Saturday, December 31, 2005

Well, less than 2 weeks to go. Scary, wot?

I've done quite a bit of sorting on my room, now it's a total mess again, as it was a week ago that I sorted it. Trying to spend as much time as I can with family, and all.

Here is a picture of my bag "proto-packed", with all the clothes in that I think I will need to take, as you can see, there is still some space, so I will fill up the rest with sheet music.

God is providing everything amazingly. I have not got all the financial support I need yet, but He is quite good at surprising me with things. Yesterday when I went to get my ticket, He got me a ticket for about 50 CYP less than I had originally reserved it for. Cool, eh?

Anyway. People keep telling me I should post more often, so I won't post any more now, and perhaps I'll remember tomorrow.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

OK... The new design is pretty much done, unless I get some brilliant ideas or suddenly decide I hate it or something. Anyway. What do you think?

Friday, December 09, 2005

Mum told me I had never posted any pics of my new clarinet, or some new ones I just got developed from the ship. So here they are (you can guess which is which):

I'm thinking of doing a bit of a redesign of the look of this blog... It's kind of boring, and I wont have a chance to do anything really to the look of it for the next 2 years so...

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


So, now I'd better start getting this blog on the road again... "why?" you may ask, well... heres the news:

I'm goin' back! Yeehaw! and so on.

I went for my interview with OM UK, and have been accepted to go back to the Doulos in February, so, God willing, I'll be leaving Larnaka sort of middle of January for the conference and pre-ship training.

It's actually all quite complicated. Yesterday I went and reserved a air-ticket to the conference. I need support for 2 years on board, and am just this week discovering how complex that all is. Some people had already offered to support me, and I met up last week with a church elder and treasurer and parents to discuss it all. They were all very supportive and encouraging, and said they don't think there should be any problems raising it all. I was supposed to be getting up in church last Sunday to tell everyone about what I'm going to be doing, and how much I need and all. But... I was struck down by some kind of virus or something, and instead spent most of Sunday throwing up. I couldn't even take a sip of boiled water during the morning. I'd have much rather got up in church and asked for support! I'm still not totally back to normal, but working at it. I guess God is telling me to rely on Him, not on my amazing oratary skills, or something. heh.

As well as the Doulos costs, I also have to raise money for their medical/travel/etc insurance, which equals more than another 2 months normal Doulos money. Also envolved are travel costs to and from the conference, and the cost of the conference itself.

I wanted to get my clarinet insured too. This is all quite complicated, as I need insurance worldwide, traveling, etc. I looked at various possibilities, like joining the British Musicians Union, as you can get good insurance with various agencies in the UK through them, with a discount. But... The agencies in the UK all require permanent residence in the UK, which I and my family do not have, as we live in Cyprus.

I misread the policy of the normal Doulos company, and thought they said in order to get "business items" cover (ie, expensive clarinets), it was another 500+ pounds a year, which utterly shocked me, as for that price I could almost buy a new clarinet intirely after 2 years of that... but happily, I was wrong, and I'm now emailing them getting my poor ol' brain to actually understand it all. It's well complicated!

As well as all this, there are more vaccination type thingys. I need to be vaccinated against Hepatitis B, according to the docs. Which is the troublesome one from before. There is, apparently, a super-accelerated one which takes 21 days. (1 jab, another after a week, and another after another 2 weeks). Anyway, I phoned my friendly doctor here in Larnaka, and she told me that they don't have this type in Cyprus, only the 3 months variety. OK... So I told the UK office this, and they said they would check if I could have the vaccinations on the ship.


Yesterday evening my friend at the theatre company told me his sister had telephoned him (His sister is the friendly doctor), and that she had found that this Hep.B vaccine IS available in Cyprus after all. I love how Cyprus works!

So I will phone her today, and ask how much it costs, as it may be cheaper on the ship anyway, and I need to check about her schedule too, as Christmas is coming up, so I may not be able to get it within the time before I go.

It's really complex! there is just so much stuff to do!

Our landlady wants the house we are renting back soo, so my family are probably going to be moving house sometime during the 2 years that I am away, which means I have to pack up all my stuff here really really well, so that it can be taken to the new house well. Besides that, other people will probably stay in my room sometimes.

Stuff. There is too much of it!

We cleared out our house in the UK, as my parents are FINALLY selling it, and we had (we thought) a few boxes left in a cupboard there to bring back here. Anyway, it turned out we had about 7 cubic metres of stuff, so we packed that all up, shipped it here, and now our house here is even fuller than before.

So I'm starting to clean my room out at last. I had about 2 cubic metres of old cardboard and kitchen roll-inner tubes, empty plastic milk bottles, empty tissue boxes, and so on, on top of my wardrobe, which I was going to use for crafts and construction, which all have been there for about 5 years now. I actually have used bits of them occasionally. Like I built a lens-camera a few years back using a bunch of old washing-powder boxes and a magnifying glass and some string, it's so hard for me to throw anything away... So I got rid of 2 black binliners of stuff yesterday, and have another 3 to sort out today. I wish Larnaka had paper recycling.

I've also been doing video editing and poster design for the theatre group, as well as occasional performances. We have a rehearsal tomorrow for the Christmas Special production of "The Little Man's Best Friend". It should be fun. I hope.


I'm trying out some new reeds, my new teacher says that I was playing on too hard reeds, and so I've been trying out some Vandoren 2.5 and (V12) 3s. She also got me some Vandoren 56-series 2.5 reeds, which is what she uses. I've had them 2 days, and they are driving me mad! I can't get my top octive in tune! I'm practically biting through my lip, and yet they top G is about 20 cents flat! And then the reed stops responding, and gets squeesed shut totally. It's crazy. Also the tone is so edgy and has no depth to it. The Vandoren trad. 2.5 is much better, and I think if 2.7 would be even better, if such a thing existed. Anyway. these 56-series 2.5s are so hard to sound nice on. Mind you, I can flinger/lip glissando from clarion D up to C on them with barely any effort at all. That's kind of cool... Normally I can only manage from G, and then its very hard. I dunno. I kind of wish I had tried a bit harder to play on those Lomax and Walter Grabner mouthpeices in the UK. Oh well.

Anyway. That's all the news I can think of at the moment.

I think I need to go finish off the last of my science and church history. I need to be finished by Christmas. There is so little left!

*sigh* Perhaps I'll just go get some herbal tea.


Monday, November 07, 2005

I'm back! So finally...

The epic clarinet adventure.

My teacher had been telling me that I needed to buy a new clarinet for years now. For the last 9 years I have been playing a lovely old Boosey and Hawkes Regent clarinet.
My teacher's son is studying clarinet in the UK, and plays a Buffet RC. So of course, my teacher believes that the only Real Clarinets (tm?) are wooden, made by buffet, and have "RC" written on them.

Seeing as how I live in Cyprus, I'm a bit wary of buying a wooden clarinet, as with the high humidity and so forth, and air-conditioning, I felt that a crack would be more likely than I feel happy with.

Anyway. So read through all the klarinet archives and decided to try out a RC Greenline, when we next visited the UK. So. We came to the UK for a month, my family and I, and I had been in contact with Howarths, in London, and they said they had no RC Greenlines, but did have wooden RC and R13 instruments which I could try out at their Worthing showroom, they also had a professional-line Howarths clarinet which I could try out, which was made from ebonite, which would also appease the humidity concerns.

The people at Howarths were extremely helpful, very patient, and had contacted every available source looking for RC Greenline in the UK, and were even willing to order one from France for me to buy. Unfortunatly, if I ordered one from France, it would arrive after we had left the UK, and also, I would have to pay a non-refundable deposit on it, which, if I didn't like it, might be a problem. Anyway. I tried out their RC and R13 and their own clarinet.

I didn't like the R13 much at all. The sound seemed to me a bit more shrill than I liked, and I also had trouble playing it in tune. I could probably have become used to it, but things like the 12ths seemed too stretched without lipping quite a lot.

The RC I liked more. It seemed to be more in tune (to my ears) than I could play the R13, and the sound seemed less shrill, and more solid. Nevertheless, it didn't grab me particually, and although a good clarinet, I didn't feel it was really special for me.

The Howarths Ebonite instrument was a bit strange. I was expecting to like it, and wanted to like it too, I quite wanted to buy a non-Buffet instrument, just to be more individual, you know. :-) But, I didn't like it at all. The tone seemed shrill and harsh, the scales didn't sound in tune when I played them, and I couldn't play it consistantly well. Sometimes it played quite sweetly, but other times I felt like I was fighting it. My dad commented that it almost sounded like an oboe in timbre, which when I told him about Howarth's being originally more oboe oriented, he thought quite interesting.

The Howarth's employee was extremely helpful, and said that I could phone her back at the end of the week and it would still be in time for her to order for me an RC Greenline from France.

When I asked her about an oboe she was repairing, she gave me freely a bag of 10 or so barkless cork pads!

While we were there, I also tried out a Lomax mouthpiece on my Regent, wow, that made a huge difference, a much more pure and (appologies to Mr. Leesen) rounded centred sound. Even on a plastic instrument. My family were very impressed by it. But as I still did not have a better clarinet, we thought I should not buy until perhaps later.

Anyway. Good shop, very helpful people, but I didn't really like the clarinets.

I had also been briefly in contact via email with Alistair Hanson, asking about their clarinets, as I had seen them online, and I was thinking of perhaps buying a medium/advanced level instrument from them, in their Ecowood or Ebonite materials, as a step up. He told me about their new compressed-grenadilla/composite material, which he said is totally resistant to humidity and temprature problems. He told me I could stick one of these clarinets in a freezer for 6 months, leave it in boiling water, or treat it with as little care as plastic and would have no problems. I told him I was thinking of buying an RC Greenline, and he said no problem, if I tried out one of their clarinets, and didn't like it, I could of course send it back, and that if I wanted, they could find me an RC Greenline from a dealer they knew in Edinburgh. I asked to try out one of their T-5 instruments in this new material, and Alistair said they didn't have any T-5s at the moment, but they had an ex-display model T-6, and if he sold it me without a proper T-6 case, then he could sell it at a reduced price. And of course, if I didn't like it, I could send it back. So I waited (not very patiently) for it to arrive.

Later in the day that I had ordered it, we drove past a small music shop, and so popped in to see if by some random chance they had an RC Greenline which I could try out. They did have an R13 Greenline... so I tried that out, and thought it actually very good. I much preferred it to the wooden R13 which I had played the day before. The sound was still a bit shriller than I liked, but overall the sound seemed slightly solider, more stable, and I could control the tuning without too much effort. My dad suggested that this clarinet, combined with the Lomax mouthpiece would be a good combination, in case I could not get the other.

The next day the Hanson clarinet arrived! I was really excited, of course. I opened the cardboard package, expecting to see the clarinet packed up in bubble wrap or something, but in fact it came in a great sturdy compact backpack type case! Also included was a Vandoren 5RV 88-Series mpc, and Vandoren Optimum lig!

The clarinet itself was beautiful. Smooth and shiny as the best of plastic instruments (bore and outside), but with unstained grenadilla colouring. The keys were all well laid out and elegant. It included a detachable alternate Eb key, and all of the left pinky leaver keys contain rollers at the end (I'm slightly doubtful of the actual effect of these), but apparently it makes the action smoother. There are no flat bladed springs anywhere on the instrument. They use normal pin type springs, and coil springs. The pads are only slightly odd looking bit, as they are yellow (except for cork for register and c#/g#). This is not such a big deal. I asked them about this, and they said it is so they can tell easily which pads they put on, and which have been replaced by other people, later.

I tried playing it, and was blown away. Lovely sound. The lowest notes are much richer and fuller than on any of the other clarinets I had tried, and the tuning seemed to be bang on right the way up to altiss. G and above. Except... for the throat A and Ab notes. They were WAY offscale sharp. More than 50 cents sharp, when I checked with a tuner. The throat G was slightly sharp, but easily manageable with "resonance" fingerings.

Also, that evening, while playing, I heard a strange click, and found that the coil spring on the throat A key had popped out, and no longer would it spring down.

Before actually dismantling the instrument, I bethought myself to phone them in case by doing so I was invalidating the warranty, or something.
It was about 8pm, but Alistair was still there working, and before I mentioned that I knew what I was doing, offered to walk me through it on the phone! He was quite apologetic, this never having happened before. Anyway.
The coil springs are very nice, in some ways, but when putting them back on after taking a key off, be careful! Some of them have to be aligned the right way around inside their sockets, so that when they compress, or expand, they do so in the correct direction, to stop them from touching other pads! Thanks to Alistair, I got it all sorted though. No problems since (4 weeks ago).

A few weeks after that, I was able to go and visit them up in Marsden, and spent the afternoon at the workshop, learning about clarinets, how they make them, and practising stripping down and rebuilding an old flood worn clarinet. Alistair also fixed the two sharp throat notes for me, with some tiny stuck in rubber patches, that sorted them out fine, and I can now play them well in tune. They also lowered the register key a bit for me, rounded off the cork pad on it, and so on.

I have had no troubles with it since then at all. I think I may need to make the left pinky C key cork a little larger, and perhaps add a since layer of paper to the low E/B crowsfoot mechanism to hold the low F/C pad down slightly firmer. I forgot to mention these when I took the clarinet up to them. Anyway, it's not complicated.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

We're off to the UK tonight. I'm still not packed yet, and am now sending the last of the emails which I need to do, with contacts in the UK, and so on.

I've got all my references sorted, and am finishing off the last one or two questions on the OM application form. I will hopefully be going for an interview on the 17th of October about joining Doulos. All very exciting!

Anyway, I probably won't have much chance to update the blog for a few weeks or more. But I may, and I definately will once we get back from the UK (25th of October).

If anyone feels like praying, that'd be awfully nice.



Wednesday, September 21, 2005

This is a 3d representation of the Doulos Toaster:

Strange things happen with this machine.

I'll explain how ought to work:

1) You put your bread on the metal mesh conveyor belt at the front.

2) The conveyor belt slowly slides the bread inside, where a double grill toasts it.

3) The (now) toast reaches the end of the conveyor belt, falls off it, and slides back to the metal toast-catching tray at the front (just below where you put the bread in).

4) You pick up your perfect slice of toast, a happy smile upon your lips, and head towards your table, while others in the dining room cast admiring glances at your beautiful slice of gastronomic delight.

There. That's how it ought to work. This is what actually happens:

1) You stand in a medium sized queue waiting for your turn at the toaster, while people push past you to put their finished trays onto the rack, napkins in the bin, and so forth.

2) You eventually reach the toaster, and now have to wait while the bread already on the conveyor belt moves forward enough for you to fit yours on.

3) You put your bread on the conveyor belt, and realise someone has changed the speed that the conveyor belt moves at, so now it is too fast, and your bread wont get toasted at all!

4) You set the speed back down to the slowest speed again.

5) Someone comes along with their bread, peers at yours sitting on the conveyor belt which is just entering the toaster, and they push your bread forward so that they can fit theirs in.

6) This really annoys you, because it means that YOUR bread won't get as much toasting as you want!

7) They then set the speed up to the fastest.

8) This annoys you even more.

9) You patiently and with loving brotherly kindness explain that the dial changes the SPEED that the bread goes through the toaster, and NOT how hot the toaster will be, and that they just made their bread get less toasted, which wasn't what they wanted, was it?

10) It wasn't, and so they set it back to slow again.

11) Your toast pops out of the toaster.

12) You pick it up and...

13) Wait a second, this isn't your toast! You put in brown bread, from the middle of the loaf, and this is a white crust!

14) You put back the toast into the toast-catching tray, and peer inside the toaster to see where your toast is.

15) There is no toast in the toaster. It is now empty.

16) Puzzled, you pick up the white toasted crust, and wander around for a while holding it, and asking random people if it is theirs.

Eventually you give up, and confusion oozing from every pore, head back to your table.

18) You trip over someone who was pushing their chair out, and drop the toast on the floor.

19) Someone treads on it, and appologises.

20) You sigh, say "A little dirt never hurt anyone. Especially on Doulos!".

21) Everyone in the near vicinity nods sagely.

22) You pick up the crushed white now-cold crust, and continue on your way to the table.

OK. So that's what actually happens. The question is :


Now, we could either conclude with a rather trite, but possibly true conclusion that it is all part of God teaching you about patience, but my answer is slightly more believable.

The Doulos toasters (referred to now as "a") are actually a multi-dimensional hyper-space teleportation and transformational location-modification device, which maps your bread ( now "b" ) through a quantum-bread meta-matrix and returns it utilising a state-switching algorithm which aligns the spinless iso-toast ("c") with a 7 digit hexadecimal Glenn-Mann style vectoral frame reference so that, obviously, the anti-toast ("d") particles of the sub-heliotropic "b" (also known as "your bread") are accelerated to a state where by critial mass is reached simultaneously with the point where another semi-random peice of toast is displaced from the meta-matrix, and arrives in the toast-catching tray.

So keep this in mind next time you want some toast on the Doulos.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Man, I really have abandoned this poor blog, have I not?

I spoke at church, last Sunday. Seemed to go OK. I was quite nervous, but managed to make people laugh a few times, and a lot of people have said how much they liked me talking at church. Thing is, I don't actually like the whole "Sunday Morning Church" thing. Particually having a 30 to 45 minute "Sermon" or lecture shoved in the middle. I talked for 20 minutes, and feel kind of guilty for taking so long.

I've got the OM application form, and thus far have not yet filled it out. I really need to. We're going back to the UK in about a week, for an entire month. I wonder if they can post the next set of forms to me there? Hm.

One of my friends from the STEP sent me some photos of my cabin! I'll see if I can put some online over the next few days. Here is a picture of the bathroom of our cabin...

I was going to go on a 5 day woodwind repair course in Wales in about 3 weeks, but 2 days ago I phoned them because they had still not sent me the accomidation details, and they said "Ah, yes, well, you see, the tutor we have hired just told us that he cannot come until a week later. We were just going to phone you later today to tell you..." Well. A week later than the course is the week we come back to Cyprus! So not a whole lot of use! The guy says we will get a full refund, and he is trying to see if he can find a woodwind repairer friend of his to take me on as an apprentice for a week... Who knows.

This is one of those things, you know, when all your plans just jump right out of the window, and there is nothing you can do at all. I just have to trust God again in this. I know that He can change dates and things, like He did with the Doulos when I joined, with them having a place for me in June rather than later in the year. So I know He can do the same now too. Both ways. If He wants me to do this course, He can change the dates back again, and provide the accomidation. And if He does not want me to do the course, again, the same thing. So this could be His way of saying "Not this time, boyo" (He'd say "boyo" because the course is in Wales). So yeah.

On a lighter note, it looks like I will be able to buy my new clarinet in about 2 weeks! Woo! There is a shop in Worthing which is right close to where my Grandmother lives, and we will be visiting her for a while, and will try to visit then to go clarinet shopping. Yeah! I'm currently planning to get a Buffet RC Greenline. We'll see. I think a greenline would be best for being on the Doulos, with all the crazy humidity and other conditions and all.

So. Signing off...

Thursday, September 08, 2005

This is a photo from my E-day in (I think) Beira, where we spent the morning clearing up rubbish from the roads, and then from the beach area by the hospital, and then did an open-air outreach in the afternoon. We were told what to do with the rubbish by the local volenteer (who was told by the municipality rep he knew).

Dig a great big hole, and bury it.

The europeans in the group thought this was very funny. Anyway, so we did. The photo shows Yours Truely in a deckie uniform (that blue thing). I spent most of the 2 months wearing that thing.

Kind sexy, isn't it? Well... OK, not really. The shoes are alright though. Nice solid things, with steel tips. I was quite glad of those steel tips at one point. During Sabbath Week while I was on watch, the Bosun called me over to help move a cargo converyor belt, just the two of us, and it dropped onto my foot. The deckie manual says that one should always wear deckie boots while on watch, even though I was told by other deckies "Naw, don't. Just wear black shoes, so it looks smart. Your deckie shoes are all messy, so you'll get shouted at if an officer comes up."

I'm quite glad I ignored them, actually. That conveyor belt was heavy! But thanks to wonderful super-magic deckie shoes, I didn't feel anything, and we just then lifted it up again and put it up where needed.

I went to Karate last night, at the local centre. I started attending (once a week) about 3 months before leaving to join the Doulos. I hadn't really had a chance to keep it up while on board, although I did try to do some excersize some days. Right up on top of the ship is the "Sun-Deck", which is for crew only, and has some excersize equipment, an excersize bike, weights, a punching bag, and so on. There are also some hammocks, which aren't for excersize, but are nice anyway. It's quite noisy up there, because it is right above the engine room hatch, so you can talk privately if you want, and it is out of the way of visitors. Some of the guys would go up there every night to work out, do weights, and so on. Weights have never really been my thing, but I occasionally did some stretching, juggling, push-ups, and so on. It's amazing how much better you feel if you do some excersize each day, or every other day, or so. It's so easy on board the Doulos to just ignore that kind of thing, as the work on board (deck, catering, etc) is quite hard, and can leave you feeling quite tired, but without actually working out your whole body. Anyway. It's well worth it.

And this is a photo from the same day as before. You can see me in the background, watching the other two who were doing a drama, during the outreach bit. They didn't really want to do the drama, much (Statue drama), but they had organized it without asking if I wanted to act, and so when they found out that I love acting, they were a bit annoyed afterwards... Oh well. It was OK.


Sunday, September 04, 2005

I hadn't posted much for a few days. So I thought I would just start randomly typing and see what happens.

When I was on Doulos, with working in the Deck and all, I had to learn a few knots. Just simple ones. I'd always liked knots, and all sailory (nautical is a better word, isn't it...) things, but had never been particually good at remembering them. I'd always learned them before in situations where someone showed me the knot, and then I had a few minutes to practice with about 6 other people all wanting the same rope, and then no chance to try again for weeks and weeks. Well, on Doulos, we had to use these basic knots every day, and funnily enough, I learned them quite quickly. Like this first knot, the "Bowline" (pronounced bo-lin). It's called this because apparently some time in the depths of time, for some reason lost in the bowels of obscurity, they used this knot to tie the bow (the front) of a boat, or ship, to whatever they needed to tie it to. The dock, presumably. And for some other weird reason, almost all ropes are called "lines" by nautical people, whenever the rope has a use.

When we loaded (or unloaded) things from the Ship using the crane, we always tied another rope from the item being loaded (or unloaded), which would then be held quite tight to make sure the item didn't swing around in the wind, or crash into things. This rope is called a "Messenger Line". Sometimes we used 2 messenger lines, for big things (like the Doulos mini-vans, which had to be loaded and unloaded at every port.) Funnily enough, we actually used that knot (the Bowline) to attach a messenger line to the object being loaded (or unloaded).

Here is another picture. This is a knot which is in fact, a bowline, but so modified that it has become absurd, and no one would ever use such a knot. It does look kind of pretty though, I guess...

Working on Deck, I began to really like knots a lot, and when I got back to Larnaka I went and bought a small ammount of rope, and have been practicing knots and such, and inventing crazy things with them and all. Like that monstrocity here. Terrible, isn't it.

My father just saw a mirror dinghy advertived on a notice board in the local supermarket... not very expensive, either. Second hand. My father and I have wanted for ages to get a small boat. So. We will see what happens...

Oh, by the way. I have started contacting the Doulos people again, to begin attempting to apply to join them again. And next week I will be speaking in church about my experiences on the Doulos over the last 2 months. Should be fun. Again, we will see what happens...

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

I just realised that I forgot to post about my trip back to Larnaka...

I spent most of the day that I left in packing, wandering around slightly disconsolately, wondering what I had forgottern, sorting out other peoples stuff which they had left in the cabin, and finishing off packing stuff myself. I had already agreed to take presents back for 2 people on board to supporters or friends in Cyprus, and 2 other people brought stuff to me randomly during the day and said "would it be OK for you to take this back with you? I know this guy in Cyprus who I met while in port there and would love to send them this gift..." Anyway. I also had random things to clear up, like I took some old sunglasses up to the Creative Ministries Office, they always want more sunglasses as props and costumes, and all that. I had a childrens activies/crafts book which I had be loaned before Sabbath Week which I needed to take back, and so on and so forth. So many things to do.

The last of the STEPPERs ate together with our STEP mum for our final meal ( lunch ) on board. The 2 SP-STEPPERs, one Swiss girl, and myself. Our Albanian STEPPER had somehow managed to go on overnight, and had been gone the last 2 days or so, and none of us knew when she would actually arrive back to Doulos, or when her flight was!

Anyway, we were told what time the minibus would leave. At half an hour before that time, I had most of my stuff packed, but not all, and was slowly going about the cabin finding other random things to pack, sorting out clothes and things to take to Charlie, and so on.

Suddenly I realised that I was supposed to go to the quayside earlier than that, in order to say goodbye to people! And worse yet, I needed to go to the loo before leaving! So I quickly rushed to the loo, washed my hands, rushed out again, and picked up my bags, and found that I had forgotten to pack my washing bag, with toothbrush and all, so I collected that, and packed it, then saw on my bunk that I hadn't packed some other things, so I packed them, looked at my watch, was shocked, saw loads of things in my drawer that I needed to either pack or send to Charlie, and then heard my name being paged on the info system! So I picked up all my bags, and then thought "Oh, yeah, I'd better phone them back!" So I phoned info: "Hi, this is Daniel, I'm on my way! Sorry!" they started laughing, so I hung up the phone, and struggled out and up the stairs towards the prom deck and gangway.
Thankfully, another friendly Deckie saw me, and offered to carry my bag for me, so I could just cope with my hand-luggage, and with the weighing scales that I had borrowed from info to weigh my bags. Which reminded me, I needed to take them back to info! So I changed direction, and we headed up to info. I gave them the scales, and clambered out of the door to the other gangway.
Someone else had offered to carry my handluggage too, but it was that terrible backpack which I had just fixed with the sewing kit, and I didn't want to take it on and off my back more than I had to. I had a 30 second argument about this with him, he claiming that I would be offending his culture if I didn't let him carry it for me, which was nonsense. Well, perhaps not nonsense. His culture might be offended, but he wouldn't. He had been on Doulos so long that you'd have to punch him on the nose to offend him. And his culture wasn't there to get offended anyway. So I let him carry the scales for me. That seemed to make him happy, anyway.
So I got to the gangway, and all the others were already in the minibus, which was running and the driver wandering around looking distracted "You're late!" he shouted. "I know!" I replied.

All of my Deck team were there, and decided that now was the best time for a group hug, deckie style, which I believe is an ancient ritual inspired by snakes, boa constrictors on acid or something like that. So once I could breath again, I hugged all the other random people on the quayside, creative ministries people, friends, people I had worked with other than the deckie team, my twin (who gave me a red hand-made goodbye card with a canada pin on it), and so on.

The minibus was at the gate and honking by this time, so I took the parcels from the STEP mum for me to add to my bag, and ran over and jumped in. We zoomed out at a terrible speed, I began to wonder if the driver had forgotten that we were supposed to go the airport before lift-off, narrowly missed a container-lorry, and headed for the airport.

It's a 45 minute drive from the Doulos to the airport. I don't think it took anything like so long.
I spent about half of it in attempting to remove my keys from a strip of elastic which I was using to hold them to my belt, in order for the driver to give back to our STEP mum. I could have given the elastic too, but I needed it for a belt-buckle, the belt looking silly and flapping around without it.

I hate belts.

When we got there, my STEP sister - who was leaving half an hour before me - and I checked in, went through to the departure lounge.

While checking in, the guy who checks the passports and tickets and that had never heard of Cyprus, I think, and wanted to know if I had a visa for there. I told him that Cyprus was in Europe, in the Union. Didn't impress him much. I showed him my Alien Registration Certificate of Cyprus, from 7 or 8 years ago, before Cyprus joined, and he looked at my photo, and asked "Is this you?" I said yes. He pondered it for a while, then asked "Why did they put a picture in of when you were a baby?". He asked if I wanted to collect my luggage in Jo'Burg, or if I wanted it to go strait through. I thought strait through, and so he put some LCA tags on the bag. I was a bit worried though, if this guy didn't even know where Cyprus is, who knows where my luggage might end up!

It was odd being all alone, just 2 STEPPERs. We looked at some of the duty-free shops. Very expensive. So we sat down for a while, and talked about going back home, missing the others, and so on. I realised that I was still wearing my Doulos name badge, so took it off and put it in my belt-bag. She thought that was quite funny.
I like her a lot. When we first joined the STEP, she was very quiet, and almost withdrawn, but in the last week or so has been much more outgoing. She even punched me once, when I told a really bad joke. I would never have expected that after seeing her during the first week on board! It just takes a long time for some people to become comfortable with so many new people, I guess.
Her flight was called, so we hugged goodbye, and said "See you in Jo'burg!" and off she went.
I was sitting there, watching her go, talking to God, and feeling slightly lonely, when these two blokes came up to me, one of them in a black leather jacket, and the other one in a yellow t-shirt. They said they were airport staff doing a questionaire, and would I care to help them? I immediately went into paranoid Who-do-you-think-you-are-go-away-respect-my-privacy-mode, and said "Sure, how can I help you, Gentlemen?".

Actually, I didn't say that at all. I said "It depends" in my most non-committal voice, and moved my bag into a more secure place by my chair. I checked where all the security guards were too, and kept an eye on both of them the whole time, "Just wonderful!", I was thinking, "Get as far as the airport and then get mugged! Great!" I didn't tell them my sirname, and answered all the usual boring "how have you found service of the staff at Durban Airport?" and so on.. then he turned over the page, and the questions began to get slightly surreal.

"What have you learned during this interview?" he asked.
"Well, what have you learned from us, I guess?"
"Nothing really. You just came up and started asking me questions."
"Oh." he said. Slightly baffled.

Then he introduced himself, and his partner, and told me that I had now learned their names, and then I think he wrote down that I had learned their names, or something like that... Strange... Yellow T-shirt wandered off to get a drink or something. Then black-leather-jacket asked if I was from the Doulos. So I said yes, he brightened up and said that he knew some people from the Doulos, they had visited his church, a few weeks ago.

Oh. Right.

So we talked about church for a while, and about Doulos, and he gave me his number for if ever I am in Durban again. Then his friend came back, a bit puzzled that we were still doing the questionaire. It turned out that we had actually finished it, and he was now asking me questions from the post-interview staff-debriefing paper. That explained the strange questions! So they said goodbye, and wandered off. I sat around for a bit, and eventually my flight was called, so I got on the plane, and left Durban.

One Short Boring Flight Later...

Jo'Burg International! Very confusing airport. I got myself a muffin to eat, and some Biltong for my brother and father, in a sealed plastic container thingy with the last of my South African money, and attempted to find my way to the "International Transfers", apparently different to "International Departures". Some of the signs had it, others didn't. Eventually, the signs pointed me down a dead end.

I went up to a South African Airlines desk and asked where on earth to go. The lady said "Ah, we haven't finished building this part of the airport yet. The signs are all wrong. Just go out that door, and follow the signs for International Departures." Oh.

So I went out the door, and was now outside the airport! Taxi's went past me! This was a bit confusing, so I just followed the signs. I soon entered a large building, with hundreds of people and millions of signs pointing to all kinds of different boarding gates. I had no idea where to go at all. Then a strange man walked up to me and said "International flight?" so I said "yes" and he said "Follow me" and rushed off into the melee. So I followed him, cautiously, half expecting him to go down a small alley, and then for 30 huge men with stockings over their heads to jump out and try to steal my passport or something. Luckily, nothing like that happened, and he did lead me to the right place. It would have taken ages to find it myself. He did ask for a tip though, so I gave him one. I then went through the security checkpoint, and started heading for my gate. I then saw my STEP sister sitting reading! So I went up to her and said "Howzit?" or something like that. ( Howzit is the typical greeting in South Africa, by the way. ) She said "fine" and asked what time I was to check in. I didn't know, so asked her what time she was checking in. She said about an hour. She told me I really ought to know what time I was checking in. So I checked my ticked and told her "About half an hour."
"So you really ought to be checking in about now then?"
"I guess so."
"Well, go check in then!"

So I did.

One Long Boring Flight Later...

Dubai! Dig that ultra Mod-Arab style thing, habibi! Yeah! Texted my parents again, to say I was safe, and waited for my next flight. Duty free food is a lot cheaper in Dubai than in Jo'Burg or Durbs. I got a bottle of water and a Bounty Chocolate/Ice-Cream bar for less than a single US Dollar. Nice.

One Medium-Length Boring Flight Later...

Larnaka! Home! My luggage did arrive safely, which is a good thing.

Small Important historical aside: About 2 weeks ago, I saw this quite cool Indiana-Jones/Explorer type hat at one of the stalls down by the Durban Sea-Front. I saw it and immediately thought "That's just the sort of hat that my father would have always wanted, but never got around to buying because it is just silly and expensive and his mother would probably have disapproved." And they were quite cheap. So I bought 2. One for him, and one for me as they are rather cool.

As I pushed my trolley through the slidey doors of Larnaka airport, I looked left, and there were my family to meet me! My younger brother with his hair cut, Mum with her hair looking approximately like it did in photos of her from 20 years ago, and ...

Dad wearing one of those exact same hats!!!

Quite a strange feeling passed over me. Not sure whether to laugh or cry. I've felt like this a lot recently. So I did neither, but I did pray under my breath "OK, God. Very funny. What exactly are you teaching me this time?".

It's kind of semi-annoying, and yet quite personal and touching when God does this to me. He's been doing things like this a lot. I go to a whole load of effort and get really worked up or excited about something, or do lots of planning, and then He goes right ahead and does something clever and shows me that I needn't have gotten so worked up, or spent so much effort, and that He is in control anyway. So. There are 2 options. Either God is just having fun, and this is some kind of joke. Quite possible. I mean, we're made in God's image, and one of the elements that makes us human is humor... but it's quite a worrying thought. The other option is that He is teaching me something. In fact, I'm sure He is teaching me something.

Hope I find out what, one of these days...

I greeted them quite enthusiastically, and they took that photo of me that got posted a few days ago, and we went home. Good to see them again. And the cats again too. And all of Larnaka.

Later, I gave my dad the hat, and told him where and why I had got it. And he said that yes, he had seen his in a cheap tourist shop and had thought that those were just the sort of hat that he would have always wanted, but never got around to buying because it is just silly and expensive and yes, his mother would probably have disapproved!

Monday, August 29, 2005

Here is a picture of that wee whaley thing we saw from up on the bridge, way back. Cute, inni?

A few people have suggested that I start formatting my blog and filling it out a bit, and turn it into a book, and try and get it published. So I went through and copied all the text into a AbiWord document, went through it all with the spell-checker (which I had to look at sternly and tell not to use American spellings...) and then did a word-count... 26839 words! Wow... I would never have expected that! Subtract a few hundred for headers and dates and all, and well. Yeah. That's pretty good for a start. I'll start tinkering with it soon, and adding anecdotes and all. Just random perhaps interesting stories. Like this one:

While I was on watch, the second time, more people would come and just chat to me, which was nice. It helped the time pass faster. Anyway, one of the guys who came up and chatted was a Project Worker (short termer, not a STEPPER, just came for a specific job or time or whatever), from Finland. We were talking about this one guy some of the ship's company had met, who said he was British, on holiday on Durban, but had had his passport stolen, and now the British Embassy would not let him get a new one, as they had no proof that he was who he said he was. Not a fun situation. Anyway. Apparently, for Finnish people it is a lot easier, you can just walk into any Finnish Embassy, and get a new one just like that! I asked how this was possible, and he told me in his deep nasal voice "You just speak to them in Finnish. Anyone who speaks well Finnish must be from Finland. Nobody else can." Ah. That explains it. Apparently also the government has some kind of way of validating it, perhaps with fingerprints or DNA or something as well... I could probably use this as a good excuse to rant on for a few pages about the horrors of Big Brother Is Watching You And Reading Your DNA. or something like that. But I wont. I mean, most people already have pretty strong opinions about it, one way or the other, and whatever I say will have no effect on them. Or on their opinions. I used to have so many random discussions and arguments with one of my cabinmates, who left earlier than the rest. The American Seminary-student. Man, that was fun. "What is the difference between ignorance and innocence? And which is the more blissful?" "How to respond to leadership, and disagreement-with leadership?" and so on, as well as all the usual ones , Speaking in Toungues, Church leadership structure, responce to disagreement with leadership, basis of faith, various cultural things, and so on. Lovely. We disagreed on so much! And at the same time had a similar view on many things. Yeah.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Here is a picture of the crowds in Nacala (the first port I visited, properly). It's kind of amazing still to me how many people visited, even though it was such a poor port. Mind you, a lot of stuff was stolen at that port. There are normally tables of pens, key-chains, etc, with Doulos pictures on them, and although practically none were sold, the tables were almost empty by the end of the first day. We stopped selling them there after that. That's enough for today. I'm still kind of settling back in to Cyprus, trying to get stuff organized, and all that.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

In the words of one of the Douloids I met "I'm back! Sviss Power! Ja!" The middle bit doesn't really make sense for me to say, about sviss power and all, but the "I'm back"bit and the "Ja" do. This is a photo my wee bro took of me at the airport, with me bag and other bag, which I repaired (and held out for the whole trip back!). Yeah. So, I'll post about the wonderful trip home again soon, and have now allowed comments on the blog for everyone, so PLEASE leave comments! Oh, and I will be uploading many more pictures soon too, and continuing to blog, and talk about the trip and all, so don't stop coming to this page, oh dedicated masses, but remember ye all to visit again whenst ye hath time or even forsooth, if havest ye not.


Tuesday, August 23, 2005

I've been doing loads of laundry... so many guests move in and out of my cabin and they forget to take their sheets to Laundry when they leave, so there was about 20 sheets, 9 pillow cases, and so on. About 20kg in all, I think. I also have given some towels to Charlie.

Anyway, I have added a few more things to my case, and one or two people want me to take things back to Cy for supporters and friends there... so I hope I have room!

Doulos is A.C to about 24 or so, and yet it feels like hard work here! I will go ask about flights now...
I've packed, at least mostly. And the main luggage is about 18 kg, w/o towels (which I may leave), and w/o todays clothes (all quite light, which is why I am packing them and not wearing them. Although I may pack my heavier ones since it is so low).

I have not actually re-confirmed my flights, but was told by someone else that the pursor may have done that. I was going to ask her today, but the office was shut. I hope it all turns out OK. Anyway, if the meals are meat, I shall just eat less (ie, that which is not meat) , and drink more fruit juice, which may be a good thing anyway.

I'm so tired today. We went out to a Zulu village/tourist thingy. Very cool, I guess, but living in Larnaka has made me so skeptical of Tourist things of any sort at all that I enjoyed it less than the others. Oh well.

There was a crocodile park there as well... they have
well over 50 crocs, in various places, and we had dinner there as well. They had this thing they called "The Fear Factor Challenge", which was basically they put out some tables in one of the croc. compounds, and the people who wanted to could sit at the tables and eat crocodile kebabs with nothing between them and the crocs, and 1 guard standing there with a stick to point the crocs in the other direction.

Not really my thing.

So I just stuck to the resturant, and
had a quite nice fresh salad and bottled water. Nice to have truely fresh vegitables, again. Doulos ones always seem to have a slightly brownish tinge to them... Anyway. I justtified not doing the Fear Factor with the following sylogism (if that is the right word):

Premise) The park will not gain a good reputation by having visitors lose fingers.
Premise) If it were dangerous, then visitors might lose fingers.
Conclusion) It is not dangerous.

So, therefore, you pay the extra 40 Rand or so just for a "thrill" which is in fact, not dangerous, and rather silly. And also, if it was at all dangerous, then I quite like my fingers, and find them quite useful, at times, and so risking them for the sake of saying I had eaten with crocs is intensely silly.

So I didn't.

Crocs are such weird creatures. The keeper bloke who was showing us around before hand was down in the compound with them and tapped them, and one of them (100 years old this year) roared at him, and snapped at the stick. They are just so primeval! So totally lifeless until roused, and then totally instinctive until they forget, and then back to domant again. And so big! Weird. Weird. Weird.

Anyway. I'm tired. I'm buring a few CDs of stuff.

Bananas, other fruit, yogurt, just usual stuff is so unusual here. I am looking forward to coming home. And yet I know I will miss Doulos too.

Monday, August 22, 2005

About 10 STEPPERs left today. So it will be very lonely now in my cabin. 10 person cabin, now with just 2 people. Myself, and a German new STEPPER, who does not speak so much English, and keeps totally different hours to me. I am going to bed about 11pm, and getting up at 6, or 6.30am, he is in bed by about 9pm, and wakes up about 7.30 or 8am. So, yeah.

Very good
on board Sunday Service, extremely good talk/sermon/whatever by one of the pastor/leader/teachers on board about the book of Job. Then afterwards I was able to help set up for the Doulos birthday party, and then get into a clown costume, makeup, and all that.

At the beginning of the programme (it was raining, so we were all indoors), we did a small
sketch, which was fun. About 3 minutes. Then after that, I went outside (it had stopped raining) with the other clowns to do some juggling and other entertaining. I spent the whole afternoon out there, juggling, playing with someones very nice poi, and being funny, making people laugh, etc. Clowning is fun. But tiring.

If/when I come back to the Doulos, I would really like to organize or be part of more regular juggling/ circus workshops, or whatever. There used to be some, but now the people who used to do that have mostly left, and there are only 1 or 2 part-time jugglers on board, with not a huge ammount of motivation to practice, except when there is something coming up...

Speaking of coming back... People who join the Doulos for 2 years join in groups, and first have a 2 week or so training time together in whichever port the Doulos will be arriving at. These groups are called "Preships", and people will mostly still introduce themselves for on-board events with something along the lines of "Hi, My name is David from the Istanbul Preship" or whatever. Preship training happens every 6 months. The end of January/Febuary, and in August/September.

The last Doulos Preship to join (the most recent one) joined actually in Larnaka, which was why the ship visited then. They are the
Beruit Preship. The next one will be Richard's Bay (South Africa), in less than a month. This is all kind of technical, I know. But the point of it all, was that people don't really have a whole lot of choice in where they join the Doulos. And I think that if God wants me to join, He is able to provide the money, and also the flight costs, at that time. Some people have said it all tends to be last minute, with crazy things happening, like having people wanting to support them and telling them in their last 2 weeks before they come, all that kind of thing.

Anyway. About joining, the Febuary 2006 Preship keeps coming up in conversation with people here, as there would still be a lot of people I know and have been working with, many of whom are leaving next August, or September 06.

Also the lady who I met in the airport on the way here, and is the Book-Ex manager from Logos told me that the Jan/Feb'06 LogosII preship will be very interesting to join, as it will be right during the LogosII to Logos Hope change over, people would get a year work on LogosII, in time to move to Logos Hope as experienced crew, and be part of setting the whole mood and new Logos Hope scene, which would be amazing.

I don't know. We'll just have to see if it is the right time that God wants me back here, or not. If at all. It's still 6 months away, anyway. Many things can change in that time.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Some of us STEPPERs went out today to the largest Shopping Mall in the Southern Hemisphere... "Gateway" ... You can probably find it on the internet (surely).* Huge place. I felt quite intimidated. I think I have more culture shock at places like that than I do from any place in Mozambique! I mean, it is just so BIG. And so posh, and modern, and all of that.

I think I spent about 15 dollars, on getting there and back (we had to go by taxi, and split the cost), and on a meal (veggi lasagna), and a vegetable curry pie. Lovely lovely food. The veggi lasanga was about 7 dollars, the pie about 1 and a half, and the rest was the taxi... It's odd, I feel quite bad about using the money for this, but some of the people did say "use this money as you want to...", and I have not spent a lot of money, comparatively.

Money... strange stuff. Yesterday I was helping on my e-day at that orphanage where they had 50-something kids in a tiny little house, with 2 or 3 kids to a bed, today walking around a Shopping Mall where one single concrete column which is for decoration only, and doesn't even hold up the roof probably costs more than the entire cost of the orphanage building!

The ship did give a gift to the orphanage, but they had to purposely make it small, as a large gift would be overwelming, or something like that, and would actually do more harm than good.

It's this whole relativistic thing. One person's poor is another persons stinking rich, and neither of them is right. Particually thinking of stuff
like say the Doulos P.M (private money). Crew get 20 USD per month as personal money. In Mozambique, that is a huge ammount, which can go a huge way, and still leave a lot to be donated at the end of the month, but in Cyprus, 20 USD is 10CYP, which is enough for perhaps 3 gyros, if you go to the right kebab shops, which if you were staying in Cyprus for a month, and wanted to go out and see the place, isn't much.

Being a STEPPER is a bit different, so many people have said, as we don't have P.M, we have brought money with us to use... Like, one of the others was telling me today, she is American, and all her friends and family and supporters are expecting (explicitly in some cases) gifts and souveneers from her when she returns. So it is a bit hard for her to get all of these and see everything and do everything.

If you are on for 2
years (or more), you can be more relaxed about things like gifts and so-on. I don't know... I've spent a long time today just sitting in the Mall, thinking about all of these things, about what is right and wrong ways to use money and stuff like that.

For instance, if you are living in a richer country, and want to be able to relate to others easily, then giving all your money to missions and to charity, and living on whatever the minimum you can, and never going out to a mall or movie or whatever is not really going to help. And it is not certainly right in the first place.

How can one know what is good or not uses of what God has given us? Things like the lady who spent a lot of money on the perfume for Jesus' feet. Or the banquets which Jesus attended, and so on... It really is a very big can of worms. And not very pleasant worms, at that. I'd never really concidered the whole thing very deeply before. I have the feeling that it is going to be another of those vastly complex issues with no Right or Wrong answers again, but which many people claim do have Right or Wrong answers.

I dunno.

Many of the STEPPERs are leaving tomorrow. That is why we went out today. It will be very strange seeing them all go. Sunday Monday and Tuesday will probably be the hardest days on board for me. I know for Andrew, from the previous STEP, the days after his group all left were the hardest. For me it is not quite so bad, as another STEPPER is leaving the same day as I, and 2 or 3 are staying on for another month, but they are going to be with their S.P.s, so I probably wont see much of them anyway.

Listening to a CD of Grieg, while typing this letter in the Library. Such lovely music. "Death of Ase" from the Peer Gynt Suite... I'd say "sadly apropriate" but don't want to be so morbid.

It's interesting, the group dynamics. When we first came on board, the previous STEP were really togeather, strong, bonded, and all of that, and all of us were slightly intimidated, I think, and most of us are quite quiet people (1 or 2 are not), and so it too a while to get to know each other. But I was rather happy yesterday to actually get punched jovially in the arm by one of the quietest girls in the group, who I would never have thought would punch anyone jovially. If another real STEP had arrived last week, they would probably be rather intimidated too.

I was talking to an Ex-Douloid yesterday, who was on the ship 2 years ago, and I remembered from before. She was saying how she had actually not bonded so much ever with the group of people who joined at the same time as her, but more with her cabin mates, and work colegues.

She said it was very strange coming back to the ship for a few weeks at this time, she was
getting to work in her old department, but so many things have changed, and so many new faces. Enough people still remembered her, but she said she remembered other ex-douloids visiting during her time on board as crew, and they had had no-one remember them at all, as everyone had left, and so had been quite depressed and such by the whole experience of visiting, expecting it to be the same, and yet different, and finding it different, and yet the same. No longer being part of the crew in the same way, being an outsider in a place you had been at home for 2 or more years.

"Abduction and Ingrid's Lament" now playing. Hm.

Yeah. Anyway. I'll go and do some clarinet practice, or something. Time passes so quickly, on board.

* Yes. Gateway mall in Durban, South Africa

Friday, August 19, 2005

Amazing days. Wow...

Yesterday, for e-day, we only left the ship at 6.30pm. We went to a Methodist Church for the homeless meal they have every week. We did 2 dramas, someone told their story, and they sang a song too.

Just as we were eating (good food. A kind of vegetable soup/thing with some rice, and white bread.), all the lights went out. The church was quite hi-tech, and they had spent most of the time before that setting up their computer-powered power-point lyric projection for the songs they (the church) had planned for the evening.

I was quite glad the lights went off, actually, in the end, as it meant the whole program was a lot more simple. We didn't use the music for the dramas, just did them straight. Which IMHO is often the best way. The music does make things seem rather too professional, which in a situation like that, you don't really want. Many of the people there are in fact believers, but many are still struggling with drug addiction, and other problems, which the church is helping them with.

I was able to talk with one guy quite a lot afterwards, his name is Julian, and he had a broken leg. He was talking about his life, moving to South Africa (from the UK) about 30 years ago. He now does not have a job, since he broke his leg he cannot work, but he had such faith, and trust in God, saying "I really am so thankful to the Lord, He has never let me go more than 2 weeks without work." And was in fact going back to work the next day.

As he did not have a job because of his leg, he had not been able to pay his rent, and so had been sleeping on the streets for the past few weeks. Talking to him helped me to understand a lot more of why there is still anger and racism. He was quite a nice guy, but in his talking was not friendly towards the Black and Indian people in S.A. During Aparteid, he had had a job, and had been safe walking around in the city after midnight. Now, any time after dark is too dangerous to walk around, and he has no job. He believed that it was because now that Black people have more rights, they want to be in charge, and to squash the Whites.

I was able to tell him that it is not just S.A, and nothing to do with people's skin colour. Like how we in Cyprus are getting increasing crime and less safe, particually in Lemesos, and that there is now resentment in some Cypriots against Russians, because they believe it is them bringing in the crime. There are elements of truth mixed into all of this, but blind hatred and racism isn't the answer, of course. We just have to treat all others as we believe Jesus would, and pray about what we cannot.

Anyway, it was quite encouraging to be there, and talk with them all. We had some sweet hot drink at the end. It was so sweet, that I still don't know if it was tea or coffee. We got back about 10.30pm.

Then this morning, we met at 6.30am, and after praying, went to a hosptial waiting room. Not quite what I had expected. It was like a bus station, or train station. Outside, metal roof, london-style benches. There was someone singing when we arrived.

We then did a programme, talked about where we all were from, and then we did the sticky-chair drama. I really enjoy doing that. I did it last night, and this morning. Both times I got to play the main character, which is so fun. Simple, but fun. It is a bold and clownish story, and so you need to overact and be funny. I think I can manage that. So many drama classes and working at Antidote... I can see now why and how things like "The Frog Prince" were useful...

Afterwards in the car, one of the guys said to me "Wow, that was amazing, I've seen the chair drama before, but never quite like that!" And both of the English 40+ year olds on the team called me a "Dark horse", whatever that means. I so enjoy doing drama and acting, and it's cool when other people appreciate it.

After someone told their story, and someone else told them about the good news, one of the guys then prayed with and for them, doing the whole "Sinner's prayer" type of thing, and afterwards, the lady who had been singing when we arrived asked for all those who had accepted Jesus to raise their hands. My goodness. You'd never do that in the UK any more! Or Cyprus.

Anyway. About 7 people did, which was quite a shock to me, and then they gave them copies of John's Gospel, and told them to come back on Sunday. Every Sunday at 10am, they have a church meeting in that waiting room.

Then we got into the Doulos minibus, and went to an orphanage. It was in fact a small house which a lady lived in. She had taken in a few children from the street about 9 years ago, and now had 50 or so children, from 6 months to 13 or so! We helped to carry in some new beds which one of the churches had just brought, and talked with them a bit.

One of the helpers at the orphanage was Deaf. She was very good at lip-reading, and could speak a little. As we were all hanging around afterwards, waiting for some of the others talking about photos, I asked her (in American Sign) if she knew Sign Language. She signed yes! She told me her name D-O-L-L-Y, and told me that her mother was one of the other people working there. I introduced myself, and said I had learned a little bit of sign. We did not have much time to talk after that, but it was extremely cool to be able to sign to someone all the way out here in Durban!

Anyway. We got back to the ship at half ten, and now will be leaving again at 12:15, so I must rush off to get something to eat. This afternoon we are going to a school to teach some students some dramas and things.

Very exciting days!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The last few days have been kind of stressful, and kind of funny. I don't know wether to laugh or cry, a lot of the time. I figured laughing is more socially acceptable, so have tried to stick to that.

I have had my last 2 working days in Deck, and did hardly any work at all, it feels like. The day before yesterday, we were going to be doing some varnishing on the Starboard prom deck, just outside the mess. However, after devotions in the morning, all the lifeboat teams got called to safety training, and so that meant we didn't do any work for about an hour. STEPPERs are not envolved in lifeboat or safety training.

Then when we got there, we discovered that it had rained on the previous days layer of varnish, which another team had done, and it looked terrible. So as we were not sure if it would rain again on top of whatever we did that day, I suggested putting up some poles and hanging a canvas over it. We could not just hang a canvas without poles, as the deck above stops right above the railing, and the canvas would be hanging on the railing.

So the (acting) team leader told me, "Good idea, you do that and the rest of us will go and get the varnish and other cleaning stuff for the rails." So off I went. I found some roller extensions, which would work fine, and also got some rope from the foc's'cle. Then I set to work, perhaps not in the easiest way, but in the most straitforward that I could think of at the time. I fixed all of the poles sticking out horizontally from the ceiling out to about a metre beyond the edge of the railing, and used the rope to keep them all from falling out. Just using simple hitches all the way along.

When I had finished putting up the poles, which took about half an hour, I went to find the others, who were still not there. They were all up on another deck, varnishing that one. I told the leader that I was finished with the poles, and asked where I should get the canvasses from.

He said, "Well... I hate to say this, but I think this whole thing is just taking too much effort, and if it does rain, we're screwed anyway, because this rail we are working on now will get wet. So, if you could just take down the poles, and instead pray that it doesn't rain."


OK. Well, no problem. So I took down the poles. I was just finishing that, when they all trooped down, to get ready for lunch break. As they were walking past, the leader looked at the ceiling, and asked what on earth the splashes of rather messy water were on it. While attaching the rope, I had unfortunately let some of it hang onto the wet deck below, which was still wet from the cleaning team swabbing it. When I pulled the rope through the loops to make the hitchesto hold the poles in place, it had splattered the surrounding locale with droplets of muddy water. Oops.

So he got out the firehose, and sprayed it all down, laughing his head off the whole time. Which I guess is better than being angry.

Anyway. We spend the afternoon in varnishing that railing, and then we painted the same deck's gunwhales black again.

At 2.15pm, I had read in my email that I was supposed to go for a final STEP evalutation meeting with our STEP-mum in the dining room. So I got permission from the leader, and went off at 2.15. No one was there. So I checked her office, still no-one. Then I phoned the info desk, and found out that she was not even on the ship! Quite a strange feeling. So I went back to work. After we had finished, I cleaned up all the brushes and rollers and things. Still no sign of STEP-mum.

Then yesterday morning, after breakfast it was lifeboat drills, so again, Deck STEPPERs get an extra 45 minutes off. So I went to her office, and found out it was actually 10.15am I should have been there. I do not know WHY or HOW I managed to misread that, but oh well.

She didn't mind, and we had the meeting there. Just usual questions "What are some of the challenges you think you have faced during your time on this STEP?" and so on...

She then prayed for me, and I went back to my cabin to practice knots and chill out for a while. Most of the team leaders of the Deckies are doing EDH training at the moment, that is like so they can become qualified deck hands, and so they are all off at training all day, which is why it is a bit disorganized at the moment.

Anyway, so there are knot books and ropes lying around all over the place, and everyone discussing knots in the mess. There are some really facinating knots about. Amazing things.

After drills, our team went and moved down the parts for the quayside stage, as we have a programme on Monday (Doulos' 91st birthday!) and there will be many things which need a stage.

Then after getting that down, we waved and hugged goodbye to another STEPPER, and one of the 2 year people who had just finished, and then we got the brushes and things ready to do some more varnishing, and went further down the prom deck, to where another team had been working the day before, or perhaps before that.

It was a mess. Terrible! Varnish far too thick on, so it was running and had formed bubbles and drips, and bits running down the side of the ship! So we got the sanding machine, to sand off some of the worst, but as it was so thick, it was still not fully dried, and it just made a worse mess in the place we tried.

So we called the carpenter, and he said "Yuk." or something along those lines, and we took some deck knives, and also some scrapers, and began to scrape off some of the worst of it. We then left that to dry even more over night, and did some varnishing further along where it was not so bad.

Then it began to rain.

Not a lot, just spitting. We did a bit more work, but the rain meant we did not want to do too much more varnishing, as it really messes it up. Of course, everyone said "Hey, perhaps we should put up some canvases over the top!". Hehe.

We then cleaned up, painted some more gunwhale, and stood down. I was just half way through eating dinner, when I heard my name being paged. My goodness. They then told me to phone gangway, so I did, and was told, "Hey Daniel, did you know you are on meal relief today?"

No! oops! so I quickly ran to get my security uniform on, and then went on watch again for another half hour while the gangwayman could go and have dinner. Thankfully, she did not mind at all, and spent most of the time by the gangway anyway, eating hotdogs from the stall just across the quay, run by some Christian hotdog salesmen, or something.

Then I went back inside again, to find out I had missed 2 e-day meetings, one at 5.30, and the other at 6.00, as I have 2 edays now. Today, and tomorrow. Weird deckie-schedule. Anyway. They said it didn't really matter, as most people had not turned up anyway, and we would meet today to figure it all out.

So... I went to bed at about 9ish, feeling exhausted. Some days are good, some days not so good. I have 2 e-days now, which should be good, as I think I will be getting to play clarinet, and do some acting and drama and stuff. Then on Monday, I have been asked to be a clown and do some juggling and stuff for the Doulos birthday party! That will be a lot of fun, I think.

Yesterday we had our last extended deckie devotions, and all the STEPPERs said a short bit about how we had found life on deck, and what we were planning to do after. Then they all prayed for us too.

Oh, speaking of which, the farewell was not too bad, I managed to change the really corny music for something silly, which was not so bad. (The techno-trance version of the Sesame Street Theme... quite funny). I told an obscure joke, which a few people laughed at, and others muttered about for a few seconds, and then laughed at, some muttered at, and a lot just looked blank at.

"I have learned on Doulos that there are 2 ways to do everything. The Easy Way, and the Hard Way. These are also known, respectively, as the Obvious Way, and the ISM* way..." Oh well. Not so good, as jokes go, but yeah.

We have prayer night tonight, which is to be led by the STEP group. Should be good. I have not been asked to do anything, which may be a good thing, as I think I may be out tonight with the e-day. It is all really confusing for me, just this last week, what with finishing watch, not having done deck day work for 2 weeks now (Sabbath week before), loads of people leaving, all the extra STEP things, trying to get done many of the things which I need to before leaving myself, just general tiredness from having a weird schedule with all my e-days and off-days moved around, and so on.

All in all, I have really enjoyed working on deck. Even if it does take a long time to learn, and even if I have messed up a few times, and needed to re-do things. Very cool people, and I will miss the daily deck devotions, singing, and all that before work. I'll just stop now before I get all emotional and soppy.

Oh. Funny thing happened this evening. I got paged again, went to the gangway, and found this English bloke there. He said:

"Daniel? Hi! Christos Andreou said to say, 'Hi, Keep safe', and to check up on you."

Pause. Christos Andreou? There's a name I wasn't expecting to hear. So I started chatting to the guy, and got steadily more confused. I said that Christos and I had been playing in the same town band in Larnaka, and that his dad was my clarinet teacher. He said "Oh, I thought you had just met when Christos visited the Doulos..." What? Why hadn't he said hello then? He said Christos was staying with him in S.A, and had been for 3 years. What? Then he asked "You methim just last week while on gangway watch, right?"

Oooooh. The light dawns slowly across the face of Daniel. That Christos. A bloke had come up to me on watch last week, and asked "Hi, I don't suppose you have any Cypriots on board do you?" So I talked with him a while about Cyprus, he was a Cypriot South African, studying here. I found out his name was Christos, but I didn't remember the Andreou. Funny.

So, after this English bloke and I laughed about that for a while, he told me he had been a sparks in the British Navy for a while, and wondered if he could see the radio room... So we went around to the tours desk, and found that the offical tour would go up to the bridge, but not the radio room, so we went on that. Interesting for me to finally go with an offical tour of the Doulos. The guy seemed very happy about all of that, and afterwards said how much he liked being on a "real ship" again, not a floating hotel, like so many of them were these days. Yeah. So, quite a funny end to that day.

I'm off to breakfast.

*The ISM is the International Shipping Manual. It has a whole lot of rules and so on about the correct way to do stuff. Some of it makes sense, and some of it is just plain obscure.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Lots of people are feeling a bit low. But also most people are really excited to be going home. I am too, of course, but they are excited to be leaving the ship. I'm not.

I am really looking forward to being back in Larnaka, seeing family again, and so on. And I have so many things which I want to do. I want to learn to cook, for instance. If I come back to Doulos, then I want to be able to cook myself some pasta or calzonies or something occasionally. There are pantries which anyone can use scattered about the ship (I think we have 4 or so...).

Part of my feeling depressed though is not to do with leaving, or with missing other people,
because generally I'm quite good about that. Because I have been on the Doulos twice before, it's not a"never see Doulos again" thing, either, which some of the people have (the ones living in the USA) a bit. And as I want to come back again anyway, I hopefully will see quite a lot of the other people again anyway.

I think part of why I am feeling depressed is because I feel like I have not really acomplished anything much. I have had so many wonderful experiences, these last 2 months, and met so many amazing people, and seen such fantastic things (I'm running out of adjectives here), and yet feel as if I have actually contributed very little.

Our STEP-mum says that that is quite normal to feel a bit like that, but not to worry, as (a) she is quite happy with me, and (b)
*when* I come back for 2 years, I will have much more chance to be envolved with the Drama Group, music, and so on, as well as more chance to contribute in other ways too... But yeah.

Rebekah is still recovering from malaria, she is fully better, but is still weak, and she lost a lotof weight, and flying is never the most stressless experiences anyway.

The farewell thing tonight has a program of the following:

20:00 Welcome - STEP-mum
20:02 Thank you - Co-Director
20:20 Certificates - STEP-mum
20:30 Step participation:

Parade of Nations (AV-People) - everyone prepares 30 sec of talk - carrying T.A.N.Z.A.N.I.A. S.T.E.P. letters
Slideshow (raffi) Sing a song (nanana - goodbye)
Thank You & read a verse (Jenny)

21:00 End in prayer- STEP-mum

So, yeah. The "Parade of Nations" is a I-night item, where they put on this extremely annoying repetative dramatic music, and all the people envolved go forward wearing their national dress, and get announced by someone far too enthusiastically and everyone claps.

That is the cynical "I'm still depressed and everyone ought to blooming well know about it" version.


I was on watch when they did the meeting about this, and arranged it all, so I have about as much idea about the rest of it as you do. I shall just turn up and do whatever they ask me to. This totally typifies our group though. Some people not at the planning meeting, a few people will not be at the farewell (they missed work and so are not allowed to miss it again tonight), a few people not even sure what's happening, and 1 person already left. As they say on board: Wunderbar.

I found some pictures of one of the previous pre-ship training weeks on the scratch network drives today. Very cool. But I think I will learn to swim before I come back to Doulos too... one of the training items envolves having to un-capsize an inflatable life-raft in a swimming pool, and learning to put on a lifejacket while swimming too.

I went out to the town this afternoon with 2 of the others. One STEPPER who "needed" to buy a few more gifts for family, bf and so on, and her friend, the SP of one of the other STEPPERs, and myself. We took a taxi to the beach front, and there went to a whole load of various touristy stalls, selling loads of random ethnic-looking-probably-factory-made-oh-so-African things.

My goodness. I just read that sentance again. I must be feeling cynical

We walked around for a while, until they ran(d) out of money, (that's a pun) and so we
looked for an ATM machine. We walked until we saw a sign for one, down an alleyway, mostly deserted, heading off into a kind of beach/cafe complex thing.

Very quiet.

Too quiet.

One of
them was just starting to walk down the alley, but I called her back. I just did not feel happy about that alley. It was too far from anyone else, not a lot of people, only a few 20yo men hanging around. First time I have ever felt distinctly unsafe, and refused to go somewhere. The girls were joking about me being their Body Guard, and yeah.

So we walked back, and found another more public road which actually led to the cafe with the ATM machine. It didn't work. Just outside the cafe was a police car, so we went to ask the officer, and he said "Yeah. Well, if you get in the car, I can drive you to a better one. This is not one of the safer areas of town." So I got to ride in a police car!

Anyway. Cool. Very nice guy, he even waited for her at the ATM machine and then drove us back to the seafront. The police here are really good, apparently.

Later on we met a homeless couple, who made complex artwork things out of dried palm fronds, and were selling them at 5 Rand each, because they wanted to make an honest living, they said.
So we bought a few (extremely good), and then later met another homeless couple, who wanted some money to buy some special milk for their age-2 daughter (who was with them) as she was lactose intolerent, they said.

We wern't that naive, and one of the girls said "If we buy you some, and then give it to you, is that OK?" they said sure, so they (perhaps unwisely) found a taxi, and we went off to try and find some. We did, eventually, and came back, and drove up and down the seafront once looking for them but could not, and so, after praying, gave up, and went back.

We missed the gate at the port, and ended up driving much further than needed. Still, the taxi fare was about 5 pounds (10 dollars) in total, for all 3 of us, which is not too extravagent, I guess.

We are not supposed to leave the port except in cars, as it is not safe. Too many people have been mugged in this area. You have to keep cars locked, even while in them, never open windows more than a few inches while in the city, and so on, because of hijacking being so common.

Anyway. We gave the lactose-free milk power to the taxi driver for his niece, who he said was also lactose intolerant. He said he will try to visit the ship sometime before we all leave. Andrew (my cabinmate) finally left later, once we were back. Quite sad.

Oh, last night, as well as the water-gun Fireround, he took 3 or so black-binliner bags full of old scrap paper he had salvaged from the office departments, and then had put through the shredder, and tipped it out all over the floor of the one bathroom in the girls section. A place totally forbidden to guys to enter, but he said that as he didn't really want to come back anyway, there was nothing they could do to him, and he thought it would be worth it.

Many of the girls had seen him shredding paper earlier yesterday, and so it was hardly anonymous. Apparently a few years ago practical jokes along these lines, and even worse, were quite common... but the current Captain and Director don't really appreciate them, and so they are discouraged. (The jokes are discouraged. Not the Captain and Director.)

Things like when a new lot of recruits arrived, after their firedrill training, they would get woken up at about 2am, and told by random people dressed in full fire-gear that there was a drill on, and so when they went to their muster-stations, they would get heartily doused with the firehose. Good, typical, harmless expected types of things. But apparently it might cause people to stop believing real fire drills in the future... I can see their point, but in that particular instance, I don't think it really does. It didn't harm the previous recruits...

Anyway. That kind of thing is up to the Captain and Director, and if they don't like it, fair enough.

Anyway. Us STEPPERs just got paged to go meet up. I think something to do with this
farewell thingy.
I'm feeling more than slightly depressed. It is expected, I know. Less than ten days until I leave.

We have our Farewell evening tonight. The other STEPPERs have organized it. It sounds cheesy and terrible. I hope it isn't.

The last of the previous STEP is leaving in an hour. He has been in the same cabin as I the whole time, is completely crazy, English, and a wonderful brother. I am really going to miss him.

Last night was my last watch, and I was able to arrange to get myself doing the first FireRound of the night (11pm), which is the one in which you find most of the curfew
breakers. So many people have been ignoring curfew lately that my cabinmate (Andrew) who is leaving decided to do a last "goodbye" to the Doulos, and in his small way, to help to remedy the situation.

He bought a water pistol (Super-soakery type of thing. Huge great jets of water.) a
few weeks ago. Fireround last night was really fun. There were about 30 people breaking curfew. They got wet.

Anyway. I'm pretty depressed.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Most of the other STEPPERs are leaving on the 21st, My flight is on the 23rd, though. A lot of them are going to fly down to Cape Town, for a weeks holiday or something like that. The STEPPERs with SP are going to stay on until september some time, because their SPs are finishing their commitment on board then, and so they will fly home togeather (and in one case at least, get married! :-) ).

[If coming back for a longer stint in future] I know now that 5 pairs of shoes is absurd. I think that I would take 2 or 3 less shirts and shorts, and more trousers and another fleece or hoodie. Oh, and 20kg as an on-ship requirement is not so vital. Only airplane limits really would apply. The limit is (I think) just to discourage people bringing like 80kg or stuff.

I am thinking, if God is calling me back for 2 years, then perhaps it would be better to get a Greenline Buffet clarinet, rather than wood. I will need to try a whole bunch and find a good one, but if I am working on board a ship, and perhaps afterwards going out missionarying, then a wooden clarinet is slightly impractical. I don't really know.


The youth thing last night was OK. Not really very approp, though, I think. It was a quite large (300+ seater) pentecostal church (Tabernacle), with wooden pews, a raised procenium type stage, and so on. There were about 40 youth, maximum, from 4 or so different congregations.

We arrived at the end of the church's music group practice, and they were staying on to do some music for us, a "time of worship". So we all sat down, and they launched into a whole load of very upbeat loud songs I'd never heard before (no lyric sheets), during which time I noticed that (a) what a terrible P.A. system they had. I could barely understand a word said, or spoken, (b) the worship leader was speaking in Christianese, and seemed to be having a hard time connecting with the assembled teens, (c) having an eight piece worship band singing and playing with their eyes closed, waving their hands around, etc, doesn't really feel very helpful to connecting.

Even the worship leader had her eyes closed, and I saw her at one point waving furiously for the band to make it louder, and bigger, and she asked questions, during the quiet bits between songs, asking why we all were not really joyful, and things.

Anyway. Not really terribly useful, IMHO. Then for our bit. We certainly demonstrated to the youth that not all Christians are up on a stage, off on some other planet.

It was very disorganised.

The STEPPER who was our bit, introduced each item something like "Um, and thankyou for that, and, yes, next we have, um, Daniel, and he will do a, a drama."

Yeah, preach it, brother! Woo!

About my drama... well, they had put this pulpit/lecturn thingy out in the middle of the floor in front of the stage, and that was where I wanted to act. So I, dressed in my nice black acting shirt, and white Doulos mime-gloves, walked out accross the stage, picked up the lecturn, and walked it off stage, until I heard a crash, and looking down, discovered that it had had a rather nice glass of water in it, which I had just dropped, and smashed to shards, all over the floor.


What a way to begin. So, appologising profusely, I began to pick up the shards, and they helped, and then I got a chair, and did the drama. They laughed occasionly, which was nice, and I think all in all it went quite well, but I still had the smashed glass in my mind the whole time. Man.

After the whole thing, we had some cake and tea and buscuits and all. I burned my tongue on the tea (Doulos tea is never that hot!) Then we came back home.

We may all be going out to do more ministry things on Monday, and perhaps other days too. Last week will be busy, I think.

So, yeah. I'm going to go and get some food and stuff before my watch again this evening. Oh, I think I may be catching a Doulos/SouthAfrican Accent. Kind of worrying.

And we got yahoo messenger support now on Doulos! Woo! I could only remember Tim's user and password, so logged on with that. Cool. I am now chatting with JJ. Fun.