Check out the book I'm writing!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Week in the Life of Me

It’s occurred to me that I’ve written very little of my day to day life here in Oxford, so I decided to tell you what an average week is like here.

Monday:

The week starts with a lecture, either at the Warner’s house or at St. Peter’s College. This is the one time during the week when everyone in OOSC comes together (partly because it’s when we’re given our food money for the week). The lecturers are the tutors in our program, and the topics are English history, art, and literature, in an attempt to educate ignorant Americans about English culture. There are no papers due, or tests given, on the lectures, but I generally try to take notes, partially out of respect to the lecturers. Some lectures are more interesting than others, and they range from downright boring to highly engaging.

After lecture, Amy, Sam and I often go out to eat, usually at either the Noodlebar, or the Buttery.

Tuesday:

I rarely have anything going on Tuesday. I most likely will go to the store, either Tesco or Sainsbury, and buy groceries for the week. If I have a tutorial Wednesday, then I’ll be writing a paper and working on my translation for the week. On Tuesday evening I sometimes go to a church gathering for Rivers of Life for dinner and Bible study. Again, if I have a tutorial the next day, I will be staying up until about 1:00 AM finishing my paper.

Wednesday:

Wednesday is market day. You’ll probably find me at the Warner’s around 10:30 to get any books I need for the week, and to print my paper and translation. After that, I’ll go to the open market at Gloucester Green and stock up on bananas, Clementine oranges, and any other produce I want for the week (I get aubergines pretty regularly).

Last term my Greek tutorial was every week on Wednesday evening. I’d ride my bike out to my tutor’s (Susan) house for our meeting. When she got there (she’s usually late), I’d give her a copy of my paper and keep one for myself. Then I’d read my paper out loud and she’d follow me along, stopping me to correct my pronunciation and to ask any questions that might arise. Then we’d discuss what I had written, and my topic for next week would be assigned.

When we were done discussing my paper, I would give her my translation, again keeping a copy for myself. She would read aloud in English from the Greek (she translates in her head), and then check my translation. Then we would discuss the mistakes I’d made, and I would defend certain decisions I’d made while translating, such as sacrificing a smoother English translation to more accurately reflect the Greek word order, or using an English idiom to capture the expression of a phrase instead of using a literal translation. After that, Susan would talk about the passage I had translated, putting it in its historic context, etc.

Since Amy usually had her German tutorial right after mine, I’d usually go over to her and Sam’s house afterwards and we’d watch a movie.

This term I have my Latin tutorial on Wednesday with Susan. It works the same way, but only meets every fortnight.

Thursday:

Thursday is the craft market. I don’t always go, though I sometimes walk through it if I’m already in town. I’ve never bought anything there, but a lot of the stuff is really cool.

Last term I had my Formal Logic tutorial on Thursday every fortnight. We don’t talk about my Formal Logic tutorial. Let’s just say it often left me demanding of anyone in earshot why logic didn’t make any sense. It also always seemed to rain on Logic days, so I was usually forced to buy a milkshake at Moo-Moos after my tutorial to ward off the rainy day blues. Thursday is also the day that the animal rights protesters gather outside the Psychology and Zoology building, which makes the walk home interesting.

Thursday evenings I go to Focus at St. Ebbe's, a Bible study for Uni students. We have dinner, and then break into small groups. Last term we went through the book of Philippians, and this term we’re doing part of Isaiah.

Friday:

The end of the week! Usually celebrated with a movie and popcorn. Unfortunately, this term I have a tutorial on Saturday, so I’m most likely going to be spending Fridays finishing my paper.

Saturday:

Saturday mornings often start with a women’s prayer breakfast with some of the people from Rivers of Life. It’s a wonderful way to start the day.

This term I’ll be having my Philosophy tutorials every Saturday. My first one is this week, so I don’t know how they will go.

Sunday:

On Sunday morning I go to St. Ebbe's 11:30 AM service, which is for Uni students. Its an Anglican church, but not high Anglican. Penelope calls St. Ebbes a “happy clappy church”, which I find amusing, since people don’t clap during the music at all. I go to a true “happy clappy” church on Sunday evening when I attend Rivers of Life’s service. The music there is wonderful, and everyone always claps along. It’s a smaller church, and from the moment I first walked in, I felt like family there.


So, that’s my week. The rest of my time is generally spent studying and avoiding studying.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Mission: Celebrate 21

About a week ago, Samantha attempted to invite me to her birthday party that she was planning. Amy and I promptly decided this was unacceptable, told her so, and began preparations to celebrate her 21st birthday.

Our “party”, consisting of Sam, Amy, and myself, took place on Wednesday, Sam’s actual birthday, and mostly involved a lot of messy cooking. First, we made gnocchi for dinner. Sam hung out in the kitchen and watched in amusement while Amy and I covered ourselves, and everything else, in sticky potato dough. Everyone joined in for the cooking of the noodles, since its fun to watch them float to the top and to fish them out. It turned out pretty good (this was my 4th time making it), though we didn’t have the right dish to put them in, so the noodles partly turned into a potato blob. I think Sam and Amy’s enjoyment of the dish was a little feigned, but that’s okay. Gnocchi is a very unique dish, not quite a pasta, but not really a dumpling either. After the gnocchi, broccoli (which Sam doesn’t like—oops), and garlic bread was done, we retired to the lounge (Briticism for living room) to eat.

Having finished dinner, it was time to start making pudding. Amy and I had two deserts planned: a cake, of course, and a surprise. Sam assisted Amy in making the cake and icing, which apparently required throwing massive amounts of powdered sugar into the air. While the cakes baked (two layers) and Amy worked on getting the powdered sugar out of the slots in Optimus, her computer, I set about making the surprise—strawberry daiquiris. I don’t know if the finished product could technically be called a daiquiri, but it tasted good, and had lots of strawberries, a little lime juice, and just enough rum to officially consummate Sam’s new legal status in it.

When the cakes were finished baking, Sam was sent back into the lounge while Amy and I decorated the cake. The cakes, however, decided that they wanted to stay in their pans, and the finished product was basically a pile of icing holding together pieces of sponge cake. But it tasted good. After lighting the candles, we gathered up the other occupants of the house and sang Happy Birthday to Sam.

The rest of the evening was spent talking, opening presents (all two of them), and, for Amy and I, washing dishes.

P.S. There are pictures of all this, but I took them with Amy’s camera and don’t have them to post.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Cotswold Way

Getting there is Half the Fun


Having seen very little of the country we are living in, Samantha and I decided to go to Bath. We also decided to walk there.

Actually, it was Sam’s idea. On Easter Sunday she told that she was thinking of walking Cotswold Way, a hundred mile trail through the English countryside, from Chipping Campden to Bath. It sounded like fun, so I decided to join her and we set out on April 3rd, with no idea what we were getting ourselves into. We each carried a backpack containing a pair of jeans, several shirts, lots of socks, and a Nalgene bottle. Between the two of us we also had 3 small bags of chocolate, a large bag of raisins, a Ziploc baggy filled with cheerios, a jar of peanut butter, a butter tub filled with crackers, and 12 granola bars. Tied around our waists we each had a light jacket and a sweatshirt. We also had various medical supplies (Band-Aids, Neosporin, etc) and other miscellaneous things (sewing kit, toothpaste, sunscreen, duct-tape). I am pleased to say that we carried nothing superfluous, as we used everything in out bags at some point or another. Thus packed, we took a train to Moreton-in-Marsh, and a bus to Chipping Campden, where we began out journey.

A lot happened on our trip, more than I’ve really had time to process, so I’m only going to post the notes I took each night after we stopped hiking. If you want to know more about anything, just let me know.


Day One
“We have no idea what we’re doing, do we?”
-Me


I shall be telling this with a sigh,
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
-Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken


Time spent walking: 4 hours, 12 minutes
Ground covered: 10 miles.
Destination reached: Stanton
Stayed at: Shenbury Hill
Ate at: Mount Inn
Famous Sights: Broadway Tower
Goals Achieved: Reached Stanton

10 Things We Learned:

1.) In small towns, it is perfectly acceptable to ride you horse down High Street.

2.) People in the countryside are friendlier than people in the city. We received four verbal greetings from total strangers in one day! This is about how many greetings I’ve received during my whole stay in Oxford.

3.) Its okay to open gates on people’s land—and to climb over stiles. Much of Cotswold Way is on public footpaths and bridle paths, many of which cut across sheep pastures. In order to keep sheep from escaping, the most common gate on the Way is called a kissing gate, which only one person can get through at a time (click for picture).

4.) Sheep don’t stand still so you can pet them. They do, however, come numbered, so you can count them.

5.) Sheep make weird noises. Very, very, weird noises, ranging fro your basic baaaa, to gurgling, coughing, and hee-haw.

6.) Sam’s stomach makes strange noises. This means she is hungry, and will not last much longer if not fed (we discovered this a little too late, which is why we only made to 10 miles).

7.) Keep your eyes on the path. Otherwise you might trip and fall in the mud. Not that I had any personal experiences with this or anything…

8.) Its hard to find a good walking stick. Which might explain why the Cotswold Way accessory is an aluminum walking pole.

9.) Backpacks, no matter how light you packed, get heavier the further you walk.

10.) Youth Hostels are not to be found on the trail, and Bed and Breakfast-es are very surprised if you show up without a reservation (we got smarter after the first experience and started calling ahead before we showed up).


Day Two:
“How far are you going?”
-Customary hiker greeting


Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough brier,
Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire,
I do wander everywhere…
-Wm. Shakespeare, Midsummer’s Night Dream

Time spent walking: 7 hours, 29 minutes
Ground covered: 20 miles.
Destination reached: Dowdeswell
Stayed at: Langet
Ate at: Reservoir Pub
Famous Sights: Hayles Abbey, Belas Knap
Goals Achieved: Pet a sheep (Sam), Saw ruins (Me)

10 Things We Learned:

1.) England is mad of mud and sheep. Mostly mud.

2.) Don’t walk backwards uphill—its not easier if you fall and roll back down (again, no personal experience of this…)

3.) There are two trail markers for Cotswold Way: Acorns and White Dots. The signposts with acorns are much more helpful.

4.) Cleeve Common is not a town. It’s the top of a very, very tall hill. (Cleeve Hill, on the other hand, is a town. Go figure.)

5.) Cotswold way is just a trick to make people walk in circles.

6.) 20 miles is a very long way to walk (I guess I should have known this already, having once ran 13).

7.) Pubs can be hard to find.

8.) While it’s okay to open gates, if you have to climb a fence, you’re probably going the wrong way (this is related to #7). However, I do have awesome James Bond moves.

9.) Landladies at B&B’s are really cool. There’s a whole sub-culture that’s grown up along the Way.

10.) Grey squirrels are not welcome in English gardens.


Day Three:
“Your navigational skills are somewhat suspect.”
-Landlady at Thorne


Dimidium facit, qui coepit, habet. Sapere aude, incipe.
-Horace
(He who begins, has made it half-way. Dare to be wise, begin)



Time spent walking: 8 hours
Ground covered: 20 miles.
Destination reached: Painswick (Halfway point of the trail!)
Stayed at: Thorne
Ate at: (Something’s) Arms
Famous Sights: Cooper’s Hill (sight of annual cheese rolling festival), Devil’s Chimney, Witcombe Roman Villa
Goals Achieved: rolled down...no, danced around a maypole on top of a cheese rolling hill, saw (Roman!) ruins

10 Things We Learned:

1.) 20 miles is still very far.

2.) England is still made of mud.

3.) Frozen rain is not fun to hike through.

4.) It is possible to get lost (at least, slightly turned around) on “England’s best marked trail”.

5.) Cheese rolling hills are not fun to climb up, hence our decision not to roll down it (we’d have to climb back up it again).

6.) The middle of nowhere is somewhere along Cotswold Way. The only sign of civilization was a tree with an arrow on it. There wasn’t even a sheep field.

7.) You walk slower after two full days of walking.

8.) While a good walking stick is hard to find, it is very useful for pulling yourself uphill,
keeping from rolling downhill, and pole-vaulting over puddles.

9.) Its hard to find a place to stay when there’s a rugby match in town.

10.) 400 year old houses are really, really cool. And have steep staircases.


Day Four:

Sam and I were prepared for a lot of things, but not this:


Having made it half-way, we decided to head back home. Our landlady wouldn’t hear of us hiking through the snow in just our sweatshirts, so she drove us to Stroud (one of the few towns on the Way with a train station), and we caught a train back to Oxford. So, the trail didn’t beat us, but the weather did. Don’t worry though. Sam and I aren’t quitters, and are already planning to take a long weekend to visit Bath and hike back down the rest of the trail.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Seville

In which I see that person I know from somewhere

It’s amazing to me that in less than 3 hours I can go from the cold, rainy, English winter to warm, sunny Spain. My first impression of Seville was how similar it looked to Florida. There were orange and palm trees everywhere! But enough about the weather….
My trip to Spain marked two firsts for me. 1) This was the first trip that ever planned and executed entirely on my own (Okay—Joanne figured out where I would stay, but I did everything else). 2) This was the first time I really travelled to see a person and not a place. I probably wouldn’t have gone to Spain at all over my break if it wasn’t for Joanne being there. It was so wonderful to see her! It was also strange in some ways. Here I was, in foreign country…and there was Joanne! It was also a little strange for it to be just the two of us without Jessica (N.B. for those who don’t know…Joanne and Jessica are my roommates back in the States).

I stayed with Laura, another friend from the Sates, and her host mother, which was quite the experience, as I didn’t speak any Spanish beyond counting to ten and other such useless phrases. It was like taking an immersion language course without knowing the language. I would have been lost if Laura and Joanne hadn’t been there to translate.
One of the coolest things we did was go to Italica, which are the remains of a Roman city, birthplace to Trajan and boyhood home to Hadrian (Roman Emperors). Spanish history is actually very closely linked with Rome. There were many famous Romans from Spain, including Seneca. Italica had some of the best ruins I’ve seen, as good as and even better than many in Italy. It also had some beautifully preserved mosaics.
Most of the trip was just spent enjoying Spanish culture: Lots of walking, siestas, staying out late, tapas, and tons of food. I had a wonderful time.
When I arrived home in Oxford, I had a nice surprise. While it had definitely left in the winter, it was now obviously spring. The parks were open until 8:00 PM (they closed at 4:30 when I first got here), flowers were blooming all over, the weather was warmer, the sun was…well, not exactly shining, but it was making a good effort.

Now, if you’ll excuse me…I didn’t get a lot of sleep in Spain, and need a nap.