When I was working on tankers I didn't have too much interaction with the locals in whatever port I was in. I mean, there was a little but mostly, two guys would come and hook up the hose and then we wouldn't see very many people until it was time to disconnect the hose again. Breakbulk cargo is the total opposite. We get the ship tied up and put down the gangway.....and get immediately stormed by a herd of Longshoremen who can't wait to crawl all over the ship.
I'm not going to lie....sometimes it's a little intimidating. When they see me, they stare. Not like they're peeking at me out of the corner of their eyes wondering who I am and what I'm doing there. Nope. THEY STARE.
It takes me a little while to get them to relax and carry on with business...when I say a little while I mean at least a day.
I have another Lady Sailor Tip for you all. (I swear I need to start writing a Lady Sailor Training Guide soon...)
I offer a trade.
I look and see what they have with them.....and then I ask them if I can have it....in exchange for something else.
What began as a way for me to simply crack the ice has become one of my ultimate favorite things about my job.
For example, when we were in Jubail, Saudi Arabia I noticed that every day the Longshoremen were all hanging out around a big thermos on their breaks. The Longshoremen were mostly Indian but there were some Pakistanis and some Bangladeshis as well. I had no idea what was in the thermos but I walked over and asked for a cup of what they were having. They said no without hesitation. I was not to be dettered. I told them if they gave me a cup of what they were having that I would bring them a cup of coffee on their next break. A trade was made.
They gave me a tiny plastic cup full of the yummiest chai I've ever had in my whole life.
Later in the day I was called to the gangway and there waiting for me were four Longshoremen.....thirsty for coffee. When I brought out four cups of coffee you should have seen their faces light up.
After our successful trade there was a complete change in their demeaner. They said Good Morning to me every day. They lended an extra hand. They chatted with me about their families.
My thought is this: When you offer a trade you're acknowledging that you recognize they have something of value.
This sounds strange but, if you think of how Longshoremen must get treated working in countries that aren't their own, on ships of all nationalities....it can't always be a walk in the park. I'm sure that they aren't always treated as if they have something to offer.
Plus, I get to drink kick ass chai every day I'm in port!