11th July

In Beira now. Amazing city. Yesterday was my last day of watch, I was so happy! I was expecting to sleep in today, and did. I woke up at 8am. Shocking.

So I got up, had breakfast, and then read for a bit, before some of the other STEPPERs asked if I wanted to go out to the town with them for the day, this being monday, and so the off day for most of the ship, including, thankfully, me.

So we got into the Doulos minivan, and drove out to the port gate. People are not allowed to go to and from the port entrance (about 9 minutes by minibus) by foot, and so ALL visitors to and from the Doulos, and all Douloids (strange word. better than people calling us doul-oy though. Silly ungreek pronunciation…) must be shuttled by the Doulos minivans. Amazing. Very tiring for the drivers though.

We walked about the city a bit, and after waiting about 45 mins for one of us to finish changing some money at the bank, we went to get lunch. We split 3 going to a cafe, and the rest of us to a “resturant”. which turned out to be just a bar which sold food. Not very good. We had to wait almost 2 hours for the food to arrive, and even then it wasn’t very nice. I had spagetti and tomato ketchup. Yum. We then met up with the others, who had spent the same as 2 of us for all three of them, and had had mountains of really nice food. Junk food (hamburgers, etc) but really nice, they said, anyway. And lots thereof.

So anyway. We went then to the cinima, and watch “The Pacifier” with Portuguese sub-titles, rubbish typical Holly-wood junk, but nice cinema, HUGE, but only about 15 people in it. Big stage, round concave screen, and so forth. Very old. Then we walked back, some people wanted to go to the supermarket, and so did, the rest of us got back in time for dinner on board. And now I’m here, reading email.

I want to go now, perhaps see if I can get some clarinet practice in. I played yesterday for the Doulos Sunday service, people keep on saying how much they liked it… they only normally get “usual” stuff: drums, guitar, piano, bass. The pianist is really cool, jazzman, music school trained, and keeps on sticking in weird jazz chords in the middle of songs. A bit disturbing at first, but once you get used to it (normal harmonys don’t work! You have to use jazz ones 🙂 ) it sounds fantastic. He even wrote out some instrumental clarinet/piano solo intro and break stuff. Funky. We did “The Spirit of the Lord is within my heart” (I will dance as David danced) in a very cool latin jazz / samba type way.

PS – computer time is unlimited, providing that not all the computers are in use, and that no-one is waiting for yours.
PPS – Internet connection at 33k this port.

July 8th

We are at sea currently, as I write this, which means it wont get sent until we have docked, if it even does then, but nevertheless, I am writing this while sailing. I have only 2 more days left on my 4 til 8 watch (yeah!) and then 1 off day before back to normal deck work.

Watch is a lot more fun at sea. We go up to the bridge, and do sea watch from there. There are more people about then, 1 Officer, 1 Cadet, 1 Lookout, and 1 Helmsman. And me as well, in training/learning.

It was quite exciting to me to be able to say for the first time “Daniel at the Helm, steering course one-eight-zero.”! Yes! I have had the privilage of steering the Doulos! Very cool. I imagine it begins to get less fun and more boring after the 100th hour or so of it, but I have only been at the helm for 3 hours now (I think.)

Being on watch is cool too. This morning, we saw whales! For about 2 hours, every 15 minutes or so another whale would be spotted, and we would sail past it, as it splashed, lifted it’s tail, sent up a spout, etc! Extremely amazing. They are HUGE.

My body is begining to get used to this crazy schedule, but nevertheless, I managed to oversleep and miss lunch today. Luckily, the mess always has spare food about, and I could get 6 or so slices of bread and also there are Marmite and Honig about. You know, if I decide to come back to Doulos for 2 years, I will have to learn some German before I join. So many Germans on board, also Dutch, and South Africans.

There is a shared network drive on board for people to share pictures, documents, etc, and so I hope to get copies of the whale pictures from this morning, and hopefully will be able to make a CD of all of the pictures I have from there now in my documents, from all the times we have been places and I have forgotten my camera.

I still am not seasick — Thank you Father — and perhaps that is partly why I am enjoying this life so much.

I have been asked to play with the Sunday service music group, and so must off to practice soon, before my watch, and before it gets too noisy, as we should be arriving in a few hours. I don’t know whether it will be in my watch or not yet, the current has not been so friendly, and we went through both sides of a storm. I had never really experienced a “calm in the middle of a storm” before, but this time, yeah. There was quite a large swell before, then the storm (I was on fireround and so missed most of it, but it was fairly rough, and lots of rain for a while), then it was reaallly calm. For about 2 hours, and then back again to the storm.

But my watch was over then, and I was eating breakfast, and heading bedwards. So, I must be off, many things to do.

3rd July

I asked if he would be working on the deck for the whole time, or whether they changed areas. Dan said:

Same area for the whole two months, unless I apply for a transfer, but I don’t think I will. Kitchen would be cool too, you get such LOVELY smells. We were scrubbing the prom deck two days ago, and the smell from the bakery was what made the whole morning really worth it. 🙂

Yesterday was my first e-day (On shore work). Digging a huge 4 meter by 4 meter by 3 meter deep hole for a missionary family here, as a water reservoir. Partly also to teach the locals that you can collect water rather than havign to walk 2km each day for water. Very hard work. I’m so tired. Back ache. Today I am supposed to be juggling and perhaps doing poi in an interval in the quayside program. I can barely bend down though if I drop. Hmm.

I asked if he had been able to play his clarinet every day, as he had hoped

yeah. not every day, but about every other day. there are a few places i can practice, but the music room (isolated from the rest) is only free at 6am each morning…

I have been getting up at 6 though pretty much every day. Next week I am on gangway and fireroundsman from 4 til 8 (both am and pm) for the whole week. That will probably be quite tough.

Anyway. Must go. I want to practice the juggling or whatever and do a bit of stretching.

PS – I am remembering to take the anti-malarials.

1st July

Today I was on cleaning duty. That means to be up on deck at 6am, scrubbing (with brooms, not handbrushes…).

“I haven’t seen a deck this terrible ever” said Glen. Yeah. Nasty. Loads of scrubbing.

Then after breakfast (8.20am) we (the STEPPERs) had our “K-Group”, officially a Bible study or something but because it is organized from within the group, today it was basically just sitting around everyone saying “oh, i am so tired, I don’t even know what I’m doing today. do you? Oh, you don’t either”.

Then us new deckies went for sailor-knot and other training, and then went to put out the paint-raft (8 foot by 12 square floaty metal thing… you put it in the water, attach a long rope the whole way around the outside of ship in the water (took ages) and then sit in it, or float around the ship and scrape off rust, put on new paint, or whatever.) until lunch.

After lunch, we went back to the raft, floated around the ship, and started knocking off rust, and then later they will paint it, and seal it again. Endless task.

Then I had to rush off at 2ish or so, get into a kilt, shirt, sporran, and socks, and scottish dance for the hoards of Mozambiquans who are outside on the quayside. Went well, I think.

There are loads of tiny wee canoes which are in the bay, with guys fishing in them, and they keep coming up and asking for money, shoes, or anything. Very friendly, and don’t really expect to be given anything, which is a good thing, as we are forbidden from giving them stuff, it encourages them to beg, and try and steal stuff from ships, apparently.

A few months ago another ship in port about 500+ meters out or more had an entire mooring line stolen during the night! They are HUGE! I have no idea how anyone could steal one in a canoe, they are about 100+ ft long, and around 2/3 of a foot in diameter. Expensive, too. Funny, the canoeists seem to speak a little english, but NONE of the volunteers in this port speak any! They have to have translators, which is making it ather difficult for them, working on deck, in the book-ex, and so on.

Tomorrow is my “e-day”, going out into the city to work, I don’t know what we will be doing. One of the teams today was building a fence for some people. The line-up team here had to buy their house, and build it themselves out of bamboo rods! Very… simple.

The currency here is 50000 to 100 Doulos units, which is about 1 dollar, or so.

We reached Nacala yesterday. Rather small indeed. I have not been ashore really, except the quayside, as a deckie.

Yesterday I helped first with sorting out the garbage, paper/plastics/other, as we were at sea >40 miles out, and so could throw paper&glass overboard. I now slightly more appreciate what dad was saying about the egyptian church in garbage city…

Then I helped in the afternoon once we had docked with unloading stuff with the
crane. Fun. The gangways and the blue watchmans box, and all.

My deckie shoes are soo big! Great big size 47 steel-tipped things. I need some more thick socks. Oh well. Perhaps Charlie has some.

I am the only STEPPER to not have been seasick… Pretty much the only
one to have ever sailed at all, actually.

I really enjoy it on board, and think I will enjoy being a deckie the most too. It is
the closest to being a sailor 🙂 Getting to mess around with ropes and shackles and scrubbing decks and all. And being outside during voyages is the best. Apparently we also get official looking raincoats as well if it is wet.

After letting us know he had arrived, Dan sent another text saying it had taken two hours to get his visa at Dar es Salaam airport, and another saying that the lock was broken on his cabin door so someone had to kick it down! We texted back but had no more response, then a week after he left we received a lengthy email which was written on the Monday after he arrived.

I finally got my computer username to work. Crazy auto-password. I am really enjoying my time on board so far. (Note, if I miss out any spaces in this email, it is because of the weird keyboard. Made in Malasia in ’94…) Today we at last found out where we will be working. I am going to be on Deck! Great, this is what I wanted. I will ask the chief Deckie tomorrow if the hours would count towards a competant crewman… I hope so.

The first flight out was fine from LCA, no problems. Dubai was beautiful, very Modern Arab style. The hotel was very close by, the airport hotel and reached by minibus from the airport terminal. Very cool hotel. HUGE room. Met Dad’s friend in the airport about 4.30 ish. Cool. I had not slept, but read a bit, and done karate & stretching for the 3 hours or so that I was in my room.

Flight from Dubai was long… at least it felt it. The airplanes (both to and from Dubai) were nice modern Airbus, with (oh so posh) per-seat TV screens that worked! Well… mine was buggy, but they all kind of worked. You know, I’m glad that I read that “plug in drug” book*. It’s true! People don’t sleep any more on flights. They drift into a TV trance. And sit, heads 20 cm away from the screen for hours, watching junk. I didn’t watch more than about 5 minutes, before getting bored, and turning on the classical radio channel. Cool.

Arrived in Dar, looked through “forward camera” view on TV, rough runway, no lines and painting. Inside the “terminal”, it was chaos. You had to get these blue forms, fill them out, and then take them to the VISA desk. About 2 score people trying to get VISAs, and one guy sorting them out, and 4 desk dudes doing the actual work. It was a “African” queue, in other words, big squash.

1 and ahalf hours later, my passport and blue form and $50 was on the desk, and a lady said from behind me “are you joining the Doulos?” it was an ex-LogosII person, bookshop manager, come tojoin the doulos. 30 mins later I got my passport back, and visa, and went though passport control in about 10 seconds. didn’t even need to show the International Vaccination Certificate! oh well.

Met a whole bunch of Douloids outside, got in minibus and drove to Ship. I didn’t need 5 pairs of shoes!!** Mad! Most people only have 1. OR sandels. hah. haa. haa. Oh well. Apparently local people keep asking for one’s shoes. Hm.

On board, my Big Brother is Deiter, a South African guy. He remembered me from last year! Also other people keep saying “do I know you from somewhere?” heh.

Anyway, The cabin is right up in the bow. Apparently the WORST place for seasickness on board! Fun fun fun. We sail in about 2 hours.

I am really enjoying it on board, slowly learning peoples names, I am about out of computer time now, so must go.

PS – No direct internet access. only email.
PPS – no big attachements please. 1 56k modem for whole ship!
PPPS – Windows 2k. MS OUTLOOK. ugh.
PPPPS – Nice big library.

* See Marie Winn’s site
** Dan was sent a kit-list from the OM UK office, which said – among other things – that he needed to take one pair of dress shoes, one pair of sandals, two pairs of casual shoes or trainers, and another pair to keep in a lifeboat.

This is my last post before I fly. I have mostly packed, had all my vaccinations, done my last performance, started the anti-malarials, drunk a lot of water, cleaned my desk, and have only 9720 more things to do before check-in, which is in about 4 or 5 hours time. I will try to post when I arrive. I also have added my mum and bro to the people on this blog, so they can relay for me. About a week ago, I bought a mobile. I hate the things. Stupid bleeping all the time, interrupting, never letting you be alone. I have held out this long against the insidious abominations, but alas, one more has fallen to their fel grip. I still keep it off whenever I can though. Basically, the aim is to allow me to communicate with people here, parents and whatnot.

Yesterday, after the last school performace, we (the theatre) went out to starbucks for cheesecake. My first time there ever. Strange place. Nice cake though. And the rest of the company had bought me a book, and a card. Funny Korina. She wrote “Dear Vromopaido, come back soon because I wont have anyone to fight with.” Charming.

Had them two vaccines. Very tired, long day, with two performances this morning. Tomorrow, the last real performance! Yeah!

Didn’t fall over after the vaccine. Tonight I am going to my final karate class before next August, or September. I wonder if I will be able to train, and find others while in Africa, and on ship? That would be a pretty cool actually. Go join a karate group in whatever port, and invite everyone to the ship. Hmm…

Found a small scrap of paper in my room today which I had written on about 6 months ago:

Fruit trees grow well with manure as fertilizer. Do the Fruits of the Spirit also get fertilized by manure?”

Anyway. Am I being heretical again?

Here begineth mine tale, friends all,
Aren ye sitting wel comfortablye?
Goode. Then I shal beguine.

“When they begin the Beguine
It brings back the sound of music so tender
It brings back a night o…”

OK. I’ll stop now. I couldn’t think of a good way to start this thing, and that seemed like a quite unusual, and quite typical me way of doing it. I was thinking of writing the whole blog in middle english, but after the third line thought “No way”.

Anyway. About 1 and a half years ago, the ship MV Doulos came to Larnaka (where I live) for 10 days or so. I had the privilage of working on board for the time they were here with a friend from Lemesos.

At the time I loved the ship, and the community and wanted to join them properly, but at age 17, I felt I was too young to really do that, and wanted to do a year working at the local theatre group in which I had been envolved. A year later (last December, now), and they came back again for 1 day only, to pick up some new people, and I got to visit again, and meet up with the people in charge of short termers, and meet a whole load of guys who had just finished their STEP (Short Term Exposure Programme) and talk to them.

I sent in the “interested” form from their website,

and waited.

2/3 weeks later, not even an auto-responce. So I sent in another, with an email.

And waited.

Eventually a responce! Yeah! Then they (the UK office) sent me the full application form, which I duly filled out, and sent back, a few more questions went back and forth (it was March by this time) and eventually they said “Well, the time you applied for initially on board (June/August) is full… Is your second choice (August/October) OK for you…” I said “OK”, slightly disheartened. Then they said they needed to wait to ask the ship if there was space on board.

So I waited.

1 month later, I sent an email asking if anything was happening. “Still waiting for the ship to respond” they said.

So I waited.

1 and a half months later, I was getting a bit concerned. My family were wanting to plan for what to do for the rest of the year. We needed to visit the UK to sell our house, and do the usual chuch visits and all that, and we still didn’t know what was happening about the Doulos!

So I had a talk with God about it, and asked “Lord, if you want me to go, please can I have a response, one way or the other, this week…” It would be awfully nice to know…

Next day, an email arrived “Hi Daniel, I have just heard that a vaccancy has become available on the Doulos for the STEP in June. I know that this is short notice but I was wondering if you would be interested??”

Hey, wow God, I wasn’t quite expecting that 🙂 Thanks! This was about 2 weeks ago. These last 2 weeks have been quite busy.

The STEP starts on the 25th, and I had performances with the theatre group (where I have been working this last year as an actor and musician) until the 23rd. We looked up flights online, but the only ones available were on the 19th… So Dad and I went down to the travel agent. It was an afternoon, and my dad was saying “Well, normally it’s very busy at this time of day, I expect we’ll have to wait some time…” we went in, and the only others in the room were sitting behind desks! Once one of them had finished her phone call, we asked about flights, and there was one on the 24th (this Friday!)! Wow! Thanks God!

I have had some of the vaccinations I need, all of the “VITAL, CANNOT ENTER COUNTRY WITHOUT CERTIFICATE THEREOF.” ones, and will get some more of them tomorrow. It looks as if I will be going! I’m quite excited now.

I’m not good at praying. I get distracted all the time, and am never quite sure of what I should be praying about anyway. Often I will ask for something “Hey, Father, it would be awfully nice if it could rain today, you know?” and then half an hour later am shouting “No! Please God, not rain! Tomorrow, maybe, but not today, right?” Thankfully, God is in charge, whatever I pray, and whatever happens, it will be to His glory. I don’t even have a visa yet. Hopefully I can get one at the airport, but if not, and I get turned back, I know that He is in control.