September 9, 2018 by kshearon12
Bonsoir from Guinea, West Africa!
It is crazy to think that back when I started this blog (over 5 years ago now, yikes!) I was preparing for my first trip to this lovely country which was also my first visit to the continent of Africa. So much is familiar yet much has changed. We are about to start the second week of surgery here on-board the AFM and the weeks have been slipping by. So this first post from Guinea doesn’t bombard you with words I thought photos would do nicely to let you see what the last few weeks have been like for us.
We arrived on a wet Saturday morning in mid-August. It is rainy season here so you never know what sort of weather to expect. I have had gorgeous beach days without a touch of rain only to get completely soaked traveling back to the ship. There have also been a fair share of days where it rains off and on all day and then others where it has decided to remain pleasantly overcast which provides cooler temps for us. It is nice to see that this Minnesotan can still chat about crazy weather half a world away!
Arriving into the country was very exciting and a flurry of activity. Despite all the rain we had lots of people on the dock to welcome the ship into port with music and dancing. Thankfully the rain let up just in time for the formal program where we were officially welcomed into the country and had our first visitors on-board.
After a rest on Sunday it was all hands on deck (literally) as we started to get the ship ready to see patients. This included cleaning and getting the hospital setup. It also meant getting ready for the large screening that was to take place in a week’s time.
It is always fun to see the hospital come together. The wards are used as storage for items during the sail and it is hard to imagine them filled with patients. Little by little the things get cleared out and put away, the floors and walls are scrubbed along with all the beds, tables, and other supplies that are needed to make up a hospital.
On Monday the 20th of August we had our large patient screening at a local facility in Conakry. It was our largest screening day of this field service and 6,000 hopeful potential patients waited in line to be seen. It was a challenging day as crowds gathered before sunrise, but all who came were able to be seen by our screening team. Not all conditions can be treated by the ship, however, so it was a hard day for many. Patients that were selected at this mass screening day came back to an evaluation day later in the week for a more in-depth appointment. I was able to help take demographic information at one of these days and it was a blessing to be a part of this process and a first for me. A few of the interested things I learned that day is: Pigeon English is strange because I can sort of understand what is being said but if I spoke back to the patient in English they had a hard time understanding me. It uses English words so it sounds familiar but yet it is very different than traditional English. Also that in one of local languages (SuSu) their numbers are all spoken in French. Makes me wonder if it is more of a conversational language vs one that is used for business.
Pictured above is the current Hospital Support Services team which comprises of Pharmacy, Radiology and of course the Laboratory. We seem to be invaded by Aussies (5 of the 9 of us) which I am totally okay with. The other countries we call home include: the Bahamas, Canada, Scotland and of course the US. Another interesting fact is that I am the only non-Commonwealth-er currently in my hallway. This photo was our only team dinner we are able to attend off-ship because it was before the hospital opened and we didn’t have to carry pagers yet. I can’t think of a better team to start the field service with!
It is easy to be a millionaire in Guinea! Picture at the left above is 1 million Guinea Francs (about $111 USD). The largest bill the country has equals about $2 USD. This means you are always walking around with a wad of cash it seems! The photo on the right is the lab team. This was the day we had our first patient samples, we were all very excited and ready to get the field service started!
The last few weeks have not been free of challenges. I have spent quite a bit of my time dealing with supply issues and finding creative solutions to make what we have work until what we need arrives. The Lord has brought this verse to my mind numerous times over the last few weeks as a reminder of what He can do with my puny faith. Also what power He gives to those who are His children if only we rise up to take it. This gives me great hope!
“The Lord answered, ‘If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘May you be uprooted and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you!'” — Luke 17:6
Would you join with me in praying for the following:
- Our patients as they journey to the ship and for their surgeries and recovery
- That we will be a light to the people of Guinea
- Finding smooth processes for getting supplies into the country and God’s provision to supply what we need when we need it.
- For the country of Cameroon. Since we left there has been continued unrest between the French and English speaking regions. Please pray for peace over the situation and for safety the people there.