Flashback: The Orange Party

“Amy, you are invited to my orange party, will you come?”
“yes of course”

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You don’t always know what you are letting yourself in for and the beauty is that you learn not to care. Just to embrace all that comes along and dive into the fun that awaits you. So when asked if I wanted to go to an orange party that I had no details for whatsoever, then of course the answer is yes. I wear as much orange as I can find….

Continue reading “Flashback: The Orange Party”

Lead. Learn. Love. Live …and there’s tea. 

  Dr Elizabeth Sercombe, an expert in leadership and human transformation came to us to teach on those very things. We had two days with our own mercyships leadership team to grow together and learn how to be good leaders and what that could mean. Then I have just had two days with our friends and colleagues at the local hospital in Tamatave who have done the same thing but in French. My French brain is switched on today and I can only really thinking about leading and coaching. Watch out Tamatave your medical leadership is stronger than ever before. 

FOTOSTORY: Africa & Her Islands

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A Malagasy Antique ShopDSC_0005-2 full of Dusty Treasures

And Monkies that Pretend to Know NothingDSC_0010-3

And Little Statues that Have Been on a Shelf for as Long as I Have Walked the EarthDSC_0012-4

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Light Bulbs that Get My AttentionDSC_0058-8

The Sink Hole of Rice FieldsDSC_0108-14

A Beautiful Couple Enjoying a Beautiful ViewDSC_0117-16
A Sea Marie Rip OffDSC_0125-18

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The Lazy Police ManMAHAMBO016

Taxi Money

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Incorrect Location on that Shirt of Yours Sir
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Shadows Are Fun
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The Market
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My Port HoleTOAMA_FOTO002

The Street Vendor TOAMA_FOTO005

Friends and Cars TOAMA_FOTO006

Nosy Neighbour

DSC_0011-1Famous Faces

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Wine, Soon to Be WineDSC_0073-4

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Coffee, Rings & Dogs
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South Africa Snap DSC_0110-6 A Nice Wall

A Warm Welcome

So this is my second full weekend in Tamatave, Madagascar. As I walked through the local hospital yesterday I was chatting away…

“Salama, inona ny vaovao?
Tsy vaovao, Veloma!”

…and realised that It feels like I have been here for months. Those terrible months in the Canary Islands, busy sore throat tour days of Cape Town and those endless twisted and swirling days at sea are all a distant, nostalgic sigh in our past. Our reward and bounty is a beautiful island flowing with luscious fruit and vegetables called Madagascar. The markets are a never ending sea of colour. The people are beautiful and we have been welcomed with open arms.
We were honoured with a visit from the President and Prime Minister a few hours after we arrived. They laid the red carpet out for us … or maybe their people laid it out for them but nevertheless there was a red carpet on the dock leading to our ship. Two weeks on and the band have packed up and left. The dancers are dancing for someone else and the marquee is stripped bare. The port is business as usual, the President is at another function, standing on a different podium and we are jumping in to the pool of preparation for what will be the best field service ever.
But…
I can’t help but feel that all those things are still alive. There is still a metaphorical red carpet and the band are still playing. I have never been made to feel so welcome in a country. Everyone wants to greet us and greet us with two hands ( a two hand handshake shows deep respect in Madagascar). Discounts in restaurants and conversations delivered with damp eyes and wrapped in genuine thankfulness that we have come to help, before we even do anything!
The red carpet is alive and well.
Our first week of screening is over. It has been a long week for many and the lights in most offices have been glowing late into the night. The monotonous hum of computers and tap tap tap of keyboards have continued well past 1700 and today the ship has let out a sigh of relief.
It’s Saturday.
The hospital is ready, 439 people have already been given an appointment card to come to the ship and hundreds of Malagasy day crew have been trained in their new jobs.
I write this in pure disbelief considering on the 26th of August, the day we should have arrived in Cotonou, we still didn’t have a destination. I had no Idea that in less than 3 months, I would be sitting in a small cafeteria in Hôpital Bé eating soupe de chinoise and planning education for some excited nurses with extremely long surnames. It seemed impossible that we would ever get to Africa, that we would ever be able to do what we are so passionate about. But here we are.
3 months on and all is well.

Safe and sound

Cape Town lights that twinkle bright, welcome me to the most southernly place I’ve ever visited. The freshness in the air reminds me of home. This is also the least amount of humidity I have experienced in over a year and it feels good. The porthole is dirty after a 17 day sail of salty powerful winds thrashing against it. This morning It tells a new story of life In the shadow of Table Mountain. If only mountains could talk. I would love to hear that story.

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Destination: Madagascar

Contract signed. After months of not knowing, we now have something known, something certain. We are going to Madagascar. Google search initiated.
My first search results came back with black death and locusts. That’s probably not what most tourists find when they Google their destination, but then I suppose most people don’t normally research the health problems or infrastructure of a country before swimming in their pools and drinking their piña coladas. The Black Death killed an estimated 25 million people in Europe during the Middle Ages. It’s now commonly believed to be something that ceases to exist; unless you are reading an old history book. But, my friends, it’s alive and well in Madagascar. In 2012, 60 people died of it! The locusts plagues are also something you may not consider when planning a holiday to Madagascar. These ugly little things are only really thought of in conjunction with domesticated reptiles or Bible stories. According to ABC news the locust plague in the capital of Madagascar was just like scenes out of Egypt. This plague devastated crops and was reported to have “threatened the livelihoods of 13 million people” (FAO in emergencies). The Guardian reports the swarm started in April of 2012 and that the country have recently called on the UN for help as they are unable to stop what was penned as a “locust war”.

As you can see, Madagascar does not quite meet the reality of what the Pixar movie has created. My brother has long critised it for its poor depictions of animals and misinformation giving for children, but I’m starting to think he might just have a point. Madagascar is not what it seems. Whilst I’m a fan of animals talking, cracking jokes and singing I’m also aware that the world (including myself) may just have the wrong idea about Madagascar. Our Managing Director says it’s the most overrated country in Africa and although I have never even been, I’m starting to see the truth in that statement.

The World Bank has estimated that 92% of Malagasy (people that come from Madagascar) live on less than $2 per day and WHO state that only 60%- 70% have access to health care. Madagascar is also a source country for human trafficking and known in certain circles for its child sex tourism. One kids charity stated that 27% of the children are considered to be in “harmful work”(Bel Avenir).
Turns out not everyone is interested in the countries beautiful scenery, exquisite wildlife and it’s abundance of unique flora.

In 2009 there was a political coup and much of the foreign aid, which was reported to have been between 40-70% of the entire country’s budget depending on what you read, ceased. In 2011 this country was reported to be the most under-aided country in the world (OECD). That’s quite a statement.

Madagascar is the 155th wealthiest/ most developed country out of 187 countries (HDI, MPI)

Benin is 165th

Republic Of Congo is 140th

The United Kingdom is 14th

The United States of America is 5th

The more I look, the more I see that Madagascar is not just the rich, luxurious or lavish holiday spot that I first presumed.
It’s somewhere that has a massive need,
somewhere that’s in the depths of poverty and needs hope and healing,
somewhere that needs a big ol’ ship full of love to drop by.

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Feature picture taken from UN agriculture site, other picture from the world wide web – I normally take my own but seeing as I’m not in Madagascar that will have to wait until October. 

Again the stuff I write about does not reflect Mercy Ships as an organisation. These are my thoughts. 

Long Fa

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This Ship came in one week ago and as I walk or cycle past it each day I’m reminded of how long our journey is. Where are we going? Long Far!DSC_0086
Saying goodbye to the ship yard that has been our home for 13 weeks and one day. DSC_0064
The ship is busy preparing to leave
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A once considered ugly neighbourhood, now appears almost romantic and colourful. DSC_0050
But if I had to stay here one more day I’m sure that all the romanticism about Astican would be dead
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Friends on a last outing before our midday curfew
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The shipyard
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Last trip to the market
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Ships in dry dock starting out on the long journey we have just finished
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Our home from a better angle
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So we are on the high seas once again. Its a nice gentle sail so far. We left around 1600 on Saturday and plan to reach South Africa in a little over two weeks. Whilst there we will be refuelling and spending some time with our South African Mercy Ships colleagues before leaving for our mysterious field service destination (more to come…)

FotoStory: At Sea.

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The most important pencil sharpener on the whole ship

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The chart desk where we can work out where exactly we are… useful.

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Pretty sure this has a function other than a nice back rest…..

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Ropes

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Our bridge tour guide

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Chats on the bow at sunset

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Relaxing

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Family fun

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Reflections

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Bowie B

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Coffee on the bow

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The Africa Mercy and the moon

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Pirates!!!

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Crew Mates

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Worship on the bow

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Lots of nice sunsets

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Memorising colours

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And some real show offs!

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A radar picture for pops. This is what a radar in the 21st century looks like 🙂 DSC_0123