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Saturday, April 27, 2019

Going up in the world, doing new things. And going through a strange and sad few days.

So, the last month period between now and last post started (or ended, I can't remember) with another week of night patrol. Since then, I have done another week of Night Patrol last week, actually followed by nearly a weeks time off. I'll get to that later. Thankfully, and somewhat sadly, nothing happened. I say thankfully, because nothing happened and sadly, because, nothing happened. Ambiguity.

After I finished that week about a month ago and after two days off, I returned to my normal schedule of day shift, to be pleasantly surprised that I would be starting my fireman duty. Didn't you already do that in Texas? That was fireFIGHTER training. As in, fighting a fire if it were to ever happen. My new fireman duty training has been working with the Fire Fighting equipment officer to pretty much ensure that all the fire fighting equipment Never would have guessed the firefighting equipment officer's job and fire related systems on the ship is where it should be/ working/ not broken/sufficient enough to pass inspection. Here is a brief glimpse of the jobs of the duty fireman.

  • Check the fire points around the ship 
  1. Check if the hydrant isn't leaking or rusting, which could lead to leaking.
  2. Check if the hoses aren't broken
  3. If the fire points have spanners to couple/decouple hoses
  4. (if they have them) The fire extinguishers are... I don't know.... fine? (all I have done with the extinguishers is give them a dust) All though, the powder extinguishers need to be picked up, to check if the powder hasn't caked at the bottom. By turning them upside down to see if the weight shifts to the top. Thanks, gravity. If not, I can hit them with a mallet to shift the powder. Not too hard that it breaks the extinguishers, creating a huge, dusty mess.
  • Testing the fire hydrants
  1. This is actually testing whether the hydrants are working. which can be fun on a deck with now access to the outside of the ship. So you have to lay a bunch of hoses up staircases and through passage ways until you get to a door.  
  • Weekly inspection of the Fire Lockers
  1. If all the SCBA bottles have enough oxygen in them
  2. All the firefighters have the right equipment on their hooks and right things in the right pockets (gloves, torches, mask,  etc...)
  3. Testing the dead man alarms, a component of the firefighters 'set up' (A very loud, motion detecting, shouty box. 'nuff said)
  • Testing the fire doors
  1. Speaks for itself.
  • Fortnightly washing of the SCBA masks)
  • Testing of Smoke heat detectors
  • Checking if the EEBDs (Emergency Escape Breathing Devices) have enough oxygen.
  • Checking if the Fire Dampers over the ship will open and close properly and if they have readable, not broken, labels.
Was that brief? I have no idea, guess it depends on the person.
In terms of the work as a deck hand I have been doing as a deck hand recently, that is pretty much all I have been doing for the last month or so. Besides from night patrol, and the odd garbage removal.

'Should they stay or should they.... move... slightly.... out the way.? or something?'
So, the port is in the middle of preparing for dredging. Which meant we we were supposed to move away from our berth for approximately a few hours. We were going to move on Easter Monday, where I would have been on the bridge on watch whilst we move, I think. After I had finished getting dressed up in my watchkeeping...shirt. With epaulets! We got an overhead announcement from our last (and just left Captain) Jon, that the moved has been postponed. Jon is a veteran Mercy Ships Captain, whom I met at the ISC during OnBoarding. As I write this, on Saturday 27th of April, We were scheduled to have the new move today. I would have been on bellbook duty. This would have meant that I would have noted down the time of shifts from 'Full steam ahead' and 'full stop' and all those in between.
One of these!
That move was cancelled yesterday. But, in preparation of that, I spent of yesterday preparing for the move by helping to secure down bins and pallets on deck 8. then, in the afternoon, I did Pest Control.

Other things that happened over the last month


  • Fought another boss in Dungeons and Dragons..... Guess what it was, I'll give a hint, it's in the title of the game! But, before that, the party was tasked by a druid (I disliked this druid NPC. In case you were wondering) to clear out the map of zombies and Groots (not Dutchies, Twig-blights) Or the Forest of Cheem. Now there's an obscure reference and a half. 
  • I finally bought and started to play Skyrim. My 'Dovahkihn' (Don't shout at me if that is spelled wrong you nerds. Jk. I gave it my best shot from memory, alright) is a Breton. am going down the swordsman route instead of sorcerer. I want to stab and decapitate things, OK!? And I have sided with the Stormcloaks. 
  • I had my 19th Birthday.
    A bit of a tale of disappointment with this one. I had planned to go back to Kassa for another night away with my friends like last time again. This time, I was excited to go, I had done it before, so I knew the drill, and I didn't have any anxieties about it. I did the last time. Like the last time, we were going on the Friday evening, so I was going to wake up, on my Birthday, on an island. Sounds fun? Except, even though I was ready to go in the evening, things went wrong, from the morning. It was the day of a dive. The divers are supported by two crew members in one of the rescue boats, with the nets for the side of the ship that is not adjacent to the dock. That day, we decided that we would test one of the other rescue boats and 'take it out for a spin'. I went in this boat. What I didn't expect, surprisingly, was how intense the sun would be on that day. I forgot to take a bottle with me, as I lost my Mercy Ships bottle the week before. And chilly bottles don't store much water. Long story short.... I got sunstroke, as well as a splitting headache for the rest of the day. So, then, when it was time to go to catch the ferry, I decided "I have a headache caused by the sun. Not a good idea to go out into the sun again with limited water. I'll stay on the ship to recover." I spent the evening in the cabin drinking water to heal myself and went to sleep. Then, in the morning, on my birthday, I was pretty much fine. So I spent my birthday on the ship. But I played some Skyrim, and after a decade, I went back to updating my collection of Doctor Who DVDs (besides from the occasional Christmas Special and 'Day of the Doctor' DVD between 2009 and now) as my parents (and Hannah in New Zealand got me the Complete Specials (The last David Tennant specials from The Next Doctor to The End of Time) and Series 5 through 8 boxsets. So my birthday was a bit 'ehh this sucks' and 'ehh this isn't so bad'. I also have a few classics, Including 'The Beginning' boxset.
I also said goodbye to a few couple over the course of a few weeks, including Elizabeth, who was a part of the 'Star Wars marathon' group. OnBoarding Jen returned to the States for a few months. She'll be back though. Miss you! Georgiy, our FFE Officer from the Ukraine left. He got us all waffles (The Deck department, not the entire crew!). I had three waffles withing one morning. and how many did I pay for?  None. I didn't steal them. So I had one from Georgiy, but he bought a couple spares. So I took one of those. That was my second one. Then, as I went to get a snack (I had a day off because I was OnCall that weekend) Esther, from Sales and the Starbucks,  beckoned me over to offer me (and some one else) the last two waffles that Lizzie, one of the British crew,who was also leaving that weekend had bought for a bunch of people. So that was my third. Then both Octavian, our former Chief Officer from Romania, and Brian from the States left on the same day a couple weeks ago. 

That almost week off... Easter on the ship is MASSIVE. I was told that Easter is just as special as Christmas on the ship, and it was. We had things going on throughout holy week. Such as, the Queen's Lounge decorated to become the Upper Room where Jesus shared the Last Supper with the 12, and the International lounge was decorated to become the Garden of Gethsemane, with a soundtrack of night sounds for the atmosphere. Then, on Easter Sunday, there was a sunrise service on Deck 8, pastries in the cafe, another Service, then Easter lunch. It was special, except... I wanted to be alone. Mainly because I had just come off Night Patrol on Saturday morning, and my Circadian Rhythm hadn't gone back to normal yet, and I was confused on Good Friday, because it was a ship holiday, which just felt like a Saturday, and It was hard  to get through that last night from Friday to Saturday. I wasn't myself that weekend. I was a bit sad and a bit grouchy, but I didn't want to take naps, because I was still trying to reset my schedule. That was also due to everyone being there. I must have mentioned this before in a previous post, that even with a crew of 400+, most of the time, the ship feels empty. Until Easter Sunday, then it was like 'Woah. OK. Everyone is suddenly... here.' I couldn't cope. Luckily, the week coming.... which was the week that has just gone. I had nearly a week off to readjust. So of course, there was Saturday and Sunday off, two days. Easter Monday was a ship holiday, so it was a long weekend. I was on night shift on Good Friday, but it was a four day weekend because ship holiday. After Night Patrol, I have two days off, usually Monday and Tuesday, but this week, it was Tuesday and Wednesday. Another two days. But then, I had Thursday off (Wasn't supposed to happen, but it's on the schedule soo....) So, 6 days off! Then back to work for one day before the weekend. Now.

And that's about it. Thank you for reading, see you sometime soon!

Monday, March 18, 2019

A post where I try to remember what I've done.

The thing that I have only now realised is that I should probably start writing about the events of a week then collate all the things that happened for a month when I set down to do another update. Because, to tell the truth, I have very little memory a lot that has happened since I last wrote. Obviously, I can remember things that did happen, but not a lot. If you have read all my posts (I do a monthly post, and I have only been here for 4 months now, so there aren't many) you may remember me mentioning how blogging is basically a chore for me now. It's hard to settle down and remember everything you have done. I am actually impressed by some of these crew who manage a weekly blog, and write them very well. But I think it's different for me, whilst they are only here for a few months, I am here for two years, so I feel that I have a lot more breathing room to update loved ones back home or wherever they may be and international friends that this crazy season of life has given me the chance to meet and build relationships with. Also, did I mention that I have been here for 4 months already? It seriously feels like a long time that I joined. And in three months, the  Guinea field service will over.

So please, read on, whilst I in the past try to write about the things that I remember and try to remember other things.

Everybody has to say goodbye at somepoint.

I know, I know, that's a fairly bleak (and ambigious) statement, but sorry kids, it's true. Fil, my friend and former electronics technician from New Zealand (and Latvia), left the ship at the start of the month. But before he left the next morning we enjoyed a night out in Conakry, which looking back now semi-appeared to be a quest for some live music. Joined by Coltan, one of our officers, Kate, the Executive Assistant and Trinity, one of the bakers, we headed the Le Jardins de Guinee (Gardens of Guinea), an open air restaurant I had heard a lot about and not been to before, and I believe is a hotspot for Mercy Shippers. How can I make this hypothesis? There was another group of Mercy Shippers there at the same time, So we decided to join them. I had already eaten on the ship, so I had a gourmet coffee pudding platter-thing. It wasn't a platter though, it was a place-mat made from slate. It was very nice, there were mini lemon tarts, candied oranges and a triple chocolate coconut mousse thing. It was one of those dishes that looked too good to eat, but I was hungry, so it didn't last long. after a game of  doubles pool (le Jardins has a open air games room with a pool table and a table football table) we moved out to Mille Patte (I had been there before, it is in a previous post), where there was live music. And another group of Mercy Shippers! Overall, it was very nice social evening. Kate even got the musician to sing an apparently never ending 'Happy Birthday' to Fil after we found out it was his Birthday a few days later.  As it happens, a whole group of Mercy Shippers (I don't think they were all in the same crowd though) were leaving the same night, including our previous captain, Milo, (Our current captain is Jon, a sort-of 'reserve' captain for Mercy Ships. He has captained with Mercy Ships before) so before heading out to find a taxi (totally not the most tense thing about Conakry),  we stuck around to say goodbye  to people. Where Fil was bombarded with "Are you leaving tonight!?" We also said goodbye to fellow nerd, Danita. You may be thinking "That's a bit harsh, Matthew" but it is a self proclaimed title. And she was part of our DnD group, so you can't get more nerdy than that. After a very nice evening and a good sleep, it was time to say goodbye to Fil.  It was upsetting to see someone off that you had bonded over a silly joke that didn't make much sense. Goodbye guys, I miss you!

The British Embassy

The British crew and (and passport holders. We had  some Britain-born Australians) were invited to the British Embassy. I decided to dress up for it, seeing as I don't have much opportunity to do so. We were asked to dress appropriately for meeting the Ambassador, so I did. And it surprisingly wasn't unbearable in the heat to do so! Was I looking forward to the visit? Yes. Was I feeling the same way when I left? No. Truth be told.... I had the most boring time. What I thought would be an interesting evening was actually a social evening of conversations. I HATE those evenings, because not only am I terrified of conversation, I prefer to actually be doing things at that kind of 'party' which was why I didn't have too much fun at house parties. Crack out some Mario Kart, and I'll have a blast! The same weekend, the Men's Retreat.... in the International Lounge.... on the ship.... was taking place. I heard some interesting responses to that, saying how good it was. I now wished I had gone to that instead.

What has work been like?

Like every job, working on Deck has it's pros and cons. The pros are, I suppose, the new experiences and skills and lessons I have been learning, such as operating cranes, forklifts and power tools. Sure, you can tell me "You can learn how to do these things on land" But tell me if you learned how to operate a crane at 18 years old. If you can legally learn how to operate a crane at 18, I don't know. I don't know when cranes became a thing, either so if cranes became a thing after you turned 19, I guess my argument is invalid. I did (help)  to build a house in Mexico when I was 16, though. The cons are that, eventually, you will have do every deck related job on a ship imaginable, so then nothing is new anymore. Oh, I haven't gone on the stage yet. I think we have finished stage work for the field service. At least staging over the side of the ship, there maybe minor, stage work that may come up between now and June. The new thing that I have done is mooring operations. Now, we haven't left yet, but what we were doing was checking the mooring lines on the astern and forward ends of the ship. If they were too tight or too slack, and all that jazz. So that meant unwrapping the lines from the bollards, and wrapping them round the capstan. One deck hand will then operate the controls for capstan, to either give slack to the line or tightening them, whilst one or more deck hands will hold on to the line to hold the tension. This job requires focus and full attention, as you can imagine, elastic energy transfer into kinetic energy can be messy, if you let go of the line. Snapback is dangerous. and potentially fatal. Particularly with those heavy ropes. When the supervising officer has decided if the slack or tightness is just right, it is a rush to remove the mooring lines from the capstan and re-wrap them around the bollard before they become slack. That also meant more greasing for me! one of the rotating bollards was stiff, so we had to splice two ropes together and wrap them around the capstan and this smaller bollard. And then squeeze some grease into the nipple to get it turning properly. If it seemed like I was insinuating that I have done everything, I haven't yet. It just will happen. But at the moment, I am pretty much doing everything that I have done before, but somewhere else on deck.  I just got off another week of Night Patrol. That pretty much went the same as the last two weeks. Which was good, as nothing happened, but still. It. Is. So. Draining. Going to sleep in the morning is the most rewarding thing. That and pancakes on Wednesday morning. We, the British crew, tried to get a pancake day thing going, but that that fell through. so pancake on Ash Wednesday had to suffice. Nom nom.

Better than watching the mess being made of Brexit by Westminster. Thanks, Cameron, where have you put your trotters up now? (A Danny Dyer reference, to all you non Brits)


Return to Kassa 

The Squad! or crew. I don't know yet
Before I started the long stretch of Night Patrol, I had a night away on Kassa with Caleb, Laura, Laura Kate (USA. Apparently it's just LK for short) Imani, Rimke (Netherlands) and Michiel (Netherlands). It was so good to get off the ship for a bit. We went to a different beach that I went to before. The others had been to this beach. I also had the first experience of a moto-taxi. We weren't going to walk, since the beach was the other side of the island, and when we got to the island off the ferry, it was about half past five, and we wanted to set up camp before dark. We got a fire going, and just chilled. And then we chilled on the beach and swam for a bit before heading back to the ferry. Rimke also brought her Ukulele along for some light entertainment
This is the hat I have basically stolen from my mum.
My hat makes me look like a middle aged travelling woman.


LK and Michiel were determined to catch some crabs. And they did




This is the Photo of the Month


See that white speck? That's the ferry. About half an hour away.















The lives that we save.

This is the story of one of the patients that we have "given new life to" over the course of four months, from the crew that I have spoken to,  heard  at the Wednesday Evening Medical In-Services and promotional material I have seen whilst preparing to work with Mercy Ships, that is one of the statements that stands out to me. I love how powerful it is, and it really does bring up questions in my mind about the lives of the patients. (As previously mentioned before, the communications team on board works to produce material ready for crew use, such as this one, as well as hosting media teams and vision trips)


































Going back to losing memory of the last month, I don't have amnesia, it was just.... it felt like nothing happened. But, as the Doctor says "Stories are just where memories go when they are forgotten" So as this vast and wonderful world keeps spinning through our universe, and whilst memories fade, at least know; no matter how small a memory created is, you still leave an invisible mark on the world.

Ok, so no more inspirational messages and philosophy. I'll finish up now.

Thanks for reading and see you again soon!





Sunday, February 24, 2019

When your smoothie spills...

Hello again, I did say coming soon, so a promise was kept! Unlike January, February has been a fairly slow month, so I'll try my best to talk about things that happened. Some things, I can remember, however, they aren't the best memories and fairly humiliating, but there are also good things that I remember. Life is like a dream like that. I did have a really weird dream a few days ago where I was back home, and I randomly kicked my sister in the stomach. And she was playing Assassin's Creed, and when I realized that, everything went back to normal, and we started a discussion about Assassin's Creed (weird). Almost, we just kinda... forgot that I kicked her. I would much rather dream about Padmé. So sit back as I blog and watch Torchwood at the same time. I mean I am watching Torchwood as I write, please don't watch something at the same time as reading this. Or do, I am not going to know. Or will I?


Container day!

So, we had container day recently. This isn't an official ship 'day', the latest Netherlands container arrived. As a deckie, one of my jobs is to help out with the crane operations on the ship when the containers arrive (A monthly thing) and when the ship gets local delivery of produce (A frequent thing, twice a week.) with the aft crane out of operation until shipyard in Las Palmas in June, we are now limited to using the stores crane for everything. (Everything deck related, not the surgeries and everything else) This means that someone has to be on the dock, slinging up the pallets and receiving the things that come out of the ship (the bin/trash container) and empty pallets. Someone operates the crane, moving these pallets and the bin from the galley hatch to the dock and vice versa, and sometimes to Deck 8. Finally, someone is in the galley hatch, basically doing thee same thing as the guy on the dock. When we get a container, someone is also on deck 3 and the cargo hold, receiving the pallets that come down from the galley to deck 3 via the ONE elevator. We have one elevator for everything, which can make it difficult to work with with lots of jobs going on all over the ship that use the elevator at the same time. 

This container day, I was assigned to the dock, where I was slinging up the pallets, whilst Mike, one of the carpenters with my father, operated the forklift, bringing the pallets from the container, at the aft of the dock, to the lifting area on the dock. Clear an LZ, Noble Six! Flynn, our German Deck storeman, was also on the dock with us, working in the containers, bringing pallets closer to the door of the container, for the forklift to move out from the container, to the lifting area. It can be hard work doing all this, particularly with the heat, and working in the sun in  dark blue coveralls, but I do enjoy it, and if it means that the ship can operate,  (Both actual ship stuff, with the Engineering side and the hospital side of the ship) then it's good work all around, and it makes it easier to deal with the heat. Something that does keep coming into my mind is what is more important. Is it that this is a ship with a hospital on it, or is it that it is a floating hospital. On his visit to the ship in November, Don Stephens, the founder of Mercy Ships spoke to the Deck and Engineering departments at our Thursday devotion. He said that we are the beating heart of the ship. Others say that the hospital is the heart. But to me, it's all a matter of perspective. I think this should be taken into account when considering the question:

"The eye cannot say to the hand, "I do not need you." Nor can the head say to the head say to the feet, "I do not need you" 1 Corinthians 12:21

We would normally use the stores crane and the transfer container, but it's broken down, so we have to do container work by hand now. Technically it was always by hand, but you know what I mean.
At the moment, I do not have pictures from this, but I'll put them on when I do.

Bow wow!

One of the most recent projects for the deck department has been working on the bow mooring deck. This has included.... Cleaning and painting! Pretty much just cleaning and painting. We have given the deck a fresh new coat  of  (insert paint code here) green. So it's gone from dirty and dusty green with a hint of brown and pale, to a shiny, emerald green! I unfortunately don't have any before and after photos, but it looks so nice now. What's sad is that it will ultimately collect dust again and go back to dusty and dirty. Oh well, such is the way of the world. It looks nice now though. Our saying in the deck department is  "The party continues" and "The party never stops". Which is true, because there is always something to be done.

Go Greased Lightning!

One of these tasks is greasing. I was working on greasing the exterior doors on decks 7 and 8. These things have to be done, to keep the doors opening. And like lightning, we did a fast job, me and one of our 'Men of Guinea'. Apart from the doors which had a different greasing point to the other nipple. We have no idea where the other nozzle is. I think we are all done for now. I think this job has to be done every few months.

Hospital time!

I finally got round to doing one of the things I have been meaning to do on board for ages. Visiting the wards! John, an Australian electrician, invited me to visit the wards with him, to see one of the patients that he had befriended. We all played Jenga together, which quickly turned from regular Jenga into extreme/engineer's Jenga. We haven't decided on a name. This was pretty much the general game of Jenga, however, instead of the regular three blocks on a y axis and x axis, we tried to see how many positions we could put the blocks on top of each other, whilst keeping the tower stable. It went as well as you could probably imagine. 

Photo of the month



We are also working on cleaning and re-painting the aft crane. Which is fresh new coat of white. On the day that we started working, and I was observing stage working. I am intended to start stage work very soon. Apparently. I'll try to get some of that filmed and put into a new vlog. So as we were working, this fishing boat tried to moor in the dock, and then that happened. Oops. The Tug boats tried to pull it out before anything worse happened. The next day, the boat was gone, and we don't know how. Must have been when the tide was really high. There is also a wreck pretty much right next to where this boat was.

When your smoothie spills.... 


I have made up a proverbial phrase, please use it! If it was a full sentence, it would be "You just kinda freeze and stare at it with the people on your table and wait for a friend from another table  to come over with serviettes and get you a new one." That happened to me. It wasn't my smoothest moment in my life. I was trying to set it down on the table, and instead, it just fell through my hands and went everywhere. On the table, and on the scrubs of a new person. (Good job, Matthew. It was only a tiny bit though. But still)  If it happened in slow motion, Jim Croce or Eurthymics would not be playing, One of the following would be a fitting song. In no particular order:
  1. Enya - Only Time
  2. Simon and Garfunkel - Sound of Silence
  3. Gary Jules - Mad World
  4. Mad World but it's that cover by the black kid from Vine


'Sausage tree'. We never found out what this actually is
A week later, and I didn't drop it everywhere.












The bay










I also went out to lunch one Sunday with Caleb (USA) Laura (Netherlands) Imani (USA) Octavian (Romania - Chief Officer) and Philipp (Switzerland), where we saw some interesting plants by the bay. 






Here are some pictures of me repairing tarp. Look at that determination.

And that's pretty much all for this month and a bit. I think. I am not keeping track of how long between one update to another. Thank you for reading, where ever you are in the world. Including the few people from Indonesia, how are you? (read my reflection).

I also don't know what happened to my 12" remote control Dalek. This was ages before we I joined Mercy Ships, it went missing years ago. We didn't throw it away or give it away, it just vanished. I miss my 12" remote control Dalek.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

A reflection of 2018, and maybe life before then.

I would like to start by saying that this is not my blog post/update/newsletter/ thing/ whatever you want to call it for the latter half of January 2019 and former half of February. This is the result of thinking over the course of a week, and refuting past statements. See my last post. I have also just discovered that putting a slash into italics makes it lean a little further than usual. Putting lean into italics, aren't I a creative soul. I don't care if that's grammatically incorrect. Plus, I have my first deck department evaluation this week, so it gives me an opportunity to think about how  I will respond.

I wanted to do a reflection in a separate blog post.


The things that happened...

So, how did 2018 go for Matthew Philip David Little go? Well, it went ok, I think. As you can imagine for an 18 year old, my life changed a fair bit in 2018. The first 'BIG' thing was, well, I turned 18. The age in life in which you become an adult. More on this later. After this, I completed my A-Levels. or High School, I guess, for my international friends that I have made over the past few months. Also, the crazy thing that didn't occur to me when I started this blogging business On a hospital ship with a voluntary crew from 56 different nations was who this would reach out to. Looking at the stats regarding page views by country has wowed me. From the United States to Indonesia, of all places. I couldn't even figure who this person could be!

So yeah, I completed my A-Levels. That period of two years were, without a doubt, the two most tense and worrying years I have lived through. I did Film Studies, Geography and Sociology for my A-Levels, plus an EPQ, that after months of consideration and fear, I eventually completed. I didn't want to do an EPQ, because I just wanted to get through the three subjects I had chosen by themselves, and I thought it would just stress me out to focus on the subjects, and another thing to focus on for a few months. In reality, it did. But in the end, I chose a subject and topic that really interested me: History! History was my favourite subject in school, but I wasn't able to continue it after GCSEs, because of my grades. I remember that results day well. Driving into school, opening that brown envelope to..... utter disappointment. It was gut-wrenching. It was like someone opened fire on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I passed my Maths though, which I never in a million years thought would happen first time. I still remember driving home, envelope in hand, responding to a joyous message of passes from my friend from another school who was like my closest friend that summer. (We are still friends, there wasn't a betrayal, if that is how it sounds) I tried to congratulate, but I was too heartbroken by my own results. So what was sent was me trying to force my sadness onto someone else. This was all in 2016, so yes, the title is true.

But my A-Levels in 2018. To cut to the chase, I did much better than I thought would have done after my GCSE results two years ago. I passed Film Studies (Expected). I Passed Geography, like my Maths GCSE, did not expect that, but failed Sociology, which I was confident would be my best result. And I passed my EPQ, which I focused on the 'Cultural and Political Impacts of the Crusades'. There were many times where I wanted to drop it. In the end, I was incredibly proud and happy with what I had done It didn't really help by 'bigging it up' when it wasn't necessary, Mother! Don't call an EPQ a University paper with a smile on your face, expecting a sudden boost of confidence. Neither was "Matthew is graduating too!" She wasn't talking about finishing High School (We don't have graduation ceremonies from High School, we just go on our merry way), she was referring to me leaving St John Ambulance Cadets.  Which was just me going on my merry way. No more publicly outting my Mother, because she did encourage me to get through it all, so thanks, Mum! I wasn't feeling all too confident on A-Level results day, also through that entire final exam period. I just wanted for it to be over. They were the two most confusing and exciting  (Who calls school exciting?) Luckily, thanks to a friend  I had made months before, fitting in was easy, and I mostly enjoyed spending the time with my new friends. Again, if you read this Catherine, thank you for all that, and thanks to the rest of that friendship group, who are either at University, doing apprenticeships or something else. Oh and also to the rest of you acquaintances and old friends who made new friends during Secondary School, I wish you all the best, and hope to see you again when I go back to England for a bit in the summer. after thought After many ups and downs and a few breakdowns, the sad passing of my Grandmother (My dad's mum) I got through it in the end. And another chapter in my life was over.

As one door closes, another opens...

Of course, I regenerated into my next incarnation, my Mercy Ships life. (Yes, I used three different  metaphorical life markers. What you gonna do about it?) What started from wasting electricity with a documentary on in the background after school to gaming four years ago is finally real. I didn't know what I wanted to do after I finished my A-Levels. I thought about University, but I realized that University isn't for everyone, my parents  were planning to do Mercy Ships and 2018 was the big year for the family, when we all finished things, Hannah graduated from Cardiff University with Civil Engineering, Zoe finished Child Nursing from University of Surrey and got married to Seth, and me, well read the paragraph above. I am a Deck Hand on the ship, under training to become an AB (Assistant Bosun) I don't know if I'll reach that  by the end of this two years, but this is about looking back, to what I know, only One knows the future, and He has it under control. He promises. I have only been serving for three months now, but I am really enjoying my time, and  I am  surprised by how much I am progressing,  and I am doing things that I never would have thought I would done this soon into this chapter. The chances of meeting people from this many different nations in a single community would have been very slim if I had taken a different path. Sure, we may confuse each other with different understanding of time. For example telling a Dutchie that you have to go at Half past Nine to see them get really confused when you leave at half nine (21:30), because they think you are going at half nine(20:30), because half  nine in Dutch is written as follows (20:30), so you should have said half ten (21:30) which to everyone else (Maybe) is written like this (22:30). My point is, I don't know how to call time anymore. But it is truly amazing to experience these cultures with them, aswell as sharing your own with them. A few weeks ago, the (very small) Asian community onboard invited the rest of the crew to celebrate Chinese New Year with them. One of the hard things about life on the ship is that the culture on the ship is western. It still feels like home, yet step off the gangway, it's Africa. It feels like another world.

At the end of On Boarding, we have a final project, which is to show that something has stuck out at you from all the things you learn over four weeks. I can't remember exactly what I said, and my speech I wrote was on the notes section of  my old Tablet. That I left on the flight my Paris to Conakry. oops.  But what I said was along the lines of this. I am only young, and I haven't had many opportunities to say yes to the right things, and no to the wrong things, but I think that saying yes to Mercy Ships was hopefully the first of many yesses. And who knows how many of these opportunities won't have come up if I had said 'No'.

Nearly finished.

Please forgive me for this being a wall of text. Why have I decided to reflect? As many of you maybe aware by now, that this year, Jodie Whittaker had her debut series, taking over from Peter Capaldi as the first female Doctor in Doctor Who. (My all time favourite TV show). And along with that, the show has been revamped (Again) now that Chris Chibnall is in charge. (Please don't kill the companions off and then keep bringing them back to life. Everything has it's time) New TARDIS, new Sonic Screwdriver, new friends, new everything. And I particularly related to Ryan Sinclair, one of the three new companions, played by Tosin Cole, because, like me is dyspraxic. I hadn't related to a companion like this before, and it temporarily gave me a confidence boost and something to add to my defining characteristics. I wrote about this on Facebook, but now, I have gone back to my ways of  "I am dyspraxic. So what. I will ignore it." because I don't want to skip out on things because of my hand-eye coordination, but it has made somethings, including tying knots, and important skill required in the training book, difficult. Unfortunately, it is hard to work slowly trying to figure things out and taking my time to do these things, when some of my colleagues like to rush these simple things. Going back five years, to Matt Smith's regeneration into Peter Capaldi, this was his speech.
We all change. When you think about it, we are all different people; all through our lives. And that's ok- that's good, you gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be. - 11th Doctor (Matt Smith) The Time of The Doctor.
So that's why. Looking back on the person I once was, but it's important that whilst you look back on yourself, but to keep changing as a person, otherwise that's some pretty rubbish character development, if you ask me.. I have been feeling fairly nostalgic this year. I am not saying I haven't been nostalgic in the past, but I have found myself wanting to back to my childhood, and wanting things from my childhood, for instance, my 12" Radio Control Dalek. Which was my first ever Doctor Who toy. That I bought (I say bought, It was probably my mum) from Woolworths, that fossil. Did you know that the first ever Woolworths was opened around the same time that Moses and the Israelites left Egypt? But I know at heart that I am now, as an adult supposed to be responsible, let the new children do what they want to do, play with their toys, read their comics, watch their films, whilst I put my childish things away, as in Corinthians, But that's hard. With lots of voices trying to tell you how they want you to be, and trying to integrate them into yourself.   So now I don't want know what to do, but I am happy at where am in life. Confusion and Contentment. (A nice way to end this, right)

Thank you for reading, and goodbye.

And one last reflection, and to clear some confusion. I didn't break the window.




                   





Saturday, January 26, 2019

Cranes at Christmas, Night patrol, maybe an actual Union Jack and very expensive mistakes.

I am aware that this is my second post in a row with 'crane' in the title AND the first word of the title, but it's hard to come up with a creative title that truly grips the reader. It's not like a gripping few words also appear in the title. Leave me alone, alright!

So, I am back with a new update, and a lot of things have happened since my last post. The main thing was that Christmas happened! Yes, my first Christmas on a ship in Africa has been and gone, and it was great! As I mentioned in my last post (Is that plagiarism from myself or uncreativeness?) we have a large multicultural crew, which has meant opportunities to enjoy different Winter festivals and traditions from all over the world, such as the Dutch tradition of Sinterklaas as I wrote about last time. The Scandinavian crew also celebrated Santa Lucia. Yes, that one saint who carries a plate of her own eyes like she is a Del Toro enthusiast. Lucia (or Lucy) means light, which Scandinavians celebrate by wearing very fetching white robes and carrying candles and singing. I can admit, I wasn't actually there, I was instead playing Dungeons and Dragons. It looked spectacular from the pictures I have seen.

 I helped to judge the various Christmas decorated doors for the ship's annual Christmas door competition. The crew here are very creative, as we saw trains, a Mercy Ship themed version of Twas the Night Before Christmas, human-animal hybrids, Grinches, Minions, toothless reindeer advent calendars, Christmas trees made out of rope and toilet role and LEGO. After this, the winners were announced on the dock at Carols by Candlelight , an annual tradition from Australia. I didn't actually ask any of the Aussie crew about this, I just looked it on Wikipedia. the Australian contingent of the crew treated the rest of us to an Australian edit of Jingle Bells (Still have no idea what a 'Ute' is.) That same night, I learnt  that Australia is actually a continent, and Australasia is a region. which  is a sub-region of Oceania. Just so you know, I did pass A-Level Geography, but Geography isn't about locations anymore. Instead, it's about beaches  and volcanoes, and maybe a few other things. At least that's how it is in the British National Curriculum.

I was also given the honour of reading Isaiah 7: 11 to 17 at the Christmas Eve service for the final Advent Candle lighting. My partner read from the book of Matthew. I like to think I was asked because I am the only Matthew on the ship. I didn't light the candle, but I was standing by to extinguish the flame if got out of hand. I'm a trained firefighter, might I add. Then I played Crazy Uno and enjoyed a family tradition that turns out will not go away even if one half of the family is in a different continent.

And then came that very special day. I put out my stocking (Sent from home. Thank you Hannah and Zoe, I miss you very much!) whilst most of the crew put out their shoes, to find goodies from other crew in the morning. We enjoyed pastries and free coffee from Starbucks in the cafe. Soon enough, I received the on call pager. On call at Christmas? Yeah. I know terrible. It was a ship holiday though. Taking out the ship's rubbish wasn't how I was planning to spend Christmas, but I did get some more training in operating the stores crane after. My parents and I also connected with our home church and joined in worship over Skype. We enjoyed a Christmas lunch. One very talented crew member made a very nice cake replica of the ship. Of course, when enjoying various traditions, it is important to remind yourself of home, so the British crew were invited to watch the Queen together and play Charades in one of the British family cabins. Soon enough, another (and very special) Christmas was over.

And soon enough after that, I made a very big and expensive mistake.

After enjoying Boxing Day off, I returned to work. Crazy how fast you grow up to have two weeks off Christmas holiday one year, then next year. Working and only having a few days off for Christmas. This is still a operational ship, even when the hospital is closed for Christmas, so work still goes on twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I was given the job of continuing the work that I mentioned in my last blog on the exterior of the bridge, which was grinding at rust and painting. My job as a deck hand is essentially taking care of the ship. In the morning, I had given various 'ash' patches (ash is the gray primer we use) a coat of white paint. These patches were easy to get to and reach. After lunch, I was going to use a ladder and harness to paint over the patches which were hard to reach, and I was joined by one of my colleagues to help me where I was working. I don't want  to go into too much detail, and this is very hard to write about, but basically one of the Bridge windscreens was hit, of course by accident, during work, and now there is a very large crack. I found out today (22nd January) from our new Danish Captain (the third in three months. We are still looking for a long-term captain) that a new window costs about 10,000 Euros. My fellow Deckies have been super supportive of me, and have been taking care of me, and really want to see me complete my training, and keep telling me that it was just an accident, and these things happen. And if I think about it, it is a lesson for tomorrow and to reflect on, not to grieve over.
"I get knocked down, but I get back up again, you're never gonna keep me down"
Ok, so maybe Chumbawamba isn't the most appropriate. But it's the most motivational thing quote about growing from mistakes from the top of my head. But hey, we'll be singing, when we're winning. We'll be singing.......

"We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God - those whom he has called according to his plan" Romans 8:28
Ok, so that's the bad news. More good news! As for my training and work as a Deck Hand, I have started my duty as Night Patrol. What does that mean? That means that I have to work night shift. On night patrol, I have four fire and security and rounds to complete, which means taking a trip around the ship - from the Bridge working the way downwards to deck 2. Four times a night. And they take roughly an hour to complete. Walking round the ship for an hour, walking down many staircases. It is safe to say that I work all over the ship. Boy, does walking non stop for an hour do some ugly things to your feet. Somethings that I didn't know could happen. In the morning, at sunrise, you have to raise the flags (Mercy Ships flag, flag of the country we are docked in, this case, Guinea, and the civil ensign of Malta. The Africa Mercy is registered as a Maltese vessel) so that's pretty cool. Today, I received Fire Panel training, which means that I am authorized to watch over the fire panel during night shift when it's needed.(receptionist needs a break, for example) It's always needed. It has to be manned 24 hours a day. Thankfully, nothing big comes up during the night shift, which is good news, but nights to yourself go on for soo long, I had to motivate myself before my last night shift by listening to the Halo 3 soundtrack. I got a couple things signed off by the training officer in my training book. Steady progress. As for day work, It's going good. I was a bit unsure whether the jobs of a Deck Hand would actually help the work on the hospital, but today, I was on Deck Three receiving and moving Medical Supply pallets, so I feel good. Some days can be good days at works, others are 'Nothing days' (my own term) which can be hard, particularly when the jobs don't involve much physical work and it's very hot.

I wore my Union Flag T-shirt last week. It was the same day of the vote in Parliament regarding Theresa May's proposed Deal. Even in a different continent, you don't escape Brexit. I just felt like wearing it, no political agenda. I was practically invisible that day. It had me wondering, because I am on a ship, is it a Union Jack?

Unfortunately, we recently said 'Goodbye' to Femi, the ship's last Bosun and his wife. Whilst it is sad to see them leave, he is moving up, so it's not all bad. Soon, they will be going to good ole' England so that he can go to Officer School in Newcastle. He said that he would be happy to support me and answer any questions I have about my training over Messenger though. Our new Bosun, Ibrahim, who was getting ready to take over from Femi, as the Assistant Bosun is also great though, so us Deckies have been left  in good hands. Monce, our last Filipino Chief Officer departed a few days ago, and his replacement, Octavian, looks to be a good replacement. (Monce, if you read this, I did want to see you off. Consider this my goodbye!) And yes, we have had three Captains in three months, our current Captain being Milo from Denmark.

For the New Year's weekend, my parents and the other three wonderful people from our field practice took an excursion to Kindia. We saw a couple waterfalls, and we also visited the Mercy Ships Agricultural Centre. As well as the life-changing surgeries, Mercy Ships leaves a legacy in the countries that they serve in, with the Medical Capacity Building teams. At the Agricultural Centre, Eric, one  of our  volunteers, and a small group of Mercy Ships volunteers works with and trains representatives from a bunch of different NGOs different methods of sustainable development, which the NGOs will continue when we leave in June. They grow vegetables in a greenhouse, work to reuse water that has been used for the growth before, grow mushrooms, have a worm farm to produce compost and raise rabbits, to use their manure for fertiliser. It was truly amazing to see and learn more about.

As I mentioned we also visited a couple waterfalls in the area. The first we visited was 'Brides Veil waterfall'. I tried to look it up, but it turns out the 'Bride's Veil' is the name of a type of waterfall, that resembles a Bride's Veil. Surprise, Surprise!




Here's a big damn ant. Brownie points for those who understand the reference

The effort put by visitors making their mark on the huge tree by the waterfalls in mind-blowing. Some people haven't just etched their name into the bark, they have chisled into it. Impressive. Never felt a waterfall before. It hurts your back with the strong, main part of the waterfall, It felt like getting shot with a machine gun. A very cold machine gun.
One of the cascades at Brides Veil.
Yours truly.
This is a spiky tree. Never seen these before.


The main falls and the pool.
A hut, some bamboo and my father


Surprise Merryl!














The hotel we stayed at was very nice, with some quality food. Due to a missunderstanding, We have come up with a 'Matthew Special' deal. Basically, thinking you have ordered a shawarma, the staff bring out something else, but then you get you get your shawarma a little later. Delicious shawarma, delicious fish and some delicious omelette for breakfast. I also did some basic late night plumbing when I had to refill the cistern just to flush it, then part of the 'flush' mechanism broke off, and one of the bolts had to be put in just right to hold the button in place. Our driver became an honourary member of our group, which was helpful for us all, when we needed translations. The next day, we visited Kholissi falls. Sorry, Game of Thrones fans, it's not what you think it is. Sadly, as the rainy season came to an end a few months ago, There wasn't much to see, but it was cool to see apart from the two waterfalls there. The big somewhat green area between the fall areas car park and restaurant was an interesting sight to behold. I would like to say the ruins and rocks scattered across the land felt like a fantasy world landscape, the best comparison I can think of Amon Hen from Lord of the Rings. Although instead of fallen statue heads, there is an incomplete, industrial concrete structure. Hannah, maybe we can both be in New Zealand, except I am in a different continent at the same time. Astral projection, sort of?  As of right now (26th January) the Little family is spread out across three continents. Enjoy your trip!

Finding a ledge to get into the pool was difficult


Collecting water to be recycled.


Inside the Greenhouse


A dragon fly

Part of the plot of land growing crops



 During the Monday morning meeting, we have a 'photo of the week' the most recent was the Africa Mercy found in the port on Google Maps.
My own photo of the month is this. I was discussing productivity (golly, makes it sound like a business meeting) with a friend during a coffee break, and I forgot to mention how productive  I was before the break. I was cutting rags. Amazing how you  can put effort into an attempt of a professional, nice photo, which ends up looking terrible, yet not much effort can look
                                                                                    so  much better. You want proof, I took this photo of the Super Blood Wolf Moon during the eclipse.




Rule Brittania! Brittania rule the waves! I stopped working for a bit,
just to watch this Welsh registered fuel ship.



A school of fish between the ship and the dock.














Of course, New Years happened. I managed to inspire one of my fellow crew members with a Bible verse neither of us had really looked at before after another crew member asked us to collect a bunch of inspiring Bible verses to hand out to the rest of the crew to encourage us this year. We had an open mic in midships before gathering up on Deck 8 to watch the fireworks at midnight. Even fireworks let off from the \islands. I was asked to blow the foghorn (Is that the verb? Blow? Sound? Operate) But they had enough people to do it, but I was on the Bridge and I was asked if I wanted to, so that is what is important. Is this the part where I reflect on the year that was 2018? No, I don't like reflecting, read someone else's blog for that. But what I will say, is that it was a big year for me, and marked the end of one chapter of my life, and start of another, and I pray that for everyone else who also had this in 2018, and for those who are in the middle of their current chapter, that they will have an enriching and good new chapter, even during an uncertain time for the world.

That's all from me at the moment,  thank you for reading! I also recently uploaded two new vlogs in two consecutive days on my YouTube channel, If you want to learn about animals and their species name, check them out in my Texas vlog part 2. Link to my channel in the side bar.


Saturday, December 22, 2018

Cranes, forklifts and Presidents, apparently.


Another month has gone by, so now I must update my blog. No-body told me doing a blog would be such a chore.*

So what has happened since I left off? Quite a bit, and I shall start from where I left off. Don Stephens, the founder of Mercy Ships, visited the Africa Mercy, and during the same week, Guinean President Alpha Conde also visited the ship. During this visit, I had my first experience of being a security guard..... Thankfully, nothing happened, but it was a good opportunity to practice my stern 'You are not allowed in here' face and posture. However, I don't know whether to hold my hands in a 'attention' position around my back or at  my front. But I will have other opportunities to do this 'special job' during other VIP visits to the ship, to get more practice of this.

After that (not immediately. It might have been the weekend after, I can't remember), I went on a day's excursion to the beautiful and picturesque Kassa island, one the three islands in the 'Iles de Los' island group off Conakry. Both the two boat rides across the harbour to the island were just as good and pretty as the island itself, but it was just so good to escape the scenery of both the ship and the city of Conakry, which is dusty, dirty and smelly, and just outside the port gate, on a very busy roundabout, it can get very chaotic with the sudden appearance of cars and motorbikes. Seriously, you could be crossing the road, and out of nowhere- BEEEEEEEEEEEEP! a few feet from you.. Quite the contrast across the water. and it was a relaxing Saturday.
Beach on Kassa
Jungle
View of one of the other islands
Another view of the beach




Boats between the island and the mainland

The ship moored next to us that day. 
An interesting sight that constantly amazes me whilst working on Deck is the constant move of ships in Conakry's port. One day, I could be working around the Bridge (which I spent the whole day on the 14th doing. A few days before I started this blog. That was a relaxing day), looking at the ship next to us, and the next day, it's a new ship. And they all follow a similar colour scheme to the one on the picture on the left. Its's like "What could they be loading/unloading today- Oh, that wasn't there yesterday". Meanwhile, there is this stationary white ship.
Bow of the Africa Mercy

Work has also been great. On my first weekend on-call duty (which meant that I was confined to the ship for two days), I got up to some pretty impressive things, that I never thought I would do on a Saturday morning, such as operating the stores crane and driving one of the  ship's forklifts. What exciting purpose was that for, I hear you ask? Emptying the trash. Probably better to start with a trash bin than a very heavy pallet of cooking oil, tbh. I also learned to drive one of the ship's rescue boats during a practice for Sinterklaas. Because Mercy Ships has a crew made up of different cultures, the Christmas period allows for the crew to experience a bunch of different Christmas festivals. A few weeks ago, the crew celebrated the Dutch tradition of Sinterklaas, where children leave a shoe out for Sinterklass to fill with yummy goodies the night before! Sinterklaas arrived via one of the ship's rescue boats, to wave to the masses (The ship kids and Dutch crew, mainly. Maybe, I didn't actually see the spectacle. I did watch as Sinterklass gave the Ship kids Christmas presents in Midships, above the Starbucks. (Fun fact: the only Starbucks in Africa. Sorry, Okoye.**) Just to be clear, I didn't drive Sinterklaas on the day, I was just given a lesson the Saturday. Also, my shoe went missing that morning. I say missing, some 'practical jokers' moved it further up the corridor. Almost forgot! I have received my training book, which means that I can now begin my training to become a Deck Rating, maybe even Able Seafarer, later down the line. I'll be a Captain in no time! I still don't know what I want to do, actually, but I have really enjoyed my first month of being a deck hand. I have been transfered to a different fire team on the first, I was on hose and gear, which meant being a support role and getting the hoses and things for the SCBA guys. in this new one, I am on SCBA. which means that I have to wear all the bunker gear, and am meant to be right in the action during the event of a fire

The community here is wonderful. A few of us have even started a Dungeons and Dragons group (my character is a Dwarf Paladin). Found out that watching Lord of the Rings is all the more entertaining commentating on it in D&D references. I have also joined the group on the ship that plays Super Smash Brothers, This was the first time playing Super Smash Brothers (suprisingly)  and I have getting good at it. As long as I am not against a pro. Did beat the ship's 'Smash Master' once, though. . And a group that plays Dominion. And other board games. I have even started playing Minecraft again.

The amazing Communications department /team here on the Africa Mercy work hard to produce materials to promote the amazing work that the hospital down on Deck Three does, including this piece below. This patient's story has really inspired me from when I first read it.

Well, that's all I have to say for this month. I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and pray for good fortunes to come in 2019.

But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

*Just kidding, I enjoy writing this blog.
** Avengers: Infinity War reference

P.S. If the patient's story doesn't show the first time, please let me know in the comments. My parents' had an issue with that on their own blog. Please check that out, too! It's called A Little Odyssey, the link is in the side bar.

Going up in the world, doing new things. And going through a strange and sad few days.

So, the last month period between now and last post started (or ended, I can't remember) with another week of night patrol. Since then, ...