Tuesday, September 3, 2013

It's a s[hip] life.

I've tried to get more frequent updates out through Instagram, but will use my blog as the occasional opportunity to reflect and share further, for those who are interested. 

Today is my 10th day living on board the M/V Africa Mercy. 

I flew LA-> Houston->Frankfurt->Gabon->Point-Noire. I was unexpectedly ungraded to Business Class on the flight from Frankfurt, while all the rest of my Mercy Ships compadres I had met in the Frankfurt airport were back in Economy.  I can’t say I was complaining, as it was by far the most comfortable flight of my life, even with the German man next to me raising his glass and grinning at me every time he enjoyed another rum and coke.  

The stop in Gabon was unexpected, for me at least. I thought we were landing in Congo, and was taking pictures from my window as we landed, all while formulating the intro to my blog post in my head.  Something about how I loved Congo from the moment I saw it - the red, green and yellow brightly painted roofs, the patches of forest interspersed between geometric fields.  Unfortunately, it was apparently Gabon I loved from the moment I saw it, and by the time we got to Congo it was quite foggy, so I didn’t get a good enough view from about to see how much I loved the aerial view.

But to be honest, I don’t know that I would have loved it.  Pointe-Noire is not all that appealing, visually – especially living in a port filled with fishermen, containers, and murky water (in which you often see dead fish, trash and the occasional jellyfish family). It has been overcast every day since we’ve been here, aside from a few hours this past Sunday when maybe a third of the sky was slightly blue. Rainy season starts in a few weeks, so I may never see a truly blue sky in Pointe-Noire.

Living on a ship is quite an adjustment. Changes to routine, personal space, organization, community and pretty much every other area of life has us all trying to get our bearings, but enjoying the process and opportunity for a fresh start.

I am so thankful to have 5 amazing cabinmates - 1 from Norway, 3 from Canada, and one other American. We get along so well that in the first 3 days we had 3 noise complaints. Whoops. 

(Me, Solveig, Kathy, Heather B, Heather M, Becky)

Here's our 6-berth cabin:

My cabinmates are very excited about cleaning, or so I found out one afternoon when I can back to find this:

Here are some random thoughts and snippits after living 10 days of ship life:
  1.  Room temperature, boxed German milk isn’t as bad as I thought it would be.
  2. My zebra print Snuggie is no match for the sub-zero air-con pumping thru my cabin (although my Canadian bunkmates have no problem with it).
  3. It’s easier than I thought to take a 2 minute shower (we’ve got water restrictions, because they treat all the water on board), especially with the air-conditioning encouraging you to make those moments between water use as quick as possible
  4. I’ve been hearing rumors about “Mercy Hips,” which crew are said to suffer from while serving on the m/v Africa Mercy. They attribute this to the incredibly low priced Starbucks cafĂ© located on board (think $1 lattes – the CEO of Starkbucks is on Mercy Ships board), the candy bars sold in the Ship Shop, and every meal being an all-you-can-eat buffet. We’ll see how my hips fare.
  5. Living with 3 Canadians is already making me want to say “aye,” “beg” instead of “bag,” and  “soorry” instead of  “sorry.”
  6. Those sailing lessons I took when I was 10 did not stick. I keep forgetting which side is port and which is starboard.  Sorry Mom!
  7.  Once again, I really wish the US was better at teaching foreign language. Speaking French would really come in handy when walking into town and trying to get directions to a market, and the only french that pops into your head is from a famously inappropriate Christian Aguilera song. My children WILL be bilingual - at the very least.
  8. Having a 2 inch ledge coming off the floor under every doorway is a really bad idea. I stubbed my toes the first day here and I plan on never doing it again. Also I’m hoping my toenail remains intact.

All in all I am really enjoying this time on the Africa Mercy, getting to know it's crew, it's lifestyle, and it's history. I am thankful to be a part of it's crew, whose present mission is to serve the Congolese people by bringing healing to their bodies and showing them the power of gospel with words and actions. My first shift on the ward is tomorrow morning, and I am excited to begin caring for and learning from them!


  1. YESSSS.
    i've been dying to see pics of your room and ship life.
    i'm SO curious.

    you are hilarious. and i always raise my rum and coke glass. it's like an unwritten rule.

    i'm so glad you and gabon had love at first sight. add that to your list. i'll add senegal. ;)

    also a tip learned while cruising: port and left both have 4 letters. that's how you remember.

    as long as you are sure where the stern and the hull are at you should be good.. ;)

  2. Love reading your blog and glad I found it! You do so well at painting a picture with your words.

    1. Thanks for your kind words Kenneth! Glad you're enjoying it!

  3. WAHOO. loved this post. i'd like to know more about your Norwegian cabinmate. also, I think your cabin is awesome! could be way worse yeah?! very cool that you have a little desk surface!

    also, noise complaints? what is this, the dorms?! your neighbors need to chill.

    party hard, 6-berth cabin. party. hard.

  4. Had no idea you were doing this. It's been SO long since we have talked! Very much enjoying reading your posts about the Mercy Ship.

  5. YAY! so awesome. (yes, i'm very late in reading this)

    also, are you hating on canadians? cause then i'd be offended.