You know that paperback novel you read the other week/month/year, the one where you got frustrated and wanted to know what would happen, and you strongly considered (or maybe you actually did!) flipping to the end of the book to find out what in the world was going to happen? The book where the plot twists came along just a little too frequently and you wondered just where the author was going with all of this...
Welcome to life on the ship. Full of undisclosed endings, plot twists galore, and enough adventure to fill a full length novel. Well, at least there's that much adventure if you choose to relabel changes as adventures. One of my friends came up with that one. Makes me smile, so I'm running with it. It's not more changes, just more adventures.
I've been meaning to write a new blog for weeks. I've just been waiting to know what to say. Waiting until I could tell you where we are going. I'm still a little tongue-tied, so I'll tell you what I can say.
The adventure started with a field service (that's what we call our ten month stay in a country) in Guinea, starting at the end of August until the start of June. Plans changed in April as the ebola virus got up and running in that country. So the leadership wisely decided to find a country at the other end of West Africa. The new adventure would happen in Benin. The advance team was sent and settled into the country. Plans and preparations were working so well it was amazing. One week before the ship was meant to sail from Tenerife to Benin, a man who had ebola took a flight from Liberia to Nigeria, and suddenly the world became that much smaller. Less that a week before the sail, I arrived on the ship.
I think you knew most of the above details. Now for the rest.
The leadership of Mercy Ships watched the situation, and decided it's too risky to go yet, lets wait until we know if ebola will spread in Nigeria. Nigeria is right beside Benin, so if ebola is there, we won't go. The sail date was moved to the end of August. We settled in and started looking for more things we could do to prepare, things like cleaning, painting, redistributing items to correct departments then tying them down securely, adjusting documents, writing policies etc.
About a week later the engineering department found the solution to what has been a long-term problem with one of our propellors, and went to work fixing it. But that meant moving the ship one island over to Las Palmas... oh and the sail date was moved to Sept 5th. And we watched the growth of ebola from afar as it continued to devastate the countries we all love. As we waited, new plans were growing. There was a small list of countries we might go to, depending on what happened. Maybe we could still go to Benin. Maybe we would go back to Congo? Those were the top two options... until they weren't. Benin wasn't safe. And then... Congo wasn't either. The DRC has an ebola outbreak and everyone is running scared, and so we're not going to Congo. Or anywhere in West Africa. New countries came onto the radar. Top officials are going to talk to other top officials.
In the meantime, we're still waiting on two containers to arrive. Two containers that will fill our holds with enough supplies to hold us for 12 weeks of food and surgeries.
Finally the propellor was fixed and it was time for sea trials, so off we went to sea last week, to go forward and back and round and round and round in circles. I may have slept most of the day. And the sea trials revealed a new problem. Well, really it's an old problem that they think they have the solution to. And so the talks begin of when and how to repair it. Basically the problem is with the fancy part of a ferry that allows it to move sideways away from a dock. Not necessary but very nice to have.
Oh, and then the freezers that hold most of our perishable food decided to quit at about the time we did the sea trials. So they found a place to keep everything frozen, and now it's an extra week or more to fix the freezers. The adventures continue.
On the positive side... we have a country to go to!!!! I just can't tell you where yet. Official announcement on or around Thursday. The (most recent) planned sailing date is the 13th of September. Subject to change, of course!
What about me though? Well I had a plan. Expectations, I suppose, is a better word for it. I was coming to work as a charge/ward nurse. And then I got a special request to help build up a new role, where I would work hand in hand with the ward supervisor. Plans were hashed out, expectations set. And then... the supervisor I was to work with got a new position on board and I was in limbo. The new ward supervisor waited to see what things looked like before talking to me... but now I know.
I will once again be a charge/ward nurse. It took me a bit to re-process. To accept the return to the role that I was excited about before, and to once again be excited. I have my excitement back. I'm ready to be a ward nurse, and excited at all the other possibilities in store. Dressings team? Local nurse education? Screening? Who knows where I can help and what the future holds, but the possibilities are expanding.
And in the waiting, I have been re-allocated (given a new job) until we arrive at the next country. I've been assigned to help the Hotel Engineer. I know, the title sounds fancy. There are 5 people from the hospital all assigned to help him. In layman's terms, he's a plumber with a few other responsibilities. This week I started, and our first job of the week is to work in the empty freezers. Remember the ones that I mentioned are broken? The parts they need to fix are on the deck below the freezers, so we are working inside of them. We're patching holes (with silicon caulking), removing/rearranging/reattaching all the shelves in one of the freezers for better airflow, painting, and scrubbing everything down. Should take us most of the week. Kinda fun, but so, so, so very hot! I'm gonna make good use of my 2 minute ship showers this week!
Oh, and in time off, there is a beach in walking distance. If you pack a lunch on the ship, it makes for a really cheap little holiday on a Saturday or Sunday. There are lots of shops, that I'm attempting to avoid so as to save money, and lots of Gelato/icecream shops. I've had the joy of babysitting some of my favourite kids on the ship, and am slowly finding a routine of sorts and friends to spend time with.
I know that was a lot of news in one go. I'll try not to cram so much in future updates! Prayers for morale, repairs, safe sailing, and for the new country that we're heading to would be much appreciated. And prayers for those in West Africa, who not only have to worry about Ebola, but are living in war-like conditions with food scarcity, prices sky-rocketing, lack of resources, lack of healthcare (as minimal resources all go to fight ebola) etc.