The programme was full; early morning devotions, studies, talking to people on the street, conferences to attend, weekends away with local families, minimum work hours and exercise. There wasn’t much time to sit around.
The dining room was a good place to get to know our shipmates. After discussing the weather we went on to the food. It wasn’t amazing, but not even the greatest chef could have come up with more than 100 ways to cook “Suzi-Wan.” In one of the ports, some very generous people donated 1000’s of tins of bean sprout/noodle/vegetable meals. We had it in many forms. Mainly disguised, but we weren’t fooled. We found it in everything.
I really tried hard not to complain. Some people never stopped. Once when I was helping to serve at the tables, one of the big grumblers really got to me. I looked at him in the eyes, with my serving spoon full of Suzi-Wan and warned him that if he kept complaining I would pour it all over his head. That was the end of that. He knew I was serious.
“Charlie” was the name of the ship’s small second hand clothing shop. It was right next to the key-cutting, shoe-fixing workshop where the cute Kiwi guy worked. I worked there for a couple of months and loved sorting through the rubbish to find treasure. I was ruthless.
Church groups did collections and boxes were delivered to the ship. I had heard stories about missionaries being sent second-hand tea bags but I never believed it until I opened some of those boxes.; worse than used tea-bags were used toothbrushes.
Us O.M.ers weren’t known for our sense of fashion for a few reasons.
1. We were all there for a minimum of 2 years; clothes wear out.
2. We were given $20 a month, if it was there; it often wasn’t.
3. When it was, we could buy a few treats; like souvenirs or junk food; we got fatter.
4. We couldn’t save it because the currency changed with every country we sailed to and there was very little we could buy for $20; Charlie was free.
5. People thought we didn’t have any taste or style; we got the clothes they had been hoarding since World War 2.
Maybe they wanted to put them on a ship so they would never come back.
That way they would never have to remember how bad it got.