This time last month I wrote about one of my favourite experiences in Cape Town, South Africa just before we sailed out of there on Friday, 17th October. So much has happened since then and it has all been exciting and new.
Sailing is fun .. most of the time. The first couple of days out of Cape Town were beautiful as we hugged the coast and headed to the cape. Even travelling around Cape Horn, which I have heard since High School days can be quite treacherous, was quite pleasant. Beautiful days, mild winds and just a little rocky. We were heading into a storm and trying to avoid it and we were also heading across the Mozambique current and had been told that could get a little rough. Well, it did!
On the Tuesday night, none of us slept at all. Charlotte had already moved her bed to the floor of the lounge room and we were rocking and rolling around. Dave describes this as being like a bag in the blood bank, constantly rocking backwards and forwards and side to side. By midnight we were all ready to stop and have this over and done with and at 3.20am the biggest “roll” we have ever experienced hit us. I measured 32 degrees on my phone app and several others have confirmed it. Needless to say there were many people walking around the ship for days tired and ready to get to some dry land.
By Thursday we had made it to the East Coast of Madagascar and were smooth sailing up to Tamatave (Toamasina). We arrived on the Saturday morning, in time for the President to launch “The Year of the Volunteer” and have Mercy Ships as the main focus of that. The port was full of people setting up for a massive day of celebration. I was up and photographing our arrival from 7.30am and by 9.30am I was on the dock photographing all the festivities and preparations.
The President and Prime Minister arrived before lunch, made speeches and welcomed us to Madagascar before having a tour of the ship and seeing the hospital. We then traveled by bus into town to a Year of the Volunteer celebration that was being held at the Hotel de Ville. More crowds, more speeches, more music and dancing and more festivities!
It was a huge day and I literally fell into bed that night exhausted!
While the hospital was cleaned and set up over the next week I was madly editing 1000 photos and putting our cabin back in place and getting ready for patient screening that was to happen the following week.
Screening takes place at a local hospital and potential patients turn up and are looked at by a nursing team and either given a patient card or told that we cannot help them. It is a very bittersweet experience. On the first day, nobody really knew what to expect. Would people turn up? Would they have heard about us? Would there be too many people? We drove to the screening centre early and as soon as I saw the massive line of people I burst into tears! It really was an amazing sight. To think of the needs of the people and the hope that we, as a hospital ship, can offer them was just a little overwhelming. I spent an incredible couple of days there, photographing people in the hope of finding some patients that we can follow and share their stories with world! It has been exciting to see the hospital open, to see those patients start to come in and be admitted and have their surgeries. It has been amazing to see joy restored to the faces. In these first weeks, I have spent all of my time with the orthopedic children. Some that were so serious, sad or shy when we first met them who are now transforming physically and emotionally before us as the days pass.
It has been an amazing journey! It has been wonderful to watch and even more exciting to be a part of … and this is only the beginning 🙂