"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

Thursday, October 13, 2016

September Update

Well we have now been in Benin for 6 weeks and things are starting to settle down. The hospital is up and running, into its fourth week of surgeries. The ship is humming with the hospital running and the wards are full. Patient selection went for 4 weeks in Cotonou and all allocated slots are filled except for fistula. We have reserved surgery positions for up country patients and selections for these will start soon. The Hospital Out Patient Extension (HOPE) centre opened last week and is filling up too.

An interim Supply Manager has arrived from Texas allowing Tammy to revert to Supply Admin Assistant. However she is still the glue and continuity in the Supply Team. Tammy has signed up for a 9 week (3 times a week, 2 hours per lesson) intensive French course at Institute Fran├žais. She is both excited and nervous. At present there are 4 others also interested in attending. Mick will probably try and do the same course in January next year. On Friday afternoons she tries to get off ship with a few of the Mums for a drink and pomme frites at a local hotel.

For Mick the last month has been pretty hectic. The Chief Engineer is away on leave and courses for two month and we have an interim Chief who although very experienced needs advice on some things. The Second Engineer also changed for two months and the Fourth Engineer is also back in the USA on leave and courses without relief. We are also short engine ratings this month and are having to hire some contractors. The good news is that most of the machinery is running pretty well. We had our first monthly main propulsion test last Wednesday which went very well. We had our first dive on Thursday which Mick was part of the team for. It was miserable with about 15 cm visibility and lots of rubbish. He dived again on Friday which was a bit more successful but almost as poor visibility. We have not bunkered yet as there are still some deliberations over which company to buy the fuel from. Once this is sorted out we expect to bunker about 210,000 litres  per month which will take about 2 days each time.

After a bumpy start to the school year and field service the boys are settling down. It is always tough after such a long break, new teachers, new class mates and a new country. The blessing is our teachers are very committed to our children and truly partner with us in educating and raising them. We have done a few trips out on Saturday mornings looking for somewhere to practice our French whilst having lunch but have not yet found anywhere to rival Sucre Sal in Tamatave. Buying Fan Ice on the way home is a winner though, at 100 CFA each (about 20 cents).

Rode to Ouidah
Mick has managed to get out on both his road bike and mountain bike a few times. The traffic is quite chaotic with thousands of motor scooters so not a place for the boys to ride like Madagascar. He has ridden down to the Nigerian border a few times (about 70 km round trip) and to Ouidah once (88 km round trip) and been out in the bush on his MTB with some locals and expats.

Mountain biking with the locals and expats around Zinvie

Bab's Dock - Sunday morning
We have been out to Bab's Dock twice, once for a day trip and once for the weekend, staying overnight on Saturday. It is situated on a brackish lagoon about 20 km from the port. There are kayaks and a small sailing dinghy. Mick plans to teach the boys to sail. There is a restaurant and 2 bungalows and an assorted menagerie of animals - baboons, tortoises, dogs, cats, donkeys and a crocodile. We plan to try and stay there about once a month in order to refresh and recharge our batteries.

Mark and Harry hanging out at Bab's Dock
Our first visit we met some German Embassy staff and along with the German crew members we hosted 12 guests onboard last Sunday. We were then privileged to be invited to the German Reunification Day reception at the German Ambassadors residence. It was quite surreal dressing up and attending a reception again - our past life colliding with our current life.

Past life meets present at the German Ambassador's residence
So that was September.

Cheers, and Blessings,
Mick, Tammy, Jack, Mark and Harry