Monday, 1 December 2014

Conwy, North Wales

Freshers' Week is probably one of the most disorientating albeit intriguing weeks of anyone's stint as a university student. I stood in the midst of the building they call the Students' Union - the equivalent of the student council in high school. Everyone was being tossed around like waves in the ocean. Even I, someone who never empathised with one's claustrophobia, felt slightly claustrophobic and lightheaded. The air was filled with human perspiration, contagious laughter, and flyers being thrown around. I barged my way against the tide and miraculously emerged from the crowd at the women's football booth. Sports. "I'm going to do sports this year." 

It was satisfying to finally be back in the comfort of my bedroom after a laborious day hunting for a society in the Freshers' Fair. I crawled into my duvet and snuggled up in bed, prepared to look through my loots of the day - a whole stack of information sheets ranging from the Dance Society to the Skydiving Society and the Mountaineering Society. How was I ever going to decide? And then there was the International Society. The most unpretentious flyer among them all. I didn't even remember taking that particular flyer. However, the exuberant faces of the people on the flyer grabbed my attention. They possessed different hair and skin colours; yet, they seemed to gel perfectly like a family. International 16. That's what they were called. 16 people handpicked to represent 16 unique countries. My curiosity got the better of me as I headed down to the society the following day to sign myself up for the interview. 

The first meeting left me with mixed emotions. On the one hand, I kept questioning myself if I signed up for the right society. The first thing we were made to do upon reporting to the society was jumping jacks. In public. I had enough of jumping jacks in military training. Furthermore, we were informed on the commitment level that was expected of us. My hopes of joining a sports team were shattered. On the other hand, the icebreaker games fuelled my anticipation of the friendships that were coming my way. I held on to the belief that this was indeed the right place for me. 

They weren't kidding when they told us to expect late nights. The preparation of the first evening that we organised, Diwali Evening, lasted till 5a.m. It was almost dawn before my head hit the pillow. I remember the fatigue that weighed down on me as I prepared the Daal Makhani for the next day. I glanced at the people around me, religiously working on their respective tasks, and I was struck with a pang of familiarity. Drained, yet motivated by the comrades around me. Just that this time, I'm not in the field digging trenches, I'm in the society preparing for our evening. Indeed, what a love-hate relationship that I'm somehow always in. Arduous. But I held on to the belief that this was indeed the right place for me.

1...2...3...people left the 16. They said there has never been a batch which started and ended off with the full 16. I, we, were determined that our batch would be different. I guess every batch was determined, except that it never happened. It was extremely disappointing. Yet, I held on to the belief that this was indeed the right place for me.

Finally! It was time for our long awaited weekend away to the lovely North Wales! Spending more than 48 hours together, with hardly any internet connection, definitely catalysed our friendship. There was literally no sign of human activity, apart from ourselves, in the vicinity of our apartment. Yes, we basically had the company of each other, and sheep.

What's the point of going to Wales without hiking its terrain? On the 2nd day, we ventured out to the peak of the knolls. The journey was therapeutic; a perfect break from the hassle of lectures and tutorials. The streams of water trickling down in a homogenous rhythm. The sheep persistently gnawing on green grass like its never full. The scorching sun that encouraged us to remove our windbreakers. The consistent old lady who caught up with us, young lads, in our hike. All of it, accompanied by the melodious voices from 14 different countries, contributed to the perfect midday hike. 

It was the final day. Surely, we couldn't have left Conwy without visiting the Conwy Castle. Personally, I wasn't impressed by the architecture of the castle. What fascinated me was in fact its location. Apparently, it was built on high ground to facilitate early warning on incoming enemy attacks and to gain advantage on firepower. (Firepower referring to arrows and not guns at that period of time.) Truly, military strategies were evident since a long time ago.

That concluded our 3 days and 2 nights stay at Conwy, North Wales. Wales, as many people have testified, is indeed a magical place. If you're going alone, it presents you with the perfect opportunity to seek tranquility. If you're going with your lover, your best friend, or even a group of friends, it rewards you with the unabated attention of one another. Precious memories with my 16 have been created in Conwy. I no longer hold on to the belief that this is indeed the right place for me, for I know that it is.

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