Africa also was home- Benin my first one, Togo followed, and Sierra Leone was most life-changing; living on the ship and then moving to my apartment above the maternity ward in Aberdeen. Life in Africa became the norm, while visiting Texas always seemed out of place. There was no bargaining at the market, buying plantains from street vendors while waiting in traffic, or going camping on the beach for the weekend. I always knew it was good adventure, when I returned with a faux chaco tan line made by African dirt. Guinea was my last country before returning stateside- it was so hard to leave Africa, not knowing when I would return.
What made these places home most of all, were the people I came across every day. My coworkers in the hospital, nurses and surgeons, who made it a place you wanted to come back to everyday. We worked hard, literally blood, sweat and tears- you could sum up our days in the operating room. The patients we sat with on bench to pray with before surgery connected me to each of my African homes. I saw cleft lip babies, who were seen as cursed, be held and accepted by their awe-struck mothers after surgery. I witnessed cataract patients and fistula ladies praising Jesus once their surgeries were complete. The surgeries are only possible by the 400 people that make up the international crew. Engineers keeping our generator humming, cooks providing meals, electricians keeping lights on, teachers caring for the students, baristas keeping us energized, HR and chaplaincy taking care of the crew. These once strangers from all over the world eventually became my ship family.
January 1st, I am returning home to the M/V Africa Mercy and new adventures in Cameroon.