Scotland, for I [Part I]

I don’t know much about alcohol, but I know enough to recognize that the air found where Wycliffe Hall’s courtyard spills into Norham Gardens smells like a gin and tonic. Sometimes I just stand there to drink it in.

I don’t know much about alcohol, but I know that I didn’t like the fruity slider I got at the Oxford Union’s club, the Purple Turtle. They have sliders named after every college and hall in Oxford, in addition to the houses of Hogwarts. Whoever came up with the blue-green bubblegum tasting shot for Wycliffe Hall—the Oxford centre for typically conservative Evangelicals—must have particularly savoured the irony of their concoction. Myself and a couple friends each downed one to commemorate the end of our first month at Oxford and the start of our first night out dancing. The decision to go out that night, for me at least, was both a horrible one and a wonderful one. Earlier in the day I had a hell of a time getting my new phone plan to work at the local branch of a UK mobile company, courtesy of their completely incompetent staff and shady business practices. It still doesn’t work. The next morning I needed to wake up at 6:30 to catch a train to Edinburgh, thus beginning the ten days of vacation between my pre-term classes and Michaelmas. I lied to myself saying that I would be able to get sleep on the train (I can’t sleep in moving vehicles), and danced until two in the morning, followed by a happy trip to a kebab stand—the staple English remedy for late night less-than-culinary cravings.

From my journal on the train to Edinburgh, via Birmingham:

I know where you are
but I can’t go there, so I’m
looking for you here

[the names and phone numbers of my contacts in Edinburgh]

I’d like to write something about the women in my life. Something about resilience and loud voices.

When I arrived in Edinburgh, after two hours spent in vain at the local branch of the UK mobile company, I took a taxi to the flat of the couple I was to sleep at for two nights. One perk of having a father who works in the world of academia is the network of kind academics that comes with him. The couple I stayed with are both professors at the University of Edinburgh, in theology and art history. After dropping off my bags, I went to find another couple that my dad arranged for me to hang out with (also professors, both theology). They showed me around the university. I have a disorder that kicks in when I visit most universities: I stop enjoying the place for its own sake and instead start enjoying the life I could potentially be living there—the people I’d know, the buildings I’d live and work in, the air I’d breathe. After a fairly thorough tour of Old Town and New Town, my guides took me to the Scotch Malt Whiskey Society, of which they are members. I had a beautiful plate of (well raised) haggis and what will probably be the best whiskey I’ll ever have, which is depressing given that I’m twenty years old. Continue reading

I’m at Oxford

Since starting this blog, I have generally tried to keep its contents different than what you might find in my journal. My journal mostly contains descriptions of what I do in a particular day in addition to anything that is particularly wearing on my mind. I try to only blog about something if I think that others will either find it interesting, helpful, or well-crafted. The more mundane things go on my Facebook.

But now I am studying in Oxford, with less access to Facebook and less desire to access Facebook. Instead, I will put up a new blog post now and then to keep those I promised I would keep informed informed.

After a looooooong summer of work I packed up everything in the flat I shared with two coworkers over the summer. Looking ahead, when I go back to Seattle in January I will not be living in the same place, so in addition to Oxford packing I had moving packing to do. I had to leave 6:30 am the next morning to catch my flight. As all of my possessions (including my burgeoning library) were being fit together into boxes like the dullest of all 3d block puzzles that someone inevitably gives you for Christmas, I began to lose it. Maddie and Meredith, two of my favorite ladies (and each wonderful poets), held me together until 1:00 am, when the packing was finished. We crammed my luggage into Maddie’s car and drove to Beth’s Diner for a late night breakfast.

Nothing revives like Beth’s.

I got three hours of sleep that night and one hour the next night on my flight to Heathrow from JFK (having flown there from Seattle). I landed in London at 7:30 am, cleared immigration, and hopped aboard an Oxford-bound bus with several other people I recognized from Facebook. I am here with Best Semester’s Scholars’ Semester in Oxford (SSO). I’m a scholar now, Ma.

Myself and two new friends checked in to Wycliffe Hall, our home for the next few months, before finding a pub to eat, drink, and be as merry as one may be after two and a half days with four hours of sleep. Over the past few days, other students and I have journeyed numerous times into the heart of Oxford for books, groceries, tours, and meals. Those trips occur when we weren’t in some sort of orientation for the programme.

We will soon be falling into a regular schedule of classes. Until the Oxford term starts in about five weeks, we will be taking a class called British Landscapes. It is basically an English history and culture class, from what I understand. It may be taken with specific focuses on various disciplines. We will also begin the Seminar class on a discipline of our choosing that. We will meet with a professor once a week as a group until Oxford term starts. After that, we will attend 16 lectures and write a research paper on a topic of our choosing within the selected discipline. For both the Seminar and British Landscape class I chose Art History. A better understanding of art will enrich my understanding of history and increase the areas I can write about. Plus, it gives me an excuse to go to all of the wonderful museums here.

When the Oxford Michelmas term starts, I will be diving into Shakespeare with my primary tutorial. It’s nice because I have one book for that class: William Shakespeare: The Complete Works. Ha. I won’t read all of it, but I’ll make a good dent. My secondary tutorial will be on Modern Literature. For the purpose of this class, ‘modern’ means 20th century. The authors I’ll read are Waugh, Woolf, Elliot, and Plath.

There it is, a basic summary of my time at Oxford so far. And now, off to bed.