Viewing Gregynog Hall from behind a dust bin
One day i am a 28 year old guy standing in the middle of Accra Central holding up a camera attempting to film the scene of relative violence and chaos around the Kantamanto market.
The next moment, i am sitting in a 38-seater air-conditioned bus meandering along the hillsides of Wales listening to Donald Bryd’s jazzy rendition of ‘Just my Imagination.’
It not my imaginations though. All this is very real.
Its been a little over seven weeks since i left my homeland.
Seven weeks of adventure, interaction and connection. People, lives, personalities and perspectives influence my world view on a daily basis and i must say that sheepishly, i allow it to continue.
When Lindsay – the spectacled Taiwanese lady currently dozing off in the aisle close to mine – shares her frustrations about how she looks forward to the days when her homeland would experience true liberation from China; when Chetna – the twenty-something, ever-smiling Indian beauty – displays such admirable and coveted adherence to her religious ideals in spite of the daunting ‘distractions’, why would i not allow it.
For three days, i have been cooped up in a breathtaking 400 year old estate called Gregynog Hall fleshing out my dissertation topic and establishing how the next couple of months are going to work out for me academically. Now, as we head for Pontypridd on our way home, i think that understanding the lives of the people who sit in Room 0.05 with me for lectures during the week, was the greatest discovery of all.
The view from behind
Take Lee Ping for example. The enthusiastic soul who nods more times during a lecture than an agama lizard when a lecturer speaks, can dance so well. He got the entire class cheering at the dodgy Halloween party on Thursday night.
The extrovert that is Nia Evans held nothing back when she gingerly walked across the room full of cheering course mates dressed as Mother Theresa; the rosary dangling, the wrinkles made so prominent with ink. Who would have ever thought!
The seeming gentle soul of Jayne Alice Lutwyche ‘shaking what her momma gave her’ to music from Rihanna on a night when ghouls were to lurking around the creepy corners of this enormous mansion. That was impressive to say the least.
Then there is the ‘Fab Bunch’ – Priyanka Sharma, Olivia Spilsbury, Susie Moozar, Lucy England and Dana Beltaji – These are the ladies who set the trends. They sure do know how to have a good time. One thing you should beware of is that conversations and debates, ranging from academic to fashion to world politics, never grow stale with this lot. TRUST ME. You should always know what you are talking about.
My Indian Family – Neeraj Krishnan, Rumela Basu, Ekta Rathi, Chetna Kapoor and Anugraha Hadke – Oh my Indian family. Neeraj is master of the ‘illusion of self’ but a great friend at that, Rumela is Queen of the jolly good and cheerful and has a thing for bald men (i think lol), Ekta is the voice of eternal wisdom and can set any storm at peace with her oratory, Chetna is the bundle of good nature wrapped in the cloth of unending ‘pain in the behind’. Anu is simply the intellectual discoverer. Together they form a bond so strong, and connection so unique.
There is the team i call ‘The wild side’ made of folks like Carla Guerreiro Santos – my housemate and leader of revolutionary crusades including the Halloween Party, Naimeng Dong (Rachel) – the lady with my sister’s name who manages to slip seamlessly out of range just when its most appropriate. Lorena Riveiro Rodríguez is the he pragmatic Spanish woman with a scary set of words for the utterly foolish things in life and Yen-Ling Hou (Lindsay) – Ever passionate about her homeland but with a streak of intelligence that could shock you.
Get some perpsective on life
There is Kavya Nath and Denise Puca, two ladies the world must watch out for. Speak little and do much. Most apt description for them. Kavya, despite her over-indulgence in all things Nadal, has an incredible appetite for all things intellectual, albeit sports bias. Denise, the political genius of Italy, might come across as detached initially but wields a golden heart and genius mind.
When the Croatian, Petra Kovačević and the Indian Shreya Arora smile – Petra more than Shreya, it is a moment to truly behold. They make one wonder why we don’t see it often. Perhaps that way we cherish it more. They are the most serious students in the class. Petra, classic researcher she will end up being and Shreya, tough news editor who delivers performance above all else. Thats what drives them.
As for that Sandister Girl dierrr… What more can i say. Always on that annoying Galaxy of hers researching this or that. Mtsewwwww. Yet she is scholar from Ghana so what do you expect.
The folks from China Town are a spectacle. From Mat Guo who always underestimates his creative ability to Akira Oda whose Facebook profile picture is a direct reflection of his nature; pensive. The Samuai, Wang Dante whose real self i discovered on a trip through the woods; a live wire looking for a chance to be freed. James Yan, the fast talking Chinese man from Shanghai who loves Manchester United more than i do is what i like about humanity; never go down without a fight. Zhao Zhang, now christened Snowden, is a surprise waiting to happen. Whoever thought a China man could be that funny in a balloon debate!
The Chinese ladies are always a hard nut to crack but so far my experiences with Yuchen Du – i mistook her for a guy when i sent a Facebook message to the guys in the class about a football class, Yang Liu, Chenzhi Zhang, Miao Miao, Xinyi Li – a complete pleasure to work with and know, Cassie Jiang – creative bundle of genius, Yolanda Li, Bing Li, Sarah Wei, Chenxi Li, Ye Zhang – who gave me my first tour of the world of Manga, Shang Lorelai and Miah Wang, have made it a pleasure i would love to relive the rest of my days.
The best way to understand people is to see life from their point of view
Pooja Mahesh and Sarah Weckerling, the gentle souls in the class. The brilliance of Sarah was all too evident during a class presentation in the afternoon of the day we arrived, Wednesday, at Gregynog Hall. Pooja, hardly says anything and when she does in rather hushed tones, has the attention of a cheetah ready to pounce and the memory of a sponge.
The ‘Men of Journalism’, as they have come to be known are complete work of art though. Take Benjamin Katz from South Africa. Complete mess of a man on the one side because it seems his hair is never combed, but always proceeds with the analytical mind of a professor on the other. Lucas Goetz, the French man who understands style about everything including facts and figures he is not given enough credit for. His wit is deep and requires a sharp mind to comprehend. Jonathan Scammel, the guy who locked me out of my room thus preventing me from showcasing the DJ side of Ghandi. He might not say much or seem to do much, but any man who has a history degree is worth his salt. He writes with a majesty that could take him places.
Aksel Zaimovic, the Bosnian man who i believe forgets himself and becomes a completely different individual on occasion is another member. There are few journalism students who work for Aljazeera. He is one. I am yet to meet any others. That should tell you something. There is Charlie Young. Oh Charlie. If only they knew. If only they knew how underneath all those layers of clothes you always wear to class lay a prowling mind and knowledge. If only!
The two oldest folks (yes, i am sheepishly smiling while writing this) are Andres and Mohammed. Andres is an expert in telecommunications partly because he used to run one and retired and partly because he holds a Masters as well. Mohammed, my Nigerian writer colleague who allows his experience to ooze from himself through his work. The two of them are inseparable often times.
As you can see, nothing prepares you for this influx of varied belief systems, ideologies and culinary preferences. Nothing prepares you for the love, care, drive and passion.
The only way i survive is to set my mind on a journey of perpetual discovery!