Tuesday, September 28, 2010

But ah! Forget my fate...

So I have not been nearly so faithful in my blog updates as I had hoped to be. Oh well. Perhaps I shall grow to be better at updating the world at large of my goings-on. In the meantime, I do have quite a bit of real academic writing to complete by Thursday 8.00.

My Henry Purcell paper is blessedly complete (well, the first draft, anyway...) and I am more than halfway through my Ralph Vaughan Williams paper. They are all that stand between me and my vacation. Well, them and more Schama. Tomorrow I need to head over to Headington Shops after our lectures are over in order to purchase knitting needles. I cannot go on vacation in England without some sort of project to work on.

I baked cinnamon rolls last night. They turned out alright although they are not my favorite baking adventure thus far. I think that would have to go to the nutella crepes. Now those were good... I really enjoy being able to cook. It feels so much more homey and domestic here than it does living in the dorms at Eastern. This is my house. I have a kitchen, a living room, a dining room, a bedroom, a bathroom, a study, a foyer, and a driveway. I unlock the front and side doors with my key and am greeted with stillness in the afternoons and raucous laughter and the smell of good food cooking when I come in the evenings. There are jokes made at each others' expense, bouts of giggles, and plenty of Hornblower.

I almost (but not really) feel sorry for Graham who has to put up with these 44 American students who run around in this house, often teasing him. As he teases us right back, I feel less sorry and will often join in the poking fun. He's really an amazing person and I'm glad he's our JD. I go to his church, where he has been kind enough to introduce me to some of his friends and help me get connected into the community. While I won't be going this week (I leave for the Lake District almost as soon as we get back from London on Thursday), I'm going to start going to Bible study at OCC.

I would say more about the amazingness of Oxford life, but as it is, Mr. Vaughan Williams is calling my name. Time to finish this paper. Betcha I can get it done before 15.00!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I'll procrastinate tomorrow...

So I really ought to be writing my paper (due September 30th but I have a second one due the same day) and yet I am so very very distracted. My brain just wants to turn off and look at meaningless things rather than focus on real academic study. Such a pity.

On a typical day, I wake up at around seven or seven-fifteen, get up brush my teeth, get dressed, put on a little make-up, and go downstairs for breakfast. There is usually one or two other people up at this point and we bustle around the kitchen, boiling water for tea, fighting to get in the corner where the cabinets holding appropriate dishware are, and shuffling in and out, getting food from our various cabinets and refrigerators. I now have my own box of PG Tips, which I drink at least twice a day with milk and a tiny amount of sugar. I tend to eat granola or mueselli with skim milk, probiotic yogurt, juice, and tea for breakfast. I wash my dishes, put them away, and head upstairs to locate appropriate footwear and pack my backpack for the day ahead. I've been getting out the door at 8:30 the last few days, in an effort to arrive at Wycliffe in time for some (mostly) uninterrupted practice time. I bike through the cow pasture (yes really) and over Parks Road, onto Banbury Road, dodging cars, buses, cyclists, and worst of all, pedestrians. LOOK OUT FOR YOUR OWN SAFETY, PEOPLE!

I do like my time in almost empty Wycliffe in the mornings. It's peaceful. I sing whatever I feel like/need to. Sam (the junior dean at Crick. He's a real sweetheart and also a French horn player) comes in around quarter after to set up the computer and audio system for the day's Schama. I can tolerate him hearing me practice, a rare thing for me, who has issues allowing my parents to hear me practice. As more people filter in, I shut up and sit down. Tyler usually sits next me and Schama starts promptly at 9.30. Although I am almost always tired and struggling to stay awake I will confess to actually liking it.

After Schama is our half hour tea break in which we all hang out. Then it is lecture time. I have varying degrees of interest in the lectures they give us but most of them are pretty interesting. Lunch time is at 12.00. I have developed a strict 'don't ask don't tell' policy with the food. I've decided I just don't want to know what's in it. It is usually tolerable although the 'beef stroganoff' was just bad. I ate half of it and gave up.

Usually after lunch, the day is ours. About once a week, I have to head to the music faculty library to get my books but the rest of the time, I head back to the Vines, either going directly or most often making a stop somewhere else first. I like this arrangement because I'm usually one of the only people in the Vines when I get back so I squeeze in more practice time. More often than not, someone is upstairs or Graham is in his room and I know they can hear me but as long as I don't see anyone else while I'm practicing, it's okay. Usually.

My afternoons are spent doing homework, cooking, or otherwise goofing off, depending on the day, my mood, and the level of work dangling over my head like Damocles sword. I ought to be doing work now, in fact. Hmmm...

Saturday, September 11, 2010

London Calling

I am back from London after a day of (mostly) fun. After all of us Vines people followed Graham to the bus station, we boarded the double decker bus and headed into the city. It's about a 90 minute ride in and I think I slept at least an hour of it. We got off at the Marble Arch where we met Simon and thus began our day.

It all started with a tour of some of London's poshest neighborhoods. You know... the neighborhoods where you're paying more for the name of the street than the stuff in the house. It was all very beautiful though. We proceeded from there to the Royal areas of the city, going through one of the royal parks and walking past Buckingham Palace. No, I did not meet anyone royal while there, nor did I witness the changing of the guard. We walked through another park at this point, making our way toward Trafalgar Square and seeing various sites along the way. We arrived in Trafalgar Square where the ultimate plan was that everyone would head into the National Gallery. Many of us, however, decided that it was time for lunch and headed to Pret a Manger. Let me just say that my sandwich was good but my yogurt was amazing. I could write a sonnet to this yogurt. It had shredded apples, pomegranate, cranberries, pistachios, and many delicious things in it. I want it...

After a leisurely lunch, Tyler and I had a scant fifteen minutes before we were to be meeting the group to head off to the underground. We stood outside, looking at the fountain and talking about... Methodism. Yes, you read correctly. We talked about John Wesley and our opinions on the United Methodist Church of today. I suppose this is what happens when you put two people who have grown up Methodist together.

We met the group and then proceeded to the Underground. We got out at the station nearest the Monument of the Great Fire of London. For the price of £2, I was afforded the privilege of climbing said monument. Basically, you go in and go up 200 feet (311 steps) of a spiral staircase. Graham was so kind as to remind me of my unadulterated hatred of spiral staircases as we were going up. Just when you think you'll never make it to the top, you come out onto the observation deck. Wow. The view was amazing. I lasted about five minutes out there before deciding me (and my stomach) were better served on the ground. Therefore, down the narrow spiral staircase I went and for my troubles, I was granted a certificate, proclaiming that I had, in fact, mounted the 311 steps. Whew.

Simon basically took us on a tour of the Great Fire of London and we wound our way very slowly toward St. Paul's Cathedral for Evensong. On the way, we went by the Tower of London (although we did not go inside). Once at St. Paul's, I was among the lucky few who scored a seat in the Chancel (choir loft). It was really cool. They had a men/boys choir. I will confess, however, that one of the soloists had some pitch issues which I could hear. Oh being a music major...

After Evensong, we went down to the Thames River Festival for dinner. To do so, we walked across the Millenium Bridge. Tyler and I wandered down the way to the food stalls. I purchased a coconut which the gentleman running the stall cut open for me and handed me with a straw. I drank all the water and thoroughly enjoyed it. I then made Tyler hold it while I got a sandwich from the Venezuelan food stall. We wandered down a ways, stopping outside the Globe Theatre (!!!) and meeting a few people for the group. At this point, I had my hands inside the coconut, tearing out the flesh to eat it. I will say, fresh coconut tastes very different from dry shredded coconut.

At 19.15, we headed back over the bridge, meeting Graham and John on the way and took some beautiful pictures of the sunset over the River Thames. The rest of the night was all Underground, Bus rides, and chasing Graham like ducklings trailing their parent. Life is good.

Up and At 'em, Tiger

It is quarter past seven on a Saturday morning. Some may wonder why in the world I am up. I assure you, this act is entirely voluntary. In about 90 minutes, I shall depart The Vines with my ultra fast walking Junior Dean and all the other Vines people who wish to catch the coach to London. At least, I think that's what I'm going to do. I currently cannot breathe out of the right side of my face so the temptation is to lie in bed. Hmmm...

This week has been very good. It has been full of walking and biking. Unfortunately, I blistered the first few days so that even my blisters had blisters. Luckily, I was able to pick up my bike on Monday afternoon from King's Cycle and have been riding it around ever since. In England (or at least in Oxford), a lot of people ride bikes. I have seen people in all sorts of attire cycling down the roadway, usually as they pass me. Here, there are bike lanes on almost every road (although not all) and all the drivers are used to dealing with people riding on bicycles around their cars. This is not to say that I am necessarily used to riding my bike in and among the cars. I'm getting there but I'm not wholly used to it yet. I did, however, manage to make it to Wycliffe Hall without a single moment of panic yesterday--a sweet success in my book.

Yesterday, I actually took an inventory of all the things that I am doing a bit different here. It has actually been just over a week since I have consumed soda or coffee. I have watched only one full movie and no TV. I have not procrastinated in working on my assignments and I have attempted to be more social than normal. I forced myself to face my fear of heights and actually climbed the tower at Salisbury Cathedral. The view was amazing,by the way.

In essence, England has been amazing right now and has already changed me. I am so pleased. I supposed I ought to get ready to go now though. Off to London!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Come to the water, the water will flow. Stand to the night, see the light, let it grow.

I am in love.

No, I have not met a British man and fallen head over heels (that that would be unpleasant). No, I am in love with a city, with a University, with sweater weather, and with tea. I love that I have a bicycle with a basket on the front so I can carry my groceries back from the store. I love that I haven't been getting quite enough sleep because my roommates and I are up talking and laughing. I love my funny British Junior Dean who watched Ferris Buehler's Day Off with us last night and was highly appalled (He will get his revenge with a British film tonight though). I appreciate how there is tea, there is tea, and there is tea and it's up to you to figure out what the person inviting you actually means. I like cooking in a crowded kitchen with sour other people vying for stove space. I love invading SCIO staff offices for tea.

It's all fabulous!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A pound and a prayer

Today commenced my second day at Oxford and more fun abounds. I should, perhaps, mention that they do not just set us free in our houses to do whatever. Each house has a Junior Dean. This position is somewhere in between that of an RD and an RA. Our JD's name is Graham Baker. He is a PhD student here at Oxford, doing history. More specifically, he's studying history of home based missions in New York so he's been to America more than once and understands that some stuff us crazy Americans do has nothing to do with our intelligence level but is rather because we are, in fact, American. His ear is attuned to some of the intricacies of the American accent: he actually picked up on the fact that I have a soft southern accent. Most Americans do not pick up on this fact. Graham is also a real sweetheart (and not too bad to look at, I will admit).

My roommates Libby and Heather are awesome girls. We'll have a great semester in our epic room. We have a sink in our room and a covered over fireplace. We have lot of space compared to what I'm used to and an amazing view.

I pried myself from my cozy bed at 8.00am, got dressed, and made breakfast. To the shock of Graham, who assumes that Americans drink coffee nonstop, I had tea with breakfast. I know, shocking. The coffee addict has already converted. Granted, I drank five or six cups of tea today instead of the normal two cups of coffee. Ah well. I should consider purchasing stock in PG Tips.

Several of us wanted to get a jump on procuring bicycles for our transportation around Oxford. Graham showed us the shortest (but semi-complicated) way into town and we went to two bike shops before scoring a good deal. My bike cost £89.99 with the addition of lights and a basket and the bike shop guarantees they will buy it back for at least 40%. I'll probably try to sell it independently for more but it's nice to know I have a guarantee. I also procured a towel, loofah, and blisters on the soles of my feet while in town. Sweet.

We had a BBQ today at the Vines today with the people at Crick. It was fun but these English people do not know a good burger. I spent time talking to a bunch of different people but after a while, I was all socialized out and retreated to my room. We rearranged the furniture the way we want it.

I would write more and actually write creatively but I am tired. It is 1 am. So yeah. Still more stuff to purchase.

AA batteries
body wash
face scrub
body lotion
nail file

Friday, September 3, 2010

I'm hanging on for a softer landing...

So here I am, in my room in Oxford, one suitcase emptied (but not everything put away), one suitcase full and waiting. I ought to be unpacking, and yet I am not. Rather, I am writing this. I will now begin the official documentation of my journey to Oxford.

My parents and I arrived at the Newark, NJ airport at approximately quarter of five in the evening. Check-in was relatively painless: I swiped my passport (it is linked to the ticket reservation) and used Dad's credit card to pay the $50 baggage fee (because everyone knows it would be literally impossible for me to go to England with a single suitcase). The packing/taking stuff out/adding a little bit back in paid off: my total combine weight of my bags was 76 pounds. I printed my boarding pass, they tagged my luggage, and it was on to security. It was at this point where I weepily said good bye to my parents—twice since I first reported to the wrong gate. Getting through the security check point involved some juggling (a third hand would have been nice as I tried to retrieve my things from 3 bins and place them back into my carry-on) but I made it through without a problem. There was no frisking nor patting down. I didn't set off the metal detector. They did not make me unpack my carry-on. On to the gate.

The gate the plane flew out of was, of course, the one as far away from the security checkpoint as possible. Literally. Gate C86. I briefly took a seat, knowing Tyler would arrive soon. Had I been traveling alone, I am pretty sure I would have been in hysterics by this point. For someone who has never flown alone, much less flown out of the country alone, this was quite an experience. Tyler arrived soon and to my surprise, his mother as well. She was flying back to Florida and was thus able to clear the security checkpoint. She stayed with us until we boarded (around 7.20ish. The flight was delayed since it was delayed in Manchester, thus arriving to Newark late, and therefore was unable to be cleaned and checked in a timely enough fashion to allow us to board at the originally scheduled time). We were seated in row 23 and I had the window seat. I shoved my carry-on beneath the seat in front of my, rather than attempting to wedge it in the overhead bin. I really thought I would be retrieving things from it during the flight but I did not. The airline provided head phones to watch the inflight entertainment (On demand! I watched 'Letters to Juliet.' It was okay). I watched the plane take off before I watched the movie. They did serve us dinner (Highly over processed chicken terriaki with rice, a salad, and Milano cookies). There is something about Milano cookies. Every in-flight meal I've had has included them.

After dinner, I got some uncomfortable sleep (largely because of the inconveniently placed neck rest. It was not made for short people) for at least a few hours. I will sleep well tonight, I think. I woke up when they turned the cabin lights on to serve breakfast (A croissant and the most disgusting honeydew and cantaloupe of my life). I opened the window shade to see the sun just beginning to blush across the sky. We were so high up that when I looked out the window, what I initially thought was the ground proved to be clouds. We were flying higher than most of the clouds. We began descending from our cruising height of 37,000 feet and I was soon able to see the patchwork quilt of green below us. Man, is it beautiful. We landed in Heathrow at about 7:40am (UK time), deplaned, and headed to immigration. Happily, there were no hitches or glitches. I handed the officer my passport, immigration letter, flight itinerary, and receipt proving I have a round-trip ticket. He stamped my passport and advised me that if I travel outside of the UK during the course of my studies that I must bring my immigration letter with me. He also informed me that I did not need to take my medicine over to the customs line (one less headache, thankfully).

Tyler and I went to fetch our bags from the carousel and all of them arrived safely and in a timely fashion—no nail biting and praying they weren't forgotten. In the immigration line, we had met two girls who were also SSO bound so we headed to the train to terminal 1 (And the bus station) together. I got an overpriced Mocha at the bus station and impressed Tyler with my ability to shoulder my carry-on, handle my coffee, and roll both suitcases with only two hands. I'm still not quite sure how I did it. We got on the bus, I handed the driver a £20 note and of we went. The English countryside is beautiful, I must say. There are a lot of sheep and plenty of horses. I got off at the correct stop and met three more SSO students, all from Messiah. We walked to the Vines together and made it in safely. I am in room seven, overlooking the trees and the front drive. There is plenty of space in here, for which I am glad. From where I sit at my desk, I am looking into the canopy of one of the trees (a willow, I think, actually). It's calm and peaceful and the weather is currently beautiful—about 55° and sunny.

I need to finish unpacking now. At some point, I need to plan a trip to whatever store around where I can find the things I forgot. I'd rather like a shower but alas, I forgot a towel. I removed it to take something else out of the suitcase and failed to put it back in! Oops... I suppose I shall have to make due at the moment.

List of things forgotten:


AA batteries


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Taking off and flying blind

Let's forget about the list for a minute. Just about everything is done. The other things, well, I guess I'll live without. At this point tomorrow, I will be mid-flight, headed across the Atlantic. No going back, no running scared. This. Is. It.

I know this is going to be fun and it's a once in a lifetime opportunity. It's going to be amazing. But it's going to be very far from home and from my friends. Tyler is going with me which makes this a little easier. I will make great friends there, I'm sure, but it's still kind of terrifying. I know I will miss my friends and my family and my professors and even my dog. I'll miss my books and the TV and working at the Jammin Java.

But this is my life now. My life is bigger than this. It will soon be time to go.

So kiss me and smile for me. Tell me that you'll wait for me. Hold me like you'll never let me go. Cause I'm leavin' on a jet plane. I don't know when I'll be back again. Oh baby, I hate to go.