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One more chicken egg (1990) Back to stories index

Onboard the ship we the sailors were provided breakfast at 7 am, lunch at noon and dinner at 6 pm done by the cook. At night we had some instant noodle packs, chicken eggs, breads and butter, coffee, tea, sugar, etc. kept in the pantry. There were a refrigerator, a hot plate, water boiler and a toaster in the pantry room.

I was still a Junior Engineer after more than 5 months onboard my first ship, a 16000 ton tanker boat. One night, after 12 hours of almost non-stop working while alongside at Jidda port (Saudi Arabia) on Red sea I felt drained and very hungry. I went up into the pantry and made a bowl of hot instant noodle soup. I added two boiled chicken eggs into the soup. Night shift deck officers also came in and prepared food for them.

Next day morning the news that I ate two eggs last night was spreading like a wild fire in a summer month. At the breakfast table the second cook warned me that I could not eat more than an egg a night. I wondered; I did not see a rule or any such announcement during my entire duty on that ship. Besides, chicken eggs were planty and more than enough even if we all sailors were eating two or three a night. I saw others sometimes ate two too. Perhaps the warning by a second cook itself was an official rule applicable to a sailor who come from Burma. I was disappointed and felt isolated in a confined space of a ship.

Five days later when we arrived Abu Dhabi in UAE on Parsian Gulf, I was looking forward to have a go shore. We were to be there for a day loading some liquid cargo. From 12 noon to 4 pm I was alone in the engine room running, stopping, shifting the cargo pumps, auxiliary engines and the boilers. The temperature inside was close to 40C. My Third and Second Engineers were gone shopping. Only at 6 pm I was allowed to go up when the 4 to 8 Juty Engineer came back from shore visit. I went up to my cabin, washed my face quickly and went out to grab the last one hour go shore time left before departure. I was not going to visit anywhere. The one hour time did not allow me to do so. I just got out of the dock and walked to a mini store. When I came back I carried into the pantry two dozens of chicken eggs, enough for 2 weeks of sailing to Malaysia or Singapore port where I might have chance to go out again.

Nevertheless I wrote on a piece of card paper "For all. Everyone can eat" and put that beside my eggs on the pantry table. The Engine cadet, only one staff who joined the ship a month ago and was lower in rank than me, asked why I did that. I explained him what happened. His face showed no difference. Then he asked, 'By the way, what is your salary?'. I said 370 dollars. He looked surprised. He did not tell me anything. Only 3 years later I learned by accident that my Engine Cadet pocketed 700 dollars a month basic salary.

(Note: the same story was published in www.trekthailand.net in Aug 2004)


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