I'm sitting at a table, on the ship, surrounded by people. A friend at my table (with her computer), and a friend at each of the tables beside us, each with their own computers. Random comments here and there, but we're each kind of on our own as well. On the ship of 450 people alone time is time where you sit amongst people or as far from people as you're able, and tune them out. Sometimes that's going back to your cabin and hiding on your bed. That's not possible for me at the moment since my roommate worked the night and is sleeping. Sharing a room with 6 other people is all about respect!
I'm sure you're all just waiting for pictures...
So here we go, I'll attempt to be brief (no promises though, you know me! If you're bored just skim through pictures, I won't be offended!)
We got up and left our dorms in Texas at 5:45am (no pictures, too early and everyone a mix of stressed/excited/tired), travelled in two large vans for 2 hours (a little longer actually, since there was one inevitable "whoops I forgot my backpack at the dorm" which meant turning back to get it), and arrived to Dallas just in time to check in. Check-in was not without it's dramas, including about 4 people whose connecting flight was not being confirmed for some unknown reason. And a couple overweight bags that meant shuffling of items and a lot of waiting around. Security was easy in comparison.
We flew Dallas - New York - Brussels - Banjul - Freetown. And were blessed with no flight delays or large problems along the way. We were actually fed more than some of us wanted (other than the American flight, where they don't feed you).
We did have a 3 hour layover in New York where we chose to stop at a restaurant to eat "normal" food.
Once we arrived in Freetown, we had been on the move for approximately 27 hours. Ya. Tiring. The last flight was the best sleep for most of us, and I actually felt a little rejuvenated afterwords. In the customs line in Freetown, we were put in a special line for officials and dignitaries because we came with Mercy Ships. We all got through that easily. Picking up luggage, on the other hand, was crazy.
I've been to India and thought I knew what to expect at the airport. Not quite. Here, they allow a certain number of... ?baggage handlers? to 'help' collect luggage, and if you don't get through customs lickety-split, they take all the baggage carts and make you pay for them, as well as wanting payment for their 'help' moving your bags etc. We had been warned of this ahead of time, but they were pushy and managed to get their hands on our stuff, and we were a little disorganized. In the end, we got all our bags, made it to our vans, loaded the roof high with stuff and took off for the ferry.
Note the nets to hold stuff on the roof of the van. And no, we did not all fit in one van, there were two vans plus the car you see in this picture, to help move all the stuff and people. 24 people with 2 bags each can be an unwieldy load.
We were lucky enough to be on a large ferry that carries cars and trucks and so was a fairly stable ride. Even so, I preferred to be out in the fresh air instead of inside. A bunch of us stood outside in the setting sun, watching as we got closer and closer to our new home.
The hardest part of the ferry ride was the two flights of narrow stairs we had to lug all the luggage up and down. Mild chaos, but all bags and people were accounted for. We went from the dock to the Africa Mercy, where they fed us (best lasagna ever... almost any familiar food is great when you're overtired and overhungry - airplane food does not count as good filling food!). We left valuables locked up onboard, and then were off to the hostel where we stayed for 2 weeks.