I don't wake up soaked in perspiration any longer; at half past seven in the morning, a thick mist envelopes the trees and the highway, and a soft rain falls steadily. It doesn’t sting or hurt or drum down forcefully like tropical rain, but falls as if it was always there, a constant fixture like the air or the sky.
This is England, and I’m actually here; in a different continent for the first time, but in a coastal city as usual.
I didn’t have a first ‘memorable’ glimpse of England, closeted that I was close to the middle of the aircraft, as far away as possible from a window. I don’t know if majestic buildings rose into the sky, their spires and domes getting larger by degrees, or if a lake-dotted landscape came into view. Never mind, though: there is plenty I can do and see, and I intend to make full use of my year here at Brighton.
September is just coming to a close, but autumn seems to be here already; on the road leading away from Heathrow, the leaves are breaking into a riot of vibrant colours, the more staid greens complementing them beautifully. On walks through the campus, my new Malaysian flat mate and I are amused to note how the English girls walk around in short skirts and flimsy tops, while we bundle ourselves up in our warmest coats and prepare for a year in jeans. A brief glimpse of the sun and its soft warmth on our skin feels heavenly; it doesn’t take long for a nippy wind to arise from nowhere and chill us to the bone if we’re caught without our jackets.
My room looks out at a little brick cottage whose purpose I’m unaware of; beside it is a clump of trees at whose feet are strewn dead leaves. The slightest gust of wind sends the dry leaves floating from one of the trees. Another of its kind has already been stripped bare, and stands up like a toothless old man, robbed but proud. The trees absorb the noise from the highway and turn the roar of engines into distant swishes; I owe it to them that I don’t toss and turn in bed all night, but sleep like the dead.
Being thrown in with five new people in an apartment is an interesting experience. We’re all Asian- Indian, Malaysian, Chinese, Lebanese and Pakistani, with Turkey providing a partial European flavour. (Four of these countries are on the F1 calendar- digression.) It has been an interesting experience this far, and the abandon with which we are able to mingle with one another and talk politics and religion has almost surprised me.
The sky is turning a deep, inky blue, without the rose-coloured splendours of a tropical twilight. There is much to see, much to do, and a whole year of learning ahead.