"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29: 11

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Bushwalking in the Congo

Last weekend, we were invited to go with three other families out to Diosso Gorges about 25 km from Pointe Noire.

Taking two landrovers, 19 of us set off for the day with packed lunches and full water bottles.  It was a terrific outing - lovely to get out into the countryside and see something of the landscape.

From the top of the gorge, we could see up and down the coast a fair way with plenty of other interesting places for us to explore.  Thanks to the Cash, Chase and Bullock families for including us..
Before we started...

Our group on the sandy track

Tree climbing afterwards

It was quite hard going in some places

Mark and Caroline leading the way

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Our cabin

These photos are a quick tour around our cabin.  It is relatively spacious compared to those that others share in either 4, 6 or 10 berths.  We have an ensuite as well.  There is plenty of storage which I haven't photographed.  Some of the pics I took at sea when everything was packed away as the ship rolled up to about 20 degrees some nights and we are up on Deck 7.  Our cabin is located at the AFT end of the ship and we overlook the quarterdeck or Aft Deck as it is known onboard.  The school is on decks 6 and 7 so the boys have a very quick commute.  Mick is missing his hours on the bike commuting each day.
Jacks room standing with your back
on the cupboards
Kitchen - complete with blue laundry basket.
Tray on the bench is for getting meals.  Notice how the
drawers are secured for sea with a glorified coat hanger!
Kitchen / hallway from the front door.  Sink / bench
etc on the right just out of the picture.
Door on left is Mark and Harry's room.
Doorway in front is living room / master bedroom
By day = living room

By night = bedroom and drying area

Dockside play area - kids normally play on
scooters or battle with light sabres. Its great to have
a big area for them to expend their energy in.

Mark and Harrys bedroom.  On the right outside
of the picture are two cupboards and
 a middle desk / cupboard.
Play area on deck 7 Starboard side.
Also PE classroom and deck hockey pitch.
 The deck  covering is affectionately referred to as "the grater".  
Jacks room - from his door. - its immediately
to your left as you enter the cabin
Dining table.  We normally have breakfast and
lunch in here altogether.
With the bed stowed during the day, it is quite spacious.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

How about the boys…

I suppose one of the biggest questions we keep getting asked, is how are the boys going?  Well, wait for it – unbelievably well.  Yep, they have exceeded our expectations in how they have handled the immense changes over the past few months – as Jack reminded me – four continents in that time – counting the travel layovers in London and Madrid!  And this is not due to us.  Again, we see Divine Intervention here.  God has been good to us once more and we are really blessed with how well our three are settling in.  It reminds me of that passage from Proverbs 16:9:

In his mind a man plans his course, but the Lord directs his steps.

There is no way we could have planned such a smooth transition – it is beyond my comprehension.  This is answered prayer. This is God directing our path.

For starters: Jack.  Jack has started the new school year in Grade 6.  This is the first year of Junior high school here and as such, he has different teachers and must go to different rooms for classes.  Blessing #1 – 3 of his teachers were on course with us in Texas so he got to know them, and they him, before school started. 
Secondly, there are 6 kids in Jack’s class.  And they are welcoming kids.  He has been asked to sit with them at dinner times; asked to join in their games and invited over to play (albeit Minecraft) today.  Awesome.  So he seems to be fitting in well.  Blessing #2
Thirdly, 6th grade is a transitional grade here so there is a big emphasis on organization – a weak point for Jack.  They have a great homework diary – called an assignment organizer – detailing what needs to be done.  He is managing this pretty well and getting the homework done relatively quickly. Blessing #3
Fourthly, when he does forget his schoolwork, we can send him back to get it.  Blessing #4(Hopefully we don’t need to keep using this blessing…)
Finally, when its time to go to school, he rushes out to join in with enthusiasm.  Blessing #5. Mick came off watch one day and after seeing Jack and Mark hurry to get back stated, “Who are these children and where are mine?”

A caveat – I know it’s early days yet but I am enjoying a good start and God willing, it may yet continue.
Harry and Marks bedroom (not its normal state)
    Our friendliest chap – Mark.  Mark struggled in Texas without a peer group.  He has landed in a grade 3 class of 2 with his friend Eli and have they hit it off. - Blessing #1 (As an aside, Eli’s last classmate left at the end of the previous school year and he was worried about being in a class of one – he prayed with his Mum (Mom) about it and was thrilled to find out Mark was coming.  So Mark became an answer to prayer for someone else) 
      Mark is now back to his social self. Blessing #2.
      Mark seems to be going along well in class.  He has had little homework as I think Mrs Denise is able to comfortably cover most of it in class.  Big blessing #3.  
     Only prayer point for Mark is that he is having trouble getting to sleep still. This may be exacerbated by the malaria medication we are taking – but was an issue before we started.
Harry with his class and  his teacher, Miss Shea as the ship docked on Friday.
     Our little extrovert – Harry. Harry seems to have taken most things in his stride.  He has gone into grade 1 and is going well.  Blessing #1 
     Socially, as you would expect, Harry is busy meeting people ALL the time.  It is a challenge in the dining room as he just HAS to go and chat to someone! (rather than eat of course.  I’m not sure that he will grow much whilst we are here if it continues.)  It is a blessing (#2) that he feels so comfortable with everyone.  
      In his class of 5, he has become good mates with Renier from South Africa and Nathanial, the Captains son.  As a consequence, Harry mentions airily at dinner that he might just go and say hello to the Captain and then heads off.  Fortunately, the Captain doesn’t seem to mind. (#3)

     There is that saying, count your blessings.  In writing them down, it makes me realize just how lucky we are here.  There have been many times in the last few months when I have wondered if we were doing the right thing, however, seeing their three excited faces as we pulled into port, waving their homemade Congo flags with their classmates and joining in with the enthusiasm of everyone onboard, makes me realize that God is directing all our steps.  And He can do more than we ask or imagine.  It makes me more excited to see what He will do here in Congo.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Almost there - life at sea!

It's Friday afternoon and we have been at sea since last Saturday as I write. No one in our family has been sea sick as the sea has been mainly calm.  The ship has a very slow roll and until the last few days, hardly any pitch so it has been comfortable sailing.  We have even managed to leave the clothes -airer out for the time at sea without it collapsing. Thanks to everyone who prayed for calm seas. The flip side is, I will have to exercise my Texas pot belly off!

School started on Tuesday for the boys. Jack is in a class of six, in grade six, which is Junior High school Onboard. Mark is in a class of two with Eli. Harry is in grade one, in a class of five. They are all tired but managing well with all the changes that have happened since we left Australia. All have made friends and seem to be getting used to the ships routine. The classes are combined for some activities like PE, art, music and French. As the PE teacher won't be arriving until mid September, another Mum and I are temporarily filling the position. I'm glad I did that Active After school training and junior hockey coaching with my club - First item in the syllabus is hockey! I currently have 5 students in the grade 9-12 class,  9 in the grade 6-8 class and 8 in the grade 4-5 class. Attached is a picture of the play area where we have PE. It is challenging to keep everything safe with the ships movement whilst making it fun and getting the kids energy out. It's a good interim fit for me.

Mick is watch keeping for the first time since 1994. He has the forenoon and first watches (8-12 morning and night) which is a family friendly combination. We get to see him for every meal as dinner is at 5pm. He is finding it very interesting to see how a non Navy vessel operates especially with a big crew turnover. He had his first solo watch last night.
As for me, I'm working hard on keeping the boys on track. I have a meeting with the Staff Development manager tomorrow and may end up working for him. 

Jacks turn "under the line" on the Limbo
Sunday afternoon saw our first non Navy Crossing the Line Ceremony.King Neptune was busy with other vessels - as was his Queen ( Thank Goodness! ) and all the members of the Royal Court. Nevertheless, we had a fun afternoon on the bow deck getting all the Polliwogs to go Under the line - with a limbo, pull each other over the line - with a Tug o war competition and then a dance across the line with a giant Conga line around the deck.  The boys were all "Polliwogs" but have the luck to cross at the Prime Meridian. So they will be Diamond Shellbacks rather than regular ones.