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Saturday, October 09, 2010

Greetings from Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa!

    10 October 2010

Greetings from Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa!

The flags above were flying from the mast as we were coming into the port in Durban,  South Africa.  The yellow flag is to invite the customs officials to come onboard for inspection and clearance for the ship and crew.  The other flag is the Republic of South Africa country flag!  We always fly the flag of the nation we are entering into.  Photo credit: Dag Tvedt

Arrival in Durban, South Africa!
On 01Sept2010, we arrived in the port of Durban, South Africa.  The Harbor Pilot arrived by helicopter!  This was the first time on the Africa Mercy that the pilot arrived from the sky instead of from a Pilot boat pulled alongside!  The harbor in Durban does this all the time!  

We had to have special drills to practice for a helicopter arrival and painted a big yellow dot on the aft of Deck 8 as the arrival zone!  All of the deck had to be cleared of anything that might be blown away as the force of the wind from the helicopter blades was very strong!  

The fire teams were on alert and ready in case of an accident and the crew was cleared from the aft of the ship just as a precaution.  The arrival was very smooth and we had no problems. 

You can watch a video (thank you, Pete for taking the video) of the delivery of the pilot by clicking here:
         Pilot Arrival Video 
(Any one on the Africa Mercy can not see this Video - please ask Denise or Pete Johnson to see the video).

Before we sailed into the harbor, the deck crew on the bow of the ship, stopped their work to pray for our safe arrival and for the country of South Africa that we were entering! 

The crew stood alongside the railings as we sailed into the beautiful Durban harbor.  We were all excited to be coming into South Africa and to see the sites of Durban from the ship as we sailed in!

If you look closely, you can see Rob standing along the rail on Deck 7.  We had been watching the coastline along the horizon for several days as we sailed up the coast.  

After 17 days of sailing from Togo, we were ready to be on land again!  We did see many  dolphins, whales and flying fish along the way!  We had a wonderful sail and are now no longer slimy pollywogs, but trusty shellbacks!  

27 hours later.......  Appelsbosch!
As soon as we docked and were cleared by customs and immigration, we had literally piles of work to do!  Our friend, Penny, came to welcome us to South Africa and see the ship sail in.  She even helped with all the work of moving boxes and equipment from the offices and Academy (school onboard) to the mid-ships pre-staging area on Deck 5.  The Academy had over 200 boxes alone! All of the offices and the Academy had to be relocated ashore while the ship is in shipyard and drydock. After dinner, we had a briefing from the Advance Team and the Project Director for the Generator Project.  

The next morning, after breakfast, all the crew that was moving off-site, approximately 150 crew, brought their belongings up to the mid-ships area.  When the trucks arrived about 9 am, we moved all the bags, boxes and various items down the gangway onto the trucks!  Then lunch and at 1 pm onto the 2 buses and 10 Land Rovers for the 2 hour journey to our new temporary home (for 4 months), Appelsbosch!  

Yes, that is our convoy of Mercy Ships Land Rovers and yes, in South Africa we drive on the left-hand side of the road! We had to navigate through the city of Durban...the 3rd largest city in South Africa!  We must have been quite a site!  We hardly had a chance to realize that we weren't sailing any longer and we were going to live on land!  There was an excitement as we noticed familiar shops and sites (such as McDonald's) and also adjusted to driving at a faster pace then just 30 km. about the fastest that we drive in West Africa.

The ride to Appelsbosch was we were all quite exhausted from moving all the bags, boxes and various items and knew that when we arrived...we needed to unload all of them into the gym!  And then finally into our dorm rooms!   So we were glad for the 2 hour ride and rest!  We arrived at Appelsbosch about 3 pm and began unloading.  We formed two lines of people from the trucks up the hill and stairs into the gym and passed the items through.  One line was for lighter items and one line was for the heavier items.  The unloading went quickly this way and became fun...the heavy line even passed a couple children up the line as they waited for items.  The giggles of the children were an encouragement to us all!  

The picture to the right is of the hill and stairs up to the gym building at the top! After we unloaded our stuff....and many jokes about why we had so much stuff, we had dinner about 6 pm! 
Everyone was so happy to gather their bags to take to their cabins.  Oh yeah...we decided to call our rooms, we don't have to change one more thing when we move back on the ship in January! 

The campus here is beautiful and the kids are loving having all the room to run, climb and play! The picture to the left is a view from the gym up to the Dining Hall and our dorm is just beyond there up the hill (the far building with 4 stories).  The building on the right is C Building also a family dorm. Our cabin is on the second deck (second floor) of D Building.

 Anyway...back to the story.... after taking our bags to the cabin, we all had a very good night's sleep as we were totally exhausted! 

Where did Fall go.....It's Springtime in South Africa!
As most of our family and friends look forward to cooler weather and fall colors, we missed Fall this year and went straight into Spring!  Winter here is just ending and the trees are blossoming and budding out!  Pollen is on the rise and the beautiful flowers are coming out! This picture was taken by Denise as we came out of church a couple weekends ago.   

We were thinking the other day that it seems like Easter should be coming!  We won't be here for Easter, but how do you celebrate it going into Fall?  Just a thought we had!  Christmas won't be odd to us as in Florida we are used to warm weather for Christmas...even going to the beach.  There is a lovely beach just north of Durban.  Great waves all year round.  

The Ship is in Dry Dock!   

The Africa Mercy is in Dry Dock and please pray for the crew onboard and the Project Team.  The shipyard workers are working 24/7 to get the work done.  The generators are coming out now and the new ones will be going in soon!

There is so much to tell you about what has happened and our experiences here in South Africa so far.  We'll save some of it for the next newsletter! 
Thank you to all our family, friends and supporters for your faithful prayers, encouragement and financial support!   We couldn't be here without you!  May God bless you abundantly as you seek Him and may your life be everything that He has in His mind for you! 

God's blessings, 
Denise and Rob
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