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.