Monday, 29 November 2010

I. The Beginning... of the Beginning

So, to begin. Oh, how to begin...

A dear friend of mine, Binnie Kirshenbaum, wrote a book called The Scenic Route. About travelling, about storytelling. About life.

As Auden once said, "A real book is not one that we read, but one that reads us." Binnie's book did indeed read me. I felt something, really felt something, when my eyes absorbed the paragraphs, the sentences, the words. I found myself reading them aloud, reading the stories aloud, as if they were real, as if they were mine.

I am not Sylvia, the protagonist. But that does not matter. Our stories are still the same.

And now I will truly get to live it, with the two delightful people below. Aren't we adorable?


We are going. It is certain. In the next thirty days, we will conquer Central and Eastern Europe on our very own Scenic Route. None of us have done anything like this before. Nothing even close—my longest vacation before this had been only six days, and it was only to four cities (Amsterdam, the Hague, Brussels, Antwerp).

Our Route: London, Rome (airport), Florence, Rome, Milan, Geneva, (Lausanne), Zurich, Munich, Salzburg, Vienna, Budapest, Prague, Berlin, Cologne. Then, instead of heading back to London with my companions, I'm off to the Netherlands to stay with two dear friends of mine who live in the Hague. After that I will fly to Glasgow to visit another friend, before returning to Oxford.


Armed with Eurail passes and four weeks of time, we shall do laundry in Vienna, celebrate Christmas (and Andy's 21st birthday) in Prague, and welcome the New Year in Berlin. We will get lost, meet strangers, change our minds, sleep on trains, and possibly die from exhaustion. The rest is up to happenstance.

We leave on Saturday morning, to catch a 10am flight to Rome. My first stop, however, is Sheffield, an industrial city in northern England. The place where I lived for four years when I was little. I can still remember bits of it, including my infant school (Broomhill) and an unpleasant experience involving baby pigeons. I might be seeing it again, as well as the University (where my father obtained his PhD in Chemistry). I'm staying with some old family friends whom I have not seen in thirteen years. I cannot possibly articulate my excitement and anticipation.

I've been meaning to start a blog for years. Years. Yet I kept delaying, making excuses, because I've dutifully kept a journal since I was eight years old, and I was hesitant to share my thoughts with the world, much less my closest friends. I wanted to keep them to myself.

I have always been resistant to change. But now I am fully embracing it, and I am ready to share my thoughts. For change is possibility, change is feeling, change is life. Yes, it may be frightening, and yes, it may be unpleasant. But in order to live, you cannot stay in one place. You cannot do nothing. [Apathy is the worst emotion, after all, because it is the lack thereof.]

I take risks. I make mistakes, and I make them again, and again, but I do learn from them. I repeat, but with variation. Always with variation.

And this academic year has been the biggest change of my life thus far—I am at Oxford, my spiritual hometown. In England. Every day, every hour, every moment is magical.

All my life, I've been complicating things. "Making mountains out of molehills" would be putting it lightly, with a severe pinch of salt. I wanted my life to be interesting, to be like a novel. I wanted to write myself. I resisted following the crow—taking the direct route, the simple solution. I would always take the scenic.

So let me begin.

This is the story of periwinkles and incandescence.

It has a good beginning. And it will never end.