|Hammattan has arrived - that is a ship about 500 metres away|
We are now half way through the Benin field service which is hard to believe. Orthopaedics has finished which means our good friends Frank and Kathleen Hayden from Colorado have left. It has hardly rained all month and in the last week the Hammattan has commenced. This is the wind from the Sahara that carries fine dust creating a fog like haze. The temperature and humidity have also dropped dramatically.
|Tammy and Kathleen|
The coolest thing this month is that Mick got to observe Frank conducting a bilateral tibial osteotomy on a 12 year old girl. Much of the orthopaedic work is very mechanical in nature and thus Mick found it fascinating. What was amazing is how quick Frank worked and the obvious immediate improvement. He is looking forward to seeing this young girl at the HOPE Center and coming in for physiotherapy.
|Mick after observing Frank in surgery|
Tammy has finished in Supply and has done a few special projects for the Ops Director. In the New Year she is due to start with the Communications Team doing admin work. Her intensive French course at Institute Français is done and she is looking for opportunities to consolidate.
Mick has continued to be very busy as Second Engineer, but a new Third Engineer was contracted to replace him which has eased his work load a bit. During the month we bunkered another 200,000 litres of fuel again however Mick only did the first day (150, 000 litres) and the Chief looked after the second day. He dived twice this month, once scheduled and once covering for another team member. Without the rain the visibility was much improved at about 2 metres and they were able to see some fish. They also went to the bottom looking for a dropped tool to find the bottom is soft mud about 50 cm deep. Anything dropped is pretty much gone forever. We had planned a propulsion test but had to postpone it as the Captain was off on leave so will do this in the new year.
Mick had the opportunity to compete in his first bike race for 3 & 1/2 years - a 40 km MTB (or VTT - Velo Tour Terrain) race along the beach road from Ouidah to Cotonou in temperatures of about 34 degree C. It was brutal due to the lack of rain making the sand soft and deep in many parts. The field was pretty international with guys from Togo, Benin, Ghana, Niger and Nigeria as well as several French expats. All were a lot younger than Mick and he was happy to finish about 15th out of about 60.
|Mick and Lionel before the VTT race|
On 14 December we celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. 20 years ago we would have never guessed that we would celebrate it as a family with 3 boys living and working on a hospital ship in Benin. Amazingly we have lived over 8 of those years overseas. We took the day off work and went to breakfast at a local boulangerie and lunch at the Institute Français.
School went right up to Christmas finishing on 22 December. Jack and Mark both had mid-year exams and did well - a mixture of As and Bs. For Mark this was his first set of Junior High exams and for Jack we very much left him to plan his revision and study himself so we were very pleased.
We also went to the fabric market a couple of times to select some local fabrics and then all got outfits made by a local tailor. Tammy also made a new doona cover for Harry.
|Benin family photo|
December onboard means Christmas activities and there are lots of them. Harry decided he wanted to be Scandinavian this year and joined in the Santa Lucia celebration learning to sing in Norwegian, Swedish and Dutch as well as dress up in white robes, a pointy hat and carry a lighted candle through the ship! We invited our German friends to join in with the gingerbread house making. We didn't win but we had lots of fun making a gingerbread ship which we are still eating. The Aussies traditionally host Carols by Candlelight which we did again on the dock and was attended by most of the crew and some patients. It was a wonderful evening. Christmas eve we had a service and then all put our shoes out. Traditionally crew members put out little treats in others shoes which is fun on Christmas morning. Christmas we had brunch and then hosted open cabin. We made salsa, caramel slice and pavalova which all went down a treat. On Boxing Day we went to Bab's Dock for the day with our German friends for a lovely lunch and relaxing day.
|Harry dressed for Santa Lucia|
|Carols by Candlelight|
The toughest thing about this time of year is friends leaving. Our good friends, the Wall family, left after 4 & 1/2 years, to return to Colorado. Tammy and Tracey had become great friends and this was particularly hard on her. Other good friends who have left have included Harmen & Andrea Valk and Bruce, Alison and Elle Barr. Every departure of a dear friend is like a small knife stab to the heart.
|Jack and Elle during fire drill|
As we approach the New Year it is decision time for the teachers. And at this stage Mercy Ships are looking for Kindergarten to Grade 5 teachers plus Maths, Science, French, PE/IT and a Principal. The Maths and Science teachers are yet to make their final decision so we are praying they choose to stay. But please pray that God works in the hearts of teachers around the world to come and serve onboard.
|Know any teachers who want to an adventure?|
That was December.
Cheers, and Blessings,
Mick, Tammy, Jack, Mark and Harry