Tuesday, June 28, 2011

views from deck 8

Here are some pictures I took from Deck 8 (the top of the ship) the other day. It was kind of cloudy, but that's just going to get worse now that we're getting into rainy season.

Port side, toward the ocean. When it's not cloudy it's nice to sit out and watch the sun set over the water. There are lawn chairs up on the deck and always someone sitting out there.

Starboard side. This is the dock. You can see the gangway up toward the front of the ship, and behind it those tents are where they do admissions before bringing patients on board to the hospital. All those white vehicles belong to Mercy Ships.

Looking past all the containers on the pier, you can see the mountains in the background.

On the other side of that funnel thing in the bottom right of this picture, is a corner of the dock where it's nice to sit and listen to the waves crash against the rocks. You can smell smoke from people's cooking fires, and sometimes hear kids playing on the beach. I was sitting there with some friends the other day and a man came rowing by in a little boat and called out to us: "Hello, good people! How are you? Thank you for the good work you are doing here."


Sunday, June 26, 2011

a walk around Freetown

Here are some pictures from my walk in town last Sunday. We have to be very careful of the pictures we take, due to cultural sensitivity, so I don't have very many with people in them. Because of recent wars, and journalists coming and taking pictures of whatever and whoever they want, many Sierra Leoneans become offended when people try to take pictures. I did manage to get a few though:

This is the famous Cotton Tree in the center of town. It's said that this is the site where the settlers of Freetown, former African American slaves, first gathered for a thanksgiving service when they established the colony in 1792.

An old church down the street from the Cotton Tree. There's a courtyard around it with beautiful trees and other plants. We wanted to go in and see it, but the gate was locked, so we just had to look over the wall from the outside.

A view down the street. You can see the Cotton Tree behind the building to the right.

This street was surprisingly empty - most of them were very busy and filled with cars, motorcycles, poda-podas, and pedestrians. Poda-podas are public transportation vans that you can rent out for a group or just flag down and join whoever's already crammed inside.

Toward the end of our walk we went through a quiet, garden-like area called the Bishop's Court. These are the old ruins of some big house.

Before going back to the ship we stopped by the Hope Center and visited with the patients there. The Hope Center is an outpatient facility where many of our patients stay if they're going to need to come back to the ship for treatment in a few weeks and live too far away to go home, or if kids are malnourished and need to gain some weight before they can have surgery.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

ferry ride

Thank you to anyone who's been praying for my health. This past week I was pretty wiped out, and when I wasn't working in the ward I was just sleeping a lot. It seems to have worked though, because I'm feeling much better. I finally got my computer set up to use the wi-fi here, and uploaded some pictures. These are from the day I arrived, on the ferry ride across the harbor.

travel-weary and happy to have finally arrived

just some random ships that we passed by

the Africa Mercy, all lit up

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

prayer updates

Thank you to those who prayed about the O2! They must have fixed the problem, because surgeries went as scheduled today. We sent 6 patients to the OR from my ward today - I work in D Ward, which is the Maxillo-facial unit, or "max/fax."

I'd appreciate prayers for good health. Over 400 crew members living quite literally on top of each other turns this place into a petri dish, and I've come down with a cold that's been going around.

Monday, June 20, 2011

still adjusting

Hello everyone. Yes, I'm still alive. Sorry I haven't blogged recently. It's been a very busy week, and the times that my schedule's not packed, I'm completely worn out. Last Tuesday and Wednesday were full of meetings and paperwork, Thursday and Friday were my orientation shifts on the ward. Saturday I took a day to read, rest, and work on paperwork.

Sunday I was going stir-crazy after not having been off the ship all week, so I went for a walk in Freetown with some new friends. The streets are very busy, dirty, and crowded, but it was good to get out and stretch my legs. We saw the famous Cotton Tree (google it) in the center of town, and a church nearby that was established in 1808. I was thankful for the people I went out with, because at one point one of them grabbed my arm and yanked me out of the way of a car, which passed by within a couple of inches of me. We walked through the craft market, but it was emptier than usual, so I'm told, it being Sunday.

Some first impressions of work on the ward: every change of shift the nurses all pray together, for each other and for the patients. When taking a patient to surgery the ward nurse and OR nurse both pray with him beforehand. We sing songs with our patients in the middle of the day, show movies, and take them outside on Deck 7 to get some fresh air at 3 pm. While people in the western culture value individuality and privacy and would hate to even be in a shared room, the Sierra Leoneans are all about community and being in each other's lives, and having them all in the same room (ward) isn't a problem at all. When I go to work at home I usually hit the ground running as soon as I clock in, and have a million things to do all day long. Here we might have a few meds to give, tube feedings and dressing changes to do, but there is much more time available to develop relationships and spend time with our patients.

That's it for now. I'll try to post again soon. One difficulty we encountered today was a problem with the air compressors on the ship, resulting in no oxygen supply in the operating room, thus no surgeries today. Pray that the problem is resolved quickly. Thanks friends!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

getting adjusted

Well, I think I've gotten over the time change now, but all this orientation has me worn out. Today was lots more paperwork, learning the hospital charting system, and taking a tour of the hospital part of the ship. I'm not ALWAYS lost around here, but do a good amount of wandering around. I won't be able to get my laptop registered to use the internet until next week, so probably won't be posting any pictures until then. I haven't had time to take any pictures yet anyway. I went up to the very top of the ship today to see the swimming pool - yesterday it was raining so we didn't go outside to see it. With the rocking of the ship back and forth, the water in the pool looked like one of those wave pools they have at water parks. Could be interesting, trying to swim laps in it. There was a beautiful view of the city from the pool, so I'll be going up there again just to take pictures sometime.

Tomorrow I'll have my first shift in the ward, with a preceptor. After that I'm sure I'll have more to write about. Right now I'm going to go find a quiet place to relax. Thank you for your prayers!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

safely arrived


Of course, if you have facebook, you probably already know that by now.

The last 2 days were spent traveling from Texas, to New York, to Brussels, to Freetown. Besides an hour delay on one of my flights, there were no problems in any of the airports. AND all my luggage made it to the same place I did! :-) Getting from the airport in Freetown, Sierra Leone, to the ship was a bit of an adventure. There were 8 of us coming in to the airport at the same time, and we all found each other and were met by 2 drivers who were going to take us and our luggage to the ferry. The airport is across the harbor from where the Africa Mercy is docked, and to go by land would take much longer than the ferry. On the way to the ferry, the car I was in ran out of gas. There weren't exactly any Shell stations in sight, so we were in a bit of a pickle. Our driver, a Sierra Leonean, flagged down a man riding a motorcycle, and hopped on the back with him to go in search of fuel. The rest of us were left to sit in the car on the side of the road. There were some people across the street staring at us, and adorable little kids smiling and waving and yelling something in their language. We found out later that they were saying "white man! White man!" After about 15 minutes our driver returned with enough gas to get us the rest of the way to the ferry. The ferry ride was nice. About an hour long, and we could go out on deck and enjoy the breeze. We saw the Africa Mercy as we went by, but had to be picked up by someone farther on down the coast where the ferry took us to. The drive from the ferry to the ship wasn't a very far distance, but took awhile because of traffic. They told us that Freetown is a city for 200,000 people, but has a population of abut 2 million. Think small roads crowded with trucks, cars, motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians, with no traffic signs or stoplights. Lots of honking horns. People out on the streets selling just about anything - sodas, loaves of bread, lanterns, shoes.

Finally on board the ship, we got registered, had ID badges made, had some dinner, and went to bed. Today has been information overload with orientation, paperwork, and getting accounts set up online and in the crew bank. The rest of the week will be more orientation, and next week I'll be on my own working as a nurse in the hospital. I'm still kind of lost around here, but we'll have a tour of the ship this afternoon.

Praising God for safe travel and friendly people! :-)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

current prayer needs

As Sunday quickly approaches, I have many things to pray about, and would like prayer for. Two big ones come to mind:

First, pray for everything to go smoothly with my travel. That I'll pack everything I need, but be concise. That I won't lose my passport, money, or any of my travel documents. That my luggage will all arrive to the same place I do (lots of people lose their luggage, so I'm preparing for that possibility). That I'll find where I need to go in the airports and flights won't be delayed to the point of missing other flights. And above all, that I will represent Christ to the people I travel with, and make the most of every opportunity for the gospel (Col. 4:5-6).

Second, please pray for my health. I woke up Sunday morning with a sore throat that still hasn't gone away, and I don't quite feel myself. I've been loading up on vitamin C, drinking lots of hot tea, and getting as much sleep as I can. I'd really like to be on the mend by the time I fly out. Also pray that I don't have any crazy side effects from the anti-malaria medicine I started taking last week. I'm on Larium, and common side effects are anxiety, agitation, horrible nightmares, and hallucinations. They say the longer you're on the medicine, the greater your chances of having some of these side effects, so this will be an on-going prayer for me as I continue to take it over the next 6 months. If I do go off the deep end from taking it, it won't be the end of the world; I can see the crew physician on-board and he can switch me over to Doxycycline if necessary.

Thank you so much for your prayers and encouragement!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

take nothing for granted

There are some questions that we've been asked a lot (and have asked the people we've met) during FMS this week. Thing's like where we're from, what we do, how we heard about Mercy Ships, when we'll be going to Africa, what our job will be on the ship, how long we'll be there, etc. Kind of like your first week at college when you ask and answer all the "get to know you questions" over and over again.

Answering the question "how did you find out about Mercy Ships?" has caused me to look back and see how God has worked in my life and on my heart from a very early age.

I don't really remember ever NOT knowing about Mercy Ships. My mom had the opportunity to tour one of the ships, with me in tow, when it was at the port in Houston when I was very small, and she told me about the ministry as I was growing up. Then when I was eleven, I started attending a Christian summer camp every year in the Texas hill country. The first year (or maybe the 2nd, I'm not quite sure) that I went to Camp Buckner I remember meeting a girl in my cabin named Annie Fadely whose parents worked with Mercy Ships. I don't remember talking to her much about it, but it stuck in the back of my mind even though I haven't seen or heard from her any in the past 15 years. I didn't really learn anything more about Mercy Ships until 8 or 9 months ago, when I started thinking about looking for some short-term medical mission work to do and Mercy Ships immediately popped into my mind. Reflecting back on all this just reminds me to not take anything for granted. Who would have thought that it mattered what other little girls I met during a week at summer camp when I was eleven years old? But God knew I would be embarking on this adventure one day, and He put me in a camp cabin with someone who would be instrumental in planting seeds of thought in my mind about it. The neat part is, Annie's mom Angie Fadely still works for Mercy Ships in the Human Resources department here at the IOC, and I got to meet her on Monday, talk with her and tell her my story. I also found out that before the Fadelys joined Mercy Ships, they had toured the ship Anastasis at the port in Houston in 1989. I have a hunch that was probably around the same time my mother got to tour the ship. Coincidence? I think not.

Monday, June 6, 2011

farewell, Temple

Well, today was the day. I spent the last month, and especially the last week, preparing for this day. Life has been a hectic jumble of family visits, saying goodbye to friends, getting travel documents in order, taking care of business like banking and medical insurance, finding as much time to spend with Pat as I could around his new job, shopping, organizing, and packing. Needless to say, sleep has been close to the bottom of the to-do list. I'm exhausted.

Today I finished cramming everything I had in Temple (minus a bookshelf and desk) into my car and drove 3 hours north-east to The Middle of Nowhere, Texas. I'm not sure if I'm in Garden Valley or Lindale, but either way it's a tiny town close to Tyler, where the Mercy Ships International Operations Center (IOC) is located. I'll be here all week for the Foundations of Mercy Ships program (FMS). I feel like I'm at summer camp or a retreat - the IOC is on a large piece of land with a warehouse where medical supplies are collected, HR buildings, a dining room, dorms, pool, cafe, meeting rooms, gym, cabins, and I don't know what all else. Oh, and they raise livestock here too, so there are pastures with different animals. Lots of trees, with walking trails all over the place. And wild hogs. They warned us about the hogs.

This week will be spent in classes and seminars and meetings, learning more about the history and mission of Mercy Ships and things to expect when I join the ship, getting to know HR people and other volunteers and hopefully getting some much-needed rest. It's a treat to have a normal schedule, if only for one week, where I have somewhere to be at the same time every morning and the option of going to bed early at night. And to have some time to just sit and think, read my Bible, pray, and crack open my neglected journal. Maybe take a few walks. Hopefully not run into any angry wild hogs. ;-)

In one week from now I'll be in Africa. It doesn't seem quite real. Hasn't sunk in yet. Your prayers are much appreciated, my friends.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

staying in touch

People keep asking me how they'll be able to keep up with me while I'm in Sierra Leone, so I thought it was time to give y'all that information.

I WILL have internet access - there are computers on the ship, and I'll be bringing my laptop with me. So I'll be able to contact people through email and facebook, and will be posting updates to this blog. I will NOT be able to Skype or use any other video chat, or download large attachments. So just keep it to simple, old-fashioned emails, ok? And if you want to share any pictures with me, post them to facebook and tell me to look at them there, instead of attaching them in emails.

I don't have an international phone plan, so won't be able to use my cell phone for 6 months. The ship has a US based satellite phone system, and I think there are phones in the cabins. I'll just need to buy phone cards to use to call home.

Snail mail will be sent to the International Operations Center in Texas and then forwarded to the ship. Here's the address:

Ruth Daniel
Mercy Ships IOC
M/V Africa Mercy - Surgical Ward
PO Box 2020
Lindale, TX

I love getting letters, but just know that it could take several weeks for mail to reach West Africa. Also, don't send anything heavy unless it's really worth it, cause I'll have to pay $0.55 per ounce for anything over 1 ounce. Any packages that are sent will need to have a detailed list of all contents on the outside. Otherwise they'll be subject to inspection and/or refusal of shipment, and Mercy Ships could be fined. Click here for more staying-in-touch details, and for a list of hazardous materials NOT to send.