Home            About Us            Newsletters            Support Us            Links            Contact Us

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Back to Childhood

On May 31, 1997, the Danish ferry Dronning Ingrid stopped running. A tunnel from the cities of Koersoer to Sproege made ferries obsolete. That was a very sad day for 11-year old Milan Falsing. “I cried for two or three days,” he said.  Born and raised in the small town of Hoeng, Milan had traveled with his family by the ferry many times to visit family members in other parts of Denmark and especially to the small island of Aeroe, where his grandmother lived.
“It was always a special occasion for me and my sister,” he recalled.  “On the starboard side forward (where the dining room is now) there was a play area for children.”  Milan had so many happy memories of good times onboard the ferry, and he was broken- hearted to think there would be no more. His concerned mother contacted Scandlines, who owned the ferry at the time, and asked if Milan and his siblings could visit the ferry one last time to say farewell. The vice president granted the request. “When my mother gave me the good news, I was all jumpy and screamy and so happy,” he said.

Finally, the big day arrived – a day off from school – and he was very excited. The first thing he noticed when they arrived was that everything was being dismantled, and there were no lights – all was dark. The vice president of Scandlines showed them around, and Milan and his siblings enjoyed one last time in the play area. There were small ashtrays around, and Milan kept one as a souvenir. “Up on the bridge, I remember the huge glass plates in the floor. It was fun to stand on them and look down.” He was in the fourth grade at the time, and he was the last passenger onboard. “That’s when I decided to be a seafarer,” he said. “I just wanted to go out to sea.”

In the ninth grade, he began to prepare for his life at sea by choosing to go to a boarding school with a maritime focus. From there he went to the maritime high school, where he could get a high school diploma and a seaman’s degree that would allow him to find a position on a ship. He went to work for the Maersk Line for his basic training at sea. They also had an educational opportunity for a duel degree, but he wanted to become a single navigator and chose the Marstal Maritime Academy, located on his grandmother’s island. “I have a big association with that island,” he said.

As a member of the Danish Ferry Institute, Milan kept his interest in the Dronning Ingrid alive. When Mercy Ships bought the ferry in 1999, it was moved to Newcastle, United Kingdom, to be renovated to become the hospital ship, the Africa Mercy. “I had never heard of Mercy Ships before and wondered what Mercy Ships was. What would a religious group want with a ferry? We didn’t know what God was doing with the Dronning Ingrid.” Milan’s interest was piqued as he followed the progress of the renovation.

After seven years, he saw the ferry again. Totally renovated, she had become the Africa Mercy, a state-of-the-art hospital ship. “There she was! A new ship, all white with a new stack.”

As soon as he received his Master’s Unlimited Degree, he started looking for an opportunity to serve onboard. His commercial job allows for lots of vacation time, but often it doesn’t coincide with an opening on the ship. When he realized his vacation finally coincided with an opening on the bridge this year, he applied right away.
His application was accepted on a Monday, and everything was in order. But he needed his numbers for blood pressure and pulse. At midnight, he biked down to the emergency medical doctor, a short distance away, and explained what he needed and why. “It only took five minutes to get the numbers,” said Milan. He called them in on Tuesday, and Thursday morning he left for Freetown – and became the first Danish officer to serve onboard since 2009. He confided that his mother and sister were elated that he was going to be on the ship and asked if there was room for them, too.
Milan (his crew mates call him “Milo”) is very excited and happy to be serving onboard. “I don’t want to go home, but I have to,” he admitted. “I also would love to come back again.”  He wants to promote Mercy Ships as much as he can when he goes home. “This is unique! You can’t find it anywhere in the world!” he exclaimed.

No comments: