Saturday, April 20

Logos Hope a voyage of books — and fascinating tales to tell


KUCHING: How did a veterinarian end up as a volunteer in charge of the bookfair onboard the Logos Hope?

A curious question indeed, because as a profession, books and animals are poles apart.

For Castro Samuel, 27, it was due to his boundless love for animals and books. And it was his father’s footsteps that led him to the famous ship.

“Yes, it is a big jump as I was studying to be a veterinarian before coming on board as a volunteer. I wanted to join after high school at 18, but my mum insisted that I study something first before going,” he said when met at the Logos Bookfair yesterday.

“I was interested in becoming a volunteer as I grew up listening to stories from my dad who was a volunteer onboard the ship 40 years ago, and I decided to follow in his footsteps.”

As to his fondness of books, he grew up literally surrounded by books as his parents owned a store in Mexico City.

He has been a volunteer for the past one and-a-half years and what he misses most is being around animals, especially his dog Sunny.

He said that as it is his first time in Malaysia, he hopes to teach the locals here his Latin American culture, and will probably participate in the Latino Cafe held on April 10. He said that there are 46 Latino, Spanish and Brazilian crew members.

As he has not been into town yet, he is excited to meet the people here. Weather-wise, he loves the warm skies as it was cold, living near the mountains back home.

For Beth Hutchinson, 21, photographer, she was inspired to be a volunteer back when she was a little girl.

The ship berthed in her hometown in Scotland and since then, she has dreamed of coming onboard.

She said that it was good experience and she gets to see different parts of the world.

“I’m the first child in the family to leave home. It was supposed to be a three-month stint, but I decided to extend it to two years. My parents were excited and supportive at three months, but when I told them I will extend it, they were worried.”

She has been onboard for a year now. Homesick? She does get sometimes. She misses the humour of people back home and the cold weather, but she is starting to like the hot tropics here.

Another volunteer, Will Bailey, 21, an event co-ordinator from USA, is glad to be back in Kuching for the second time.

He loves the great food here and the people whom he is glad to meet up again. He has been a volunteer for the past two and-a-half years.

“I joined after my high school summer break. It was to gain experience and travel around the world. Since I’ve come onboard, I have been to 16 countries.”

One of his most interesting destinations is Maldives, as it is a very tiny island that he can run full circle in 30 minutes but which is very populated.

“My most shocking experience was in the Philippines, where we visited a bar to let them know that they (prostitutes) are ‘special people’. We saw many ‘ladyboys’ there and we were shocked to learn that (some) parents would raise their boys as girls to be an asset to the family to earn income.

“It really broke my heart to hear how the boys are raised.”

On his plan once his tenure on Logos is up, he said among his options is to further his studies in either social business or biblical studies.

Meanwhile, Malaysian-born Singaporean resident Gan Sui Ji, 33, joined the ship to give back to society.

She is one of two Malaysians onboard, and Kuching being the first port of call for her.

“I decide to volunteer four months as a medic and another doctor will take my place. I have been onboard for just two weeks. I have worked for seven years as a doctor in Singapore and decided that it is time for me to serve the people as charity.”

She said that her parents were supportive of her choice, were very open and understood the heart behind it.

Asked if it was lack in spirit of volunteerism that you could count on one hand the few Malaysians as volunteers onboard the ship, she offered that it was because Asian culture is very career-oriented.

Malaysians do charity and volunteer work, but for short term, not as a long term commitment, she said.

The floating book fair, Logos Hope, was officially opened yesterday by Land Development Minister Tan Sri Dr James Masing. It will be open until April 29 from 2pm to 9.30pm on Mondays and Tuesdays, 10am to 9.30pm on Wednesdays through Saturdays and 1pm to 9.30pm on Sundays. There will be special opening hours today (April 3), from 2pm to 9.30pm.

On board is a mammoth selection of over 5,000 books at affordable prices.

There will also be various events happening on-board, such as International Music Night on April 26, an event not to be missed by music lovers, as well as the Open Ship events on April 12 and April 19, which offers a great opportunity to see and learn more about the ship and her 400-strong crew.

Other cultural events that will be taking place on-board are The Latino Cafe on April 10 as well as the British Evening Tea Time on April 17, which offers a chance to interact with some of the Latin and British crew on board. Tickets are priced at RM5 each for these events and are available at the Logos Hope bookfair, and seats are limited.

Entrance passes for boarding Logos Hope are priced at RM1 per person, and children under 12 years old can enter for free but must be accompanied by an adult.