Bonjour Monsieur President

My resume is going to look awesome after my time with the Africa Mercy:

– Guide and media liaison to international companies and millionaires

– Mission work in a hospital ship in Africa for future total of a year and a half

– Media Liaison for the President of the Republic of Congo’s visit.

That’s when I’m expecting my employers to shake their heads and blink their eyes in astonishment.  “In charge of media for the President?!  And he’s wanting to apply at my humble business!  Wow lucky me!”  Then Bill Gates leans back and smiles, knowing he just found the resume that is going to change his life.

Of course I’ll have to turn him down until I’m done my time here with Mercy Ships; which if you don’t know is now until the summer of 2015!  Please read that number like this – TWO THOUSAND AND FIFTEEN – so that the gravity of this decision can be imparted into your mind.  Yes people, that is two thousand and fifteen years after the birth of Christ and I have agreed to give my life to God and Mercy Ships until that time.  I am psyched about this and even though I have no idea what the future will look like for me anymore I know that if it goes anything like the last few months that it will be super awesome.

“Kyle!”  You cry, “Tell us about the president!”  Okay mom, here goes:

Ever since we arrived in Pointe Noire, Congo the President has been promising a visit.  Now the people of Mercy Ships are no fools and they’ve been around a long time, they know that when the President promises to visit it’s akin to your good buddy telling you that he may drop by sometime that afternoon; you think they might, but you don’t know when or even if they actually will.  Except with the President it was on a ten month scale.  He had called a few times, including once on Christmas, but had never shown up.  So when his office called and said that he would be there next tuesday the ship was jumped into overdrive, fueled by a strange energy that knows that any minute everything could change to him arriving the next day or else cancelling on a whim.

Photo Credit Ruben Plomp, Dockside before the arrival of the president.

“If he shows up we made these shirts for nothing!”

Picture this:

It was Friday.  Everything was going great.  We were right on track, we had quite a bit left to do over the weekend, but all in all it seemed like the ship would be nice and ready for his Tuesday arrival.  My boss Leigh and I (she is the communications manager) were just settling down into the office after lunch when Leigh’s boss, Brenda (executive assistant and amazing coordinator of everything on the ship), burst into our office and with the exasperation of experience announced that the President was arriving on Sunday.  She looked at us and with gravity twinged with desperation she told us that she needed our help.

And so I was deputized and locked on the ship for the weekend.  My friends all went camping so luckily I had no distractions while I helped set up.  And set up we did.  The entire ship got a makeover.  The lights were all changed, everything was scrubbed down, we printed off a million beautiful information packets on Mercy Ships.  Fun fun fun.

Sunday arrived.  Everyone started showing up on deck in their Sunday best.  I was actually pretty amazed – people clean up pretty nice on the ship!  It was strange seeing girls walking around in beautiful dresses when the only other thing I’ve seen them in is scrubs.  It reminded me that I’m on a ship that’s 90% women, not too bad of a place to be.

Oh and I got all dressed up too.  Check out this pic.  Snazzy.

Podium

Our job was to set up lounge where the president would speak for when the media arrived.  We set up the chairs and stuff then someone came to me, handed me a radio and set that I would need to keep it on all day in case someone needed me.

In case someone needed me??  Why would anyone need me?  But I accepted the radio and clipped it to my belt, instantly becoming ‘someone important’ a crazy transformation that earns you half raised eyebrows of respect and sideways glances with half smiles.  I think I’d like to start carrying a radio, or whatever the mainland equivilant is – maybe a pager or something?

The day continued, people began to arrive.  I guided around a pack of Congolese media, each carrying their big cameras, telling them to stay in their spots that they kept moving from.  Finally after kicking this one guy out of our photographers chair for the 500th time I gave up and let them mill around, always watching to make sure they didn’t go too far with their cameras and their ADHD.  People were beginning to file into the lounge – important looking Africans with coats covered with gold tassels and stuff you see in military movies – when my radio started saying my name at me.  “Kyle!  Kyle!  Are you there!”  I fumbled with my radio, nearly pulling my belt off in the process.  “Uh… Yes, this is Kyle!”  No response.  I realize I forgot to push the button.  “Kyle here!”  I say more confidently this time.  The voice on the other end comes frantically through.  “Kyle come to the gangway!  Come to the gangway!”

I sprint walk to the entrance of the room, dodging dignitaries and ministers and giving frantic looks to the crewmembers who are acting as guides through the hallways.  What could they possibly need me for?  The heads of the ship are standing in reception, awaiting the president, I give them the look that says ‘Can I get through??  I promise it’s an emergency!’ and they give me the look that says ‘Yes but go quickly, the President is coming!’ – we have very sophisticated looks on the ship.

I run down the gangway and at the bottom is one of our Nepolese Ghurka Security Guards holding back a struggling Congolese guy.  The Ghurka turns to me and tells me that this guy apparently knows me and that he is supposed to be on the ship.

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A quick aside on the Ghurkas.  These guys are from Nepal and they all were at one point in the Indian army.  They are insanely good at what they do, which is the security of the ship.  Each one of them is all smiles and happiness until trouble comes along then they jump into action ninja crazy soldier mode.  It’s amazing and terrifying and I’m glad they are on our side.

Back to the gangway.  The Ghurka is telling me this guy can’t get on and the guy is yelling at me that he needs to be on the ship.  Indeed I do recognize this guy, he was with the media earlier, but I have no idea if he’s supposed to be on the ship or not.  For one juicy moment his fate is in my hands.  Do I let him on the ship and do his job or keep him there on the dock?  The power!  The juicy power!

Of course I let him on the ship.  I escorted him up to the room full of dignataries, past all of the crew members, my radio bouncing on my hip and I felt pretty cool.

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The rest of the day went great.  The President arrived to much fanfare.  I stood and guarded the media while people said stuff in French at the front of the International Lounge.  Dr. Gary’s presentation as always was incredible, with people gasping and covering their eyes as the patients that we had treated were transformed in front of their eyes.

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The President stood up and gave a short speech on how touched he was that we were here doing this in his country and that he was happy that he could help us be here.  He sounded genuinely moved I think.  Though it didn’t seem like it as he cut his tour of the hospital in half afterwords.  But he left the ship and we all breathed a sigh of relief.  Done and done.

Photo Credit Ruben Plomp, speeches during the presidents visit.

 

If you squint and look closely you’ll see me standing awkwardly on the side.

Afterwords we all chilled and exchanged stories.  The security officer Matt came and told us how he had helped the snipers set up on the tops of the ships which was cool.  My friends Jonathan and Emilie who had been cooking all day told me how much food they had cooked for the President and how he hadn’t eaten any of it.  Fun for everyone.

And so another adventure ends.  I have no idea what the next big occasion will be but I’m excited for it.  A year ago I would have never guessed that I would be the media liaison for a Presidential visit, so who knows where I’ll be after this.  But one thing I do know – I appreciate your encouragment in this journey.  Each message I get from people pumps me up so much.  It’s awesome to know that you guys are thinking of me back home and remembering me.  It’s actually huge and I thank you for it.  I look forward to hearing from you all in the future and seeing you soon after that!

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2 thoughts on “Bonjour Monsieur President

  1. Hey, I heard that you were thinking of some fundraising ideas… How about shaving your head? I’m sure there are plenty of people who would love to donate because of that!

  2. Hello Kyle,

    I really enjoy your postings so keep them coming. I hope you are doing well. I wanted to mail a cheque for your support but you have two different project numbers. One is 3698 and the other one is 3578. Which one am I supposed to use?

    We enjoyed a visit from your parents here last weekend and your Dad came in first in his age group for the Triathlon. (I am sure you have already heard about that.)

    With love and God’s blessings from Grandma

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