Blog 8 – 25 February (English)Ga naar de pagina van Natascha Bakker
Arrival in Dakar
Tuesday (February 7th) around 9:00 am we entered the port of Dakar! The night before I already saw the light coming from Dakar at sea. And in the morning a typical tropical smell came to us as we sailed along the coast towards the port. Dakar has its own scent!
There are a number of drone pilots on board, and beautiful images were made of the ship entering the port. We were also met by a happy group of people. There was singing, dancing and waving the flags. It was nice to experience that 😊 As an animal lover myself, I really enjoyed seeing all kinds of new birds, and seeing groups of cormorants resting.
Tuesday evening we enjoyed the calm before the storm. I deliberately call it the calm before the storm. We arrived in Dakar with 336 people, but by the end of the week we will have doubled in number. In addition to approximately 100 new crew members, we will also receive a large group of day crew (275 people) at the end of the week. We weren’t allowed to disembark yet and I played some games. Taught my 2 Ghanaian friends Qwirkle!
Around 4 pm on Tuesday there was a special meeting on board with the Minister of Health and a whole delegation (including media). Very formal, with various speeches, mostly in French (my French is abominable 😉). For this meeting we had to wear face masks again, which took some getting used to.
Our new crew came on board over 2 days, in 4 groups (this is called a mass embarkment). The first 60 new crew members came on board on Wednesday. They were divided into 2 groups (morning and afternoon). It was a stretch to get the last huts ready, but we did it! It would take too long to tell and explain everything, but we divided them over our hospitality team and were able to give them a tour. I could tell they had been eagerly awaiting to get on board.
On Wednesday evening there was a joint meeting on various matters. In addition to some practical tips about negotiating, taking a taxi, greeting in Frans and Wolof), safety (taking theft into account) we also received a presentation from the team that had been involved in patient selection. They had already started in October! They traveled all around the country. Not only Senegalese are among the patients, Gambians have also been included in the procedure. Hundreds of people will be operated on and treated in the coming period. Some surgeries can take up to 8 hours.
During the field service, approximately 30 teams on board receive extra support from day crew. These people have been recruited recently. The day crew is a special group of people. They are volunteers (receive a travel allowance and meal on board) and they are generally young and highly educated / multilingual. They had to make some sacrifices themselves to be able to serve here. Some have quit their jobs, moved to Dakar or temporarily stopped their studies. I find this special! We were told that one of the volunteers had signed up in gratitude for the successful surgery and recovery of a patient from his village.
Our day crew came on board on Friday for their training. 275 people, multilingual and often dressed in their best. Hospitality provided drinks and served sandwiches. I thought it was humorous to hear how they were given instructions on how to deal with Westerners. We have also received instructions about this in recent weeks, but then about how to deal with Senegalese. Various topics were discussed and questions were also asked.
It will take some time getting used to all these new people. I had just started to get knowing more and more people and was in a certain flow. I have to adjust again. But also how do you ensure that everyone feels at home and receives sufficient attention? And will there still be quiet places to be found on board? Because with the day crew it will be very busy during lunch. However, a method has been found to spread the lunch rush, the teams have been given time slots when they can go for lunch and I must say it makes a big difference.
In Senegal we have to deal with somewhat different dress codes than in Europe. Especially different for the ladies. Think tunics, no bare shoulders and loose-fitting pants (harem pants are popular among the crew). I got a taste of that when the minister came to visit. The black jeans I usually wear when I go into uniform were not suitable. It was too tight and the fabric was not suitable. Fortunately I found a black skirt that fell well over the knees. I will have to make some adjustments in my wardrobe 😉. I knew this was coming, and I’m curious what nice clothes I can find in the stores. There are also several tailors here and you can have something sewn for yourself.
During the sail you could register as a spectator at a softball game that took place last weekend (organized by the American Embassy). We had a Mercy Ships team that was going to compete with 14 other teams. Friday night was the first game. We traveled to Ebbets field with a large delegation, spread over various taxis. It was fun to cheer on the team. That evening it was very cold (by Senegalese standards) and windy. They played all weekend and they became 2nd, very good!
Last Saturday we went with a group to a museum (The Museum of Black Civilizations) close to the ship. It was a special building, round in shape and it looked new. Not much was told about Senegal, but there were a few interesting things to see. After that I went to lunch with Eric and we walked around a part of the city. There are interesting contrasts. Luxury and poverty visibly live side by side. I’ll share about that another time.
Saturday evening I also had a nice chat with Judith from Ghana. She was cooking and frying a lot, and I learned a few things and helped with a few things. We have agreed to prepare some Ghanaian dishes and snacks together again. Because of my conversations with her, I suddenly thought of a snack from Ghana that I liked, Kuli-Kuli. I am planning with Fred to make that.
Dorcas also recently practiced braiding my hair. She did well, we just didn’t have rubber bands 😉 I enjoyed her fiddling with my hair! Today I spotted a package of rubber bands in the ship-shop, and bought them. Let’s see of she can make something nice!
You have been updated again. It’s been a busy 2 weeks! The hospital will be starting the operations on the 6th of March. Last Friday, the first group of patients (approximately 80 people) arrived at the Hope Centre. We’re about to go into business! And my last month on board has arrived. Time has certainly flow by!
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