Category: Overseas Mission

Blog post 11 or 12: One Year Anniversary edition

Matthew Little,

Wow. It has just been just over 365 days since my Mercy Ships. This is counting the days since climbing the gangway of the Africa Mercy for the first time, not since I actually joined Mercy Ships. otherwise it would be about ….. 407 day. No, I’m not taking out the  month’s PTO I took during the summer, because I technically never left Mercy Ships. I still have blue lanyard, not Alumni green.
I say that, but in actual fact, I reluctantly gave into getting a replacement lanyard. Which I was saddened by. It was like a piece of my identity was taken away from me. Mainly because after a year, It didn’t look blue, it looked a dusty-brown grey. I really enjoyed when other crew members asked “So what does a grey lanyard mean?” and I would then go “It’s not a grey lanyard, it’s a blue one but just old”. Like the time in Doctor Who, when the 11th Doctor (Matt Smith) confessed that he actually enjoyed hearing “Doctor Who?” said out loud.

Ship life has been pretty standard, over the last month or so, with some interesting new things I have got up to on Deck. One of these things is learning how to maintain and repair chipping guns. That involved taking a chipping gun apart, cleaning it, checking if all the components are in order and in condition to be used again, and then putting them back together again, oiling them, and testing that they work. I did another week of Night Patrol, which went overall, pretty great! Nothing caught on fire, and there were no emergencies. Although, there is usually something that is on the back of your mind that they don’t want to happen and are out the ordinary. Nothing bad happened though.

During my week of night patrol, my Thursday was interrupted by a fire drill. Not that I didn’t already know that there would be a fire drill that Thursday, but here is the catch. It was a surprise fire drill. That happened about half past 10 in the morning. It wasn’t great to have just about fallen asleep for about 3 hours, and then suddenly to be woken up abruptly by a overhead announcement by the captain saying “Attention crew, attention crew this is a drill this is a drill. I am announcing this before the crew alert alarm so we don’t disturb the Operating Room. It’s on the dock”. Obviously, I had just woken up, and it took a very minutes to register what was going on, and then the crew alert alarm went off. So, I had to put on some trousers, not change my tshirt, because why would I, and went to my muster station. They got kitted up, I was asked to tell muster control who was missing from our team, whilst the rest of the team went to the scene. I went down, looking very confused, very tired, and squinting. And very hot. I have been outside in the sun in the bunker gear, it was not fun. My mum has some very bad photos of me in the bunker gear, completely unaware she was taking photos, looking sleepy and flustered. The drill finished, I helped with pack up, and went back to bed. Until about 3:30 in the afternoon, woken up by ANOTHER DRILL! It’s safe to say my sleep was interrupted big time. No one wants to woken up by an unexpected morning fire drill, let alone two unexpected drills. It was a security drill, and we were practising an evacuation from the ship. So I accidentally created another line waiting to get off the ship very awkwardly, until I was allowed to get off. It wasn’t a long line, but still. I then didn’t go back to sleep. A week later, on fire team training, a competition was held between the four fire teams, to which team could suit up the fastest, and ready to enter a space with a fire. That means, skin completely covered up. My team, Fire Team 4, won the contest!  On the basis that we were the only team to not be disqualified for having anything wrong with our suits! You know the saying ‘Slow and steady wins the race’? Having that mindset is crucial in fire-fighting. You may be fast, sure, but are you ACTUALLY ready?

Dreams do come true… even if they are getting Ice Cream.

After waking up on Saturday afternoon, after completing another week, I told some friends that “I really want to go out for ice cream at somepoint.” So, we tried to arrange to go out for ice cream the following Tuesday. The plan was like a plant. I provided the seed, (Hey, I wanna go get Ice Cream), a friend sowed the seed (Sure, let’s do this on Tuesday), and another friend watered the soil (Hey other friends, wanna get ice cream on Tuesday). The plant quickly withered and died. The plan conflicted with other plans. Unfortunately, the message of “hey, most of us are busy, so we are going to have to cancel the whole plan, sorry.” Didn’t make it’s way to the seed of the plan until the day of the plan. All hope of getting Ice Cream seemed lost. Or so I thought. After a Saturday full of out of town activity (more on that later), The message was sent to the Whatsapp group “Ice cream at Cremino”. It was happening. After only a week. And it happened. A few hours ago, I had been ziplining through Baobab trees, had a White Chocolate and Strawberry Magnum, and now we were getting Ice Cream. I felt I had peaked that day. And the perfect photo showing exactly how I was feeling was taken. Also, If you are in Dakar, and are looking for Ice Cream, I would highly recommend Cremino!
Together at last…. Choc
o Noisette and Salted Caramel

Safaris and ziplining through Baobab trees

Most of that Saturday was spent exploring and seeing the beauty in the natural landscapes of Senegal, in Bandia nature reserve and Accrobaobab. I, along with my parents, and a fairly large group, including Mike, the Carpenter, Nic (One of the officers), Riku (Another officer, from Japan!) and ‘Matsu’ (Engineer, also from Japan), Barry and Cheryl (British, married, chaplain and housekeeper, respectively), and about another Mercy Ships vehicle full. We weren’t the only Mercy Shippers going to Bandia, though. There were like another two Mercy Ships vehicles going to Bandia. We calculated that all but one of the vehicles for personal use had gone to Bandia. Only one was either at the ship, or elsewhere. So where was the last vehicle? That was a mystery. So, Bandia. Bandia was so nice. It was so good to just get away to get away from the hustle and bustle of the port and town, swapping people not that I don’t like people, it’s just, being around people, particularly a large number of people, does get tiring for lots of beautiful animals, and swapping the environment of dust, metal and concrete structures for baobab trees, and the breathtaking West African countryside. If that is what you call the more, natural areas of West Africa. I had never been on a Safari, but it felt like exactly how you may imagine: A big, open sided jeep, with a guide. Not the most descriptive description, but that was all there was to it. The only thing missing was the guide carrying a rifle with tranquilliser darts, in case some animals got a little bit too grabby with our food. I’m looking at you, monkeys. The animals were chill, I think they just wanted the humans to stop looking at them, and mind our own business. Especially a couple of giraffes, who kept bashing their heads into each other. I don’t blame the animals sometimes, to be honest. We also saw a juvenile tortoise trying to pick a fight with some of the older tortoises. I can imagine they were thinking “Please leave me alone. I just wanna stand around being a tortoise”

After a relaxing truck ride on the ground, observing African nature, we then used an opportunity to see the serene African nature from a different perspective, and with a slightly more active demeanor… up in the sky…. Nearly. Zipling through Baobab trees. It’s like Go-Ape, to all my fellow Brits. And maybe some Americans, as I just found out! Accept, through Baobab trees. The course we did, the highest and longest, was a mix of predominately ziplining and tight rope walking. The ziplining, surprisingly, was the easier part of the course. All it involved was hooking yourself up to the cable, and ensuring you get the wheelly system hooked up correctly, then you zoom through the sky, hoping that the cable doesn’t snap halfway through. On one of the last lines, I didn’t put in enough ‘oomph’ at my launch, so I just missed reaching the next platform without having to drag myself to the platform. And I grabbed on to the cable a bit too soon, and stopped myself. Just before the end. And rubbed my hands against the cable. Wasn’t fun. The next line, though. landed perfectly, In one. zoom. Maybe. I don’t know how to put it, but I reached the next platform in one go. The hardest part was the tight rope walk parts. The first was two cables vertically parallel too eachother. It wasn’t easy, with the fear of maybe losing a shoe. That almost happened climbing up the first ladder. And also maybe getting hit in the head by a rogue Baobab fruit. Which are heavy. Almost happened twice. But, taking the time to not slip off, (We were clipped to the top cable, so not fall off) allowed me to take a good look at the surroundings – the trees, the plains, the settlements, the odd industrial building. It is truly breathtaking. It kinda felt like being the camera of the aerial shots of a nature documentary. Or the establishing shots, just before we see the city in Wakanda in Black Panther for the first time. Nic, who was ahead of me in the course, who waited for me to get to the next platform before zooming to the next mentioned how focused and determined I looked, walking across the last tight rope walk. After completing the course, and after ice creams, it was time to head back to the port.

Other recent deck work has included greasing life boat davit cables. Not very nice, mainly because Harmattan is back, the dusty season, so cleaning the dirt off the cables wasn’t fun. Also, some not so fun enclosed space work. Though, I didn’t go in, I was just supervising, by being the standby man, but, for the guys going in, my fellow deck HANDS, James, Francis, Cherif and Ishaka (James has several names for me. the most current being ‘Supey’ – shortened from Supervisor), It has been tough work. In James’ words (or similar) “It’s like an oven. The air blowing around is hot. We have been doing maintenance underneath the stores crane. That has involved sweeping the dust inside, chipping, and yet to be done grinding. It’s a tedious job, and is a job that cannot go wrong. To all the ‘Landlubbers’, Enclosed Space work is one of the most dangerous work on a ship- that and diving operations. The entrances to the enclosed space also look like an old oven. It is apparently a job that has not been done in about 13 years. Which, in Mercy Ships history, is a year before the Africa Mercy started it’s Mercy Ships service.

WOW, EAGLES!
My Adventure Crew, an elite group of young Mercy Shippers established during shipyard. A group that we want to go down in Mercy Ships history and legend, until no one knows how it truly started. We said goodbye to another one of the ‘Founding Fathers, Simon, from New Zealand.  Simon joined at the very end of the field service in Guinea. It was a sad day. The day that we said goodbye, not when he joined! We became close friends. Mostly through his love of the way I say “Wow!” It was nice to have that close friendship with someone is a bit older than me. And someone to have a laugh playing Age of Empires 2 with, as I desperately clung on for life, trying to building farms, whilst he layed siege to my last villagers, stuck between a wall and a forest. So, a few hours before waving him off, as he left for the airport, we, aswell as some members of the Adventure Crew- old and new, went out for dinner at La Pampa, a nice local Argentinean place. Simon and I shared a Calabreasa Pizza. It was touching. After ice cream at Cremino, we went back to the ship. Simon wasn’t due to leave until 10, so I joined another group that another group of us have formed within the last week. our little ‘Mandalorian’ watching party. The Mandalorian, If you haven’t heard within the last month, is the new live action Star Wars TV series, exclusive to Disney+. Only 4 episodes in, and I am really enjoying it, the new grittier side of Star Wars, very intriguing plot. We watched the first three episodes a few days ago, and we watched chapter three again, mostly because on  of our party left before we started episode three. But that didn’t matter, but because it was worth the rewatch, because it is the best of the four at the moment. Then we watched chapter 4, which had just been released. So, then it was time to say goodbye. And then we went back to the Mandalorian. So long, Simon, I miss you already!
I also said goodbye to another friend that I had made during the last two months, Vanessa, one of the OR Nurses. If you see this, actually written not long after you left, it was a pleasure to have met you, get to know you, and call you a friend.

Deck hand – Admiral (to be)

Trying to get back into Tabletop miniature war-gaming (after about 8 years, from visiting a Games Workshop in Cambridge and buying a starter set of Ultramarines) and about a year of my friend from back home trying to get me into the hobby, I decided that I would order the starter set of ‘Black Seas’, the new Age of Sail (1770- 1830) line of tabletop war-gaming miniatures. I have started to build a fleet. Or two fleets. I intend to build two small British and French Navy Fleets so I can actually play with someone. Then expand to create a massive fleet. Maybe.

This is what they looked like a few Saturdays ago.

Three 5th rate frigates, without masts. 6 Brigs, with masts

 Thank you for reading, now enjoy some beautiful photos of nature. Taken with my new phone, and I was trying to work out all the fancy photography features. So not all that great. Not that I take many pictures anyway.

See you again soon!

Matthew.

And here’s a selfie I didn’t realise I took.
What are you looking at?
“Are they gone yet, Derek? My head hurts”
“Well, you hit me with your head.”
This lake didn’t look as nice as the picture would make it to be.
But it was nice to see a different body of water
Take my ice cream. I dare you. I double dare you
An antelope, I think. I don’t remember
A beautiful black and blue bird

Permits & Polyps – Delays & Deferrals!

Steve and Ruth Lancaster,
Picture of Steve and Ruth

We all know that feeling don’t we? That feeling of relief when your luggage finally appears on the carousel!  Some of us have also experienced the other feeling – that anxious and annoyed feeling when the carousel comes to a grinding halt and your luggage hasn’t appeared!  When we returned from Tanzania back in March, we experienced the latter feeling and had to wait 5 days for our luggage to arrive, all the way from……. Amsterdam!  Our home assignment started with a delay and it certainly seems to be ending with a delay….or two!  First of all there was the issue of our residents permits not being ready for our scheduled return in September.  And then just a few weeks ago (following a delay in getting my CT scan results) it was decided I needed sinus surgery to remove polyps, and so this has resulted in a further delay in our return!  So, until 17th November, we’re still very much based in UK.

UK based: the past seven months. You may just about remember that in our last update (nearly 8 months ago!) we listed 20 things that we were looking forward to during our home assignment.  Whilst I could wax lyrical about the whole list, you’ll be pleased to know that I’ve only chosen 8 things from that list as a way of reporting back on what’s been happening.

Overlooking Nazareth

Visiting Israel. I’ve had the pleasure of leading two Oak Hall trips to Israel/Palestine, one of them with Ruth as my co-leader!  Maybe I’ve said this before (!?) but to teach from God’s Word in the place where it all happened provides a real buzz!  And these trips are often eye-openers for the guests.  You can begin to imagine Hezekiah’s men chiselling their way through bedrock as you wade through his tunnel underneath David’s City!  You can picture Jesus weeping over Jerusalem as you descend the Mount of Olives, and, as you mingle with the crowds in the bazaars in the old city, it’s easy to visualise what a busy Passover festival would have been like.  And then, when you sail on the Sea of Galilee or sit on the shore, you can almost hear the words of Jesus as he teaches the crowds or stills the storm.  And so I could go on!

Steve waxing lyrical overlooking the Dead Sea

Running in cooler climes. We both enjoyed running the country lanes of Wiltshire in preparation for the Nairn half marathon in August.  My time of 1hr 58 mins over 13 miles was slightly faster than Eliud Kipchoge managed in Vienna last weekend, although it might be fair to point out that the professional Kenyan runner covered twice the distance in that time!!
Here we are with bro Lancs and Kerri.

90th birthday tea!

Spending quality time with family and friends. It’s been great to catch up with family and we’ve enjoyed some top times together!  We were able to see Steve’s youngest sister and her family for the first time in six years, and had the privilege of doing a mini-preach at my Grandad’s funeral back in July – just a month after his 97th birthday!  There have also been some awesome family holidays in Scotland to add to the memory bank.  Ruth enjoyed being able to celebrate her parents’ birthdays in September and October – Mum was 90 and Dad was 89.

Food variety. Bring out the pork pies!  And that could be the reason I’ve put on 7kgs (1 stone)!  We’ve enjoyed being able to eat salads without having to bleach them beforehand, and, as a bread fan, I’ve enjoyed eating some of the 20+ different varieties currently found in Morrison’s!  In Morogoro, brown bread is a relatively recent addition.

Driving on smooth roads where most people adhere to the highway code!  I realise that some of you will question my judgement on this one, but I’ve found driving in the UK to be relatively relaxing!  I’ve been amazed that drivers actually let you out at junctions!  It also makes a nice change not to see police jumping out of bushes with a tampered speed camera in hand!

The mighty Schilthorn

Skiing. What better way to unwind from the heat of Tanzania than to head to the Swiss Alps?!  We enjoyed a great Oak Hall skiing trip for five days back in March.  Somehow we covered 199 miles in distance and skied 170,000 vertical feet – although not all in one drop!  For those familiar with the Jungfrau ski area, I also managed 58mph on the wall of death; still shaking!!

Climbing a mountain or two. Definitely delivered on this one!  A number of minor Lakeland summits plus the Welsh summit of Snowdon were climbed.  We were also able to stand on the same mountain on which Moses stood (Mt Nebo) as he looked across from Moab (modern-day Jordan) into the Promised Land.  The view from Mt Masada (Israel) is also said to be one of the finest in the Middle East, although it’s more of a cable-car ride than a climb!  And during the Oak Hall Iceland trip that I spoke on, we stayed just a few miles away from the volcano that caused so much trouble back in 2010 – the one that no one outside of Iceland can really pronounce: Eyafjallajokul!

Cycling the Hebrides. What a week up in the southern Hebrides in July!  Along with some of the family, we cycled 95 miles on the islands of Barra, Eriskay, South and North Uist, Benbecula and Berneray.  Fantastic beaches, stunning scenery, and some quality birding: lots of short-eared owl and hen harriers, plus white-tailed eagle and snipe.

Not being at the mechanics on a weekly basis! We’ve managed to put 13,000 miles on the ‘little red blimp’ (mums car!), and apart from a standard service, we haven’t had to see a mechanic!

Being at our home church. We’re blessed to have a supportive church behind us (Corsham Baptist) who not only support us financially and prayerfully, but also send out teams to help at Sanga Sanga and at various AIM conferences – so we feel the connection is pretty strong!  We’re also blessed to be fully supported so we haven’t had the added stress of having to raise funds while at home.  I was asked to do the Bible teaching at our church weekend back in June and was given four 1 hour slots to focus on the Upper Room chapters in John’s Gospel.  Not sure about the folks there, but I very much enjoyed having quality time to preach in English!  We’ve also presented at a number of other churches in Liverpool, Lincoln, Carlisle and Chippenham, and I’ve been able to preach/teach on 30 occasions, including at the AIM Fellowship Conference in London and a warehouse church in Iceland!

Steve teaching the Word at the AIM Fellowship Conference in September

Delays & Deferrals are plentiful in the Bible!  Think about Jacob waiting to marry Rachel for 14 years!  What about the Israelites who took 40 years to enter the Promised Land when it could have taken them less than 3 weeks; that’s a huge delay!  The Apostle Paul was ‘delayed’ in Caesarea for two years sitting about waiting for his trial to happen.  Elisha was anointed Elijah’s successor but then had to wait 7 years for Elijah’s chariot to appear so that he could become Israel’s main prophet!  Jesus himself chose to delay for a few days on hearing about Lazarus.  And according to Daniel 10 even angels sometimes get delayed in their duties!

One of the passages that I preached on recently involves a delay, albeit a slightly shorter delay than the ones mentioned above!  Mark 6:47 says, “When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and Jesus was alone on the land.  He saw the disciples straining at the oars because the wind was against them.”  We are told in the next verse that Jesus went out to them, walking on the water, during the 4th watch of the night (3-6am).  The disciples had been on the lake since late the previous afternoon, wrestling with the wind and battling with the waves. They were still in that position 10-12 hours later!  And yet remember, Jesus had seen them straining at the oars the previous evening!  He knew about their situation and the ordeal that they were facing but he chose not to come to their aid immediately.  Jesus chose to delay his rescue operation!  Why did he wait until the 4th watch of the night?  We simply don’t know.  Maybe the disciples asked that same question!

Steve & Ruth with a calm Galilee in the background

There are some delays in our lives that work well for us and, as we look back on them, we can see a clear reason for the delay. We can even thank God for the delay because in His sovereignty He works these things out and knows what’s best for us. There are, however, other delays which are painful to bear and we long for God to remove them – we just can’t see any logic in the delay. In fact it feels as though we’ve been sitting in our storm-tossed boat for too long, crying out for God to intervene, but He seems to delay in coming to our aid.

Be assured, the Almighty God sees you straining at your oars and, at His appointed time, He will come to your aid.  Somehow, in the midst of the delay, He is working His purposes out for your life.  It is during the delays, some of which can be quite stormy, that God teaches us about Himself.  He calls us to trust Him through the delays and through the storms.  Indeed, without the delays, stresses, trials, and even failures, we would never grow to be what we should become as Christians.  They are a vital part in our spiritual growth, even though at the time, we might not like or appreciate them.  Father God, grant us grace and patience to face the various delays that You, in Your sovereignty, have allowed to happen.

Onwards and southwards! Hopefully, if all goes to plan in the nasal department, we’ll be flying back to Tanzania on Sunday 17th Nov to begin our third and final term at Sanga Sanga (2 years).  Ruth will continue to work closely with Pastor Batano in the management of IBM & Sanga (bookings, admin and finance), and I’ll continue in my role as a Bible teacher amongst the pastors and evangelists of the AIC.  I will also continue as AIM unit leader for Tanzania East.  When we get back we’ll be returning to the same house in Morogoro, and hoping that our night guards haven’t moved in during our absence!  One of the first lengthy jobs will be to get the cars started, whilst hoping that the engine compartments haven’t become a nesting place for termites, rats or snakes!  One of the cars also needs some new brake disks, which I’m told can’t be obtained in Tanzania, and so packing that 14kgs of steel into our suitcases is going to be a bit of a challenge!

It will also be quite strange returning to Morogoro without the Swansons or the Dixons being there, but we’re looking forward to working with our new team-mates (Joel & Lauren Wildasin), who arrived back in May and seem to have got their feet firmly under what was the Swansons’ dining table!  So, onwards and southwards we go, back to the mighty continent of Africa, and in His strength we’ll carry on the work that He’s given us to do for this next chapter.  We’re fully aware that “there is nothing in us that allows us to claim that we are capable of doing this work” but we know that “the capacity we have comes from God” (2 Cor 3:4). And so we commit ourselves to Him and ask that He would use us mightily for His purposes, despite our weaknesses and our ‘jars of clay’ fragility!

Praise & Prayer Points: 

  • We’re certainly praising God for a top quality home assignment!  We’ve been able to do everything that we planned – and more!  We’ve also been bowled-over with how generous people have been towards us and our ministry – from a cottage, to a car; from a holiday, to various gifts and meals along the way.  You know who you are!  Many thanks to you, and of course, to the Ultimate Giver for His provision!
  • Please pray for Steve and a number of health issues he’s facing; that the sinus operation would go well on Weds 23rd Oct and that the ongoing stomach issue (functional dyspepsia) would somehow settle down!
  • Please pray for us as we return on Sun 17th Nov; that we would be able to pick up where we left off; for good relationships with our new team mates; for strength and stamina as we get back into the Tanzanian flow; and for safety on the roads and in the home.
  • Please pray for the continued work at Sanga Sanga, and amongst the pastors and evangelists of the AIC church with whom we work.  Pray that I may proclaim God’s Word clearly whenever I have the opportunity.
  • Whilst we think this next chapter is for a two year period, we don’t know what’s in the pipeline after that.  We don’t need to know right now, and we know that God has a plan for the next phase, but we’d value prayer as we keep our spiritual eyes and ears open for what He may be saying to us during this next two years.

Every blessing,

Steve & Ruth

Bird of the month: Short-eared Owl, North Uist
Sunset in the Hebrides

Work in a different department, lesser known World War 2 battles and a long week of being ill.

Matthew Little,

Thanks for coming back, It’s been about a month since I last wrote, so I’ll do my best to let you know what I have been up to since I last wrote. As with most of my posts, this will probably be about what has happened that I remember or seem to be a once in a lifetime experience

But first, life on deck doing Deck work.

I feel like I have been telling a few people back home the same thing about what Deck work is like; A lot of the same of stuff as usual: A lot of chipping, grinding and painting, with maybe some different tasks to be completed. At the moment, at the early stage of the field service, the different kind of work is Container work. This usually involves one container at a time, but due to customs, we had three containers stuck in country. When they were all released, we suddenly had three containers to empty. Containers became the priority. So I spent a little bit of time on dock ‘supervising’ moving pallets to the container to our own transfer container, which would then be lifted into the cargo, to be unloaded, then moved back onto the dock to be reloaded with pallets. It’s repetitive, but it’s nice to be doing something different once in a while.
 I also tell a lot of people on ship that Deck work is pretty much general maintenance, to keep the Ship as strong as it can be. Which I am proud to be doing, to keep the mission going on this ship until the new ship is ready. And I guess, until this ship is done and I guess ‘Too old to continue in service’ and has to be decommissioned. The ship is about as old as Mercy Ships, about 40 years, which in ship years, is pretty dang old.  Want to hear the impression our ship makes on neighbouring berthed bulk carrier ships? The crews are amazed by our old mooring deck machinery.

Why have I been sick?

The truth is, I don’t know. Pretty ironic for a hospital ship, but things go around. I think I got what everyone else has been getting. At least that is what the crew clinic said. The story begins on one Wednesday morning I had Monday off (though I was working elsewhere) and Tuesday off, because I was on Night Patrol for a week. I started to notice that it was a bit painful to swallow, but I went about my morning. I was doing a bit of Fireman duty for Paulo, our current Firefighting Equipment officer from Portugal. I was doing the routine inspection of the Fire extinguishers around Decks 2 and the Engine Room. I had been doing this stuff in the engine room months ago, but it’s nice to have a bit of a change of work scenery. I started, went for break and started again.
Until Paulo came down to find me, to let me know about some Engine testing that was going on, which I had to be involved for. When you are on a ship that doesn’t operate like most ships, in that it has a hospital inside and doesn’t move for most of the year, these things have to be done. So, I headed down to the dock. I was used to this operation. Close off the gangway, ensure the patients and other crew don’t get in the way of danger. I was with Kim and Momar (One of our Day Crew from Senegal) after waiting I don’t know how long before the operation to actually start, I headed  to the forward of the ship, just to keep an eye on the mooring lines. The whole job went on longer than I expected it too. We took a break, to let the other crew on waiting to go to lunch , and then we resumed for about another half an hour, before we took lunch. I was starting to feel a little bit feverish. I headed to the crew clinic to talk about my initial condition, which was a bit of a sore throat. I received guidance, which was to gargle salt water. which I started to do, before I was quickly called back down to the dock to finish the engine testing job. I didn’t get much better, and I was becoming more and more feverish. And a little dehydrated. and tired. And a little bit nauseous. I confided with Kim, who trying to lift my spirits, took me to the aft end of the ship, to watch the ‘floating power station’ coming into port. I told him “I am probably going to take the rest of the day off. I am really not feeling well. Thankfully, the job finished, and we let the gangway down, and let the crew on. I was thinking about how ill I was feeling, but wanted to get the job done. So we did, I spoke to the Bosun and went back down to the crew clinic, basically saying “I feel 100x worse than I was feeling about an hour ago” so after vitals were taken, I was advised “Yeah, go get rest and don’t go to work tomorrow”. So I did.
I didn’t work the day after that. Or the day after that, not feeling that much better, the weekend came, and after that I had several days trying to work, but feeling. ‘I am not well enough to work’ So, after my mouth was becoming less painful, and a couple tests were taken of my blood and a swab from my tonsils, which turned out to be negative, but suspecting something that is not uncommon for my age group. As I type this now, On the 11th of October, on a sudden day off for a sudden weekend on call, I am feeling so much better, A little bit coldy, and having the occasional nose bleed. But unable to keep bloody tissues for a few days. Why would I do this? I am strangely fascinated by hardened blood, and the brownish colour at the edge of puddles of blood. I don’t know, I am a strange human.

A different line of wok

As I have already mentioned, I decided to work on my day off, but in a different department. Nearly slap-bang in the very thing we do on board. I volunteered to spend a day in Medical Supply. Working with Joe, Eric, Ben and the Medical Supply day crew, Bibe, I got to see what it is that that Medical Supply does on a day to day basis. I was informed by Joe that it could potentially be a lot of standing around. Not much happens unless a container is in. I shadowed Ben, to carry out the daily job of refilling the cabinets in the wards. This involved a check list, paper shopping bags, and going in and out of rolling shelves. It is one of the coolest things I have ever seen. I first saw them in the Doctor Who episode “The Stolen Earth”, When Martha Jones is ordered by UNIT to use some experimental teleportation tech, that may or may not be complete, and the device to activate Nuclear warheads in the Earth’s surface. Series Four had the best Finale episodes.
Aren’t these cool? Not what we have on the ship,
I just found this on Google.
After refilling cabinets, and lunch, and about half an hour of sitting around whilst Ben updated the system of expiry dates, we went from the cargo hold to the shelving, filling up the shelves of nearly empty stock. Then the day ended. It was really cool to be able to go down there, and see what else goes on around the ship. Particularly because, after spending time helping with Container operations, moving pallets of Medical supply between containers, cranes and elevators, It was interesting to see the other end of the supply chain, and what goes on once the Deck department has moved the pallets to where they go.

Going out, and saying goodbye.

After a long week of Night Patrol, I headed out with my Onboarding group. Well, 95% of the adults of the group. We went to a very nice coastal restaurant, right on the coast. How on the coast? You may be asking, well the waves from the sea were crashing against the rocks, right next to us. It was very scenic, with a very different climate from either end of the restaurant. As we got out of the vehicle, in the car park at the entrance to the restaurant, it was like arriving in Texas all over again, which was fitting, because it was over a week since our ‘journey with Mercy Ships’ began. It was like leaving the airport in Texas to be hit with the ‘wall of heat’. Then, walking through the open-air restaurant, it suddenly became cool, from the cool, coastal breeze. There was some delicious food. What did I get? I got a chicken burger, delicious Fish and chip shop chips, and a crepe with caramel ice cream. I didn’t take a picture, but the ice cream was in the crepe, and the crepe was like a package, held together by a wooden skewer stick. It was all very good food.
The Lighthouse and the giant statue in the distance.
The party. But someone is missing

A couple goodbyes were made over the last few days leading up to that evening. The first was Pauli, the Deck Cadet from Finland. He was also a cabin mate, and then Alexander. I have written about him before, he was one of the Able Seamen from Sweden on loan from Stena. He was my bunk mate. we had some good times. Our first moments together was during shipyard, and I was in the galley, receiving project supplies, then Ibrahim brought Alexander to work with me doing that. Because of the extra long pallet, we had to find a way of balancing the pallet on the pallet jack. So I sat on top of the load. It was sad to see him go. A group of us, mostly the deck crew went to the port bar bar minutes up the road. I was hesitant, because it was Friday night, and my last night of Night Patrol, but I enjoyed myself, and got back in plenty of time. I just had a Fanta and a Coke. On the same Saturday, Ian and Sarah had to leave temporarily. I hope that they will be back soon, we miss you guys!  . I did wave Ian, Sarah and Alexander off, because I was healthy at that point in time.
(update on 16th October, Ian and Sarah have come back!)
Kim, another one of the Deck Hands, from the Philippines, recent Mercy Ships Academy graduate, and his parents, Ramon and Nina, reached the end of their commitment onboard, so they have sadly gone back home, to the Philippines. It was sad, because Kim was one of the youngest in the Deck Department, so it was easy for us to get along, and we have the same sense of humour. I am actually the youngest. Yes, although I finished High School before Kim, he is a few months older. And so is Flynn. Who is also younger than Kim. Not all bad news, as Kim is coming back in January!

World War Two battles.

So, one day, during my night patrol week, I learned the most interesting thing about Dakar. Well, It’s very interesting to me. During World War Two, a small fleet of Royal Navy warships clashed with the pro-German Vichy French Navy outside the port of Dakar, in an attempt to take Dakar for Allied control. How did that go? It was an embarrassing Allied defeat, and the British and Free French retreated. I was so interested and excited by finding out about this event, I used my Deck Devotion slot to tell the Deck Department this story. Also, Daniel, who I may or may not have mentioned in a blog post before, has come back to work on the ship for a few months! (He was a Bosun onboard a few years ago)
And yet again, I must come to a close. I have no idea if this is shorter than my last post, but I do hope you have enjoyed reading.
Thanks,
Matthew.

Leaving Guinea, having a break and arriving in Senegal

A Little Odyssey,

It’s been a while now since we last posted – thank you for your patience – and thank you for the many encouraging comments we had regarding our blogs when we were home in the summer.

We left Guinea in the middle of June.  We had grown very fond of Conakry and the people that we met – the Day Crew, the patients, the church we attended towards the end of the field service and our friends from Christian Missionary Alliance (CMA) who we stayed and worked with for our field practice last November.  We are grateful that we are able to stay in contact with some of them through Facebook and What’sApp.  Although we had not publicly stated our departure day and time, nevertheless there were a good number of people there to wave us off from the dock.  The dock had been cleared, the gangway lifted up and we were off, waving madly, holding back tears and some led us in worship as we left.

About to leave Guinea
Up with the gangway
Artwork from the night before
On look-out
Matthew steering us to Las Palmas
We enjoyed the sail, Matthew was on two four hour watches each day on the bridge – 12 noon to 4pm and 12 midnight to 4am.  He did a great job and we are very proud of our 19 year old being part of the team that steered us safely to Gran Canaria – and here to Senegal.  
Worship on the bow
Dolphins


Dolphin watching, worship on the bow – oh and some work too – were all good parts of our five day sail to Las Palmas.
Looking great at night!
We arrived in Las Palmas and had only a few day there before flying back to the UK a bit earlier than originally planned, for an appointment with a knee consultant for Lynne’s knee,  but we took the opportunity to look around a little, and take a day trip on the day the ship came out of the water for ‘dry dock’. When we returned from our day trip, the only way on to the ship was via 72 steps up a scaffold type tower.  We (well Lynne really) was very grateful that the Tower of Terror only had to be negotiated once!  Matthew was staying on, on his own for a couple of weeks and cabin sat for us, meaning for the first time in nine months he had his own personal space.
Get that gangway in place!
    
Night out with friends
Las Palmas Old Town
   
Returning to the Tower of Terror!
          Looking across to Tenerife
On our day trip 
We arrived at Bristol Friday 21st June – exactly nine months after leaving!  Discombobulated (a word we used during our training in Texas and field practice in Guinea) described exactly how we felt for the first couple of weeks!  But it was good to be back.  
We had an appointment three days later with a knee consultant – Lynne didn’t need an operation after all.  The meniscus wasn’t torn – but there was wear and tear on the knee!  The joys of getting older!!  After the initial surprise we sought a physio – who was fab – and made plans to be as fit and healthy when we returned to the ship and then took the opportunity to enjoy the extra time we had at home!
Matthew arrived safely home as planned on 9th July, flying on his own for the first time.  Was great to attend our daughter Zoe’s graduation and greet our older daughter Hannah when she returned from a six month trip to New Zealand, as well as catching up with other family and many friends.  It was also great to welcome two friends from the ship, Ian and Sarah, who were on a flying visit to the UK for a weekend.
Off we go again! 5am on a Tuesday!
The same view by night
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  All too soon it was time to pack our bags again and return to the Africa Mercy which by now had moved from Las Palmas to Tenerife!  We had an early morning flight from Bristol and arrived back at the ship by lunchtime.  A beautiful island but we only had a few days to explore a little before sailing for Senegal.
          Our view from the ship

Getting ready to sail again

  

Cathedral in Tenerife
Our new neighbour – we didn’t think we were that small!
We were due to leave Tenerife around 6pm Saturday 10th August.  If we missed our slot our larger neighbour would take it so everyone had to be back on board by midday.  All were present!!  We left as planned, and as warned, the ship rolled quite a bit that first day – and a bit for the rest of the nearly four day sail.  Some of our number unfortunately suffered quite badly with seasickness.  We did take medication for the first day or so but were generally okay which we were thankful for.  Stuart and Matthew were very busy when we left and during the sail and Lynne had meetings but it was a bit less intense for her.  We do enjoy the sailing.
Securing the gangway for sail
Ready to sail
Ready to sail
Matthew and Min, one of our Ghurkas
Securing the gangway in Senegal
Arrival in Dakar
Arrival Ceremony in Dakar
The Advance Team were waiting to greet us on the dock.  They had been in Dakar since April preparing for our arrival.
We arrived in Dakar on 14th August.  There was a three week set up plan to prepare for the opening of the hospital on 9th September.  Much to be done in that time – such a huge job but it was great to be involved in it all and be on the ship for the start of the field service.  We look forward to what is in store for us in the next nine months.
“For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Back onboard, back at work, time at home, almost successful day trips and African cinemas.

Matthew Little,

So, I am back….

It is, at the time I write this, is the evening of August 31st. Why do I that? Because it’s a special day? No. the last day of a month can be significant though, but it’s nothing special today. Looking back on my previous blog update/diary entry writing schedule, I didn’t always start and finish on the same day. Most likely a week in between starting and finishing, so I deemed it reasonable to include the date I started. Oh, I am in Dakar, Senegal now. Probably best to put that out there now. 
Rambling over.

So what has happened?

After some much needed, and well-deserved don’t judge me, self-care isn’t self-indulgence, breaks are needed to prevent falls into insanity PTO (Personal Time Off for all the non-Mercy Shippers) back at home in the good old United Kingdom, where I reunited with many things including, but not limited to; Family, Friends, my bed, Krave, beautiful views of nature outside my bedroom window….. In fact, just having a bedroom window in general….
Beautiful Wiltshire.
I had my first flight on my own, unaccompanied by adults, flying from Las Palmas to Bristol, where I was sat on the first row of the plane, which I had entirely to myself. I could have kept moving from one seat to another, but because I am so used to being in a row with other people and didn’t know what to do, being the only passenger on the row, I just stayed where I was the entire time. It did get awkward at times, with the tinted glass right in front of me, making eye contact with the chief hostess.
But…. After Eights… are bitesize … anyway?
I had the entire row to myself.
I was picked up by my parents, who had already left the ship two weeks prior, because my mum was due for a consultation about her knee. It was all good, though, as it turns out there was nothing wrong, and she didn’t need an operation. We got home early in the morning, so I immediately went to bed. Later in the day, I reunited with my sister Zoe, and was introduced to Zoe and Seth’s new dog, Tinkerbell, a rescue from Zante.
 In the evening, Seth, Zoe and I went to see Spider-Man: Far From Home. We also went to Frankie and Benny’s (A restaurant) . I forgot to mention in a previous blog… I think, I don’t want to fact check right now… that I managed to see Avengers: Endgame at the local Canal:Olympia in Conakry. My first cinema experience in a different culture. If there were cultural differences that I observed in Guinea, going to the cinema was one that I remember: In UK cinemas, the audience is fairly tame when it comes to reactions. I think the highest display of emotion in a UK cinema will be either laughter,  or crying. But even then, it is generally a small, audible chuckle, a sob, not uncontrollable emotion. In African cinemas, you get cheering and applauding. The atmosphere is estatic. It was so estatic, particularly when the ‘dusted’ heroes, Wakandans (Black Panther), Asgardians (Thor) and Ravagers (Guardians of the Galaxy) emerge from the portals during the final battle. So much cheering in that cinema, that Captain America’s “Avengers……Assemble.”, the famous line that all superfans were waiting to be said,  was almost drowned out. He was surprisingly quiet when he said it though. I do hate “Audience reaction” videos on YouTube, but being around people showing a different  appreciation for film  that is different to the reactions that I am used to, is somewhat nice.   By the end of Endgame, I was a broken man. I was completely maybe a slight exaggeration overcome by emotions. Mostly depression, and I didn’t know what to say. If Infinity War was heartwrenching, Endgame was a completely different level that I didn’t know was possible. The MARVEL Cinematic Universe is one of my favourite franchises at the moment, and it was something that I had been emotionally invested in since 2014.  It will be hard to let the beautiful saga go, but the so-called “Infinity Saga” – everything from Iron Man (2008) to either Avengers: Endgame or Spider-Man: Far From Home (Which one is it, Kevin Feige!?) will be my definitive era of the franchise. I still remember returning to the ship that Sunday evening, not feeling like talking to anyone, then again, I wouldn’t have known what to say. Overall I, really enjoyed both films. I still haven’t seen Captain Marvel, though. I’ll leave that there, before this whole post becomes me rambling on about MARVEL superheroes. Though, I am sad that Spider-Man has been pulled from the franchise.  Not going to go into that, because this isn’t a blog about film company politics.
My time at home was fairly uneventful… I had some friends round for an evening, it was nice to hang out with them. Had TWO Indian meals whilst I was at home. One of the things that both my Dad and I were looking forward to at home was Indian food. Ian (who was in our OnBoarding group) and his partner Sarah, from Germany, also from the ship visited us, so we went out for a curry the first evening, showed them around Corsham, my home town, then we took them into Bath the next day, where they got the train to visit another Mercy Ships couple. I had a Shakeaway. Missed Shakeaway. As with all unhealthy things, it was absolutely delicious! but it was sickly. I got Starburst and Bubblegum-flavour-Millions. I bought Spider-Man: Into the SpiderVerse, which came out whilst I was away, but I heard good things about it, so I had to check it out. Enjoyed it a lot, and I also bought Ant-Man and the Wasp. I was planning on getting Captain Marvel, but I found out a few hours later that it was releasing on DVD two days later. I also ran into Imogen, my neighbour and oldest and best friend.  We had no idea we would both be in Bath, so it was also very nice to see her. I popped into to visit my church Youth Group on their weekly Wednesday Bible Study. Lots of hugs in quick succession were made. It was also funny to watch them realise I was there, and to see them charging towards me for hugs! I also did a feedback evening at my church with my parents, telling the congregation about the things we have seen and done during our first 7 month stint on board the Africa Mercy and in Guinea. A missionary couple from our church works a lot with WEC International (Missionary organisation). Annually, for the last few years, our church and this couple has been training up missionaries before they go into the field. It is so much like the On Boarding that long term volunteers have to go through before the ship (Or International Support Centre workers who want to understand the organisation more); Internationals going to pretty much the middle of nowhere to learn how to work in missionary work and other cultures. This year, the contingent are working in a school in Dakar, so my parents and I were invited to lunch at our church to meet them, because we were also going out to Dakar.

I went camping for a weekend in the Gower with my parents and Hannah, my sister. We stopped in Cardiff, to see the apartment she is living in with her boyfriend, Nick. It is a nice place, but the main reason for going to Cardiff was to visit the Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. (Science Training and Tactical Intelligence Operative Network). It was an exhibition that had been all over the world, including London. The London exhibition unfortunately opened and closed whilst I was away, but Hannah found out that they were bringing it to Cardiff whilst we were home(I mean, she found out months ago, but it would be open whilst we were in the country). Very cool to see the costumes of Thor, Captain America, Black Widow, and the rest of the Avengers roster, as well as props of broken bits of Ultron, Dark Elf and Chitauri weaponry, and THE ACTUAL SHIELD used in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (My favourite film in the MCU). It was a cool experience. It was primarily aimed at the younger audiences of the Avengers, but I thought it was worth the visit for older fans. Also, I am not worthy of the Hammer of Thor.

A few days after camping, Calum and Kira (my cousins) and my aunt visited, as well as my Grandma and Hannah, so that was the only day that the entire Little family were together before we left again. Nice to see them all. I also re-discovered the old videos and photos I took on my iPod a long time ago.  Calum and I were trying to find a video we made of a TV show about stunts that we made up. What we found were much better. These included badly acted  explosion sequences made with Action Movie FX. We also found a sequence of shots where I was just  running I have no idea what film I was trying to make. Honestly, I think the angles in these videos that I made when I was 11/12 were much better than the angles in my short films that I made for Film Studies about two years ago. Go figure.

A few days later, it was time to return to the ship. We flew from Bristol to Tenerife. The ship was in Santa Cruz de Tenerife for a week, to give the technical crew a bit of a break and rest after coming out of dry dock, which was an intense working period, with a lot of big projects carried out that couldn’t be done whilst on field service.  I returned to the same cabin as I had left with no bedding. Why? Because before my parents left and I moved into their cabin, my mum put my bedding into wash so it would be clean when we got back. Unfortunately, I forgot to take it out of the the dryer,  So I think hospitality  thought it wasn’t being used and put it into storage. So I had to get some new ones. Though, I think technical crew were only doing ‘soft work’. Mainly due to about half of the deck department going through basic training. So I spent the days just chilling about. I could have gone out into the city during the day, it was only a 5 minute walk from the ship, but since everyone else was working, and I didn’t want to go explore by myself. I just stayed on ship. The superintendent my the ship, who normally works at the ISC invited Deck and Engineering out for an Indian as thanks for the work during shipyard.  Although my Dad and I were home for most of shipyard, we were still invited to go out with them. The curry I had was very good, and it was a very nice outdoor atmosphere. Some very strange sights. Including a man doing keepy-uppy in a circle: He walked up the hill, then back down again, passing us twice.

And soon after that, it was yet again time to depart, go out to sea, and begin the next ten month field service in Senegal. It was a shorter sail, however, and the swell was tough, so the first few days of the sail were spent rolling. During shipyard, one of the projects was replacing the steering gear, as well as the helm. It was hard enough getting used to the smaller wheel, let alone trying to steer whilst the ship is  rolling! Looking out the windows to see sky-sea- sky again- sea again  was quite scary.  As I only had one watch this time, I had to do normal deck work in the afternoons. This is a little bit of what I did in the afternoons: Helped with some line-splicing. I was working with Donatien, from Madagascar, Alexander (My cabin mate from Sweden. He is an able seaman ‘on loan’ from Stena as their way of supporting Mercy Ships) Martina (Also from Sweden, Able seaman, has since left the ship). We were repairing our mooring lines by cutting chunks out from them, and then threading other parts of the line through the line. I also helped Lawrence (Ghana, he was a previous Bosun onboard. He comes back from time to time to help) with taping over the windows of the gangway  hatch. Whilst it was open. So the only thing keeping us from falling overboard was a very long rope tied over a large and open part of the ship, and a harness .I also did some cleaning of paint on the bottom of the gangway Don’t worry, it was stowed on Deck 8, Not sticking out from the side of the ship. Ship activities during the sail included: Worship on the bow, as always. I didn’t go during the sail from Guinea to Las Palmas because I was dealing with a very bad cold during the sail, but I did go during this sail. There was also sock golf (Whatever that is, I didn’t participate). There was a very fitting showing of The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawntreader. Not that we have a Minotaur on board or we were on a quest to rescue seven lords or anything. I hadn’t seen the Narnia films in a while, I really enjoyed the nostalgia. I’ve been quite nostalgic for The Hunger Games recently, as well. I have listened to the National Anthem of Panem countless times for the last few weeks. There was also a Pirate Party for the kids On Board. A Nerf war was part of it, somehow. I spent the end of the party trying to catch Nerf darts in mid air being shot at me by Luke, one of the Canadian crew members who was once a cabin mate, who left in March, but is back again.

Then we arrived in Dakar. I had a different mooring station for this sail. I was on the Bow during the sail from Guinea to Las Palmas. This sail, I was on the side party. Leaving Spain, I held one of the taglines connected up to the gangway to stabilise it whilst the Bosun lifted it up with the crane. I also secured it down to the deck with lashings. As we arrived in Dakar, I helped to set up the Pilot entrance, to allow the Dakar Pilot onboard the ship. When he was on board, and we were ready to dock, greeted by the Advance Team. A group of volunteers went to Senegal ahead of the ship from about June, to make preparations. These included: Hiring the Day Crew, working with the Ministry of Health to set up the Hope Centre and begin pre-screening. Working with the port to acquire dock space, and get the dock space ready for us. Finding a suitable site for the Agricultural Centre. (To learn about the Mercy Ships Agricultural Centre, please check out my previous blog post from January 2019!). As we docked, I was at the top of the gangway, with Georgy, Abdul, and Flynn. We set up the gangway, and disconnected the hoist from the gangway. We put up banners along the raling of the gangway, reading Welcome aboard the Africa Mercy In French and English. Although, this was after the gangway was on terra-firma, not in mid-air. After lunch, and an impromptu Deck Department meeting between two stairwells between Deck 6 and Deck 4 in the Dining Room, I was allowed to go to sleep, because I would be on Night Patrol that night.

Before I woke up, the Arrival Ceremony had begun. A few of us decided to watch from the Bridge. No one really knew what was going on, apart from speeches, a group of Senegalese Women dancing in unison by sweeping the floor and some rap. At least I didn’t know what was going on. Whether there was a program detailing what was going on, I don’t know. My first night of Night Patrol, I was alone. The next two nights, I was teaching Cherif, one of the Day Crew from Guinea who was invited to become a crew member how to do Night Patrol. I think It went well, as per usual and as I would hope, nothing happened. On Saturday evening, I went out to walk around Dakar with my parents. We encountered a man who apparently had just had another baby, and according to tradition, the parents give others gifts to bring good luck for their child (Hmm….) I got a pendant in the shape of Africa with the colours of the Senegalese flag (And many other West African countries), Red, Yellow and Green with a shell in the middle. My dad received two ‘Gold’ rings. We aren’t convinced they are actual gold. We saw a map of the world with ports that Dakar ships to, and learned that Liverpool is in Norway, apparently. It was dark, and we couldn’t tell where the outlines of the countries were, though.

On the Monday and Tuesday following, I had two days off. I stayed on ship though, because they don’t recommend people going into town by themselves. Our new Senegalese day crew are nice. I have been given much more responsibility over them, being given a team to clean the decks with. It was helpful to be given a leadership role on Deck, and I am liking the responsibility, and people looking up to me. Or, literally, looking down to me, because the Senegalese are very tall.

Sad departures.

That week, a small group of the deck department left. It was very sad. These included: Coltan, our Officer from Second Officer from Texas (I have probably talked about Coltan before on my blog.) if not, Coltan is a ship icon. He played the Sitar, and liked Indian music. Some mornings after Night Patrol, waiting for the duty officer give me permission to stand down, he would come up to the Bridge and play Indian music from his computer, leaving me very confused and wondering  where the music was coming from. As well as Coltan, Andreas and Veera, (Both Deck Cadets from Finland), Martina and Lawrence left. We ordered pizza and had a pizza party on deck 7 with the deck department. Riku, one of our Officers from Japan, brought out his violin, to play Irish music, and then Coltan brought out his sitar. It was a very surreal experience: A Texan playing an Indian instrument, and a Japanese man playing Irish music on a Danish ship docked in Africa. It was sad to see them go, they were super helpful. Lawrence knew what he was doing, and he was always supportive and positive about everything Deck related. He was also very spirit-encouraging. I didn’t have too much to do with Martina, as she joined the ship shortly before I left the ship. We were on watch together, so we did have a few conversations during the sail. Andreas and Veera both joined in Guinea, so I did work with them a bit. Andreas was on both my watches sailing from Guinea to Las Palmas.

The Saturday that most of them left (Veera left the Friday night before) I went on adventure around Dakar (I’ll go on to that) with a few of my friends. We wanted to be back on ship in time to see them off,  but not that I didn’t like the rest of them to mostly see off Coltan. Kate and I, who was part of the adventure party both wanted to see off Coltan, so we made it a thing to be back in time for that. We did. But then I forgot to say goodbye! Oops!
If you guys read this, this is my goodbye message to you all!

3 goals, only 1 completed

As I literally just mentioned, that Saturday, I went on and adventure around Dakar. There are several districts on the ‘Dakar-Plateau’, but we headed north. I was joined by Kate (USA, Executive Assistant ) Simon (New Zealand, Information Services) Stephen (Switzerland, Finance)  Leon (The Netherlands, Information Services) Rachel (USA, Food Services. As I write this now (9/9/19), she left yesterday) Luke (Canada, Transportation) and Anneliese (The Netherlands, Food Services, She also left a few weeks ago)
We had three aims that Saturday:
  1. Visit Ngor Island
  2. Visit the western-most point of Africa
  3. Visit the old Lighthouse
Unfortunately, only one was successful.

We went via buses to the Ngor district. We found a way onto the beach. After almost not paying for admission because we didn’t realise we had to pay.  We found a restaurant on the beachfront, and we got ‘brunch’, I guess. After leaving Guinea, I started to miss Bissap, a drink made from the juice of the Hibiscus flower. The thing with Bissap is that it tastes different wherever you go. Some places it could be very sweet, some places it could be a bit sour. So most of us at the table got Bissap, a few got coffees. Why, in the heat, I have no idea. They were probably not awake yet. We also got a few nibbles. The restaurant we went to was very stylish, it was like a lounge on the beach. A lounge of the beach with pelicans and a monkey. It’s true, there were pelicans just chilling. That monkey was also the first monkey I have seen in my life OUTSIDE of a zoo. In terms of Ngor Island…. there were a bunch of boats that went from the beach to the island, but, it looked like, if you determined enough, you could just swim across to the island, it was that close. There was a group consensus to not go over, because it looked just as touristy as the beach we were already on, and the view across to the island would probably be exactly the same as we were looking at. We also think the guy who was showing us around the beach was trying to get us to look at the fish he had caught. Or his boat, we weren’t sure what he was telling us. So we left. It was a bit disappointing, but the view just going up the concrete steps to leave was astounding. Just a bunch of parasols, with the flag of Senegal furled just to the side. It was a nice shot.

So that was one plan out the window.

We then got taxis to go to the Western most point, passing the US embassy  and one or two ‘American Food Stores’ on the way there. We didn’t know how to get to the point, and we thought there was a path through an artisan market. Oh boy. That was an experience. Whilst most of the group went on ahead, Kate, Luke and I were lagging behind. Mostly distracted by the seafront restaurants. Then, as we followed the rest of the group, Luke was stopped by a stall holder, who liked his beard! He was then pulled into his shop. We all went in to see what he was selling, until I was dragged into the next stall over, by their owner. He gave me a wooden hippopotamus as a gift, and encouraged me to buy something else. After ‘careful’ consideration, I bought a tiger. Why in quotations, because I wanted to get out of there. However, what I didn’t realise was, that right behind us, the guy from the NEXT stall over was waiting for me to leave to pull me into his stall. He gave me a wooden turtle as a gift, and you can probably guess what tried to happen next. I tried to tell him that “My friends are waiting for me. It’s all really nice, but I have to go!” He wasn’t having any of it. Until Kate rescued me and pulled me out of there.

We found another restaurant nearby, which had two very old and rusty ovens or stoves, that would probably  cause a fire if switched on. And someone trying to sell his things that he made was waiting for us. So I had to convince that I literally had no money left. He eventually gave up and left. I had juice from the fruit of the Baobab fruit for the first time. It’s very grainy.  They also had a cocktail made from Bissap, Baobab juice and Gingembre, which Kate and Anneliese both got. Kate forgot what she ordered, so when my just Baobab juice arrived, she accidentally drank some of it, realising that didn’t taste like Bissap or Gingembre. D’oh. It was still very nice though, I just stuck the other end of the straw in the drink. We also got plates of plantains and fries. They were ok, just very small portions. The western-most point was just a walk way. We still didn’t know the path, but we asked the security guard nearby if the way to the point was open. It wasn’t. Just looking across, we noticed just how empty it was. A bit weird, It would probably have at least one or two people, because it was the western-most point, so why was no one there. We couldn’t go that way, but the guard let us walk to the end of the nearby fishing jetty, for free, for five minutes. We met an employee from the embassy! He told us that the  beach where western most point is closed off to everyone. Even to the people staying at the hotel behind it. It was closed though, and being renovated by Marriott.  So we walked back in defeat. Mostly because the guard came up to us, telling us that our five minutes were up.

So that is plan two gone.

Third time lucky.

We headed to the lighthouse, in the Mammelles district. Why is it called Mammelles?  There are two hills in the area. The hills look like breasts. Hence Mammelles. Literally, we went to the boobs of Dakar! On one of the boobs is the lighthouse, on the other boob is the African Renaissance Monument, the tallest statue in Africa, that is 49m tall, face to face with the Statue of Liberty and built by North Korea!

The taxi wouldn’t take us up the concrete road up to the lighthouse, so we walked. It was a very nice view though. The lighthouse trip was successful. We got a guided tour of the Lighthouse, presented by a very enthusiastic owner, who was so proud of his job, and the views, he insisted that we take photos! It was a very cool place. The Lighthouse of Dakar is the second most important lighthouse in Africa, because it marks the ‘gate’ between the North and South hemisphere. The MOST important lighthouse in Africa is in South Africa, which marks the ‘gate’  from the Western hemisphere to the Eastern Hemisphere.

Some very astounding views from the top the lighthouse of the city.

Glass of whatever +Sunglasses
= generic Instagram photo
The Western-most point on the continent of Africa
Simon
Long road to the Lighthouse
Lighthouse view number 1

The Lighthouse bulb

Lighthouse view number 2

Lighthouse view number 3

The Adventure Crew (photo courtesy of Kate)

“What are you two talking about, I don’t see any icebergs?”

A Brit and a Canadian,  former roommates. And Baobab juice!
(Photo by Simon)

Going up the lighthouse (Taken by the very
enthusiastic lighthouse keeper)
(Annelies, Stephen, Rachel, Kate, Luke, Me, a pillar, Leon and Simon)

An international video call

The day after that, the Adventure Crew had an international catch u.p On this call, we were spread across four continents: Africa: Me, Kate, Simon, Rachel, Laurianna and Stephen (and Moise for a shortwhile) on the Africa Mercy in Senegal and Ian (USA. He was a project assistant on board during shipyard) in Tanzania (Mission work); North America: Philip (He was AV Technician on board. He now works as AV technician at the ISC, Texas!); Europe: Arne (Netherlands. Project Assistant. He joined two days before I left, but he went to the aquarium with us) Sam (USA, Galley staff, but he was in Italy at the time) as well, towards the end of the call, but the internet quality was so bad for him, that we barely had any conversation with him! Last but not least Michael (Australia. Internet Services) We ordered pizza. They were tiny. I had Tex-Mex. Due to some funny comment, midway through eating some jalapeno, the spiciness of the slice went up, through my nose, instead of going down. That wasn’t fun. It was great to hear from them all (What we could hear, anyway), and to be updated in their own lives (What they were doing i.e. work, educational, waiting for a new phase .where they were. What time it was where they were calling from!) Reflecting back on a different time…. That was only a few months ago. It’s weird. 

Presidential Beef…..

Different parts of deck work recently has included beef. Why? Isn’t the deck department separate from food services? Yes, they are separate, but one day when I was on call, I was called out (I knew in advance about this) to help with an after-hours delivery of beef… Here’s the story….

As a way of showing appreciation of what we were doing in Senegal, President Macky Sall offered us many deals, including offering to pay for our fuel, and has also pledged to give us 1 cows worth of beef for everyday Mercy Ships is in Senegal. So I was sent to the galley to unhook the pallets from the stores crane, and move them into the elevator.

Pallet of beef

Other than that, I have been doing more training on the stores crane. I did want to be trained on it in Guinea, but due to a complication with one of the cranes, the company didn’t want to newbie going on the other crane to damage it, leaving the ship without a crane until Dry Dock for maintenance. Not gonna lie… I am a bit annoyed by that, but I also understand why the decision was made. Other Deck has been mostly the same as in Guinea, scrubbing the decks, cleaning, chipping, grinding and painting. We are in ‘Rainy season at the moment, but the weather can change drastically. There was an INTENSE recently. During the working day. So instead of working outside, in the middle of a thunderstorm, I was asked to sort out the Paint Locker. So I got to work, rearranging paint buckets, organising by colour, organising used and empty cans and a bit of sweeping. Because of rain during the nights, most mornings on deck are spent pushing puddles down drains, to eliminate potential mosquito breeding grounds. The drastic weather changes? It can be SWELTERING in the sun. Very exhausting. Enough said.

Also, Rachel left last week. It was very sad. So, on the Friday evening, Rachel, Simon, Stephen, Leon, Kate, Laurianna and I went out to a hotel roof top bar, not too far away from the lighthouse and giant statue. The hotel is called Hotel du Phare des Mamelles. So, literally,  but not so literally, translating to Hotel of the Lighthouse of the Boobs. It was a pleasant evening, and the sunset was fast and phenomenal. We chose to go East just to see a sunset over Dakar. So, there we were, a group of friends, driving along the West Africa coast, chasing the sunset. We also found out that the on the crown of the Man on the giant statue lights up during dark hours. We also got Hawaiian pizza,  though it had chicken instead of ham, that was so hot, that it burned the top of mouth. Before we left, I had a very deep and meaningful conversation with Nic, one of our officers about Artificial Intelligence. What I learned from her is that the reasons why Artificial Intelligence is commonly depicted as trying to annihilate/enslave humanity is because humans are idiots, and Artificial Intelligence often misinterprets the data we are feeding them.

So that has been a bit about what I have been doing/ up to for the last two months/ please forgive me If I post stuff on this blog that you don’t want to read, I like to use this blog as a bit of a personal blog. I also don’t want to pump out updates that are purely about “work, work, work”, so I try to put a bit of  variety into my writing.

As this was about July and August, and a bit of September, this one was longer than normal. When I get back into the routine of monthly updates, these posts will be shorter.

Thank you for reading, and have a good day,

Matthew.
The date I post this? 15th of September

Adventure Crew of the past – 4 different continents in one call! (Thanks for the photo, Kate!)
No. I was not twerking.
(On Screen, from left to right, top to bottom)
Philip (Texas) Michael (Australia) Arne (Netherlands) Ian (Tanzania)
(On ship.)
Kate, Simon, Rachel, Me, Laurianna, Stephen.

Mission News – June ’19

Tim Stephenson,

We have a number of exciting mission events coming up over the next few months and would love you to pray for each one.

Stuart and Lynne…

…. are returning from the Mercy Ship on June 21st as Lynne will be seeing an orthopaedic consultant on the 24th June in Bath with a view to having knee surgery soon after.

Matthew will be returning later as originally planned. Please pray for safe travels, for Lynne’s operation and recovery in time to re-join the ship on 6th August before it sails to Senegal.

Matthew L…

… as he stays longer, continues working and for his travels home on 8th July – flying on his own for the first time.

The Oasis Centre in Austria…

… are short staffed over the summer months and thankfully volunteers from different countries have offered to work there in order to keep the centre open. We are pleased that Neal and Lesley G and David and Sue M are able to go and support this work. Please pray for safe journeys, good health, stamina, wisdom and patience. Neal and Lesley are leaving on the 24th June and returning on the 8th July. Please pray for them as they will be one of the most experienced staff members leading the work this time. They are making their own way from the airport to the Oasis centre using trains and trams so please pray that they arrive safely and there are no problems with the journey. David and Sue are going on June 29th to July 28th. This is the first time they have been to Oasis so please pray for them as they pick up the ropes and settle into the Oasis working life.

Steve and Ruth …

… will be holding a mission event on Sunday 7th July to share about their work in Tanzania. Times will be confirmed soon. Steve is also the main speaker at The Gathering.

Steve also has other speaking engagements on the following dates:-

Tues 2nd July, 21st- 30th Aug- Oakhall Iceland, Mon 2nd – 4th Sept AIM fellowship conference.

Please pray for Steve and Ruth as they prepare for these events and have quality rest time as well.

Uganda AIM mission conference trip

The team will be leaving on Friday 9th August and arrive home on Saturday 17th August. Please pray for the team as they prepare to go, travel (Long journey) and for their various roles. Pray for good team building and good health. Those going are:-

  • Eddie Larkman – preaching and pastoral support for missionaries
  • Youth Team – Dan O, Chris S.
  • Children’s Team – Rhiannon P, Sharon D, Tom P, Sara S, Joe R, Joy W, Josh H
  • Kathy L – Pastoral Support for Missionaries

Steve and Gill Bryant

  • June 24th- 25th – Hosting a retired missionary from Australia.
  • July 9th – 10th – providing training at their house for a couple who will be taking over the WEC boarding hostel for Grace International school in Chiang Mai.
  • MK Staff Training Course at CBC – This takes place from Sunday 20th July to August 1st. Please pray for Steve and Gill Bryant as they prepare the course and arrangements, for those helping out with accommodation and meals and for the participants. Pray for good team building, a good understanding of working as Missionaries with missionary kids and good health.
  • Around 8th August- One day Skype training for a couple going to Senegal as teachers.
  • 5th- 13th September- Synergy Conference USA. – Pray for Steve and Gill in their input to discussions on the changing face of missions, especially regarding better educational support for non American families globally.
  • 17th- 20th September- Steve at WECS European Conference in Spain.

Tanzania building trip

This year’s building project will take place from Friday 21st Sept returning on Sunday 6th Oct. The job this year is to build 3 Bunda-like buildings to support visiting ministers attending conferences at Sanga, and will be used for other activities on site. There will also be other jobs to do around the site. Tony S will lead the devotional times and the team will be visiting two churches. The trip also includes a visit to the game park, Morogoro town and having a meal out. Please pray for preparations, team building, including with the AIM mission team and the locals working on site, safe travels, good health and safety as they work on site.

The team members are:-
Martin S, Martin D, Tim P , Coleen F and Neil F (TBC).

Pray that all our missionaries and those on short term mission trips will minister with the love and compassion of Jesus to all they meet.

Thank you for your continued support and prayers for the work of mission.

Wendy R

Still enjoying being here and what is a typical week like?!

A Little Odyssey,

Where does the time go?  Life is busy here and we realise that it has been too long since we last posted and in just over three weeks the ship leaves Guinea!  Around February and March is apparently the time in the field service where many people feel quite tired – several months have gone by and there are still several more to go.  Although, we weren’t here at the start of the field service in August, we were busy until we left the UK in September to head to the States for five weeks training, arriving in Guinea for field practice in October and finally arriving on the ship in November and it is true, we had times earlier this year when we have felt really tired.   We were also not able to get out and about as much during this time as we’ve been hampered by an injury to Lynne’s knee which has made getting around difficult.  We are so thankful that we have access to a Crew Physician, Rehab team and Radiology Team here on the ship.  An MRI has confirmed a torn meniscus (with a bit sticking out!) and Baker’s Cyst so we have just organised slightly earlier flights home in June to see a Consultant with a view to having an arthroscopy.  Despite these things, we have continued to so enjoy being here doing the jobs we have, serving with fellow crew members and meeting the nationals and the tiredness and knee pain (thanks to a steroid injection) are receding.

Palm branches for Palm Sunday
Garden of Gethsamane presentation

Easter is a very special time to be on the ship.  Holy Week starts on Palm Sunday and we had palm branches brought down from up country to put round the boundaries of our dock space and on Deck 8 at the top of the ship and a service in the evening. 

During the week there were various events and services.  The Youth’s ‘Presentation in the Garden of Gethsemane’ on Maundy Thursday was particularly beautiful, reflective and atmospheric, as was the Good Friday ‘Tenebrae’ service.  Tenebrae is Latin for ‘darkness’ and the service is characterized by the gradual extinguishing of candles (battery operated ones for the ship!) until the room is in darkness at the end. 

Back to Roume
Tenebrae service

Easter Saturday we took the opportunity visit Roume Island again – probably for the last time.  We have really enjoyed the peace and beauty of Roume and enjoyed going with friends and making new ones.

There was an Easter Sunrise service, an Easter Celebration Service then a feast at lunchtime not dissimilar to Christmas.  So grateful to all the crew who put so much time and effort into planning and organising this week, including Chaplaincy, Food Service and Crew Service as well as other crew who use their creative and craft skills to make the ship look amazing.

Easter Sunrise service

Easter Sunday
Easter Sunrise service

We continue to be amazed and humbled at the work Mercy Ships does.  Tomorrow is the start of the final week of surgeries and the hospital will stay open for one more week after that.  The second round of Plastic surgeries has finished and a six week stint of Women’s Health surgeries (childbirth injuries and gynaecological) has also finished.  Medical Capacity Building where nationals are trained in many different medical areas continues pretty much all field service long in different parts of the country but has also now finished.  The final week of surgeries bring General Surgery (hernias and lipomas) and Maxillo Facial cleft lips.  Stuart and Mike, another carpenter, have also been capacity building by training the local day crew, in twos, in some basic carpentry skills.

Two of the Carpentry trainees

So, what is a typical week like.  We were ‘warned’ before we arrived at the ship that is is very easy to develop ‘FIMO’ (Fear Of Missing Out’) and we fairly quickly realised what that meant but we have still managed to fill our week!  Hmm!

We both generally work an 8.00 am to 5.00 pm working day which just whizzes by and our evenings have started to fill up – Stuart and Matthew also do ‘On-Call’ and Matthew has ‘Night Patrol’ to fit into all this.  We usually have dinner around 6 pm.  On Mondays Stuart goes to a book study group from 7.00 pm to 8.30 pm, Lynne started a small group but hasn’t been due to needing to rest, ice, etc her knee.  At 7.00 pm on Tuesday evenings we usually go to a ‘Music Get-Together’ to play and sing with a group of others, and on

Our OnBoarding family

alternate Tuesdays at 8.00 pm we meet up with our OnBoarding group (those that we did our training with in the US and Guinea field practice) to hear how we are getting on and encourage and pray for each other.  On Wednesday evenings from 6.00 pm to 7.00 pm there is a ‘Medical In-Service’ which is when one of the surgeons will give a presentation about their specialty or another area of experience.  It is fascinating, awe inspiring, at times somewhat incomprehensible to us non-medics and we have heard about facial tumours, thyroid surgery and goiters, obstructed labour, paediatric brain surgery, in-flight CPR,  treatment of  sacrococcygeal teratomas (what?!), ponsetti – we have learned so much!  For the medical crew, attendance at these, depending which country they are from counts toward their continuing professional development.   

Deck Team on Ice Cream duty
Local church we’ve attended recently

 Thursday evenings there is a Community Gathering from 7.30 pm to 8.30 pm followed by ice cream.Mercy Shippers seem to love their ice cream!  Fridays sometimes see us going out or Stuart going out with some of the men but has been on-call quite a few Fridays. 

Saturday we might go out for the day or  sometimes there is a film or just for part of the day,other event in the evening and Sunday varies – we have been to the Hope Centre service several times, we have recently been going to a local church or we may rest and catch up with things as in the evening is Church on the ship, followed by Brits tea in one of the family cabins.  There are always other ad hoc events going on too. 

‘All British’ goodbye breakfast to Judith
Bye to Lee at Guinea Gardens

We have made many new friends since arriving here.  Many have come and gone and those goodbyes can be tough but we are thankful for them all – we would rather have had them even for short while. Goodbyes are also a good excuse to eat out .

Obama where we enjoy going to eat.  

Hey!  That’s our berth!
Getting ready to move again

As the field service draws to a close, the ship had to move out of our berth to allow the berth to be dredged.  After two cancellations we moved one day; then moved another 20m later that day; we stayed there for two days – no make that another day
 

Masks on for another move

Followed by a long night

 – next to a ship unloading dusty stuff; then time to move back – oh wait, we’ll move once, and then again that day at 10pm!  It was a long night for the Deck crew as the Day Crew needed driving home when they’d finished.  Amazing how many football games are being played on the roads at 2am!!

As we start to pack up the outlook changes again and yesterday we watch the resident T-Rex (Terex) move two containers into place ready for the pack up team to begin their work.
Getting the pack up containers in position
Love this view of the islands and the sunset
Father and Son at work
As we finish this field service and look back over the last year, we are thankful to God for His goodness and faithfulness.  We thank Him for all of our friends we’ve met on this ship, the work of this ship and our family and friends back home supporting us.  In just over five weeks time we will be home for six weeks and Matthew will be following us a couple of weeks later as originally planned; we will return to the ship in August in time for the sail to Senegal and the next field service.





‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end.  They are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness.’    Lamentations 3:22-23

A post where I try to remember what I’ve done.

Matthew Little,

The thing that I have only now realised is that I should probably start writing about the events of a week then collate all the things that happened for a month when I set down to do another update. Because, to tell the truth, I have very little memory a lot that has happened since I last wrote. Obviously, I can remember things that did happen, but not a lot. If you have read all my posts (I do a monthly post, and I have only been here for 4 months now, so there aren’t many) you may remember me mentioning how blogging is basically a chore for me now. It’s hard to settle down and remember everything you have done. I am actually impressed by some of these crew who manage a weekly blog, and write them very well. But I think it’s different for me, whilst they are only here for a few months, I am here for two years, so I feel that I have a lot more breathing room to update loved ones back home or wherever they may be and international friends that this crazy season of life has given me the chance to meet and build relationships with. Also, did I mention that I have been here for 4 months already? It seriously feels like a long time that I joined. And in three months, the  Guinea field service will over.

So please, read on, whilst I in the past try to write about the things that I remember and try to remember other things.

Everybody has to say goodbye at somepoint.

I know, I know, that’s a fairly bleak (and ambigious) statement, but sorry kids, it’s true. Fil, my friend and former electronics technician from New Zealand (and Latvia), left the ship at the start of the month. But before he left the next morning we enjoyed a night out in Conakry, which looking back now semi-appeared to be a quest for some live music. Joined by Coltan, one of our officers, Kate, the Executive Assistant and Trinity, one of the bakers, we headed the Le Jardins de Guinee (Gardens of Guinea), an open air restaurant I had heard a lot about and not been to before, and I believe is a hotspot for Mercy Shippers. How can I make this hypothesis? There was another group of Mercy Shippers there at the same time, So we decided to join them. I had already eaten on the ship, so I had a gourmet coffee pudding platter-thing. It wasn’t a platter though, it was a place-mat made from slate. It was very nice, there were mini lemon tarts, candied oranges and a triple chocolate coconut mousse thing. It was one of those dishes that looked too good to eat, but I was hungry, so it didn’t last long. after a game of  doubles pool (le Jardins has a open air games room with a pool table and a table football table) we moved out to Mille Patte (I had been there before, it is in a previous post), where there was live music. And another group of Mercy Shippers! Overall, it was very nice social evening. Kate even got the musician to sing an apparently never ending ‘Happy Birthday’ to Fil after we found out it was his Birthday a few days later.  As it happens, a whole group of Mercy Shippers (I don’t think they were all in the same crowd though) were leaving the same night, including our previous captain, Milo, (Our current captain is Jon, a sort-of ‘reserve’ captain for Mercy Ships. He has captained with Mercy Ships before) so before heading out to find a taxi (totally not the most tense thing about Conakry),  we stuck around to say goodbye  to people. Where Fil was bombarded with “Are you leaving tonight!?” We also said goodbye to fellow nerd, Danita. You may be thinking “That’s a bit harsh, Matthew” but it is a self proclaimed title. And she was part of our DnD group, so you can’t get more nerdy than that. After a very nice evening and a good sleep, it was time to say goodbye to Fil.  It was upsetting to see someone off that you had bonded over a silly joke that didn’t make much sense. Goodbye guys, I miss you!

The British Embassy

The British crew and (and passport holders. We had  some Britain-born Australians) were invited to the British Embassy. I decided to dress up for it, seeing as I don’t have much opportunity to do so. We were asked to dress appropriately for meeting the Ambassador, so I did. And it surprisingly wasn’t unbearable in the heat to do so! Was I looking forward to the visit? Yes. Was I feeling the same way when I left? No. Truth be told…. I had the most boring time. What I thought would be an interesting evening was actually a social evening of conversations. I HATE those evenings, because not only am I terrified of conversation, I prefer to actually be doing things at that kind of ‘party’ which was why I didn’t have too much fun at house parties. Crack out some Mario Kart, and I’ll have a blast! The same weekend, the Men’s Retreat…. in the International Lounge…. on the ship…. was taking place. I heard some interesting responses to that, saying how good it was. I now wished I had gone to that instead.

What has work been like?

Like every job, working on Deck has it’s pros and cons. The pros are, I suppose, the new experiences and skills and lessons I have been learning, such as operating cranes, forklifts and power tools. Sure, you can tell me “You can learn how to do these things on land” But tell me if you learned how to operate a crane at 18 years old. If you can legally learn how to operate a crane at 18, I don’t know. I don’t know when cranes became a thing, either so if cranes became a thing after you turned 19, I guess my argument is invalid. I did (help)  to build a house in Mexico when I was 16, though. The cons are that, eventually, you will have do every deck related job on a ship imaginable, so then nothing is new anymore. Oh, I haven’t gone on the stage yet. I think we have finished stage work for the field service. At least staging over the side of the ship, there maybe minor, stage work that may come up between now and June. The new thing that I have done is mooring operations. Now, we haven’t left yet, but what we were doing was checking the mooring lines on the astern and forward ends of the ship. If they were too tight or too slack, and all that jazz. So that meant unwrapping the lines from the bollards, and wrapping them round the capstan. One deck hand will then operate the controls for capstan, to either give slack to the line or tightening them, whilst one or more deck hands will hold on to the line to hold the tension. This job requires focus and full attention, as you can imagine, elastic energy transfer into kinetic energy can be messy, if you let go of the line. Snapback is dangerous. and potentially fatal. Particularly with those heavy ropes. When the supervising officer has decided if the slack or tightness is just right, it is a rush to remove the mooring lines from the capstan and re-wrap them around the bollard before they become slack. That also meant more greasing for me! one of the rotating bollards was stiff, so we had to splice two ropes together and wrap them around the capstan and this smaller bollard. And then squeeze some grease into the nipple to get it turning properly. If it seemed like I was insinuating that I have done everything, I haven’t yet. It just will happen. But at the moment, I am pretty much doing everything that I have done before, but somewhere else on deck.  I just got off another week of Night Patrol. That pretty much went the same as the last two weeks. Which was good, as nothing happened, but still. It. Is. So. Draining. Going to sleep in the morning is the most rewarding thing. That and pancakes on Wednesday morning. We, the British crew, tried to get a pancake day thing going, but that that fell through. so pancake on Ash Wednesday had to suffice. Nom nom.
Better than watching the mess being made of Brexit by Westminster. Thanks, Cameron, where have you put your trotters up now? (A Danny Dyer reference, to all you non Brits)

Return to Kassa 

The Squad! or crew. I don’t know yet
Before I started the long stretch of Night Patrol, I had a night away on Kassa with Caleb, Laura, Laura Kate (USA. Apparently it’s just LK for short) Imani, Rimke (Netherlands) and Michiel (Netherlands). It was so good to get off the ship for a bit. We went to a different beach that I went to before. The others had been to this beach. I also had the first experience of a moto-taxi. We weren’t going to walk, since the beach was the other side of the island, and when we got to the island off the ferry, it was about half past five, and we wanted to set up camp before dark. We got a fire going, and just chilled. And then we chilled on the beach and swam for a bit before heading back to the ferry. Rimke also brought her Ukulele along for some light entertainment

This is the hat I have basically stolen from my mum.
My hat makes me look like a middle aged travelling woman.

LK and Michiel were determined to catch some crabs. And they did

This is the Photo of the Month

See that white speck? That’s the ferry. About half an hour away.

The lives that we save.

This is the story of one of the patients that we have “given new life to” over the course of four months, from the crew that I have spoken to,  heard  at the Wednesday Evening Medical In-Services and promotional material I have seen whilst preparing to work with Mercy Ships, that is one of the statements that stands out to me. I love how powerful it is, and it really does bring up questions in my mind about the lives of the patients. (As previously mentioned before, the communications team on board works to produce material ready for crew use, such as this one, as well as hosting media teams and vision trips)

Going back to losing memory of the last month, I don’t have amnesia, it was just…. it felt like nothing happened. But, as the Doctor says “Stories are just where memories go when they are forgotten” So as this vast and wonderful world keeps spinning through our universe, and whilst memories fade, at least know; no matter how small a memory created is, you still leave an invisible mark on the world.

Ok, so no more inspirational messages and philosophy. I’ll finish up now.

Thanks for reading and see you again soon!