Sunday, 25 September 2011

Cape Sierra Leone...

This past Friday I went and visited Brussels Airlines in Aberdeen on purser business. On my drive home I decided to visit the Cape Sierra Leone Lighthouse - one of West Africa's oldest lighthouses, having originally been built in 1812. Having grown up in an area of the world known alternatively as the Cape of Storms and the Cape of Good Hope, it is perhaps not surprising that I've always had a deep fascination with the hazards of the sea and the lighthouses that watch these treacherous waters.

Cape Sierra Leone Lighthouse is an impressive structure that guards the entry of Sierra Leone's natural harbour, on the northern tip of Freetown's peninsula. I was told by my guide that the light is currently functional and that there are a couple of lighthouse keepers on duty. But I have also read that the lighthouse doesn't have glass in the lens of the light, and that the only warning to mariners is a static red light that shines out to sea from the top of the tower. When I'm next over at Aberdeen at night I'll drive down and see which story is true.

The road to the lighthouse.

Looking from the lighthouse in the direction of Hotel Barmoi.

View towards Lungi.

Man Of War Bay, Aberdeen.

Close-up of the top of the tower.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Mercy Ships Team House...

Not every Mercy Shipper in Sierra Leone lives on the Africa Mercy. As we did in Togo, here in Sierra Leone we have on Off-Ship Programmes team who live a stone's throw from the centre of Freetown. They are involved with the Food for Life programme (agriculture and training individuals in sustainable farming practices) and construction projects - such as sanitation and latrine-building - throughout the city and surrounding areas. The Off-Ships team also play host to many Mercy Teams that come during the Field Service. We are blessed by them! Here are some photos of the Team House.

The Team House is situated inside the Swiss Consul compound and thus have access to a pool, tennis courts, and lovely grounds.

The entrance to the Team House.

This is inside the main living room of the Team House.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

World Cup supporters all in the same boat...

The following is an article written to coincide with the Rugby World Cup happening in New Zealand. This story is reproduced here courtesy of the Mercy Ships Southern Africa office. Photos by Liz Cantu of the Africa Mercy Communications team.

Freetown, Sierra Leone. September 9th, 2011. It was a rowdy crowd of international crew that gathered to watch the Rugby World Cup kick-off. The volunteer crew members onboard the hospital ship Africa Mercy live and work closely together, but the gloves are off in good-natured but intense rivalry as soon as the rugby starts.

South Africans join fellow crew members from several other World Cup nations onboard the world’s largest non-governmental hospital ship, cheering for their teams - all thousands of miles from home, in West Africa.

A key element adding to the morale of the 450-strong volunteer crew, who spend ten months a year providing medical charity work in developing nations, is the ability to receive international television programming in developing nations’ ports. Courtesy of a satellite communication dish and decoder donated by a South African in 2006, the South Africans amongst the Mercy Ships crew are scouring the fixtures and zealously following the World Cup games.

Springboks’ supporter Murray Crawford from Cape Town is the Africa Mercy Assistant Purser. A passionate fan, Crawford comments, “For me, what’s so special about watching a rugby game on the Africa Mercy is that you really see the patriotism of the crew come out in a big way. We’ll don our rugby jerseys, get our national flags, paint our faces (if it’s a World Cup), sing our national anthems, and meet in the Midships Lounge to watch together. We may be from different countries, but we are all united in our appreciation of the skills and talents with which God has blessed the players. Of course, sometimes the results don’t go South Africa’s way, and this may include some jokes being sent my way (from the opposition supporters – there are a number of All Black and Wallaby supporters onboard), but it is all done in a spirit of friendship. We are, after all, united in our common purpose to serve God here. But despite this, I’m still hoping that South Africa wins the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand!”

Mr Crawford’s supervisor is a Wallabies devotee. Australian Tim Benson says, “I have never experienced what it is like to watch sport here on the ship anywhere else in the world. No matter what the sport, or the country playing, there pretty much always seems to be avid supporters wanting to cheer on their team. Some of my good friends and colleagues on the ship are South African and New Zealanders, but as soon as the rugby is on, it’s every man/woman for his/her country and everyone else is your 'enemy'. Through-out the game there is cheering and jeering, laughing and crying, but at the end of the day we are all friends again.”

Miriam Tillman from Christchurch, New Zealand, is the Africa Mercy Pharmacist. She particularly enjoys watching the rugby with the opposition supporters. “It is always great fun hassling the South Africans or Australians, especially when there are a few Kiwis around to back me up. Of course they manage to give back in kind. But in the end it is the score that really matters.”

As the TV channel is shared by the whole ship’s community, viewing the All Blacks games can be challenging. Ms. Tillman confesses, “I am planning on ‘stealing’ all my friends TV hours (we only get 4 hours a week each) to book out the channel for the whole World Cup. There will be many an early morning sitting in mid ships with my All Blacks shirt on.”

Mr. Crawford sums up the heart of the matter, “Being able to watch the games while serving in Sierra Leone (or any other West African nation) is such a blessing for the crew. It allows us to connect with our friends back home who are also watching the same game, at the same time. We can feel part of the millions of fans around the world who are linked by their common love for the sport of rugby.” The Springboks are the current Rugby World Champions.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Rainy Season...

So we are now at the very tail end of rainy season, but we have had some amazing storms over the last few months. And when these storms come, does it rain! We were driving home from Bunce Island back towards the end of July when the heavens opened and it poured down on us. As you can see from these photos, the road can quickly become inundated with fast-flowing water!

Negotiating the waterlogged roads of Freetown.

Anyone for some nice soggy leather furniture?

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Two Years...

It was on this day, two years ago, that I arrived in Cotonou, Benin, to begin my long-term service with Mercy Ships. During these two years I have had the great privilege of serving the Lord in Benin, Tenerife, Togo, Ghana, South Africa, and Sierra Leone. I have even sailed into my hometown, Cape Town, and shown my family my floating home!

It has been quite the adventure and I am so thankful for this opportunity God has given me with Mercy Ships. My journey is far from over, and thanks must go to my amazing supporters who have given so much of themselves over the years to make this all possible. This journey that God is leading me on is just as much your journey as it is mine! All glory to God!

Standing on the dock in Cotonou, Benin, on the day I arrived back. 3rd September 2009.

Sailing into Cape Town, 13th February 2011.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Rugby World Cup 2011...

Next Friday (9th September 2011), the IRB Rugby World Cup kicks off in New Zealand. The world's biggest rugby tournament sees a total of 48 matches being played up until (and including) the final on 23rd October. Being a passionate South African sports supporter, I will be donning my South African rugby jersey and waving my flags, as the South African national team, the Springboks, look to defend their title as reigning World Champions. I won't be watching the World Cup alone, though. There are a number of ardent rugby fans represented on the ship - fans primarily from New Zealand, Australia, England, and South Africa. It'll be an amazing rugby spectacular - as long as the Sprinboks are crowned World Champions on 23rd October! :-p