Visiting mv Logos Hope was a grand experience for Terence and me. We left with great expectations in our heart: Hope was advertised as the largest floating library in the world. And, it definitely is! Six hundred and ten square metres of book space. I had gone onboard Hope’s sister vessel, Doulos, when it called on Cochin in 2004. But this is a bigger, wider ship.
We picked up our tickets and waited in line to step onto the gangplank. A security person and a crewmember greeted us and welcomed us aboard the huge ship. At the entrance itself there was a ship-like seating area and a wall-mounted screen where we were shown a three-minute video about the vessel. We walked down the large wood-panelled floors into the book fair area, and were struck by the neatly-stacked rows of books.
Mv Logos Hope is under the GBA ships banner, with their headquarters in Germany. They also have a base in the US. We spoke to Sarang Shin at the information desk. He has been onboard Hope for the last eight months. When I asked him how the work was, he was quite excited to add, “We are all volunteers on Hope, including the captain. We work with a two-year contract.” Sarang is from North Korea and has previous work experience on ships.
The ship visits more than 120 countries and has books from various publishers and distributors. Shin briefly explained how books are chosen to be displayed on Hope. “There is an agent in charge of choosing books. He researches on the kind of books read by people in the countries the ship visits and then decides which books are displayed at which ports.” He said that books are sent to the ship according to requirement.
We surveyed further into the hall: majority of the books seemed to be themed on gospel teachings and centered around life, family, children and so on. The kids’ section is varied. You can find the every child’s favourite, Enid Blyton, Narnia series, graphic novels, picture books, colouring books and young fiction. Bible and dictionaries from around the globe adorned a seven-foot high wall. There were more than twn shelves dedicated to them. We couldn’t believe the kind of Bibles on sale – they seemed so varied and unique, at the same time. Each of them were different.
Moving on, there was a whole section for music CDs and kids’ knick-knacks. You could see kids running round their parents and the bookshelves by turns, screaming and demanding for goodies. A lot stationery items, too, are available. Other things to buy are photo frames, teddy bears, key chains, T-shirts, cards, calendars and mugs. After picking up a few books, we stumbled into the discount store – a choice of three books for a hundred bucks. Wasn’t bad at all. For booklovers like me, Hope is a treasure trove. Following this is an S-shaped walkway leading to the café. The walkway’s walls are decorated with pictures from the Prodigal Son’s story. Called ‘Journey of Life’, the story and its morals were narrated by a crewmember. The café can easily accommodate about 200 people at a time, and serves delicious brownies, burgers, cookies and beverages.
On our way out, Hannah Thompson, at the desk, chatted with us for a while and helped us with our queries about the crew’s holidays. “We work either 9-5 or on shifts, depending on your department. We get one weekly off and a week’s holiday in a year.” It is not an easy job as its voluntary, but it’s rewarding. “While we move from port to port, we have deck work and cleaning to do. Some of us do the cooking as well.” The volunteers have to raise funds to cover their expenses for the two years.
As we stepped off the ship with books in hand, I told myself it was a day well spent!