Friday, October 26, 2012

Home again!

Sorry for the lapse in blogging. Turns out traveling takes alot out of you. In summary, the last week had me saying good-bye to my home for the past two months, returning to my future home (aka Paris), learning to cook from a professional chef, eating (and almost liking) cheese, spending 24 hours traveling home, and being prevented from landing at O'Hare by none other than the President of the United States. But I'm home in Indy, hanging out with family and friends and thoroughly enjoying relaxing and relaying my stories to anyone and everyone who will listen.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Friday, October 12, 2012

Church w/Jeanette

Meet Jeanette

The auxiliary services of the hospital (ie the lab, pharmacy, radiology, etc) are one side of the hospital while the wards are on the other side. We have Wednesday morning devotions together, a meeting together every other week (a fortnight in British speech), and we often sit together on breaks. The radiology lab is next door to the pharmacy, so I see Petra often, as well as Jeanette, a dayworker from Conakry. Jeanette sits with the patients as they wait for their x-rays or scans, and she translates and explains the process to the patients.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

4-weekend! and the rest of the week

After the busy days of Friday and Saturday, I spent Sunday and Monday chillin-out, maxin', relaxin' all cool, all shootin' some b-ball outside the school... It was great to take a nap and chat and play games. Sunday I got to attend ward service for the first time. They have church services for the people in the hospital complete with a devotional and a message and, of course, some singing and dancing. I really love praise and worship here. I don't know why it strikes me so differently than at home, but I can't help but dance when songs start playing. I love that people come to the wards everyday and sing some songs and give prayers. And it's even better that I happen to be checking medications on wards at that time. Win-Win!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

4 day weekend!-Saturday

Since arriving on the ship, I've heard rumors of a magical place off the coast of Conakry where unicorns frolic and dreams come true. Roume Island may not have mystical creatures, but it was a definite respite from the constant work at the hospital and pretty close to paradise. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

4 day weekend!-Friday

Yesterday you met my two fabulous comrades in the pharmacy, but for the past week and for this week, we have a visitor, Sue. I'll post a photo of her as soon as I get one, but she's been helping out in the pharmacy and is a super trooper because she doesn't have a pharmacy background. It was a lot for me to take in when I first arrived, and I at least know some of the drugs and what they're used for. But Sue is picking everything up with style and grace and is so enthusiastic. The first time I took her with me to the wards to check meds, a group came to sing and worship while we were there. About halfway through, I could just see Sue swaying with the music, and pretty soon she just jumped right in and started dancing with the singing group. I was a) impressed that she could bust a move so well and b) impressed that she could dance so uninhibited. I was much more comfortable counting pills than praising, but I'm thinking by the time I leave, I might be able to join in as well. So since Sue is here, and you might have noticed that the pharmacy is a bit small, we're rotating these two weeks so everyone has 2 days off. And mine happened to fall last Friday and today, which means a 4 day weekend! Woo!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

A day in the life...

Hi friends! I've been trying to put together a sort of journal of what I do each day since I got here, but I wanted to make sure I had photos to describe as well as words. It's been difficult to get photos though because for security reasons, respect reasons, and various others, the photo policy on and off board is very strict. So here's a few to give you an idea, and I'll post more as I can.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


I've been thinking alot about the idea of home this week. As far as time goes, I've been on the ship for four weeks, and it finally feels like it's the normal part of my life. Not that I'm just visiting for a few days, but as much a home as you can be in a 6 person cabin among 450 other people. I haven't written much about day to day life yet, but it's coming tomorrow or Tuesday. I'm trying to collect photos so you can see more. But one thing I've noticed in making this place home is that I don't feel like I can connect without that sense of being settled.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Kindia part two

Sorry for the delayed post-the internet went down yesterday on the ship. But have no fear, the saga continues tonight!

So where we last left our fauté adventurers (I think fauté falls in the same category as gringo as nicknames; at least that's what I'm assuming as everyone is yelling it at me as I walk by), the girls survived the night in a rather comfy hotel. There was a small confusion with our taxi driver and payment, but it was quickly resolved, and we set off for the mountain.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Kindia Part 1

This past weekend was a visit to a city about 120 km outside of Conakry. Guinea has beautiful landscapes and forests and mountains as you move east in the country, but being in the port at the western point of a 2 million inhabitant city, I had no idea that so much green existed. The main color scheme of our life on the ship is ocean blue and the dusty brown and gray of a city, but it took leaving the boat to realize how much I missed the grass and trees and even cucumber plants we saw as we left the city.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Monday, September 10, 2012

Language class with Beth

So the formal language of Guinea is French-that's what most government agencies use-but there are several local languages-Susu, Pular, and Malinke. I sat at lunch with a guy from lower Guinea today, and he taught me how to say hello, good-bye, and little bit in Susu.

(this is all hooked on phonics; I have no idea how this is really spelled)

E maman- hello to one person

Wo maman-hello to multiple people

Wo-u-wo (think motown sounds)-good bye

Don de repan-a little bit (as in I say "E maman" and then someone starts rattling off in Susu, I say "don de repan", so they know I have no clue what they just said).

More lessons to come...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

This past week

After the screening, this past week was rather uneventful. We had a few more mini-screenings for Max/Facs Patients (Maxillary and Facial, I think), so there were definitely more people on board, but the pharmacy churned away, stocking units and filling crew scripts. Friday, we got an urgent order from a pharmaceutical company in England, so I got to unpack, count, put into stock, and put away the overfill all by myself. I've never been so thankful for our stockroom guys at Methodist.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Screening Day!

Today was a long day, but it marked the beginning of our field service here in Guinea. (Sorry, there won't be any photos. We're very limited on what we can photograph. I still don't know why, but maybe I'll find out at my orientation meeting). We had people line up starting last night at the People's Palace in Conakry to wait for a chance to be seen and selected for surgery/hospital care. To help with the process, Mercy Ships has very specific guidelines for what surgeries they can do, which means several of the 3500 people who came were turned away and referred to local hospitals or doctors. The criteria are based on what type of surgeons are going to be on board, what other staffing is available (ie nurses and auxiliary staff) and what kind of equipment is available. Sometimes someone will have something treatable, but the ship hospital isn't able to accommodate that particular treatment.

I was placed as an escort for the first section people, which is where a patient sees a pre-screener and are either sent in for a more thorough history or told that we aren't able to help them. I walked so many patients to the next section with their precious square card that indicated which surgical group would treat them, and it was so fun to engage them and ask names or where they're from. I also walked many people who were told no to the prayer tent or the exit, and it was hard to know what to say. Compounded by the language barrier, most often all I could do was say hi and my name and that I'm sorry. I'd try to put my (right) hand on their back and offer a smile, but it seemed like such a small gesture after disappointing news. I had several people who smiled back, and one man even said he understood, but there were some who didn't understand. I really just had to pray that God would watch out for them, since He loves and cares for them more than anyone on this ship ever could.

The night before the screening, our community meeting speaker challenged us to look at how we approach our service here. He talked about the levels of poverty and how my attitude towards helping the poor can actually be harmful rather than helpful. I'm still processing what I think of what he said, and I'd love feedback from anyone else, but the last thing he said was to think not just how a Guinean might need our healthcare skills or knowledge but to think how I can learn and gain knowledge from a Guinean. For alot of the day today, I found myself trying to look at people I met (Mercy Ship crew, translators, patients, everyone) not as a project or something to be rescued, but as someone to grow with. It made me think of the verse of how we're entertaining angels everyday (sorry, my Bible is downstairs), and that helped change my perspective of how I treated and engaged people I met today. I don't know how else to elaborate on that, and I'm sure I'll have many more opportunities to engage, but it made today more reflective than I'd planned.
One fun part of this whole process was my french practice. Apparently I should have watched Amelie a few more times before coming. I know I said some ridiculous stuff throughout the day. Mostly grammatical stuff, but I got more than a few "Quoi?"s with a questioning stare, which I followed with charades to attempt to act out what I was saying. As the day got longer, my American accent got stronger, and I think at one point a Texas drawl came out of my mouth.  I did pick up rather quickly that as soon as you say "Bonjour" and "Ça va?" ("Hello" and "How's it going?") you break through any tension and are often greeted with a big smile. So if all other communication failed, I'd just say hi and smile. Which is pretty much the start to any friendship, no matter which continent you are on.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Ocean and other musings

So the ocean and I are best friends, even if I do most of the work in the friendship. It's not just that I like to visit it on vacations or the occasional long weekend trip. I get giddy as I approach the ocean, twisting my neck to see any sliver of water that peeks through houses or trees or hills as I drive by. As soon as I get close enough to smell the saltwater, I pause, inhale deeply, and then tear off in the directions of the seagulls, loosing various socks and shoes and inhibitions until I end up barefoot in the surf.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Welcome Wagon

Here's what I found upon arrival on Monday. I love it! And today, I actually made it out to the deck (once I figured out the door. Doors and stairs don't work the same on the ship as on land. Who knew?). The sunset was gorgeous, and apparently there are a few shipwrecks you can see when the tide is low. I plan on trying to see them/photograph them tomorrow. The hospital is still in setup mode, but you can feel the excitement rising as screening day gets closer. Tonight we had a guest speaker who has lived in Guinea for the past 20+ years, so he was giving us a crash course in Guinean culture. Some information was pretty general, like pay attention to how the people around you behave and act accordingly. One fun thing to learn was that many Guineans like to celebrate, so they might ask you to come to a wedding or a baby naming ceremony after just meeting you. And it sounds like church services are very energetic and interactive, and the description reminded me of church in Poneloya, Nicaragua. I can't wait to go on Sunday.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

yo ho, yo ho!

A pirate's life for me! It's official! I'm on a boat! And I really like exclamation points! I've been here for the past 2 days, and it's been rather overwhelming to get used to everything. First-people are fabulous. There are crew from all over the world, so the first three questions out of everyone's mouth are:

1) Where are you from?
2) How long are you here?
3) Where do you work?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Au revoir, Paris!

It’s been a whirlwind tour, but still, it seems too early so say goodbye to the City of Lights. Today was officially Museum Day, so the game plan was bags to the new hotel (a Hilton no less), the Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay, the Orangerie, and maybe Versailles if time allowed. The hotel trip was long and uneventful, which is to say boring, so we’ll move on. I’d been to the Louvre and Musee d’Orsay on my last trip, but I was excited to see these places and the art through my Mom’s eyes. She loves Impressionist paintings, and one of the first things mentioned when planning the trip was that she wanted to see a Monet.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Return to me

Our last day in Geneva let us get some souvenirs (most importantly chocolate), take a long stroll out to the Water Jet, and leisurely meander along the boardwalk while people watching.  First things first, one of my coworkers (Melissa) made me promise to sing "The Sounds of Music" while in Switzerland with the mountains around me. Nevermind that the movie takes place in Austria, but being obliging, here's the silent proof. Sadly, no one asked me to participate in any remakes of the movie.

Geneva Day 2

So let's discuss what's really important: food. Here's a sampling of our continental breakfast at our lovely hotel.
Breakfast of Champions!

Friday, August 24, 2012


We survived the France train system! I'd never taken the train before (in the States nor Europe), so I was a little nervous, but everything went smoothly, and the train is fantastic! So smooth and quick and you get to see all the great French countryside. Every village reminded me of the one in Chocolat. *sigh* So when we arrived in Geneva, I wasn't sure what to expect, other than there was a large lake nearby. It's beautiful! I'll post a few photos, but we really hit the ground running as soon as we checked in.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

And we're off

So part 2 of the whirlwind tour of Paris. We definitely slept in until 11am, which wasn't exactly on purpose but apparently very needed. After our late start, we decided to save the museums for Saturday and Sunday (to make the most of our museum pass), and we headed for the Sacre Coeur. The Sacre Coeur is a Catholic basilica that's had someone praying at all times of the day for the past 125 years.

Steps leading up to the Sacre Coeur

Ah Paris...

Well, it's official. We're in the City of Lights. By the time Mom and I arrived, it was 2pm Paris time which means it was 8am Indy time, and 7am Chicago time, and 3pm Helsinki time. But really that meant it was TOURIST TIME!

Part deux

Side note, apparently Michigan landscape looks like Finland according to our flight attendant. Who knew?

Part One

Helsinki here we come!