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Written by hand

by Tihomir Tsenkulovski (EU International Relations and Diplomacy - Manuel Marin promotion)

“I love your hand-writing!” is such a rare compliment nowadays. In our age of bustle and pragmatism writing by hand has become virtually obsolete. Yet slowing down and letting the ink of a pen or the graphite of a pencil freely interact with the texture of paper can feel quite liberating and allow you not only to focus but also to occasionally day-dream and even have a brain-wave.

While listening to the lecture I occasionally cast a glance around. Most people were typing vigorously. From the professor’s point of view everyone must have looked so absorbed into what she was saying. This must have reassuring to her. However, being seated on one of the upper rows of the amphitheater, I had a different perspective: laptops had multiple screens open, which could allow one to do a stunning array of eclectic tasks simultaneously – not merely typing but also taking a moment to keep abreast of the latest news, the weather report, to check the canteen menu for the day, to compose an email, to browse for articles on the library database for a forthcoming assignment, to draft the table of contents of an essay, and to do some online shopping surreptitiously. The professor tried to make an eye contact but very few eyes were there to meet hers. This could not discourage her. As I had no computer but a notebook and a pencil in front of me, I would alternate scribbling down a few lines or key words with lifting my head to nod a little and make sure to look at the professor’s face, digesting what she has been explaining, and – only when in need of a little break - drawing something on one of the notebook’s margins. I felt like whiling some time away until the end of the lecture and allow my thoughts to float to remote places and vicariously visit my family and friends in most remote parts of the world – Bulgaria, Cuba, Iceland, New York City, Prague, Belgrade, Granada, Madrid, Vienna, Budapest, Rio Grande do Sul, Berlin…

“Let me sail, let me sail, let the Orinoco flow.

Let me reach, let me beach on the shores of Tripoli.

Let me sail, let me sail, let me crash upon your shore.

Let me reach, let me beach far beyond the Yellow Sea.

Sail away, sail away, sail away…”

I didn’t have much choice – no computer screens for multi-tasking. However, in between the last pages of my notebook I found a blank postcard with a view of some swans by a lake in Bruges. I looked around with stealth, also paying attention to what the professor was saying with a glance at her face, a nod of understanding and a countenance of profound concentration. I turned the postcard back gently and started writing - from the stand-point of the professor I was just the odd one out taking lecture notes by hand:

“Dearest mother, father, and brother, dearest babo Ivanke, life in Bruges is treating me well. I have met like-minded people, with whom we have teamed up to organize a week in April under the motto of “United in Diversity” - a celebration of the arts and creativity to explore how our cultural differences can complement one another. Coming from the poorest country in the European Union and having to now live in one of most prosperous ones confronts me with many differences and paradoxes that I have to somehow bridge in my mind and heart; I am grateful for this challenge. I do hope that you will come to visit me here soon when everything will be in full bloom! Much love, T.”

The lecture came to an end. I smiled at several friends on my way out. I placed my notebook on the back of my vintage bike and made my way to the canteen for lunch. While standing in line, a friend paid a compliment to the oldfashioned label on the cover of my notebook: “I do like your hand-writing! May I have a look? Oh, it looks so quaint with this label on it and this calligraphic handwriting.” I thanked, took the notebook back and when I started turning the pages, I suddenly realized the postcard was missing – it must have fallen somehow while I was in a hurry on my bike. Hand-written letters and postcards sometimes go astray. The sheer poetry of having written one nonetheless persists. When they do reach the addressee, they bring a blissful moment in their life at the bare sight of the envelope, the postcard and the stamp that you took the time to choose and to take to the post office adorned with the unique curves of your hand-writing.


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