Monday, 15 June 2015

(Not) Sleeping on the RMS

The RMS St Helena is posh, structured, and lovely.  The people here are helpful and the ocean is gentle.  The food is good quality and the tiny little container forces people to get to know each other and become friends.

That, and I can't sleep.  At all.

It may have something to do with the fact that although it's 5:00pm and the sun is setting, my body is still reasonably sure that it's 8:00 in the morning.  I've never experienced half a world of time zones worth of jet lag before.  It could be that this is exactly that, or it could be that this is something else.

This ship is small, but it's still giving up its little mysteries.  It probably seems so mysterious because I haven't had more than 3 hours of sleep in any given 24 hour period for most of a week.  I wander corridors filled with sparkly uniformed staff and the fresh smell of cleaning chemicals, and it seems like whenever I go around a corner I find someplace new.  There's a laundry room I just discovered.  I think I remember discovering it a few days ago but I can't remember, I haven't been sleeping.  I don't think I would know.

I walked up 3 flights of outdoor stairs and found the gym.  Nothing in the gym requires balance because the ship is constantly rocking back and forth.  If you tried to run on a treadmill you'd pitch into the window or the other equipment in 20 paces or less.

A gym with a view

Later.  It's 3:00 in the morning.  No one is here.  Only 3 crew are awake, and none of the passengers.  I may as well have the ship to myself.  It's less romantic than it sounds.  I'm tired and my body is angry at me, but I have both jet lag and knots inside my chest that I had when I left home.  I haven't been successful at untangling them.  I go down the steps from the gym and discover the lifeboats.  I discovered them a few days ago, but I'm in such a fog that they feel new.  I'm surprised to see them even though I've walked past them several times.  I look at them closely and am fascinated by the diagrams that explain how to use them.  I might do this again tomorrow and it will be just as new.  The forgetful are not necessarily blessed.

The cabin is a small windowless box with two bunks.  My bunkmate has relocated so I have the room to myself.  It rattles and shakes as if someone was running a gigantic diesel engine immediately underneath it.  This is because there's a gigantic diesel engine (two of them) immediately underneath it.  The screws that hold in the bolt lock are loose, because they've been shaken loose.  The screws that hold down the bunk are loose, because they've been shaken loose.  The pipes that lead to the sink rattle as if they were dice in a cup.  My room plays incessant craps all day, every day, and the rattling further frays my nerves as I lay in a bunk exhausted but unable to sleep.

All around me the ocean extends.  There's no way to reach out.  There's nothing to do, late at night.  The internet is inaccessible and even if there was such a thing as a telephone, there's no one awake on the West Coast of Canada that I can call.  All I have to do is wander and observe with surprise these things I've seen before but have forgotten, and wish for sleep.

It seems like when I go on an adventure I don't get the adventure I expected.  I didn't know what to expect, but insomnia probably wouldnt've been on my top 20 list of things.  This is a beautiful trip, the food is good, the culture is a strange mix of laid-back islanders going home in jeans and jerseys, businesspeople in collared shirts, and a tiny number of tourists who are almost as casual as the islanders.  We're all surrounded by cabin stewards and dinner service staff in naval uniforms with UK or St Helena accents.  If my cabin number wasn't printed on my key I would probably forget it, and wander the ship aimlessly.  This is a beautiful place made surreal by 21 hours of wakefulness and 3 hours of fitful sleep, each day, for days on end.

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