Sunday, August 28, 2016

Exploring and Saying Goodbye to Mommy

Last weekend was the only weekend I got to spend in Benin with Mom before she had to leave on Friday so we made the most of it! My mom’s cousin Tara flew in from Nigeria where she is stationed and the three of us went to visit Ganvie (pronounced G-ahh-n-vee-ay), also known as the stilt village, also known as the Venice of Africa. It’s a village out on the water where all the buildings are legitimately up on stilts. It was originally established by West Africans who were trying to escape the slave ships so they fled into the mangrove forests which are out on the water and they ended up building platforms and houses and staying out there. Now Ganvie has a population of 45,000 people! We got in our canoe with our guide and it took us about twenty minutes in a canoe with a motor attached to the back to actually reach Ganvie. We passed so many people in little fishing boats or sailboats (with sails made from all sorts of things) on our way. 





The people of Ganvie fish for a living and every child is required to learn to swim by age 3 or 4. Some of the citizens take the fish to the mainland, sell them in order to get fruits and vegetables, and then bring the fruits and veggies back to sell in the markets in Ganvie. The market was my favorite thing to see because its just a wide open space of water where no stilt houses have been built and people’s “shops” are in their boats, which are piled high with fruits and veggies. People just row their canoes over to the “shop” and buy what they need and row back to their stilt hut! It was so uniquely beautiful!








The other place we went that day was the slave route and the Door of No Return. The slave route was the road that the captured slaves would walk to get to the beach where the slave ship was waiting for them. At the beach there’s a memorial called the Door of No Return which commemorates that last bit of African land that most of those African people would ever touch. 





Also on that beach, about a hundred yards away from the Door of No Return is another memorial which commemorates Christianity coming to Benin, that I had never heard of, but was so excited to find!
In case you don't know what Benin looks like, this is the silhouette of Benin with the cross behind it...and tiny me in front!


Mom spent three days this past week working security at the patient screening! She lands in about an hour so sometime after that perhaps we can get her to be a guest blogger so she can tell you all a little bit about what the screening process is like! The hospital is getting cleaned and equipped and is getting ready for all those patients from the screenings that will soon be onboard! Very exciting!



*Special note from the day Mom left: "Today Mommy walked down our gangway to go home. I wouldn't trade her time here on the sail with me for anything! No one is as friendly as she is or as good at conversing! She has left me in the capable hands of a family here onboard, many of whom I know because she walks up to strangers and makes them friends...and i got to do it with her. Most people walk into the dining hall with their meal and look for someone they know to sit with, but my mom purposely looks for someone she doesn't know so she can get to know them! It comes naturally to her and while it kinda scares me to do that, I'll try to carry on with that without her. Thanks for coming and sailing with me Mommy! Thanks for making what seems crazy a reality, and for being the bravest and most adventurous Mom ever! I promise to do my best to spend one meal a day eating with someone I don't know! I love you! 
*Specual note #2 from the day mom left: Mom gave so many people hugs this morning and then at the airport she gave big hugs to the others with us...and then she started walking through the gate to the airport. I said, "Uh, Mom! Don't I get a hug?" And she responded, "oh! Of course! I wasn't really thinking and I guess I just thought you were coming with me!"

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Home in Benin!

This is my favorite photo of the sail into Benin! Deck Crew praying us in!

Here’s my last post about the sail because I am currently sitting in…can you believe it…Cotonou, Benin! Last Thursday Mom and I went up to the bow at 6:15am to watch the sun rise as we sailed into Benin. When we got up to the top deck it was still pretty dark outside, but we could see twinkly lights shining from the LAND! We hadn’t seen land in several days because we veered away from the coast when we reached the Gulf of Guinea (for piratical reasons…is that a word? Piratical? Hmmm…). We had one little lantern shining bright in the early morning and I couldn’t help but think, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine” as we sailed closer to our destination where we get to let the light of Jesus shine! 


An African deck crew member was given the task of hoisting the Benin flag up the flag pole early that morning and he was so excited and wanted a picture of him raising it. 

As the sun started to come up more and more people joined us on the deck until is was quite crowded. When we were still pretty far out a drone started circling the ship from the National Geographic team that will be onboard filming for the next three months for a special eight-part series on our ship! 

I had prayed that there might be a sunrise that morning (because it had been totally overcast for the past several days) and there was!!! It was beautiful!

I spy the Nat Geo Drone!

As we got closer and closer to the port we could hear music playing and we finally realized that it was a band playing us in on the dock! Then we could see the Advance Team (who are Mercy Shippers who have been in Benin for the past four month preparing everything for the ships arrival).
The Advance Team waiting for us on the dock!

The band welcoming us in
First look at our new dock space


 All the elementary kids onboard waved our flags of Benin that we had made in school from the top decks. The time for school to start came and went because how could we start school when we were finally reaching our destination?!? Our ropes came down and got tied to the dock and we were for sure and certain there to stay!




We did finally go to school and at 5pm there was a special welcoming ceremony on the dock (which there are no pictures of because photography was not allowed…sorry!). A few of the crew got to attend the ceremony and it was like watching a wedding ceremony with the captain and other select people processing down the gangway and one of our highschoolers even got to present a bouquet of flowers to the first lady of Benin! There were lots of speeches in French, which I didn’t understand, and lots of singing and dancing to celebrate the fact that we are now in our new HOME!

Home in Benin!

This is my favorite photo of the sail into Benin! Deck Crew praying us in!

Here’s my last post about the sail because I am currently sitting in…can you believe it…Cotonou, Benin! Last Thursday Mom and I went up to the bow at 6:15am to watch the sun rise as we sailed into Benin. When we got up to the top deck it was still pretty dark outside, but we could see twinkly lights shining from the LAND! We hadn’t seen land in several days because we veered away from the coast when we reached the Gulf of Guinea (for piratical reasons…is that a word? Piratical? Hmmm…). We had one little lantern shining bright in the early morning and I couldn’t help but think, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine” as we sailed closer to our destination where we get to let the light of Jesus shine! 


An African deck crew member was given the task of hoisting the Benin flag up the flag pole early that morning and he was so excited and wanted a picture of him raising it. 

As the sun started to come up more and more people joined us on the deck until is was quite crowded. When we were still pretty far out a drone started circling the ship from the National Geographic team that will be onboard filming for the next three months for a special eight-part series on our ship! 

I had prayed that there might be a sunrise that morning (because it had been totally overcast for the past several days) and there was!!! It was beautiful!

I spy the Nat Geo Drone!

As we got closer and closer to the port we could hear music playing and we finally realized that it was a band playing us in on the dock! Then we could see the Advance Team (who are Mercy Shippers who have been in Benin for the past four month preparing everything for the ships arrival).
The Advance Team waiting for us on the dock!

The band welcoming us in
First look at our new dock space


 All the elementary kids onboard waved our flags of Benin that we had made in school from the top decks. The time for school to start came and went because how could we start school when we were finally reaching our destination?!? Our ropes came down and got tied to the dock and we were for sure and certain there to stay!




We did finally go to school and at 5pm there was a special welcoming ceremony on the dock (which there are no pictures of because photography was not allowed…sorry!). A few of the crew got to attend the ceremony and it was like watching a wedding ceremony with the captain and other select people processing down the gangway and one of our highschoolers even got to present a bouquet of flowers to the first lady of Benin! There were lots of speeches in French, which I didn’t understand, and lots of singing and dancing to celebrate the fact that we are now in our new HOME!