Madagascar: A Most Excellent Adventure

“I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, and for that I apologize.”

– The start of every blog post I’ve put up here in the last year

My high school english teacher taught us that if you don’t know where to start just throw a quote up there.  Unfortunately the quote has come true once again and I’m faced with the bloggers dilemma.  After a month of no writing so much has happened that one doesn’t know where to begin!  You keep putting it off until the time feels right and the big moments pile up until you can’t even think of starting because there is no way to record it all…

But as my friend Dorf said the other day as we strolled down the beach, sipping coconuts and getting sunburned; “Start at the beginning.”  Could it be so simple?  Let’s try.

Madagascar!  Oh how beautiful a country!  I knew nothing about it coming in except that it has lemurs and chameleons.  This turned out to be true – now getting a selfie with a lemur has become a requirement for all Mercy Shippers.

This is an amazing place; the people are ridiculously friendly, the beaches beautiful, the roads wide and clean, everything is super cheap!  Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely problems here, for example the healthcare is basically non existent and most people live on two dollars a day… but it’s still a happy and welcoming place!  When we first arrived people would stop us in the street and in broken English thank and welcome us to their country.

First i’ll talk about how Mercy Ship stuff is doing, then I’ll get to the more personal adventures.

Mercy Ships is doing great!

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This baby with the little bow legs also thinks it’s doing great!

We are in full swing mode here on the ship.  This morning I was down in the wards for morning church service – after a rousing singing session (with my Malagasy buddy Le Bien translating loudly in my ear) we all sat down and heard patient testimonies.  Just letting you guys know, all the patient testimonies are the same… which is awesome.

This is of course a paraphrase:  “For the past ten years i’ve had a huge tumor growing out the side of my face [or my baby has a huge tumor or bent legs or I was blind or my feet bent straight up towards the sky].  I never dreamed that I would be healed but I still prayed every day.  All my friends and family and village said I was doomed, but I still prayed to God every day.  Then Mercy Ships came and now i’m healed.  Thank God for Mercy Ships.  Thanks to all the Crew.”  Then everyone claps and they sit down and someone else comes up and says the same story.  It’s all very encouraging.

Let’s do a bit of a time warp here all the way back to the start of field service…

Photo Credit Ruben Plomp, Screening day 1 Top 5
A most fun line up indeed

To Screening day!  Though this year it was actually screening month as we kept our doors open to people who were hopeful about our floating hospital.

Photo Credit Justine Forrest
I think they missed a letter

All those people you see above were waiting with a family member or friend with some sort of sickness, praying that we would be able to help them.  I’ve seen a lot of people on the ship since that day and I look forward to seeing the more familiar faces in the months of field service left.

My role during this was to handle all the media.  These guys were running around with cameras, shamelessly getting in people’s faces and getting interviews and pictures and whatnot – it’s a different culture here with cameras for sure.  I just tried to keep it somewhat respectful though I must admit that I enjoyed getting up close and personal with the people in line, they were so happy to be there.

Photo Credit Justine Forrest
She’ll be smiling later I’m sure

Most of the other crew members (who weren’t nurses) helped out by keeping the line happy.  They did this by bubbles!  My friend Dorf had this to say about bubbles:  “Together we can save the world one bubble at a time.  There was a lady who came up to me and she was just all scowls – so I asked her if she wanted to blow some bubbles.”  He then blows some bubbles to demonstrate.  “She couldn’t help smiling after that!”  It’s true, I’ve always suspected  bubbles were liquid happiness, but watching a little girl without a nose run after a bubble, her smile up to her eyes – well it’s  a pretty incredible thing.

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Here is that little girl of which I mentioned
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And one more just for good luck. SO CUTE!

Anyways onwards and upwards through time we go… to the ship!

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This simulates us walking to the ship (just limp a bit to feel included)

Above you see some of our first hopeful patients.  At this point in the field service we’ve done 137 surgeries.  16 Eyes (cataracts), 25 Maxillofacial (tumors), 55 General (hernias etc) and 41 Orthopaedics (bowed legs).  That’s 137 people who will walk away from here with changed lives.  Maybe they will be able to see for the first time in years – which will mean they can finally get a job.  Or perhaps a child who was unable to go to school because her classmates and teacher saw her as deformed and cursed will now get an education and live a normal life, not to mention having friends for the first time in their life.  Or Grandpa can see enough to take care of himself which means that the grandchild can now go to school instead of leading him around all day… these are stories we hear every day from the patients here on the ship.

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Changing the world… for each of these people!

Sometimes it is hard to live on this ship.  We are 400 people from all over the world crammed into a metal box.  It is nearly impossible to find time to be alone.  In my job I have to follow rules and regulations that often I don’t agree with.  I’m constantly apologizing to people as each media team inadvertently crosses people’s lines and I am blamed… and we all do this for free.  In fact we pay to be here in addition to giving up our time.

But going down to the wards and speaking with a patient who literally is having their lives changed in the morning with an operation… it’s makes it all worth it.

Photo Credit Ruben Plomp
Like for her!
Photo Credit Ruben Plomp, Jocelin (PAT12016) Max Fax Patient.
Or for him!

 

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One more kid who won’t grow up knowing what it’s like to be mocked for being different.

So now it’s been over a month.  The ship is decorated for christmas and the smell of homesickness is in the air.  We’ve done a whole bunch of surgeries and I’ve had more than a few media teams come and go.  I’m not going to lie – I’m looking forward to a break over the holidays.  This job can be a bit overwhelming at times but luckily there are some amazing people on this ship for when times are tough.

Buddies
Just in case you don’t look at Facebook
buddies 3
Two of my top dudes

Hopefully this fills in some of the gaps of the last month.  I appreciate you who read this, especially my supporters!  Know that it’s because of you that a whole bunch more media stories will be going out into the world – attracting volunteers, donations and supporters.

“I don’t know how to end these things.”

– Me

 

 

Oh wait yes I do.

Buddies 2
Muscle shot!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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