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Mar 13, 2017
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#TheOffshoreDiaries Entry 4 – Stephen Eke

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Life here reads like Chapter 3 of the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible. There’s a time for everything. A time to come on board and a time to go home. A time to come on shift and a time to close. A time to eat and a time to sleep. A time for tea breaks and a time for barbecue. Consequently, today’s message is aptly titled Time. Can I get a, “Ride on, Pastor” from someone in front…

I must say that asking a pastor to ride on sounds all shades of wrong to me especially when it’s coming from someone at the front. Pardon me I just digressed.

Time governs this place strictly like a tyrannical ruler. There are four meals served here daily.

Why four times? Well here’s the catch. Work here never stops. 24hours,7days a week, and all 365days in a year. There’s nothing like Christmas or weekend or public holiday or new yam festivals or any other excuse for work to stop. So while you’re out there in town thanking God its Friday, great men are toiling through the night. While you’re over at his place for the weekend or with family enjoying Christmas chicken or at one new yam festival, men are out here drilling, the aluta going on non-stop.

For every 24hour day, you work a 12hour shift; 6am-6pm, 6pm-6am, 12noon-12midnight, or 12midnight- 12 noon. With this arrangement, everyone gets three meals a day. It doesn’t matter exactly what hours constitute your day. Hence, it is actually very proper to see someone at 6pm and greet good morning, because like our ancestors say, whenever a man wakes up is his morning and here you were thinking they lacked sagacity.
So let’s say you work the 6pm-6am shift, your breakfast is the 5-7pm meal. Lunch is the 11pm-1am meal while dinner is the 5-7am meal. You live the world entirely in reverse. Can you eat the four meals? Oh yes please. If you want to wake up and also eat the 11am-1pm meal, you’re very welcome. Food na obianuju. I’ll try and dedicate a whole entry to food because the food we get here is God’s will for those who believe and trust in him. So let me not do the longer throat now.

I mentioned tea time right? This is one of my favorite times on the rig. There are also four tea times. 9am,3pm,9pm,3am. Each lasting approximately 30minutes if you’re not too busy. Most guys come for 15minutes and then another person in their unit takes the other 15minutes, seeing as everyone cannot completely abandon their posts for tea. Why do I like tea time? This is the place you come to hear it all. All the sweet gist, escapades, arguments, advice, business talk, buhari wahala and all round getting together are done at this time seeing as at the end of a shift most people are so exhausted and topmost on their agenda is to sleep. Most expats just come into the tea room get their snacks and leave because they cannot understand why the Nigerians are shouting. But after a while the penny drops and they comprehend, that what is being had is a friendly banter-full conversation or argument even if done in very high decibels.

There’s a term here used to refer to people who have stayed very long onboard-Filipino. Most service hands are usually the subject of banter involving this word seeing as they do not have a set rotation like others and stay for as long as the job requires.; sometimes too long. Actually, anyone in general who stays more than their allotted time due to unforeseen circumstances is referred to as Filipino. So sometimes you get someone who is on a 2week rotation, go home, return back to work and you’re still on board. First thing out of their mouth “oboy you don turn Filipino o”. It isn’t derogatory. I think it comes from the fact that back in the day, onboard most sailing ships like cargo ships or cruise ships, who spend months and months on end at sea, most of the kitchen and room boys on them are Filipino’s who spend no kidding, almost 14months onboard. The longer they stay the more their usually meager pay and they preferred to be onboard with free food et al, making money that is usually sent home to cater for their families. I once heard the story of one who was crying when asked to go home. When queried on why he was crying he said “me only stay 22months and they ask me go. Why? Why?” he bawled.

Time here on some days takes on the form of a snail, passing painfully slowly on the journey to your day of exit. Some hitches feel like someone sneaked in extra hours and made a day longer than 24hours. Most people spent time here counting down to going home even if its just two weeks which passes quickly like lightening back at home. There is a limit to how long you can stay onboard for safety and sanity sakes, usually about 6weeks for those of us deep sea. But as with everything else in life certain circumstances stretch the elasticity of that time constraint and some extra weeks are fit into the space now created.

Do not think for a second that we do not enjoy being here. Free food, free laundry, free accommodation, free internet[when there’s network], spending nothing, while working isn’t something a lot of us will trade in a heartbeat for the familiar comfort of being home with family. A man gotta do what a man gotta do…

PS: I try my best to cram everything I can into these entries and keep them less than a 1000words as hard as it is. So… for questions please charley, use the comment section. And to read other entries visit the hashtag #TheOffshoreDiaries

My name is Uncle Stephen and this is my diary..

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