I'm back to Newbold campus, back to school.
It's eight years since I first set my foot on the campus, and I have been reflecting on the differences of those two comings a lot. Because they are worlds apart. And I have to admit, I like the second coming much better than the first one.
It's all about people. It sounds so obvious but I come to that same conclusion again and again - it's all about people. They make all the difference in the world. I remember the first coming and the way lecturers' name tags on the office doors made me feel. In my mind, these theologians were super men and wonder women, dwelling in unreachable hights of academia. I didn't know how to approach them. This time the first thing I needed to get done on campus was getting my Riga students' exams second marked by T. I slided the exam papers under his office door before my class started, by the time we finished for lunch, he had gotten them read and marked. And we had a wonderful conversation about Greek and Newbold and life after agreeing on the grades. I almost missed my lunch. And it's just one tiny example. For another, we are planning our annual London date with Dr A. N., having decided to take on Tate Modern this time. We were supposed to go last weekend but unfortunately I was feeling poorly (the combination of a runny nose and a flight can sometimes end in a health mess that takes a week to clean up) so we are trying to come up with another date that would fit my (endless) classroom hours and her busy schedule. Just now, after a lunch, T. and A. broke into J-C.'s office as this seems to be the only office in Murdoch Hall with a coffee machine in it. They had their afternoon coffee shot, I just enjoyed their company (and was made fun of for not drinking with them:). And then after that I ran into L., the librarian, who was so pleased to see me that she invited me to have a supper with her next week. "I'd love to catch up," she said, and I was rather surprised because we have never been friends or anything - I mean, I was just a student here, always in the library, yes, but nothing else. These tiny little encounters, people being happy to see me, some lecturers having morphed from professors to dear friends and colleagues, their warm inclusiveness and interest in my life... I still cannot believe it. I dont think I've done much to deserve it and yet here it all is. My people. My community.
And there is more. I am glad I never did much that I should regret in Newbold. There are no haunting memories. On the contrary, there are so many sweet and happy memories which I have come back to. Just a couple of days ago when I arrived on campus, I needed something from a grocery store and I walked down to that tiny shop in Binfield as I wasn't well enough to go to Bracknell. And as I walked, a memory just hit me, as clear as anything - how we walked back from the same tiny shop with U. on the day I was to fly back home for summer, eating ice-cream and discussing life. I don't know where that memory came from, and I didn't quite know what to do with it. But it made me very thankful for all that time I had spent in this place, for all my friends and Waffle Wednesdays and what not that filled this place to brim with wonderful memories.
But some things aren't changed, of course. The caf is the same. The classes and long and evenings are packed with library and books, and at moments I do wonder why I would want to go through this pain once again. Dorm life is... eh, dorm life (we're sharing the dorm with about 100 screaming Brazilian kids who don't go to sleep until midnight while my classes start at 8 a.m). So I still have to do some adapting to college life. And yet, I know it's all worth it. My work and my life and my worries back home have, within a week, faded into vagueness, if I didn't have to reply to occasional emails (I have an article to write to the conference's magazine, a BA dissertation to supervise, a training seminar to prepare etc), I'd forget home even existed.
It is time for me to stop wasting my precious library time and get back to my book.
I miss my friends terribly tonight. J. and B. and J. and A. and L. and K. and S. and all the others. All I can do is to thank God for the time we had together.