Through my window I can see the end of the white two story warehouse that houses our Admissions, Outpatients, Infant Feeding Program, Screening and Rehab areas. I can see the end of the dock space past the warehouse that has a container full of tools for the mechanics team. I see a tent with a Landrover being washed by the mechanics day crew. Beyond the tent, the dock ends and I can see the ocean and the beach front. I can see fishing boats any time of the day, paddling out and dropping fishing nets and then bobbing on the ocean as the tide comes in and out. On the beach people walk to and fro. Each day you can see men with a small herd of zebu (the type of cow here) grazing on the grass along the sandy beach. There are people that live on the sand in small shelters made from sacks and pieces of corrugated iron.
During the day from my window, only metres in front of me I see all sorts of people and patients coming and going from the warehouse to the ship gangway and back again. One day I saw a teenage girl with club feet being led towards the gangway with a small group of patients for admission into the hospital. She was scurrying to keep up with the group. Her feet so bent underneath her that keeping shoes on looked very difficult. One in the group in front checked behind them and saw that she was lagging behind, finding it difficult with the pace and so stopped to let her catch up. As the girl with club feet disappeared out of sight up the gangway, the thought crossed my mind that she’ll probably never step foot on the dock again with her feet at that angle.
Early in the mornings Day Crew wait on the chairs under the cover of the warehouse, waiting for the clock to tick to the minute they are allowed to board the ship and begin their day’s work. As they arrive in the mornings, they greet each person sitting in the line of chairs with a handshake.
During the day delivery trucks come and go with fresh produce being unloaded and carried up the gangway by strong men and women. The DHL truck comes every couple of weeks delivering boxes of beloved crew mail from all over the world.
The shuttle bus from Antananarivo arrives in the late afternoon carrying new and returning crew, having wound it’s way through a beautiful, scenic, eight hour journey from the capital city airport. You can almost hear the sigh of relief through my window as they step out of the bus and look up at the ship floating before their very eyes.
About the same time, people begin emerging onto the dock from their day in the office or around the ship. They are dressed in exercise clothes and brightly coloured shoes, ready for a run on the streets or a game of ultimate frisbee or soccer on a nearby field.
In the evening I see people in groups leaving for dinner together. Sometimes just two people, ship couples perhaps. Others are in large groups attending birthday dinners or the never ending goodbye dinners.
Every evening there are mums that walk laps of the dock while their kids play on their bikes and scooters, riding back and forth on the dock space that is bigger than any space we have been in for years. Sometimes I see children playing in the pouring rain.
Late in the evenings it is quiet with barely any movement, except for the odd security guard making his round. The dock is lit up all night long, waiting for the sun to rise and the day to begin all over again.