The trip is almost over. According to the schedule, we are due to arrive back in Yokohama at 2pm tomorrow. In line with that, the weather has been slowly reverting to midwinter. Just three days ago I was swimming in the little pool on the upper deck as a celebration to myself after finishing a Graduation ceremony in a suit in stifling wheat. We had crossed the equator a few days before, and it was sweltering. Over the last couple of days, the mornings have been getting colder, the wind has been picking up, and grey clouds have started forming over the ship.
And now, starting yesterday, we are back in the same kind of conditions that started our trip. The ship is getting violently thrown about, with huge leans to the left, right, front and back, along ith sudden shudders which can literally throw you off your feet. Rooms are a mess as anything that was meant to be on any kind of shelf is thrown all over the cabin, and today the piping in at least one place broke, flooding three whole floors with ankle-deep water, soaking everyone’s packing which had been made in preparation for the departure.
I actually like this weather. Coasting along under a blue cloudless sky is great, but when the spray is lashing against the 10th floor windows, and a window which once showed nothing but sky is suddenly filled with the ocean, you really feel like you are actually on a boat, out in the open sea. It gives a certain sense of adventure, a small taste of what it might have been like to be a sailor back in the more seafaring days without all the modern conveniences.
The downside being, it messes with stuff. Aside from the problems I already mentioned, one big issue is the departure schedule. All large boxes were supposed to be shifted to the gangway entrance today (by us, of course) in order to make for a smooth departure. However, the rocking has meant that we have abandoned the idea of carrying anything large anywhere. Also, throwing us about has slowed us down. Our new estimated time of arrival is the day after tomorrow at 6am, 16 hours after we were supposed to be there. That undoubtedly means that, aside from there being unlikely to be any friends at the port to watch us come in, we are likely to be working shifting things at some ungodly hour.
The upside of that is that suddenly, the time we were supposed to be working has become free! Which means that this afternoon has been perhaps the first genuinely free afternoon we have had since leaving Yokohama! And it’s been awesome! I’ve finally managed to come back to Free Space and sit and talk to people who I have hardly spoken to in the last two months. I’ve relaxed, listened to music, exchanged contact details, taken photos, and generally enjoyed being a part of the Peace Boat 71st cruise environment.
And I wonder how much I have changed over this period. The most obvious change being that conditions which had me violently vomiting and feeling terrible three months ago now don’t even faze me. If I’m walking down the hallway and suddenly the floor is several centimetres below where it was when I started the step, it’s OK. The sudden pressure of accelerated gravity as the floor rises to a fair way above where it should be doesn’t matter. And as I write this, my head bobs and swims closer and further to the screen, and my eyes and head don’t hurt. In fact, in the last few weeks, the only way we have even noticed that the boat is rocking is if a pen rolls off a table or chairs creak and groan in ways which make them sound like they’re going to break. But I’m sure that after seeing the world, and meeting the people in it, there will be other subtle changes that I may not notice for a while.
And I wonder how much the people I have met have affected me, and what kind of relationships I have built with them. And how strong those relationships will remain after we return to real life. I have been seeing some of these people nearly every day for the last few months, and we have had some extremely unusual and memorable experiences together. We love spending time with each other now, but will the obligations of real life mess us up? How well will our relationships work in a more real setting, even if we happen to be in the same city?
And I wonder how my attitude to the place I live, and the people in it, may have changed, and how they might feel about me. Right now, I am keen to meet a lot of people, and do a lot of things. When I finally do it all, will it still feel right?
In any case, my life (and that of everyone else on the ship) as I know it, will change drastically in a couple of days. That comes with the same sense of anticipation and trepidation as any big move. Despite the fact that this trip has only been three months, I have the same feeling as moving away from places where I have spent years.