I slept pretty much all afternoon yesterday. That’s what you get after a two o’clock suhūr, I suppose. The result was a slew of very vivid dreams, perhaps not uninspired by the few clips of Inside Out! I’d been watching (I really must see the whole film. It looks amazing). This morning I could have spun the whole bizarre sequence out for you, piece by piece, but like so many dreams it’s been carried away by the morning light. All I remember clearly is standing aboard a gigantic galleon with vast, green sails, floating high above the earth like something out of The Edge Chronicles, and hurling myself overboard with my camera bag into the sea below as an alarm sounded and the ship slowly tilted sideways, stooped and then plunged into the water. And I was mainly concerned about keeping my camera dry.
I don’t think the family were all that impressed by my walking to and from school yesterday. I was. I found my way there and back in forty minutes apiece and it felt so good to get out. After all of that palava over Moroccan table manners, I really needed to get out on my own. To think. To breathe. Homestays really shouldn’t be this tough, but I am a bit of a loner. Sometimes what I really need is just to be left alone for four or five hours to read, or to think, or just to be. That was last year’s trouble, too; always rushing about.
It’s been a hard first few days. I knew it was going to be this way, especially concerning the Arabic language itself, but I didn’t expect it to be quite this hard. Leaving behind the friendly routine of the best year of my life to march straight into a two-month overhaul was always going to be difficult. Had I not gone in so positive I’d be on the brink of tears right now. I’m so behind. My classmate takes in the stuff like a sponge and I’m sitting there leaking. Grammar goes in, gets jumbled up with a million other unconscious thoughts, mistakes come out. It was so much easier in first year, when I was ahead of the game and vocabulary was all that really mattered… But then the grammar caught up, I burned out, and like so many track events, I fell back and back and back until I found myself a whole lap behind the rest. What a joke.
And here’s the punchline. In my brief spell at home, I found a folded sheet of paper covered in red scribblings I’d penned during that five-hour church service-cum-auction in Boroboro. University plans, mostly. I wrote them just weeks before I was offered a place at Durham. In amongst the scrawls there’s a four-year plan, detailing my plan of attack vis-a-vis studying French, Spanish and Arabic.
Apparently I’d never intended to take Arabic past the second year at all. There’s a question mark by that one as it is.
The question is, why did I take this road? Jordan was trying, but then, so is this – for want of company, this time. But for that one Monday class, last year was a dream. I belonged. Just speaking Spanish made me happy. And now I’m here… It seems very silly to be doing something you don’t really enjoy, and less so when you’ve no intention whatsoever of making any money out of it. Neither use nor ornament, and that’s probably the first and only time I’ve used that expression perfectly.
I suppose… I suppose I simply followed my heart. I tend to do that. I fell so very much in love with Arabic in first year. In fact, I scored more highly in Arabic that year than in either French or Spanish; undying proof that, if you put your mind to it, you can surely do it. It was, as we say, in my interest. Then came second year, the Northern Lights, the Gospel Choir fracas, another failed attempt at a relationship and the entire juggling scenario. I fell apart. I like being busy, but that was something else. I was balancing far more than I could feasibly carry. And I was also supposed to be studying Arabic.
Arabic is one of those languages you simply have to devote a lot of time to. I did in first year – almost every evening – and hey, it showed. I only became disillusioned when the lingering gap-year cabin-fever adrenaline rush petered out and I realized that there was more to university than endless study. It was thanks to that that I made so few friends outside my Arabic class that year… and that was one of the main reasons I decided to keep going. Arabic 1B wasn’t just a class, it was a real community in the way that the seven or eight French and Spanish groups could never be. United in fear. That was the magic.
What I really need right now is to escape. To be alone, without having to worry about grammar, about the family, about what my next heinous foodie faux-pas is going to be. Fortunately, I’m in the perfect place for that.
I’m turning twenty-two this weekend. Last year I spent a good deal of the day stretched out under the shade of an oak tree in the hills high above Durham, listening to the skylarks and feeling at peace with the world. That’s what I need to do. To get out. To the country. To be free. BB x