When I come to write-up a new blog I am always surprised how long it's been since we posted our last. Right now we are on holiday for a week in Senegal south of Dakar on the banks of a Sine Saloum Delta near the coast. It’s a wonderful place. An opportunity to relax. We both need this especially Lynne who has been working almost non stop since our time in the UK at home over Christmas.
So what has been going on to bring us to this point? Our last blog was from Las Palmas on Gran Canaria as the Africa Mercy was in the first phase of a two part refit. She was in dry dock having major sections of the hull cut out and refitted and the replacing of over 100 windows, flooring repairs and firemain reconfiguration. When she went back in the water we sailed back to Tenerife to prepare for our return to Senegal.
The craziness of maintenance period was quickly replaced by the craziness of field service preparation. New crew were starting to arrive, the hospital needed a deep clean, senior management on board was in a state of change. All the while our ability to take any time ashore was severely restricted due to COVID and immigration issues.
We sailed from Tenerife and arrived in Dakar on 1st February, yet more crew were arriving via quarantine in a hotel off ship hotel and this needed detailed planning by Lynne and coordination with different departments on-board. New crew also needed to understand the restrictions in place on board, facemasks must be worn at all times, only sit three to a table, no singing during our on-board services, no visits to the hospital to see patients, limited shore leave, extended meal times to ensure we could all get fed in the limited seating in the dining room. Some of this news came as a surprise to crew who had served before and were clearly not happy. We also needed to implement regular COVID testing and set aside isolation cabins for positive cases and close contacts. Add to that the normal day to day problems faced by HR such as " I don’t like my cabin”, "I’m stuck in an airport and can't use cash" , I would like a different job now". All that has led to a very tired HR Director.
For me we have needed to reconfigure cabins to provide a dedicated COVID testing room, reconfiguration of cabins by moving beds to provide optimum isolation, installation of perspex screens around workspaces.
Add to that there is an apparent pandemic of raised desks on-board, we made one for a very tall crew member and suddenly everybody has a bad back. Then as more new crew arrive they start breaking stuff, all needing to be fixed. Fortunately both Lynne and I have had the support of good teams and we are pleased to be working once again with many of our day crew who were with us two years ago before COVID sent us away.
Our children at home remain the focus of our love and we miss them dearly. Hannah is with Nick in Cardiff and they appear to be enjoying the challenges of work and study. Zoe is still at home and beginning to make a life for herself that may involve moving out in the not too distant future and Matthew continues his studying at university in Lincoln. He appears to be making some good friends and connections up there.
Hannah, Zoe and Matthew at Christmas
So what next? At the end of this year this field service in Senegal ends and so does
our current commitment to Mercy Ships as the Africa Mercy returns to Tenerife for maintenance. What we do after that is not clear, for certain we want to complete our commitment to Mercy Ships, finish well and then have a longer break back home. There are a lot of unknowns and some big decisions to be made, what do we do if we stay at home? What do we do with our house? Will we still need to work? Could we, should we, extend with Mercy Ships?
We remain ever grateful for the love and support of all our family and friends and to our wider church family at home.
'He has told you, O man, what is good: and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.' Micah 6:8