The Graduation

The Graduation


This month I traveled back to Madagascar for a friend’s graduation. You can read his story here. For a quick recap, he worked with me as a translator in 2015. Before the ship arrived in his city, he lost his wife; became a single dad; and was in a pretty bad road traffic accident. Working in the Medical Capacity Building team opened his eyes to the medical world and how it doesn’t have to be about death and corruption. He decided to be a nurse. Some nice people on the ship and at home helped sponsor him through his studies and a few weeks ago he graduated. I traveled across Africa and the Indian Ocean to be there because I promised I would. I left my baby and my Husband and that’s where the story begins…

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Brexit

5 Thousand miles away from my ship home, 5 thousand miles away from my country of birth I find myself in a tuk tuk in Tamatave, Madagascar. Alone on the back seat, zooming around bicycles and speeding past rickshaws with the occasional off road moment. the police call and we stop. White person noted, bribe paid behind the tuk tuk so that I am none the wiser. A man in a shirt and chinos stands by the side of the road and gives a nod. We stop and he joins me on the back seat. He acknowledges me with a dip of the hat, unsure what language this stranger may speak. I greet him in Malagasy and he happily and quickly responds. A lady this time, beautifully dressed with high heels and a little handbag swinging from her upturned wrist . We stop. We greet. We dart in and out of traffic.
The man picks up the conversation with an air of confusion and many questions;
Do you live here? Are you with Peace corps? Where do you come from?
England, you come from England? Brexit! He exclaimed with a knowing smile.
And suddenly I don’t feel 5 thousand miles away.

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Oh Hello Guinea

Guinea is hot and often wet, colourful and loud.
A glimpse of the people, the dolls, the sunglasses, the coffee shops on wheels, trees, water and the managers vehicles that occasionally breakdown when filled with dirty fuel.

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What is hope and healing for them?

Photo Credit Justine Forrest

A hospital ship quite rightly focuses on patients. An organisation with a vision of bringing hope and healing to the worlds forgotten poor, quite rightly focuses on African patients. But sometimes we close our eyes and narrow our dreams. Because that’s not it. That’s not the end. Some of my favourite stories are actually the byproducts of our mission. The unexpected joys.

I often find my self asking the question “what is hope and healing for them?”. It’s something a colleague said a while ago. Continue reading “What is hope and healing for them?”

Back to the Ship

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The last time I saw the ship I was 7 months pregnant, concentrating on my Malagasy shopping basket and the passport that was lying on the top of carefully folded items, each with their own purpose. I glanced up to the people and back down to the basket, up to the ship, back to the ocean. With tears gradually building in my eyes, I held Mamma Comforts’ hand tighter. She didn’t want to let go and neither did I. I wanted to hold her hand forever. We walked the line, looked brave and held back the all emotion that we could inside our little collapsing walls of normality. This was our home. Our people. Our church. Our work. Our life. Continue reading “Back to the Ship”

Distractions: Leontine

Amy Jones, MCB Project Manager presents Leontine with a bag.
Amy Jones, MCB Project Manager presents Leontine with a bag.

The woman at the toilet block,
The woman in the dark room, silenced by shame,
The woman who sings her papaya song at the port gate,
Ariké

The long conversations with Ettiene about n’imports quoi,
The chats with port workers about the holes in their teeth,
The visit to Stephane’s clinic and homemade weight room,
Marcelle

I became an Intensive Care nurse because of a blanket. One single blanket.

I had been working in an emergency department. Whilst trying to remove the bathroom light chord that was tightly wrapped around a teenager’s neck and simultaneously explaining that hanging herself in the bathroom was really not the best idea, a beautiful and slightly confused woman asked me for a blanket. I was understandably busy. Suicidal tendencies don’t tend to be something that you can brush under the carpet well. I ran around making phone calls, taking bloods and alerting doctors of the ongoing trickle of unstable patients at the door, whilst all the while keeping a fixed stare at the bathroom light chord and the patient opposite that kept fitting.
She asked me for a blanket several times.
She never got one.

Continue reading “Distractions: Leontine”

Last One Standing

Capture

Over the last few years I have seen many come and go. I have stood on the dock of which ever country we happen to be residing in and I have waved; waved off buses, land rovers and coaches: Waved off orphans, surgeons and accountants, VIP’s, engineers and a small Chinese woman who will one day change the world.

I have said goodbye to single people, couples and families and sometimes

Continue reading “Last One Standing”

Benin

ny_france_2016078Life teems on the back of motorcycles, its’ passengers laughing, dancing and sharing stories. Precious cargo of bread, chickens, babies, wheely desk chairs and window panes zoom through sandy streets jumping up and down over sand bumps. Women with the most elaborate dresses and their sleeves blowing in the breeze, telling their zemidjan driver all about their grievances of the day or their joys, regardless they recount with so much passion that it becomes hard to conclude their tone, they speed and chat.

The zemidjan drivers and their yellow jackets rule the roads and have no laws. The Beninese regard them as invisible on the roads that they populate. “Just drive shouted” my Beninese friend as I waited for hundreds of motorbikes to pass by. They don’t count, they’ll move around you. Though apparent that statement was not entirely true I released the day I drove past a dead one.

Benins markets are a beautiful vibrant tribute to it’s culture and welcoming character it breathes colour and screams I’M ALIVE it’s there where I can get freshly fried donuts, practice some Fon and be completely overwhelmed by the fabric. The fabric is beautiful, the colours litter the small crowded streets and normally completely distract me until the cart pushers end-up nearly sweeping me off my feet and into their rubbish tips on wheels, or on to their cart of meat or cups or what ever they may be transporting.

Little girls play in the streets, plastic bottles tied to their back like dollies so that they look like mummy, they open their mouth wide and nearly die laughing when this Yovo greets them in their mother tongue. I’m like a clown- without paint.

Fan Ice carts squeeze down tiny pathways and knock over a ladies stall of bras, beads jingle and shimmer as they are continually knocked by passers by, the Fan Ice man continues and relentlessly squeezes his bicycle horn to announce his presence.

It’s a beautiful place that strangely brings rest in line with chaos.

Benin is also blessed with beaches stretching as far as the eye can see, palm trees waving and tiny huts spotted out to the horizon, it is loud and the waves give of a thunderous clap that occasionally leads one to believe an earthquake is on it’s way. The beach though, brings calm and has become our church, our resting place, our Sunday place, our close to the weeks trickery.

It is also a good place to chase crabs…NY_FRANCE_2016079.jpg