When life is sailing over the bounding sea

Updated: 2013-09-09 07:53

By Peng Yining (China Daily)

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When life is sailing over the bounding sea

Sailors swab the deck as part of their daily routine onboard Peace Ark. Zhang Hao / for China Daily

Sailors work in difficult, occasionally dangerous surroundings, reports Peng Yining from the Gulf of Aden

Editor's note: On June 10, the Peace Ark embarked on a 118-day voyage to provide medical assistance in a number of countries and take part in joint operations and exercises with fellow members of ASEAN. This is the sixth report by China Daily's Peng Yining.

Chen Hailei joined the navy to see the world, but so far the 25-year-old has only seen piles of garbage and a trash incinerator. His job on the Chinese hospital ship Peace Ark is to take care of garbage disposal.

Since June, when the ship set sail from Zhejiang province on its 118-day voyage, Chen has been on Deck One by 6:30 every morning, waiting for the trash of the 400 people on board to arrive.

When life is sailing over the bounding sea 

For Chen, squatting among garbage bags and sorting cans from glass bottles is a typical start to the day. He measures the quantity of garbage by the time it takes to deal with it.

"On good days, it takes only about two hours to sort and incinerate the waste," he said. "But some days, it can take as long as five."

"I'm the only person on this ship taking care of the garbage. Sometimes, the others call me 'the garbage guy', but I'm proud of what I do. My parents are farmers, and I'm the first member of my family to travel overseas. Anyway, the ship wouldn't have made so many great voyages without its 'garbage guy'!" he said.

This is Chen's third deployment on the Peace Ark since he joined the navy in 2008. This year, the hospital ship is visiting eight countries to provide the locals with free medical treatment.

Down in the 'dungeon'

In addition to the medical staff, the Peace Ark also has a crew of 123 sailors who maintain and run the ship.

The environment in which they work is tough and sometimes dangerous. Their lives are all about taking orders and doing the same jobs over and over again. They don't get the glamorous moments such as giving orders and making big decisions, according to Shen Hao, a rear admiral and commander of the 2013 Peace Ark mission. But, he added, their work is invaluable because it keeps everything running smoothly.

"I was a sailor and I worked in the engine room - the bottom of the ship and the toughest place to be - for more than a year when I first joined the navy," said Shen. "I know how hard the men and women have been working. Without them, the Peace Ark wouldn't be able to provide humanitarian services around the world."

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