This post by Matthew Little was originally published at Diary of a Deckie: My experience volunteering on a hospital ship.
So, I am back….
So what has happened?
|But…. After Eights… are bitesize … anyway?|
I went camping for a weekend in the Gower with my parents and Hannah, my sister. We stopped in Cardiff, to see the apartment she is living in with her boyfriend, Nick. It is a nice place, but the main reason for going to Cardiff was to visit the Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. (Science Training and Tactical Intelligence Operative Network). It was an exhibition that had been all over the world, including London. The London exhibition unfortunately opened and closed whilst I was away, but Hannah found out that they were bringing it to Cardiff whilst we were home(I mean, she found out months ago, but it would be open whilst we were in the country). Very cool to see the costumes of Thor, Captain America, Black Widow, and the rest of the Avengers roster, as well as props of broken bits of Ultron, Dark Elf and Chitauri weaponry, and THE ACTUAL SHIELD used in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (My favourite film in the MCU). It was a cool experience. It was primarily aimed at the younger audiences of the Avengers, but I thought it was worth the visit for older fans. Also, I am not worthy of the Hammer of Thor.
A few days after camping, Calum and Kira (my cousins) and my aunt visited, as well as my Grandma and Hannah, so that was the only day that the entire Little family were together before we left again. Nice to see them all. I also re-discovered the old videos and photos I took on my iPod a long time ago. Calum and I were trying to find a video we made of a TV show about stunts that we made up. What we found were much better. These included badly acted explosion sequences made with Action Movie FX. We also found a sequence of shots where I was just running I have no idea what film I was trying to make. Honestly, I think the angles in these videos that I made when I was 11/12 were much better than the angles in my short films that I made for Film Studies about two years ago. Go figure.
A few days later, it was time to return to the ship. We flew from Bristol to Tenerife. The ship was in Santa Cruz de Tenerife for a week, to give the technical crew a bit of a break and rest after coming out of dry dock, which was an intense working period, with a lot of big projects carried out that couldn’t be done whilst on field service. I returned to the same cabin as I had left with no bedding. Why? Because before my parents left and I moved into their cabin, my mum put my bedding into wash so it would be clean when we got back. Unfortunately, I forgot to take it out of the the dryer, So I think hospitality thought it wasn’t being used and put it into storage. So I had to get some new ones. Though, I think technical crew were only doing ‘soft work’. Mainly due to about half of the deck department going through basic training. So I spent the days just chilling about. I could have gone out into the city during the day, it was only a 5 minute walk from the ship, but since everyone else was working, and I didn’t want to go explore by myself. I just stayed on ship. The superintendent my the ship, who normally works at the ISC invited Deck and Engineering out for an Indian as thanks for the work during shipyard. Although my Dad and I were home for most of shipyard, we were still invited to go out with them. The curry I had was very good, and it was a very nice outdoor atmosphere. Some very strange sights. Including a man doing keepy-uppy in a circle: He walked up the hill, then back down again, passing us twice.
And soon after that, it was yet again time to depart, go out to sea, and begin the next ten month field service in Senegal. It was a shorter sail, however, and the swell was tough, so the first few days of the sail were spent rolling. During shipyard, one of the projects was replacing the steering gear, as well as the helm. It was hard enough getting used to the smaller wheel, let alone trying to steer whilst the ship is rolling! Looking out the windows to see sky-sea- sky again- sea again was quite scary. As I only had one watch this time, I had to do normal deck work in the afternoons. This is a little bit of what I did in the afternoons: Helped with some line-splicing. I was working with Donatien, from Madagascar, Alexander (My cabin mate from Sweden. He is an able seaman ‘on loan’ from Stena as their way of supporting Mercy Ships) Martina (Also from Sweden, Able seaman, has since left the ship). We were repairing our mooring lines by cutting chunks out from them, and then threading other parts of the line through the line. I also helped Lawrence (Ghana, he was a previous Bosun onboard. He comes back from time to time to help) with taping over the windows of the gangway hatch. Whilst it was open. So the only thing keeping us from falling overboard was a very long rope tied over a large and open part of the ship, and a harness .I also did some cleaning of paint on the bottom of the gangway Don’t worry, it was stowed on Deck 8, Not sticking out from the side of the ship. Ship activities during the sail included: Worship on the bow, as always. I didn’t go during the sail from Guinea to Las Palmas because I was dealing with a very bad cold during the sail, but I did go during this sail. There was also sock golf (Whatever that is, I didn’t participate). There was a very fitting showing of The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawntreader. Not that we have a Minotaur on board or we were on a quest to rescue seven lords or anything. I hadn’t seen the Narnia films in a while, I really enjoyed the nostalgia. I’ve been quite nostalgic for The Hunger Games recently, as well. I have listened to the National Anthem of Panem countless times for the last few weeks. There was also a Pirate Party for the kids On Board. A Nerf war was part of it, somehow. I spent the end of the party trying to catch Nerf darts in mid air being shot at me by Luke, one of the Canadian crew members who was once a cabin mate, who left in March, but is back again.
Then we arrived in Dakar. I had a different mooring station for this sail. I was on the Bow during the sail from Guinea to Las Palmas. This sail, I was on the side party. Leaving Spain, I held one of the taglines connected up to the gangway to stabilise it whilst the Bosun lifted it up with the crane. I also secured it down to the deck with lashings. As we arrived in Dakar, I helped to set up the Pilot entrance, to allow the Dakar Pilot onboard the ship. When he was on board, and we were ready to dock, greeted by the Advance Team. A group of volunteers went to Senegal ahead of the ship from about June, to make preparations. These included: Hiring the Day Crew, working with the Ministry of Health to set up the Hope Centre and begin pre-screening. Working with the port to acquire dock space, and get the dock space ready for us. Finding a suitable site for the Agricultural Centre. (To learn about the Mercy Ships Agricultural Centre, please check out my previous blog post from January 2019!). As we docked, I was at the top of the gangway, with Georgy, Abdul, and Flynn. We set up the gangway, and disconnected the hoist from the gangway. We put up banners along the raling of the gangway, reading Welcome aboard the Africa Mercy In French and English. Although, this was after the gangway was on terra-firma, not in mid-air. After lunch, and an impromptu Deck Department meeting between two stairwells between Deck 6 and Deck 4 in the Dining Room, I was allowed to go to sleep, because I would be on Night Patrol that night.
Before I woke up, the Arrival Ceremony had begun. A few of us decided to watch from the Bridge. No one really knew what was going on, apart from speeches, a group of Senegalese Women dancing in unison by sweeping the floor and some rap. At least I didn’t know what was going on. Whether there was a program detailing what was going on, I don’t know. My first night of Night Patrol, I was alone. The next two nights, I was teaching Cherif, one of the Day Crew from Guinea who was invited to become a crew member how to do Night Patrol. I think It went well, as per usual and as I would hope, nothing happened. On Saturday evening, I went out to walk around Dakar with my parents. We encountered a man who apparently had just had another baby, and according to tradition, the parents give others gifts to bring good luck for their child (Hmm….) I got a pendant in the shape of Africa with the colours of the Senegalese flag (And many other West African countries), Red, Yellow and Green with a shell in the middle. My dad received two ‘Gold’ rings. We aren’t convinced they are actual gold. We saw a map of the world with ports that Dakar ships to, and learned that Liverpool is in Norway, apparently. It was dark, and we couldn’t tell where the outlines of the countries were, though.
On the Monday and Tuesday following, I had two days off. I stayed on ship though, because they don’t recommend people going into town by themselves. Our new Senegalese day crew are nice. I have been given much more responsibility over them, being given a team to clean the decks with. It was helpful to be given a leadership role on Deck, and I am liking the responsibility, and people looking up to me. Or, literally, looking down to me, because the Senegalese are very tall.
The Saturday that most of them left (Veera left the Friday night before) I went on adventure around Dakar (I’ll go on to that) with a few of my friends. We wanted to be back on ship in time to see them off, but not that I didn’t like the rest of them to mostly see off Coltan. Kate and I, who was part of the adventure party both wanted to see off Coltan, so we made it a thing to be back in time for that. We did. But then I forgot to say goodbye! Oops!
If you guys read this, this is my goodbye message to you all!
3 goals, only 1 completed
- Visit Ngor Island
- Visit the western-most point of Africa
- Visit the old Lighthouse
We went via buses to the Ngor district. We found a way onto the beach. After almost not paying for admission because we didn’t realise we had to pay. We found a restaurant on the beachfront, and we got ‘brunch’, I guess. After leaving Guinea, I started to miss Bissap, a drink made from the juice of the Hibiscus flower. The thing with Bissap is that it tastes different wherever you go. Some places it could be very sweet, some places it could be a bit sour. So most of us at the table got Bissap, a few got coffees. Why, in the heat, I have no idea. They were probably not awake yet. We also got a few nibbles. The restaurant we went to was very stylish, it was like a lounge on the beach. A lounge of the beach with pelicans and a monkey. It’s true, there were pelicans just chilling. That monkey was also the first monkey I have seen in my life OUTSIDE of a zoo. In terms of Ngor Island…. there were a bunch of boats that went from the beach to the island, but, it looked like, if you determined enough, you could just swim across to the island, it was that close. There was a group consensus to not go over, because it looked just as touristy as the beach we were already on, and the view across to the island would probably be exactly the same as we were looking at. We also think the guy who was showing us around the beach was trying to get us to look at the fish he had caught. Or his boat, we weren’t sure what he was telling us. So we left. It was a bit disappointing, but the view just going up the concrete steps to leave was astounding. Just a bunch of parasols, with the flag of Senegal furled just to the side. It was a nice shot.
So that was one plan out the window.
We then got taxis to go to the Western most point, passing the US embassy and one or two ‘American Food Stores’ on the way there. We didn’t know how to get to the point, and we thought there was a path through an artisan market. Oh boy. That was an experience. Whilst most of the group went on ahead, Kate, Luke and I were lagging behind. Mostly distracted by the seafront restaurants. Then, as we followed the rest of the group, Luke was stopped by a stall holder, who liked his beard! He was then pulled into his shop. We all went in to see what he was selling, until I was dragged into the next stall over, by their owner. He gave me a wooden hippopotamus as a gift, and encouraged me to buy something else. After ‘careful’ consideration, I bought a tiger. Why in quotations, because I wanted to get out of there. However, what I didn’t realise was, that right behind us, the guy from the NEXT stall over was waiting for me to leave to pull me into his stall. He gave me a wooden turtle as a gift, and you can probably guess what tried to happen next. I tried to tell him that “My friends are waiting for me. It’s all really nice, but I have to go!” He wasn’t having any of it. Until Kate rescued me and pulled me out of there.
We found another restaurant nearby, which had two very old and rusty ovens or stoves, that would probably cause a fire if switched on. And someone trying to sell his things that he made was waiting for us. So I had to convince that I literally had no money left. He eventually gave up and left. I had juice from the fruit of the Baobab fruit for the first time. It’s very grainy. They also had a cocktail made from Bissap, Baobab juice and Gingembre, which Kate and Anneliese both got. Kate forgot what she ordered, so when my just Baobab juice arrived, she accidentally drank some of it, realising that didn’t taste like Bissap or Gingembre. D’oh. It was still very nice though, I just stuck the other end of the straw in the drink. We also got plates of plantains and fries. They were ok, just very small portions. The western-most point was just a walk way. We still didn’t know the path, but we asked the security guard nearby if the way to the point was open. It wasn’t. Just looking across, we noticed just how empty it was. A bit weird, It would probably have at least one or two people, because it was the western-most point, so why was no one there. We couldn’t go that way, but the guard let us walk to the end of the nearby fishing jetty, for free, for five minutes. We met an employee from the embassy! He told us that the beach where western most point is closed off to everyone. Even to the people staying at the hotel behind it. It was closed though, and being renovated by Marriott. So we walked back in defeat. Mostly because the guard came up to us, telling us that our five minutes were up.
So that is plan two gone.
Third time lucky.
We headed to the lighthouse, in the Mammelles district. Why is it called Mammelles? There are two hills in the area. The hills look like breasts. Hence Mammelles. Literally, we went to the boobs of Dakar! On one of the boobs is the lighthouse, on the other boob is the African Renaissance Monument, the tallest statue in Africa, that is 49m tall, face to face with the Statue of Liberty and built by North Korea!
The taxi wouldn’t take us up the concrete road up to the lighthouse, so we walked. It was a very nice view though. The lighthouse trip was successful. We got a guided tour of the Lighthouse, presented by a very enthusiastic owner, who was so proud of his job, and the views, he insisted that we take photos! It was a very cool place. The Lighthouse of Dakar is the second most important lighthouse in Africa, because it marks the ‘gate’ between the North and South hemisphere. The MOST important lighthouse in Africa is in South Africa, which marks the ‘gate’ from the Western hemisphere to the Eastern Hemisphere.
Some very astounding views from the top the lighthouse of the city.
|Glass of whatever +Sunglasses
= generic Instagram photo
|The Western-most point on the continent of Africa|
|Long road to the Lighthouse|
|Lighthouse view number 1|
|The Lighthouse bulb|
|Lighthouse view number 2|
|Lighthouse view number 3|
|The Adventure Crew (photo courtesy of Kate)|
|“What are you two talking about, I don’t see any icebergs?”|
|A Brit and a Canadian, former roommates. And Baobab juice!
(Photo by Simon)
|Going up the lighthouse (Taken by the very
enthusiastic lighthouse keeper)
(Annelies, Stephen, Rachel, Kate, Luke, Me, a pillar, Leon and Simon)
An international video call
Different parts of deck work recently has included beef. Why? Isn’t the deck department separate from food services? Yes, they are separate, but one day when I was on call, I was called out (I knew in advance about this) to help with an after-hours delivery of beef… Here’s the story….
As a way of showing appreciation of what we were doing in Senegal, President Macky Sall offered us many deals, including offering to pay for our fuel, and has also pledged to give us 1 cows worth of beef for everyday Mercy Ships is in Senegal. So I was sent to the galley to unhook the pallets from the stores crane, and move them into the elevator.
|Pallet of beef|
Other than that, I have been doing more training on the stores crane. I did want to be trained on it in Guinea, but due to a complication with one of the cranes, the company didn’t want to newbie going on the other crane to damage it, leaving the ship without a crane until Dry Dock for maintenance. Not gonna lie… I am a bit annoyed by that, but I also understand why the decision was made. Other Deck has been mostly the same as in Guinea, scrubbing the decks, cleaning, chipping, grinding and painting. We are in ‘Rainy season at the moment, but the weather can change drastically. There was an INTENSE recently. During the working day. So instead of working outside, in the middle of a thunderstorm, I was asked to sort out the Paint Locker. So I got to work, rearranging paint buckets, organising by colour, organising used and empty cans and a bit of sweeping. Because of rain during the nights, most mornings on deck are spent pushing puddles down drains, to eliminate potential mosquito breeding grounds. The drastic weather changes? It can be SWELTERING in the sun. Very exhausting. Enough said.
Also, Rachel left last week. It was very sad. So, on the Friday evening, Rachel, Simon, Stephen, Leon, Kate, Laurianna and I went out to a hotel roof top bar, not too far away from the lighthouse and giant statue. The hotel is called Hotel du Phare des Mamelles. So, literally, but not so literally, translating to Hotel of the Lighthouse of the Boobs. It was a pleasant evening, and the sunset was fast and phenomenal. We chose to go East just to see a sunset over Dakar. So, there we were, a group of friends, driving along the West Africa coast, chasing the sunset. We also found out that the on the crown of the Man on the giant statue lights up during dark hours. We also got Hawaiian pizza, though it had chicken instead of ham, that was so hot, that it burned the top of mouth. Before we left, I had a very deep and meaningful conversation with Nic, one of our officers about Artificial Intelligence. What I learned from her is that the reasons why Artificial Intelligence is commonly depicted as trying to annihilate/enslave humanity is because humans are idiots, and Artificial Intelligence often misinterprets the data we are feeding them.
So that has been a bit about what I have been doing/ up to for the last two months/ please forgive me If I post stuff on this blog that you don’t want to read, I like to use this blog as a bit of a personal blog. I also don’t want to pump out updates that are purely about “work, work, work”, so I try to put a bit of variety into my writing.
As this was about July and August, and a bit of September, this one was longer than normal. When I get back into the routine of monthly updates, these posts will be shorter.
Thank you for reading, and have a good day,
The date I post this? 15th of September