Sunday, August 8, 2010

Psalm 84

I just love this Psalm. Kind of sums up this summer living on a ship full of hope.

Psalm 84 (The Message)

1-2 What a beautiful home, God-of-the-Angel-Armies!

I've always longed to live in a place like this, 

   Always dreamed of
a room in your house

      where I could sing for joy to

3-4 Birds find nooks and crannies in your house, 

      sparrows and swallows make nests there. 

   They lay their eggs and raise their young, 

      singing their songs in
the place where we worship

God-of-the-Angel-Armies! King! God! 

      How blessed they are to live and sing there! 

5-7 And how blessed all those in whom You live

      whose lives become roads You travel; 

   They wind through lonesome valleys, come upon brooks, 

      discover cool springs and pools brimming with rain! 

 God-traveled, these roads curve up the mountain, and 

      at the last turn—Zion!
God in full view

8-9 God-of-the-Angel-Armies, listen: 

      O God of Jacob,
open Your ears—I'm praying

   Look at our shields, glistening in the sun, 

faces, shining with Your gracious anointing

10-12 One day spent in Your house, this beautiful place of worship

      beats thousands spent on Greek island beaches. 

I'd rather scrub floors in the house of my God 

      than be honored as a guest in the palace of sin. 

All sunshine and sovereign is God

      generous in gifts and glory. 

He doesn't scrimp with His traveling companions. 

It's smooth sailing all the way with God-of-the-Angel-Armies.

600 pink sheets

Ali and Alison are two nurses that I've gotten to know first through their blogs, and now through living with them aboard. I've enjoyed reading their blog posts in recent weeks; learning about nurse life and seeing regular crew life through their eyes!

Surgeries stopped two weeks ago. The hospital shut down this past week. And there are 600 pink sheets left. Each one of these sheets represents a patient that we were not able to see, could not get in contact with, or was not a candidate for surgery. And when I read both of their blog posts I started to cry.

There is something that YOU can do for these 600. Go to either of their blogs and comment with your email address. They will email you one of the names for you to pray for. At this point, we cannot help them physically, but we can join with the nurses aboard and storm heaven on behalf of these 600.



When in Africa... dress like the Africans!

Wolanyo is a day volunteer who worked as a translator with the eye team for the first few months of the field service; now he works in the galley. He is an incredible tailor and he is the one who made my dress.

Because I had plans to go to Kpalime this past weekend I was sad that I wouldn't be able to wear my dress to African church. But on Friday Kathy said that we could wear African attire as we served for the day volunteer thank you reception! :)

(Kathy's my adopted mom...)

(the entire Hospitality department!)

(Julie and me... the only two girls left in 3420!)

(Gabriela and I sat down to rest for a second, Julie snapped the pic, and then Gabriela proceeded to try to shove me off the piano bench!)

Kpalime and Mt. Agou/last weekend in Togo!

This past weekend has been quite a weekend to remember! Early this week Abi asked if I wanted to go back to Kpalime with her and hike Mt. Agou, the highest place in Togo. I said sure, but we didn't make concrete plans knowing that even the best laid plans usually don't work out. After all, TIA. (This is Africa)

We had been thinking about leaving Friday evening after I got off work, but we decided to wait until Saturday morning. At breakfast we each packed several PB sandwiches and made sure everyone was ready. The group: Scott, Aleah, Rachel, Abi, and me. We met Emmanuel, a day volunteer who worked as a translator in the hospital, at the port gate and then caught a taxi further into Lome.

From there, the 6 of us (and 7 others) piled into an 8-passenger van for the drive to Kpalime. I was so happy to get out finally and stretch my legs! We were dropped off outside the Hotel le Geyser, and from there Abi led us to Jeff's house. Jeff is a good friend of Josh, another Mercy Ships crew member that Abi and I met in January when we went to the Introduction to Mercy Ships conference. Jeff routinely takes groups of people up to Mt. Agou, and Abi met him when she was last in Kpalime.

At about 1:30pm we finally left for the foot of Mt. Agou. Then we started walking up the paved road while Jeff explained that we could take the road all the way up (12km) or we could take the "shortcuts" that cut straight up the mountain and through the many little villages built into its side. We opted for the shortcut...

...which turned out to be about a 3-hr workout on a stair climbing machine. Try hiking/scrambling up the side of a mountain on wet/mossy stones that create steps about 1' tall. (think Gollum from Lord of the Rings and you've got a good pic of what I must have looked like!) I had a tough time in there... I made it all the way and I tried to not complain, but I had to rest fairly often.... grrrr.... that made me mad. Especially since my backpack probably only weighed about 20 lbs and Scott was carrying the entire 3-man tent in his pack! Mt. Agou has an elevation of 986m (3,234ft) and I doubt that the foot of the mountain was too far above sea level, but I don't know exactly how much elevation we covered. :)

The view from about halfway up. The haze is partially fog due to how moist the air is and partially because of all the cooking fires.

We finally got to the top and stopped at the security/army post there. Jeff and Emmanuel talked with the main guard for almost an hour as the 5 of us broke out the cookies, PB sandwiches, and ate our first sugar cane. (aka the walking sticks that Emmanuel and Jeff had picked up in the last village)

And after all of the discussions the guard told us that because we didn't have the necessary permit we could not spend the night on the mountaintop--and he wasn't interested in a few thousand CFA to let us through. But in the hour of discussion the sun had started to set. We packed up and started our trek down the mountain via the road. At some point Jeff and I started walking faster than the others and we walked by the light of my little keychain flashlight powered by 1 AAA battery. :) He and I got down in 2 hours--but the last 45 minutes were pretty much sheer torture because my wonderful tennis shoes decided that they hated me and thought they should get their revenge on my feet. But all those blisters did was convince me to leave the shoes here in Africa so I can bring the rest of my souvenirs and stuff home!

Jeff teaches English at a secondary school in Kpalime. He's never been anywhere outside of Ghana, Togo, and Benin, but he is an avid reader and has made many friends from around the world. He knew quite a bit about the States and we had a wonderful conversation as we trudged along in the dark.  I kept having to remind myself to talk slower and use simpler words and ask if he knew what certain words meant, but his English is quite good! He told me about his children; Leah, Christian, Emerald, and Onyx, and his wife Shalom. (His surname means "stone" so his last two children's names are perfect!)

We arrived back at the main road and sat down to wait for Abi, Aleah, Scott, Rachel, and Emmanuel. A while later a taxi driver stopped to ask if we needed a ride. We told him we were waiting for our friends and asked if he would drive up the road and pick them up. We did so, and about 15 minutes later he returned with them all--they'd paused for a rest and made a mini campfire in a pothole on the road.(thanks to Abi's iPhone for the pic!) :) We packed 8 of us into the taxi--a regular-sized sedan that's meant for 4 passengers but often holds many more!

He dropped us off back at the Hotel le Geyser, and that's when Aleah noticed that her flipflops were missing out of her backpack. That led to a search throughout the back of the taxi before we finally agreed that Kojo must have stolen them--we have no idea who took them/if they fell out/when someone could have opened her backpack and taken them. Oh well.

We ate supper at the hotel's restaurant. Their omelette sandwich for 1,000 CFA was a pretty good steal! And I'm officially addicted to Fanta orange soda again... remember, Mom? The hotel didn't have any rooms (there went plan B), but Jeff offered to let us stay at his home which is just behind the hotel.

We traipsed back to his house and collapsed. Abi and I got the bed, the other girls got the floor with their air mattress and yoga mat, and Jeff and Emmanuel staked out the tent on the front porch. We joked that since Scott carried that heavy tent up and down Mt. Agou he HAD to at least put it up! :)

We woke up this morning, had PB and honey sandwiches (thanks to Abi's stash), said goodbye to Shalom, and went back to the hotel to get a drink and use their restrooms. Jeff and Onyx came to say goodbye and then we caught rides to the "bus station." We had to get Fan Milk (ice cream in a sealed bag. Super good. And only 150 CFA/~$0.30)  from the guy on the bicycle before all piling into another taxi for the 3-hour ride back to Lome.

It took FOREVER to get home! I don't know how fast we were going (speedometer was broken... a common occurrence in Africa), but since the taxi was probably 15 years old and stuck with 37,000km on the odometer, we didn't expect much from it! But we got back to Lome safe and sound.

First stop: dining room for cold lemonade. Then a shower. Then unpack the backpack and throw everything in the laundry. Then up to Deck 8 to finish a book and relax. Then dinner ("man cannot live on PB sandwiches for an entire weekend"). Then IMing with friends and watching NASCAR up in the Midships lounge. Then BED!!!!

This weekend was so much fun and I'm so excited that I finally got to do stuff the real-African way. I'm super sore from the hike and I'm not looking forward to work tomorrow with the blisters on my feet, but such is life!

*I climbed the highest point in Togo!*

Thursday, August 5, 2010

6 days left!

So yeah... I'm flying back sooner than originally planned. I'll be wheels down in DFW this Tuesday evening. Wow. 6 days.

Turns out that one of the graduate schools I'm applying to emailed me to tell me that both of my recommendation forms had to be from physical therapists I'd shadowed for at least 40 hours each. I've skipped around from clinic to clinic getting all sorts of experiences, but I've only been with one place for over 40 hours. So... I'm headed back to a clinic near Dallas to finish up with a therapist there and get the 17.5 hrs I need for her to re-write the form for me.

In order to get two full work days in before school starts and the application deadline passed for this particular school, I had to move my flights three days sooner. Which means I'm leaving in the midst of the packing-up and securing cabins in Hospitality... and since Caitlin and Sarah left last week it's just Kathy, Gabriella, and me! I feel really bad about leaving...

But I cannot wait to fly back. Ever since I finalized my class schedule, ordered textbooks, and have started receiving emails from my new boss in ResLife, I'm super excited about A&M. OK, I'm also freaked out that it's my senior year and that the GRE test is sneaking up on me!

The sail is coming. Today I packed up and secured 6 guest cabins. Took down all the pictures on the walls, packed the guest dishes under the beds and tucked them in between pillows, mattress covers, and duvets, ziptied all the cupboard door handles together, defrosted and propped open refrigerator doors.... and weighed all the items that weren't screwed to the wall... something about needing to know weight distribution for when the ship undergoes engine tests while it's in dry dock in Durban, South Africa. And you know the easiest way to weigh bulky items: the whole subtract your weight from your weight+the items.... not cool. All the stairs and walking and manual labor I've been doing hasn't kept up with all the carbs that sneak into every meal the galley makes and all the cookie dough that's a necessary part of the job. Oh well... good thing I'm a Kinesiology major!

So... I have 6 days left. This is my last Thursday on board. Tomorrow evening I'm headed back to Kpalime along with Abi for the weekend. This is gonna be a low-cost, real-Africa, kind of trip. Complete with hiking Mt. Agou (the highest point in Togo), and camping out on top. Swimming in the waterfalls, and spending as little money as possible. We leave tomorrow night after work and are going to catch a bus to Kpalime as the locals do.

Pictures to come.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Sarakawa, Sparks, sunburns, and sights & sounds

Today was heavenly. Woke up at 9:30am, grabbed a piece of leftover banana/chocolate chip bread from the dining room, and a double vanilla white americano from the Starbucks cafe. Amazing devos.

Went to Deck 8 to journal some... ended up there for 2 hours and got kinda burnt.

At lunch Abi said she wanted to go to Sarakawa this afternoon so we went to the Ship Shop to buy passes for the pool. Met up with Jenny at 2pm and walked the ~1.5 miles to Sarakawa. Spent 3 hours in the sun studying for the GRE and reading one of Nicholas Sparks' novels. Learned several things: SPF 30 doesn't cut it, girls can sometimes be loquacious (GRE vocab word), and all of Sparks' books are completely predictable!

We got back just in time for dinner. Mexican food. So happy. 

Then I got a tour of the engine rooms on decks 1 and 2. Michele, the Chief Engineer. We became friends a few weeks ago when I noticed his A&M baseball cap at the same time he noticed my Aggie ring. His two children go to A&M Galveston and are studying Marine Engineering Technology. Anyway, I've wanted to see what it was like on deck 2 aft (forward deck 2 is the weight room and a few cabins) and deck 1. Here's what it looks like!

(this cracked me up... living at ALERT I know all too well about sewage treatment plants)

(don't mess with these things. Watertight doors are NOT cool!)

(the engine room shop... "the hospital" for sick engine parts) 

(I think a few kitchens could use the warning to disable the smoke alarm before cooking!)

(there are 6 engines, but two of them that look like this have been hooked up to the generators to provide all of the ship's electricity)
(the lovely incinerator for all the hospital trash, waste oil, and oily rags. The hospital trash--including sharps--cannot be taken to the local landfills where people scrounge through the rubbish. So, everything is burned at 1000C)

(one of the two harbor generators. VERY noisy and hot.)

(one of the four other engines used for propulsion. Now resting quietly)

(the fuel intake centrifuge. The fuel we get here is fairly dirty and often has a good bit of water vapor... death to engines)

(the fuel injection system)

(control panels in the engine control room--Deck 2)

(only one harbor generator running now... we're using 1000 kWh per hour right now... those units sound weird... kWh^2?)

(guess who makes the air conditioning system?)

(the chiller for the AC system)

*good day...*