I knew Christmas was coming when I heard ‘Frosty The Snowman’ dribbling out of the sound system of my local supermarket. That was in July. I live in the Philippines, one learns to deal with it. They have no idea what ‘frosty’ means, so a whole bunch of seafarers, not jut from the Philippines but the rest of South East Asia have not the foggiest idea what ‘cold’ means so when they hit the northern hemisphere around now, they’re frozen stiff in all the wrong places, which is why I’d like to bring your attention to the British and International Seafarers Society, BISS, in a moment.
A bit of history first: Long before the Philippines was an American colony it was a Spanish colony, but before that Filipino seafarers sold their services to a variety of kings and datus around South East Asia as mercenaries fighting other people’s wars and they were very good at it. “Cold” is not a word one generally applies to South East Asia.
That changed after the Spanish colonisation when Filipinos built and manned ships to cross the Pacific for the Acapulco trade which took them through Japan where it did get cold. There was a good trade in Japan for various things from the Philippines, so seafarers discarded warm weather gear – after all, it couldn’t get much colder than, say, 24 degrees celcius, could it – and filled their sea-chests with things they could sell in Japan.
The upshot is that a fairly large number of Filipinos died frozen to the deck because they didn’t have cold weather gear, and they probably weren’t the only ones.
So let’s get back to Christmas and BISS, a charity for seafarers.
A large number, if not the majority, of today’s seafarers haven’t seen ice or snow in their lives until working on ship that take them to cold climes and they aren’t prepared for it. Among other things, BISS hands out wooly hats to seafarers, something simple that makes life a little bit more bareable and improves morale – which is good for safety.
If you’re a knitter, its website sells a ‘woolly hat kit’ with wool, needles patterns and everything else needed to make someone’s head comfy this winter.
If you’re the knitting kind, pop over to the BISS website. If you’re not a knitter, think about learning, it gives you something to think about while you’re talking.
Another BISS mission is to provide seafarers with cellphones so they can keep in touch with home. Every cellphone you send them nets them around $5.