Wednesday, 8 July 2009
Yet despite all the American conveniences like a dishwasher or Velveeta, I find myself longing for England. Although I have my car back and can freely drive down the right side of the road, my daily commute no longer includes walking past a one thousand-year-old tower or smelling the aroma of Cornwall’s Pasty shop on Cornmarket Street. I can eat at Chipotle rather than Oxford’s meager attempt at Mexican fast food, The Mission; but I can’t bring my takeout to the Oxford Union just across St. Michaels Street. I can find places to get a good, fruity or chocolaty cocktail, but even the prettiest drink at the most upscale social house or lounge couldn’t replace a pint of cider with black currant at The Eagle and Child.
Now that I’m home, I find myself constantly referring to the way things operate in England. I’m sure it becomes annoying to my family and friends when I compare everything here to Oxford, and I’ve found they lose interest pretty quickly. They haven’t experienced punting down the Thames with a bottle of wine or watching the Magdalen College choir sing atop the college tower on May morning. They don’t know what the University Church looks like or what makes clotted cream so delicious. It’s all very fictitious and too far removed to really understand. I sometimes wonder myself if the past five and a half months actually happened. It tends to seem like an incredible, yet distant, dream. I slipped back into my routine here so easily that it’s hard to believe I spent nearly half a year in another country. I have to look through my pictures and old journal entries to remind myself that, yes, I really did go to England.
And I still have a few shortbread and jam biscuits left; they help jog my memory too.
During my time in England I learned very important lessons which I hope I will be able to keep with me. I understand more fully the importance of time spent relaxing with a cup of tea and acquiring knowledge for knowledge’s sake. I still have my white tea every day, and I’ve ordered some new books on Amazon to feed my reignited hunger for reading. I just started reading "Neverwhere," a fantasy about the London Underground. I can imagine myself walking down the street with the main character, Richard, and visualize Harrod's or the Marble Arch. (Perhaps my literature choice is only making my British withdrawal worse). And despite the fast-paced way of life here, I hope my European influence will allow me to dig me heels into American soil and slow me down when I become too caught up with dates and deadlines. As graduate school applications and test dates linger in the all-too-near future, I’m sure it will be quite the task. But I’m going to give it my best shot.
My European excursion also taught me a lot about myself. I know now that I can travel half-way around the world and figure out what to do and where to go on my own. I can book flights and hostels, catch a sleeper train, and read maps in French, Italian, and German. And I have the confidence and know-how to backpack across Europe again, hopefully sooner than later. I’m no longer a child being led by the hand of my mom or dad. I’m a woman; free to make my own decisions and responsible for the consequences of those decisions.
Finally, although I find myself pining for England – for cream tea and Indian food, Blackwell’s and Primark – my time away has made me aware of the blessings I have here in the U.S.: The girls on my hall at Jewell sent me cards for Valentine’s Day, my grandma sent me little notes throughout the semester, my mom and sister stayed up late or woke up early just to say hi to me online, and my dad sent me emails to encourage me or just to tell me about his day. And when I walked through the door at Tulsa airport, my step-mom literally jumped up and down…and then she cried. I was reminded that I have remarkable people surrounding me, encouraging me, and loving me - no matter where my life or my travels lead me.
Friday, 1 May 2009
I know I promised to tell you all about my travels during break, and I will. But first I must convey to you my new found infatuation with the wonderful place that is Oxford.
I am taking a tutorial on C.S. Lewis this term, and so far I am absolutely loving it. Before now, I had never read anything by Lewis except for snipits of "Narnia." I had little knowledge of his work as a theologian and really didn't know what to expect from my tutorial. I just knew he was "kind of a big deal" here, so what better place to learn about him?
I started out with "The Four Loves," paired with Plato's "Symposium," which was a great introduction to Lewis. From the first few pages of his theology of love, I knew I was going to enjoy reading the profound thoughts this man put down. I was right. This week, I was assigned "The Problem of Pain," "A Grief Observed," and Sheldon Vanauken's "A Severe Mercy" as supplementary material. Both of Lewis's works were, again, profound and thought-provoking. However, it was Vanauken's writing which has ignited this new passion I have for this little city.
"A Severe Mercy" is an autobiography or memoir of sorts, telling the story of Sheldon and his wife Davy. The two find themselves in Oxford for a brief period of time, where they find Christianity and develop a friendship with C.S. Lewis. Letters between Lewis and Vanauken are included in the book. As I read Vanauken's account of their time in Oxford, I could imagine exactly where he was and what he must have been seeing. He wrote of the High Street, and how it is quite possibly the most beautiful street in the world. I walk down the High nearly every day, and sometimes I forget to appreciate the breathtaking beauty of Magdalen College, the botanical gardens or the Church of St. Mary the Virgin. But when I take a moment to really look, to take it all in...he is absolutely right.
This morning I participated in the May Morning celebration and watched the Magdalen College Choir welcome spring from atop the bell tower at 6 a.m. Afterward, my housemates and I went to the Oxford Union for a breakfast of sausage rolls, bacon baps, and pastries. Vanauken and Davy had done this as well. He wrote, "On May Morning, not long after the light appeared in the east, we had sat in a punt under Magdalen Tower with friends, hearing first a belated nightingale and then, from the top of the tall tower, the pure voices of little boys singing their Latin madrigal. When they had done, the tower bells rang out t welcome the Maytime in, and we, with the great bells still ringing astern, went off down the river to eat the breakfast we had brought." His words played through my head as we walked down High Street with the sound of bells and bagpipes in the distance.
Among the lovely memories of Oxford he recorded, he speaks most fondly of his time in the little village of Binsey and conversations had at The Perch,"that other country pub...with its pleasant garden." The man had been right about so much thus far, I had a feeling he could also recommend a good pub. So when we got back from celebrating May Day, instead of going back to bed, as the rest of my housemates did, I looked up directions to The Perch, grabbed my copy of "A Severe Mercy," and headed for Binsey.
Three miles later, passed the train station, across the Thames, and down a narrow road with fields and crops growing on either side, I saw the thatched roof of The Perch sticking out between the trees. I walked in, feeling a little underdressed in my shorts and T-shirt amid wine glasses and cloth napkins on the tables, but the bartender was still happy to serve me a white coffee. I took my delicate cup of coffee and pitcher of milk out to the "pleasant garden" and found an iron table set for one. I sat in the garden for what must have been more than an hour and a half, reading about the very place I was sitting in, and falling more and more in love with Oxford with every page.
I also did my fair share of eavesdropping on the British patrons while I was there. A nearby conversation caught my attention when I heard a woman say people who live in middle America have no culture. Little did she know there was a middle American sitting at the next table. Then again, perhaps I have no culture. I suppose it is all relative.
After I felt I had worn out my welcome, I said goodbye to The Perch, certain to return again. I wasn't quite ready to say goodbye to Binsey, though, so I meandered down a path which ran alongside the pub toward the river. There I found a little dock, on which I spent the rest of the afternoon reading and sunning my white, uncultured legs. Every once in a while a fishing or rowing boat would pass by, disturbing the otherwise calm waters. Also every once in a while a dog who had wandered from its owner came to say hello. Sometimes they had just come from a dip in the water. On these occasions I was happy to be wearing shorts and a T-shirt.
By the time I finished "A Severe Mercy," the wind had begun to pick up a little. I resisted the desire to take a nap right there on the dock (I've been awake since 4:30 a.m.) and headed back to city centre. I stopped at Blackwell's on the way home, where Vanauken bought his first works by Lewis, to look for my own copy of "A Severe Mercy," but I couldn't find it. I'll look again someday. I only had a couple of quid in my purse, so I probably couldn't have bought a copy today anyway.
I arrived at home excited to share my new little corner of Oxford with the rest of the house. I hope I next time I go, I can bring more middle Americans with me.
I came to Oxford nearly four months ago, and there are still so many places I haven't seen, food I haven't eaten, and experiences I haven't been a part of. Today I am thankful that not only have I fallen in love with Oxford, my eyes have been opened to appreciate her for what little time I have left with her.
Tuesday, 21 April 2009
That night the woman working at our hostel suggested an area with Indian cuisine. We found a small restaurant with some delicious food. Will was talking about his lamb dish from days after that. Then we went to the Covent Garden where we had a pint at Will's first English pub. It was really busy and loud, and we ended up next to an older couple who were either newlyweds or having an affair. The PDA was too much to take, so we headed back the hostel as soon as we could squeeze ourselves between them.
That evening we rode the London Eye. We literally hopped on because it is in constant motion, and for the next half-hour we rode in a little bubble up, up, up over the city. It was spectacular! As we got off, it was startig to get dark. (The sun doesn't set here. It's up one minute, and then it's dark. There is no progression with the beautiful orange, red, blue, and purple hues we're used to in Missouri. The London Eye glowed red and the museum behind it was the background for a light show. Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament were also lit up at night. Gorgeous!
Friday, 13 March 2009
So what should I do with all this spare time I have accumulated? Well, I've been making a mental list of funny things I have seen as well as cultural difference between here and the States. I think now would be a good time to make use of them, so here it goes.
First, the one major difference I see between us and the Brits (besides the way we talk, of course) is the way we walk down a sidewalk. Traditionally, if you're in the U.S. and you see someone coming your way you will both make an effort to avoid one another, allowing enough space for both of you to pass by comfortably. Not so in merry ole England. I cannot begin to count the number of times I've had to walk on the street when I pass someone because they insist on walking right down the middle of the side walk. And if they're walking with someone else? Rather than one person stepping in front of the other for a moment, they just keep plowing down the sidewalk. Once again, I'm on the street. What have I done to remedy this problem? I do as the British do. I feel completely rude, but it's the only way to get where I'm going. So that's issue number one.
Next, girls in England do not have feeling in their legs, or the rest of their bodies for that matter. While us Americans have been bundled up with jeans, sweaters, coats, and hats, the natives prance around in leggings and cutsie tops with no jacket or coat to speak of. We don't know how they do it. Thankfully it's getting warmer now, so we'll be able to blend in with them a little more and trade our bulky coats and hats for a little more acceptable attire.
Moving on, let's discuss an average day on Cornmarket Street. Everything opens between 8 and 9 a.m., usually closer to 9 a.m. unless it's a cafe. You'll see a lot of people having their morning tea or coffee before heading to work. Then the street is a little quieter for a few hours until about 12:30 or 1 p.m. From then on, there are a ton of people all over the place eating and shopping. I always ask myself everyday, don't these people have jobs? I find it hard to believe they do when everyone is out and about at 3 p.m. on a Tuesday, but they have to get their money to do all their shopping from somewhere...it's a mystery. To return to an average day on Cornmarket, everything closes at 6 p.m. at the latest, and restaurants stop serving very early. What do you do? Go to the pub! But even they're only open until about 11 p.m. Bizarre, right? So where do you go at 3 in the morning for a study snack? Food vans! About 8 p.m. (when all the restaurants and pubs stop serving food) vendors set up vans all over the streets of Oxford where they sell burgers, kebabs, chips, pizza, and all other things fried and greasy. They all have fun names too, my favorite being Posh Nosh (Nosh is food). I've heard their cheesy chips are very yummy. I have yet to try them. We live pretty far away from town, so I'd rather not walk half an hour one way for some chips.
Which brings us to the subject of food. Although we speak the same language, Americans and the English definitely do NOT share the same food! We are called the melting pot for a reason; because we have the best of any kind of food from every part of the world. I can't say the same for England. Although they don't really eat beans for breakfast every day or fish and chips all the time, there is certainly plenty of traditional fare to be found. Cornish pasties, Sunday roasts, and crepe stands abundant on the streets of Oxford. And I do love the pastry shops and the open market at Gloucester Green every Wednesday. I will miss that when I'm back in the states. England also has delicious Indian cuisine. Some chicken tikka and garlic nan makes for a yummy dinner!
What you won't find in England, however, are all those wonderful staples of American comfort food. Want to make up some good ole Velveeta Shells and Cheese? Sorry, none to be found here. Having a party and want some rotel dip? Also no Velveeta. What about a BBQ sandwich or an enchilada? No such luck. Poptarts? Nope. You can find Oreos at Sainsbury's, but in my opinion, if it's not Double Stuf, it's not an Oreo...so they don't really have Oreos, if you get my drift. But I can't complain too much. We also have pancake parties and teas... It's not so bad. :)
Speaking of Sainsbury's (our grocery store), it's nothing like Price Chopper, Summer Fresh, Wal-Mart, etc. It's very small, about half the size of the first two stores I named. You won't find anything in bulk, and food expires very quickly. I think they must use fewer preservatives, which is probably a good thing. As a result, you can't go to the store once a week and stock up (partly because it will go bad by Wednesday and also because you can't carry that much back to your flat). Therefore, I end up going to the store about 3 or 4 times a week. And the lines...At times they reach all the way down the aisles! Of course they move much more quickly than those at Wal-Mart because rather than buying a month's worth of groceries, people are only buying 2 or 3 day's worth. It all evens out.
Okay, I think that's enough about the differences between here and there. Now for some funny things I've seen.
- A woman pushing a stroller with no baby in it.
- A woman carrying her dog in her purse (I thought only Paris Hilton did that).
- A man carrying a purse.
- A man wearing red velvet pants.
- A man wearing purple velvet pants (what's the deal with velvet?).
- A man who pulled a backpack out of a litter bin to see if it was worth making another man's trash his treasure.
I can't remember any more right now. I know there are more, but my favorite is a man Madison and I refer to as "the penguin." He is a short, squatty man (shaped much like a sphere from head to toe) and one of the about 7 obese people I have seen in the UK. Every weekend he makes his journey up and down Abingdon Road, which is really about 100 yards at most. He spends the entire day waddling down the street, much like a bloated penguin would. He also smokes (and I'm sure his pack has a great big "Smoking Kills" sticker on it). I have to admit I always smile to myself every weekend when I see him waddling down the street like a weeble (They wobble but they won't fall down!). It's one of those funny things I'll always remember. I'm glad Madison shares the inside joke with me. I hate when there are fun things that happen in a new place, and there is no one to laugh with about them later. ("Schwing!" comes to mind, a little joke I share with my Jordanian friend, Khaled.)I've wasted a sufficient amount of time my time, and yours now too, so I think I will finish packing for my trip and prepare for tutorial. More to come after I travel!
Thursday, 12 March 2009
Saturday, 28 February 2009
Friday I was pleasantly surprised to receive a card from my mom and sister and a care package from my dad and Rebecca. Actually, pleasantly surprised doesn't begin to express how I felt. I was elated! My mom sent me a card for "Girls Day." I love cards for no reason. She is so thoughtful that way. She also threw in some money to splurge on a good meal. My care package was everything I could have wanted and more. I got my Girl Scout cookies! Two boxes of Thin Mints and two boxes of Thanks-A-Lots! They also sent me a huge bag of Ghrardelli dark chocolates, French Vanilla Biscotti coffee (my favorite), hot chocolate, gum, salted roasted almonds, Bath and Body Works goodies... The best thing was the card, though. Rebecca wrote me the sweetest note and made me start welling up on the spot. She and I have really become close over the past year or so, and I couldn't have asked for a better step-mother. She is such a special woman, and I admire her more than she will ever know.
As I said in my last blog, I went to Cambridge for my sanity. It was the best decision I could have made. It was so great to see Cody again, and we had a great time with his British buddies. They are fantastic people! We all went to dinner and pubbing. Yippie Noodle is yummy! Today Cody and I went to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. It was really cool. We explored the 16th century armory and Egyptian exhibits most extensively. And of course we had long talks about life and such. To trade Oxford, books, papers, and tutorials for a relaxing time with the best friend was exactly what I needed to center myself and push through to the end of the term.
Tomorrow I'm going to crack the books again and prepare for my seventh Political Philosophy tutorial. I have a new energy and optimism for the next two weeks, and thanks to God and to my loved ones, I know everything's going to be okay.
Thursday, 26 February 2009
Today was a bad day.
I've been struggling the past couple of days with homesickness and the stress of the end of term. Two weeks from tomorrow I will be completely done with everything and ready to go traveling, but the next fifteen days are filled with three papers, lots of reading, planning for travel, lectures, and trips. There is a lot to do, and not enough time to do it. For example, I had my Political Philosophy tutorial tonight, and I have another one Tuesday. So I have 4 days to work. I am also going to Cambridge tomorrow afternoon until Saturday, so cut that time down to tomorrow before about 3 p.m., Sunday and Monday to read and write a paper. Of course, because I'm a planner, I got my books ahead of time and already started looking through them to give myself a head start. But my proactive attitude got the better of me this time.
My tutor switched what I am going to be doing for next time, so instead of having all of my books and being ready to go...I had nothing at 6 p.m. tonight. Frustrated, stressed, and homesick, I called my dad and vented. It was nice to hear his voice, but I also felt bad for fuming when I know he has a lot going on right now too. I contemplated not going to Cambridge, but I decided I need to go for my sanity. I need to be with people I love more than I need to read. I've spent a lot of time cooped up lately, minus the Pancake Party (which was awesome, by the way. I'll write about that when I'm in a happier mood).
After I got off the phone with my dad, I went to the library in town to try to find the books I would need for Tuesday's tutorial. Not to my surprise, I couldn't find any of them. The library in town is no good. This left me with going home, getting my books I had checked out and going to Brookes and getting the right books. As much as I didn't want to do it, I knew that's what needed to be done. So at 7:15, after already walking about seven miles today, I packed up and headed for Headington Hill. I prayed the whole way that I would find what I needed. Thankfully, God answered my prayer, and they had the book my tutor suggested I find. Then I made the 2 1/2 mile hike back home. I am now completely exhausted for the second day in a row and really ready to throw in the towel. (You see why I need to go to Cambridge.)
Tomorrow I'll wake up and start reading about Karl Marx's political philosophy. It will be a new day, and I will be one day closer to the end of term and to five wonderful weeks of Europe. I know it will all be ok, but being so far from home seems to amplify unfortunate situations. Everything always seems worse when you're away from friends and family.
All of that to say today was one of those days. I ask that you keep me in your prayers this week. Pray that I get the boost I need to press on the next two weeks. I have faith everything will work out; it always does...but I'd appreciate the thoughts just the same. Love and miss you all.
Friday, 20 February 2009
I was looking forward to this week for a long time, as I mentioned in my last blog. Tuesday night, we all went on an excursion to see Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" in London. It was a terrific production! It never ceases to amaze me that after all this time, Shakespeare's writing is still just as entertaining and moving as it was when it was written. It was absolutely hilarious, and Derek Jacobi played a fantastic Malvolio. He definitely could have stolen the show with his yellow stockings!
Wednesday was another fun-filled day of theatre. Lydia and I bought tickets to "Spring Awakening" in London, so we hopped on a train that morning and headed off. It was the first time I had seen London in the day time, and I took my first ride on the Tube. Public transportation here is surprisingly nice. The train and the tube were both really clean, much nicer than anything I have experienced in the states. I'm glad Lydia was with me to show me the ropes because I would have been totally lost otherwise! The London Tube is much bigger than the DC metro!
Anyway, we arrived at the Lyric Theater and found our seats. She had a front row ticket, and I was in the second row. I was so excited about being so close to the stage. I've never had such great seats in a large production before. Usually I'm up in the nosebleed section because it's all I can afford, but here tickets to shows are incredibly inexpensive. It's fabulous! There were even seats on the stage for this production. Lydia mentioned she might come back and buy those seats if the show was really good. Anyway, so I was sitting in my seat waiting for the show to begin, and a woman who worked at the theater told those sitting in the front row that there were two seats on the stage available. Lydia turned and looked at me, I nodded, and five minutes later we had put our purses in lockers and were sitting on the stage! We were both so excited, we didn't know what to think. I was literally shaking as the opening song began.
We were literally a part of the show! The actors sat among us, and we could feel the energy on the stage. It felt so intimate. I have never been so connected to a show before. I didn't feel like I was watching a performance because I was immersed in it. And it was such a moving production. I didn't know much about "Spring Awakening" before Wednesday. I had just heard good things about it, and I knew it was about sexuality and coming of age. Apparently, it was written in the 1800s and was immediately banned upon its initial release. It tells the story of teenagers growing up in the early 1800s who are discovering sexuality for themselves because no one will explain it to them. They are sheltered, so they have no choice but to experiment in order to learn about life and love. Their individual stories are heartbreaking: abuse, failure, suicide, star-crossed love. I can see why the original story was banned upon its release. It was one of the most provocative shows I have ever seen.
So imagine all of that drama juxtaposed with music and dancing reminiscent of "High School Musical!" The actors were dressed for the time period, but instead of an orchestra there was a rock band. Neon and black lights decorated the stage, and the actors pulled out hand-held mics from their costumes when they sang. It was so creative and absolutely wonderful. I would definitely go see it again. I just might!
In my last blog, I also mentioned I was going to a debate entitled, "This House Believes that Promiscuity is a Virtue, not a Vice." It was definitely interesting, but the proposition did not present its case well at all, so most people (including myself) voted against the resolution. It was a really cool atmosphere though, and I plan to go back to more debates at the Oxford Union. We are very privileged to have membership to such an organization. And of course there are other perks, like the Pancake Party we will be attending next week. Unlimited pancakes, ice cream, and toppings. Yum!
The week ended on a good note today. I had tutorial for The Holocaust, my favorite of my two tutorials. When Christian arrived, we sat down and he said he didn't have much to say about my paper because it was "brilliant!" I was so excited! He said he only had one question for me, which kind of worried me. I always get nervous in my tutorials. I said, "Yes?" He responded, "Can I keep it?" I couldn't believe he actually wanted to keep my paper! Of course I said yes. I was so honored that he thought it was good enough to keep. It was a great reassurance that I'm not a terrible American student at Oxford (at least not in this tutorial; I'm not so sure about Political Philosophy). My paper was about the German resistance during the Holocaust, and it criticized the Goldhagen Theory that Germans are inherently predisposed to hate Jews. Interesting, right? It really is; I promise. Anyway, so he liked it, and I was super happy! Madison baked a cake this afternoon, so I'm about to treat myself to a big slice as a reward.
Tomorrow I have my Political Philosophy tutorial. I'm not very excited about it. I'm trying my hardest, but I'm just not a political philosopher. Well, I'm not a philosopher at all. I'm sure it will all work out though. This week I read Thomas Paine, and I really liked it because he was straight forward and had some great ideas. I hope I'll be able to perform well tomorrow, since I understood the reading a lot better this week. I'll let you know how it goes.
So that's what I've been up to. I miss everyone at Jewell and at home, but term is almost over! I can't believe there is only one more week left in February. It's a good feeling. I can't wait to go travel and see Oxford in the spring. It's already getting warmer and staying light later in the day. I even saw someone wearing shorts today (although I think it's a little premature for that). I'd love to hear from any and all of you. Shoot me an email! I'm going to hit the books now. Fun Friday night, right?
Sunday, 15 February 2009
Sunday, 8 February 2009
It feels good to know that time passes in England just as it does at home. I haven't starting marking days off my calendar, which is definitely a good sign. I've only cried twice in a month as well - another good sign.
This week has been quite eventful and really should be about three blogs rather than one, but it's been too eventful for me to have time to sit and record. (I actually wrote about half of this blog on the way back from Cambridge because I had nothing else to do). First, I woke up Thursday morning to snow - and lots of it! It came down in enormous flakes and had already accumulated a couple of inches by the time I rolled out of bed. I had to turn in an essay for my Holocaust tutorial, which meant I had to walk to town - in the snow.
Back at Jewell, we get big snows all the time, and the great facilities management team is up before the sun with their little snow plows clearing the side for us to have a hazard-free walk to class. Such was not the case in Oxford - or anywhere in England for that matter! Apparently, they have not seen so much snow in 20 years! As a result, my 1.2 mile walk into town was not one on grated and salted sidewalks. Rather, it was a bumpy, slushy trek that felt much like I was hiking in sand. Needless to say, I have a newfound appreciation for facilities management.
Friday I woke up to...more snow...making my walk to tutorial another slushy, messy journey. I was really not loving the snow at this point. However, my tutorial went very well, which put an extra spring in my step as I made the hike home. I also found out that Christian, my tutor, lhas a house in Bavaria that is 20 minutes away from the Pope's brother's house, and they have a lot of the same friends! Pretty awesome, right? He also assigned me to go to the movies before our next meeting. I have to see "Defiance" and "Valkyrie." Unfortunately, he forgot to give me the money to go see them...
Friday was also a day of waiting. I applied to be an RA at Jewell before I left and knew I was supposed to find out Friday. I checked my email over and over and over - hoping I would get good news but also trying not to get my hopes up too high. I felt I was at a disadvantage by being gone, but I just knew it had to work out because I wanted it SO bad. Thinking about it made me miss my "sheep" at Jewell, which made me miss everyone at Jewell, which made me want to go home, which is no bueno. I was talking to Caitlin on Facebook as the clock ticked toward 5 p.m. CT, and I was beginning to wonder if I was going to find out at all. Then she said, "Check your email. I hear girls screaming down the hall." (A pretty clear sign that I had some kind of news) So I click over to my Microsoft Outlook Web Access as fast as I can and read the message from Ernie Stufflebean...congratulating me on being part of the 2009-2010 Residence Life Staff!!! I was so excited! It was definitely the best thing that had happened all day, and I immediately wanted to come back to Jewell and start planning all my hall events for next year. I haven't stopped thinking about all the things I want to do; it's going to be so great! So Friday was a good day, despite the snow.
Saturday morning started with my Political Philosophy tutorial. I didn't sleep well the night before, partly because I was still excited about getting to be an RA and partly because I was nervous because this tutorial is scary! Anyway, I got up early and made the long hike to his house, thankfully, without snow. I was thrilled that it was probably my best tutorial yet, and I treated myself to a pastry for breakfast when I got back to City Centre. Then I hopped on a bus to go to Cambridge to see one of my favorite people in the whole world, Cody Johnson! It was SO great to see him, and Jessie Newman and Laurel Harrold came from Harlaxton to visit too - an added bonus. We spent the weekend wandering around Cambridge, meeting some real British people, and spending some quality time together. This morning we went to King's College for a traditional Anglican Church service. The chapel itself is beautiful! It has the highest vaulted ceilings in the world (according to tour guide Cody), and the service was really cool too. They had an all-boys choir, and we even go to take communion. It was quite the treat. I was sad to say goodbye at the end of the day, but I know I'll come back again soon. It was wonderful to spend time with him; we definitely needed hugs from best friends!
So that's what has been going on with me. More to come! I'll post some pictures tomorrow, but for now I'm spent. And so to bed!
Monday, 2 February 2009
Something I have noticed since I have been here is that I am constantly craving food I know I can't have, and what's even more strange is that I'm craving food I never even eat when I'm home. Like today, for example, I really wanted Taco Bell. I NEVER eat Taco Bell and would never consider eating it if I were at home. And for about a week now, I've been dying to have some Girl Scout cookies. I dream of Thin Mints. So maybe I don't dream about them, but I definitely think about them a lot more than I should. It's a funny thing about the human body that makes us want what we can't have...even if it's as simple as an order of nachos or a box of Girls Scout cookies.
Saturday, 31 January 2009
Saturday, 24 January 2009
This morning, I met with my Political Philosophy tutor, who I was even more nervous about seeing because he seemed a little intimidating when I met him last week. I woke up before my alarm and trudged the hour-plus route to his house (so as not to get lost again and miss my tutorial). It was a nice walk, and it woke me up before our meeting. He kind of quizzed me about what I had read (Hobbes' Leviathan): what the historical period was like, what he thought about the nature of man, what his political virtue was, etc. I felt pretty confident in my answers and even brought up some of my own thoughts about what Hobbes might think of our nation's Congress (He would absolutely hate it). We didn't even address my paper; I just left it for him on the way out. Once again, I thought I had a successful tutorial. AND I took the short cut on the way home and didn't get lost. Hooray for me!
Last night, some of us went to the Oxford Union for a forum on women in politics. There were women representing Pakistan, Wales, and the U.S. to share their thoughts on why and how women are marginalized in government, as well as how to overcome it. The 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling were mentioned on several occassions by our American friend, who worked for former President Clinton's administration and was probably hit on at some point (She was very pretty and started working for him when she was 20). My favorite moment of the night was when the woman from Wales ended her speech with something to the effect of, "You don't need a penis to succeed in politics, but you definitely need a lot of balls." Words to live by.
Tuesday, 20 January 2009
The past couple of days have been really hard on me. I spent them cooped up in my room writing papers and reading a lot of "Leviathan." I didn't spend much time outside and didn't do much exercising at all (which, if you know me, you know that's really bizarre). Homesickness started to set in, and I was beginning to wonder what I had gotten myself into. I had come here with the intention of seeing the world. Instead I was seeing the four walls of my room and my computer screen. Last night I was in tears, wishing more than anything that I could be back at Jewell with my girls, or at home with my family and friends, so I could celebrate my birthday with them. This is the second year in a row that I've been away from home on my special day, and birthdays have always been a really big deal to me. I didn't want my 21st to come and go like the past few days had.
But I was very pleasantly surprised...
As I wallowed in self pity, Will told me that I wouldn't be spending my birthday alone. I saw the smirk on his face through the web cam, and knew he had something up his sleeve. Turns out, he had taken the day off, so we could spend the day together via MSN video chat. Things were looking up.
This morning, I was determined to have a good day. I woke up when I felt like it, didn't even think about touching a book or paper, put on my most British outfit (a sweater left by Kristen, tights, and my boots), and went to town to buy something to make a wonderful birthday dinner.
I ran into Lena Endsley on my way there, who was heading to Blackwell's (Oxford's famous bookstore), so I decided to tag along. I brought my journal with me and decided to put down some scribbles while I was there. Blackwell's is incredible. They had books on every subject, and a TON of cookbooks. My Mecca. I sat in the bookstore for a while and jotted down some thoughts about the last few days, and then headed to the covered market to get some salmon for dinner. I picked out a beautiful filet, and I felt very much like a Top Chef contestant at Whole Foods carefully choosing my protein.
Anyway, so I picked up that along with some other salmon fixings and trotted back home. I spent the rest of the day on MSN with Will trip planning...or at least getting an idea of where we're going to go when he comes to visit. It took a while. He would be happy just showing up wherever and pitching a tent in the middle of a park. We definitely do not travel the same way. It was great to be able to talk to him, watch the inauguration together, and just be in each other's presence for the day. I was very proud of my salmon dinner, and it was much better than anything I could have ordered out. And I had a nice glass of White Zin to complement my meal in honor of my legality. :D
To officially celebrate my big day, all my friends and I went out to George and Danver's - Oxford's favorite ice cream shop. I had an ENORMOUS Brownie Sundae - huge brownie, two scoops of English custard ice cream, chocolate sauce, sprinkles, and whipped cream! AMAZING!
And I have to say, what made my birthday most special was the present sitting on my shelf for the past 12 days, wrapped in lime green paper with "DO NOT OPEN UNTIL JANUARY 20th" written across it. Lindsay gave it to me before I left, saying it had to come with me no matter what. Today I found out why. She and Caitlin had collaborated to have friends from home and Jewell write me birthday messages, and she put them together in a scrap book. It was the sweetest thing I have ever been given, and I was reminded once again of how blessed I am to have such wonderful people in my life.
So that was my 21st birthday. It's 11:37 p.m. in Oxford, so my day is coming to and end...and I have to say that it was very very happy indeed. And so to bed.
Sunday, 18 January 2009
Well, first of all, I met with both of my tutors this week. The first meeting was quite an adventure. My tutor was very nice and offered us a short cut back to town from his house, which was over an hour walk from my house. We were very happy to have an alternate route back, but it was getting dark as we were heading out, and none of us are familiar enough with Oxford to know where exactly to go. (I've also noticed that British people tend not to give explicit directions..."It's just down and around the corner there." "If you go in this direction you will get there." No street names, landmarks, or blocks). Anyway, so we're going home, and we realize this is far from a short cut. Then by divine intervention, one of the girls here runs into a friend from high school who is in town for the week. He informs us we're going the wrong way and need to back track about two miles to get back to Oxford city centre. Tired and frustrated, but thankful for the interception, we hop on the first bus we can and head back. The driver felt sorry for us, I think. He could tell we didn't really know what we were doing. Although I'm sure he deals with that sort of thing a lot. It was a happy ending, except that I got my first blister, and I was exceptionally cranky when I got back to the flat.
I met with my other tutor the next day, at a much more convenient location. He first took us on a tour of Oriel College, Oxford's fifth oldest. It was beautiful, although he said it was about average as colleges here go. Each time we meet, he is going to take me to a different place. I kind of hope he takes me to where Harry Potter was filmed. (I know, I'm a loser, but I'm in Oxford!)
Since my meetings, I've done nothing but read about Hitler and Hobbes. Not the most entertaining subject matter, but it has been interesting. It is kind of nice to read about what I know nothing about. Everything is fresh and new, and I actually retain what I'm reading; I guess the tutorial method works. I hope to have my papers done in the next two days, so I can take a little break before I do it all over again next week.
My birthday is on Tuesday. The big 2-1. I don't have anything terribly special planned. It's not quite the same celebrating here as it would have been back home. Oh well. I think we're going to go to Oxford's famous ice cream shop, and I'm going to have a great big Bailey's Irish Creme ice cream cone with hotfudge mixed in...or something like that. It will be delicious, I'm sure. I'll let you know. :D
Tuesday, 13 January 2009
Lectures started this week, and I meet with my tutors on Thursday and Friday. Tomorrow I get to sleep in, which I'm extremely excited about because I haven't been able to get into the swing of things with this schedule yet. I am exhausted all day long, but can't seem to fall asleep at night, so the cycle continues. I need to get some rest before the work starts...and I can already tell I've got a lot of it coming my way in the next eight weeks. Political philosophy and the Holocaust. Even Francis felt a little sorry for my decision to take on such dreary subjects, but I really can't wait learn about this stuff. I'm a nerd; it's OK.
Among my host of new experiences this week have also been my two encounters with British pubs. We went to the Turf Tavern (where Bill Clinton "did not inhale") and the Eagle and Child (a favorite spot of C.S. Lewis and the first place the Chronicles of Narnia were actually read aloud). I drank my first beer (well, cider) and shared some great conversation with my wonderful friends from Jewell and the new people I've met in the past few days. I have to say I am so lucky to be with such a great group of people from Jewell. I really don't feel so far away from home with them to keep me company. I couldn't have asked for better traveling companions (of course, I wish Kristen were still here).
So that's the last couple of days in a nutshell. More to come after my meetings with my tutors. EEK!
Friday, 9 January 2009
I'm going to try my hardest to keep this blog up; think of it as a New Year's resolution of sorts. So this is my first official day in England. I arrived in London last night around 11 p.m. (I will talk in England time, which is six hours ahead of CT). I couldn't come into Oxford that late, and my parents didn't want me traveling alone at that hour anyway, so I stayed the night in the airport in a Yotel room. (www.yotel.com) I was a little nervous about the whole thing, but I have to say I was quite thrilled when I opened the door to my little room with a bed, shower, toilet, and flat screen tv - all in about a 6x6 space (so I guess it's not the place to stay if you are claustrophobic). It was just right for me to get a few hours of shut-eye before hopping on a bus and coming to Oxford.
Everyone was very nice and helpful on my way. I met a girl who lived in DC and had been in Nigeria for a month helping with unsuccessful schools. I met a guy who goes to Cambridge and had been in New York. He didn't know where Missouri was... And the best thing was that I saw someone who looked familiar in front of me on the way to the bus station. I thought I would take a chance and yelled "D-Rab" and what do you know? Aaron Drabenstott was on his way to the bus station to go to Harlaxton! Quite serendipitous to see a familiar face in this new world. It was reassuring, if only for the brief moment we saw each other.
Once I arrived in Oxford, I was greeted by the Warners, who have to be the nicest people I have ever met. Penelope took me to my house, and Kristen Walker had left me a box full of goodies!!! (THANKS, KRISTEN! I love you!) I was especially excited about the blow dryer and the house shoes. It's really cold in our house. I'm still getting my stuff moved in, putting pictures on the walls and whatnot.
I went to town to explore and go grocery shopping this afternoon. I found my way and wandered around for a while, bought some food, and came back all by myself. I didn't even have to look like the typical American tourist and use my little pocket map! I was quite proud of myself. I stopped at a little cafe for some bacon and lentil soup and to get out of the cold and snow. I really think I am going to love going to Oxford proper. Everyone is out and about doing something. I was amazed at how many people there were on a Friday mid-afternoon just walking around, shopping, and eating. And the buildings are so beautiful. It's not like anywhere in the U.S. Everything is so old and quaint! I love it!
So that was day one. More to come, I'm sure. I love and miss you all!