Back to school

As schools went back after the summer break, my summer hadn't really finished here in sunny southern Spain. The sun still had enough ardour to match mine for it, yet it was time for me to go back to school too. Not back to studying books and sitting in classrooms, but back to life, life as I choose it, back to studying this world, back to my at least once yearly, backpack on, board the plane and fly off to somewhere many miles away kind of schooling.

This year's classroom was Sri Lanka, the teardrop island off the southern tip of India. Everywhere I go I try to learn something new, a language, a culture, a way of life different to my own. There is so much to learn, there is so much to see and do.

It is always two days here, three days or one there, as long as we want, as long as it takes to see and learn, to take it all in. meeting people, leaving and meeting again. These are your classmates, you might not sit in the same lessons but the journey you are doing is the same. Discussing with each other how a certain place is over a beer, whether you should stick to the plan you made or change it if it isn't worth it. You inevitably exchange study notes.

And those notes you will revise. The pages of waves lapping on soft sandy shores that go on for miles, wading out in to the waves that keep coming like the lines on a page. Heading upwards in to mist swamping a hilltop, stomping and sweating, learning the right contours and places to place each foot. All that effort for a view.

Hitting the roads, hiring scooters or riding in tuk-tuks, making your own way or letting others show you theirs. The journey can be be difficult and bumpy and never straight forward, but there is always the reward at the end of it - the view, the ambience, the feel, the new sights and sensations, all your senses are firing on all cylinders.

Music can carry us there, music is always a study aid, it is my writing catalyst, my fuel to my journey. Toe tapping and head bopping over dinner. Getting tranced in synths and basslines and the beat of the day. Dancing in the evening over the local moonshine. Beers at any time of the day. The rules are that there are no rules to stick to. It is always happy hour.

As the school day finishes, one day I got asked to play cricket with the son of the homestead I was staying at and his friends. We played n the middle of a dusty dirt street with a chair as a wicket, though I was a child with them again on the lush green field in my six weeks summer holiday all those years ago in England. I learned that this sport is in their blood, just like hockey is for me. That same passion drove a ten-year old to clean bowl me (in my defence, he did chuck it and not 'bowl' it...). Still, never underestimate a child, especially in sport, they will soon overtake you when their physiques fill out. Language is irrelevant when you are on the pitch, you find a common wavelength. Just like when you meet other travellers on your way, you are in this together for the same cause.

There will always be moments for hairs to stand on end, something to hold your breath a second for. I can still feel that as I write this, it makes me feel like I am still there. In my mind I never left. Not just Sri Lanka, or Costa Rica or Vietnam, Bali or Bolivia or anywhere else I have been to in these recent years since I picked up my schooling once again. I learn the lesson and I keep learning. You are a a student for life, never forget that, I am in this school forever, I know myself, I will be forever driving down the travel highway, a sponge on wheels. Onwards and upwards, I face the rock and I want to climb, I just have to climb it. Motorways of my mind, it is so real and I am present, I never will bunk off a lesson.

And when the time came to step back on the plane, taking off over a canopy of coconut green, a teardop can come as big as the shape of this place itself. The school bell rings, until the next lesson.


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