We have arrived in Senegal!!
We arrived on Wednesday last week (14th) after a sail of only a few days, and all is well. However, since our last update, there's a few things to catch up on, which we will do in chronological order...
The last update was from Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, where the ship was in dry dock. It was important that we went back into the water in time, and though we were delayed by a few days, it actually worked out quite well.
The projects that needed finishing got finished right up to the last minute, and we have a working vessel!
Amy & Louis returned to Las Palmas on the 13th July which was great; families were either taking holiday, or they were housed ashore in rented apartments if the working parent was required to be working on board, which included Ally. So we had an apartment ashore for two weeks, just the three of us, and it was wonderful! Ally either ran or cycled the four kilometres to the ship and back, and we had home-cooked food for two weeks. We would happily go back there!
But alas, we returned to living on board the ship on Friday 26th July with the rest of the families. That weekend saw a lot of our friends return, and new long-term Crew embark also.
Ally had been covering as the Acting Managing Director for almost two months before handing back to Warrie the regular MD, which freed Ally up to take a couple of days off before we left Las Palmas.
After a few days testing equipment and getting the ship ready, we sailed to Tenerife as part of our sea-trials. There were lots of things to test after shipyard which requires taking the ship out for a spin, and we use this opportunity to sail to Tenerife to get us out of the shipyard mindset, amongst other reasons. We had a week in Tenerife which was good for everyone.
The Africa Mercy (left) docked in Tenerife, facing the Ventura cruise ship (right). We always thought the Africa Mercy was big until Ally took this picture from across the water!
Ally was able to take a couple of days off between getting the ship back in the water and sailing to Dakar, which meant family time ashore having coffee and a pastry. Louis is getting BIG!
Louis is 2!
Back in Las Palmas we also celebrated Louis's 2nd birthday!! We spent the day at one of our favourite spots on the island as a family, and spent most of the day wondering how we have ended up with a 2-year old. For his birthday we bought him a scooter he got attached to when in a shop, and he has got incredibly good on it in such a short amount of time. So good in fact, that Ally had to buy an adult one just to keep up with him! They've started their own scooter gang...
He continues to be a favourite around the ship and is growing so quickly. He's a gem, and still makes us laugh daily - our favourite right now is every time we put his socks and shoes on he says "bye bye toes"! Adorable.
Ally taking a day off meant a Father-Son day out. With some of Louis's birthday money we took a trip to the Aquarium in Las Palmas!
Louis, his birthday scooter, and his ship in Tenerife
Arriving in Dakar, Senegal
As mentioned at the beginning, we arrived in Dakar last Wednesday, to a full reception.
Our Advance Team were out in force on the dock to wave us in, and we gladly accepted their invitation to pull alongside and dock at our new berth space which will be home for the next 10 months.
That same evening we were honoured to host the First Lady of Senegal who put on an arrival ceremony for us. She came for a brief tour and some speeches, officially welcoming us to Senegal.
Ally's view of the Arrival Ceremony, where Mercy Ships' CEO, Donovan Palmer, addressed the First Lady and the attending media (it was streamed live on TV across West Africa).
The next day our CEO, MD and others were invited for lunch with the President! A proper welcome!
The Crew waved flags from all over the world as we arrived in Senegal.
Everyone pretty much got straight into action mode when the gangway landed and we got a lot setup before the weekend. Ally is project-managing the setup period, made easier by working with great people. Everyone worked very hard to get things in place before a well-earned rest at the weekend for most people.
We managed to explore a little bit around Dakar at the weekend with friends, hopping in a taxi and a small boat to an island called Ngor. It was an exploration that ended up at the beach drinking a beer and trying some local food. Ideal way to start the field service!
Sunday was all about finding the best Shawarma, and we might have struck gold on the first attempt thanks to a recommendation from a friend. We went out with a new family and introduced them to 'Shawarma Sunday' - the ship doesn't serve lunch at the weekends, so it's packed lunch or finding something affordable in town. At £2 a shawarma, it doesn't break the bank thankfully, and a good way to get to know some of our new Crew mates.
Then the week started again with plenty of work to do, especially getting everything ready for the first patients to arrive in a couple of weeks. I've been discussing this week with a few people that I find it quite incredible that we go from a sea in the open water, all equipment packed up & secured and still a bit filthy from shipyard, to a fully-functional surgical hospital providing safe, clean surgery in just 26 days, all achieved by a team of volunteers from around the world, some of whom met each other just 2 minutes before starting on a difficult task together.
One of the tents inflated on the dock the day after the ship arrived. All four tents are now up and are being hooked up ready for the Hospital team to move in.
There's plenty to explore in Dakar and Amy & Louis have a few places on their list to check out. We will explore more next weekend, and on Thursday as Ally takes the day off for his birthday.
Amy is always on the look-out for the local places where we can get to know some local people and hopefully find everything we need at local prices! A few of the big supermarkets are owned by big international corporations, so it's nice to be able to support the local economy if we can find the right places.
Ally explored the plateau on his bike with a friend on Sunday, and there is definitely plenty to see here in Dakar. The prayer is that we find the patients that need our care, and willing participants for our training courses. We have been welcomed so well, and we have been all over the news here, so hopefully we have reached the people that need what we have to offer here in Senegal.
We are still fundraising for our time with Mercy Ships. If you'd like to become a regular supporter, joining Team Jones to help us with our costs as we volunteer full-time on board the Africa Mercy, then you can sign-up to donate here: www.mercyships.org.uk/donate/.
Your gifts help us to pay our Crew Fees, insurance, travel and personal expenses to keep us clothed and clean. There's an option at the bottom of that page to designate your gift to us. We still have a little way to go to meeting our monthly goal, so every gift helps!!
The next update will come soon but that's all to report for now! As always we enjoy hearing from you all so we keep in touch with the 'real world' or whatever you want to call it.
Peace and love,
Louis, Amy & Ally