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.”

Thanks.

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.

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