25 October 2012

Mauritius: The Rainbow Warrior Diet

press release

"You're going to get sea sick," Paul our photographer said to me when I arrived on the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior in Mauritius. "I've been on all the Greenpeace ships and never got sea sick, but on this one, even I was out of action for two whole days."

That's exactly what you want to hear, when boarding a ship that is heading into the high seas for 10 days without any chance of leaving it. Especially when you come from a landlocked country famous for its mountains and no seafaring history to call upon.

It seemed like almost everyone on the Rainbow Warrior had experienced a bout of sea sickness at one point of their journey. Some only had a little nausea, and recovered quickly after drinking loads of freshly made ginger tea or simply after keeping their gaze locked on that stable horizon. Others had spent days lying in their beds, not able to keep any kind of food down longer than five minutes.

But I came prepared: homeopathic pills, ginger candy, two boxes of anti-motion sickness, chewing gum, pressure point bracelets ... and I kept repeating my mantra: "I will not get sick. I. Will. Not. Get. SICK."

And it worked - at least for the first couple of hours.

But then the crew released the soul of the ship. All the sails went up, catching the wind and the Rainbow Warrior, my new home for the next few weeks, took off. Immediately the ship started to bounce and sway.

"This is what I call the 'Heavy Metal'-direction," said Penny the ship's bosun who is in charge of the deckhands and general ship maintenance and cleaning. She'd spent 12 years on Greenpeace ships and her sea legs were permanently switched on.

And my sea legs? Well, I think I forgot to pack them. And I never was a great fan of Heavy Metal anyway ... so no wonder that I didn't become a fan of this direction. But so far, I still felt quite okay.

In contrast, almost every one of the new arrivals had quickly lost their fight against the sea and the wind.

These 'land lovers' were frequently seen heading downstairs to take refuge in their cabin or outside to 'feed the fish'. Only Aaron, our on board media officer, and I where still hanging in there and we were even brave enough to go take some lunch.

I still felt very confident when I put loads of yummy smelling food into my bowl. But this soon changed when I ate the spicy rice. "You should avoid the spicy stuff," I heard someone telling me.

But it was too late. I already felt the nausea rising and that sinking, swimming, swirling feeling that I'd been dreading hit me. Sea sickness.

I found myself running as fast as I could (which is not very fast on a moving ship) to find the next toilet and quickly said goodbye to my lunch.

Rafa, the doctor on board, came straight after me, seeing if I was okay. But I wasn't. He gave me some stronger medicine and sent me straight back to bed.

And for the rest of the day I was lying in my bed, wishing that I could be somewhere else and Paul's words came floating back into my mind: "You're going to get sea sick."

Andrea is a New Media Campaigner and Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace Switzerland. She is currently sailing onboard the Rainbow Warrior during the last leg of the Indian Ocean Tour.

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