Island contemplation

I am lying in my hammock which I put up between two palm trees. The palm trees’ leaves are above me and well visible against the light of the stars. They are playing in the wind, their rustling sounds remind me of the sound of rain. This is where I am sleeping tonight. And all the other KUSis too. A few steps away, a bonfire, painstakingly put together and fed by palm leaves and coconut shells is burning. Lukas is playing his guitar, people are singing and laughing and will be continue doing so until they go to bed on this island without beds, on Turtle Island. Amelie R. and me put our hammocks right next to each other. We cuddle into the soft fabric to find a comfortable position and murmur an overjoyed and very tired “Good night” and “Sleep well”.

In the light of my headlamp I write a letter to my family, my first sentence being the same as in this blog. Every letter I am sending home is a bit like sharing a diary entry for me. I believe almost every KUSi keeps a diary and a majority of us sends letters to the people left behind whenever possible. I used the writing to reflect a bit on the passed days.

Christmas Eve under sails was surely a heartwarming memory for a lifetime. The emotional feast and its euphoric, exuberant atmosphere brought all of us even closer. At the same time, it felt like some type of shared exhaustion took place on board after the celebrations. I think everyone can relate to the need of some relaxing and restful days towards the end of the year. However, the fact that we are living on a ship did not really permit for us to fall into the usual post-Christmas rest or to take a break. As a matter of fact, classes and watch duty carried on right in the morning of Christmas Day. I was actually woken up by the words: “Your classes start in an hour. And you need to get up right now because we need you in a manoeuvre.” There were only a couple of minutes to leave our sweet dreams behind, slip into our shoes and assemble on deck where all of our focus is needed in the manoeuvre. What a start into the day – waking up as the sun rises and being refreshed by a salty breeze of air!

It is funny how normal this feels for us by now, how sudden commands and manoeuvres are almost a routine for us. But thinking of my family and friends back home I still got a little bit jealous because they would surely not choose to get up at 06:30 a.m. that day. They would probably enjoy what we call “the time between the years” in German. It refers to the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, normally famous for taking a rest, maybe staying at home, being with family and friends and focusing on oneself. Well, not so on the Thor. The days here are intense, which is understandable because the time of KUS is limited and we are still trying to make up for some delay during the first leg of our journey. Nevertheless, the time between the years was a time of being in between for us, too. On the one hand, being between our KUS family and our family at home and in that way also between our home in Germany and the Thor that we call our home now. In the same fashion, sailing means for us being in between lands and even continents, between languages and cultures, between the ocean and the sky, sometimes our only companions far from the shore.

Hence, any moment we can get to have some free time on land is very much valued by us. And coming back to our sleepover on this dreamlike island I described in the beginning, you can maybe imagine how much we enjoyed it. It gave us some time for interesting conversations, joking around or just being silly which helped to let go of all the stress and exhaustion that had been accumulating since we had left Dominica. When we arrived at this little paradise in the late afternoon the first thing I did was to sprint across the beach – this might sound and look a bit crazy, but coming from a ship, running feels like a shot of adrenaline. Because of the ship´s movement, jumping and running is absolutely forbidden on board – even, or especially, in emergency cases or when somebody is in a rush. So every time we get to go on land, I celebrate that with a little hyper sprint. Having the space for this exercise is a tiny luxury and feels so liberating. Remember our home, the Thor Heyerdahl with its narrow staircases, hallway and cabins in which the inhabitants can barely stand on the floor the same time. Not to mention getting changed or tidying up.

Then again, it was not too hard to adapt since the island was tiny, too. You could look through the palm trees and see the other end of the island. Eventually, every one of us KUSis and the teachers and crew found a place for their hammock and we spread out to discover the place. Me and a small group went for a walk around the island. It took us approximately 15 minutes – and that is only because we climbed some palm trees. We also took some pictures of the impressive sunset. It looked like a yellow-to-orange colour palette created by light. Back at our “camp”, that basically consisted of our pots of food we brought, we sat down in the sand of the white beach that Iris had decorated with some electric candles. “This vegetable rice wouldn’t taste half as good in a different setting.” I overheard that sentence when we ate dinner together and that was probably true. Sitting there, a peaceful silence overcame us, only disrupted abruptly by a special observation: “Look, there’s bioluminescence in the water!” We had all seen these white, shining dots a dozen times in the wake of our ship, but it never ceases to fascinate us. Moreover, this time something was different. “Why is the lightning green?” I asked, standing at the waterfront. Finally, Leslie exclaimed: “They’re squids! Their ink is fluorescent!” It felt so magical and absolutely stunning – just like our whole stay on Turtle Island.