The other night I had a conversation with a student about reverse culture shock. Reverse culture shock is what one experiences when making a return to their culture of origin after being away for an extended time, particularly if that time has been spent in a culture radically different than your own. The student, let's call her Dee, was talking about ways to make the transition to living back at home go more smoothly.
One of the things Dee talked about was acknowledging the rituals and habits you develop in the new culture; especially those you realize you may not be able to continue to do when you are back at home. She was planning to make a list of them so that she could either find ways to continue them in some way or, if it is something she isn't able to do at home, to take the time to really savor the remaining times that she does them.
Over these past three months I have had a taste of many different cultures, but the one that I have been immersed in the most is the one that has developed on this ship.
I am on deck by about 6:00AM every morning. I bring my journal and, if the weather is dry, I take a seat at one of the tables on Deck 9 and I write for an hour. I choose a table where I have a view of the dining room so I can see when the coffee is brought out, usually around 6:30AM. This is my favorite time of day. The ship is quiet, I often have the deck to myself and I have seen some spectacular sunrises. During this early hour I have watched birds catch fish, dolphins leap from the sea and this morning, those of us that greeted the dawn were also witness to three water spouts forming in a distant storm.
At home morning was also my time to write after my early morning walk to the sea. When I return I will not be staying near the sea and it will be winter. I don't yet know if I'll find some other place to walk to in the mornings at home and so I am taking extra care to savor the mornings that remain.
There are other habits I have on the ship. I have been on deck for the entrance to each port. I return there for our departure, often staying on deck until the lights of the port fade into the distance. I walk the decks after each meal and make one last return to Deck 9 to look at the stars before I head to bed each night.
The card I drew this morning was Teacher of Wands: Spirit in Matter. One of the things this card relates to is the idea of being more present in our bodies and in the moment we are in. As this journey nears its end I want to take care to practice some extra mindfulness, especially in those moments that I know may be experienced for the last few times. I want to remember how sitting on deck watching the sunrise over the Pacific feels. I want to recall the sensation of the wind on my skin when I stand in the bow watching the birds hover over the sea. I don't want to forget the sound of the ships horn as we leave port. I want to recall the hush of the halls when I take a late night walk insomnia walk through the ship.
There are 16 mornings remaining. I want to remember each one.