Friday, June 28, 2013

A Different Kind of Beautiful

We spend 10 months of each year in the main port city of a developing African nation.  These are places that many would consider dirty, ugly, unsafe, and overwhelming.  From a certain point of view they are right.  However, there is beauty there that we have not found in developed nations.  This beauty is not something that can be adequately described to someone who has not experienced it; it is visceral. 

However, this is not a post about Africa.  Though the Canary Islands are closer to Morocco by far than the European mainland, they belong to Spain and are decidedly Spanish in both culture and development.  We will spend, in total, about six weeks here while the Africa Mercy undergoes quite a lot of technical work (replacing hospital flooring, installation of a new CT scanner, new walk-in refrigerators in the galley, etc.). 

The Canary Islands are a shocking visual and cultural change from Africa, in both positive and negative ways.  As we try to do in each country we visit, we take the good and leave the rest.  The Canaries are beautiful with some wonderful architecture, cheap coffee (yeah!), cheap bread and cheese, and lots of parks (which are free - an even bigger yeah!!).

Here are some photos of our exploits so far:

Father Son Trip

Before Elijah headed off to the US with Dara for the summer he and I went on an outing to Museo Elder, an interactive science museum in Las Palmas.  Elijah loves science and has a natural gifting in that area.  It was wonderful for the two of us to be able to spend some time together doing something close to his heart. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Overwhelmed - Reverse Culture Shock (Dara)

I was so excited to just get in the car and drive to Target to get some underwear for Elijah.  How easy we have it here in the United States; to just hop in our cars and drive 15 minutes to get what we need.   I walked into target and went to the boys section pick up some underwear.  I then take a few steps to see that there is another brands that look just like the one in my hand so I put them back and choose a different kind, proud to save the two dollars.  I take a few more step and see there is another brand that looks the same but have 5 pair instead of three so I put them back the pack in my hand to grab the other when I am suddenly overwhelmed because there are still two, no three,  no four more kinds I can choose from.  
A simple trip to the store, the first in 2 years since I was last in the United States, and I am overwhelmed by the amount of choices there are; overwhelmed by the amount of stuff.  I think it is just time for me to leave the store.  As I walk out I see the pet aisle and think of my West African friend who went to the United States for the first time and when he got back I asked how he liked it.  He said he was sad when they saw the pet aisle.  He said, “The pets in America have more choices than the people in West Africa”.  Now, I am a pet lover so don't get me wrong - we’ve always had pets and loved and cared for them well.  We can’t have pets on the ship and it is one of the things that we miss most and talk about frequently - but to see the pet section in Target was hard.  Blankets, beds, toys, food for old, young, fat, and skinny dogs and cats…and on and on it went - just for a pet?  It’s hard to comprehend in comparison to the poverty and sickness that we see every day in West Africa.