Saturday, December 30, 2006

Yesterday was my first day as duty fireman. Once every few weeks I'll spend a day on duty running the firestation. We had a control team page at 8pm - the laundry girls saw steam coming from one of the machines doing a 95 degree wash, and thought it was smoke! It was quite dramatic. On Christmas Day, I got paged about 20 times... insane! About the 18th time I phoned info, and asked if I could get a prize. We were loading water; the quayside is weird here, and the officers wanted to ask about water several times. Also the shipping agent wanted photocopies of receipts, and the purser...

Today was kind of a strange day. I taught puppets this morning to all the port volunteers. Now they're all shouting, 'Hello Daniel!' every time they see me. Then I played guitar for deck devotions, did my soundings and water rounds (quickly), then fixed the director's cabin door. Then I replaced a broken porthole with one of the carpenters, and then took a valve apart in the engine room, and put it back together again, stopping it leaking. All random jobs. It's not a "normal" day for watermen; it's kind of weird, but it's because all our normal jobs were done already. The monthly ones in dry-dock, there are no bags needing to go up or down, and no-one has lost any keys recently.

This port is quite stressful for me. Strange loading, and Stephane has moved to another job. So I'm training/leading Tomas, the new waterman. Because it's a strange port there is no way I can give him routine jobs (like loading water) to do every day for a bit, and I couldn't do the random jobs today with him as he was out with a team!

Friday, December 08, 2006

So, still in drydock mode. But here is a blog update I wanted to write about 2 months ago, but never got around to. I'm really tired, so this may not be as interesting as I kind of imagined it originally.

During the leadership training thing I did a few months ago, we had a day doing work at a school, making their football pitch ready. Filling in holes and such. So I spent a few hours carrying buckets of dirt and filling holes. Nice day, didn't have to think too much. Another guy was there, who was making the buckets of dirt ready for carrying, scraping it out of the big piles of dirt dumped on the stands.

Anyway. I thanked him slightly ironically for the dirt he gave me one time, and he said something like, "Only the best for our customers" or something like that. Anyway, so we developed a whole routine about the dirt, talking about the moisture content, worms, and so on. We formed our own company:

DARN: Dirt And Rain eNterprises.

While walking back and forth so many times I slowly developed one stage at a time our mission statement, basically stating our belief and trust in giving dry dirt, so as to allow the rain to add the correct moisture levels, without the burdensome weight of pre-added moisture:

"We believe in a holistic customer-empowering service effectiveness paradigm which utilises the undeniable precepts of positive precipitation to innovativly implement a beneficial weight/content transportation ratio. "

Kind of rolls off the tongue, I think.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

One of our frequent jobs as watermen is greasing various deck equipment.

Our grease gun (device for putting grease inside deck equipment) is moderately dead. It's horrible. We don't have grease cartridges, but have to fill it by sticking the end in a bucket of grease and pulling the spring back. Kind of like re-loading a cross-bow, just messier.

Monday, December 04, 2006

I had kind of a frustrating day today. I expected and wanted to spend the day happily in the engine room with cleaning and putting back togeather a really rusty horrible old valve. But ended up spending most of the day helping a deck team with trying to set up pumps and running around the engine room with them, trying to pump the last few centimetres of water out of parts of a tank so they can work in it.

The chief mate and bosun went briefly into the tank this morning, looked around and said it should be a quick job to do the whole thing. At lunch time, the bosun asked the team leader how it was going, and said, "oh well, at least if you get the tank empty of water by this evening it'll be good."

This evening, there's no noticeable progress made at all.

I went and crawled though the whole length of the tank, found two old rust scrapers from last time the tank was opened (2 and a half years ago). It's going to be a really big job. Loads of the bits of the tank in the forward end have all the cement fallen off, and rust and all kinds, so it's not just a one day job. Once it's dried (which may take 2 or 3 or more days) it may then take another week or so of work chipping all the cement and stuff and putting in new cement. It's down in the bottom of the engine room, below generator 2, so the deckies feel really uneasy and keep coming to me for help all the time.

Luckily once it's dried, all the rest should be done by deckies, not us. But still it's kind of annoying.

Monday, November 13, 2006

For the first time in ages... a post from fingers directly, rather than via Cyprus! I'm right now in Singapore, on break for 3 days or so with my parents and brother who are out to visit. Very very good. Singapore is beautiful, clean, and friendly. We're staying in "Little India", which is (apparently) the least clean and organised part. Which is fine by me! Amazing lovely Indian food really quite cheap here, and of course, being with my family is even more amazing. Apparently I should be making more frequent and shorter posts... with more photos. Well, no photos today, no camera link available. But as to the shorter and more frequent posts, this is the first of (who knows!) many. I hope to post more, but I'm not very good at this whole sticking with good ideas thing, lah.

Monday, October 23, 2006

I’m typing this from the dry food store, miles and miles down in the depthful belly of the ship. I don’t know if depthful is a real word, but if not, I have just coined it. Please pay all royalties to me, chocolate is the preferred currency.

OK, so what am I doing in this previously mentioned food store…? Well, we’ve been having a few problems on the job.

Over the last few months we’ve been emptying out ballast tanks, (the water tanks down at the bottom of the ship which keep her stable) one at a time, and then sending a deck team in there to do routine maintenance (routine, as in, once every 4 years or so per tank).

Anyway. We just got to the last tank in the series, and so needed to fill it up with water. For some reason though, every time we tried to use the pipe to send water to the tank, the pump would get very hot and trip the electrics. We could see a very high pressure build up in the pipe by the pump, so it looked as if there was some kind of blockage in the pipe, which was not allowing water through it. We went into the tank last week or so, and looked around for any obvious problems, feeling inside the pipes as far as fingers would go to make sure they had not got cemeted over in the maintenance. No problems found though…

So we asked the engine room guys to have a look at it, and they sent a very professional welder/plumber. He took a “snake” (high pressure hose with a thing on the end which bounces around and smashes to bits any kind of blockage or rust.
Anyway… it got stuck in the pipe. So he called me, and then he went into the tank to take the pipe off and look for his snake. BUT… forgot to check which pipe. The wrong pipe got taken off…. So he took off the other one. Not his fault, he didn’t know the tank had two pipes leading into it. We couldn’t see any problems, so he put them back.

Presumably the problem was further up the pipe, closer to the engine room.

Presumably so was his ‘snake’.

So, we opened up the other tank, brought a HUGE emergency submersible pump and attached it up to transfer between the two tanks. This pump is a very serious pump. It’s designed to be hooked up, and chucked down a staircase into a flooded hold to pump it out, kind of thing. It took 3 of us to carry down to the food store here where the tank manholes are to put the pump into. We had to use all kinds of ropes and stuff to hoist the thing down. We attached it, and set it going. It was a bit complicated, as we had to have one guy at the suction end of the pump, to make sure it was OK, one guy at the discharge end to make sure it didn’t swing around and kill someone, one guy running between to make sure the hose was OK and didn’t explode, and one guy 3 decks up with a radio to switch the electricity for the pump on and off (there are only 3 connection points on the whole ship for this creature).

So… First when we switched it on, we found a hole in the hose. We found it as it started shooting water the pressure of a fire-hose all over the place in the book-hold where the discharge tank manhole is. So we stopped the pump, pushed more of the hose into the tank so the leak was inside the tank, and tried again. This time, the pressure of the pump pushed the hose into a crack under the flange of two pipes, and then ripped the whole hose open as the pressure was too high for the squashed position. I got totally soaked by this.

So we stopped the pump, got a new hose, and tried again. This time was OK… for about 4 minutes. But the pressure of the pump started pushing the discharge end of the hose back out of the tank! So we stopped the pump, tied the hose down, and started again. 2 hours later, nothing more had gone wrong, and 60 tons of water had been moved. That is, 30 tons an hour. 500 litres a minute, in other words. Quite fast.

So in went our bold intrepid welder/plumber guy to the now empty tank, and he took off the pipes and all, found the ‘snake’ in a “omega” shaped bend in the pipe (the chief mate says this is to allow for expansion and contraction of in the ship’s shape… if he had asked the C/M before sending his ‘snake’ in, it would have saved a lot of problems…) anyway. He got his snake out, closed up the pipes again, and declared the pipes probably useable… at least, no problems found in them. (These are probably original 1914 pipes, brass (I think) and still in amazingly good condition…)

Yesterday was spent with myself and another guy (possibly the next waterman? Who knows…) down here with a smaller more sociable submersible pump moving the last of the water across. (When they had opened up the pipes, about 20 tons of water drained back across to the other tank we had just moved it from.)

So. Now what…

The tank we are moving from (where the snake was stuck) is smaller than the tank we are moving the water into.

By about 10 tons.

So I still have 10 or so tons of water to move across. I tried this morning using the probably OK pipe system, and the engine room pump. I did this very slowly, checking everything, slowly allowing pressure to build up, etc, so as not to overflow anything, or trip the electricity on the pump, or any of that. Strangely, although water was leaving the pump, the water level didn’t go up in the tank. I checked after lunch, and the level was exactly the same…. So I stopped the whole thing, and started checking my tank levels, sounding everything I could think of. About 40 tons of water had left the freshwater tank I was pumping from, and 0 had arrived in the ballast tanks. And it had not arrived anywhere else either.

About this time, I was expecting my name on the paging system any second, to find 40 tons of water had turned up in someone’s cabin…

Luckily it didn’t

Unluckily (or possibly not) It didn’t turn up anywhere else, either.

Anyway. We sail tomorrow, and this tank must be full when we leave. So I decided to ignore the whole missing water problem, and spent the last part of this afternoon moving water from the engine room into the empty small tank, (these pipes still work…) and then am myself down here in the dry food store, miles and miles down in the depthful belly of the ship moving the water from the small tank into the big one with the sociable submersible pump. It’s very slow.

And quite scary too. Last time the other waterman did something like this, he managed to flood the book-hold, and it caused some huge amount of damage, something in the thousands of euros range. So that’s why this entry is so disjointed, I keep running off to check everything. Yesterday I started at 6.30am, and finished at 10pm, and today I started at the more reasonable hour of 9.30am, and hope to be finished before the same numbers reappear with another suffix (or the same. That would be worse…). We shall see.

The reason it is so much work for just me, is that the other senior waterman is leaving, and changing jobs (I may have mentioned this before). And is doing training all this week. It’s all really tiring, anyway.

This is a photo of the inside of one of the tanks, including the “omega” bends. The tank is 1 metre 33 cm high.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Yesterday was quite a long day, I worked normal 9 till 5, and then left the Engine Room watchkeeper with the normal instructions for the night, as we wanted to load water (very slow connection) overnight. Anyway, the watchkeeper wanted to make a 1 degree starboard list (tilt of the ship) so they could pump out a bilge tank. They got it a bit wrong and ended up with 3 degrees. 3 degrees sounds like very little, but at 3 degrees it is actually hard to walk down the hallway. I phoned them to see what was up, they said they would correct it.

I was preparing for teaching Sunday school this morning, in my cabin, and so thought nothing more of it until the Duty Plumber phoned me, incredibly worried because the ship was now at 4 degrees, and he was getting leaks from random pipes. I pulled on my coverall and ran (almost while leaning against the walls!) for the Engine room, shut the valves all off and started correcting it (by this time we were at 5 degrees), then ran out again to sound the tanks and find out what was happening. The Engine room watchkeepers had left a few rather important valves open that they should have shut, and about 20 tons of water had siphoned across from one tank to another.

I ended up working until 11pm in the Engine room, keeping the pump going, replacing the water in the correct tanks. So I'm pretty tired today...

Friday, September 15, 2006

Today was the captains dinner, like a special programme for high up local port officers, VIPs and so on, and I was asked to play background music while they were eating for 20 mins or so. There is someone I have played with before a few times, doing guitar/voice/ clarinet French songs, which seems to work really well. So we were going to play, but then today at about 4.30 I found a note in my workshop saying "Sorry, I can't play tonight, but this STEPper will..." I'd never heard the guy play before, except once when he came around playing Christmas Carols with a few others (who couldn't sing...). So I was moderately terrified. I'd rather not play at all than play badly. Not everyone else feels that way, alas.

To continue, I went for the sound-check at 5.15, and he said he could play classical guitar, and went and found one, and played a few classical pieces (I'm sure he could be good, but I think is very out of practice...), stopping and starting all the time, and I improvised around him. Also a few old hymns and stuff (Greensleeves...). Then tonight we went and performed, and it in fact was not so bad at all. Nothing too amazing, but they were all eating anyway, and so it doesn't matter too much the few mistakes there were... we kept going and it sounded kind of OK though our monitor, anyway.

Tomorrow I will be MC for a programme in the morning, for 200 or so 12 to 20 year olds. Then in the afternoon/evening it's I-night again, and I'll be playing a small part in a drama. It's possible that I may be in the Irish cultural dance as well. I went to the practice today, just to watch them prepare for tomorrow, but one of the guys didn't show up, and they muttered a bit about if he didn't turn up tomorrow... I've only been to 3 practices now for that! And it's really quite complicated! Anyway. I don't think so tomorrow.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

My official and rather boring report of the A-team:

Our A-team was sent to Melacca to work with the Calvary (AOG) Church there.

We were involved in teaching 2 drama and 2 dance workshops, running a mini i-night / cultural evening with the other Melacca A-team, a school visit, children's home visit, a programme about unity at a pastors' fellowship breakfast, a bunch of church services, 2 Sunday school meetings, practical chores in the church building, one epic adventure across the city in search of pizza, and lots of eating.

The church looked after us very well, providing a beautiful “condo” for us to stay in (with a swimming pool downstairs!), plenteous food, bottled water, transport, and schedule.

They briefed us well when we arrived, giving us times we would be picked up and dropped every day, information about each programme, and so on. We then followed the schedule almost exactly for the whole week (I believe this is a first in Doulos history.)

One of the main highlights of the week was the cultural evening on Wednesday. We joined with the other Melacca a-team to provide a whole range of cultural items including dances, drama, videos, songs (in 3 or 4 languages), and much more. The students from the dance and drama workshops were able to perform two dramas, which was amazing after the short time we could spend with them, and we hope and pray that they will be able to continue to work and use their many gifts in the future. All in all the cultural evening was a great success with many compliments and expressions of thanks afterwards.

We were able to spend quite a bit of time just talking with the people of the church at meals, before and after programmes, and at our condo after hours. One girl sent in the first application to join the ship while we were there! Another guy was very interested and spent a few hours one evening with us, asking questions and telling us about his life, with all of us sharing with him our own testimonies, and of how we were able to join the ship.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Monday, July 31, 2006

The waterman job continues quite busy. The last two days we have been moving an awful lot of water from one ballast tank to another, as the deck team have finished cleaning/maintaining the one, and need to work on the other. The only way to do this directly is by opening up the manholes of those tanks (both in inconvenient places down in the food store), and sticking a pump into the full one, and a long waterhose (firehose thickness) between the two tanks.

So the first problem is getting the manhole covers off. These are large heavy metal plates with a rubber seal and 18 nut/bolt s on each one. We have a nice electric wrench thingy which gets them off quite quickly. We started opening the starboard tank manhole, but water came gushing out around the edges, meaning the tank is very full. There is a bilge entrance right next to the manhole, so we figured we could just drain the water into there, and then have the Engine Room pump out the bilge into the main bilge and then into the sea next time we sail.

But they told us that their main bilge that they would pump into is already pretty full and they didn't need another ton or two of water in it from us. so we got a small emergency pump and used that to pump from the small bilge into another spare bilge. This was taking forever though, as it's
quite a small pump.

Then we checked the plans, and saw that the other manhole for this tank is further forward in the ship, and the bow of the ship is really quite high at the moment, and so that manhole would probably not be overflowing if we opened it. But... that manhole is at the bottom of the lift shaft in Hold Two... So we went though to there, and got it open. Indeed it is fine! So we had to get the watertight door between the food store and hold two open, put a safety chain from the lift to the crane deck and then get the electricians to isolate the lift so no one else tried to use it and drop the lift on us. Then we rigged up the hose between the two tanks and started the pump. It went quite well but SO slowly.

The book-exhibition teams needed the lift to take the day's books up (it was about 3.30pm by then). We had moved enough water that the other manhole was free from overflowing, so we opened that one again, moved the pump across, and started pumping again. Then we had to close up the manhole in the lift shaft again, and get the electricians to restart it, and remove the safety chain from the crane deck. All this time we were moving the ballast water, it made the ship list to Starboard, so we were having to use the freshwater transfer pump to move fresh water about and correct the list with freshwater. Most of the day I had to spend down in the food store to keep watch on the pumps and all while the other waterman was doing other stuff about the ship. While | was down there I extended a watch strap by a few notches for someone as well, and started work on updating the "Waterman's Bible", our handbook for all things watery (last updated 3 years ago). So quite busy.

Yesterday again we were doing more pumping all day, and also had to close up the manholes at the end. Because of the shape of the tanks, and where the water is, we actually have to list the ship a bit in order to get the last of the water in the tank we are emptying to run down to where the pump is (as we can only lower the pump to directly below the manhole, and cannot move the pump without ourselves going into the tank, and that requires a "Enclosed Space Entry Permit" and mountains of safety checks and paperwork.

Another problem yesterday we went through was that the nice big fast pump we have requires itself to be actually submerged in the water to keep itself cool while pumping. So when the water level fell below the height of the pump, we would have to switch to a slower smaller pump. But I managed to rig up the smaller pump without a hose so it would be hanging at an angle constantly splashing water all over the big pump, and keeping it cool. So all quite complex and fun. We were finished at about 10.30 pm. Very long day.

Today is my off-day, but I am taking a few hours of watch for my former deck-team leader, as she is going out today, or something like that. The schedule today is even more complex than the water situation! One of the watchmen is going out to play football, and so she is taking some hours for him, and so on. I was also invited out for lunch with some of the Indians on the ship, to a local family. Apparently Indian food!! Very exciting. I miss the food from India so much. It was SO lovely there. If anyone feels like opening an inexpensive vegetarian Indian restaurant in Larnaka in a few years whenever I go back you will have one regular customer for sure!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

I'm going on A-team next port!! Yes! Another Doulish word with an unintelligible prefixial letter. In this case "A" stands for "Action". Which gives absolutely no help in understanding what an "A-team" actually is. What is an A-team?

*Open "Unauthorised Revised Doulos Dictionary." *

A-team - Noun. Abr. "Action Team". C 1980-1990AD (Origin unknown). A short (1 to 3 weeks) land based team, leaving from the ship for however long to be involved in any number of different projects. Some do building work for a local charity or children's home, some travel a lot, visiting a different village every night putting on a short programme, possibly taking a video projector along. Some run a youthgroup's summer camp, and so on. Most Douloi guys go on 2 or 3 "A- teams" during their 2 years on board. Most Douloi girls go on 2 "A- teams", and during the two dry-docks go on "Land Teams" which are basically the same as an "A-team", but only girls, and during dry- dock. Some people go on up to 5 "A-teams" during 2 years.

So. Cool, eh? My a-team is comprised of all drama-ish creative people, and we are going to be mostly doing drama/dance/creative workshops for a local church/youthgroup. I will probably be speaking at one or two church services. So all in all quite interesting.

OK. "Quite interesting" is a bit of an understatement.


Very exciting!!

So if you want to pray for me (us!) until about the 15th or so of August it would be really nice. One or two very strong willed (lovely!) people on the team. And a LOT of time together, so pray that we will be able to work together, and help the people we meet.

So yeah. By the way, my "boss" the senior waterman just told me yesterday while we were chatting about books how he hates "chatty" books that are written in spoken English style (many modern books), rather than written English (like C.S. Lewis). It's probably a good thing he doesn't read this blog. I think he may find it too much spoken English.

We did our crane training yesterday. Which pretty much completes the basic deck training. Now only advanced lifeboat/firefighting/etc training to go (I think). We do training so sporadically though for these sorts of things. Drills every week though. I think I must be OK with the crane, as the teacher (my ex-teamleader) told me I was pretty good and she may even change my mooring station to the "standby" team (who start the unloading first), presumably as they need a crane driver. Pretty cool! Then again, standby team is quite boring most of the time. I'm currently in the forward mooring party, which is the nicest, I think so far. It's a big open deck, with lots of space, and you get to watch the port and everything really easily.

That's about it so far! Watermanning is going well. I haven't flooded anything else yet. I greased the crane though. Tomorrow probably I'll grease the main windlass. Huge, ugly, with about 100 points to find and squirt grease. And the grease gun is about empty, so I'll have to fill it again, which is quite complicated and very very messy.

I ought to go now though; It's dinner time.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

I've been on e-day/overnight for the last three or four days. When I got back, people told me that the entire section 6 (girls) had been truly flooded! Like a foot of water in some cabins. But that wasn't me, it was the other (senior) waterman. He was filling up one of the ballast tanks (from empty) which has no pumpconnection, so we have to fill it up byusing a couple of hoses and the ventilation pipe, and a tiny little domestic pump. Takes about three days.

Anyway, he set it going, checked it the next day and it was fine. Next day he was out, then came back and heard himself being paged... there was water all down the steps! It was Monday, so most people were off the ship and no one had noticed it all day.

We think the water must have got to the top, and while slowly filling up the ventilation pipe found a crack in the pipe which happens to fun through section 6. We don't really know, though.

It's been a cool weekend. On Saturday I worked until 1pm, and then went and showered, and went to do a 'mini inight' programme all afternoon, and got back at about 1am. One of the benefits of the waterman's job: I can take time off like that.

On Sunday we left at 6.45am for my kgroup brother's church, with our whole kgroup. We did a simple programme, and then went to a shopping mall in KL [Kuala Lumpur], then stayed overnight in an apartment rented for us by his dad. We spent the day chilling out in KL. Then today was another e-day, painting panels/walls for a Sunday School in a new church.

KL is about an hour's drive from where our port is. Even the city to which our port is attached is about 30 minutes' drive, so it's really hard to get out at all here. You have to hitchhike to the train station (about 10 minutes' drive) and then get a 30+ minute train to Klang (this town), and then from there it's another half hour or 45 minutes to KL. And we're at this port for 5 weeks! It's so long.

For the weekend, the brother from Klang has his own car and we borrowed a Doulos van. Then as some people had to go back to work, the rest of us just piled into his car or took the trains about KL.

People visiting the Doulos here come in cars. We get about 18,000 at weekends. It's amazing.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The glued part I mentioned yesterday didn't quite work. The glue seems to be strong enough, but unfortunately I didn't quite check how it all fits and works before gluing it. I glued it as it is when you insert it into the lock... but once it's in the lock part of it gets pushed into another position by a spring. So tomorrow or something I'll try with another broken part and see if I can glue that into the already sprung position instead.

Yesterday I was in a programme as well in the evening, it was a programme for the local churches, to thank them for all their help this port, and show them what kinds of things the ship does. So
stories from one of the nurses, about her work with the ship in India at a leprosy home, and so on. I was asked to be part of the "parade of departments".

Basically go up the front with my work clothes on, with people from the other departments, and they had to guess where we worked on board, and what we did. I don't think the programme organiser thought about which people she asked though too much... or maybe she did. I was the last person in the line, and when we introduced ourselves, it sounded something like this:

"Hi, my name is Daniel, and I'm from Ireland."
"Hi, my name is Danielle, and I come from Malaysia."
"Hi, my name is Daniel, and I'm from Cyprus."

So all I had to do was say my name, pause slightly and look ironic, and the whole audience burst into laughter. Nice. I dressed up for the occasion. I wore my normal work clothes, but raided the workshop, so had about 3 screwdrivers in a pocket, a tape measure on my belt, pliers, a sounding rope and weight on a nice harness thingy, and perhaps 80+ keys on various jangly rings.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Waterman's job... So far, I quite like it. It seems like a good job, many things to keep busy with, but not too much stress, and quite a flexible schedule (will be more so, once I've got everything mastered). Sort of quite senior. Quite "elite" and all that (being only 2 of us, and no-one else actually knows what we do, how to do it, or anything. Apparently people get "chosen" for it rather than choosing it. Bit weird... one of the other ex-deckies came to me and told me "yeah, all the watermen just get chosen, no one actually ever wants the job. It's totally unromantic, unlike "fireman" or "team leader" or something. But everyone who becomes waterman seems to really enjoy it." And loads of other people keep saying stuff like "you're the new waterman? oh good! It's JUST the right job for you!!". I feel like I'm missing something...)).

Strange thing is, a lot of knowledge about the job seems to be passed on by word of mouth, apprentice style, but then it looks like a lot of it has kind of disappeared in the last year or so. So like the lock situation, for instance. As far as I can tell, about 2 years ago they replaced the entire lock set on the whole ship, then about a year ago bought a whole load of new / replacement locks & padlocks. But they have *never* ordered any spare parts for them. Which means that about now, we are very short.

There is this stupid little brass bit right in the middle of *every* lock on the ship, which has the entire weight of the lock on it when it gets opened, and these snap quite frequently. So far, what the watermen have done is to swap the part for one in one of the unused locks, or swap out a lock from elsewhere, or something similar. We're kind of short of spare locks now. So I'm trying to find solutions to this. They have been talking about ordering or even trying to order new parts for ages, but have never done it. So I keep reminding the other guy, and it looks like this week we should order them. But until they arrive (could be months away!!) we still need solutions.

So I first went to the engine room machinists, and asked if they could make replacement parts, with their lathes, etc. They said yes, but it could take a whole day just to make one! So that's not really a solution. Then I thought about maybe glueing/ soldering a fix, (it's far too small and delicate to weld). So I asked the electricians, and they gave me some very strong epoxy mixing glue stuff, which I tried out today on a part. (Today is my first day working alone...) So far it seems like it may work! Monday is our off-day, and then on Tuesday I will hopefully get some time to sand/buff off the excess epoxy cement stuff, and build a new lock to try it out with. I really hope it does work.

I really enjoy the working with locks, but SO much of it is trial and error. We only have maybe 3 booklets on basic lock picking, but no real books on lock maintainance, theory, or whatever. Some things I am just curious about. The way they "grease" the locks to keep them working smoothly is by adding graphite dust. Why? I don't know! They don't know either. It's just the way they were taught. Sometimes the graphite dust gets too much and blocks up the lock, and it all needs taking apart. Why not use liquid wrench or something like that? Or some kind of oil?

Hopefully I will get a chance to go on the net sometime this week, and then I can look up this stuff. Also try and find spare parts. Part of the problem with the spare parts is we don't even know what the correct technical term for the parts are! So some jobs I want to do is to (once I've got it all worked out), make proper drawings / blender diagrams of how all the locks work, how to build/ rebuild them, etc, and then to make a small manual. Like as far as the locks go, I know about as much as the other waterman now, because it was the OTHER waterman before him who always did the locks before, and he never really got a chance to learn it all (he only started the job himself about 4 months ago). Anyway, it's all quite interesting.

The other waterman is a really nice guy, friendly, etc. It will be very fun working with him.

Fixing shoes is not particually interesting, but it's a good way to make everyone love you. :-)

We get our own "workshop"/office. Which is cool. And also access to the deck officers/workers computer, to which is quite nice. We have to fill in spreadsheets of all the water readings and so on every day.

About the Doulos intranet thing, apparently the other IT bloke who is coming back from furlough in a week or so wants to make it all with the microsoft groupware thingy so it all links in with our exchange system. So that means I don't have to do any of it. Oh well.

So thats about all really.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

We're in Port Klang, Malaysia now. Sabbath week has started, so no deck work - 8 hours watch tomorrow only, and that's it! Probably that's my last ever gangway watch. They still have me scheduled for watch with my team, but my new teamleader is trying hard to get me off that week of watch and straight into the job as waterman.

Sabbath week means we have seminars etc in the mornings, then afternoons are free. Monday is sports/general madness afternoon.

The speaker this morning gave away free books to everyone! He told us about the most important emphases in his life, then recommended about four books about each one . He had a table up the front where at the end each person could take any three they wanted. But there were quite a lot left over, so he said take as many more as we wanted. So I got 7!

I have the go-ahead to make the Doulos intranet website. We're getting new computers soon, and one of the old ones will be converted to a Linux server.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Slightly weird news is that I'm going to be waterman. Means no more work outside really, hardly any physical work either. No more gangway watch either, mind you. I start right after sabbath week. It's the job I didn't want as it means being on call in evenings, but for the next lot of ports, as they are quite developed, we should always have water from a main, rather than trucks, which is better. So I won't be on call all evening.

There are two watermen, the old one is leaving and I know the new one requested me about two months ago already. Then today I was told to work with him for the day, so I did, and then this evening the chief mate told me that as soon as sabbath week is over I will be the new waterman. It's a job I know I can do, and some of it will be interesting. Like doing all the key-repair/locksmith stuff, but yeah. I dunno.

The chief mate knows I don't really want to be waterman, and he knows I want to move to another department as well eventually. So he could have given me the job because they need someone, and it actually isn't that hard, and I'll be able to fill the second position until they find someone who wants the job. I'll enjoy the locksmithing part, as long as I can find some good books about it, and can get enough work time to do it in. I'll learn how to pick locks. And I'll have a slightly more flexible schedule than now.

Also I have the go-ahead to make the Doulos intranet computer system, which should be a fun diversion. So I will kind of have full internet access sometimes for a while, to do research and get the software I need and stuff.

Oh, and I'm playing tambourine with the gospel choir. Kind of fun, but utterly exhausting in the right arm after playing solidly for six minutes straight.

As waterman, I'll be able to play clarinet in my office, which is far away from everyone. I don't like playing in my cabin, as there are always watchkeepers in next door cabins asleep, or in my cabin, and it's hard to find other places which are free. I'm currently playing a lot in hold 1 which has so-so acoustics.

This is lovely lovely lovely Thai fruit, "rambutan". Tastes kind of like grapes, but without skin (once youve taken the outer layer off). So peeled grapes. One huge seed, but you dont eat it.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

I'm spending a lot of this week on watch using my swiss knife and some twine to whip and finish lots of the book-exhibition ropes. They are all in horrible condition, although some have been finished off with back-splices, but not beautifully. Since the ropes have to be pushed through small holes in the stanchions to make lines for the people to walk, having them all thicker at the ends doesn't make it any easier... they look so much better whipped off. Some of the ropes have
frayed though some of the strands, so I'm having to re-lay them, and then perhaps tonight I'll splice the frayed ends togeather. It's something to do...

Monday, June 05, 2006

GREAT day 2 days ago... Plan was for morning planning/preparing, afternoon teaching drama and creative stuff to teenagers, a kids' programme after, and then a café on board in the evening where we would be waitering and stuff.

The drama was really really good. I got to basically run the whole thing, teaching drama, basics, games, etc. Kids loved it, really joined in, did so well. I hadn't realised how much I miss drama/theatre work though until then. I miss it a lot! Teaching drama is so wonderful.

Then the kids programme after that was v. disorganised, on a street corner. ok. kids enjoyed it, I think. Did the usual dramas, silly songs, etc.

Then as we got back to the ship to prepare for the café, (which I was not looking forward to. Normally I end up sitting at a table with two people who dont speak English, I don't understand their names, music is too loud for me to concentrate or understand anyway, and when after half an hour or so we begin to get a conversation going, before I can say anything they both leave. I dont enjoy...) one of the line-up people said to me,

"Are you free to come out? I need musicians!"

I said I was in the cafe, he said no problem, went and got me out of the café, and told me to get my clarinet. So I did, and we went to a café run by some local people. They are trying to make a new safe cafe/restaurant, where it isn't all cabaret and sex and stuff, but friendly, good music, and so on.

So we set up music stuff, and played for 2 or 3 hours. The other musicians were amazing too. One of them was a bassist who went to music college to study bass. Between sets, he started playing
"Amazing grace" ... he's THAT good! We did a bunch of Christian songs, English, French, etc. Then after that the bassist brought out "The jazz real book" and we played a few songs from that: Georgia on my mind, Moonriver, etc.

Lovely, lovely. Clarinet and bass go well togeather, I think. He said he may be able to teach me some jazz theory before he leaves (2 or 3 months!!), whcih would be really good. and also maybe I
should teach a standard music theory course, as many musicians on board have no theory at ALL.

So that was a really really really good day.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

We're in Phuket now (pronounced "poo-kett", in case you were wondering). It is SO beautiful. Both ports in India were coal ports, so the ship got really dusty and black, but here it is a tourist berth, and the landscape is like a tropical paradise from some Caribbean movie or something. Lovely. The people are really friendly too. I have not had a chance to go out yet, being on duty and really busy with dance practices and so on.

Yesterday we had an actual fire! Someone left a laptop on their bed coverings, and it overheated and started smoking and sparking. She had left the cabin, but one of her cabin-mates woke up because of the smoke, grabbed it and threw it on the floor. Someone phoned the ship's internal emergency number, and all of us in the control team came running to the firestation. We sent in the attack team dressed in full gear and everything. But thankfully someone had already put out the fire with an extinguisher. They reckon they may be able to rescue the hard disk, but I dunno.. We're just glad they were not injured.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Today was a pretty good day.

Not many deckies working'; many people are seasick, and so extra deckies are taking on other's seawatches, and so on, so not many day-workers. Tomorrow there are only 3 of us!

Anyway. The Bosun asked me to wirebrush/clean/paint one of the compass stands on the bridge, which was a good job. Went well too. Hopefully the rain the rest of the day wont have messed it up too much....

Then in the afternoon we had fire attack-team training. Which basically envolved learning about how the breathing-apperatus worked (BA-sets). Then putting them on, and going about the ship, all of us getting shut inside a small compartment/fan-room togeather (to make sure we could cope with such spaces, and not get claustrophobic), crawling along mainstreet (the main corridoor of the ship) using only hands and feet (knees not being protected enough) and then we went up to the funnel, climbing down through inside of the funnel structure inside the engine room, (very very hot! while wearing heavy BA-sets too...) to give us an idea of how it is like inside a fire, then we had to go out along the propellor tunnel shaft (small, hot, and with the propellor axel/pole spinning half a meter away from you the whole time) and climb up the emergency escape shaft.

Then our instructor (one of the ship's firemen) went and lay down somewhere in the lower engine room, and we had to go in to find him, and carry him out as a casualty, the whole time wearing our BA-sets. The normal cylinders we are using here for air give about 45 minutes, so the whole thing didn't take THAT long, but it sure felt like it, as it was so hot, and carrying a human body about while wearing a set is quite hard. One of the people on the training mis-attached his BA tube to his mask, and so had to stop half way through, and go on the rest of the time just breathing normal air, with his BA-set detatched, and one of the others ran out of air 10 minutes before then end, as he is less fit or something, and so was using up air faster. But we got out in the end.

I enjoyed it a lot. For some reason many of the others didn't. Most of the others got burns on their hands while we were climbing down through the smokestack funnel, -- it was that hot. I didn't. Family asbestos fingers coming into play, I think. Anyway. They ended up walking around the rest of the day clutching plastic bags of icecubes. One of the others as well was feeling too sick to participate. But one of the other guys, from Germany, was really really good. Very competent, and good to work with. I'm sure he will be on the attack team soon, and good too.

So yeah..

We left India yesterday. Kind of sad. I will miss India a lot. A lot of people on board are glad to leave, as it has been very stressful for them, what with many of the visitors being so pushy and all. For me, I didn't get so stressed by it, even when on gangway watch, with many people coming and asking for tours, and for permission to walk about the ship and stuff like that.

I was thinking about it, and many of the cultural traits which ship people were finding hard to deal with, and much of the culture are pretty similar to Cypriot culture.... just imagine a Cypriot culture that had continued for 3000 years without being invaded every 100 years like Cyprus has.... then imagine their religion teaching that they were spiritually better than others, and that the others were trash, lower than dogs, because of bad stuff they had done in previous lives, not even to be pitied. But the aspects of everyone being out for himself, but caring about his family, or family image. Not wanting to look bad, trying to get the best for himself out of every situation, thinking he knows best, and so on. Very similar to Cypriot culture. Maybe that's why I didn't have such a problem.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Two days ago we got the new deck schedule for this month. no news about jobs or anything, BUT, I found I had an extra 2 days of 12-4 gangway watch this week, as some people are on re-entry training. That's not good news. So I did 12-4 today. I'm SO tired. I wasnt ready and so didnt get enough sleep or anything, and I still have tomorrow to do.

BUT the good news: one of the other blokes wandered into my cabin just now, we were chatting, and he said, "just 2 days of 12-4? That would totally wreck your whole sleeping pattern. 1 day is fine though. How about we swap tomorrow? I'll do your 12-4 tonight and tomorrow afternoon, and you can do my cleaning team." He just phoned to say he confirmed it with the bo'sun. COOL!!!!!

He said he quite likes gangway. So many people tell me that. I just dont get it.

Re-entry training is brief 2 day training about getting ready for going back home. We have about 8 or 9 deckies leaving in the next few months, so it may be quite unlikely that I leave deck any time soon. I hope I'll get the lifeboat job and that it works out as well as I hope.

I spoke with the bosun, and he knows that Im quite practical and good with my hands and stuff, and so he would quite like me in lifeboats, but the watermen want me to join them too (specifically asked for me). And he knows I'd quite like the lifeboat job. I told him that I am interested in moving from deck into creative ministies or AV or videographer job in the future, so if it is better for the deck to get someone who doesn't want to leave deck ever (which would be good if there was someone to do lifeboats for 1 and half years! very good for the department), then maybe is better I stay in normal deck work. He was happy I told him. unhappy that I may not stay a deckie, but he really appreciates openness.

Watermen job is (in my opinion) not fun. Others think it sounds great. Basically no hard physical work at all; they are in charge of the ship's drinking water, so when trucks come, they have to come and get it attached and coming to the right tanks, moving water from one tank to another so the ship doesn't get lopsided, checking the water making sure it's OK, testing the depths of each tank. There's also a bunch of other random jobs (like looking after the baggage locker, making the new keys for the ship, repairing shoes, etc) mostly it doesn't require too much work, but not exciting.

AND... many times they end up being "on call" all evening, and having to rush off to do water trucks at all hours, which would be really really is bad for me, as I'd almost never be able to totally confirm with a programme organiser, "yes I can be in a programme to do a drama" so they would not want me in dramas at all, as I might have to keep rushing off. So you can see how some people like the job. No hard physical work.

Sometimes they don't ask if you want a job, though, they just assign. It's the chief mate's decision in the end. Apparently what happens is that all the department heads meet up to discuss what people they want, and then negotiate it all out, and then after that each deparement head assigns jobs out within the department according to which people they have left, and so on.

According to the AV people I'm almost certainly on the list of people they will request, but because of me being quite strong and a guy, I will almost certainly stay in deck for the first year. The thing is, AV will be SO short staffed in the next few months. I know I could do the AV job, and many people could not, and so I dont want to commit to the deck department of getting the extra training and stuff of the lifeboat job, if I will then end up having to dump them in a few months if AV cannot find enough other people. Its not fair to the department. So it's all quite complicated. That's why I told the bosun.

At the moment, though, I'm just glad about not having 12 to 4 again tomorrow!

I missed lunch today as I had to give a tour for my "little brother"s family at 11:30. So I went and brought an icecream from the book-ex shop, then made a chocolate spread and jam sandwhich and put the icecream on top. Scrummy. Then I had some dinner too, but not much. I put the rest in the fridge for later. But i'f I'm not on watch I wont need it...

Gangway watch is so bad for eating too. You never feel hungry at normal times, and then need energy quickly at random times, and waking up at like 2 am, and so end up eating really bad stuff, chocolate spread sandwhiches, choclate bars, tea with loads of sugar,cereal with sugary squash juice stuff as the Doulos milk is not nice.

We were supposed to go on an extra trip on my off-day, all of our group, to do a special programme at an old peoples home. But the driver didn't turn up, and so we were waiting for ages. Then when he did turn up, we got taken off to the wrong place - the same place where we did some building. They wanted us to start building again, but none of us were in building clothes. All the girls were in punjabis and all . I remembered the house of a local guy we had met before, so we went there, and phoned to the real guy, and explained the problem ... and then it began to totally chuck it down with rain. So we hid under the veranda and played music and sang songs with the local slum kids, which was really cool. They sung us their Sunday school songs. Really nice.

Then somehow the guy turned up, found us a jeep, and drove us back to the ship. On the way we stopped at a really nice cheap Indian fast food/resurant place and had lovely lovely lovely Indian food. A whole huge meal. The whole meal, plus drinks and dessert, and auto ride home cost us 50 rupees each!!!! 50 rupees is about 50 CY cents [approx $1 US].

It was too late to go where we were supposed to go - everyone had gone home.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Today has been pretty good. Sunday service music practice at 7am. I went early, to warm up, then we practiced until 8:20, service started at 8:30, so about 5 minutes for breakfast. Then after the service cleaning duty, so went outside to start cleaning. Barely started when an absolute torrent of rain started. So we ran around lashing down all the canvasses, lowering the engine room hatch, etc. Got totally soaked. Totally!

Ship seems SO clean now. It's lovely. Everyone said "God is on cleaning duty today!"

Yesterday was i-night, at an outside quasi-amphitheatre venue, a 4000 seater. We packed it!!!!! We were praying for no rain on Saturday for the last 3 weeks or so. So it was really great getting soaked today, and thinking, "This rain might have come yesterday, and ruined all our equipment, and wrecked the whole night, but God made it rain today!" so we didn't mind getting wet at all.

Then after lunch I did the rubbish, had a 10 minute rehearsal for a drama, finished the rubbish, had a shower, went and performed the drama, played guitar for a few minutess, got some props from creative ministires, practised with 4 others for a drama tomorrow. Then I got ready for gangway relief, went and did relief for half an hour while the watchman (watchwoman) went for dinner. Then I put the lights on on the ship, lowered the flag, ate dinner myself, then came back to clean up my bunk a bit. It was covered in random stuff from i-night and all.

I was in two acts in the i-night. Scottish dance, and then TWO minutes later, the "parade of nations" as Cyprus, so very rushed to change. I wear the closest I can find to Cyprus costume: black trousers, white shirt, and a black "Spanish" waistcoat from the costume locker. Looks kind of silly to me, but (a) no one in the audience knows any better (b) if it really looked stupid, they wouldn't keep assigning me to parade of nations (c) most of the costumes look a bit "made up" or fake, so yeah.

Oh, and i've got jazz dance practice in 15 minutes.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

I'm working on a puppets script at the moment, for tonight's practice. We brainstormed it last week. Someone else wrote the first draft, and I should have sent it back to them before. But now I have fixed many things, and re-written a few scenes, so I hope it is OK.

I will be BUSY tonight.

6.28: drama performance
6.30: Scottish dance practice (I'll be late though)
7.00: puppets practice
9.00: jazz dance practice
10.00: clarinet practice in foc's'cle
11.00: sleep

The drama will probably actually be nearer 6.40. I still don't know if I'm definitely in the official drama team! One of the other drama team people who is in this drama tonight (which I already knew, and so taught them) told me he thought I was. But who knows? I'm waiting for them to tell me.

Funny thing is, in deck work I am totally NOT busy. There is far too little work for us all to do at the moment. So we're doing silly things, and spending as much time as we can on them. Like cleaning the aft mooring station. Totally pointless, as in three days time it will be filthy again from the coal dust, and takes just as long to clean now as it will in three days, whether or not we clean it now.

We also spent about half an hour re-whipping a rope for the canvas cover for one of the bridge compasses, and then stood down two hours early.

But that's good for me, it means I can finish this script now!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Monday, May 15, 2006

I'm finished watch, but feeling kinda sick/queasy, possibly bad fruit. I did eat four apples just before watch in one go; the fruit had probably been sitting in the backstage of the theatre getting hot and stuff all day. Not serious.

Visak port is even dirtier than the last one but it's rained twice! Lovely. Huge massive torrents of it, with thunderstorms like in Colorado. Lightning hit one of the port floodlight towers, and so the port lost lighting for about 6 hours.

Then we got a page from the book exhibition, "Attention ship's company, we are in need of volunteers to come to the book-ex deck to help save the books."

So of course loads of us charged up there. Water was coming in all the sides, as it wasn't prepared for 45 degree torrents. All the cash desks got soaked too. So I was running around tying canvases down all over stuff. Because it was a sort of i-night last night, most of the ship's company were off-ship, so only about 40 people were on board. A lot of books got a bit wet, but not wrecked.

I spoke to the bosun about the lifeboatman job. He says he wants whoever does it to start working as soon as possible so they learn the job really well before September, when the current guy leaves. When I spoke to one of the firemen, he said that with the lifeboatman and fireman jobs, you can basically work what hours you want to, as long as you get jobs done. So it would be very cool.

Lifeboatman does maintenance of all lifeboats, emergency equipment and so on, also repair of all canvases on board, and nets, ladders etc. They can get as many deckies as they need when they want them. But if just checking rations and water supplies, no others are needed. If I did this, I'd be able to do more dramas and programmes easily, and sleep more at night! Also because I'd be working on my own frequently, I'd be happier socialising during off-time.

It sounds ideal, but then again, the grass is always greener and all that. Heading for almost 4 months on the ship, almost the whole of my preship is a bit fed up with their jobs and want to move/change etc, which is expected. In about 2 months' time, most will probably be happy again.

I don't know if I will do it; they must have this week's team leaders meeting first and see what happens. They will probably decide then, but who knows? Some things happen on board so fast and other things take forever! I still haven't been told definitely that I'm in the drama team...

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Here is a poster they showed us in our fire-fighting "training". I'm quite glad we didn't have to actually put one of these on...

Monday, May 08, 2006

Last week has been kind of slow/busy/confused etc. One of the creative ministries people is on an away-team, we had an i-night, I went on an overnight, and am on watch this week (12 till 4), and so on. Also I learned a new mime/dance and performed it the next day. Tomorrow we sail to the next port.

The overnight went well, it was a very good experience. I'm so glad to have gone on an overnight in India. Some of it was not such fun, but very good to have experienced it. Hole-in-the-ground type toilets without toilet paper, for instance...

The book-ex has closed for this port. We were going to be open today, and pack down tomorrow, but today is election day so the local people (port authorities) told us it wasn't a good idea to be open. So we closed today and are doing major clean/pack down. A major, major clean. This is a coal port, so there is black dust caked onto EVERYthing. Horrible. Apparently the next port is even worse...

One of the team leaders asked me yesterday if I would consider the job of lifeboat man!! More flexible hours, I'd be pretty much my own boss, as long as I got the jobs done, no gangway watch or firerounds and so on! I'd have to look after the lifeboats, clean them, make sure all ropes/equipment are correct and good, learning more about how they work, and helping to direct during drills and when using them etc. It should mean I could have more flexible hours as I'd be working on my own most of the time and so I could work around performances/practices with drama and stuff. But I'd still be a deckie, which would also be good. And, I'd get a special letter/chitty/thingy from captain and mates, which would (apparently) pretty much get me a job on any ship anywhere!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

"I'm on a church team tomorrow," said I.

"Cool. Who's your team leader?" said he.

"I am."

"My goodness? What is the teams co-ordinator smoking to make you team leader?"

... or so (approximately) went a conversation on Saturday.

Yeah. I was a team leader. So, what does that mean? well, basically, a church asked for a team of us to go do a short programme/presentation in their service today, and my job was to find out (a) what they actually wanted, (b) what we would do, and (c) how we would do it. Another question was also (d), who "we" are.

I was told that I was a team leader on Wednesday.

I thought it was Thursday, at the time. So I went to the board, and make a notice that my team should meet on Saturday evening, in the dining room. 6.20pm. Why this time? Well, the sheet of paper they had given me told me we would be collected from the port gate at 6.20am, the next morning. And I thought it kind of appropriate.

I phoned the pastor as well, and found out what he wanted (songs, drama, mime, a couple of testimonies, and a short presentation about the ship. nothing too challenging).



18:20 - I was in the dining room. Waiting for 2 fairly experienced Douloids (both had been on the ship longer than I have), and 2 STEPpers.

18:30 - I phoned the info desk to ask if it was allowed for me to make a page for them to come. They told me no, only on the actual day itself could I page.

OK. No problem. I'll just wait then.

6:35 - one of them turned up! Whoo! One of the experienced Douloids. We chat for a bit about what kind of things we should do. I'd been given one good idea earlier by someone else. As the STEPpers probably don't know any dramas, and probably don't know how to give a good (ie, short) testimony, I could ask them to sing a song in their own languages. Most westerners are horrified at the thought of being asked to sing solo in front of a church, but many Indians don't seem to be. Also, although some don't sing so well, most seem to sing very well indeed.

7:00 - I ask info, and apparently one of the STEPpers is actually out today, with some other team, and hasn't returned yet!

7:30 - no one else decided to turn up. oh well. the both of us leave. I have some work to do, I need to stick some adhesive sandpaper-type tape to the steps to Hold 3, so they are safe to walk up without slipping over. The trouble is that the self adhesive isn't strong enough to hold it in place, and the contact glue I have to use should really be left overnight to dry, that's why I am doing it tonight.

8:00 - My K-group (fellowship/family group) "parents" are leaving, and it's now time to say goodbye, so pretty much the whole of the people who joined the ship at the same time as us are there. Quite sad.

9:00 - I get dressed in work clothes to go do that work. On my way, I pop by the book-exhibition up on deck, as one of the cabin mates of the other STEPper (not the one already away from the ship) told me that he should be working there. I found him! I told him we're meeting at the info desk at 6am, and he says he can sing. Jolly good.

9:45 - While working on the steps down to hold 3, Andy (from the previous pre-ship group to mine) brings the other STEPper down to see me! I ask her if she can sing, she says yes, and although she doesn't like the idea of a 6am start, thats OK.

10:00 - Finished. Bedtime.


6:10 - At info. We're all there! Wow. Pray, discuss briefly what we will do, and head for the port gate.

6:25 - We're in the bus heading for the church!

8:00 - Service finished already. Didn't really go as planned at all. Very short simple baptist style service, which I enjoyed. Old hymns and everything. Not 200 people, as my paper said, but more like 30 or 40. The CD played didn't work properly, which disrupted us a bit, as a mime/dance kind of relied on it. But! One of the STEPpers sang very well, and the other one... could be professional! Lovely voice. Amazing. So, yeah, it all kind of worked.

10:20 - The pastor took us out for an indian breakfast (lovely), and we're now in a taxi on the way back to the ship. Wow...

11:20 - I find my "little brother" port volunteer, and gave him a tour of the ship (I'd been on watch when he joined, and kept missing him, so he hadn't yet had a proper tour! Not so good of me. But he liked the tour.).

And that was it!

It all went well. Afterwards in the team "de-brief" in the mess, while filling out the form about how it went, one of the experienced Douloid team members took the form and in the extra comments she wrote how she liked my leading style, as I was so relaxed, and asked peoples
opinions rather than being a dictator, and how unusual I was. *blink* hm. Thanks!

But maybe that means I'll have to lead many teams in the future! Oh stress!

So, yeah.

Doulos life is still pretty hectic.

We've been having many inspections and stuff this port, so yesterday I was helping to clean up the lifeboatman's office, and in the back, we found an old guitar (without strings), which belonged to one of the lifeboatmen of ages past, and the current one didn't want the guitar, and so said I could have it! Wow! So I now have my own guitar! Today hopefully I can go and buy some strings. I'd just been talking with God a few days ago about not being able to practice guitar so much, so yeah! Doesn't often happen like this, but a nice present. It's even a classical guitar! Whoo!

Saturday, April 29, 2006

A new picture! OK, so now all the bloglines people will actually visit my blog. that's cool.

So... meself in a kilt, after Scottish dancing in the international night programme last week.

Friday, April 28, 2006

I've been asked to consider if I want to join the drama team or not. One of the guys left, went home. He decided to leave about 3 weeks before he left, and had been discussing it with personnel for some time. Id still have to do deckie job full-time and then drama team a few evenings a week, during free time.

In deck department, apparently in a few months some of the carpenters are leaving, and if no professional carpenters join, they may be looking for normal deckies to start learning that job. The carpenter's job does have slightly better hours... basically normal deckie, but no firerounds or gangway watch! Yes, it would be hard, giving up firerounds. It's so fun getting my sleep pattern all messed up, feeling depressed and never knowing what time it is, waking up terrified that I've missed the watch, and wanting to go home, but I think I could handle the disappointment of not
experiencing it.

If I try really hard.

One of the other deckies told me he thought it would be my kind of thing, as I like doing stuff with my hands, and am quite perfectionistic, and so on. I'd love to learn more proper carpentry.

We've been doing fire-fighting training this week. Went to the Chennai technical college of maritime, for 3 full days of lectures, plus one practical day, and one other day when the time was kind of confused. We've been hearing loads on board about the training course the previous preship went to in Sri Lanka, I think, and how it was fantastic, real loads of training, having to crawl through cargo containers set on fire, put out loads of types of fires, and so on.

We didn't learn ANYTHING in the lectures, nothing we didn't have in preship. We didn't even touch a fire extinguisher, or see a match get struck. But we get a certificate, just the same as the other people!

About the malaria tablets... they seem to perhaps be causing restlessness and sleeplessness, in varying degrees and forms. But many many people on board are finding it hard to sleep at night, just lying awake wanting to walk around or get up and type, or work out, or whatever. Particularly on Sundays, when we have to take the weekly extra pills. But we're not really tired in the day. Everyone is so hot and sweating so much anyway. We take 2 tablets daily, and another 2 extra on Sundays. so many and we must all take salt tablets as well, as we sweat so much.

Monday, April 24, 2006

We're going out this evening to eat (our k-group) as the k-group parents are leaving this week, for good. They only joined the ship for 3 months. K-group is sort of family or fellowship group, all from our preship. There is one set of "parents", one of the married couples on the ship, so each kgroup has one married couple as parents. Ours are from our preship (which is the ideal), but many are not, but ours leave this week.

One of the older couples on the ship are on furlough right now, but come back in a week or so, and they will be the new parents for our group. They were also at the preship training. Each week we have a time together, for an hour or so, and generally it's in the parents' cabin, so they host it, generally provide drinks and buscuits, and so on. Also they make sure we're all ok, and not hating our jobs too much, or whatever.

Food here is very cheap. Like a whole meal for one person can be 4 dollars. For good meal, that is.
Fast food can be a dollar, or less. Mostly veggie. Many places have "veg", and "non-veg" on the back page.

I was so tired this week. My last off-day was right after watch, and we went out for the whole day,
so I'm just having a quiet day today. I read in the morning, had long lunch, chatting, and some music practice, perhaps clean up my cabin a bit, maybe start scripting a new film project or something this afternoon.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Just got back from the town. So many contrasts, so much poverty, so much deception, so much weird stuff. Several million people, bigger than London, and this is nothing like the capital. Huge numbers of beggers, homeless, etc. and the other people just shoving them out of the way, not caring, or worse. And so strange seeing thousands of idols everywhere.

Traffic is insane here, there are so many auto rickshaws. Imagine a 2 wheel hand cart, attached to a motorbike, and its slightly less posh than that. All metal.

Weather is pretty hot. Not too bad, for me. But if outside a long time in sun, for the Finnish, or whatever, it's bad.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

We're in India! Whoo!! etc.

We arrived yesterday, on the 11th April.

I'm kind of tired, in a general way, but also kind of excited and awake too. Jumping to the firerounds schedule (11pm to 7am work time!) really messed up my body clock, and so I got very little sleep the first few days. And I know I need sleep soon. But I'm going to stay up til lunch, and then sleep from lunchtime until 8 this evening, as one of our k-group is going on a team away from the ship for 2 weeks, and we are going to have a goodbye lunch for her.

So I was filling up time until then.

I've been part of a group learning a jazz/modern dance since pre-ship, and had wanted to make a "training" dvd for the dance, with each section (verse, chorus, rap-section, finale, etc) able to be played, and explained on the dvd, so that if people miss learning sessions, they can catch up faster, but also so that we can review on our own parts, and also to allow the dance to be kept going if key people leave the ship.

So I went just now to the photography/graphics office, and looked through their video collection to see if they had any tapes which had the dance on, with the right kind of tape that I can play on my camera, so I could start working on making the dvd (or at least a demo of the dvd,
which I could then use to persuade the dance leader to schedule a few sessions to properly record it).

While I was talking to the photographer about this, she (first of all she wanted to talk about my toaster video -- apparently her machine didn't play it right, so she watched it about 4 times trying to get to the ending, but it didn't work, and she was getting angry because she wanted to see how it ended! rather cool!)

.. anyway, she told me maybe I should apply for job of videographer, which is a post they have been looking for someone for for quite a while. I knew they wanted someone for the job, but thought they wanted a professional videographer, someone like dad. But she said no, in fact she had never even seen Adobe Photoshop until 2 weeks before they came to the ship, and had basically to learn on the job!

It's kind of weird... Like, all during firerounds this morning I was thinking about my job as a deckie.

I love the job, doing all the physical work and all, all the painting, scrubbing, chipping rust, and so on, but a lot of the attitude of some of the other deckies really annoys me, and I find hard to work with.

For instance, on the fire-rounds, there are these little red strips on the walls in different sections. What you are supposed to do is go to each section, make sure there are no irons plugged in, or whatever, check the bilges, and so on. Then scan the strip, and go on. There are some strips which are outside a hold, or other room, and you are supposed to open the door, check inside the space, and then close it and go on.

When talking with one of the other watchmen, I mentioned that I really didn't like going into one of the holds, as it's so creepy down there... always sounds like someone is walking around, and hiding from you. And he couldn't understand why I would go down there anyway, as the strip is outside the door, and "no-one ever bothers" to actually check inside. I dunno. Like some people are trying to get away with doing the least possible, but it seems like such a bad attitude to have, since we are here to serve God, and it's not like the jobs are enormously strenuous anyway.

Yeah, I've been kind of feeling a bit fed up with deck department for a week or two now. I was expecting it, of course. Most people go through a "down" cycle after about 3 to 8 months of their first department. And I've done 4 months of deck work now (including my STEP). So I know that it's just part of Doulos life, and that in 6 months more, I'll probably feel a lot better about it.

But anyway, I was thinking for ages this morning during my watch, if I was to move department, where would I go? I am even feeling engine room might be better, and was so tired with the attitude that if IT asked me to join them, I might even do that. Not too happy. So quite a surprise to hear someone tell me about this position needing filling, like the same day I'm really thinking about this.

Right now, I'm thinking it would be so cool to do this job. I'm pretty tired, and going through a not too happy week with deck dept, so I'm probably seeing it brighter than it is (the grass is always greener, and so on). I dunno. That's what I'll be praying about for the next while, we'll see what happens.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

I won "Pioneer" DoulOscar !

I thanked the toaster, said how great it was to work with, and how generous it was, etc, and then told everyone not to grow up. Stay as children. Its much more fun. We had 2 mintutes max for speeches, then they started playing snoring sound effects. Only one person got that though.

One of the creative people told me I got the pioneer award partly because I'm the only one doing short videos. Most people are trying to make whole long things.

our preship has a lot of techie/AV/media people, which is cool, and we're all (except I think 3) staying for 2 years, so hopefully we'll get the Doulos media quality going up and up. I was the only one in our preship to have made anything for the DoulOscars though!

Friday, April 07, 2006

I just got nominated for the DoulOscar "Most Creative" and also for "Best Actor". I have to prepare speeches in case I win... for the video I made about the Doulos toaster.* I was camera man, director, gaffer, editor, cutter, best boy, tea lady, actor, pyrotechnican, etc...

I want to make it again. Its kind of rushed in too many places but I learned a lot.

* note - to understand the significance, see the blog entry about the toaster

Thursday, April 06, 2006

We've been doing India orientation training. It was good, though quite long, and nothing too new: mozzies, be careful of drivers, no physical contact between men and women in public, no tight jeans, etc, knee length shorts at minimum, etc, etc, and be careful about what water we drink.

We all started malaria pills yesterday: dailies and weeklies. Apparently less nasty ones than last time, as there are hardly any resistant strains or anything here. The dailies are proguanil, and weeklies (as well!!) are chloroquinine. It turns out all of the people who got malaria last time were not taking their pills.

I think the biggest worry is crowd control. Apparently we will probably be doing no deck work for most of India, just crowd control. They're expecting at least 12000 visitors a day, maybe more.

One thing makes me very happy in India orientation: In most of the world, they talk of normal food, and veggie food. In India, they talk of normal food, and non-veggie food.

Food on board is very good now. Much pasta these days, the new chef Glenn is v. talented, and he has a hatred of "one each" signs. Most meal times there is fruit now, and also some at other times. Many times now we have signs up "ask galley staff for veggie option..."

It gets very hot now here... apparently we will have no visits to schools, as all the schools are closed for the next month, as it is too hot!!! And then we will start hitting monsoon season, I think. for most of Malasia, islands, etc. But we have teams out every day, loads of a-teams (2/3 weeks away from ship), and so on. One deck team per day is probably going out on visits too. We have only 5 teams, so maybe much more extra days out! whoo! Also the on board programme/conference schedule is up, and it is totally full. Like every morning, afternoon and evening, almost.

They had a couples night a few days ago, for all the marrieds on board. They interviewed over the last few weeks lots of them, talking about their families, pets, dogs, etc. and then mixed / edited them up. So they asked questions about the husband/wife, and then put in the answer about the dog, or something. eg: "what was your first impression of him? " "well, he has a really big nose, like this... " Funny.

i'm on firerounds or something next week, so I dont know what times I will be awake.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

We will sail (in just a few days time) for Chennai, India. It is quite a long voyage, about 10 days. Hopefully not many people will be seasick.

I'm getting to do more dance on board, which is something I've wanted to learn more of for some time. I'm in the Scottish dance group, am learning a jazz/ modern piece with a bunch of others who joined at the same time as I did, and may be learning joining a Dutch dance group in a few weeks as well (time permitting). I'm also in the puppets workshops/teams thing.

Yesterday we did the big "International Night", which I was involved in (3 items! I was changing costumes all evening!), and then from about 11.30pm when we got back, I was helping to unload the 3 book containers which arrived yesterday. We finished the unloading at about 4.30am this morning. I'm kind of tired, and also have a cold, have been coughing and all for the last 2 days. Poor ol' me, whinge whinge, moan moan, etc, etc. I actually love days like this, it's kind of unusual, but staying up crazy hours heaving heavy boxes of books about is really rather satisfying.

So, I'm still quite busy.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

We're now in Oman. Last week was kind of down, I was really busy, and still tired after watch and all.

The voyage was very nice, I was kind of hoping to be on sea watch, but wasn't at all. During long voyages, they often arrange special tournaments, so we had a table tennis championship, which was enjoyed by all. It was per- k-group, so each k-group chose 2 people to represent them. It was all kind of rushed though, if they had told us a few weeks in advance, then I think it would have been better.

One of the other k-groups had someone who had been top in her country as a child, or something like that, but because her English was not so good, and she had not understood/replied to an email until too late, and so other people in her group played instead of her... which was kind of sad.

I didn't play, by the way. :-)

Anyway. This week looks as it if will be more fun. Tomorrow is I- night, the big programme off on shore somewhere. I'm in the Parade of Nations (bah), Scottish Dance (grand!), and a drama (whoo!), then on Friday, I'm doing a puppets sketch with one of the other Daniels in the service (yah!), so all in all, quite busy.

Today will be a bit hectic though... we have 3 containers of books arriving. Probably in various Indian languages. So our deck team is "stood-down" until they arrive, and we will be working with those. Possibly until quite late.

BUT... I have a drama practice tonight at 6, and scottish dance practice at 6:20! Also the Dutch dance have asked if I would be interested in joining, they need more guys, apparently. Next week... maybe. ;-)

About the drama thing. Although I'm not in the drama team (still don't know why), I think the creative ministries people still kind of like me (they know that that is where I would like to work, eventually), and want me in dramas, I just wont learn the more complicated long ones that the drama team prepare.

So yeah. And when we go visit schools and so on, I'll still be doing drama at most of them, I think.

I should probably go now... I have many things to do. I need to listen to the audio of the puppets sketch (we are just doing lip- synch), and one of the school teachers wants me to play my clarinet for her students (4 year olds, I think!), maybe I will do that today. But I need to prepare the puppets more importantly.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

I'm sitting in the dining room, typing this, after a children's programme this morning. We went to visit the school at 11.30, and were told we had a 45 minute or an hour long cultural programme, they wanted. No problems. One of the other team members is a teacher from oz, and so she was voted to "MC" the time.

The kids enjoyed it a lot, as did the teachers, but one of the teachers _kept_ coming into the room, like, every 2 minutes, and calling for another kid to come because their parents were there. We should have really started the programme at about 11 o'clock, or 10 thirty. Eventually the whole thing dissolved at about 12 o clock when pretty much all the kids left as their parents were there to collect them. Oh well.

We taught them some (fairly) silly songs, performed a drama about friendship (they gave me the main character, which was fun), did a song about Doulos work (also quite silly, but impressive. Basically a short chorus about "if I was not upon the stage of the Doulos, I would be..." and then each "verse", one of the people stands forward and pretends to be some job; captain, carpenter, laundry, etc, with a short chant, and actions. and each time through the song another person stands forward.

So it starts off with one person standing forward, next verse two people, the verse after that 3 people, until all of us stand forward. and the actions to each persons chant include standing up, bending down, stretching arms up and down, etc, which are choreographed so that each person ducks out of the way of the next person just as they do something. IE, the carpenter stretches out a measurement, just as the painter ducks down to stir paint, and so on.

The last character to stand forward is... a ballerina. and they are supposed to be a really strong masculine macho deckie, and so guess who that was? yes! me! wearing my deckie clothes (really grubby looking and "work" ish) and also a ballet skirt thingy on top. it always makes the kids laugh, seeing someone so tough and manly pirouette and leap across the stage... yeah. pretty fun anyway. this evening we are going to help up at the bookshop, and give tours and chat to people. but until then is time off, which is quite nice.

Yesterday was my off-day, and I went out to see the town with some of the others. we visited the souk, I wanted to try and find a new watch (analogue, with alarm and backlight, but not big and heavy, and nice looking. I'll be using it on deck, so just simple and stuff.

heh.. anyway, I didn't find a good one. I found lots which were almost right, but none I really wanted to get. the guys at the shops always started off prices of about 8 to 12 dinar, but by the time i'd looked at them all and decided I didn't want to buy, were all talking off special offers, me being their friend, and 3 dinars only.

oh well. Perhaps I'll see one in India or Oman.

We then went and had lunch at a place called "Hardees", which is an American style fast food resurant. I had a salad burger. Then we walked to one of the malls about, walked around it for a while, went to a Haagen Daaz icecream place, each had an icecream thingy (v. nice. I had a waffle with icecream on top) and then walked a bit more, and went home. Over all, fairly relaxed day not doing very much. Then in the evening I played Rummikub with some others, and then hung out in one of the families' cabins with them and just chatted and looked at photos and such. They are a really friendly family, and have people drop round many evenings, and have their door open. They were making a sign to put on their door, with "hi! come in!","we're busy, sorry","not in!","go away we're sleeping" or something like that on it, which they can then put a blue-tacked arrow at the approp. label, on the computer. So I helped with the design of that for a while as well. v. friendly.

anyway. I'm off now. It's nice to have had these two not so busy days after the last 7 days of watch. Normal day deck work tomorrow, we'll probably be starting to get ready to sail in 2 days, so finishing off paint jobs, perhaps loading some of the vans and stuff...I don't know.

Monday, March 13, 2006

I'm pretty tired. drills today, after watch. and my cabin mate wakes up at 11.30, so by the time drills were over, it was too late for me to go to bed during the daytime, really, as I'd get woken by his alarm after half an hour.

And yeah. this evening is a birthday party for one of my group. this is a looong day.

Friday, March 10, 2006

We had three containers arrive yesterday! Almost all foodstuffs.

In the morning we went and did a presentation about the ship at a local Indian school, about 300 kids were there. We did a drama about being friends with others, no matter how different they are, taught the kids some silly songs, and so on. It went quite well, I think. Afterwards, they generously decided to feed us, lovely Indian food. I enjoyed it very much.

In the afternoon, I thought we were off until 4.45, but then the team leader came and told me I had to give a tour of the ship for some people on for a programme, and then do "parade of nations" in their programme at 3 o clock. Parade of Nations is something they put in many programmes, basically you get a whole bunch of people to walk up, say where they are from, and smile. So I quickly went and met the people, chatted for a while, gave them the tour, ran and got changed into my moderately smart clothes, ran back, did the parade thingy.

Then I ran back to my cabin, grabbed my mug and a tea bag, ran back up to the dining room for our meeting at 4.45. We were going to visit a group in the evening, and had to plan for it. So we planned for it, half the group of us to do a kids programme, and the other 3 of us to talk a bit about the ship, and how we joined, and so on. Once we'd done planning, we found that we were supposed to be at the port gate at 5, to meet them, so we managed to find a Doulos driver to shuttle us there.

When we got there, no one was there to meet us, so we drove to the parking lot (about 5 minutes away), drove around there a bit, met no one, drove back, and still no one. So we thought we should try phoning.

None of us had a phone.

So one of the guys went to try and get the port security officer to lend us his mobile. He succeeded, and was just dialing, when a big red land cruiser drove up, and it was our hosts. So we left with them (after giving back the phone, I think). They apparently had only asked for a kids' programme... So we said OK. Then they said since we were there anyway, we might as well show a slideshow and stuff as well. So we did that, and a drama.

Now, about the containers...

They had been working on unloading them, and getting the foods into the holds since about 9am when they arrived. At about 9pm, when we got back, they were still going. So I offered to help, and was sent down into the dry food store.

I love when containers arrive. The atmosphere is wonderful to work in. It's great.

You work like mad tossing boxes of noodles or cereal around, or push heavy ol' bags of flour around, getting the lift empty, and then send it up again, and try and get it all packed away into some part of the hold. Everyone is tired, but working togeather. I arrived at about 9.30, after getting changed and all, and started working. We finished work at 1.15 AM. I loved it. I wouldn't miss it for anything. Well, I would, depending on what the anything was. But it would take quite a lot.

The people who had been working since 9am were a lot more tired, of course, but still many of them would not take up the offer to let us work for them, but were determined to carry on til the end. At the end you feel great.

We have various different spreads to put on bread, but somehow I guess the order got confused, and instead of "enough jam for every day, and chocolate spread once a week", we got mountains of chocolate spread, and virtually no jam... Odd. So I guess we will now have a lot of chocolate spread on bread. yummy. Not so very healthy though. Jam isn't either.

Today is my off-day, so that's cool. Next week I am on 4-8 watch, from tomorrow (saturday) morning, until the next saturday evening, I will be working from 4 til 8 in the morning, eating breakfast, doing drills, etc, sleeping for an hour, or perhaps working out, or playing clarinet, depending how I feel, and then eating lunch, sleeping for a few more hours, working again from 4 until 8 in the evening, and then sleeping until 3.30 the next morning when I get ready to start work again. Work is security duty. Mostly gangway watch, but also sea-watch (lookout and being at the helm) for 2 days, occasional fire-rounds (walking about the ship checking for fires, problems, intruders, etc). So not too strenuous, but not very fun hours.

Monday, March 06, 2006

I'm on fire-watch in 10 minutes (making sure no fires start from welder), and probably i'll do some needle-gunning (heavy duty rust chipping) too. auditions went ok, i think. dunno if am in group til some time next week.

Today was more training, I'm on the fire-support team, and so have to know where spare aqua-film-foam- forming fluid is kept, how to help teams get their fire fighting breathing suits checked and set up, etc.

Went to visit the American run hospital here, 2 days ago. I did a drama, and then an application mixed with story. Afterwards, some young school teachers invited us out, and we went (about 25 of us) to the seafront, played frizzbee, they brought us pizza, and a local ice- cream sales man made friends with some of us, and then gave us ALL free icecreams! So generous :-)