Thursday, October 18, 2012

Oh Yeah, and the President Came By....

It's not every day that the president stops by for a visit.  But, you'd like to think you'd have a little warning if he was going to, right?

Well, such isn't always the case.

This past week we had quite an exciting day as we received a surprise visit from the President of Guinea, Mr. Alpha Condé.  As head of the state in the country that has invited us to perform surgeries, stay in their country and work side by side with their Ministry of Health and local healthcare organizations, of course he has a standing invitation to visit the ship.  Usually we extend an offer and based on the busy scheduled of a national leader, we are often dropped from the ticket. 
President of Guinea, Mr. Alpha Condé

This was the case in Togo, last spring.  The president of Togo was scheduled to come for a visit, and Kylie was prepared to greet him at the gangway with flowers (her moment to shine!!), but then he called to say he was out of the country and wouldn't be coming.  All the work of preparing hors d'ouevres, polishing and beautifying the ship, people on standby to host tours and help escort through the several decks:  all for nought.
But last week, it was exactly the opposite. 

We received a phone call saying that President Condé was in the port, visiting a French naval vessel, docked immediately behind us (or should I say, "to the aft of us?"), and he was heading our way for a stop. 

Immediately the plan went into action: 
  1. Notify the crew via loud speakers (please don't take out your trash right now - the president is coming!  Put on your Sunday best - the president is coming!)
  2. Chef and team went to work making a beautiful assortment of finger foods
  3. Hospitality teams went crazy cleaning and prepping for the visit
  4. Team Leaders and Managers changed into their suits and dresses to recognize this dignitary
  5. Security teams met with the entourage of presidential security guards (maybe 15 of them?) who were walked through the ship to identify any areas of concern
  6. Hospital crew continued to care for patients and perform surgeries
And then he was here.  After a tour of the ship including the hospital wards, he shared a brief message in a gathering open to all crew and day workers.  Can you imagine getting a job for a non-profit, making a few dollars a day, and getting to meet your president at this job?  What a day for them!
Meeting our Managing Director & his wife (all the president's men are behind him)

Coming up the gangway (you can see all the military presence all around the dock)

Shaking hands with all our Senior Management Team members and other key leaders on the ship (all the president's bodyguards following him)

Touring the max-fax ward - max fax team leader is giving him some background information on patients- the national and maybe military press are videoing and doing interviews

Yaya with grandma and a day worker await their turn to meet him.

Another ortho patient is greeted by Mr. Condé

He is noticing before and after photos in our hospital hallway

Emmanuel has quite a job here - interpreting for the President - translating from French to English.

Mr. Condé was moved by what he saw on board the ship, and wanted to shake every single person's hand at the close of his message (a logistical nightmare for the security guards trying to streamline and protect during this meeting). 
And after 90 minutes on board, he was off. 

The hoards of officials, guards, soldiers, bands, and all the other hoopla that accompanied him were able to clear out of the port.  The port gates opened again for vehicles coming in and out (some of our crew were stuck outside of the gate for a few hours, unable to return to the ship due to the president being inside).

And business was back to usual.  What's on the menu for dinner?

1 comment:

  1. LOVE this! What an adventure! We love reading about your travels & the rewarding work of God you're doing! - It seems I've had a bit of writer's block here in HK, but hopefully we'll have a few new adventures to share soon.

    Love & Grace from Hong Kong,
    Joy Kwong