I spent time looking back at our ship as the service boat propelled through the dark waters in  this part of the Persian Gulf. We were  headed to the nearest port, but  my mind was still on board the ship. Our disembarkation was unexpected. We’ve been working for hours until dusk when captain announced that off-signers will be leaving that night. I was really exhausted but the fact that we will be returning back to the Philippines soothed every tired muscle of my body. It was a painkiller, making me forget the long and weary transfer of the ship’s stocks for the next voyage. All that’s on my mind was the picture of me and my colleagues on a hotel in Dubai, enjoying ourselves in a luxury that was free of charge, while waiting for our flight by the morrow.

     Everything went well as expected after few hours of port and immigration formalities; we were then  escorted to Ascot Hotel by an Indian guy who was also the driver of the service van that brought us to that hotel. Upon our arrival there, everyone watched in bewilderment as Russian ladies going in and out the hotel flaunt their porcelain-white legs in their provocative attire (well, everyone haven’t seen a homo sapien of another gender for a while so I guess we have the right to amuse ourselves with such sight  for the moment *hehe*).  Later, I found out that there is a Russian entertainment bar inside the hotel. Unfortunately, nobody seemed to have interest in going on such place tonight because of exhaustion.

Burj Al Khalifa

The colossal Burj Al Khalifa as seen from the hotel where we stayed

         It was not my first time to be on a hotel, but honestly, I felt as if it was for ages. I kept  myself from looking around, staring at every ornately designed walls and ceiling to avoid being noticed by others. When we were already in the suite, I couldn’t help but roll on the soft bed and cover myself with pillows. I thought of myself being a taong bundok and ignorant of such things. The wall clock was ticking weirdly on the side opposite of the bed, but I started to close my eyes, trying not to notice the sound. As lie on the bed drowned in memories of my 9-month contract, the idea of a certain entity who was with me during that whole time was silently drifting amidst the plethora of thoughts inside my head.

        Harvey. That name resounded in my head like it was echoed from a deep and hollow tunnel. Memories rushed in and the picture accompanying the name started to take form. As far as I could remember,  it was the name I gave to my cabin companion the moment I saw him standing quietly  on his own personal space without any regards to his surroundings. He didn’t complained about the name, so I presumed that he preferred to be called that way. So was the start of our friendship with wordless conversations while sailing on rough and even on placid seas.

       Weird as it seems, we started to get along well, despite my busy daily routine on board. I let him stare outside the porthole for hours and gave him water in the afternoon when I feel that he is getting thirsty. I let him sit by the table when I am watching my favorite video, writing a blog entry or playing games on my laptop. He was always there to be with me without getting bored of my silence, my sudden mumbling of words when I am having the tip-of-the-tongue syndrome and when I am listening to foreign pop songs over and over again. To sum it up, he was someone whom you can be with whatever your personality or nature is.

        Life can be so boring on board the ship once you’re not able to cope up with changes and with the environment itself. Some even lose their mind after sometime for overthinking things that are not present on the ship and too far from their reach. The best thing to do is making yourself proactive and setting your mind to make most of your time and resources on board. Some find it convenient to make friends and other acquaintances whom they can share their sentiments and life problems. In my case, I have Harvey, though I barely had a decent conversation with him for the past 9 months. I have no idea of his mother tongue but language barrier has nothing to do with  the silence between us. Nonetheless, he gives me peace of mind every time I look at him on the most weary and boring time of on board life.

       He was already a part of me but sadly, he can’t be with me when I return home. I decided to have him adopted by one of my crew mate once we disembark. That night, without saying our goodbyes, I left him by the cabin door with this note written in a small piece of paper:

Kuya Ras,

    Aalis na po kami ngayong gabi. Akala namin bukas pa pero baka di na namin maabutan ang flight namin kung hihintayin pa namin ang mga karelyebo namin. Mabuti na lang at mabait si Tano, pinasampa agad kami sa service boat. Anyways, andito po si Harvey. Kaw mag-alaga at mag-aruga sa kanya dahil di ko siya  pupwedeng isama, baka matepok tayo ng customs sa UAE. Inaasahan ko pong di mo sya pababayaang mauhaw o matuyuan. Kahit ganyan siya kelangan nya ng tubig. Ilabas mo rin po siya malapit sa porthole pag may time, para maarawan naman. Alam ko pong kaya nyo siyang alagaan kaya sa inyo ko siya binigay. Salamat po sa lahat.



P.S. Kapag labas na po ang ugat nya lagyan nyo na lang ng sawdust. Ang hirap kasi walang lupa dito sa barko. Marami nun sa may trash can malapit sa may laundry area.

Froi ulit 



       We left that night with thrill and excitement in our hearts. But as we moved on to set our minds to the waiting people back in our own homes, I can’t help but look back and think of everything I had learned during my first contract as a seafarer. Life at sea was not as easy as it seems but I knew that I already had the foundation in continuing my profession. I met a lot of people and they taught me how to deal with different situations. Little by little, I learned different things and started to look upon things not just on a single perspective, but on many sides as possible.

       Harvey, on the other hand was a single entity who managed to stand my corniness and boring personality. I owe him a lot for not dying and flourishing instead despite the extremity of the ship’s environment. You might ask why he was surnamed Neolloydia. Well, I just saw that name on the list of cactus subgenus in Wikipedia. As usual, he never complained about it at all.

       If you are concerned about my well-being because I had a cactus for a friend, don’t worry, I am still on my senses. Like I said before, I never had a conversation with him and if I had, kindly contact me or my family to check my current mental state (just kidding).

      Anyway, below is a photo of Harvey when we are still together. I may not be able to find him again when I return back to that ship in the future. He might die of hunger, thirst, gonorrhea or syphilis (heaven forbid)   but definitely, I will miss him, the cactus I named Harvey Neolloydia.