Sunday, June 21, 2020

The countdown begins!

I'm entering the last few days here on this tour. 3 barges in 4 weeks and a bout of homelessness. Quite a time. As I pretty much say daily, I still have a job. Gotta be thankful.

       So anyone who knows me knows that I do not like change. I like things predictable. I don't like surprise parties, I don't like shopping without a list or at least a mental list, and I don't like not having a destination in mind or a plan for the day unless that plan is to not have a plan. So not having a permanent home or any seniority is a challenge for me.

      Bear in mind I'm not bitching here. I landed on my feet. I like the new ride, I like the guy I'm working with too. I got lucky. I'm not the easiest person to live with because I like to be left alone, and for a social person, that's not always easy, wanting to talk with someone who doesn't want to talk with you much of the time. and my new shipmate is cool with all that. We have a nice talk 15-20 minutes a day, and that's about it.
 I dunno. I'm not that much of an isolationist at home. Just at work. Balance in all things I guess.
   The new ride is comfortable enough. The quarters are small, but tidy. I have all I need except storage space is at a premium, which often happens on a boat. With B and I spending more time than average aboard for this company (90% of the crews work equal time. The other 10%, including us, work more), we've tended to bring our lives with us, rather than having a rigid separation between home life and ship life.  We like our creature comforts, and generally more stuff than you can fit in 1-2 seabags.
           I don't know if this will ever be my home per se. Not just because we may get sent elsewhere when business picks up and laid up vessels break out, but also because the guy on here is fairly senior, and has been on here a long time, and besides that, he's had his crew ganked and replaced not with a new subordinate, but two equals. So now we're all chiefs, no indians. The last thing I want to do is piss in this guy's cheerios after he's already been messed with. It's not his fault that we got our barge taken away, I'm not going to take it out on him, and make him suffer too. End result, I'm not doing things the way I'd like exactly. I'm doing things HIS way. His way happens to be just fine, he's good at his job. But it's not the way we do things at home, so to speak. Of course. I'm used to co-parenting the HQ with B. Policy is a matter of comfort, not compromise with each other, which it must be on here for now, with no indians and all chiefs.
 Thing about compromise, no one gets what they want. They get what they can live with.

 Again, not bitching. Things are good. A golden era ended, and we're in the interregnum at the moment, not on unemployment or trapped with no crew change for 8 months like so many sailors.  Shit happens. Payday came and went already, and will come again.

           So, looking ahead, I'm excited to head home. I might be able to go out a little more while there, although I'm actually very happy not going out. Best quarantine ever.

      One big positive about getting sent to NY, direct and more affordable flights home are resuming. I don't have to pay a fortune for a discount ticket on a grade-z dirty airline, sitting on chicken crates and trade goods.
 Seriously, flying from America to Philadelphia, Occupied America, was pretty stressful. Nothing says pandemic like 100% full flights and 3 layovers.
       
     

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Working in the Third World (Brooklyn, NY)

Things are going OK. I'm settled into my 'maybe temporary maybe not' barge, and although it's pretty quiet (ship traffic being slow still), we've spent a fair bit of that time at a lay berth in Brooklyn, near downtown, and that has meant good shore access, so I have been walking for 2 hours a day when I have that kind of time. It's looking like later this week and weekend will be busy, so the past few days' idle time has been good but is coming to an end. That's not a bad thing. Pretty sure my employer would like to get paid.

      I've got just one week to go here at work, and to make things more comfortable for the one guy on here who kept his position, I will work around his preferred schedule, the hated eight-and-four.  This was based on the horrible suggestion of the Human Performance Eval studies carried out a few years ago. I tried it for a few weeks once. It was so bad it made 6 hours on/6 off look good.
 Basically, you work 8 hours, then sleep 8 hours. Then work 4 hours, and sleep 4 hours.
 Supposedly this is better than anything else. I found it exhausting and disorienting and apparently so do many other people. Hell, there are guys that prefer 6 on/6 off and chronic fatigue rather than the 8/4.   Still, it's just for a week. I'll be fine.

            The weather has been amazing. Cool mornings, comfortable warm (not hot) afternoons. It's been great. Normally, with some idle time like this, I'd be out on deck chipping and painting, my version of therapy, but I'm not comfortable enough here to do that, so instead I've been walking and lifting weights after daily chores and maintenance is finished. We have had a couple of small jobs prior to sitting, so bills were paid, at least.

 It's peaceful-ish. If I was truly feeling at home here, this mid-Covid time might have been a golden era here at work, strange as that is. Even so, I've really enjoyed the past week.

 We've got a fairly decent sized cargo fixed for later this week, so we'll stay rolling.


Thursday, June 11, 2020

rehomed

The term 'rehomed' is a nice way of saying 'given away' or 'unwanted' in many cases. Problem dogs spring to mind.

 Hopefully I'm not a problem dog. I have been rehomed, though. We left Philly last week and this week I was assigned to my new home. Whether it's temporary or permanent rides on a number of factors, not least of which is the recovery period from the quarantine.

     It's good to have a place to store my crap. My new assignment is fine. Pretty similar to the original HQ, in fact. It's not mine, though. Of the existing crew, the senior guy is still here, and this has been his home for a number of years, so while I am aboard and would wish to make some changes to the quarters and some very minor changes to the SOP aboard, doing so would really be stepping on the crank of the guy who happens to be home this week, but who left here a few weeks ago thinking things would be normal when he got back.

 Think about it, you've got a new associate at work, and you get to work on day 1 and he's moved your stuff, changed procedures, and everything is different. You'd be upset, and justifiably so.

 So I'm moved in, but not all the way. But I'm working, and given the upset of the past months, that's about all I can hope for. It's disheartening, but the alternative, to be sent home or to bump other guys and take their place, send them home, would be worse.


Wednesday, June 3, 2020

The Return

After 8 years aboard, we had a lot of stuff to move off the HQ when we vacated her this morning.

    Hawsepiper's Afloat Global HQ/Refugium is no more. It is now being run by people we do not know.

      As for us, we packed up our duffels and ditty bags, and drove to New York. Well, B drove. I navigated, which is to say I rode bitch.

    We have a LOT of stuff. We filled a 15-passenger  cargo van to the top, and also filled the bed and cab of B's truck.

   It's uncertain times here. We knew that our final disposition was not set, but it's even worse. There's a glut on staff at the moment with so much of the global economy shut down. Many companies are having layoffs. Rather than follow suit, my employer has tightened belts and cut costs to maintain the employee roster, something I was aware of, of course. So in meeting with the bosses when we arrive to NY and commandeered half the warehouse floor temporarily,  we learned that we do not yet have a new home. It will be a few weeks at the soonest before we are assigned a new permanent home.

    And that's disappointing but understandable. B and I have been split up for a week, something neither of us wanted, but which is temporary. I am camping out in Brooklyn aboard a bunker barge for the week, and have settled in temporarily. B is hanging out on a gasoline barge. He's right next door to me at the moment.

 We're good. It's not the same, but it's work, and we're back amongst friends, and given how many people are either laid off or just had their places of business burnt down, I'm doing just fine.


     I don't love change. I really don't. But I do love being able to feed my family, which today's events will allow me to continue to do. 

 In talking with the big boss, I saw first hand that he was troubled by not being able to just give us a nice home and send us off with all our crap. I watched him game out how to get us a permanent berth, and know that the dude is absolutely doing his best.
   Am I anxious? A little, of course. I am homeless at the moment. But they brought us back to NY for a reason and I'm working. I really can't complain.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Leaving the HQ behind

We got word the other day that we're being kicked off the HQ.

     We've been working between Philadelpha, Baltimore and Wilmington DE for the past 2 months. It's been good. I was initially worried that we'd be under the watchful eye of far too many office folks, and indeed our first days seemed to bear that out. We were getting 4 phone calls from 4 people over every single decision, piece of paper or issue that arose. Some calls were from people who were looking out their window and asking about things on deck... this isn't something I'm used to, where I tend to have a more holistic vs. command-and-control relationship with the supervisory layer that sits between operations and management in NY... but you know, it worked out, and I've gotten to like the work dynamic down here, and the people too, especially their availability, since many of the office folks are sitting within 200 feet of us when we have an issue, whereas NY, space constraints, traffic and the pace of work make a visit to the office a rare treat.

 I enjoyed working here, is what I'm saying. It's not the pressure cooker environment that NY is and the people were way nicer than expected.

 But, sadly, we are a known quantity, and our time away from NY operations was always a TDY mission. We are experienced and have our niche, and they want us back up there. Sadly, the HQ, being a reflection of our values, is an ugly-ass mean lean bunker machine, and the Philly folks want to keep it. So we're heading up, but they're keeping the band together at least, and moving us up as a crew to a new HQ.

      Sigh. This is the 3rd time. The HQ was the HQ for 8 years, and we never really did get over the last time this happened, where after a year of sinking our own time and money into the living quarters of the original HQ, they had to swap us out and give us this place, which was well kept up outside, but the quarters looked like a Pakastani hospice because the crew were pigs.

   Well, I happen to know the former crew of the barge where we're likely to end up, and they're clean people (and good tankermen), and the barge itself will be a tolerable HQ. Not quite as lean and mean as the current one, but workmanlike and well-maintained. Beyond moving 20 years' worth of stuff (B has been with the company that long, and does not travel light)  and a shitton of food, the overriding emotion has been relief that we're together.
   Seriously, B and I are a great team. He's very much like an older brother to me, and we complement each other's style, and both of us are compatible- we both suffer badly when forced to live with incompatible personalities,  and fear loss of efficiency and quality of our work output as a result.
 And seriously, I get to work with my best friend. It won't, or can't, last forever, but after 9 years, the work environment has become more important to me than the salary. Should that change, I would seek out a higher salary elsewhere pretty quickly. Some things are more important than money, and some are not.
   So, who knows what the next few weeks hold. I, as someone who doesn't like change, anticipate that it will be annoying, stressful, but will result in good things in short order. Hell, 11 years here and I still like to come to work. I don't want that to change.


Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Home!

I've been home for a week now, and I took some time to do very little while I was here. It's been great.

 Being unproductive has never been easy for me. Despite knowing that I needed a few days where I could actually relax, drink beer and swim in the pool, I continue to feel slightly guilty for doing so.

 It was just a few days. And I'm much better now. I spent about 6 hours today pressure washing outside, which is like the Florida version of snow shoveling. Rainy season started last week, so there's afternoon thunderstorms every day now. Tomorrow I head into the shop and make some sawdust.

   Coronavirus has been awesome for my marriage, I'll say that. Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife have always been mostly joined at the hip when I'm home, but the New Normal means we don't go out for dinner, which we tend to do twice a week when I'm home. Instead, we cook, and with our son home, and of an age when he's gotten interested in cooking, it's tending to be a 3-person event every day. I have a large kitchen, which helps.

 Next week I head back to Philly and back to the HQ. Going by the quality of my first week at home, I'll be going back rested and restored.

   And tan. pressure washing isn't worth doing with a shirt on.

Friday, May 8, 2020

A saint is made

So far as I remember, I've met three people who were living Saints so far in my life.

 I use the term in the Catholic sense, big S, not as in a really kind person, but an actual Saint. In all three cases, meeting them left me with the impression that while we were fully engaged at that moment, the person I was meeting wasn't all there, that part of them was already on a higher plane... and that's a shitty description, of that feeling, but it's about the best I can do. Makes the hair on your arms stand up, like being in the presence of a lion at bad breath distance, or I guess what people talk about who believe in ghosts. I dunno, I'm sort of agnostic about that sort of thing.

 The first one was Mother Theresa, who I met (and got a hug from) when I was in 2nd grade, in an unlikely series of coincidences.  The second was a blind priest who was prescient, and talked about things that were happening in my life that I was struggling with just after shaking my hands, and who gave me some amazing advice.  I'm less agnostic about that. Dude had a gift.

 The third one was Father Donald Sybertz, an African missionary whose sister lived down the street from my parents, and who became friends with my father. I only met the guy twice, at age 7 and again somewhere around 18. He lived in Tanzania for 65 of his 91 years. He's also the only priest I ever knew who was an exorcist, although he wouldn't talk about that and I only knew from my father's talking about it in his own last years. I'm even less agnostic about that. I respect the man enough that I believe that he could do that sort of thing.

 Father Don passed away a few weeks ago. I heard just about an hour ago. Strange that I was thinking of him a lot in the past few days, wondering if he was still with us.  He was a beloved man in his home region- all of western Tanzania, and to date still as far as I know the only Catholic missionary to ever not 'go native' after more than 30 years of working singlehandedly. 
 He was also the biggest Red Sox fan I ever met, even in the 70's, 80's and 90's. Obviously a man of faith.


Father Donald F. Sybertz, M.M, died on Sunday, 19 April, 2020 at the Assisted Living Center at Maryknoll, New York, USA.  He was 91 years old and a Maryknoll priest for 64 years.
          Donald Francis Sybertz was born 23 July, 1928, in North Weymouth, Massachusetts, the son of Frank W. and Helen Bronder Sybertz.  He had three sisters and one brother.  He attended Bicknell Elementary School and Weymouth High School (where he played second base on the varsity baseball team) and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Boston College before entering Maryknoll in September, 1950.
          After his ordination in 1955, Father Sybertz was assigned to Maswa-Shinyanga, Tanzania, where he served in the Kilulu mission in Shinyanga Diocese, the plains region of northern Tanzania.  Father Sybertz built the first home there to provide shelter and care for aged persons lacking families and housing.  He was later assigned to Gula Parish, a large sprawling parish undergoing expansion geographically as well as in the number of parishioners.  Eventually the parish was divided into several parishes, and Father Sybertz moved from Gula to Mwanahuzi and developed that center into a separate parish.
          Over the years, Father Sybertz was one of the Maryknollers most proficient in the Sukuma language.  His facility in the language, interest in the culture and knowledge of how to inculturate Christianity among the Sukuma people led him into a continuing study of how to relate Scripture and the African wisdom proverbs, sayings, stories and parables of the people. This study resulted in the publication of several books in Swahili, Sukuma and English as evangelization materials for the Tanzanian Church.
          Don Sybertz spent a lifetime (1955 to 2020) researching, writing about and using Sukuma (Tanzania) Proverbs. So far there are 19 Sukuma “African Proverbs of the Month” on our African Proverbs, Sayings and Stories Website (www.afriprov.org). Some of his favorites:
  1. June,1998: I pointed out to you the stars (the moon) and all you saw was the tip of my finger. NOTE: This was our very first proverb on our website.
  2. October, 2003: The hen with baby chicks doesn’t swallow the worm.
  3. February 2014: The hoes of two people cultivating together in a field sometimes clash (hit) against each other.
  4. October, 2018: The salesperson (seller or merchant) does not have only one door.
  5. February, 2019: The medicine for a rising river is to go back.
  6. October, 2019: Even an elephant, that is, an important person, can be sent.
These and many other Sukuma proverbs and stories are published in Joseph Healey and Donald Sybertz, Towards an African Narrative Theology, (Nairobi: Paulines Publications Africa, 1996 (1st Reprint 1996, 2nd Reprint 1997, 3rd Reprint 2000, 4th Reprint 2005, 5th Reprint 2012) and Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1997, (many reprints, New Cover 2012). Available as an Ebook on Amazon (for Kindle) and Google.
Orbis Books Website:
All this research and writing culminated in the creation of the:
Sukuma Legacy Project Website
The Sukuma Legacy Project promotes the history, culture, oral literature —  Proverbs, Sayings, Riddles, Stories, Myths  and Songs — and visual representations of the Sukuma People in Tanzania in East Africa. There are various examples of SCCs and community values. This website is dedicated to Father Don Sybertz, MM who stayed among the Sukuma people for over 50 years in Shinyanga Diocese. While staying in Ndoleleji Parish he researched the rich folklore and culture of the people. See a short film about him HERE. The research committee that he created at Ndoleleji Parish (known as the Kamati ya Utafiti) is still working up to today.
Reflects what traditional African proverbs, sayings, stories and songs used in Christian catechetical, liturgical, and ritual contexts reveal about Tanzania, and about all of Africa. Includes appropriations of, and interpretations of, Christianity in Africa.
Chapter Three on “African Christology” is called “Jesus Chief Diviner-Healer and Eldest Brother-Intercessor” and Chapter Four on “African Ecclesiology” is called “Church as the Extended Family of God.” It includes sections on: “African Metaphors of Church.” “Communion Ecclesiology from An African Perspective.” “Trinitarian Communion Ecclesiology.” “We Are the Church.” “Theology of Small Christian Communities as a New Way of Being Church.” “Ecclesiology of Church-as-Family.” “African Communion Ecclesiology and Pastoral Inculturation.”
          Father Sybertz spent his entire missionary career in Tanzania. He served as Pastor of the Mwanahuzi Catholic Church until it was turned over to a diocesan priest.
          Although Father Sybertz was given Senior Missioner Status in the Africa Region in 2001, he continued to work full time in Maryknoll’s inculturation and evangelization apostolate in Shinyanga, Tanzania.
          In 2015, Father Sybertz was assigned to the Senior Missioner Community and took up residence at Maryknoll, New York. He was appointed to the Mission St. Teresa’s Prayer Partners Team in 2016.
            Don was a huge sports fan – following closely every Boston, Massachusetts, USA team. He was a good winner and a good loser. We had a lot of fun over years talking sports. Sports was second to spirituality in his priorities. Years ago Don and I traveled to Ethiopia, Amsterdam and on to Newark. The first night home we stayed at my brother and sister-in-law’s house in New Vernon, NJ. After arriving at their house, within minutes the first thing we did was start watching the Red Sox – Orioles playoff game on TV! Don never got tired of baseball.
Many stories have grown up around Marehemu Padri Don Sybertz. Here is one: When Maryknoll priest Father Ed Hayes, Maryknoll Lay Missioner Susan Nagele and Maryknoll priest Father Joe Healey were preparing for the 1990 Maryknoll Society General Chapter we distributed a written questionnaire in the Tanzania Region. All answered but two Maryknoll Society Members including Father Don Sybertz who was “notorious” for never answering anything. After a weekend of a Red Sox – Yankee baseball series, I called Don in Ndoleleji Parish, Shinyanga from Musoma on the radio call phone system that we had between parishes.  For all to hear I said, “Don, I will give you the results of the Red Sox games only if you promise to send in your questionnaire.” He answered, “I promise,” for all to hear. Then I gave him the results of the Red Sox winning two games to one.
The next day he sent in his questionnaire! baseball series, I called Don in Ndoleleji Parish, Shinyanga from Musoma on the radio call phone system that we had between parishes. For all to hear I said, “Don, I will give you the results of the Red Sox games only if you promise to send in your questionnaire.” He answered, “I promise,” for all to hear. Then I gave him the results of the Red Sox winning two games to one. The next day he sent in his questionnaire!baseball series, I called Don in Ndoleleji Parish, Shinyanga from Musoma on the radio call phone system that we had between parishes. For all to hear I said, “Don, I will give you the results of the Red Sox games only if you promise to send in your questionnaire.” He answered, “I promise,” for all to hear. Then I gave him the results of the Red Sox winning two games to one. The next day he sent in his questionnaire!
            Father Sybertz was the brother of the late Dolores Hoyt, Loretta Sybertz, Ruth Hyland and Norbert Sybertz.  Father Sybertz is survived by many loving nieces and nephews and his extended family in Tanzania to whom he devoted his life.
          A Funeral Mass (Mass of Christian Burial) was celebrated in Queen of Apostles Chapel at Maryknoll, NY on 23 April, 2020 at 11:15 a.m.  Father Michael Snyder, M.M., was Celebrant. Father Daniel Ohmann was homilist and Father Edward Davis read the biography, Scripture and the Oath.  Burial followed in the Maryknoll Society Cemetery.
In the Memorial Mass for Marehemu Don Sybertz, Mwana Helena, in Nairobi, Kenya on 23 April, 2020 we tried to inculturate some Sukuma values in the liturgy. The “Prayer of the Faithful” ended with:”…in the name of Jesus Christ, our Eldest Brother/Chief Intercessor.” This is the Sukuma people’s name for Jesus Christ. It is the eldest brother, the firstborn male who offers sacrifice to the one God in the Sukuma Ethnic Group tradition. Compare Colossians 1:15: the beloved Son who is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” We used Preface III of Easter on the theme: “Christ living and always interceding for us.” It includes the words: “Christ never ceases to offer himself for us, but defends us and even pleads our cause before God.”
In this Memorial Mass we had a Dialog Homily when the homilist promoted interaction with the congregation participants using questions, invitation to make comments, proverbs and sayings (first and second parts) and open discussion. This was Don Sybertz’s favorite way of preaching. More of a conversational style. Example: Don: “I pointed out to you the stars (the moon)…Congregation: and all you saw was the tip of my finger.”
Some tributes: “We pray for and with our dear Marehemu Padri Don Sybertz, MM. He is now one of our ancestors in Christ, one of our “living dead.” The Sukuma people in Shinyanga Diocese, Tanzania loved him very much and called him the endearing name “Mwana Helena” (‘Child or Son of Helena’) after his mother.” “Padri Don Sybertz’s other Sukuma name was LUKALANGESE that means the one who finishes all the weeds in his field. Meaning: Take away all that is against the will of God in one’s life and put into practice the Lord’s commandments. Don prepared nicely his spiritual life by putting into practice the teachings of Jesus. That is why we consider him as a “Saint.” He also helped others in weeding their fields that spiritually means developing their lives by living according the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ. He taught us on how to live a holy life.” “He was a living saint. What a blessing to have known him. Enjoy your heavenly reward.” “Raha ya milele umpe ee Bwana. Na mwanga wa milele umwangazie.” “Pole sana mwanajumuia Ng’wana Helena ametuaga yangu juzi tunatoa mistakes ajili yake Mungu ampokee. Kazi zake njema zimpeleke kwa Baba akayaone yale aliyotamani kuyaona.  Namatumai ikwamba ataiobea kazi yetu ya utafiti. Siku ya mzishi yake nitaongoza misa hapa kwetu.” “May the good Lord rest his soul in heaven. This is yet another African elder who has left us. Fr. Don pumzika kwa amani.”
“His co-edited book on African Narrative Theology was a wonderful resource to tie in
with scripture reflection in Tanzania. Helped bring the readings to everyday life.” I never met Padre Don, but this book was a great tool for me and my friends when we were studying theology at Hekima College. Even now as a communicator this is a great resource to appreciate our ancestors’ practical wisdom.” “Going through the African proverbs work, Father Don Sybertz really liked and invested his time in the proverbs collections and in sharing. A lot of work and enthusiasm in the project is truly seen.” Yes, Don was a great missionary. I remember him from the time that I was working in Shinyanga, and later from the Sukuma research. Accept my condolences  to you and your confreres. May Don rest in peace.” “He was committed to the SCCs Model of Church and promoted SCCs in his ministry of evangelization in Shinyanga Diocese, Tanzania. He integrated Sukuma proverbs and stories into his SCCs ministry as part of inculturation.” “My heart hurt yesterday when I heard this news. I bet I can tell some great Sybertz stories too. He was a faith filled priest. I will miss him.” “We can honor Don by promoting the Sukuma Legacy Project.”
“You and Don had unconditional love and esteem for the African culture and people. Together you compiled African verses. You both spent a life time in East Africa. Don loved what he was doing each day out in the bush. Several year ago, I visited Don and his brother when he was staying with his family in Weymouth, Massachusetts. His niece and family lived next door. It was a wonderful Sybertz compound. His brother also has passed away. Don never forgot his roots namely, New England, Weymouth, Boston College, Red Sox and Patriots. He never lost his enthusiasm for the games. Perhaps these and other aspects of his life made you and Don soulmates and at the same time adversaries in the world of sports. Don witnessed to us all what is the very best of a Maryknoll vocation. Now he has finished the race, may he receive the prize of eternal life and sit at the heavenly table with many friends from Tanzania who went before him.” “We loved Don very much. He will always have a special place in our hearts.”
During his last years Don would listen to St. Therese of Lisieux’s famous book Story of a Soul on his Alexa listening device given to him by his niece. In these sorrowful times we can be consoled by the words of St. Therese of Lisieux on her deathbed: “I am not dying. I am entering into eternal life.” RIP
Complied and edited by:
Rev. Joseph G. Healey, MM
Maryknoll Society
P.O. Box 43058
00100 Nairobi, Kenya
0723-362-993 (Safaricom, Kenya)