Adventure

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Snapshots of Life in Benin: The Africa Mercy Wards

In between worlds I’m in Benin, but not really. Many of my colleagues are Benin locals and some are from neighboring countries, but there is a barrier that I don’t often know how to cross. The hospital within the steel walls of the Africa Mercy is not touching land; we have a flowing cushion of water underneath us at all times. We live in a ship, but we don’t move. We have limited medical supplies due to reliance on donations, yet we...

Why I’m Going Home: Thoughts on Leaving Mercy Ships

Two years ago I had to make a decision. It was the first major decision of our 2-year marriage where we both wanted completely different things. I wanted to leave the Africa Mercy and he wanted to stay. Fast forward two years and we are still here! Time is measured here in units of “commitments”. Everyone has to sign on for a specific length of time. Two years ago, I finally consented to the 2-year commitment Ruben was hoping for. Related...

My Benin Bucket List: 10+ Things To Do Before I Leave

life is a wisp of smoke I woke up, January had turned into February and I had a lot of living left to do. I’ve been on a ship docked in Cotonou, Benin, but I feel like I’ve been sitting around for 6 months. There’s so much left to see and experience! Alright, I need to calm down and be easy on myself. I HAVE been living. I’ve been working and orienting new ship nurses, and working on my marriage. I’ve...

Provocative Joy Ivanna Overseas Volunteering with Mercy Ships in Cotonou, Benin West Africa This is how to drop it all and just do it

Overseas Volunteering: 3 Tempting Reasons to Try It!

overseas volunteering I arrived on this ship full of energy to pour into the lives of others and I was so psyched to live abroad on a ship for a full year (although it turned into 3 years). It wasn’t a huge sacrifice for me; it was something I couldn’t wait to try. I heard so many people say, “I could never do that. I’d never be able to live far from family with no steady source of income.” I...

Venice of Africa Ganvié

The Venice of Africa: Ganvié on Stilts

An Intriguing city A journey away from my steel-box home always overwhelms me more than it should. My lack of a car, a local phone, or a sense of direction make exploring feel like a monumental task. That’s why I’m glad we didn’t wait too long before heading out to Ganvié, the lesser known Venice of Africa. Ganvié was the first Beninois attraction I hoped to visit. I’ve been reading a book called Show Me the Magic (affiliate link) written by...

Travel Lesson

A Travel Lesson: How To Be Ruined Gracefully

travel lesson #1: Travelling ruins many. I suspect I was ruined before I started, and travelling has made it worse. Mercy Ships was not to blame. It was a trip to Spain during sophomore year of college that set off the craving. However, Mercy Ships has been the vehicle, literally and figuratively, to carry me farther into traveler-ruin. How do I go back to normal? Here’s the problem. Today you think highly of yourself and your culture. Tomorrow you hop on...

Reverse culture shock: My Experience

Reverse Culture Shock: My Experience

seven weeks of home Coming home was the highlight of my year! It was awesome, especially when I only get to do it ONCE a year. It’s a necessary step back so I can see the big picture. Reverse culture shock unfortunately played a big role. When I look back, I can laugh at how ridiculous I was being. Here are a few snapshots of my time to help you understand how I experienced reverse culture shock. Where is safest?...

The Offering Bowl

I’ve never been to church in Africa before, until now. It’s both foreign and familiar; I’ve read and heard stories, but all the experiences are new. I’m struck by how beautifully simple things are.  I can look at this place with fresh eyes without comparing it to any other place. It’s like no place I’ve ever been before. Spain, Bolivia, Canary Islands, V&A waterfront in Capetown, Madagascar… None of them give me a frame of reference for Winterton and the...

Texas Firsts

{written on 7.15.15} Free wifi just transformed this time before boarding a plane into productive time. I’m at it again, traveling across the world. Ruben is on his way to Madagascar. He is by himself, and I’m with a group of 30-ish.  Have I mentioned we really miss ya’ll? I just hope you know that. Every time I leave Rochester, it gets harder. Today, I leave Dallas, Texas on my way to South Africa and it’s a little easier leaving...

Packing: Three of My Favorite Things

How do you pack for a 5 week trip to Tyler, Texas, a 2 week trip to Winterton, S. Africa, and then arrive to a ship that will sail for ~7 days and arrive in tropical Tamatave, Madagascar? There are lots of travel websites out there with tips on packing lightly, capsule wardrobes and how to pack for year-long round-the-world trips. But my itinerary is a little out of the norm. The assumption for overseas work is that you’ll be...