Thursday, September 27, 2012

Being a Kid on a Ship in Africa

While there are many things we give up by choosing to live here (on a ship, yet tied to a dock; in Africa, but not really IN Africa; in a HERE that changes every few months, while the members of our "household" change daily), there are many OTHER things that we gain.

I remember as we were preparing to come to Mercy Ships and explaining to people that we were going to work in Africa with an organization that provides free surgeries.  The general concept was warmly received.  "Wow.  That is so cool."  Then the practical gears of their minds would kick in and ask questions like, "what about your house? What about your job?  How much will you get paid?"  And our favorite, "What about your kids? What are you going to do with them?" 

Surprisingly, we planned on bringing them WITH us.  Crazy as it sounds, we think sticking on the same continent as a family is the best kind of plan.  

And it seems that the girls would concur.  They enjoy the unique moments that make up the ordinary moments here.   

Here are a few examples of moments that stand out:

They have a chance not just to learn about the world, but to live, laugh, and love with 30-40 other nationalities.  Not only hearing about differences, but experiencing them. As we move from country to country the academy study that place, pray for that place, and get to learn about that place first hand.

here we are arriving into the port of Conakry.

And below you'll see an atypical Sunday evening - making 2000 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for screening day volunteers and patients, the night before our big screening day.

Forts, forts and more forts! Our walls and beds are steel so magnets and anything cloth make for a fort building utopia -  no matter the time of day or how many are available to play.

A new Snuggie fort??
Here are the girls as I'm trying to tuck them into bed!  How do you get the squirrelies out??

 They share a room that is about 12 feet long and 7 feet wide.  You'd think that we'd have very little in the room to dirty it, but Savannah is a little bit like that Peanuts character...what was his name?  Ah, yes.  Pigpen! 

After a few days of delaying, stalling and excuse making, she ran out of chances to "clean it later."  The bedtime book was shut and she was sent to bed while I confiscated all the items on the floor - of which only one or two were Kylie's.  Wow! Without the yards and the parks and the activities around town, they still manage to have a lot of fun, and like using their imagination once again.

Can you spot the Pillow Pet?

Not to say that we don't have any new toys. We have our share of electronics (maybe more than our share!), and they have turned into computer whiz kids. 

The girls also have dedicated teachers that pour all their energy into their classes - whether there are two students or ten!  (yes, the biggest class onboard has ten 4th and 5th graders combined).  The academy received three new smartboards this year and the teachers, parents and kids have enjoyed using these new educational toys as well! 

On back to school night, the kids educated the parents with activities, games and a glimpse into their think-out-of-the-box approach to school in a small white, floating ship where space might be limited, but the learning is endless. 

During work experience week, all the 6th-12th graders are able to choose a department and shadow for the week.  Last year we had people working in the cafe, as writers, as nursing and dental assistants, in hospital supply management, with the deck department and at reception.

We've traveled to Sierra Leone, Ghana, Togo, and the Canary Islands.  We're learning and practicing French in context of developing friendships here.  We are seeing people's physical lives changed and watching the (sometimes painful) process of how the body heals, and how that opens the door to a complete life transformation.
So, while they miss things like Chick-Fil-A, snow and bowling, the girls are receiving lifelong lessons and a perspective like no other.

Savannah, during a Fire Drill on the dock, after an Egyptian lesson done in collaboration with the British School of Lome, Togo.

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