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.
The day begins with breakfast that's served for an hour and a half. I do a separate post on food here, because it is rather quite good. However, breakfast usually consists of porridge, hard boiled eggs and, and several options for cereal or toast. Which usually means I sleep through breakfast and snack later on in the morning. Coffee is available all the time and is fantastic. I purchased a travel mug in our ship shop (a very mini-walmart) that has a shelf row of food items and a shelf row of everything else. You can get shampoo, laundry detergent, jump drives, alarm clocks, soccer balls, Guinea soccer jerseys, and toilet paper here, so all the basics are covered. There is a European supermarket nearby that has most everything else you could need in case the ship shop supply is depleted. There's often a mad rush whenever the ship shop is restocked, so all the mint oreos and Betty Crocker brownie mixes are usually gone by the first day. All in all though, they keep a really good stock and variety of items.
So the day begins in the pharmacy with Carolyn and Miriam, the two pharmacists on board.
Meet Miriam, the long term pharmacist from New Zealand. She is sitting in the back room of the pharmacy with our fabulous pill counter (in the bottom left corner) that makes my life so much easier. Miriam also goes by the name Captain Jezebel Blythe and shares my affinity for all things pirate. When people come to the front room to ask for medications or prescriptions to be filled, they often "Ca-Caw" in lieu of saying "hello" or "good morning", and we respond in kind to indicate that we're coming as we shimmy through the narrow aisle with various bags and boxes that still need homes. My first job with the pharmacy was to unpack everything that was stowed and secured for the sail. Unfortunately, it seems like supplies multiplied while sailing, so items and boxes are still homeless and pushed to the side for now. Which makes for awesome obstacle course training, but often results in several bruises by the end of the day. Miriam has been on the ship for one and a half years and is staying through the end of the Guinea field service in June. She has been updating our inventory system (an excel spreadsheet where we enter what we take out of stock and put into stock) and putting in orders for medications for the next field service, since it can take up to 6 months to get an order in. I never thought of how difficult it is to guess how much of a medication you might need for a year long stretch, but Miriam seems to have it down to a science.
Voici Carolyn, our short-term pharmacist from Great Britain. She lived in Northern Ireland, spent a semester in Tennessee, and has been a clinical pharmacist in Bristol for the past few years. She and I both have pirate names, but we don't really like them, so I'll let you know when we find her true pirate name. She has a great sense of adventure and humor, so we spend a good chunk of the day laughing. Right now she's working on filling a prescription for an outpatient which requires pulling the drug and modifying as necessary based on what is available as well as writing a label with instructions in French. Luckily we have some templates for basic instructions, but there have been several frantic translator questions on how to best explain taking a medication before bed or to not take more than a certain does each day.
And here's me. My day starts out by checking each of the 3 open wards (we only have enough nurses to staff 3 of the 4 wards. And they're always looking for new nurses--just throwing that out there for anyone who may be thinking of working on board). We keep a standard stock of antibiotics, pain medications, anti-vomiting agents, vitamins, etc in each area, so we check each day to make sure there's enough for the rest of the day. Once I finish checking and restocking, I usually have odd jobs within the pharmacy to consolidate or pull expired medications or work on updating our inventory. This past week I opened hundreds (literally-I pretty sure I opened over 1500) of eye drop packaging to store the actual drops in smaller boxes to make more room. You'll notice in the above picture that I'm surrounded by bags and garbage and the like. While reorganizing I sorted some items that were expired, but they needed to be separated between what we could dispose of and what we can't. So I took inventory of the items, took them out of their original packaging, and sorted. But it consolidated several boxes into 1, which made so much more room. We can now have impromptu dance parties, should the need arise.
So that's my day in the pharmacy. I also help out with filling orders/prescriptions as needed or get boxes ready for the items needed by the eye or dental teams since they work off-ship. It can be pretty hodge-podge, but I like that each day can be a little different. We get an hour for lunch and two breaks in the day where you can run to the snack bar (with sodas and candy bars) or get a Starbucks coffee or a crepe or waffles on Mondays and Fridays.
This is the closed Starbucks area, and above it, you can see the Deck 6 lounge area. There's a computer lab, several comfy couches, a few tvs inevitably tuned to the Disney channel or cricket, and lots of chairs. You get good reception for wireless here, so usually people camp out here with their computers. Alot of people play games or cards here too. This deck has the laundry room and the crew kitchen where you can escape if you feel the need to bake.
The galley has lots of pans, KitchenAid mixers (!), spices, and supplies. It's pretty much everything you could want in a kitchen. It's always great when other people are cooking as well, because you get to sample other food and meet new people. The woman in the back corner is the one who makes the plantain chips that are so addictive. I can't wait to try to make them at home. A few weeks ago I got a craving for pizza, which is rather difficult to find on and off ship. So Petra, Olivia, and Cathy, and I decided to try to make pizza, which started a discussion on various desserts we missed as well. And so began the cross-cultural dessert exchange starting with brownies, and then rice krispie treats, an Austrian bundt cake, and root beer floats. All of which were fantastic. Up next is the chocolate chip chocolate pudding cake that I've been wanting. Here's a few photos of our creations.
The first photo at the top of this entry is from the top deck of the ship where there's a pool and lounge chairs that let you look out over the ocean on one side and the city of Conakry on the other. It's the end of rainy season here, so there's some spotty rainstorms, but a few days ago there was a strong one that came up on us with the sun shining in the background. A double rainbow spread across the whole sky, so we were all trying to capture it with our cameras. Most evenings are spent up on that deck watching the sunset, or just catching up on reading or emails or blogs. Weekly we have a community meeting that can involve a testimony or worship or culture/country training (which is what the past 4 weeks were). And that's pretty much how weekdays roll. Tomorrow, I'll work on posting about this weekend with involved a trip to a local island and a Mercy Ministry visit to the Hope Center where kids who live far away from the ship stay while they go through the weekly checkups after surgery. Until then, I have a few prayer requests to add.
First, the hospital needs more nurses for the rest of the field service here. There's always a need, but it seems like they're more short-staffed than usual. Also, prayers for the country would be good. There are several tribes that live in Guinea, and most of the time everyone gets along. But there has been some friction recently over elections that falls along tribal lines, and there have been some protests recently which resulted in some deaths. I honestly don't know much more than that, but I do know that it means someone has lost a family member or a friend, so please pray for those grieving. Also please pray that people would be able to express what they need and how they feel peacefully and that they would be heard and respected. As always, please let me know if I can be praying about something for you as well.