Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Tours, Long Nights, Cycling Again, and Tragedy...


The past ten days since I last posted have been quite a mix. Some of the time I have been struck down with utter boredom, not knowing what to do with myself, whereas other times have been really busy. One of the busier periods was when the M/V Africa Mercy was opened up to the public to allow tours on the ship. This was initially scheduled over the weekend of the 11th to the 13th of January. However, security issues meant that the Port Authority asked us to reschedule. The security issue was that a huge cruise ship, the Aida Diva, was disembarking some 2,000 passengers and then embarking another 2,000 new passengers. Having tours during this weekend would have been chaotic. However, despite this, some tours did happen over the weekend. But the official tours went from the following Monday (14th January) to the Wednesday. Over this time we had around 360 people visit the ship, and the response was largely positive. We had videos playing, including the well-known (in Mercy Ships circles) music video, Mercy's On Its Way, and tour guides who led groups of up to twenty around the ship. Translators were made available by the Spanish office of Mercy Ships. I was not involved in this process, but it was great to be able to see the enthusiasm and publicity that was generated.

Towards the end of last week I entered another round of the dreaded night shift. Eight hours of watching the Fire Panel from 23h00 until 07h00. Thankfully my boredom was lessened by watching a couple of movies during the nights (including Blood Diamond - a movie I've been wanting to watch for a long while. Leonardo DiCaprio did justice to the South African accent!), as well as the entire second season of the American version of The Office. I borrowed this TV series from one of my ward nurse friends here on the ship, Megan Petock. I enjoyed it, but I must say it is not for the sensitive. It is quite politically incorrect at times, which adds to the humour, I guess. So I was on the long night shift from Thursday night through to Sunday night. The days were largely spent in deep, deep sleep. It is easy to sleep in my cabin, because there is no natural light. Cabin 4419 does not have a porthole. Which is nice, because it means that sleep is easy to come by.

Yesterday (Tuesday) I had the opportunity of going for another cycle. I went out the same route as last time, except at San Andres I headed inland and took a gradual climb into the centre of the island. I cycled uphill for over forty minutes, before deciding I had had enough and turning back round. The downhill only took me seven minutes! The road goes uphill for over ten kilometres, before it reaches the top of a mountain range. I didn't get this far, however. I'll leave these mountains for when I'm off duty, which will be Monday or Tuesday. Again I was very impressed by the beautiful scenery of Tenerife. Cycling higher and higher, I passed many cactii growing on the slopes. It became evident to me just how close Africa and the Sahara Desert really are to the Canary Islands.

Indeed, over the past few days we have had a heavy mist - almost apocalyptic-like - cover the island. This is said to be as a result of dust and sand being blown across from the Sahara Desert. It gave the city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife a very ghost-like feel. Indeed, I was strolling up on deck 7 the one evening and I noticed a sailing vessel making difficult progress in the heavy seas. The mist was hovering low over the ocean, making the vessel almost indistinguishable. I was reminded of the story of the Flying Dutchman, a ghost ship said to appear to sailors when disaster is imminent. It is a well-known tale in South African waters. Thankfully I am not the superstitious type! This heavy mist also marked a palpable change in the sea. The M/V Africa Mercy is berthed at the very end of Dique del Sur, our dock here in Santa Cruz. And we are right next to the entry to the harbour. Thus we feel the sea a lot more than if we were berthed closer to town. The past few days the waves have been crashing into the ship, and it has felt as if we were out on the open ocean! The sea has even been spilling over the dock, and onto the road. It has been pretty scary. Indeed, several crew members were actually seasick due to the heavy swells we have had!

On Tuesday evening I went to a farewell party for one of the South African Mercy Shippers, Lauren Bluck. Of the 24 people who went, 22 were women! I was one of the two guys. Typical Mercy Ship ratio? Hmm, perhaps not - but pretty close!

Last night we had a tragedy occur in the port - almost right next to us. A pilot boat sunk in the harbour. The pilot was pulled from the water, but only after suffering a heart attack. He died during the night. It is speculation as to what really happened. Some stories say that the boat was crushed when it was busy trying to disembark the pilot. So things aren't very clear. This morning there were Port Authority divers all over the dock. But either way it is still a terrible tragedy. I'm sorry to end on a rather sour note, but I tell it like it is.

1 comment:

tyronebcookin said...

I have found that your female to male ratio (especially with singles) is indeed the 'usual' in Mercy Ships...or at least what I can report seeing for the last 7 years or so...