Thursday, June 28, 2007

Final Photos

One more chance this evening to grab some photos of the Anastasis before she sails away. I have never seen the cargo holds so barren! While on a final walkthrough, I decided to take this frame from my office. I'd had it made in Ghana, but it didn't meet the specifications, so I had planned to just leave it behind. On my way back to the ship, I walked down the dock to grab some pictures of the two ships together, carrying the frame with me. A few people gave me a hard time about it and I joked that I would use it to frame the Anastasis. I took pictures of them holding the frame and then posed for a picture of my own. I did also get a few photos of the Anastasis and Africa Mercy together, some while standing atop a Land Rover and a few from the guardhouse. Annie's facing shore while the Africa Mercy shows her big backside.


I wept today. I had agreed to help my friend Jean B change a dressing on the face of an 11-year-old girl named Candy. It wasn't the wound that got to me (skip to the next paragraph if you are easily grossed out); I've had my arms up to my elbows in peoples hips and insides, I've smelled foul drainage, I've seen people in pain.

The tears rolled down Candy's cheeks, an occasional sob escaping her lips, this in spite of premedication with narcotics and ibuprofen, but she allowed us to do what needed to be done. When it became too much, Jean B cradled her against her chest and allowed her to cry. That's when it happened. Her father, who had been watching in the room as we tried to figure out a different way to secure the bandage, had had enough with her tears and rebuked her, telling her to stop crying and moving (I can only guess at the words for he speaks French, but the tone and movements made his opinion clear). I sent him out of the room with the translator, to wait until we were finished.

I couldn't help but be struck by the contrast between her father and mine. Thirty-one years ago Dad's arms of love and care held me as I cried and railed when he broke the news that my younger sister probably had a brain tumor and would die. I suspect his heart was breaking, too, can't imagine that it wouldn't have been. So, too, must Candy's dad's heart be shattered as he watches his daughter suffer not just the physical pain, but the rejection of people who don't want to be around her. Would you pray that Candy's dad would find a way to comfort her, even in his grief? That his grief, his frustration, would not distance him from the daughter he dearly loves?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Things I'll miss...and some I won't!

During my last week on board the Anastasis, I compiled a mental list of those things I would NOT miss when I moved to the Africa Mercy. It includes:

  • Kona cruisers: large cockroaches that appeared most frequently after I returned from an extended absence. For the first few mornings after my return, I would dance with them in the shower as they emerged from the drain and crept up my legs. Without my contacts in my only hope of seeing them was to catch a glimpse of a moving blur as my feet did a jig, first to knock them off and then to try to avoid crushing them. There was also the time I went for a walk in the evening and thought my sock was bunched up under my foot. Instead, I was squishing a Kona cruiser that had found a dark hiding place in my sneaker!
  • Exploding toilets. This was a problem when flushing was turned back on after being turned off for a while. If you didn't know that the flushing had been turned off, your first clue was usually the rusty seawater fountain that erupted when you flushed. Always good to flush with the lid down. Some toilets also flush with a roar under the best of circumstances. My first night back on board last year, I flew out of bed to look for a flood in my bathroom and discovered the racket was merely a neighbor flushing her toilet.
  • Slamming doors. The door from upper deck to aft deck by the bicycle rack. My cabin was right next to this, which meant I heard all the slams. I've been blessed with the ability to tune out most sounds, but after we had an intruder on board, they began locking the exterior doors at night. Each night there seemed to be someone who would go outside and not know the code to get back in, so he would rattle the door for several minutes. I never did adjust to that.
On the other hand, I will miss:
  • The chance to create storage out of nooks and crannies and unexpected places. With some initial inspiration from one of my early cabinmates, I began to see storage everywhere. Screws were replaced with hinges and a latch and my dropped ceiling became an attic. Raise a bed a foot or so, install sliding doors and voila, storage large enough to hold my motorcycle helmets as well as the ingredients for chocolate chip and no bake cookies (this too was the inspiration of another cabinmate). An electrical substation could become a pharmacy with high density, mobile shelving and a dark, dirty room could become a bright ward and later a crew clinic/office area. Shelves, cabinets, furniture, boxes...if there was space, I organized it and made it functional. Can't do that on the Africa Mercy, unless I can figure out a way to hang it with magnets! Plus, there aren't that many nooks and crannies.
  • That leads me to the next thing I will miss: the nooks and crannies, the odd turns of a corridor or bulkhead, the curved walls and original Italian art, even the 'fried egg' lamps. The Africa Mercy is very clean and institutional. Long straight corridors, doors always closed (fire regulations)...she hasn't yet developed a personality.
  • Toilets that generally flush, and if "flushing is off," then you can still bucket flush. My toilet hasn't worked very often on the Africa Mercy and when it doesn't, bucket flushing isn't an option.
  • The graceful lines of the exterior. The boxy exterior of the Africa Mercy fails to measure up to the regal bearing of the Anastasis. While the Anastasis is a slim, graceful princess, the Africa Mercy is a frumpy dowager. As I said in an earlier post, though, her beauty lies in what she brings to Africa rather than her appearance.
I better post this or I'll never get my newsletter written! Besides, do you really want to read any more about toilets and cockroaches?

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Old Ships online

Decide to Google the Lloyd Triestino Victoria tonight to see what I could find. That was the former name of the Anastasis when Mercy Ships purchased her. Here's the link to a page about the Victoria and sister ship Asia. The brochure called it a 'small but complete floating city.' Today when we show people around the ship, we mention that it is a floating village or town. On the Africa Mercy we even have an open, two-deck area that is called town-center.

Going back a bit earlier, I also sought pictures of the ships on which my ancestors emigrated from Hungary. OK, Hungary is landlocked, but they travelled over to Fiume, Italy and caught the ship there. My then 12-year old great-grandmother arrived at Ellis Island on the Cunard Pannonia in 1909. Her father had traveled over two years earlier on the Cunard Ultonia. A few years ago I discovered that the Ultonia was built in the Swan-Hunter yard on the Tyne, right next door and across the river from the A&P Tyne yards where the Africa Mercy underwent her refit. Both ships (toward bottom of the linked page), slightly shorter and smaller than the Anastasis, had capacities of 40 first-class passengers and 800 third class passengers. Those could NOT have been pleasant transatlantic journeys.

Speaking of the Africa Mercy, here are some earlier pictures from her years as the Danish rail ferry, Dronning Ingrid. There are a few that show the bow open and the rail deck visible. The rail deck now contains the hospital as well as offices for Community Development and Church Empowerment plus accommodations for many short-term crew. A new deck just above that houses cabins for more crew.

Anyway, I initiated tonight's searches because I just started reading Bob Welch's American Nightingale, about Frances Slanger, a US Army nurse who died at Normandy. She was a Polish Jew who immigrated to the US after World Ward I. I wanted to look up information about the Liberty ships that transported troops, some of which were built in as little as two weeks. Given the history of the refit of the Africa Mercy, I was curious. They emphasized function over form. President Roosevelt's observation about the Liberty could have been made about the Africa Mercy: "She isn't much to look at though, is she? A real ugly duckling." (pg. 6).

Back to the book...