Well that was quite the start to the year 2019!
I find myself again apologising for the delayed blog update / newsletter, but hopefully you'll understand when you read what's been going on!
2019 didn't start the way we intended, with a sickness bug that kept me confined to our cabin for FIVE DAYS. We have rule on board that you're not allowed to leave your cabin until 48-hours after your GI bug symptoms last showed themselves. I thought I was in the clear, for the bug to have one final word. I even had to miss an informal New Year's drinks party at the British Ambassador's residence. Not quite the story of Job, but it wasn't my favourite week... cabin fever is definitely a thing, by the way.
The ship resumed surgeries the week after that, so it was straight into action for everyone.
Do you remember that Amy went to Madagascar? She hadn't quite penned her thoughts by the last update, but she has since written a blog post on her own site. It is an AMAZING story, and you must go read her blog post here:
My Mum and Dad visited us for three weeks, which was fantastic! I joked that they really only came to see Louis, but I think Louis took that literally; he loved seeing his grandparents and hanging out with them.
We stayed on board for the first two weeks, as the ship's Managing Director was on a work trip, so I stood in for some of her duties. This added to my workload a bit, so was actually very nice for Amy to have some help with Louis while I had extra things on my plate.
However, we adventured when we could, and the pictures are us heading to one of the nearby islands for an overnight stay on Mum & Dad's first weekend with us with some friends. It was amazing to see them back in Africa together, and both enjoying a beach shack environment for a couple of days.
In the picture you see Martha (far left) who is a fellow long-term Crew member from Scotland. She is the Lead Radiographer on board, and a great friend. She invited Tori (second from the right) to visit, as Tori used to work on board. Christina (far right) comes twice a year to teach Sterilisation techniques as part of our Medical Capacity Building projects. She set up her own NGO (SPECT) and we always look forward to her visits.
So cabin fever well & truly gone, it was time to start planning the next trip. We had heard from our ship colleagues who had travelled around Guinea that there were some very beautiful spots outside the city. We had only really dipped our toes in the countryside of Guinea, so with Mum & Dad here we saw an opportunity to explore. I took a week off work, and we headed for Dalaba, a well-recommended location for some R&R. Dalaba is said to be the highest town in Guinea, which means a slightly cooler climate, waterfalls, greenery, and a different atmosphere than we have been used to since we arrived.
It was just what we needed. After two days travel in a small car we reached Dalaba and our little guesthouse. Mum & Dad decided to grab every opportunity they could while they were with us, so we headed for the waterfalls after a short tour of the town. There's a house in Dalaba where some government officials and rising activists first started discussions about independence from France. Guinea was the first Africa country in the 50's to gain independence, and did so by cutting all ties with France. We got to see the very house where these first discussions took place:
From there we headed out a short distance from the guesthouse. We stopped by some agricultural fields by the banks of a small stream. The produce looked incredible, and people travel for miles to work there. Eventually the produce travels further than the people. It was amazing, and these fields go on for about 50km downstream.
The waterfalls themselves were very cool. Took about an hour to walk there in the blazing sun, but it was well worth it.
We arrived back on the ship on Saturday for Mum & Dad to fly out that evening. It went very quickly, but was a very special time with them. We got talking about their stories from Ethiopia in the 70's - stuff I had never heard before! Hopefully their book will be out some time later this year ;)
So it's been busy, but good busy. Looking ahead we are making plans to be back in the UK in April. I have been asked by the Mercy Ships UK office to help with this year's Spring Harvest conferences, and we are looking into the possibility of Amy & Louis coming, too.
This is proving to be a very enjoyable field service in Guinea, with its own inevitable challenges. But it takes one look at what has been accomplished to put it all in perspective.
So far here in Guinea (as of 9th Feb) we have performed 1,456 free surgeries, and seen over 5,000 Dental patients.
Over 900 people have been mentored or attended a Medical Capacity Building course. It really is a privilege to be here, and we are a part of something very special.
We are generally doing really well. We are looking ahead with optimism and excitement, and have been so blessed these last few weeks.
We are continually thankful for everyone who supports our service wit Mercy Ships; we couldn't do it without you, which means you too are a part of something very special!
This is the point where I say I will do another update soon, so we'll see how that goes!! But for now, thank you for reading, and please get in touch with us; we love to hear what's happening in your worlds.
Lots of love,
Ally, Amy & Louis.
if you would like to support us financially, you can choose one of these options:
1. www.mercyships.org.uk/donate/ - making sure you select the "support a Crew member" option
3. CrewMates - US people
4. if you would like to send money straight to us, get in touch and we will will get you the details!
instagram: @allyjones85 // @tollingtonjones
twitter: @ally_jones // @Tollojones