Monday, 31 May 2010

Another pool update...

The pool is so close to opening. The netting is up round the sides, the ladders are in place, and the pool has been filled - although the water does empty rather quickly. Before I go any further I must acknowledge the hours put in by the many people invested in this project. They've done a great job.

However, there is one small issue that may prevent the pool from opening as soon as we would like. The length of the pool runs from port to starboard - and not from bow to stern. Thus, every time a little wave hits the ship here in port a huge wave is sent from the one side of the pool to the other - and the momentum cannot dissipate and so builds up with every wave. This could be quite a hazard to little children hoping to use it.

The team are currently investigating various options to try and offset this wave action. Any suggestions? Otherwise we could always go surfing...

Photo here thanks to Olly.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Trekking across Togo...

Would you want to walk right across a country, from an international border on the one side to the international border on the other side? This would be quite an achievement, although rather rare due to the size of most countries and distance involved between borders.

Well, this past Sunday a very select group of friends walked across the country of Togo. 56 kilometres of walking from the Ghanaian border with Togo on the west, to the Beninoise border with Togo to the east.

We left the ship at 04h45 in the morning and drove to the Ghanaian border (a mere ten kilometres distance from the ship) from where they started the trek. I drove the support vehicle for the expedition and stopped every one to two kilometres to offer support and water if needed. Initially the pace was good, but it did slow up as the legs got more tired the further they went.

We passed out of Lome and headed out into the countryside, the views alternating between long grass and palm trees to the blue Atlantic off the coast of Togo. After nearly ten hours of walking the remaining trio (Ben Calvert, Haley Nichols and Kelly Dahl) had made it to the toll gate just outside of Aneho, the last town before the border with Benin. Aneho is a very picturesque seaside town, with a lovely bridge stretching over a large river - before the final stretch of three kilometres this side of Benin.

Finally, after 12 and a half hours on the road, the brave trio made it to the Togo-Benin border post at 17h45 in the late afternoon. We were back onboard an hour later with many memories and stories from our trip across Togo. It was quite a feat for my friends and I was very proud of them - and happy that I could play a small role in their achievement.

Here are some more photos from this day.

Approaching the halfway mark, heading along the coastal road.

Kelly, Haley and Ben at +/- halfway.

Tampicos are the best!

At the marathon mark of 42 kms!

Overlooking a lovely railway bridge.

And while we were there a little diesel engine approached...

... And motored across the bridge.

Togo monument in Aneho.

Kelly, Haley and Ben cross the bridge a mere three kilometres from Benin!

Back at the ship after 14 hours driving - we were all pretty beat!

Friday, 21 May 2010

French Naval Visit...

Yesterday, amidst the busyness of work, a fire drill and a doctor's appointment, I had the opportunity to go on a tour of the French naval ship, F789 Lieutenant de vaisseau Le Hénaff. She docked behind us earlier in the week and her naval crew were offering tours to any interested Africa Mercy crew members.

It was very interesting seeing the various parts of this ship, including the torpedo tubes, engine room, bridge and the main gun on the forward deck. Here are some photos from our tour of this small 1977-built corvette.

F789 docked just behind the AFM.

The ship has four torpedo tubes.

This is the small clinic for basic medical and dental procedures.

Engine Control Room on the ship.

The narrow corridors and low deckheads (ceilings) on a naval vessel.

Looking forward from F789.

The large 100-mm calibre gun - one of the biggest on French ships.

The gun is controlled with a special radar acquisition system and infra-red sight.

My friend Christina with Academy students on the rather cramped bridge.

Farewell Lieutenant de vaisseau Le Hénaff - safe sailings!

Monday, 17 May 2010

2010 Valletta Film Awards...

This past Saturday the Africa Mercy's International Lounge played host to the third annual film festival, the 2010 edition of the Valletta Awards (named after the AFM's port of registry in Malta). Crew are encouraged to make and submit short films (not more than five minutes in length) that are then judged on several counts, including Best Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Actor/Actress, Best Supporting Actor/Actress, and the grand prize, Best Film. There were at least a dozen films that were entered into the festival. The Valletta Awards are the ship's equivalent of the Academy Awards, so crew are encouraged to wear their best attire.

After the screening in the International Lounge, the judges adjourned to come to consensus on the winners in the various categories, and then the award ceremony was held in the Town Square area of the ship. The Best Film was deservedly Micah Holden and Hannah Van Leeuwen's glimpse into the funnier aspects of ship life, simply entitled Hope and Healing. Thanks must go to the Hospitality Department for organising the event. For the 2008 event, click here.

Here are some more photos from this fun festival on the ship social calendar.

Jens receives his award for being the best supporting actor.

Micah and Hannah receive the Best Film award.

Some of my close friends made AFM Glee, which was a big hit.

The cabin 4330 boys - Jesse, Ben and me.

All of the winners get together for a group shot.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Pool progresses...

Back in January I blogged about our new pool that was being installed. It has taken a while, but the pool looks as if it is nearing completion. The other day I was able to snap a few photos of the progression. You can click here to compare how things have changed in the last four months.

The pool structure from the starboard side aft of Deck 8.

The steps up to the pool itself.

From the pool deck, looking forward.

The pool is 1,9 metres deep in the centre, and 1,3 metres deep at both ends.

The pool even has underwater lights.

Looking aft from the pool deck.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Claiming victory...

A couple of weeks back I went out with a group of friends to a Jazz Cafe here in Lome. It's a really nice place to go sit and enjoy some chilled jazz music. And we had a lovely time together. Some of my friends started dancing, which was great fun. I decided to stay sitting and watch from afar. I'm not really a great dancer and generally avoid it. So I was happy to stay by our table and laugh at the antics of my friends on the dance-floor.

But it was in this situation that the evil one decided to spring an attack on my core being. He planted thoughts in my mind. My negative side began to tell me that "There must be something wrong with you, if you can't dance." "Look how much fun they're having - you're missing out." "Look how popular guys who can dance are - you'll never be that popular." Internally I was beating myself up. It was a spiritual attack on my very being. And so in short I was being told that I was a failure. That I wasn't worth it. That I was alone in this battle.

I'm amazed how subtle the enemy can be. Our very thoughts can turn against us. A really fun evening turned into one which I loathed. And because of this, I was rather short and snappy with my friends, which made them wonder what was wrong with me.

In my depressed state I told myself, "I'm never coming back here again." And that's exactly what Satan wants me to think. He wants me to be isolated and vulnerable. But if I do that don't I let him steal the victory? The victory that Jesus won on the cross - a victory that is rightfully mine. And Jesus wants me to claim this victory. To be more than a conqueror. To defeat my negative self-image and get victory over my doubts.

Through this experience I have discovered that this side of me has always been there - albeit under the surface waiting to strike. So I make a choice to claim back that victory. I choose to not let negativity gain a foothold and thus allow the enemy a chance to strike. I choose Jesus. And so, having this knowledge,

[I] take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
(2 Corinthians 10: 5b)

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Market Trip...

Earlier today I headed to the Ghanaian border to drop off my good friends Phil and Ali. They are celebrating their first wedding anniversary and are taking a well-deserved week-long vacation in Ghana. The border is a few kilometres past the main market and so a few friends and I decided to take the opportunity to go to the market after dropping off Phil and Ali.

Visits to the market are always interesting experiences that add to the adventure of living in West Africa. Today my friend Liz was offered an adorable baby. It's a sad reality that some young mothers do not want their little babies, and so they offer them to any young female 'yovo' (white person) who they think would give the child a better future. Liz declined the offer.

Another person we came across asked me what my nationality was, and so I said "I'm from South Africa." This created a scene of incredulous laughter as the man argued with me, implying that because I am white, I could not be African. I told him I was a 'yovo' African. He then maintained that I could not have been born in Africa, but must just 'live' there. I was unwavering. "No, I was born and raised my whole life in South Africa. I am an African!" We both parted our ways in laughter - him in disbelief and me just laughing at the hilarity of it all. Really, I can be white and African! A few minutes later and a few stalls down another man asked me if I was from Ghana, which was also rather entertaining.

Anyway, what is there to buy at the market? Well, pretty-much anything you can think of, from chickens to sandals, football (soccer) shirts to bottles of salted peanuts and everything in-between. Always good times browsing through an African market!

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Academy Science Fair...

Last night the Academy held a Science Fair to highlight what the students have been learning in their Science classes. It was interesting to browse through the displays and see the knowledge that the Academy is bestowing on young and eager minds. It was also particularly pleasing to read that each project had to have some form of biblical application. My friend Christina, the Science Teacher, did a great job in organising the exhibition. Here are some of the exhibits.

A couple of my friends took part in this experiment by staying up late in order to see if a lack of sleep makes one less alert during the day.

This was an interesting exhibit measuring the amount of bacteria in water. Would you drink toilet bowl water or water from the port? Well, it turns out that the port's water contains 25 times more e-coli than the toilet!

This experiment measured whether deodorant or hair-spray would propel a potato further. Hair-spray was the better choice.

This one looked at which material made a better parachute.

Which solar oven would cook an egg faster? The parabolic reflector oven was the better option, although both took a long time.

Science Teacher Christina (in pink on the right) oversees the exhibition.