Saturday, April 27, 2013

Another adventure!

Hi and Happy Saturday!

Lots going on here!!

Monday I went out with the dental team to their screening site and clinic - it was a great day!  I have alot more to write about that, but want to save it for it's own post, and am trying to hunt down some photos to better illustrate the day.  So... stay tuned for that over the next few weeks.

Tuesday and Wednesday ended up to be really busy work days for me - it's like all of the sudden the emails and paperwork got really overwhelming and I just needed to get on top of it all.  I wasn't really behind, it just felt that way. Quite convenient, actually, as late on Wednesday night I was presented with an opportunity to go upcountry next week - which I was actually able to say YES to, but wouldn't have been able to had I not put in the long hours the previous two days!  Cheers.  So then again yesterday I put in an exceptionally long day, with my last email going out about 9:30, but I hit 'send' with the confidence of knowing everything is completely under control, my coworkers are adequately prepared with the potential issues they will face in my absence, and I can leave with confidence.  Wahoo!

SO an upcountry trip! I'm really excited. The current Hospital Projects Manager, (Oscar, whom I am replacing this summer, who is also an awesome guy) and the Anesthesia Supervisor (and dear friend, Michelle) need to head to some upcountry hospitals to evaluate how effective some of our training programs were earlier in the year.  Wednesday night it came to my attention that they needed a translator, and I happen to speak French pretty well, along with having plenty of experience navigating and surviving in the bush, outside of the comforts of the ship.  So I talked with my boss, who is amazing, and encouraged me to go! Wahooo - SO, tomorrow morning we leave early, driving inland for two full days to visit  two hospitals way upcountry - after my return I'll give more details but for safety sake, I'll leave the details vague for now.  Not to scare anyone, I have no reason to feel unsafe! SO anyway, we'll be gone until probably Friday afternoon... dependent on how Africa treats us :) It is sure to be an adventure. I am not entirely sure where we will be staying or what we will be eating, those details are not mine to sweat, all I need to do bend my brain with lots of French/English translations and a sweet adventure with friends.

I'm bringing my camera and a journal to record what is sure to be a trip full of hilarity and cultural lessons - little things that make me say 'oh, Africa...." and I will share them when I get back.  In the meantime, please pray for safety, no problems with the vehicle (we'll be in a Land Rover), and good health throughout the trip!
Love to all - Krissy

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sabbath

I decided this morning I needed to write paint a picture with words to describe what has become a regular Sunday occurrence – Riviera Church.  Then I realized I could take real pictures of it all and you’d get a much better idea of the huge blessing that it is for me. So, here you go!

I feel the need to briefly pause and say – we really do work really hard here.  I wonder sometimes by writing about the fun weekend days and non-work goings-on that perhaps some of my readers may start to think that is all we do here.  Entirely untrue, though part of me just flinched at the fact that I feel I need to justify certain aspects of my life or be concerned about what my readers think… hmm.  Well, anyway, we all work really hard and by Sunday I’m definitely in need of a Sabbath rest.  Not sleep; that’s entirely different.  Rest, in a Shalom-peace-relational type way.  

The view from my lounge chair.
We have a corporate worship service, (we call it church sometimes) here on the ship on Sunday evenings, so that crew members are able to participate and get involved with local churches here in Conakry on Sunday mornings.  I’ve experienced many, many African services over the last four years that I’ve called this continent my home, and while they are wonderful and I encourage all new crew to attend, in this season of my life I don’t feel it’s the best thing for me.  I need Riviera church, or something similar if I stay here on the ship, to feel ready to face the new week with excitement and anticipation. 

So Riviera is a hotel not terribly far from the ship that we’ve struck a deal with – they allow us to use their pool area for free as long as we don’t bring in our own food or drinks, we need to buy theirs.  We have a shuttle that drives on the hour form the ship to the hotel and back, so it’s super convenient, too.  Some days the pool area is totally full of ship kids and their families, some days it’s empty.  It’s lovely, regardless. They have comfy padded lounge chairs in the sun and tables in the shade, and there’s usually some kind of music playing.  The pool is usually pretty clean (standards must be lowered in Africa), the ice in the drinks hasn’t made anyone sick (to my knowledge), and the food is delish. So overall, it’s pretty much awesome.
There are always kitties playing. They're cute as long as they don't try to play with me. 

Some of my lovely friends and I have taken to going on the first shuttle on Sunday mornings – 9am. Well, the shuttle is supposed to leave at 9am, but 9am Africa time, which is about 9:10 or 9:15.  We get there before most anyone else, so the shuttle isn’t full and we’re guaranteed chairs where we want them.
Necessities for church.
I bring my ipod, journal, kindle, sunscreen, and sunglasses – all the makings of a beautiful church service, right?  Well, it is.  We settle into our chairs and slather on the sunscreen, as the rays of the African sun making it’s way across the sky are too much even for my tan skin without some kind of protectant. About a half hour later I slip on my flip flops and go hunting for some coffee; just a few minutes later we are blessed with cafĂ© au lait to enjoy. 
Cafe au lait.
As the morning continues on, I will settle in to the book I am reading, or I will write in my journal, or I will read my bible or pray or just stare into space and think.  If something I’m reading strikes me as ‘oh wow’, I’ll share it with my friends. We might talk for awhile or we might not, and eventually we all need to jump in the pool to cool off.  

As we draw nearer to midday we order some lunch, today it was hummus and cokes with ice. We’ll share whatever nuggets we’ve collected from our morning with whoever we’re reading or listening to; for one today it was the lyrics of a song that really struck her, for me it was a few lines of the book I was reading that stuck with me and we talked about for a bit. 
Hummus and Coke. Delish.
It’s the simplicity of the day and the richness of relationship that leads me to the shalom-rest that I so desperately need here.   I’m realizing more and more as I settle into this community and know I’ll be here for a significant period of time, that I need to make this rest not only a once-in-awhile thing, but a regular occurrence... whether I’m on the ship or able to get away for a few hours on a weekend. 
Something else I like about Riviera - they serve water in wine glasses. 
SO there you have it – a taste of my Sunday.  I’m going to try to post this now if the internet will cooperate… get ready for dinner in a bit and then enjoy the evening service tonight. I love love love weekends on the ship!
Hope your Sunday was divine :) Krissy

Saturday, April 20, 2013

An Embarrassment of Riches.

Tonight I ate dinner up on deck 8 with a circle of some of the most amazing women one could ever hope to be blessed to get to do life with.  The food was delicious and the conversation lovely; laughter rang out several times as we recounted our days and encouraged each other and spoke life and watched the birds dancing in the wind and the boats zipping back and forth around us.  As the brilliantly red sun descended to the horizon and the coolness of the evening breezes kissed our cheeks, a few of our circle wandered away for tea. Three of us stayed behind and settled more deeply into our chairs, relishing the depth of conversation and the sharing of hearts and the joy it is to be known and understood.  Eventually when the sky was black and the stars were twinkling, one friend and I continued the conversation into the dining room over tea and then even further as we wandered down the hallways back to my room. 

 

Friendship is such a gift. If you have one good friend, you have a treasure, that’s for sure… But many good friends? That’s what one friend of mine calls an embarrassment of riches. It’s amazing, really; I, along with all of my friends, rely entirely on the generosity of others to provide for our financial needs.  I have very little in terms of material possessions and savings accounts, but what I do have is so much more fulfilling and life-giving than any of those things ever were to me.  I am so rich, and so grateful.

 

Tonight was simple; it was honest, it was open, it was funny, it was endearing, and it was entirely life-giving.  It was tea and conversation.  It wasn’t fancy or expensive, it wasn’t even really planned… it just happened, and it was beautiful. 

 

I guess I’m not sure why I’m rambling on about how wonderful such a simple evening was.  Maybe because I just recognize and am grateful for the fact that this is life to the full; in relationships, in the embarrassment of riches, in the depth of being known and doing life together and embracing the joy that can be found in simplicity.


~K

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Link love.

Since several other bloggers have shown me what some might call 'link love' - (linking my blog up at their blog - this is how many of my readers have ended up here, so welcome!) I thought today I would return the favor, as there's some really good stuff out there!  Check out these stories from other Mercy Ships family members!

stressed out. or not.
I love reading Ali's blog and this particular piece illustrates really well how some thing just need to be improvised when working in West Africa.

Do Guinea Pigs come from Guinea? and Other Pressing Questions
The ever lovely Catherine on My Life Aquatic explains why there are so many places called 'Guinea' in the world, and a bit more on this particular one we call home at the moment.

Dr Seuss and the Fizzy Mango: A bedtime story from Africa
A fabulous poem written by three nurses and entirely based on factual experiences. Check it out and giggle.

Old Enough for a Nose
I always look forward to Laura's blog posts, she beautifully describes what we do from her point of view as a nurse on the wards.  Keep on reading that one, or at least make sure to visit A Different Normal and One More.

Cash Crew
I love this family and Dianna's stories of doing life on a ship, especially the fact that she Loves the Laundry Room.

The Problem with Red.
This piece was written a few months ago by the fabulous Susan Parker and I love how it illustrates some of our cross-cultural questions and issues as we face them here.

Happy reading!

Krissy


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Perspective.

Yesterday was... well, how shall I say... less than excellent.  It just seemed that every other interaction, conversation, email, and phone call was informing me of something I had done wrong, a word misunderstood or misconstrued to bring hurt in a way never intended, or somehow/someway I was just not enough or too much.  By mid-evening, after a long day, I had really worked myself up to the place of wondering what the heck I am doing here anyway. 

You might say I had lost my perspective... somewhere along the course of the day I had lost sight of the bigger picture and had begun to focus on the small things... and it took me out.

Then the headlines started popping up on my Facebook wall, the chatter picked up, "have you heard about Boston?"  As I pulled up the news sites, that punched-in-the-stomach feeling hit me, and the tears came.  How can something like this happen?  Devastated... I mourn with those who mourn.

96 countries were represented yesterday in Boston, and living in the international community of the Africa Mercy, we recognize the impact this has on all of us.  As the story unfolds, once again I realize I feel safer here in Africa than anywhere else I've lived, and I know this will have lasting effects, ripples and waves, across the globe. And somehow I have to continue to believe and trust God's heart for his people is good.

Today, I choose to rise up above the waves crashing around me and around the world; He is still on the throne, I trust God through the storm, will focus my perspective on that which remains long after the storms have passed and the waves have calmed and my time on earth comes to an end. 


Saturday, April 13, 2013

The blind can see.

On Thursday I got to experience one of the most profoundly beautiful moments of my life – I looked on as about a dozen of our eye patients had their bandages removed.  The blind can now see.  I can hardly find the words that do this moment justice…

They call it the “Celebration of Sight”, otherwise known as one-day post-op appointments for our cataract patients.  Adult patients are only admitted for surgery with us if they have bilateral (both eyes) cataracts and we remove one of them.  They are outpatient procedures, the patients are gathered on the dock in the morning and discharged by that evening, to return to the clinic to have the bandages removed the next day.

Guinean people aren’t nearly as expressive as the previous people groups I’ve worked with in Africa. The first several men had their bandages removed and guarded their reactions carefully, expressing very little as they squinted and shifted and moved to be examined. Then, a dear little woman of probably fifty or so years was led to sit down and I could tell she was nervous and unsure.  We try to explain to them the process but you know that many of them never really understand… I wonder if she had any idea what was about to happen.  A glance at her admissions paperwork told me her vision before surgery was “hm” – hand motions only, unable to even tell you how many fingers you were holding up in front of her cloudy eyes.  As her bandage was removed, she hesitantly lifted her eyelids and allowed the eye team member clean her face. Once he stepped away, she looked directly at me, and I smiled a reassuring smile at her.  Mama, I said, You can see me. She clasped her hands in front of her mouth as though holding in all she wanted to express. The tears started flowing, her hands rose first to the heavens to thank God and then out to me to show her gratitude.  I never thought I would see again, she quietly explained. Never. Oh, thank you God.  My tears began flowing along with hers as I held her trembling hands in my own and smiled, no more words were necessary.

A few minutes later I found myself sitting next to my new friend, waiting for her turn to check-in with the doctor. She pointed down at my shoes (dirty, well-worn Chacos) and told me how beautiful they were. I laughed and said thank you, knowing that it’s not my shoes she is actually complimenting – she’s realized that she can see my shoes… and was so very grateful.

There were other cool things I got to do with the eye team, and maybe I’ll write about them and throw some pictures up here someday.  But it was this beautiful moment I got to experience our mission statement - we really are walking in the footsteps of Jesus, bringing hope and healing to the forgotten poor. 
 
Thank you , my supporters, for making this possible. Love to all, Krissy

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Rundown....

Okay, so here's the rundown on everything that's been happening....

**Christina arrived!  Poor thing is still pretty jet lagged, but got here in one piece and is slowly adjusting to life on a ship. I am sure she will have some interesting insights into what it's like here! 



It's been interesting when people ask where she's from, or if she's from the same hometown as me... and to be able to say, actually, we come from the same HOUSE... the same BEDROOM. :) (Her family home is my 'permanent address' and where I was living last year for the few months I was in the States!)


And she brought me chocolate. I did not know that Cadbury Mini Eggs (little drops of heaven) were available in DARK CHOCOLATE... oh my drool.  I need more of these in my life. Click the 'mail' tab on the top of this page to find out how to send me some. :)


**I'm feeling better!  After sleeping for about five days straight, I'm feeling human again.  Phew. I'd rather not repeat that experience again.

**There's less than two months left here in Guinea!  My brain is almost entirely in Congo, actually.  In HR, so much of our time is spent three to six months in the future - so staffing for Congo, housing for Congo, finding the right people for the right positions for Congo.  I'm also spending just a few hours a week learning some of the ropes of the hospital so when I transition into my new job in July as Hospital Projects Manager I'll be able to actually have an idea of how it all works... for Congo.  We're talking about training plans for Congo.  We're thinking about what the beaches will be like in Congo. (well, I am!) So sometimes I just need to remind myself, and actually Christina is helping me do that alot, that we're still actually in Guinea and there are still people here who need our help, care, time, love, and the hope we offer.

**Summer plans!  I'll be coming back to the states for a very short three weeks in July. If you've known me for any length of time you know how I feel about camp, kids camp, the kids camp my church does, etc, and they've asked me (and I've jumped at the opportunity!) to help out in a leadership role with them this summer!  SO that will be one of my three weeks in the states. For the remaining two weeks, one will be spent in the Seattle area and one will be spent in Minnesota.... SO my friends in either of those locations, if you want to see me, I guarantee I want to see you, but it will be BUSY so please let me know when/where you will be and how we can make it happen.  Seattle is the first week of July and Minnesota is the 3rd week!  I'd love to speak at your small group/church/club/get together/fundraising extravaganza, too, so shoot me an email.

**I love this place!  I've been here for five months now, and it seems every day I'm reminded in some way or another of how honored I am to call this place home and these people my people.  As I'm thinking about this new job, I'm amazed at how my history suddenly makes sense. I worked at Microsoft for nearly five years, followed by two and a half years in the Peace Corps. That's wierd, my friends, and I know it.  Who does that? Two completely opposite experiences. However, I couldn't be doing what I'm doing without BOTH of those experiences, together.  Suddenly, looking back, I understand some of the why of my journey. And I'm so grateful.

**K

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Easter Mosaic


The theme onboard for the Lent season and Easter was Mosaic.  The idea behind this is we are all a small piece of the bigger picture of the ship and community and all the tiny little pieces are important in and of themselves, but together, make up something beautiful. Catherine, one of the chaplains on board, made this mosaic out of paper, adding pieces each week throught the Lent season, until it's completion on Easter! 

Photo courtesy of Catherine, too. :) Krissy