Surprised by Joy in Oxford: Some direction from C.S Lewis by Jane Hosking

A door in the Eagle and Child, the pub frequented by Lewis and Tolkien, Oxford

A door in the Eagle and Child, the pub frequented by Lewis and Tolkien, Oxford

The other day I went to Oxford. I wanted to see the place where two of my favourite writers, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, used to study, teach and hang out. Going there reminded me of a story that C.S. Lewis tells about his first time to Oxford in his book, Surprised by Joy.

Lewis had arrived at the train station that is on the west side of the town and was not sure which direction to walk in to get to the centre of the city. He set off in the direction he thought was best and as he walked he began to feel very disappointed by what he saw. Oxford wasn’t nearly as beautiful as what he had expected. But he kept on walking, hoping to soon come upon something impressive.

It wasn’t until he had walked past the small houses and came to the fields at the edge of the town that he decided to turn around and reassess the direction in which he was walking. It was then that he suddenly saw the beautiful medieval city behind him rising up over the small town houses. He then realised that he had been walking in completely the wrong direction the whole time. Lewis explained how this story was very similar to his own experience in life and the way he was living and lacking purpose before he knew God and before he became aware of true joy in life.

While in Oxford we went to the Eagle and Child pub where Lewis and Tolkien used to work on the manuscripts of their books. It was an amazing feeling to sit and drink a hot cider in the very place where my heroes once sat, laughed, drank, and wrote their masterpieces that have contributed so much to the world. Thank God Lewis found the right direction in the end.

Riding with Borat by Jane Hosking

Arriving in Turkey and an unexpected taxi ride.

It was with a lot of fear that I left Germany and boarded my flight to Istanbul. This was the real beginning of my extended world adventure. I was stepping out into the unknown and felt anxious not knowing what lay ahead. I had planned to meet my friend Emma at a hostel in Sultanahmet. I’d looked up the details online and felt confident enough as it didn’t seem far from the airport.

On arrival I quickly purchased a local sim card before venturing outside to get a taxi. The next driver in line greeted me with an over enthusiastic smile. He had a striking resemblance to the character Borat: tall and lanky, a long thin face with big features, dark hair, a large moustache, and he wore big reflecting aviator sunglasses.

As we began the drive he started practising his English with me, grinning broadly and speaking loudly—just like Borat. After the basic pleasantries of asking where I was from it turned out the rest of his English knowledge consisted only of swearwords. “F*%K!” he said repeatedly. “F*%K ME!” He seemed very happy with himself. It wasn’t entirely clear if he knew exactly what he was saying. But from his cheeky expression, it seemed he had at least some idea.

After driving for 15 minutes or so I realised that we were no longer in a built up city area but seemed to be heading out into the countryside. As Borat drove on I started to become very worried. “What the hell was happening and why were we no longer in the city?” I thought. I knew I couldn’t ask him because he wouldn’t understand. So I started imagining ways I could escape. If he slowed down could I jump out of the car?

As my palms started to sweat I suddenly had a thought to check our location on Google Maps. My phone sim card had taken a while to become active but had just kicked in. As I loaded the map, I saw that we were very far from the hostel and were—as I had thought—driving out into the countryside. But just before I was completely overwhelmed with terror, I looked closely at the map and realised that there were in fact two airports in Istanbul and I had flown into a different one from what I thought (thanks to my eagerness to get the cheapest ticket possible!).

What a stupid mistake to make. Borat was not driving me to a secluded location where I would never be heard from again. He was driving out and around Istanbul from the Asia side to the Europe side in an attempt to avoid the traffic. I was suddenly both relieved and annoyed at the same time. This taxi ride was going to be expensive! At least I had Borat to entertain me for the rest of the drive and I was soon at the hostel meeting with Emma to begin our adventure in Turkey.

A lesson from Lucki in monsooning Mumbai by Jane Hosking

The unexpected challenges of travel bring the best kind of people across your path. 

The adventure began with a quick, four-day stopover in Mumbai. India had a lesson for me to start me off on my journey. This was not my first visit to India. I had previously spent about one year and four months in the country on four different occasions, for volunteer work and study.

India is like no other country I have ever been, where the only thing that can be expected is that things will be unexpected. It always seems like fate and extraordinary experiences follow you wherever you go in India. Life there is both richer and harsher than anywhere else I know.

This trip was just a quick bonus visit to one of my Indian friends who I used to study with in Delhi. When I arrived, Mumbai’s roads were running like rivers from the monsoon rains. Traffic was more hectic than I had ever experienced before. People from all over India have flocked to the Bollywood city in search of a brighter future, but the growth rate has been unsustainable. As a result, a sea of slums made up of small shanty houses with blue tarpaulin roofs stretch for miles across the city.

On this particular day I had planned to meet my friend Supriya for lunch nearby her office. We had arranged the time and place and as my phone didn't have an Indian sim card Supriya told me to use the pay phone across from her work so I could tell her to come down and meet me. But of course, nothing goes to plan in India.

I travelled almost an hour in the crazy traffic, trying to shelter myself from the rain that poured in through the sides of my door-less auto-rickshaw. I finally reached Supriya’s office gate with only a small amount of difficulty. Fortunately I remembered enough Hindi to help in getting to the right place. I knew even then that it had been too easy so far and that India must have some obstacle in store for me. But I set off hopefully into the rain, with my umbrella clutched tightly in my hand, on a mission to find the payphone.

I went to the shops directly across from Supriya's office. This is where the phone was meant to be. “Bhaiya, payphone kahan hai?”, I asked the shopkeeper where the phone was, all too expectantly. He simply replied, “Phone yahan nahin hai” (There is no phone here). He pointed up the road, as if to indicate that there was a phone not far off. I walked on for a few metres and asked again, ““Bhaiya, payphone kahan hai?”. I had played this game before and knew that it was not wise to trust the directions of one person alone. Again I was waved on and directed by a man who spoke rapidly in a thick Hindi accent that I pretended to understand. This process repeated itself until I was 200 metres down the road, around the corner and standing in a muddy alleyway with no payphone in sight.

In a miserable monsoon-soaked mood I decided to try one more time. I asked a nearby shopkeeper, “Bhaiya, payphone kahan hai? Mera phone kharab hai.” (Brother, where is the payphone. My phone is not working). He looked up at me with a smile and without hesitating he pushed his phone towards me. I took it gratefully and called Supriya. There was no answer. But I had found myself in good hands. The shop keeper, aptly named Lucki, took it upon himself to make sure I got in contact with Supriya, who, as it turned out, was stuck in a meeting. For the next half hour I hung out at Lucki’s shop while he called and messaged Supriya repeatedly with his phone. Meanwhile he chatted to me politely and fed me Mentos, with no expectation of getting anything in return. He kept on saying to me as he struggled to get onto Supriya, “This is India!”. He explained also that although India has some problems there are good things about the country as well. And for me, Lucki was a perfect example of that. We did get onto Supriya in the end and she was very apologetic as we went for lunch.

I know that there are bad people in the world and that, at times, it can be very hard being a traveller. But Lucki was a reminder for me, at the beginning of a very long journey, that no matter where you go, there will always be good people who will help you out when help is needed. I’ll never forget Lucki’s kindness.

The childhood contract that led to an extended world adventure by Jane Hosking

I was 11 years old when I dreamt of traveling the world. At the time I lived in a small country town in Australia, and I spent my days climbing trees and playing barbies with my next door neighbour, Emma. We were an adventurous pair and we always had a sense that there was more to the world than our little town. Watching the adventures of Sinbad and other movies gave us a brief insight into the world outside.

One day we watched a film together called ‘Only You’. The story was about a young woman who searches for her destiny and her true love in Europe. In hindsight, the movie wasn’t great, but we were young, naive romantics, and were inspired to make a pact for the future. When we finished university we would travel to Europe together. We wrote out the details, including the places to go and even the outfits we would wear. We made a copy of ‘the contract’ for us both, signed our names on it, and swore that one day we would fulfill the plan.

The original copy of the contract from 1998. Note the destination of Venus and not Venice.

The original copy of the contract from 1998. Note the destination of Venus and not Venice.

Years went by and Emma left our small country town for boarding school in the city. We didn’t see each other much after that. But still, during my teenage years, when I was sick of high school and our small town, I dreamt of the world beyond and our future adventure. Our brothers told us that we were just dreaming and that we would never fulfill our contract. But Emma and I were determined.

High school came and went, and university too. Then at the beginning of 2013 Emma and I caught up and agreed that the time had come. I quit my job and decided that I wanted to travel for about 6 months. Emma would join me in Turkey (still technically Europe) and we would then travel to Israel together before she left to go back home and I continued my journey.

After learning for years from books I want to learn from the world. These stories will contain the adventures and lessons learnt from my travels with Emma and my extended world adventure.