11. Think Happy Thoughts!!

Port of Suva arrival and naturally my family is there waiting for me.  And as the time before, I stay at home only to report to the ship as duty calls.  The cargo of flour had to be unloaded and the ship cleaned before more Fiji sugar can be taken on for the next port in Canada.  This means I have a good four or five days in port, possibly more and this was always dependent upon available labor.

Friends and family filled my evenings as work filled my days.  It was the 2nd day at home when I began to discreetly collect my most important personal belongings and pack them into my travel bag; the things I felt I would need to start my life anew up in Canada, with Sonia.  

The evening prior to the ship’s departure had arrived.  My mother and my brother announced to me their plans of taking me along to a dinner gathering at their friend’s home.  I asked if I knew this family and I was told I had not yet made their acquaintance.

Although I was deeply preoccupied with thoughts and preparations of seeing sweet Sonia again, I didn’t wish to upset my mother or brother so I agreed and certainly I never minded meeting new people.

They lived just about a mile from our home, near the main street of Waimanu Road.  We arrived to happy hosts and they received us warmly.  Sitting comfortably on a sofa in their living room and having been served a drink, the introductions began for me as everyone else knew one another already.

I met the adults aka the parents and their six children; two sons and four daughters.  Of the two eldest children, one of the daughters parked herself next to me on the sofa and began a conversation with, “What countries have you been to so far?” in Hindi of course. 

Her name was Hemma and I replied to her, ‘Hawaii, Vancouver, Canada, Washington and Oregon in the United States and when we came back this way, I went on to see parts of New Zealand and Australia …’ Hemma was smiling.  I finished with, ‘…and tomorrow I am going back up to Hawaii and Vancouver!’

Our conversation continued and I asked her what her birthdate was; instead of giving me a date, she said, “I am fifteen.”  So much for beating around the bush.  I told her my birthdate and stated that I was eighteen.

My mother came by after a few moments and gently touching my arm, she softly told me this girl was one she especially wanted me to meet.  Dinner was served and we all joined together at the table.  A delicious Indian meal had been prepared and it was delightful to me.

This very young and pretty girl was doting over me perhaps a little too much for a first meet but then who am I to say anything about first meetings?  As Hemma filled my plate with lots of food she told me I should enjoy these dishes and eat up because I would not get this taste in my mouth again while overseas.

Well then!

Dinner was finally over and the conversation going around the room that evening was all pleasant enough.  However it was getting late and well, this young man had a working schedule to keep!  I suggested to my brother that we depart by 10p as I was feeling tired.  I was after all a couple of drinks into the night and with a full tummy to round off that relaxed state, I wanted to go …lingering thoughts and all.

For the lovely hospitality, dinner and drinks, we said our goodbyes, many a thank you and good nights.  It only took moments to reach our house and after we got settled in, cups of my sister-in-law’s perfect spiced tea for all, we conversed a little about the night.

I was asked how I enjoyed the evening and, did I like the young girl they introduced me to?  We could tell she really liked you, they said.  Now as they’re trying to speak lightly, suspicious thoughts are entering my mind.  It’s becoming apparent to me that my mother, brother and the other members of the family had been talking while I was away and decided it was time for a bride for the Little Blue Masala; and they picked Hemma!

They knew I would be sailing away again.  I knew my mother -God rest her soul- was doing everything she could to keep me at home.  My brother -God rest his soul- wasted no time introducing me to her and guess what?  Although panic momentarily set in, I realized I had nothing to worry about!

My life-changing bag was packed and with it I would be leaving first thing in the morning.  They didn’t know about the little plan I had hiding up my sleeve.  The one where I arrive in Vancouver, jump ship and elope with my Sonia …forever.

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Hemma is a created name for a very real person in this part of LBM’s saga.

We’re both glad you have decided to climb on board Little Blue Masala’s ship of tales.  Thanks for riding the unpredictable waves with us; after all that is what makes life interesting isn’t it?

9. Fog in My Pocket With an American Touch 🇺🇸 part 2

Another clear memory I have was the fog being so thick this one particular night.  I felt as though I could reach out, grab a handful of the stuff and keep it in my pocket!

Almost funny is the next day when it was perfectly clear, I looked out to see where I thought I had been the night before and then realized; had I taken one more step, I’d have dropped straight into the icy waters of the ocean!

I remember watching too that day, as our ship was receiving the last of the load, how it had sunk half way under the water due to the additional weight!  But this also meant a better night’s sleep!  😴  How so you might ask?

We’d benefit with a smoother sail, there would be less shake from the vibration of the heavy propellers, the ship simply rolled better.  Everything up to and including food service and walking was easier to do and objects didn’t fly off the shelves as easily.

Another seven days at sea en route to Honolulu.  More of the same in that we’d get fresh water, exchange mail and whatever necessary supplies are needed.  Although the ship was docked here for 8 hours, we’d be allowed a couple of hours shore leave for souvenir shopping or whatever.

I picked up some Hawaiian shirts for the guys, candies and such for the young ones and muumuus for the gals.  Of course I just had to indulge my taste buds with a watermelon shake again and I remembered exactly where to go and get it!

⚓️  Anchor up!  Another seven days and we have arrived back in Suva.  🤗  My family is there waiting at the docks, it’s a happy reunion.  We take a cab home.  I have a full week to spend with my family.  I’d sleep at home in the night instead of on the ship and have my dinners with the family.

Of course I still had to report for breakfast, lunch and dinner shifts on the ship; there are still passengers on board who would like to have a bite to eat every now again, in case they hadn’t gone ashore!

Laboring hands would come from all over the island to load and unload the ship.  Fiji received its share of lumber and mail.  In addition to the existing load of lumber, our ship took up fresh cargo of sugar, banana and coconut and the always present mail bags for delivery to New Zealand, our next port.

And it is time again for the teardrops to roll as we say our goodbyes once again, especially my mother.

I am on board the SS Lakemba and we are once more sailing out from Suva.  As we gently ply the waters, another ship was entering the harbor; nothing uncommon but for this one, the skipper’s voice came over the intercom announcing the incoming ship as the Royal Yacht, the Gothic and it was carrying HRM Queen Elizabeth II and her Prince.  I believe they were on a portion of her  👑 coronation 🌎 tour.

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As this new year unfolds, we should all encourage one another to pursue our heart-felt dreams, don’t you agree?  Thank you once again for stopping by and sitting in on another little bit of Little Blue Masala’s beginning adventures.  Lots more to come!

9. Fog in My Pocket With an American Touch 🇺🇸 part 1

Unloading the sugar took about 3-4 days this time; it all depends upon the volume of product and how many hands were present for any specific ship.  Once the ship is cleaned, the lumber gets loaded.

Man I tell you, when I see how hard those guys worked, I was so glad that this process wasn’t part of my job.  I don’t mind saying that I was young and having fun!  In order for things to run smoothly and safely it’s common sense that everyone should have their specific duties, doing exactly what you’ve been hired for; nothing more, nothing less.

I now give a moment’s thought to fact of the United States being just within reach across a border that-a-way, and so myself and a few of the guys decided we would rent a car and cross the border for the day just so we could encounter a taste of the USA.

We departed Vancouver 🇨🇦 in the early morning, marveled by pine tree inspired wonderment throughout the scenic drive, spent the day people watching, eating, and just the basic looky-loo stuff, making our way back by about midnight.  Chalk mark my first American experience.

That next morning I saw on the planner that our ship would be making an additional pick up of lumber as there was just enough room on board; the load would come from Coos Bay, Oregon.  How about that? back into the USA and this time by way of ship!

This detour would take us nearly three days.  Now I refer to this stop as a detour because as the normal route spelled out for the SS Lakemba and its sister ships; SS Suva & SS Lautoka, they do not stop in American ports at all.  🚢 The posted route was Suva to Honolulu to Vancouver and back to to Honolulu, Suva and the various Australian ports.

In fact this stop was quite significant in that it was actually the very first time this ship touched an American port at all, ever.  That’s what I heard, it was all over the crew’s conversations  – it would seem I lucked out!

⚓️  The loaders worked ‘round-the-clock, 24 hours a day; one shift ended, another took over.  The expense is great when a ship is docked in any port and so the faster the ship can be loaded/unloaded, the better for the shipping company.

When my duties were complete I would venture into the port town, in this case it is Coos Bay, and of course some of the guys would tag alongside for a sampling of the local cuisine and well maybe a beer or two.

I can still taste the deliciously fresh, steaming clam chowder and oh yes, the hot and crispy fish & chips too, which we obtained from a food stall on the nearby pier – sensational!

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