes, there are bugs). I don't like to squish bugs; I like to rescue them and set them free outside but here that just isn't possible. Sometimes you are way too far from a door, and the windows don't open, so I have become a bug murderer.
11. The wearing of a hard hat needs to be factored into how my hair gets done (again, life is difficult)

Besides all that, we have 3 captains on board right now. Two are acting (one is handing over to the other) and one that will take the position in several weeks. 

Have a great weekend!

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Under the Sea

Today I got a tour of the depths of dry dock and I loved it so much I did it twice! Well, I actually had two sets of visitors today so I went with them, but I really did enjoy myself! It gives great perspective and it is amazing to see how huge the ship is from close up. My visitors were some staff (and family), and students from the place where I did my safety training. I am so glad I got to show them around so they can better understand what we do and how we do it. It is really hard to get it until you see it for yourself.

Apart from the dry dock tour I was able to show my visitors the bridge and the engine room thanks to several really wonderful and generous people who took the time out of their day to do so. I also got to see something I have never seen before: the view from the very top of the ship! 

Suffice it to say, I had a wonderful day. Last week I finished safety training and am so thankful that I got to do it. At the time, I was also glad it was over because I had gotten a cold and was not particularly keen to be studying, and working all the time. I am finally over my cold and am ready to battle in the office on Monday. 

Have a wonderful week!

Sunday, 12 July 2015

How to Save a Life

I GET TO DO BST! Whoo hoo! BST is Basic Safety Training and is something that usually gets done when long term Africa Mercy crew go to On Boarding in Texas. However, due to some scheduling issues, many people in my On Boarding group did not get to participate. Lucky me... a training was arranged for several people here in South Africa and I get to join in. We started last Monday with Personal Safety and Social Responsibility then moved to Personal Survival Techniques where we got to do a practical in a swimming pool! Yes, a swimming pool! Dreams do come true. The pool was incredibly cold (no exaggeration) but after 45 minutes I could feel my extremities again and I didn't want to get out. We had to flip a life raft, jump in from a height with a lifejacket on, stay afloat without a lifejacket and tow another person. It was quite fun, except for the part where one person freaked out and pushed someone under the water to keep himself afloat. I'm not sure if he just wasn't a strong swimmer, or he was just so very cold that he panicked, but it really showed how easily people can change when their state of mind changes to survival mode. Anyway, everyone was fine in the end, but it was a bit scary for the guy who got pushed under. Then we started firefighting on Wednesday and had to do a search and rescue exercise in the dark with full SCBA (Self Contained Breathing Apparatus) gear. I was so worried about it because there was this big ladder that you had to descend and I was convinced that I was going the plummet to my death. Clearly my fear was unfounded because I am still alive. Then on Friday we went to a sugar cane field and got to use the fire hoses and fire extinguishers on real fires (well the flames were real but they were contained). They had a shipping container and we had to enter the space and put out the fire and them back out. It was a little anti-climactic but still a great experience. Funny thing about the sugar cane field: right next to where we were doing our practical was a coffin manufacturing company (just in case anything went wrong).

The best part of this whole week is that I got hurt. Well, that isn't the good part, it is the way that I got hurt that is just ridiculous. I didn't injury myself doing any of the activities but rather, just walking across the street. Perhaps I need to started wearing my PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) everywhere I go. 

Next week we have security awareness and first aid and we are done! 

South Africa is full of beautiful landscapes, wonderful people, and great opportunities. That being said,  when you live in a country (albeit temporarily) that has food options galore, it is pretty exciting. South Africans have these things called rusks. They are akin to a biscotti and they just warm my dunking loving heart! Sure, you would break your teeth if you tried to eat them dry, but that is what makes them great! It's the simple things.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Crash and Dazzle

I got to spend Sunday through Tuesday on one of the most fantastic trips I have ever experienced. Not only did I have great company, the sights were incredible, and I was spoiled the whole time. Three others ladies and I set off early Sunday morning for our safari adventure. We were lucky enough to have the best guide ever (that is not an exaggeration). When I say we were lucky, it was a fluke that we ended up with Brett. We booked with another tour company but they didn't have the man power to take us, and they have a great working relationship with Brett, who manages his own tour company, so we got kicked over to him. If you have an inkling to do a safari in any country in the Southern part of the African continent I would HIGHLY recommend you use Brett. This is his website: He is knowledgeable about the wildlife, he knows a ton of languages, he is a great cook, takes amazing photos, has a serious amount of patience, and seems to love what he does. We spent our time in Hluhulwe iMfolozi Game Reserve, which is about a 3 hour drive outside of Durban. Before we got to the game reserve we stopped at a cat rehabilitation centre. The animals at the centre are there for a variety of reasons: some are disabled and wouldn't be able to survive in the wild, and some were purchased as pets and then their owners got to a point where they couldn't take care of them anymore. We saw serval, caracal, african wild cats (which look like house cats), and cheetahs.
Look at those long legs!

After the rehab centre we headed for the park and got to work looking for animals. It is a good thing I can buy my food at the grocery store because if I had to hunt I'd die really quickly. I was not very good at spotting animals but there were others in my group who had a knack for it, so we got to see many different animals. We had some incredible sightings and I think the pictures really speak for themselves.



Did you know a group of zebra is called a dazzle? And a group of giraffe is called a tower or a journey? And a group of rhino is called a crash? After learning these things we named ourselves team crash and dazzle. 

On Tuesday we were headed back to Durban but first, we made a stop in St. Lucia to take a boat cruise on the St. Lucia Estuary. An estuary is meeting point where a river or a stream meets a body of salt water. This is where we saw many hippos and crocodiles. 

An Australian, 2 Americans, and a Canadian with some hippo teeth