Saturday 23rd July

The last few weeks, I seem to have spent almost all my working time sanding off some of the wooden handrails and putting new varnish on them. There are so many to do and it takes so long. We have proper equipment though, so it is at least Good Work, it feels satisfying. Nice big solid power-tool electic sanders. Real Tools for Real Men (People), and all that kind of rubbish. Fun.

We have to keep a thin line from each tool to ourselves, in case we drop them overboard, as they are quite expensive. It is a very satisfying experience, because the wood looks so bad before, and wonderful afterwards.

We end up spending a lot of time getting stuff wrong though, due to bad planning. We spent about an hour lowering a gangway out of the way, as no-one on our team is in the gangway squad, and none of us knew how to do it quickly, so we could get at an area of wood to work on, and then had to move it back again because it turned out there would be lifeboat drills in an hour, and the lifeboats had to drop right past where we had put the gangway.

We arrived 2 days ago in this port of Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, I think. We arrived at 9am or so, which meant that as my normal deckie work, we were doing unloading of the gangways, vans, and so on. I really enjoy this work, it is probably my favorite work of the whole deck dep.

What we do is attach slings to the gangways, then the crane op swings it into position, and we then attach it, attach “messenger lines” (a rope which goes from the object being craned to the deck, so that it can be controlled, for instance, if there is wind, or if we put on 2 messenger lines, we can rotate the object) swing them out, lower them down to the quayside, and viola, done. I just like it. Getting to mess around with ropes, pulling stuff all over, it’s like real sailing. Almost.

Yesterday I was on the cleaning team, which means getting up for 6am. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And then scrubbing and washing down the decks, ready for the hoards of people. Then for an hour before lunch, and then the afternoon I was hanging down off the side of the ship on a bosans chair (with a safety strap, don’t worry, Mum) chipping off rust by where the anchor is.

A Bosun’s Chair is kind of like a wooden swing seat, with the ropes meeting above the swing at less than a metre. You then attach a nice long line from the top of this swing rope to the deck above, with some complicated knot thingy, so that the line is doubled up, and the remainded drops down below you to the sea. You can then lower and raise yourself “easily” by lifting your weight up on one side of this rope, by sheer arm strength, and pulling the other half of the rope though the knot, which allows you to change the length between you and the deck.

Kind of complex to explain in words. Lowering yourself on a bosun’s chair is easy enough, but after working for an hour chipping rust off with a heavy hammer, your arms are dead tired, and so it is quite hard to pull yourself up again. Thankfully, they had put a rope ladder down for us, so we could climb up like that. Anyway. Good work, good experience.

The other guy down on a B.C. tried to get his mate with a camera to come and take pics of us looking all manly and clever and such, hanging off the side of the ship on precarious looking complex seaman things, with rope all over the place, lovely hitches, bends, sheepshanks, and whatknot *, holding solid metal hammers and generally looking like some kind of blue collar Tarzan.

But his mate was busy, so I called my sister the Official Photographer and said “hey, feeling bored and want to stop staring at a computer screen and do some field work for a bit?”, and she said sure, and so came out with the ships highly posh make-dad-envious-digital-SLR-camera, to take pictures. Hopefully she will send them to me, and I will be able to either keep them and bring them back, or send them to you. I need a few “Make Dad Jealous and Mum totally petrified” photos from this trip… 🙂

Anyway.

Today was my off-day, so I have spent a lot of time reading, and not really doing a whole lot, which is nice. Tomorrow is my e-day, and I will be going on a church team, to one of the many local AOG congregations, which should be fun. I have no idea what we will be doing.

3 people on board have malaria, from the previous port. I found out today that 1 of them is my Big Brother! I had not known for a week or so! I knew 3 people did (we all got a “KEEP TAKING YOUR TABLETS YOU SILLY PEOPLE” email from the doctor, but no names), but didn’t know it was him. Crazy. Most people on board are on the Lariam weirdo tablet things, and so _everything_ gets blaimed on the tablets. Mood swings, dreams, nightmares, acting strangely, being tired, forgetting someones name, arriving late for dinner, spelling words rong, etc, etc. Odd. I’m still taking mine, and not having any noticable effects, as far as I can tell.

Tuesday and Wednesday are days of prayer and fasting for the STEPPers, optional fasting, particually because NEXT WEEKEND (yeah!) is our overnight, God willing. Apparently it is going to be amazing, very busy, and so on.

Well, goodnight beloved bretheren, sisterin, motherin, and fatherin, felinerin, and anyone-else-rin who listens, reads, or generally comes into contact with this message.

* PS – The spelling of “whatknot” is intentional. It is meant to be a pun.

Monday 18th July

I hope to be going out to the town today, it is my off day, and I want to go visit, perhaps get another hoodie, and if possible, some obscure musical instrument :-). Apparently Durban will be amazing for shopping, and the next port (which I have forgottent the name of) has a cool outdoor market.

Anyway. Enough about shopping. Boring subject.

Most of the previous STEP have left now, only 2 left, one of whom is joining us for the next month and a bit. Seems amazing that time passes so quickly here… 1 guy on the STEP has done half of his time already!

Tomorrow afternoon we will set sail for the next port, sailing time 3 days, inclusive of arrival and departure. It’s still strange to me how many people really dread the sailing, and still get seasick. Many of the longtermers do every time. One would have thought that they would get used to it, and for it to no longer effect people so, but apparently not.

I found, in the book-exhibition, 2 greek new testaments, one in modern greek, the other with 1 page of original greek, the opposing page with the same verses but modern. Very cool, and 25 units each (about 25 cents, I think?). I am still having problems getting used to the currency, something like 35000 meticas to 1 USD… and 50000 meticas to 100 doulos book-ex units… Very confusing.

The port here is very boring. Containers as far as the eye can see, and one must take a shuttle bus to get to the port gate, and then 10 minutes walk from the gate to get to the town centre.

There is music everywhere on board, quite a mixture. From CONSTANT worship CDs in the book-ex, to michael w. smith in the foc’s’cle, occasional dire straits, P.O.D, other various Christian heavy/death metal bands, trance, rap, classical, rock, and so on. Oh, and light piano jazz from fire station 3 at all hours.

Sunday 17th July

[re: emails arriving in the wrong order]

Yeah… Very confusing. My user on the network also has now gone haywire, all the settings lost, loads of error messages, etc. I talked to the I.T. manager today, and he said he thinks many people have had this, and that the server may have a faulty disk. This would not be the same as the email server, and should not effect anything like that, but quite annoying, and a bit worrying that it may lose all my pictures and mail… I hope not.

I have copies [of pictures of the whales] on my personal network space (each has one) which I got from the shared network space. Very cool.

[are there official photographers?]

There is. One. She is on my STEP, has never been a photographer before, did one year media studies which includes digital photography, is rather scared of the whole thing, but loving it totally because she gets to play with a fantastic SLR digital camera. Dad would be extremely jealous… The normal official photographer had to leave 2 months ago, didn’t have a replacment, and so they just picked the STEPper with the most experience 🙂 Funny.

Anyway, I want to go, play music or something. I even slept for 20 mintues this afternoon… very tired. Long day. On Deck Cleaning team today, which as Sunday is not so bad, normally that means starting at 6am, but Sunday at 7.

This morning, most of the previous STEP group left, so the one guy who is from them, and extending to join our STEP decided to play some practical jokes. He is ALWAYs doing that. He even got “hired” by another department to play some jokes for them on someones birthday.

Anyway, this morning, at 5am, he had borrowed a trumpet from someone, and woke us new STEPPERs up, and then one of us began banging a couple of metal dining room trays together, and he began to play the trumpet loudly, and then shouted “bye! we’ll miss you!” or something like that. Crazy crazy person. 10 people in our cabin last night, tonight only 4… will be so quiet…

(A message arrived this morning, in reply to one I sent earlier in the week. Answers to a few questions are included. If anyone reading this has other questions for Dan, please do write them in the comments section and I’ll pass them on to him via email)

Saturday 16th July

Today was I-Night, or rather, “Doulos International Festival”, because it was held at 3.00pm (African time, so started at 10 to 4…).

I was on the prayer team, so we left at about 11ish, to the Catholic University which was kind enough to let us use their hall. Biggish hall, too echoey and windows along the top of the walls with no curtains… kind of made the projected material a problem.

We did quite a lot of praying, and in the end the day went well, I think. Sadly, not so many people went, about 150 people in the audience, I guess. An ex-Doulos now-pastor from this country preached half way though, for 15 minutes. And he actually did 15 mins, too, which is quite amazing in ANY part of the world.

I can’t get used to the style though. He was right after the “Tales” drama, which is fantastic, all mime, basically the whole story, Father and Son make world, people, angels, an angel turns away, tempts man into sin, Son becomes a man, other men kill Him, and through His death, He defeats the turned angel, and brings back people to him. Very beautiful.

Then this preacher gets up and, basically, shouts for 15 minutes solidly. I’m kind of sceptical, I mean, I know “there is no ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ ways, culturally, only different” and all that, and I know my personal culture doesn’t do this kind of thing, but through the whole drama, everyone was riveted, as soon as he began preaching, people started leaving, and carried on leaving through the whole thing. I dunno.

Also, from a beautiful, flowing, poignant mime-drama, suddenly into full bore hell and fire preach (I don’t speak Portuguese though, so I don’t know if it really was). Anyway. I can’t judge, and I guess he knows what he is doing, and God can use anything. Oh well.

We got back about 7 o’clock, it’s now 10 to 8. Quite cold too, for me. Other people complain it is too hot still. Strange people.

[re: stars in the Southern Hemisphere]

On sea watch, boy, it was amazing. No light polution or other polution for 40 miles in ANY direction, on a dark unlit deck… You wouldn’t believe how many stars. I saw the milky way too! fantastic. Different stars, it’s lovely. I got to see whales too on watch!! I have got photos of many things from the “scratch” sharing drive.

[ re: Scottish Dancing – were all the STEP team involved?]

Just me. They have a notice board on the way to the dining room and all groups put a notice up like “All Scottish dancers meet in forward lounge at 8pm” or something. And so I went, they said, “oh cool, another man. we need you to dance with us in 2 days time, ok?”. Funny. Other people are with other groups. Swing dancing, tiniklin, irish, etc.

[How does music and drama work on the ship?]

A different music person leads each week, and they pick whoever they want, and know about for that particular week. A couple of the guys on the STEP play drums and guitar, and one girl plays piano. Perhaps we will lead one week, just the STEP. We have also
had our own impromptu (and promptu) worship times too.

The drama team is for long termers only, but they teach everyone shorter dramas (the table drama, the chair drama, the window sketch, the balloon drama, etc), and also ways of sharing the gospel using 3 bits of string, or a square peice of blank paper, and so forth.

[re: thick socks, which he said he was lacking in a previous message]

I don’t really need any, and I will try to look in Charlie (the spare clothes place), or at the market on monday (my off-day).

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.