22 February 2015

Minister of Health's visit and speech

We were privileged to have Madagascar's Minister of Health visit our floating home last week. The following was written for our community by our incredible friend Ally Jones.  The Minister of Health's speech was especially meaningful to all of us - we're thankful for the Truth that he experienced and spoke of.  (For our American friends, think "member of Cabinet" or "Secretary" when you read "minister of.")

On Friday 13th February, the newly appointed Minister of Health for the Republic of Madagascar, Prof. Mamy Lalatiana ANDRIAMANARIVO, visited the Africa Mercy.
Prof. Andriamanarivo had visited earlier in the field service as a guest of the former Minister of Health & Prime Minister, Roger Kolo.
This time he received his own personal tour of the Hospital from Dr Gary Parker. He was introduced to some of our patients & nurses.
In the International Lounge, Roland & Kirstie presented our plans for Madagascar, highlighting what we want to achieve by June 2016.

Prof. Andriamanarivo was very impressed, and gave a response speech that is well worth sharing with you all (disclaimer: the recording missed some of the speech - some of the first paragraph is written from memory):
Many people have come to Africa to help the people
There were missionaries before you
There once was a missionary called David Livingstone
He did great things for the people, providing Hospitals & clinics
And he talked about Jesus
When other missionaries came after him
They talked about Jesus
But the people said we know about your Jesus, we heard already about him
And they thought Jesus was David Livingstone.

Ladies & gentlemen, my point is
There’s a major gap between saying something and doing it.
Many people are talking
Many people are saying a lot of great things
When it comes to actually doing it
Very few can actually do something
You are a true example of great missionary work
And you are actually doing Jesus’ work

In the name of the President,
In the name of the Prime Minister,
In the name of everybody in the Ministry of Health
In the name of all 22 million Malagasy people
I really want to tell you from the bottom of my heart
What you are doing is amazing
I can only promise you the Ministry of Health will do everything to allow you to do your work in the best condition possible.
Thank you so much, you are such wonderful people.
We thank Prof. Andriamanarivo for coming & praying for a strong relationship with the Ministry of Health in Madagascar.

Prof. Andriamanarivo talking to the press after the presentation.
Surely there will be more to come.

18 February 2015

Oh the Places We'll go - and how we might get there

"Don't get run over by a Tuk Tuk!"  
"Can we get there by Pousse Pousse?"

Those are 2 phrases that have been added to our repertoire of "phrases we never imagined we'd be saying" since we've been here in Tamatave, Madagascar. 

Fun (obvious) fact of the day:  transportation in Madagascar is different from transportation in the US of A. 

Where one might use the phrase "planes, trains and automobiles" to describe transportation in America (along with the occasional bus or subway in cities with smart public transport systems) - in Madagascar, the phrase would be more like  "tuk tuks, pousse pousse, and taxi brousse."  There are certainly cars here but they aren't the primary mode of transportation - especially here in Tamatave (and most everywhere else in the country other than Tana, the capital). 

Seeing how people get themselves (and their possessions) around in this country has been educational and entertaining!  From the fun, classic cars and motor bikes to the tuk tuks and pousse pousse, you never quite know what you might see as you're walking/running/riding down the street.   

Sidenote: All definitions below come to you via Wikipedia....so this wealth of knowledge may or may not be completely unreliable (in this case, it sounds reliable to us). 

Pousse-Pousse (pronounced poose poose)
"Rickshaws, known as pousse-pousse, were introduced by British missionaries. The intention was to eliminate the slavery-associated palanquin. Its name pousse-pousse, meaning push-push, is reportedly gained from the need to have a second person to push the back of the rickshaw on Madagascar's hilly roads. They are a common form of transport in a number of Malagasy cities, especially Antsirabe, but are not found in the towns or cities with very hilly roads. They are similar to Chinese rickshaws and are often brightly decorated."
In the words of our very own Nick Cash, "taking a pousse pousse is a fun way to take everything in - you get to be seated and in the shade...it's a slow, comfortable, leisurely ride."
Pousse Pousse from the window of a Land Rover
A whole collection of Pousse Pousses
Tuk Tuk (pronounced "took took")

The Tuk Tuk is a favorite way to get around town.  There are usually a few waiting just outside of the port gate to take us wherever we want to go (within a few miles).
"Tuk Tuk: common means of public transportation in many countries in the world. Also known as a three-wheelersamosatempotrishawautorickbajaj (in India), ricktricyclemototaxibaby taxi,lapa or tukxi."
Who knew there were so many names for this 3 wheeled enclosed golf cart type vehicle?!

We have our own Mercy Ships' Tuk Tuks!  These are available to take us to and from the port gate if you're not up for walking (it's especially convenient if it's raining). 

View from a Tuk Tuk
Yes, getting from place to place is fun...sometimes it's a bit more adventurous than one might like...

Things that make it slightly more adventurous: 
  • the rain blowing in
  • the darkness/lack of headlights on the pousse pousses
  • the other Tuk Tuk and pousse pousse drivers (they like to race sometimes)
  • the lack of the passenger's ability to speak French/Malagasy (we rely on a lot of pointing and nodding)

...but most of the time it's just the right amount of adventurous (and fun and convenient and inexpensive!).   

Alternate titles for this blog post: 
don't get run over by a tuk tuk
getting from here to there (and back again)
transportation station
things we never knew we would say

Count the number of vehicles/modes of transportation that you see in the pictures of this post.

Surely there will be more to come.

04 February 2015

Miracles happen behind this door

It's the door to the Operating Theatre of the Africa Mercy.  

A friend said it well on Facebook: "Just thinking of how many miracles take place behind that door... So many lives changed, saved and blessed. And so thankful for the surgeons, nurses, anesthetists, sterilizers, lab techs and so many more who work long after normal hours to make a difference for even just one person."
photo credit: KJ
On most days, multiple surgeries happen in each of the ORs...except yesterday.  Yesterday, one of the ORs only had one surgery.  And it was a long one.  12+ hours.  A surgery to remove what our Chief Medical Officer described as the "largest tumor he's seen in his 28 years of operating."  7.46kg (16.45 lbs ... 2 newborn babies worth!).  A tumor that this man has been carrying for 19 years.  

Photo Credit: Mercy Ships
Some prepared him for surgery.  Some prepared the instruments and tools.  Some (17 crew members) gave blood. Some drew that blood and had it ready for delivery.  Some held the scalpel.  Some handed the scalpel.  Some made sure the anesthesia was administered properly and continually.  Some prepared and served the meals so that the doctors and nurses could take a break to eat.  Some made sure the lights were working.  Some made sure the temperature of the room was just right. Some made sure he had the meds he needed so that his wake up and recovery would be as peaceful as possible.  Some worked into the wee hours of the morning to make sure the OR was ready for more miracles to happen today. Some are taking care of him right this very moment.

photo credit: Mr. Ally
And some prayed...some all over the world prayed.  

Each plays a part...each one makes each surgery possible.  

And this man is looking at a whole new future.  

Surely there will be more to come.  Hallelujah....there will be more to come. 

01 February 2015

The One With the Lemurs!

Madagascar may not have lions, hippos, giraffes or penguins ('tis true - you can't believe everything you see in the movies....)
BUT it does have LEMURS...and plenty of them!  It's also true that about 75% of the animal species found in Madagascar live NOWHERE else on the planet!  

When we were on our way to the States back in November we spent a day in Tana (awaiting our 2am flight!).  The family that owns the Guest House where we spent the night took us to "Lemurs Park." A guide took us around the park - which also happens to be a botanical garden and home to some tortoises! - we learned plenty about all sorts of different lemurs.

Most of the actual pictures of lemurs were taken by Emma.  :)

All in all, a great way to spend an extended "layover" in this lovely land.  (and we loved getting to meet and hang out with Benny and his family!)

We also passed by the US Embassy at some point in the day...thought this was a pretty good shot from the van window as we drove by.  We've never appreciated seeing an American Flag more than we do now...a lovely piece of home - and a visible representation of the freedom & privileges we enjoy as American citizens.
Surely there will be more to come.