Published: February 6th 2012February 6th 2012
Today marks 2 weeks since my arrival to Lome, Togo, West Africa. It is hard to believe such time has gone by so quickly. So where shall I begin……
Life in West Africa on board the Africa Mercy has taken some adjusting to and the concept that we live on a huge vessel remains slightly foreign. Although we remain in port there are moments when I can feel the subtle sway of the ship from side to side (some rooms on the ship definitely worse that others). With that said, my past tendency to get motion sick has been under control….with the help of a little Gravol from time to time!
I have managed to get lost enough times that I feel like I’m starting to know my way around. Between the multiple sets of stairwells and obscure hallways I have found myself going in circles on more than one occasion. The ship (and I’ve learnt not to call or refer to it as a “boat”!) is made up of 7 full decks with a small 8th
deck with an outside pool (but it remains unfilled at the moment). The majority of nursing/ medical staff has their cabins on the 3rd
deck just steps from the hospital/wards. There is nothing like walking to work!! My cabin #3426 is a 6 berth room with three sets of bunks and one small bathroom. Each of the three little “cubbies” is separated with a curtain and has a double cupboard, a desk and a few shelves. It is tight living quarters but I must say I’ve been blessed with great roommates!! The beds are comfortable, the showers are hot, the food is delicious, and the coffee is good with a Starbucks on ship where you can purchase a frappuccino, cappuccino, or americano for under a dollar! But more importantly the people on board, whether short term (months) or long term (years) have been more than friendly and welcoming. I must say that it has been a unique experience living with and among people from 30 different Nation!
The past 2 weeks has consisted of many orientation days in preparation for our upcoming surgeries, meetings, team building exercises, worship, and cultural talks/seminars from crew members as well as local Togolese people. We have learnt a bit about the history of Togo and West Africa, common practices, beliefs, religion, spirits, voodoo, health issues, Togolese people, and our potential impact on this Nation through our work as a collective team…..we who call ourselves Mercy Ships!! We like to refer to these talks as ‘talks that start talk’.
A few facts to put things into perspective:
Life expectancy at birth in Norway
= 81 years old vs. Togo
= 57 years old. (World Health Organization, WHO)Average daily wage: Norway
= $170 per person/per day vs. Togo
= $2.13 per person/per day (38.7% live on less than $1.25 per day). (WHO)Dentists: Norway
= 4,445 dentists for 5 million people (1 Dentist for every 1,125 people) vs. Togo
= 18 dentists for 6 million people (1 Dentist for every 333,333 people). (WHO)Doctors: Norway
= 20,000 doctors for 5 million people (1 doctor for every 250 people) vs. Togo
= 318 doctors for 6 million people (1 doctor for every 18,868 people). (WHO)
That’s all for now!! More to come about West Africa, SCREENING DAY, and work on the ward!