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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

man.. so busy. we leave here at 8am on saturday. The Logos2 people leave at 5am!!! flights. evil. so gotta pack and do last laundry and stuff tonight probably. tomorrow there is no early afternoon session, so i plan to do some more packing then.

hey, about the weight allowance, God is good, and we have a nice miracle. we can take 30 kg each! cool, eh? Mind you, we are supposed to take not quite so much hand luggage (mine was about 12 or something before, I think?) so what I will do, I think, is leave my sleeping bag to come with the next container (March), and perhaps a few things like that, and then put my old clarinet in my main luggage. That will help a lot.

Arrived safely, at last. The flight was uneventful, which is good. Only problem was that they were playing Christmas songs throughout the whole flight. And they only had about 15 minutes worth of recorded songs, so they repeated, and repeated, and repeated…

Frankfurt airport is huge. Kind of confusing too, you have to go miles to find things, like baggage collection. And You see a big sign for it, follow along for a while, and suddenly all the signs are gone, you ask someone, and in fact you are on the right path, but there are just no signs. Everyone spoke good English though.

I found the Fernbahnhof (long distance train station), got my ticket and all. At the actual platform, there was another train sitting there, which had loads of officials wandering about it, and firemen, and so forth. So we stood around, 70 or so people who wanted the train, and I, for about half an hour or more waiting. Eventually, there was some kind of announcement, and we all got told to go to the next platform (up an escalator, along, and down), and get on a different train. My bag is so heavy! I may try and lighten it for the flight to the ship, by wearing heavier clothing and all.

This train got us there, and when we got to Manheim, where I had to change trains, I followed my ticket instructions, and went to the right platform no, and waited. The train turned up, a bit later than it said on the Ticket, but I thought “OK, so everything is delayed today”. I got on, and off we went.

About half an hour later, or perhaps more, I started thinking that the station names looked wrong. So I tried to find a map. I found one, on a wall, and examined it. Indeed, we had been going in the right direction, but were now on the way to Worms! So I got off at the next station, found another map, found which train I needed, and headed back to some place which was on the right route. Then I changed trains again, and was now avidly checking the map and the “Näschte Station” sign things.

After a while I heard some people talking in English. Then I heard them mention a conference, and when I was sure they were also coming for this, I went and said hi. One of them is just here for the conference to help cook, and the other is going on to another part of the world. We all got off the train at the right station, and it was a good thing I went and said hi, as neither of them had a map of how to get from the station! So we headed off together, found the right place, and checked in. It turns out we were all staying in the Youth Hostel, which is about 5 minutes drive from the base. We met a few other people who had already arrived, and had dinner.

The rooms at the youth hostel are really good. There are four beds to a room (two bunk-beds), and so far there are only two of us in here. More may turn up later, I guess.

I went and explored the base today as well. It is also very beautiful. The whole of this town is really lovely, with a river, many paths to walk, lots of countryside, and trees. There is a little snow on the ground in places, but it is not everywhere. Apparently it is going to snow this week. That would be really cool. Literally. And I haven’t actually seen any snow in so long.

I’ve met quite a few more people so far, but most people have not arrived yet. I haven’t met anyone who is going to join the ships, actually. Hopefully I will soon. The conference all looks like it will be good. There is Wireless internet access in the whole base, which costs €5 euros (for the whole conference). There is also a “internet café”, which costs €1 euro per 15 mins. Apparently they introduced this because before many people were blocking the actual computers for too long.

This afternoon I will do some clarinet practice, work a bit more on my German fluency (ha!), and then go back to the base to send email. I’ll probably then come back here to leave my laptop, and then go back to the base (again) for the meal and start of the conference.

It is quite cold, outside. Enough that I am glad of my hat, coat, and gloves. The hat is really good.