Three years later…

So it has OFFICIALLY been three years since working with the organization Mercy ships (and thus three years since the last post on my blog). I think that’s considered a total “blog fail”…but needless to say, I’m now BACK on the ship and have three weeks left and wanted to give an update on life over here :).

I am presently on a night shift on the ship with a lovely dutch nurse. I have 12 patients tonight and they are all sleeping :). It has honestly been such a blessing to be back. When I left the last time, I remember being very READY to be finished with my time on the ship, but there is a part of me this time around that really doesn’t want to come home…I’m 50/50 at this point…

Madagascar itself is beautiful and the people are friendly and I love stammering thru my terrible french with the locals.  And I’m seeing the most wonderful things every day. Beyond the obvious amazing surgeries being done (one man had a 12 hr surgery yesterday to remove a very large 7.4 kg facial tumour), it’s the little things that I see every day that make me happy to be here. The patients are grateful for everything we do; they are kind and happy with the care they are given. And my favourite thing is seeing the confidence and HOPE that they walk off the ship with when they’re all healed up. I had a father/daughter within my patient assignment a week or so ago, and they had neurofibromas removed: the father had one dangling from his right forearm and the daughter had a 4.5 kg one dangling from the back of her neck). It’s honestly amazing seeing the ‘before’ and ‘afters’ of the two of them…because there is just this sense of hope that is etched on their faces as they walk from the ship free of their literal physical baggage. It’s something I don’t think I’ve seen in a while (and I see new life brought into the world on a ‘shift-ly’ basis at home ;)). So that’s interesting…

Anyhow, just a quick update. Things are well. If you’re wanting some ‘prayer’ requests, you could definitely pray for my health…I’m fighting off a cold…but I also am hoping to just use the last couple weeks of my time well. Also, I’m taking a Operating Room course online right now and it is demanding quite a bit of time…so a good balance between investing on the ship and doing schoolwork is needed. The good thing is that I’m surrounded by OR nurses and surgeons that I can drill with lots of questions…so total score 😉

And, as graciously stolen from the ship photographer, here are a couple photos of the father/daughter that I was able to care for and another little cutie that I had a dance party with while she ate her Mana…that contracture to her neck was released on the ship 🙂

Photo Credit Ruben Plomp, Jean (MGB16031) Neurofibroma

Photo Credit Ruben Plomp, Nina (MGB16018) Neurofibroma

Photo Credit Ruben Plomp, Nina (MGB16018) Neurofibroma

MGB150112_SANTA_PAT14349_PRE_OP_DOCKSIDE_RP016_LO

Have a good one!!

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Rewards.

I’ve officially hit the halfway mark on the ship!  Wow.  And I’m sure the next half will speed past me!

I just finished a set of 5 evening shifts…I actually didn’t think it’d be as busy as it was, but I was pleasantly surprised.  I feel in a bit of a haze truthfully.  I was taking care of a young lady for the first three shifts who isn’t doing well really.  I truthfully feel she’s on the last of her days/months.  I don’t know how often patients like this find themselves on the ship…I’m assuming not often, but I’ve had the chance to care for her a bit.  I give ‘palliative’ nurses a huge shout out, cause it’s both demanding and rewarding work…

And for the last couple shifts, I’ve been able to work with the VVF-ers.  Honestly.  It’s been a blessing the last couple days.  History taking went well last week…SO great to hear their stories….these women are wonderful and strong and make so many other ladies look like severe wimps (myself included)  I had a particular moment with one of my patients yesterday that I’m positive I’ll remember for the rest of my life…I’ll have to share it in person though…I just won’t do it justice here…

Anyhow, here’s more photos…Some that I took at the Hope Center (it’s basically a hotel for pre and post op patients…lots of VVF ladies waiting for their surgeries there)  I also included a few from the ship photographer…his work is amazing…

Here’s some from the Hope Center…

And the patterns and fabrics below?  A common sight in Togo…just sayin’…

And a few VVF ladies awaiting surgery below…my little white face poking up amidst them all…

The boy below is named Ali…I had him a few times as a patient..he’s been discharged now though…he’s a little sweet and a little spicy…Love it!

And here’s a couple from the ship photographer!  And really the only two photos I have of myself on the ship right now..

The boy below is Komla…he’s still on the ship…and he’s pretty hilarious…

And the only two pictures I have of myself on the ship…a little camera shy I suppose…

There you go!  4 weeks left…woohoo!

VVF ladies are almost here!

Time is flying, as per usual.

And I’m very excited for this weekend.  Wanted to write something before I head out.  I’m going to Ghana to visit a coworker of mine.  I actually can’t believe that things worked out.  Her and her husband are from Ghana and opened a clinic there after working in Canada for ‘however many’ years.  So I’m crossing the border into Ghana tomorrow morning with a group from the ship and then will be leaving the group in Accra and heading to visit with my coworker for the night!  I’m excited.

For the most part, it’s nice living on the ship and I actually feel weird saying it, but it’s almost TOO comfortable.  I told a friend recently, but I think I may have had some defined expectations about what life on the ship would be like, and those expectations DID NOT include warm showers, buffet meals, air conditioning and Starbucks coffee. I was actually prepared to feel quite “gross” actually (like showers every three days and straight up beans and rice AT LEAST once a day), but that’s not the case.  And for the most part, I’m thankful for ship life, but I just feel like I’m missing out on so many good “cultural” experiences by living with North American comforts on the ship.  It’s been a weird adjustment and really just unexpected…

That said, I’ve been trying to wander a bit off ship…in the markets and such.  And I am SO VERY excited for Monday because we start screening the VVF ladies!!!  I cannot describe the excitement in my gut…these women have been on a waitlist since 2010 and although there are apparently 78 women coming, only 50 will be accepted for surgery.  I’ll be taking health histories, and will be communicating through a translator, so I hope that I can get the most accurate stories that I can from these women.  Many of the women come from very remote areas, and speak quite a few different languages, so accuracy in communication and translating would be a big prayer request for Monday…

Anyhow, here’s some photos…as per promise…

Around Lome…In the markets and such…

And here’s a few on the dock by the ship…..lots of people gather just beside the ship for follow-up appointments…

And I’ll end with the kid below…cause he’s cute…was dancing (go figure) all around the dock and stuff…

Oh buoy!

Bahaha!  Cheesy title…

I cannot believe how quickly the time is flying…I’ve already been a week on the ship!  It’s a bit surreal being here.  After years of looking at photos and thinking about coming and now seeing these thoughts come to fruition…I’m finally here! Totally nuts.

The first week has been both good and hard.  I’m being taught lessons in this first week that I wasn’t expecting (both spiritually and ‘intellectually’).  I’ve mentioned it to a few, but I’m working on the ‘plastics’ unit right now.  Lots of burns and grafts and weird facial tumours that you’d likely never see anywhere but in the third world.  The ward is basically two huge rooms that are joined at the front…ten beds in each (so twenty beds total).  It’s borderline hilarity cause it’s like a huge family (I truthfully wouldn’t expect anything different in Africa). The beds are close together but you also have family members and caregivers sleeping UNDER those beds.  And if that doesn’t seem busy enough, here’s a story: A couple days ago a few of the day workers (they’re from Togo and the surrounding area and help out with translating and MANY other things) picked up a guitar and a drum and started playing out a beat and rapping different patients names.  WELL…the children (with dressings around their little heads and everything) just started dancing around.  I even caught a lady breastfeeding and dancing at the same time.  Middle aged men: Dancing.  Sick young boys: Dancing.  And truthfully, I don’t think there was one face in that ward without a smile on it…it was pure smiles for a solid thirty minutes or so…twenty beds and all…

Absolutely awesome…

Anyhow, there are a couple other initial things I’ve seen:

1)   The ship definitely sways…it’s doesn’t make me sick in any way and you don’t realize it until you sit in one place and look out a window…but the swaying is definitely there…a reminder of where I am.

2)   Togo is nothing like Uganda.  Different language, not as much ‘greenery’, no red dirt and quite a bit more humid (the second I step out the doors of the ship I look like Monica from Friends in the heat)…and when you’re in town, it looks like buckets of sand were dumped all over the city…it’s pretty awesome..

Anyhow, that’s it for now!  Thanks so much for your prayers and support during this ‘transition’ time.  When I have those encouraging moments over here I always wonder if someone is praying for me at that very moment…so thank you!

And I’ll post photos with the next post….just fyi.

Last week in Uganda ;)

Hey guys!

So I’m officially on the ship now!  It’s been a long couple of days of travel and orientation and I will share shortly on my time so far…but I wanted to share a bit about my last week in Uganda!  Seriously, when I was there I felt like the time was going slowly…but in fact, it flew!  And there were some definite things that stood out in the second week…RANDOM thoughts…but here they are:

1)   Was able to help out at Ekisa in drawing blood on just about all the children there.  I’ve never been ‘trained’ in Canada to draw blood on children OR infants for that matter…but now I can check both of those off my list…Hah!  I’ve also proven myself very good at pinning children down for blood work too…so if you need someone, you know who to call.

2)  I wrote about a boy named Isaac and his dad in a previous post…and Isaac is now officially an Ekisa kid!  So he’s being cared for at the home by the momma’s and volunteers…good and bad news I suppose…but he’s looking well…)

3)  Was able to visit Calvary Chapel in Kampala twice during my time there…it’s a church planted there by a pastor from the States.  They have a Ugandan choir that leads worship and (for the most part) you feel like you’re at a Kirk Franklin concert for worship…minus Kirk Franklin of course…if you know who that is…

4)  Lots of power outages in Jinja…don’t remember that from years past, but it was both frustrating and kinda simple and nice…

5)   At one point I remember sitting in a van in the middle of a village of very poor children leafing though an Instyle magazine thinking how vain our culture is and how I fall right into it while living in North America…It was the weirdest and most interesting thing to see/experience…

And my last thought!  I was able to take a few trips out to Mpigi from Kampala to visit the kids there.  And truthfully?  I love these kids.  They are smart and funny and most of them are completely hilarious.  I just love them.  And I always enjoy visiting with them because it’s so peaceful up on the hill where they live.  It’s quiet and life is simple and there aren’t any ipads or laptops or telephones ringing off the hook.  For the most part, It’s just the chickens and roosters and breeze and there’s children playing soccer and net ball.  And they eat food that comes straight from the backyard and eat it with their fingers…It’s just the most perfect little community and I’m so thankful to have been able to see it upfront as much as I have…

Anyhow, here’s photos from Mpigi…

Mpigi town from my hilltop guest house…

Momma Paige and Harriet…sat and chatted with them a while waiting for the kids to get back from school…

And some kiddos…I shouldn’t really call them ‘kiddos’…because they’re all getting SO big!

And some more momma’s…

And some more of the kids…

Wearing my things….

And this sweet thing little thing…Her name’s Juliet and she has the softest, cutest little voice now!  She’d whisper to me in Lugandan and I’d reply in English and then she’d speak in Lugandan and I’d reply in English and we’d go on like that for a while…non-sensically speaking to each other…

And I also sat across from her for a meal of matooke…hadn’t planned on eating with the kids and ate before I visited for that very reason…but one of the momma’s sat the bowl in front of me…what can you do?

There you go! Next post will be about the ship!

The week that flew away.

It has been an entire week in Uganda….wow!  I feel like a lot has happened and I don’t know where to start…this post might get long…

I started in Jinja for a few days with a friend.  She works for an organization called Ekisa Ministries.  Although much of my time there was simply visiting with my friend, we spent a bit of time at one of the Jinja hospitals.  A young man had, well, ‘attempted’ to drop off a boy at Ekisa.  The boy was very malnourished at the time and through a bit of conversing, it was found out that the man was actually the boy’s dad and didn’t seem to have the means to care for the son…there is a bit more to the story, but to make things quick, when I arrived in Jinja the staff at Ekisa were trying to help out the dad by paying for some hospital fees, medications and also helping with re-feeding his son.

That said, I ended up staying with my friend at the hospital for a bit of time.  I brought the boy for one of his chest x-rays and learned a bit about formulas that are used for re-feeding…it was both interesting and heartbreaking.  I kept trying to figure what this boy’s quality of life would look like in the year’s to come.  By the time I got there I was told he was looking much better than when he’d first arrived…but it’s hard to think that this poor boy might be sent home with a dad who might not care properly for his son.  They ended up being sent home after a course of antibiotics (as they believed the boy had pneumonia) and the dad was told to come back for more formula for feeding.  At this point in time, I think the dad has come back at least once for formula, but continued prayer would be a welcome thing for him and his son!  Prayer seems to be the only thing you can do in some situations…

After those first few days, I feel like I have done LOTS of travelling around.  I went to Mukono on my own from Jinja and met up with a team from my old church in Ontario…got to see the project they are involved with over here and then I headed over to Kampala for a day and a bit on my own.  My friend met up with me there and we headed to Mpigii where another church of mine has a partnership.  For those who’ve heard me talk of Uganda, Mpigii is the place that I’ve visited a few times before…and it has been an absolute blessing to be back here!

Anyhow, I’m presently in Mpigii on my own.  My friend headed back to Jinja this morning.  I’m waiting for the kids to get out of school and then I’ll head over there for another quick visit.  I’m staying at a guesthouse on the top of a hill (kinda reminds me of the movie “psycho” but I’m trying not to think about it too much…bahaha!).  There’s a sit down toilet and legit shower though, so two thumbs up from me otherwise!

ALL of that said, heres some photos from the first few days at Ekisa…I’ll dedicate another post to the Mpigii kids and will include some photos if you’re wondering…

Cuddled the kiddo below for quite a bit…his mother eagerly handed him to me…I graciously accepted…

Stacy handed out some hugs of her own…

The group of volunteers and momma’s at Ekisa…

And here’s a couple (below) of the day I spent with my Ontario church…

Hello from Uganda!

Given that I don’t really have another place to write updates on my present trip…..I’m officially hijacking my photography blog for such purposes…tisk tisk!  I’ll try and post lots of photos to make up for it.

If you’ve followed the ‘blog,’ I’ve been to Uganda several times before and will be here for the next two-ish weeks….but my main reason for coming back to Africa is to work for an organization called Mercy ships.  I start mid-march and will be working in Togo, Africa. Crazy!

Anyhow, I arrived in Uganda late last night and conveniently found a couple others at my backpackers hostel that were making their way up to Jinja today…so I smashed myself into a couple of public transit buses with them and I now sit at a restaurant in Jinja awaiting a good friend of mine to come and find me.  I just re-registered my Ugandan phone and “apparently” it won’t be up and running for another couple hours or so (or so I’m told).  Fingers crossed…..

That said, I plan on staying in Jinja for the next week or so, visiting another friend that is close to here at some point this week and then hope to spend a week and a bit in Kampala/Mpigi visiting more friends.  My heart honestly feels so full that I’ll be able to be back in Uganda for visits…..oh my!  Can’t wait…

Anyhow, that’s it for now.  Mostly wanted to write and say that I’m safe and happy and excited about the next few weeks!  It’s so, SO good to be back here right now…so good!

-cheryl

Getting back into it…

I’m back from India….now in Ontario! And a lovely friend let me know that I haven’t updated this in a LONG time….and there’s also lots to share! So I’ll do my best the next few weeks

For now, here’s a verse I read last night….comforting…..and a couple photos from my time in India in July (there were actually taken while visiting the slums….)

Enjoy!

“Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is out refuge.”  –Psalm 62:8

New Blog!!

So I got a little bored of my old blog….so here’s my new one!!

Much to come up on here….including a couple weddings and a family session!

But just a COUPLE more uganda photos before I get to the other stuff…..and then I’ll leave the topic alone for a while…

A group photo:

And a photo of Mary Kevin…I don’t have a clue what she’s doing and I like it…