57.

I have been trying to embrace the excess of free time that I’ve got here, knowing that once school starts, it’ll probably be a different tune. I am so used to being busy back in Singapore, constantly doing something or anything to fill up my time that I’ve not been able to just not do anything. I’m sure most of us are in the same position – we believe that we need to constantly be busy doing something to justify our existence and worth, we forget that we have every right to just stop, breathe and just…. be happy with being alive.

I have been sick for the past few days so I’ve forced myself to take things slow and just be. I’ve stayed in my room a lot, taking all the vitamins and medications, and I’ve had quite a fair bit of time to reflect. I dare say that I’ll try to share not only about my adventures here but also little nuggets of self-discovery and lessons I’ve learnt. I intend this not to be just a journal of the things I’ve done but also hopefully, a witness of my growth as a student and a person.

Having said that, a few days ago, I had the opportunity to explore the area around my hall of residence. I’m blessed to have been assigned to this particular hall as it is located within a 2-minute walking distance from the famous ‘Curry Mile’ in Manchester. It is literally around the corner!

Famous throughout the UK for its fantastic wealth of Indian restaurants, Manchester’s Curry Mile has the largest concentration of Asian restaurants in the UK including Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi. – taken from http://www.visitmanchester.com

On this solo short adventure around the corner from where I stay, magic happened. But before I share about this little genius spark of fate, let me show you around Curry Mile!

The start of Curry Mile.

That’s an ‘Asian’ supermarket with rows and rows of spices, bread and halal meat!

There’s an abundance of butcheries which sell halal meat, so much so that if I’d chosen to be in a self-catered hall, I wouldn’t have had a problem!

There are also so many shops selling Indian and Mediterranean food along the road!

Not only do they have lots of halal food, I found to my extreme pleasure, that there are Islamic bookstores too! Oh boy, you should have seen how happy I was when I found out!

Anyway, the magic.

All the while, while walking along Curry Mile, I had the intention to look for the Islamic Centre nearby. I couldn’t find the website which had the directions so I figured I’d ask around for directions. I may be silly enough to go around on my own but I didn’t have it in me to ask Arab/Indian men (no offence) for directions. There weren’t any females on the road I was on so I’d thought to cross over and see if I can find any.

I was at the traffic light about to cross the road when I had the feeling to look behind. I strongly believe in intuition so I trusted it and turned around. That’s when I saw her.

She was walking with her head down and with an air of purpose. At first look I knew she’s a Malay and very likely a student too. I just stared at her, not knowing what to do for a moment. She must have felt my eyes on her because she looked up and saw me. She too, seemed struck to see me. For a while, we just looked at each other. Trust me, I’m not adding drama to this. In all my shamelessness, I plucked up the cheek to approach her and gave salam before asking for directions. It took her a while to regain equilibrium but when she did, she graciously told me she’d walk me there.

We clicked immediately.

Between the two of us, we had so much chemistry, it was unbelievable. I felt so comfortable and familiar with her and I’d dare say, she felt the same way too. We talked like old friends and I found out that she’s from Seremban and has been studying Architecture in Manchester for a few years now. She was actually taking a study break and was on her way home when He crossed our paths. I don’t know about you but I believe that in life, you’d meet certain people who are just more significant than others. I knew this was one of them. I can’t tell you enough how grateful I felt throughout the conversation. I was in need of help and He gave it to me in the form of a friend. Allahu akhbar! Verily, He knows best.

We eventually found the Islamic Centre which to be honest, caught me quite by surprise. Then again, I should probably just take whatever notions I have of a mosque and throw it out the window when I’m here.

Pretty pigeons!

The building is indeed decrepit and all and there were practically no one around. It’s also located in a part of town that isn’t exactly well-known for being safe so I figure I’d probably not be making my way there again in the foreseeable future. Well, not alone at least. Perhaps I’d just stick to the first Islamic Centre I found earlier.

By the time we arrived at the main road again, it was nearing maghrib and we both decided it was best for us to hurry back home before it gets too dark. She invited me to hang out at her house after she’s done with submissions and I’d more than gladly accepted! Thing is, no matter how much I love exploring, trying out new things, meeting new people and what-not, it’s always important to keep in touch with some sort of familiarity. I also know from experience that Malaysians who study overseas have brilliant hospitality (like those whom I met in Canberra!) and their friendships are worth keeping. 🙂

Other than that, in the times when I crave social interaction, I’ve been hanging out with the people from my block who are from all over UK, US and Europe,  so that’s been fun!  The plan is to head out to Old Trafford tomorrow (I went to Etihad earlier!) so expect an entry soon! Till then, have a fantastic day! ❤

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