85. Open Sea Routine

First full day out on the ocean and with the Golden Gate’s disappearance into the now east, so to had to go my thoughts of what’s to come.  Well, at least on hold in the back of my mind.

It was time to go full steam ahead in the expected routine of my job which has only slightly varied from when we were at docks.  The transition was smooth enough as far as I was concerned, demonstrating to the CS I knew my assignments very well.

After breakfast our Chief Steward calls a meeting of kitchen staff, chef included.  “Things change a little now that we’re out to sea, you’ll find the law is different than when we were at dock.  Trash of any kind and especially cigarette butts will never be disposed overboard, is that clear?  There is a proper place for everything and I do mean everything!”

He went on, “It’s now time to get dressed up real warm ’cause we’re gonna stock the deep freeze and the main refrigerators.”  Coats, beanies and gloves were provided and we quickly bundled up.

The supplies that were loaded prior now had to be put away in orderly fashion; items must be readily available.  Bottled water, juices, milk, meats, veggies, etc., no hassles and wasted time trying to locate anything.

“Consider one of the engine room guys coming into the kitchen for a drink or snack, they shouldn’t have to waste time searching for anything in the refrigerators, so organization is always priority,” the CS spoke as he pointed out where to place the various items.

The boxes were opened, the large freezer and fridge shelves were stocked and the empties were broke down flat, bundled and placed in the holding spot.  At the next port they’d be removed.  The dry pantry was handled the same way minus the coats, gloves and beanies of course!

3rd day – our Chief Steward calls everybody to gather.  We would now receive instructions for handling a case of emergency.  An alarm was sounded. “Line up on deck and wait for the 1st or 2nd Officer’s instructions.”  

In each of our cabins there was a life jacket for every individual.  “Do not stop to put it on.  Grab it and get topside asap!  You can put it on as you go or once you are up on deck.   We will do this drill every third day.”  

I realized quick enough we’d be eating real good on this ship.  You say you feel like having a pork chop, the kitchen obliged by sending out a hot plate with about a half a dozen of ‘em!  There was no chance of anyone dining alone because someone would catch a whiff and be beside you in no time flat, sharing in the delights.

Away from the kitchen CS had the linen closet key so I always had to ask for that; seems like we had greater concerns than to worry about linens disappearing – oh well.  At least three times a week I’d change out the sheets and towels I used, all of us being responsible for our own.

Making certain the Skipper’s quarters were always clean and amply stocked with the necessities for his comfort was another factor of my duties; remember he was my personal assignment.

Daily routine breakfasts, lunches and dinners.  Once in a while the Skipper would make casual conversation with me.  I was the only Hindu person on board his ship and he asked me if I was actually from India.  I shared with him the short version of being born and raised in the Fiji Islands.  He was kind enough and for his liking, our Captain soon nicknamed me ‘Fiji’.

Coming out from one of the cabins, Nancy Sinatra’s hit single, “These Boots Are Made For Walking” sounded throughout the corridor -other tunes too but that one several times a day.  

Two of the deckhands, a middle-aged man and his son from the southeastern U.S. were the occupants of that cabin and this seemed be their favorite song.  It didn’t take long for that tune to stick like flypaper in my brain and to this day, it surfaces at the funniest of times.

My break after the lunch service was always a breeze, kickin’ it on the aft deck.  Often I’d get to see various fish leaping from the water and capturing my attention.  Otherwise I gave in to a sea of thoughts.  And in the evenings I anticipated with great pleasure, the sunset.

|||


These Boots Are Made For Walkingreleased in November of 1965 and was written by Lee Hazelwood.  By the end of January, 1966 it had topped the charts taking over the  #1 spot in both the U.S. and the U.K.  Cinema utilized the song in Full Metal Jacket, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery and most recently in Ocean’s 8, just to name a few.

 

79. Heart Wrenching Fever

I’m feeling the need to recap slightly.  

Seven and a half years have now passed since I left my island home of Fiji to settle in America.  I’m feeling desperate to see my family.  I needn’t reiterate the hefty price tag attached to this desire of mine.  

A seed planted in my brain way back in my youthful Fiji days came to mind.  There was a friend of mine who had told me, “If you want to see the world, work on a ship!”  He worked on the SS Mariposa and if you can recall I did actually take his advice.  More to the current situation I previously stated the possibility of my working on a Merchant Marines ship going in that direction.  

This would make the visit a reality and at the same time I’d earn money for the support of my children as my family is my first and foremost dedication.  I’m seeing it as a win, win!  C - theatre dtlaSusan and Lisa right next door made it extra comforting.  Then Diana wouldn’t feel lonely and she’d have help with the children; the family is there for one another.  So let’s pick up from there.  

During this time, I asked around to people who may have worked or are currently working on passenger/cargo ships.  

I was advised to take a trip up to San Francisco where the Seafarers’ Union was located.  They would help me land a job on a ship a lot easier than if I tried without the Union in the Los Angeles area.  That was the word at the docks.

Again Diana and I had a serious discussion to reiterate my determination and what all would be involved.  The plan was made to go up north and clearly I would be taking this trip on my own.  I would move around faster and get straight to the points, not to mention financially, it would be easier.

As fate chose to have its way, a couple of days prior to my leaving for San Francisco both of our sons somehow became very ill and with rising fevers.  

We took them to the family doctor who after looking them over and in all his current wisdom made his diagnosis,  “… so keep them cool and be sure they take in as much clear fluids as possible.  Constantly check their temperature and if it doesn’t break bring them immediately to the emergency room!”  It was pneumonia and he wrote a prescription.

We returned home with the boys and their prescribed medication.  I prepared a large bowl with ice cubes and cold water, putting in some face towels.  We placed the cold towels on their foreheads and patted down their little bodies in hopes of relieving their fevers.  

For whatever reasons, this wasn’t working; Diana and I didn’t hesitate for a moment in getting them to the emergency room at Saint John’s Hospital.

Straight away they took in both of the boys.  Amar our eldest, was placed into a bath of ice cold water in hopes of reducing the fever swiftly.  They had taken the younger Alok into a different room.

The emergency room staff’s efforts with Amar worked and soon after, his fever broke.  They would release him after a couple of observation hours.  Diana and I were to say the least, relieved in that good news.  In the same moments we were being informed of their efforts with Alok in that, they were not so successful.

Of course we knew it was absolutely necessary to keep Alok in the hospital overnight at the very least, he simply must win this battle with the unrelenting fever which reduced itself only ever so slightly.  

We quickly talked it over and Diana took Amar home while I stayed in the room with Alok.  His tented bed was oxygenated and at the same time would keep out any nasty germs.  I promised my wife I’d call before bedtime and update her of his progress.  

I was so completely distressed to see my little baby boy lying there, knowing that I was helpless to do anything more but pray.  In light of my traumatic heart ache a few years back, I admit, I was scared.

|||


 

46. Saturday at 28 Mal Street

It was an ordinary Saturday morning spent washing, breakfasting and some light-hearted conversation with all those present.  My elder sister had come from her home to spend a couple of days with me, otherwise our normal comfortable routine was there.  

An occasional neighbor would stop in during the course of the day to say goodbye, expressing their regret of not being able to attend my dockside departure but certainly wanted to make known their good intentions and well-wishes.  

For the better part of this Saturday it was a do nothing day.  I had already decided to save my packing for the next morning as my sailing was in the afternoon and so I mainly rested, daydreaming mostly.  

Besides it wasn’t my day to catch the chickens for dinner so I just continued plotting my near future.  What would I do the first few days of my arrival in San Francisco, U.S.A.?, this I wondered.

I was departing Fiji with a heavy heart, one not completely happy inside because something was missing and that something was someone named Noori.  We loved one another very much.

It was about noon when I saw her for the first time that week.  My little sister must’ve told Noori the day before when she first learned of my plans.  

She spoke gently only her eyes were anything but happy.  “Gary, I am feeling shocked.  You’re really leaving us tomorrow?”  

I tried to smile in the presence of those eyes and I tenderly told her, ‘I don’t know what I would’ve done without you and your loving support Noori.  I had been consumed by much anger and I feel there’s no telling what might have happened next.  It would’ve involved more pain though, I’m almost sure of that.’

I know I didn’t need to remind Noori (but I did anyway) of her compassion which, time and time again had pulled me through my darkest hours, other than that moment on the docks when I realised I couldn’t return to Sonia.  

I had to experience that one through completely on my own.  Besides I hadn’t met Noori at that time.

And then I felt it; the similarity in which this scene was beginning to play out.  I had hoped with all my being this wouldn’t be a repeat.

Our moments together had allowed our feelings to blossom yet unfortunate was our timing; still very real was the actuality of old fashioned views all too present in the form of a solid wall.

You, my seasoned readers, know all this.  My family had quickly come to stand by me where Noori was concerned; this intelligent, beautiful and dynamic Muslim girl was a part of our family already.  Our love however stood no chance to exist where her family was concerned and so ….

Still I made a promise to Noori and shared this objective with my family; I would travel back in two years time, if not possible sooner, to make Noori my wife and return with her to my home in the United States.  

After successfully achieving this goal, I could begin bringing the family there one by one.  If that’s the way I had to do it, then that’s exactly what I would do.  

I long since had memorized the delicious smells coming from the kitchen of my family home, so comforting indeed.  That night the aroma registered in my mind of a final evening meal in my place of birth, my childhood home filled with the ghosts of my youth, making it all the more intense.  

For safe keeping I felt the need to preserve it in my consciousness.  

Journeyed abroad before, I certainly had.  Only this time it was final – I was moving away, really leaving home.  

It was a difficult good night Noori and I shared, one with some serious lingering questions which really couldn’t be answered.  After dinner my brother and my sister walked Noori home.  It was the way we always had to do it.

And so it was the end of Saturday at 28 Mal Street in Suva, Fiji Islands.

|||