The Rundown

As I am working in the Dining hall aboard the Africa Mercy (Mercy Ships’ hospital ship docked in Lome, Togo for the next three months) I have one of the most difficult, satisfying and interesting jobs aboard ship. 

There are usually about 8-10 crew on the dining hall staff, split into two teams who work on an alternating schedule.  The schedule is two days on, two days off, and every other weekend (If you work Monday, you work Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, then the next week, you have those same days off and only work Wednesday and Thursday). 

During the weekdays, we also have a number of day-workers (local men and women who volunteer aboard ship) who help out.  They help all over the ship, and are appreciated wherever they go. 

Our day starts at 5:45 (6:45 on weekends) and we work until about 9-9:30 (11-11:30 on weekends as we dont serve lunch on weekends)  then come back at 11 to start lunch and work to 2-3ish, then again at 4 till 7:30-8ish for dinner (sometimes longer on the weekends). 

There are three ‘stations’ in the Dining Hall:  Line, Drinks and Sides and Dishes. 

The first station is the face of the Dining Hall.  The line consists of putting out food for all the hungry crew aboard.  As a cafeteria style dinning hall, we serve in bulk, with tubs of food along the two lines.  There is a hot line and a salad/cereal line on each side of the serving area, so we can serve more people quicker (there are about 400 crew aboard the ship). 

The hazard of the line (and being the only guy on both teams) is the hot tubs of food, the heat lamps, and the warmers.  Biggest injury is small burns, and I have already been ‘kissed’ by the line twice.  

Also up front is the Drinks and Sides, where all the salad dressings, jams, peanut butter and random and weird British toppings are placed.  On the drink line, there are four different juices (the only two mandatory ones are orange juice and apple juice during breakfast).  This job also includes wiping the lines down. 

The last station is dishes, also known as the pits.  This is the dishwasher station. Fairly simple.  You go get the dirty dishes, bring ’em back, you put them on the trays, you wash ’em, you sort ’em then you take them back out to start all over.  This is the dirtiest job and the wettest.  At times, it is even a little bit cooler (temperature) than the line.  This is the job that most of the crew hates and the day-workers love, so we let them have it. 

While it is exhausting work, it is extremely satisfying.  You get to meet everyone aboard ship and talk to them as they get their food. 

So far, I’ve been aboard ship for five days and have been working for four of them (Thursday during lunch and dinner, then the weekend shift).  It’s been exhausting, but I’m extremely glad that i have this opportunity to serve. 

God Bless and PEACE

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