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Archive for the ‘Campus’ Category

Page49Lucy didn’t have a mummy, Lucy didn’t have a daddy. I found Lucy in the kitchen drawer and immediately recognized this lost child’s subtle charm. Her Korean origins, which show in the engravings, set her apart and gave her the special place she will always have in my heart. I baptized her, gave her shelter in my cupboard, shared all my meals with her and learned to love her. I defended her against weirdos who tried to force-feed her bad food but always won her back, even that terrible time when she disappeared without a trace. The empty spot in her favourite place made me call her name throughout the house in utter dispair, but she didn’t come back until the next day. I could hardly suppress my overwhelming glee when she reappeared suddenly with a new shiny engraving. Now I only hope that we’ll get to share our joys and sorrows for years to come as we grow old together.

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Sense of place

Page47What I like when I go somewhere new is to develop a sense of place. It means meet people from there, learn to predict what happens in that environment, walk around, eat some of the food, adopt your own habits. You don’t usually miss particular events, but rather everyday occurrences. I’m going to miss the friends I’ve made, my favourite caf├ęs in town, places I often visited on campus, even the ones I found unwelcoming. I’ll miss scones with clotted cream and the Blackwell cup I used all the time, the oak tree in front of my window and my favourite activity: student watching. I’m home now hoping I’ll be able to go back next term and see more.

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Page46I have found that a cricket match is an effective metaphor for cultural gaps: when you don’t know the rules, it doesn’t make any sense at all. It suddenly becomes difficult to draw from what you know; if you thought that every team sport works in a way similar with football, you have to let go of your preconceptions. With cricket, it takes a while only to discern who’s playing against who as they all wear the same clothes. You fail to see the reasons motivating the players’ behaviour. With time and observation, though, everything becomes clearer. There are batters, bowlers, wicket-keepers, catchers, and fielders. The game is organized, civilized even. It may have taken time, but it finally makes sense. I have reached that state now as I’m planning my final trip back home. Just when I was starting to understand cricket!

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page371These last weeks I’ve been writing a lot: every day, most of the day, day after day. I was in my room writing as other students played football outside or chatted for hours, spreading blankets on the grass. I was in my room writing as they started packing one after the other, and left noisily. It started on Wednesday last week, and increased each day before Easter; I could hear suitcases rolling on the Parkwood paths, more and more frequently as time went by and my word count went up. Now the place looks almost deserted when I walk around the houses, observing the plastic bags which float in the wind from high tree branches, like flags for consumerism. And still I go back to my room, and write.

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Spring attraction

page34During the last week, deep change has occured in students’ lifestyles. Many of them are following the example of the young rabbits that graze recklessly around the brick houses, and make brave efforts to focus on essays while their computer screens soak up the sunshine on the kitchen tables they’ve installed outdoors for a change. Others have simply forgotten that studies survive the winter and spend lazy days socializing, and procrastinating, on their doorsteps. I’m desperately trying to balance sunny spring days attraction with the cold bubble, i.e. my room, which I need to work properly. I’ll study for an hour and a half, then go for a walk; another hour and a half, then have lunch outside. Make sure I get something done without feeling completely left out when I walk past groups sitting in circles among the flowers and trees. But to be fair, spring doesn’t exactly encourage moderation.

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Borderlines

page31There’s what I can take and what becomes too much; the quantity and quality of food I can ingest without being sick; the door that separates my room from the rest of the house. There’s how many articles I can read in a day and how much time I can spend with housemates in the kitchen; the undependable line between sleep and consciousness; the change of atmosphere when a lecture starts. There’s the space between home and England; no sugar or tea that’s too sweet; the covers between books in a pile. Borderlines can be clear, physically perceptible spaces, or blurry and undefinable. While some are consensual, others are contested. Linear versus circular, so many limits in our world and thoughts that divide and create meanings.

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The walk

page28I’ve been back in Canterbury for almost two weeks but I find it harder to decide what to draw and what to say than I did during my first stay. Nothing looks all that new anymore, and winter weather doesn’t make things appear particularly exciting. But one thing has changed: I now take a daily walk from the house to the little church which overlooks the campus from a hill in the north. My short incursions into the countryside allow me to keep at least some of my sanity and forces me to deserve a small portion of the food I swallow each day. I like to walk across the churchyard on my way back and see the old tombstones. They all look very gothic, tilted among moss and ivy, some of them almost hidden by the grass. You rarely see this in Switzerland where after a few decades new tombs replace the ancient ones.

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