They are off again! This time the destination is finally Madagascar. I hope they make it in time for the "Year of the Volunteer" celebration. Sharon
(This is a running email post written by a volunteer nurse serving on the Africa Mercy, a hospital ship that travels the African coast).
Madagascar, here we come, part 2
21 Oct 2014
We are now underway, sailing toward Madagascar. Ah, but will we arrive in time? We need to arrive by Saturday morning because the president of Madagascar has planned a gala celebration to kick off his "Year of the Volunteer" campaign, using us as his "poster child." The president, prime minister, all the cabinet members, and many of the ambassadors are coming to the ship Saturday afternoon for a tour and for the event. It wouldn't due to be late!
The captain planned to leave Cape Town last Thursday, sailing for nine days to reach Madagascar early on Saturday morning, leaving us a few hours to get the ship ready for display after the rocky sail. Alas, once again we encountered obstacles. First, it was immigration. They required that we change docks in Cape Town (again) and then bring every one of us individually to their office to be stamped out of the country.
That took hours. During that short sail to change docks, we discovered a new hole in the exhaust of one engine. That had to be repaired before we could leave. (The ship is 35 years old...). Before immigration and repairs were finished, the weather deteriorated. High winds closed the port, and we couldn't leave.
And so, we finally did leave on Friday morning. The captain has been calculating the fastest path, using the currents to his advantage when possible, trying to make up for lost time. Fortunately, we haven't had to contend with any storms. The seas are rougher than they were on the previous sail, but not unmanageable. It's starting to seem normal to hear silverware sliding off the tables and see oranges rolling across the floor. Couches slide, chairs tip over, people fall. Thank goodness the tables are anchored--something to hang onto. A fair number of people are seasick, but so far, I've been OK, thanks to regular medication and occasional trips to deck seven to gaze at the horizon.
As an eye team, we have been meeting to hear the latest updates on the ever-changing plans for field service, and we are beginning to prepare materials for training the day crew once we get there. It looks like it will be a rocky beginning because the advance team simply hasn't had enough time to get everything in order. The eye clinic building, for instance, needs a fair amount of renovation before we can set up our expensive equipment, and they are just now hiring people to do that. It won't be ready as soon as we need it...so Plan B is...and so it goes, every day bringing new information and new difficulties to be solved.
It certainly keeps life interesting.
Eleven weeks ago we were set to sail for Benin.
It has been a long process of transition as we developed new plans and worked on ironing out the wrinkles. Really, when you look at it, it is extraordinary how things have come together so quickly to go to Madagascar. It usually takes months to work out the protocols with governments; it took five days. Our advance team usually works for 3-6 months getting ready for the ship to arrive; they've accomplished a tremendous amount in 6 weeks, thanks in part to the excellent cooperation of officials at every level. It certainly seems that the Lord has opened doors for us, and we are getting pretty excited to see what lies ahead. Anticipation is becoming electrified in these last days of sailing.
Perhaps next time, I can tell you new things about the wondrous land of Madagascar.
[Click here to learn more about the nurses and doctors on board the Africa Mercy.]