Sunday, May 27, 2012

10 Things I Couldn't Live Without (on the Africa Mercy)

After passing through the initial stages of culture shock, we have settled into the "new norm."  Things that were essentials at home (driver's license, keys, credit cards) have sat in a drawer unused for nearly 18 months.

Instead, these are the items I find most essential:

  1. An Electric Kettle.  We do not have full kitchens in our cabins.  We eat our meals in the dining room (prepared by our amazing galley team, and served by our dining room team).  This is an amazing luxury.  But it means we don't have a stove, oven, microwave, toaster, coffee maker, or any of these items in our cabin.  They are available to us in a common kitchen area called the Crew Galley, but to be honest, we don't do much cooking in there.  However, every day we fill our electric kettle, turn on the button, and in just seconds the water is boiling away.  It shuts off automatically when it reaches the magic temperature - and voila! Hot water for coffee, tea, cocoa, ramen noodles, or oatmeal is ready. 
  2. Sticky Tack!  You thought only teachers bought the sticky blue (or white) stuff that holds posters on the walls?  Well, in an environment where you are forbidden from using tape, sticky tack is a valuable currency here.  We use sticky tack to hold up artwork, tack messages on other doors, and even secure sign up sheets and pens to the wall.
  3. Magnets! When sticky tack won't do the trick, you just find a stronger substance: like magnets! All our walls are steel, so if you want to make a fort, you just stick up a few blankets with magnets!  Hang a fan on the wall?  Find a strong magnet.  Coat hooks?  Backpacks?  Organizers??  Magnets hold all these up as well!  Some even have projectors secured to the ceiling with magnets for movie viewing pleasure!  In the hospital, the magnets come in handy too- need a privacy curtain?  You can put one up anywhere, with.... you guessed it..... magnets!
4. Hand Sanitizer!  I'm against this stuff at home - I think germs are quite good for you and make you stronger, but... out in the heat, sweat and stink here, shaking countless hands, I find hand sanitizer a necessity.  We have hand sanitizing stations at the top of the gangway, in the dining room, in the bathrooms and at various other points throughout the ship to cleanse away!

5. Doxycycline - I thought it was an apple a day that keeps the doctor away, but here the thing I take every day is one doxy.  This is a malarial preventative pill.  Living in a country that has a high malaria rate means making some medical decisions: do you risk getting malaria, or risk the long term effects of medications?  For me, I find that one doxy a day is a good choice.
6.  My Name Badge!  We live in a PORT! A shipping port!  It is so random, really, when you think about it.  Where is the nearest port to you?  Have you ever even walked through the port?  It's probably in a rough neighborhood, industrial area, and you've never come near it!  We walk through the port, drive through the port and call it home.  Not only do the port authorities require I have a name badge, but also I need one to get on and off our ship.  I wear it from sun up to bedtime - it is debit card for our bank onboard, and my tracking device to verify if I'm onboard or not. 

7. Sweat Rag.  Not really charming, but the truth.  In this land of high humidity and warm temps, I find it impossible to exercise without requiring a cloth or towel of some sort to absorb half my body fluids that perspire out of every pore in my body. 
8. A Laminating Machine.  Everyone loves pictures! When we take pictures with patients, caregivers, people as the school we visit, or other friends we have met, they usually want a copy of these photos.  We don't have a proper photo printing machine on the ship, so we print them just as colored copies.  In order to make these pictures last, we laminate them.  Which means, a continuous cycle of taking pictures, printing, laminating, distributing, taking, printing, laminating... you get the point.

9&10. Dancing Shoes & Heart Full of Song - be ready to sing & dance at all times!  You might be on the ward and the day workers bust out a guitar and all of a sudden it's worship time.  It could be 90 degrees and you're on the dock sitting with a sweaty, snuggly toddler on your lap and the grateful eye patients who had cataracts removed burst into song and start praising God for the mighty things He has done.  You can't help but move.  I find myself humming or singing as I walk through the halls, wash the dishes, or even exercise.  Jehovah-eh, Jehovah-ah, Jehovah- you are the most high!  Akpedada ye dje ne...  Baba olua oshea, baba olua oshea.  Ehhhhheyeyehhhh, my God is good-o ...Everything He double double, He double double.  English, French, Ewe, Fon, Yoruba, Krio: the languages are many, the tunes are catchy, and it does my heart and soul proud.  I wouldn't have it any other way.
Dan Togo "chicken" dancing at our last YWAM/King's Kids Outreach

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