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Friday, July 30, 2010


Following on from our visit to Gape Aloyi we have come to learn that they have a high percentage of twins and even whilst we were there on our first visit a set of twin boys were born.
The Yoruba people boast a twin birth rate of 4.5-5%. They believe that the twin that emerges first from the womb is considered to be the younger of the two. Whether male or female, this twin is named Taiwo, which literally means, “experiencing the first taste of the world.” Taiwo is believed to be directed by the older twin, Kehinde (also male or female), to explore the world outside the womb and confirm whether it is okay to come out. Taiwo’s cry, after he or she emerges, is a sign to the older twin that it is safe to come out; Kehinde, which means “comes last”, then makes his or her way out of the womb and is considered to be wiser and more cautious than his or her younger sibling. With such a high rate, twins are perceived as a sign of fertility, they are believed to possess powers over wealth, health, and happiness, as well as over suffering and destruction. So care is often taken in giving them respect, love, and care. Parents will often seek the blessings of the “Babalawo" (the divination priest) 3 days after their twins are born. He supposedly drives out any evil spirits that may harm the children and educates the parents on how to raise them, including instructions on the color and type of clothing or jewellery for them to wear, foods that they should eat and animals they should avoid.
According to tradition, twins have two halves of the same soul. If one twin dies they believe that the balance of the soul is upset. Subsequently the Babalawo would direct a carver to sculpt a small figure that symbolizes the dead child, or in rare cases, 2, if both twins die. They believe that the sculptures house the soul of the dead twin and are called “Ibeji” which means, the sacred image of twins. They are believed to possess as much powers as the twins and are treated with a lot of respect. Like real children, these statues are bathed, fed, clothed and carried around. They are particularly special to mothers who pamper them and keep them close to their beds, occasionally rubbing them with red wood powder in order to give them a glossy look. They are caressed frequently and their birthdays are celebrated with rituals and prayers.
Here are some twin sculptures that we saw in a local museum in Lome.
Why the high birth rate? There are many conclusions, the favourite one is the large consumption of yams. So if you want twins, try eating yams for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Special Delivery to Gape Aloyi

Last weekend we made another visit to the village, Gape Aloyi. (You may remember reading our last post "Gape Aloyi Village Visit" back in May). This time we were there to see another historic occasion for the village and also deliver medical supplies. Having loaded up 2 landrovers full of supplies the night before, our trip started at 06:30 in the morning, along with some fellow crew members. The hospital supply on the ship were amazing in helping us find things that they could do without. We embarked on our very bumpy journey, having to take a different route due to recent heavy rain and potential flooding on the other road. We arrived to a sea of kids, excited at seeing us again and it was nice to see familiar faces from the last time. After greetings with the village chief we proceded to a grass roof shelter for a meeting. Everybody from the village gathered around, peering over the wall to hear the news that had been brought by our friends Eric and Fabienne. Eric and Fabienne have really taken this village into their hearts and are currently working to raise money to build a school. This is the site where the school will be built.
Already they have seen a clinic finished and the village are willing to help work to build it. This meeting was to see the start of this as they announced the sponsorship from the Air France foundation which will provide half of the money for the school. The school foundations can be started and as you can see by the video they were very happy with the news.
A contract was set up so that the village would agree to provide things like sand, water and workers to help the builder so that the cost can be kept down and they would take ownership of the project. This was signed by the chief.
Tim also gave a speech and he had the added pleasure of sharing that the Africa Mercy Crew had made a collection of just over $700 which will be put towards half of the toilet block or for the complete appatame (african style circular yard) When the builder got up to talk we found that we were talking in 3 different languages. The builder in the local language Ewe, then translated to French (one of the languages of Togo) then into English for us. This is often how a lot of people have to work on the wards in the hospital, you sometimes wonder if anything is lost in the translation.
The next item on the agenda was to present prizes to those that had passed their exams in the school. The students were delighted with their gifts and we hope that it inspires others to do well in the school.
Lunch followed with goat and fufu on the menu, cooked by the chief's, 4 wives!
We then proceeded over to the clinic to deliver the supplies.
The nurse was speechless, stunned, tearful, to put it in a few words, yet he beamed from ear to ear, as more and more boxes were carried in. He could not believe all the things that came in through the door.
We will never forget the look on his face when he discovered a set of baby weighing scales, something he had wanted for a long time. Many things like syringes etc have to be reused as they haven't got the supplies and our boxes of about 1000 syringes was just what he needed. 6 mosquito nets were the perfect match for the 6 beds in the little ward and gauzes galore will help cover healing wounds.
This is a visit we will never forget. It's great when God can make a difference in people's lives.
For Nathanael, the girls loved our little "Yovo" (name for white person) and he had a few marriage proposals whilst he was there, mainly from Mum's eyeing him up as a future son-in-law (we must say, one 2 year old was very cute!). At least he knows where to go when he's older and stuck for a wife.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Mistral Visit

Recently we had a visit by a French Navy Ship, The Mistral. The Mistral is one of the French Navy's new 21,300t amphibious assault, command and power projection ships and was commissioned in 2006. It has the capacity to carry up to 16 medium or heavy helicopters below deck, e.g. the NH90, SA 330 Puma, AS 532 U2 Cougar or AS 665 Tigre helicopters.
The flight deck has six landing spots and a 1,800m² hangar. The 5,000m² flight deck can accommodate up to six helicopter movements simultaneously. They have an Amphibious assault capability and can carry either four CTM, landing craft utility (LCU) or two air-cushion landing craft (LCACs).
They also have a 69 bed, 750m² hospital, equipped with two operating theatres. If additional hospital or medevac space is required, the hangar can also be converted into a modular field hospital. Seeing the hospital and then pictures of past evacuation on the walls really brought the reality of war to our minds.
As you can imagine our ship looked very small compared with this.
Tim and Sharon had the pleasure of being invited to lunch with the Captain and his officers with a delicious 4 course meal, including duck for the main course and a "melt in the mouth" mousse for dessert. Visits were also arranged for our crew to have tours and then they in turn came over to us. We were also able to attend an official function and spend time with a few of the officers over a Togolese meal at a friends house in Lome.
The Navy crew were able to use their skills ashore by helping to renovate a local school by painting, putting in electric lighting and making desks etc for the classrooms. They did an amazing job and the school of 800 kids are certainly enjoying it. We had the opportunity to visit and see the improvements just as they were finishing. The school, is run by a French man and has an amazing story behind how he has built it up to what it is now. He has a heart to provide the opportunity for schooling to kids and only charges a small amount so those who can't afford the big expensive schools in Lome can still have an education. So the French Navy has really added a lot to help this cause.