Bye

And thus the adventure ended. I boarded my severely delayed flight out of Chennai airport, had a layover in Mumbai, and slept all the way to Munich. As quickly as those two years had come and gone, I was home again.

There’s something very nostalgic about returning home after a short leave. Everything’s the same, yet it’s a little off. Your place looks the same, but there’s a new chair in the corner or a new painting on the wall. Perhaps something broke. Who knows. This isn’t to say that things should simply be in a gridlocked state of nothing-ness from when you leave and when you come back home. It’s to try and explain how hard it is to see the change you’ve made yourself until you can reflect in your friends and places when you come home. Because we see our own change from day to day it only becomes apparent when you see the sudden change of others; and to some extent the sudden detachment you feel from them.

Your plans change too. When suddenly confronted with the uncomfortable realities of modern life you realize that practicalities and time constraints stand between you and your dreams. Whether it’s my ambition to conquer more classical literature trophies for my bookshelf or if it’s to get back in shape, everything suddenly takes twice as long as expected and it’s competing for the same 24-hour day cycle. So much to do, but not enough time.

When back at MUWCI we had a guest on campus to learn from our Trivenis. He noted, after seeing it multiple times, that he was dumbfounded by our frequent introspections and reflections. That after every day, succesful or failure, we would reflect. I took that home with me. This might be the last post, as a testament to this frequent reflection and to the journey that was India. This website will be one long interactive journal. One where I can come back and feel embarrassed of my own teen angst and drama. This marks the end of the blog, but not the adventure,

i’m so ready, i’m so scared

 

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The days are flying by in a tempo that’s equally rapid and tired. The mornings come and go and every day is spent at the same desk studying for the same test, the same exam, ready the same chapters over again just to make sure; what if I’d missed something. Let’s make coffee, let’s go for a walk, let’s cook together.

Let’s just forget that we’re sitting like cows in a barn waiting to get slaughtered.

We’re all next to each other. We see the same struggles in each others eyes; the same fears of inadequacy. It’s finally here; here’s to finals.

April came with the beauty of spring paired with the intensity of Indian summer. As if the entire subcontinent holds its’ breath before the storm arrives, yet a storm that I won’t get to see.

In 10 days I’m done, but what is next? Everyone’s focusing on the next obstacle in their lives, as if it was rested on rails for them; always another test, another class, another submission, another school, another degree, another job, another life.

Yet I’m not; I’m copping out.

The next year will be as daunting as it will be exciting. I hate the term gap year, as it indicates that all it is is a gap before I get back on track. What if I don’t care about Ivies, GPA’s, and varsity teams? Where can I go then?

I was just booking my flight tickets home and was deciding upon where to depart from. Wield your weapon, pick your choice. I’ve always Imagined the feeling of leaving Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport’s emigration queues behind for a final time. The thought of passing through the beautiful cosmopolitan hub of an airport, slammed in the middle of Mumbai’s largest slum would summarise my experience of India; the country of opposites.

Because India is not just a country of overpowering poverty, it is also a country of disgusting wealth. Beautiful nature and concrete jungle. Rolling mountains and ferocious seas; India has it all.

Learning to love India is learning to see past its’ imperfections; to fall in love with its’ inadequacy. India is not the land of dancing, festivals, and flavours that we’re taught in the Orientalist West. India is the workaholic always catching up, the runner catching their breath, the dancer who only just sticks the landing. It’s like this every single day. India is the literal mover of mountains whenever it blows them down, the cultural heresy towards legacy when you see the Coca-Cola advert in front of the landmark, the sleeping giant that hustles through every day just to make it before dawn. It is a marvel that this country doesn’t implode every single day. It is a wonder how it works.

And what a time it has been. Hidden away in my little alcove named MUWCI, shielded from the intensity of this country; like an embassy of calm in the middle of the storm.

Thanks for the trips, the mountains, the summit attempts,
the bike crashes, the nights in Paud, the days in Pune,

Thanks for the hanging out of jeeps, the long drives and conversations
the scars on my body, and the soul, that will forever be the memories I earned

thanks, india
although you were all grown up already,
i still feel like I grew up with you

On exhaustion and art

I’m tired and exhausted. My brain has been sleep deprived and overclocked by caffeine. I’ve had 18 hour work days for weeks and lacked a social life. I’ve been sprinting a marathon and I finally crossed the finish line.

At MUWCI we have a spring tradition called theatre season. Students, faculty, staff and volunteers go together in an extravaganza of theatre and artistic expression over 3 weeks where we put on plays every single night. Being a second year theatre student I followed the norm and directed a rewritten version of Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. It has been in the woodworks since November and on Monday it finally culminated in our premiere. Thank god it went well.
The process was giving and draining. From last Thursday till Monday we terraformed our multi purpose hall into the fictional island of New Penzance, complete with a forest, a dock, two houses and a camp. The excitement of dragging in leaves and trees through the weekend was replaced with relief and serenity of dragging it out again afterwards.
Moral of the story? You can make everything look beautiful with fairy lights. Maybe I’ll study theatre. Maybe I won’t. Let’s see.

Last week we passed the 100 day mark. As I’m writing this, graduation is 92 days away. To think that the end of my UWC experience is creeping in so hastily is terrifying; 92 days away from a flag with hats and a last goodbye. Being physically removed from the campus will be tough, as it’s been the canister of the past two years of my life. MUWCI has been such an intense experience that you rarely take time to distance yourself and retrospect and thus you’re taken by surprise when the end is near. 2 years ago I was in between two of the selection processes and UWC was so distant to me; I didn’t even consider it a possibility because the process seemed so daunting. Two rain seasons later I’m approaching the end and I feel both excited and nostalgic.

Now there’s a pause and we’re heading for a retreat on the beaches of Goa. Five days from now I’ll by sipping drinks on the white sand shores and scooting around the forests. MUWCI certainly gives you some exciting experiences; just not as many as the brochures makes you think. But hey, I would never have been able to fight fires in the wild, climb mountains in the Himalayas or play a gig in front of thousands of people — silver lining and all that

If you’re considering applying to UWC consider whether or not you want it. UWC’s a lot of things, but there’s a lot of things that UWC isn’t. UWC isn’t a utopia or a paradise. It’s still filled with drama, Math reports, GloPo papers, Extended Essays, rough days and long nights. Does this make it difficult? Certainly. Does this make it a waste of your time? Most certainly not. UWC is also a place where you get to challenge yourself daily and grow beyond what you saw possible. UWC’s a place where you can find your true preferences and where no one thinks you’re weird for buying seven Chomsky books, for discussing nature vs. nurture over lunch or for shaving off your hair for charity. UWC might seem daunting, but it’s also incredibly exciting.

Now let’s see what happens with my university applications,

The last leg

I found myself standing there, in the white room with the tall ceilings and full sized mirrors on a cold Monday night in December. People had brought their parents, I hadn’t told mine. People were in shirts and slacks, I was in a hoodie, drenched with rain from the bike ride here. The others must have gotten there by car. They’d probably come from afar. This was an important thing and I was completely misplaced. Firstly because I was underdressed and unaccompanied. Secondly because I had already emptied the internet for any ounce of information about UWC, I didn’t need to hear their pitch, see their photos or hear their stories. I had already read their blogs. But there I was, drenched in rain and out of place, completely certain that this is where I wanted to be.

MUWCI is mostly done in different legs. You arrive during your first term, settle into your second term and live it out in your third term. You always have a next term and a next leg in front of you. Graduation in first year is sentimental, but no too hard because you’ll be back. Hence now that I’m in my fourth term (this feels surreal to put in writing), I’m fast approaching the end of my UWC experience. There are no longer a next term, no longer a distant second year in which you aspire to realise yourself; there’s graduation and then there’s uncertainty. For now I’ll appreciate the privilege of having someone cook, clean and plan for you. MUWCI is an illusion of the real world and it’s about to burst. I’m not ready to say goodbye to these buildings, these people and this hill. Neither am I ready to see the joy in my first year’s eyes as they get news of their first year and the excitement of their incoming second year; because I’m not a part of that.

MUWCI is a huge cycle and you get to see its repetitiveness first hand when you come back in August. Next time I hand in my FRO papers in immigration they won’t stamp them, they’ll take them. Every event is now a last and soon this will be a memory that I long to relive. Would I do another year? Am I so sentimental that I don’t want this to end at any cost? No, but there’s definitely a melancholy to the impeding end of things as I know them. This blog is titled “All Adventure From Here”, but am I ready to leave this adventure for the next one? Will there be a next one? Who knows. This was all started as a blog on UWC, on me in UWC, not just on me. My second years comfort me by saying that your real experience doesn’t start until after you graduate, but it must be a very different kind of experience. The best thing about UWC is that you have friends all around the world. The worst thing? Your friends are scattered all around the world.

My plans for the near future? Not university; yet at least. I need to distance myself from the bubbles I’ve lived in. I need to work, travel, write and create. I’m excited at the prospect of seeing my family who’s grown and changed just as much as I have. I’m ready to live day by day for once and discover the sense of spontaneity that I’ve so longed for all my life. I’m ready to leave these walls behind and blend into the so easily forgotten past that UWC alumni live in. I know that I can’t just relax for a year. MUWCI has made me need the stress and hustle of life here. I need the work and I need the challenge. I hope the next year will be challenging in completely different ways.

Perhaps I’ll find myself in the same tall and daunting white room next year. The same sense of being misplaced, the same stench of rain on a cold Monday night. I just won’t be listening as much as I’ll be talking. My two years here will be the experience that I was sold 30 months earlier and I will be passing it on. Maybe I’ll be sitting on the other side of the interviewing table, staring into the eyes of hopefuls in the position that I was in so very long ago. Until then I’ll make the most of it. Better to burn out than to fade away, right? I hope so,

Goodbye, third term.

There’s an old couple drinking ridiculously small beers next to me. The air smells like a combination of detergent and free samples of perfume in duty free. I have a gin tonic in my hand. There’s an odd charm to airports.

We’re connecting through Munich. I prefer that much more than connecting through the Middle East, as flying directly to Munich only requires one connection. There’s something weird about sitting in an airport in a country you’ve never visited or been to before and seeing people you know walk by. Some say that your UWC experience doesn’t begin until after you finish your stay. I don’t know about that.

Honestly, these last couple of days have been quite sentimental. As I was walking back from Pelham’s annual Christmas dinner on his lawn a co-year of mine pointed out that next time we leave, we leave for good. That’s terrifying. As much as we love to criticise and take shots at these place, we’d all be fucking lost without it. In the conversations I’ve had in these past days I’ve been oddly defensive about UWC. Something new for a change. Everything we do now begins to be the last of something. That’s terrifying too. We’ll never have Christmas dinner again. We’ll never leave for break; we’ll leave for good. We’ll never have another ToK deadline again (That one I’m actually ok with). And hey, before we know it it’ll be grad and we’ll be crying of happiness, sadness and stress whilst we dance into the night. One last night.

I received a letter from a friend the other day. She stressed the importance of enjoying the good things about MUWCI rather than focusing on the bad. In a small remark, she pointed out how MUWCI seemed, in retrospect, to be more of a dream than a reality and now that she mentioned this I can’t stop thinking that. Tomorrow I’ll wake up back home and MUWCI will actually feel like a dream.

I’ve learned so much these past years and I’m so ready to learn more, but how will I find a community as loving, supporting and, most importantly, challenging as I’ve found at MUWCI. How will I find teachers who care, friends who push and an environment that allows me to never worry about real life. They talk about a MUWCI bubble and this metaphor seems oddly accurate now. Bubbles burst.

Now I’m heading back. One last time before fourth term? Am I ready? Fuck yeah. I’ve never been more ready in my life. Am I scared? Fuck yeah. I’ve never been more terrified in my life.

Here’s to fourth term.
Third term is history. Fourth term is mystery. Today is a gift, which is why it’s called the present.
– Sharada Vakil

A time for change

It’s indescribable to explain the serenity and peace of a UWC campus during exeat. A place, usually so filled with passion and emotion, is suddenly like a sleeping giant; a silence before the storm. Choosing to stay on campus over travel week was definitely a smart decision, one I initially made with rationality of the oncoming deadlines and exams, but it was only during and after that I realised it was mostly a retreat for my emotions and my mind. Calm can be found in the busiest of places after they close.

I was tired at that time. I’m tired now and I’ll most likely be tired tomorrow. I always expected third term to be a sprint, but now I know that it’s a marathon. Deadline after deadline and exam after submission, you become tired; submissive. This is perfectly exemplified by when I submitted my EE. After working on it for days, weeks and months there was little time to celebrate the four thousand word hegemon, because my Global Politics EA was due just 10 hours later. Double all nighters are a thing.

At the time of writing exeat seems like a distant memory. A time of quiet and peace not before, but in the middle of a storm. We’re almost there. My tickets are booked for the 14th of December and my friends back home are already making plans. God, I’m excited.

The time of endings is also the time of reflection and this term has been a clusterfuck collection of surprises and loose emotions. We were ready to lose our 2nd years, but we weren’t ready to lose the place that they had created. MUWCI is different this year. Not better, nor worse. Just different. I miss my friends and 2nd years who’re now abroad and on adventures, whilst I feel stuck here for another year. I feel so spoiled for feeling stuck, because this place was my is mine and so many others dream and I better make the fucking most of it while it lasts.

There are upsides to being a second year though. You don’t feel (as) lost as in your first year. Where your first and second term was a time of failing, exploring and misunderstanding misinterpretations, second year is calmer. Having first years is fun and oddly nostalgic to when you came here first. I mean, they’re hardly much younger than you, but seeing them make the same mistakes and mishaps as you did in your first year and worry about the same redundant things makes you see the cycle happen.

The joy of seeing the innocence with the way first years exaggerate the smallest things, go on emotional roller coaster rides and constantly remind you just how amazing this place is makes me content. We’re cynical second years who’ve seen it all before and call it average. How fucking dare we. This excitement is leaving because of us. I hope I didn’t contribute to the killing of that excitement; it’s leaving the campus and being replaced with rationalism and cynicism. A new status quo.

It still feels like yesterday; the day I got accepted. I remember every step of the journey to get here, thinking that MUWCI was the goal whilst it in itself is the ultimate journey. Fuck visa problems, goodbye parties and crying relatives, you won’t understand the impact of leaving until you get here. And when you think it’s all over and the storm has passed, MUWCI sweeps you off your feet and throws into a sea of insecurity. What happens when you bring some of the most consequential and self assured teenagers from around the world into the same school? Extreme narcissism and none of us ever being enough.

So here’s to third term;
A time of all nighters and awakenings.
A time for planning your future and scrapping your plans.
A time for disappointment and failure.
A time for hard earned sevens easily slipping into disappointing fours.

But if we try just a bit harder, a time for love, exploring, understanding, adventure and most importantly of all

a time for change.

congrats, Dylan.

And all of a sudden we were second years

“So, here you are
too foreign for home
too foreign for here
never enough for both”

And thus, in the middle of August, midsummer and vacation shenanigans I stepped on EK504 from Dubai to Mumbai. A horrible meal, 67 pages and 5 Gin&Tonics later I landed in the crucible of cultures and confusion; Mumbai. A four hour jeep ride and a lunch stop at McDonalds and we crossed the gate. As if we never left.

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In many ways returning somewhere is harder than leaving it. Dragging my bags back to my room and seeing all the smiles I had parted with in May, I realised that not only had I lost my second years, I had lost my sense of belonging. Your second years are such forces when you arrive and they do set the tone for your experience. I used to ask them
       “when do you become ready to be a second year?” to what they would answer 
“you never really do.”

I didn’t quite realise just how true this was until I returned. The first week was wonderful, only your co-years and teachers around, late night dinners, turned parties, turned sleepovers, turned brunch. No expectations and a mutual understanding of what this place is, was and what we wanted it to be. That passed and our home was flooded with 120 new, excited, enthusiastic and wonderful first years, who’s only fault was, that they weren’t our second years. How can we dare to blame them for that? They will understand in August 2017.

Life is returning to normal, I won’t allow myself to be melodramatic, but it will never be the same and that is something we must learn to live with. I do like my hill, but just like the rest of us, it changes year after year.

 

monsoon rains, first blocks
early morning
alarms
ringing, ringing loud and taking
me, taking me,
where?
home away from
home,
home is,

but where?”

 

Home is where

EDIT: This post was started and finished at two very different times and was supposed to be finished long, long ago. Please understand that time is a kind of loose concept for now. Enjoy.

This post was begun at an altitude 30.000 feet (No worries, European allies. I only stop using the metric system when regarding airfare), one would like to challenge his newly acquired altitude skills, after climbing in both Leh and Stok Kangri.

Since the last post, an eternity has passed. I’ll excuse myself with saying that I’ve been without access to both computer and internet, something quite extraordinary in our 21st century lifestyles. Exams were a (bore) stress, graduation came and went and arriving in Leh, Ladakh seems like an eternity ago. It’s hard to realise that one is now going home – wherever that is – for the first time since winter.

Graduation was a heartfelt goodbye to 110 (or something, I don’t know) of friends, family and foes familiarity – ? Set up as an all night extravaganza from 19:00 in the evening, to 10:00 in the morning – At what time, I left for Ladakh. If anyone of my 2nd years are reading (unlikely), I’d like you to know you meant tons to us and the lack of your presence next year, will leave MUWCI changed forever. I was entitled enough to say goodbye to many of you, but there were also a few I missed in the haze of happiness, tears and alcohol culinary pleasures. Leaving for Ladakh was tougher than expected and was accompanied by tears in the parking lot – Great start.


Change of (physical) venue. I just landed in Frankfurt airport and I’m waiting for my connecting flight to arrive. 7 ruthless hours from Delhi to Frankfurt were made slightly more enjoyable by an emergency exit seat and friendly staff. Small pleasures.

The difference between India and Germany is stark, obvious and immediate. Humidity and temperature aside, Germany is an ode to effectiveness with no waste of human capital – an effect of culture and (by Asian standards) high salaries. Information desks are electronic, security is a full body X Ray and your boarding pass at the gate is checked electronically and not by an overworked & understaffed Indian guy. This, the German lady mockingly notified me of when I approached her with my passport and boarding pass. What a waste of her time!

“Please scan your passport and boarding pass in the machine, sir.”

Her grimace turned even starker when I humorously noted „No waste of human capital, welcome to Germany.“

At least her co-worker found it funny.


The road to Leh is both long and slightly complicated – at least we made it so. Firstly, the bus ride to Mumbai is long and dreadful. The following train journey on India’s infamous railway system, 6 people with the luggage equivalent of 11, was *cough difficult. From Delhi, now a full group of 11, on to an airplane to Leh, Ladakh – One of the most dangerous landing strips in the world. The descent is sharply done over a mountain, then almost crashing into the tarmac, the wheels are on the ground. During the fly in you have the most magnificent views of the mountains and if you’ve been blessed with a window seat I was in the aisle, you’re in for a beautiful view.

Leh is a cultural melting pot set in the middle of a valley in the Ladakhi range of mountains. Wherever you go, you will have staggering views of the mountains 360 degrees around, like a snake circled around Leh. The tallest of them all, Stok Kangri, was the mountain we were setting out to climb and its’ alarming presence was hard to miss, as it towered over any other sorry excuse for a peak – Standing in at 6200 meters, Stok was king.

Our first few days were to be spent in absolute limbo, there was nothing. Slowly acclimatising we tried to busy ourselves unsuccessfully by eating, sleeping and doing push ups in the most random places (we didn’t want to waste our shape doing nothing.. Ha!). The days crept past and Stok kept looming over us.

When we left we set out for a 10 day round trip around the bottom of the mountain. This slow path was the safest way for acclimatisation. We went through 3 passes, countless valleys and arrived (finally) in basecamp. 36 hours later, at 22:00, we began our final ascent of the mountain. This marathon climb, 12 hours long and 1200 meters tall, loomed before us and climbing the first many hours in complete darkness made me question our chances. I’ve never felt this broken before, but somehow kept climbing. When the sun broke through we found us on the side of the most beautiful mountain I’ve ever seen.

And then we turned around.

This is usually the moment of horror when I tell the story. The faces people pull on me when they realise that I spent 20 days in the mountains only to turn around two hundred meters from the peak ranges from mocking to devastated. But yeah, that was how it went. We had bad weather, three climbers showing signs of mountain sickness and a long, long  way day. 3 in 4 expeditions never make it to the top and pushing on under bad conditions can go wrong – really wrong.  Also I have an issue with goal oriented rather than process oriented people, but that’s the subject of the next post I’m writing.

We wen’t down, had a sleep and returned to Leh; Broken, yet somehow stronger.


I’m no longer in Frankfurt Airport, neither am I newly returned home. This post has been on my computer screen the past summer, yet I haven’t had the gut to finish it. I just can’t. I return 7 days from now, am I ready? Ha. Who knows.

The worst part about travelling is not simply going home, which has lately been popularised by a blog post, it’s understanding that life goes on without you. You leave home, grow, and then expect everything to be the same when you return. It’s debatable if you’ve grown more or less than your peers (probably more, although I don’t want to glorify this idea of „Wanderlust“), but they’ve certainly grown as well.

You’re most likely not a vital part of their lives anymore – Shame.

This summer has been amazing – festivals, friends, family – and even though I’m excited to go back, I’d love just one more week more back home.

Or maybe two.

Waiting for the rain

From North to South, from valley to hill.

I look up, minds still racing on the math problem I was doing, my nostrils wide open and awoken, scanning for the gust of wind that just brought along the unmistakeable smell of

there it was again. Coming from the valley, or maybe internet hill, how can this be after it rained yesterday. It wouldn’t be the first time, but

there. again.

I stand up and walk out of my house, suddenly hit by the rising air pressure and the sight of rolling thundering clouds coming from the horizon. It’s here.

again, this can’t be true.

The smell of wildfire is a very distinctive smell – almost sweet – and all members of Fire Service knows it instinctively. We’ve learned to recognise it from midnight wakeup calls or 8 hour fire struggles in the reserve. We know it.

There I was, looking at the rolling clouds coming from east – or west – maybe north – I have no idea – and at the same time smelling an oncoming wildfire.

I’m dehydrated, bad for fire fighting. It is not rare to quench down 6 liters of water during a fire, if you remember to bring some. If you don’t, you’re fucked. With this thought in mind, I go and drink 2 liters – I’m in shape, ready for whatever

I stand again and look at the clouds – they must surely beat the fire, when will the rain come? In ten minutes, twenty, an hour? Who knows.

This must be the best race I’ve ever witnessed, that of a thunderstorm and a wildfire. I pray to whatever that the lightning bolts will beat the fire alarm. Maybe there wasn’t even a fire to begin with

unlikely, to say the least. But the smell was there, I know that smell

I smell the rainfall coming, it’s close, it will surely beat the fire and as I go back to my desk I fill coffee in my cup and put on that Bon Iver album again, it had just finished. Sitting here, smelling fire and rain and waiting for it to come. I leave in 15 days and many of these faces around me will be gone for years – a lifetime

sad

here’s to second year

UPDATE: The rain won  – big time.

Hey-Ho Hill Dwellers, To Where Do We Belong?

With only two weeks left of classes, the campus is becoming gradually more and more melancholic and nostalgic. Soon half of our best friends will leave us, leave for better places, but they’ll leave us all behind. It’s up to us to rebuild this place, change it, re-shape it for the better, but it’s going to be weird to become the older authority.
Here’s a short prose and a picture of my hill.

I miss

I miss cold weather and all my favourite blokes
I miss being on my bicycle, wearing several coats

I miss the Danish nightlife and feeling alive
I miss going home from the regular, in the shimmering Friday lights

I miss my friends and family, I miss where I belong
Although home is several places, my urge to go is strong

I’ll miss

I’ll miss the afternoon fires under the blistering sun
I’ll miss the post action rasna, the friends and the fun

I’ll miss the late night hikes, the stars, the thrill
I’ll miss the smiles, friends and family who lives on this hill

I’ll miss the friends who’s leaving, leaving my teary eyed
I’ll miss the lovely faces, to whom I’ll say goodbye

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