Africa Mercy Volunteer In the Dining Room

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May 5th 2012
Published: May 5th 2012
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This is my first long weekend on duty. Let me tell you about the dining room duty. It seems like a boring read to me, but you may be interested. Friday has a regular meal schedule. The Saturday and Sunday morning and evening shifts are longer, but we have one long break of several hours in between. The dining room is on deck five. When boarding ship we climb up the gangway to deck five. We take turns washing dishes now, no more paper plates and cups. Lome was working on the streets which caused a loss of water for a while. However, we still need to conserve. The major change is washing dishes and being able to do a load of laundry a week. In the dinning room there are two small “back rooms” for storage and supplies, and washing. In the washroom cups and glasses are rinsed in a water and bleach bath, then go through the washer. Cutlery is sprayed cleaned and goes through the washer twice. Everything else gets a spray and a wet wipe down and then goes through the washer. There are usually two or three people with that job. At the end of the day, the whole wash room gets sprayed and washed.

The food is sent down via a lift from the Galley. Woe to anyone who does not put the bar down properly. Apparently, someone didn’t a while ago and it was out of commission! The stairs to the galley are narrow and steep and always wet. I am glad I was not here then. Dining workers do go to an upstairs frig for milk (reg and silk) and juice (orange and apple concentrate). Most of the spreads (mayo, honey, etc.) are down stairs in the dining area. The sugar and powdered milk are kept in large plastic barrels. There are small refrigerators under the center dining room island for storing what we are currently using.

The galley baker makes bread daily: white, whole grain, nut, and fruit. We go up with large garbage sized bags and bring the bread down. There is a bread slicer in the dining area. Fortunately that is the only machine tool I have to use other than the washer. I like slicing the bread. All the food gets labeled. Dry erase markers work well on stainless steel.

There is always regular and decaf coffee, two sweet juices and two Crystal Lights that we make before and during the meals. I like the Crystal Light lemonade. The water hose faucet sits in a bath of bleach water when not in use for making drinks. I don’t make coffee unless told because there is no way of being sure it is empty without climbing on a chair and looking in. It has overflowed a couple of times. That’s a mess and I don’t want to be the cause of it. The cold cuts and cheese sit on a bed of ice. The ice machine is in the Academy part of the ship on deck 6. So it is a little bit of a walk. We also stock vitamins and tea. Sometimes it is Roobios (African tea- not sure of spelling). And as I mentioned before, we have peanut butter!

During the meal there is always cleaning and restocking of food. At the end, there is wiping down tables, sweeping, mopping, etc. I found out the hard way that I need to check each cup for liquids before putting it on the cart for washing. Most people do empty their cups and clean off their plates in the containers.

Sometimes we get calls from the medical team to save some meals because they will be late at surgery or a screening. So we do that and put them in the warmer labeled. We also prepare a few plates for the guards on duty at the end of the dock. There are two to three people doing that. During the week (M-F), we have three day workers who work with us, but who are not part of the crew. They live in Lome. They are friendly and work hard. They do additional jobs. There is a list of duties (cleaning mostly) for each day.

When we run out of something, we write it on a white board. Someone, probably our team leader passes the information on. He is a young fellow. He is a recent high school graduate from Germany. Midday, I often see supplies stacked up near the entrance.

We always start and end meals on schedule. A half hour before the end, we close down one line. There are two in all. There are hand sanitizers at the beginning of each line and throughout the ship,

On Saturday and Sunday, lunch is not served. At breakfast, crew can make sandwiches, and grab fruit (green apples, bananas, mango, grapes, pineapple or watermelon). Today, there were also cans of Coke Zero and small bags of various kinds of chips. Someone told me that the Coke here tastes better than in the states. It is made using cane sugar. It won’t do me much good to do a taste test since I don’t drink regular Coke at all.

Since I arrived, we have had beef, chicken, ribs, hot dogs, pasta, real mash potatoes, rice, beans, muffins, homemade donuts, pancakes, soup, peas, broccoli, green beans, and spinach. I may have missed a few. At every lunch and dinner, we serve lettuce, tomatoes, cukes, cheddar cheese, ham and turkey cold cuts and fruit. At breakfast, there is dried cereal like cheerios and wheat flakes and oatmeal. There is also always some kind of dried fruit, like cranberries, walnuts, and raisins. As one would expect, leftovers make an appearance as a different dish.

There are two dining room teams. We rotate. I am the only person from the states on my team. The others are from Lome, Germany, Canada, Holland and other parts of Europe.


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