Here I am

3 September, 2003

I start this, maybe six hours after sailing. I am thinking it might make from a nice break from my other writing, and I want to put it down before I forget (which always starts with the thought “oh, that’s not so important, I won’t write about that”). I am sitting in the living room of my very comfortable suite (number 3) onboard the MS Penang Senator (see below), E deck. There is the smell of fruit from the bowl of fresh fruit on my coffee table, a carafe of hot coffee with real cream, a set of nice china, and a large box of delicious German cookies. On the stereo, Charles Brown with the Three Blazers playing Driftin' Blues. If I look up, out the portholes, the English channel slips by at a stately and steady twenty-seven miles an hour. I am looking towards France, as the two portholes in my livingroom are on the port side (being very P.O.S.H. port out starboard home), from my bedroom (looking forward over the lines of containers) I can see Beechy Head (Sussex, England) slipping by on the starboard. I am the only passenger as predicted, which is a solitary state on this very large but understaffed ship. Everybody on the twenty-two man crew is either busy or asleep all the time, except possibly my steward, a shy but ernest young fellow (father of a five year old he will not see for a year), whom, like most of the lower grunt seamen on this ship, is from the tiny, island nation of Kiribati, due south, southwest of Hawaii in the middle of the ocean on the equator. Five of the seamen are Filipino, they include two officers (2nd and 3rd), a third engineer and the cook and electrician. Otherwise, it is ex-eastern German (Chief Officer, 1st and 2nd Engineers, Ships Mechanic and his apprentice). The Captain is of the old west Germany.

© Dennis Shum (with permission and great thanks)

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