Saturday, 28 February 2009

Loved ones

Thursday on the way home from the library, I prayed the whole way that God would give me strength to make it through the next two weeks. I'm happy to report that God is good.

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

One of those days...

From being in DC for a semester and now here, I've realized that there are good days and bad days. I've also realized that on the good days, everything seems a lot better than what it actually is because you're somewhere new and different. Likewise, when you have a bad day, being in a different place makes it that much worse.

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

Good News

I once again let time slip away, so I'm going to have to fit much more into this blog than I should. It's going to be a good one, though. Trust me.

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

Yummy Weekend

This weekend was all about the food!

Yesterday was Valentine's Day, and because none of us girls had anyone to celebrate with, we went out together for dinner. We went to Yo!Sushi, a fun little place where the sushi is served on a conveyor belt. If you see something yummy coming your way, you just pluck it off the belt and dig in! It was a great place to have a casual night of relaxation with the ladies. It reminded me of Genki Sushi, a similar sushi joint my mom and sister and I go to when I visit them in Hawaii. Everyone had a fun time just trying to figure out what they wanted and then scouting it out on the conveyor belt. We also got a kick out of watching the workers make sushi and a little machine that produced perfectly square rice patties for the nigri. Afterwards Madison, Joy, and I went to the Red Lion for a Valentine's Day drink. I ordered a pina colada, and handed the bar tender my ID. He looked at my driver's license, then at me and said, "Are you sure this is you?" I have straight hair and glasses in my picture, but it unmistakeably me. I answered "yes" of course, upon which he asked me when my date of birth was! I never thought I would be accused a fake ID, especially when I presented my real one! The people next to me at the bar got a kick out of it, and now that I think about it, it was pretty funny. Although it wouldn't have been so funny if he would have denied me my drink. All was well, however. Maybe I'll wear my glasses next time I go to the Red Lion. No hair straightener in England.

And today...OH TODAY! Penelope and Francis Warner (the lovely couple in charge of OOSC) hosted a traditional English Tea for us this afternoon. It was AMAZING! She baked all kinds of cakes and other goodies for us. There were blueberry muffins, brownies, coconut cake, lemon cake, chocolate cake, cucumber sandwiches, scones, and more! I tried clotted cream for the first time, described by one of my fellow OOSCers as "if butter and whipped cream had a baby." It was delicious mixed with some strawberry jam on a scone. Needless to say, everyone was stuffed and on a sugar high by the end of the afternoon. We also had a great time visiting with the Warners. They are such fascinating people! Francis was a speech writer for Robert and Edward Kennedy! He showed us a book Ted signed for him in which he wrote "to" rather than "too." Francis got a kick out of it. We also talked about Obama, the economy and how it is affecting students, "The Simpsons," and "Friends." He likes "Friends," made me happy.

I am so glad to have this week out of the way! I had two papers to write becaust the upcoming week is going to be really busy. Tuesday I'm going to London to see "Twelfth Night" and Wednesday I'm going back to see "Spring Awakening." I can't wait! Then Thursday, we're all going to the Oxford Union for a debate. The resolution is "This House Believes Promiscuity is a Virtue, not a Vice," so it should be interesting to say the least.

Madison and I are getting really excited about break. Dane and Will are coming in less than a month now, and we are comparing travel plans. February is already half way over, and we have a lot of fun things to look forward to in the next two weeks, so it makes the time go by more quickly. We both can't wait to go travel with the boyfriends. It's going to be so much fun. We're both going to Amsterdam and then taking a train to Paris. It would be funny if we ran into each other. It could happen, I suppose.

Tomorrow is lecture and more reading. This week in Political Philosophy is Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" and "The Rights of Man." I like him much better than Edmund Burke. He's short and to the point; the journalist in me appreciates that very much. And so to bed.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Road Trip, among other things

Today is February 8th and officially marks one month of my being overseas. I have to say some days it feels like I have been here for ages; other times I find it hard to believe how quickly the days and weeks have passed. There are still five more weeks left in the term, so I'm not quite half-way yet, but it will be here before I know it, I'm sure.

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

Random thoughts

I woke up this morning and, as usual, threw open the curtains to see what the weather was going to hold for me. Normally, it's cloudy. Sometimes it's sunny. Not today. Today it was snowing! It was quite a pleasant surprise, even though I had to walk half an hour to lecture in the freezing cold, and then walk back home in the freezing cold. It was pretty to look at and brought some excitement to the day. There was only one downside to the powdery stuff. On my way home, I passed a funny looking guy who looked like quite the punk. Just as I was thinking this to myself, a snowball goes flying past my face! He must have been able to read my mind. I whipped around, looked at him, and then started walking again, only to see another one go by. He was a bad shot, but it still caught me off guard. People are certainly friendly in England...

I spent most of the day, with the exception of lecture, inside reading about Rousseau and the Social Contract Theory. Super fun, right? I am now ready to write a paper tomorrow, my fifth of twelve! That is exciting I have to say. I'm almost halfway finished with the paper-writing. :) And it's February! Things are moving right along.

I was disappointed I couldn't be at home for the Super Bowl this year. I would have loved to chow down on some chili and rotel dip. Will was in Mt. Vernon yesterday, so I got to talk to his 2-year-old nephew Adam on the web cam. He was carrying around an old football helmet and kept saying, "Football game. Football game." It was absolutetly the most adorable thing in the world. I didn't even get to see any of the game, as it didn't start here until midnight, but I did watch all of the ads today on USA TODAY's website. I have to say the Dorito's ad was stinkin' hilarious! I laughed outloud when I saw it. Three million dollars well-spent. I might actually go buy a bag tomorrow...okay, maybe not.

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.