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Thursday, 13 January 2011

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Memories from Ship for World Youth

Tell me, will I be normal again?

Looking around me, I fail to realize what I see.
I wonder if I am back, or if this is only a dream.
I try to understand what these feelings are,
If they are mine or from a fairytale.

I fail to understand what reality is.
I seem to float about, and I am told I am distant.
I wonder what it is that I feel.

Jet lag, they tell me,
Ship sick some say.
I see many faces around me,
But fail to put a name on them.

Ship for World Youth 23 participant youths

At night I dream of scores of faces,
Living parts of the dream we shared together.
The mornings are the worst,
As I have to face the inevitable world!

I feel like I am in dreamland or a fairytale
As you please.
I fail to realise what normalcy is,
Or what it use to be.
Tell me will I be normal again?
Will I ever be me?
These are some questions
I ask,
Unable to wake up from this dream!

I wrote the above just after returning to Sri Lanka from the SWY youth programme, feeling disoriented and lost. Even though I returned to my own country and was living with my family members at home, I felt disconnected and felt like I didn’t belong there, at home. I was longing to be back on the ship, on Fuji Maru, our home away from home.

Once I shared this poem with my friends from SWY, I learnt that I was not alone and that many shared the same sentiments of feeling ‘lost’. Having shared approximately two whole months together, on board Fuji Maru, we found it difficult to adjust to our ‘usual’ lifestyles back home.

I for one didn’t feel normal. Not even in my wildest dreams did I think it would be hard to walk back in to my life I had left back home. I was shocked when I returned. I had a hard welcome dose of reality!

For me, the whole experience of the Ship for World Youth feels like a dream. Even to date, when I meet my foreign friends from the programme, I can’t believe my eyes that I am actually meeting them again. I have paradoxical feelings then. I remember meeting Iku in Delhi, when I was there and she was the first youth participant (PY) I met after leaving the ship. I remember suddenly stopping in the middle of the road whilst walking and poking her to make sure she’s real and then screaming “Oh my goodness! You’re real! This is real!” at the top of my lungs! She was surprised at my outburst, but knew that I was trying to adjust to this dream-like syndrome I was facing. She understood, because she too was facing it. It was the same when I met Somaya and Shuaib here in Colombo. I couldn’t kick back the feeling that I was imagining all this.

As much as we had to ‘create’ or ‘find’ our own free times to sit and talk with people, to get to know each other, the life on board Fuji Maru was well planned and scheduled, so I didn’t have to get up in the morning and think about what I had to do for the day.

With educational activities, recreational activities, programmes for the youth to appreciate each others cultural, we were a busy group on board. We didn’t have a thought about time or what day of the week or month it was.

Most often we would stay up till three or four in the morning talking, exchanging ideas about a new project or simply trying to understand another’s culture better.

However, we had to be up and about by eight in the morning for the daily assembly which took place. I got so used to the routine, so much so that even after returning to Sri Lanka, I remember getting up with a shock, thinking that I am late for the morning assembly and out of habit looking across my room to see if my cabin mate was up! It was only when I realized I was at home, did I heave a sigh. It was a sigh of mixed feelings or relief that I wasn’t late and sadness, that I wasn’t on the Ship.

There were numerous things that used to make me feel disoriented. I didn’t feel ‘normal’ in my old life and even the slightest incident made me nostalgic. Every time I heard the song ‘Rambari’ I remembered the Bahraini delegation that used to love this song and make us sing it just for them! I used to look around out of habit to see if they were beside me. The realization that they weren’t, made me every sad.

Looking up at the sky at night and enjoying the stars reminded me of the star gazing experience I enjoyed during the Desert Safari in Dubai and on the ship, when we switched all the lights off. I wanted to lie down again on the ship’s deck with my friends and point out stars in the middle of the Ocean!

I know there will be many reunions and visits by more friends-as it is the case these days- but it will never be the same. Life was so simple, and within the confined space of the Ship, we were one family despite our many differences. To us, the differences didn’t matter! The Ship was a melting pot of cultures, religions, ideas, food habits, talents etc. But, that didn’t matter either. We learnt to appreciate each other.

As a year dawns for the beginning of the wonderful experience of SWY 22, I feel nostalgic, yet happy. I want to see all of my SWY 22 friends and family, I want to reunite with them and share more stories and gather many more good memories with them.

As a year passes by, another group, SWY 23 sets voyage to gain these experiences and many more! As a year goes by, I sit reminiscing the times spent and looking within and watching the movie of memories reeling by.

 

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