The evening before was tense. During the day we’d packed, and had done half big cleaning (the other half never happened). I wrote a lot, mostly letters to my dearest friends. I stayed awake that night, just like quite a few others who wanted to live every last moment. I ended up falling asleep for an hour somewhere along the way, and then had a few conversations I’d never thought I’d have, especially with those people. Breakfast came and went, and I started to pack. I was talking to Kika and Giulia, when Jeroen came into my cabin with a cat carrier. Inside it was Giulia’s duck. The wonders of life.
Around ten the motor started, and everyone gathered on the poop deck in their new SaS-sweaters. It was unreal. The first parents were spotted, standing along the shore. They had “welcome home” banners in their hands, waved frantically. The first tears started to flow. I believe more for the loss of SaS, than for returning home.
Once in the lock, Amelia and Kika climbed to the starboard end of the yard, and Guus and I to the port. I spotted my parents and my dog at the end of the lock, and waved. Even then, my mind still hadn’t comprehended it. The lock took ages, as usual. Then it opened, we turned, and docked to port. I climbed down as the first people fell into their family’s arms. Found mine, and hugged my dog, Lady, first. It didn’t feel like six months ago, at all. I introduced my friends to them, I got introduced to their families. After a while we were all called into a large tent, a few speeches were made, we sang a self-made song. And then it started.
We went to our cabins, took our bags. I cried for the first time, in my cabin with Amelia. We just couldn’t imagine life without SaS. The first people came to hug goodbye, some were just suddenly gone. My cabin was the last to be there. A hug for the crew, a hug for the teachers. The ship was just so… bare. Finally we left, Emília with me. It was weird to drive back, along the roads I know so well. My house, the smell, so much space. Yet everything was smaller, like pots and pans. A few things had changed, but not much. So clean.
Kika and Amelia also came to my house, and we cried on my bed and talked until it was time for Emília to catch her flight. Kika couldn’t come, so Amelia and I accompanied her. Check in, etc. The final goodbye. I was empty inside, no tears or sadness left. Carolina also appeared, and they walked off together, our two Portuguese friends. Then Amelia and I hugged tightly.
Home again. But it didn’t feel like home anymore. My home was that ship, with those people. My mind was still there. I couldn’t comprehend that I’d never climb the stairs and hear Denise say, “Nice that you’re here too.” Never again will I climb into the mast with Amelia, and talk up there for hours. Never again I’d talk till four in the morning and see the crew come home from their night off and have a midnight conversation with them. Never again will I get an extra brownie for doing somebody’s dishes. All those amazing things and many more are over. It just would not enter my mind.
And nobody understood, except 32 amazing people that were now scattered over the world. From having only 48m to look for them if you wanted to talk, to having only Whatsapp and Skype to contact each other. I would have done a Cuba cleaning every weekend if it would’ve brought me back. But it was over now, and nothing could change that.