January 15, 2012 – Back in the Saddle Again!

January 15, 2012 – Back in the Saddle Again!

Greetings from Lome Togo!

I arrived back to the ship safely, after what was a wonderful holiday. The time in England was sad, but good. I was so glad that I visited John’s sister and brother-in-law and their children in England, and was able to lend a hand where I could. It was difficult to leave Ann, as she certainly could use the companionship and assistance at this point.

Florida was an amazing break. First my sister Judy arrived for a week, then I spent time with my Dad and Step Mom …then my three children and one son-law arrived for Christmas. After Christmas, I spent my last week with a wonderful friend from Ontario. By the time it was all over, I felt rested, and ready to return to the ship.

Ready that was, until I discovered that Anna’s lower bunk that was supposed to be mine this year…was being slept in by someone else! At 11:30 pm, I ended up moving all of my things out of my berth, and into the one next to it. By the time I put all of that away, and all the contents of my suitcases, I fell into bed at 3:00 am! I am still in the same cabin- just in a different berth. Currently I am in the lower bunk. Francis has moved out to a three berth, so it will be Polly from USA/Brazil and Annika from Germany and myself at this point. Polly and I will share a berth. She returns tomorrow, and that’s when the negotiation starts for the lower bunk! I have included a photo of the view from our cabin porthole…not much, as you can see!

From the minute we landed in Togo, I knew that this country was very different from that of Sierra Leone. Cleaner, wider streets, not a ton of people out and about…more numerous types of trees and generally less chaos and mayhem. There were even lit Christmas lights on the way from the airport! I am very glad that if funds were going to be raised for Day Workers to come on board, we did it for George and Frank from Sierra Leone. Although it is hard to accurately judge the circumstances here after just a few days, there feels like there is an atmosphere of hope and opportunity in Togo.

I purchased two laptops while I was in Florida, which were shipped to Texas and will be packed in the next available container being sent to Togo. George and Frank’s insurance and DTS training fees have all been paid, and there is funding for a year’s worth of crew fees, along with a small growing account for their on-line studies. Many thanks to each of you who have generously sent in donations to support George and Frank.

I was delighted to realize that I did not have to start back at square one, regarding getting used to the ship and those awful claustrophobic feelings I experienced last year. I did not suffer much at all from jet lag…and started work the next morning, unpacking the sterilizing rooms (which in my absence had all been packed up for the sail).The week was filled with cleaning, sorting and organizing. It was amazing how dirty everything had become during the sail. Everything has to be re-sterilized in time for the start of surgery the first week of February. I am trying to ‘borrow’ someone to help me, as George and Frank are in Ghana for training, and Juan is not returning from holidays until surgery begins.

I went out with a few fellow Gateway members on Thursday night after the Community meeting. We went to the near-by Seamen’s Centre. It is run by a Christian mission, and was created to provide sailors with an option from that of seedy bars and prostitutes. It is a nice place, with a swimming pool, food, drinks, internet access and open and covered places to sit and talk. They charge a nominal fee for each of the services. They run a shuttle bus which picks up folks from the ships (including ours) at 6:00 and 6:30 pm, and there is also a return shuttle.

Saturday, was Dan’s birthday (from Gateway). Many of us gathered at a near-by German Restaurant for dinner. It was an amazingly beautiful place…I found it hard to believe I was in Togo!

Currently the dust storms from the Sahara are hitting Togo -called the Harmattan sand storms. It is a slightly spooky feeling as the sun is out, but is seen only through the clouds of dust and sand. The quality of light is also affected. Although the air is filled with this debris, it does not seem to lie on everything…although certainly you can see it covering the plants and trees nearby. I believe these storms can come and go for the next several months. If I had realized these storms were arriving, I would have taken some pictures on my first few days here- when the sun was out, showing the landscape in all of its beauty.

So far there are about 150 people on board out of the expected 450. A large number are due back the next two weeks…that’s when I will start hiding out in my cabin.

I received an invitation to re-join the Women’s Prison Outreach in Togo this year. I decided to decline, as I would like to get involved in something different this time around. I shall see what the options are, and how they fit in with my work schedule.
I have emailed and spoken to Anna, my former bunk mate. She is staying at her Dad’s in the U.K. and is grappling with living back in the Western world. She will do a short stint back in Oxford as a Physio, and then plans to travel in Africa …with a stop arranged at the ship in Togo. She feels lonely, so it was great to be able to speak with her. I do miss her!

Well, I guess that is all for now. I will brush up on the history and culture of Togo, and include it in my next posting.

Hope you and yours had a wonderful Christmas season, and that the New Year will bring health and happiness to each of you.

Many thanks for your wonderful support and encouragement. I couldn’t be here, if I didn’t have you!

Much love, Jane

PS The love boat has struck again… Reika (from Gateway) is now engaged to Darryl from the UK!

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