31 December 2008

The Final Post of 2008

WARNING: Please excuse my grammatical errors and poor writing skills. This post has taken me two days to write and is rather disjointed in its construction.

This is the final post of 2008 and what a year it has been! When I left the US, gas prices were hovering around the $4.00 mark (Indeed, when I saw that they had dropped down to $3.90 around August 1st, I almost crashed my car in my shocked haste to call my father at work and let him know), and when I returned they were at $1.45 per gallon. Obviously, this is a clear sign that the world is ending. When I was returning from spending the weekend at Elysa's house (a friend from CMRS who lives in St. Mary's), I paid $25 to the attendant, still thinking that it would fill up perhaps half of the tank of my Ford Focus as it would have back during the summer. However, it only took $15 to fill up my entire tank! Unfortunately, the drop in gas prices is also an indicator of our failing economy, so I suppose I shouldn't be too happy.

Before I write my traditional end-of-year summary, I realized that I never got around to writing about my last few days in Oxford, a situation that I shall remedy immediately.

Friday, Dec. 6: What a hellish day! My Chivalry & Courtly Love seminar paper of 3000 - 4000 paper was due at 5pm. My topic? 'The Role of Arthurian Legend in Early Tudor Propaganda'. A good idea, in theory. However, the more I researched, the more it seemed that there was not nearly enough evidence to support my thesis. Now, I am not one of those history majors who absolutely loves history. Granted, I am interested in it enough to major in it. Still...when I get into my 'historian mode', all hell breaks loose. I refuse to put forward a thesis supported by flimsy or misused evidence. And so I spent all of Thursday after my tutorial at the Bodleian reading over accounts of Henry VII and VIII's reigns, searching for anything that could back up my argument. Elysa had two friends from the States visit her that night, and so I joined my friends in taking them to St. Peter's College bar, the Cross Keys, and to the Turf Tavern. I suppose that time could have been better used in working on my paper, however, I was so worn-out by that point that the break was quite necessary.

At 12:30am, I joined Tony in the seminar room and started my paper. 3000-4000 words is roughly 15 pages. My goal was to have 2000 words written by 8am. The atmosphere in that room was quite tense the entire time that we were in there. At varying points throughout the night (morning?), Tony or I would decide that there was absolutely no way we could continue on. However, failure was not an option, and so we pressed on. At just before 8, I hit the 2000 word mark, meaning that I had earned the right to go to breakfast. Tony and I packed up our belongings and headed over to St. Peter's in a daze. Looking back, I have no idea how I even was managing to stand at that point given how tired I was. After breakfast, we walked over to the Lower Camera at the Bodleian's Radcliffe Camera, where I sat in the coldest corner possible (to keep myself awake) and managed to finish my paper. Overall, it turned out more decently than some papers I had spent days on, but I doubt that I will be pulling such a stunt in the near future.

That night, my purse was stolen while I was out with my friends, thus putting a damper on the entire weekend.

Sat., Dec. 7: I moped about for part of the morning since I was still quite upset over the fact that my purse was stolen and I had absolutely no money. My roommate treated me out for waffles at Convivos (a hip cafe in Gloucester Green) and I went for a run to clear my mind. That evening, we found out that as it was outside of the Oxford term, St. Peter's would not be providing meals, even though they had specifically stated that they would. I, of course, had no money, and my friends were not in that much better of a state. Somehow, we managed to pull together enough to buy a pizza and garlic bread from Sainsbury's. That night we went to the Eagle & Child and then hung out in the seminar room, reminiscing on the fact that the semester was almost over.

Mon., Dec. 9: Thankfully, Dad wired money to me, which allowed me to relax a bit. I was able to get a pair of keys into the building from the administration, which also caused me no small amount of relief that I wouldn't have to rely on others for help getting back inside. Still, there was no rest for the weary, as I had both a 10-page tutorial paper and an 8-page integral paper to finish by Wednesday night. In order to prevent myself from getting too stressed out, Tony and I went to the Turf Tavern.

Tues., Dec. 10: I spent all day working on my final tutorial paper (Tracing the change in the imperial theme through the reigns of Elizabeth and James I) and researching for my integral paper (Topic: Why the medieval church was the most integrated period of religious thought and practice) At 8pm, Brad, Elysa, Tony, Becky, and I went to my favorite pub, Far From the Madding Crowd, and grabbed a pint (or, in my case, a cider) for the last time. And then it was back to St. Peter's library to finish writing my tutorial paper.

Wednesday, Dec. 11: I had my final tutorial with Miranda from 10-12 and began my integral paper immediately afterwards. I finished by 2;30 (it was due at 3) and was quite pleased with my work. It could only be a maximum of 2000 words and I came out at 1960. The actual paper itself was not too bad, especially considering that I really do not care for religious history of any sort. Afterwards, I went for one of my last runs in Christ Church meadows. I can honestly say that this was one of my favorite places in all of Oxford. So much so, in fact, that I am very tempted to bring my running shoes with me when I visit Oxford at the end of January so that I can run along the Thames again.

Thursday, Dec. 12: Brad and I left for London bright and early on Thursday morning. Our main reason for going was that the Oxford versus Cambridge rugby game was being held at Twickenham stadium just outside of London. However, we left earlier than we needed because Brad had not been to London yet. Unfortunately, my decision to go to the rugby game meant that I didn't get to say goodbye to my friend Becky, which was a bit upsetting. Once in London, we saw Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Parliament, Trafalgar Square, Tower of London, St. Paul's Cathedral, and Westminster Cathedral (the Catholic one). Of course, because of the time crunch (and the fairly steep admission fees) we didn't get to go inside any of these places. It was then that we set off on the Tube for Twickenham. Unfortunately, this is where we ran into problems. Kick-off for the rugby game was set for 2pm. We didn't set off on the Tube until 1:50, had 15 stops until we hit Richmond, and then had to take a bus to the stadium.

As is the case when it comes to my luck, the train ended up being delayed multiple times. However, we did catch up with Amanda and Karen, two fellow CMRS-ers whom we had attempted (and failed) to meet up with at Victoria station. At Richmond we took a local bus to Twickenham and then set off for the direction of the stadium off in the distance. Rugby games are fairly short (only about 90 minutes) and it was already 2:45. At some point, we started to run towards the stadium in the hopes that we would catch at least a little of the game. We made it for the last 30 minutes, which is, of course, the best and most exciting part of the game. Oxford was winning, so I headed downstairs to get my pint of Strongbow. Now, I rarely get excited over sporting events, and never to the point where I jump up from my seat. However, I was so moved over this game that I ended up jumping up and 'accidentally' spilling some of my cider on the Cambridge supporters in front of me. (They, however, were too inebriated to notice, so I suppose it was not so bad.) Despite an aggressive last ditch effort by Cambridge, Oxford won the game for yet another year in a row. The four of us joined the crowd pouring from the stadium and walked through the streets of Twickenham, all the while cheering loudly for Oxford.

We boarded a local bus that would take us to the Kew Gardens Tube station, hoping to avoid the torrent of people at Richmond station. Unfortunately, our bus was diverted, got stuck in traffic, and we got off at the wrong stop. We boarded another bus, got on the Tube, and then were stuck on the train for an hour due to signal problems up by Tower Hill station. By the time we got on the bus back to Oxford, we were exhausted. However, the fun was not over yet. As it was one of our last nights in Oxford, we joined the large group of CMRS-ers at The Turf and then headed to the King's Arms to celebrate Oxford's win. By this point, however, I was so exhausted that I headed back to St. Michael's to crash.

Friday, Dec. 13: Friday was my last full day in Oxford and, therefore, a rather depressing one. The fact that it was raining didn't help matters at all. I woke early, mailed my stained glass at the post office on St. Aldate's, walked round the Bodleian one last time, went running in Christ Church, and then said goodbye to my roommate, Becca, who is traveling around Europe for a month before heading to do mission work in Zimbabwe. I then met with Tristan near the gigantic Christmas tree and menorah on Broad. He had actually left Oxford for London the previous weekend, but I had missed his departure due to my phone having been stolen. Saying goodbye to him was one of the hardest things I had to do in Oxford. Despite the fact that we got into huge rows every time we were together, our friendship was one of the most unexpected results of my study abroad experience. And I truly will miss him.

Later, Karen and I went to the Mitre for tea and scones. My most distinct memory from the day is sitting in the corner of the Mitre, wearing my paper crown from my Christmas cracker, watching out the window at the people passing by on the street. It was then that I knew that my life would never return to normal. I ate my last dinner at St. Peter's and then finished my last bits of packing.

Most of the people from the program went out on a last pub crawl and then went to the clubs. However, I was in absolutely no mood to do such a thing and so settled for sitting in my room feeling rather melancholy. Luckily, my friends pulled me out of my moping by taking me to Far From the Madding Crowd one last time. I drank my last Katy Cider and played a last game of Jenga. Afterwards, we went to the Gloucester Arms, ("Oxford's No. 1 Rock Pub") for the first time, before heading back to St. Michael's hall. By this time, most people had returned from the pub crawl and were in the midst of throwing an all-night party in the common room.

Sat, Dec. 14: The final day had come. I'd been unable to cry all semester, but I'll admit that a few tears leaked out when I was saying goodbye. It still hurts too much to talk about it.

Overall, going to Oxford was the best experience that I have ever had. For anyone thinking about studying abroad, I say that you should do it. I've grown tremendously, both academically and as a person. Looking back, it is strange to think that I hadn't even been looking forward to Oxford at the start of the summer. After all, I thought that my experience would be lessened by the fact that I would be studying with other Americans as opposed to actual British students. No, it was Edinburgh that I was looking forward to, as I would be completely alone; a visiting student at the University itself with no program to provide me with activities to 'pad' the experience. However, I can honestly say that my Oxford experience was not hindered in any way by studying with Americans. (Although I absolutely HATED it when certain people would break into loud renditions of the National Anthem.) Indeed, I made some of my closest friends at CMRS.

I can only hope that my time at Edinburgh proves to be as wonderful a experience.

I was going to post a year-end wrap up, but it is almost as if everything before Oxford is not even worth mentioning.

To everyone has read my blog, thank you for supporting me and putting up with my complete disregard for grammatical structure and usage. For those who (amazingly) have not been completely turned off by my misuse of the English language, I look forward to entertaining/boring you in 2009.

Happy New Year!

30 December 2008

Round Two: Edinburgh

In ten days time, I will be leaving for study abroad at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. As Edinburgh is not nearly as well-known as Oxford, I feel that a bit of background on both the city and the University is in order.

Edinburgh: Known as the Athens of the North, it is the capital of Scotland and the seventh largest city in the UK, boasting a population of 468,000 (making it over twice the size of Oxford). Incidentally, a large number of people mispronounce the city's name, calling it 'Edin-burg', 'Edin-borough', or 'Edin-bur'. It is actually pronounced 'Edin-burra'. (If you do not believe me, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media:En-uk-edinburgh.ogg and click the sound file.) The city itself is split into two sections: Old Town and New Town. The Old Town, where the university is located and where I will be living, was the original city and still contains many of the medieval buildings that formed Scotland's early capital. The center of the Old Town is the Royal Mile. The Royal Mile is essentially that, one mile of road linking Edinburgh Castle (the ancient seat of the Scottish kings) and Holyrood Palace (where the kings moved when they decided the Castle was too drafty). The New Town is more recent and boasts Georgian architecture.

The University of Edinburgh was founded in 1582 and is internationally renowned. (As you can see, I simply will not settle for second-rate institutions when I study abroad.) It currently ranks within the world's top 25 universities and notable alumni include Gordon Brown (the current prime minister), Alexander Graham Bell, Charles Darwin, and assorted others whom I do not particularly feel like mentioning at this moment.

For the benefit of those who are likely to be reading this at the present moment and worrying(aka my mum), I've drawn up a helpful map to set your mind at ease.
Unfortunately, the picture has come up a bit fuzzy, but no matter. An explanation of the various sites:
1. Edinburgh Castle: The centerpiece of Edinburgh and the most well-known site. It sits on top of an ancient volcano (which, do not fear, is entirely dormant). St. Margaret's Chapel, located within the castle complex, is the oldest building in Edinburgh, dating from the early 12th century.
2. New Town: For an explanation, see above. It is here that I will do all of my shopping, as IKEA and the mall are located within the New Town.
3. Train: One needs to get around somehow. Unfortunately, train tickets in the UK are very expensive. However, the bus going to the airport picks up from the airport, so it serves as a good departure reference point.
4. Old Town: For an explanation, see above. It is in the Old Town that I will likely spend most of my time, as I find it more preferential than the New Town.
5. Holyrood Palace: Originally founded as a monastery in the early 12th century, it has been used as the primary residence of the Kings of Scotland since the 15th century.
6. Arthur's Seat: The main peak in a group of hills (the Salisbury Crags) in the city center, some claim that the name 'Arthur's Seat' is linked to the legendary King Arthur. It provides absolutely stunning views of the city (as I remember from the last time I was in Edinburgh) and I am resolved to run/climb to the top at least once a week. After all, what is the use of having such an excellent vantage point if one does not make use of it.
7. George Square: The center of the University of Edinburgh, all of my classes are located within this complex.
8. The Meadows: One of the largest parks in Edinburgh (after Holyrood Park), I will be living less than two minutes walk from it. While it doesn't promise the scenic views that Christ Church meadow did (and how my heart longs to run in such a location again!), I predict that I will become quite familiar with it by the end of my first week. I can run to my heart's content and home is only a few blocks away.
9. 102 Warrender Park Road: I will be living in flat 7, room 2. Apparently, I have four other flat-mates whom I will meet sometime on January 10th or 11th. As to who they are or where they are from, I have absolutely no clue. I suppose that is part of the experience. Anyways, the accommodation is self-catered, meaning that I am going to have to cook everything for myself. I forsee a lot of salads, chicken, curry, pasta, and rice in my near future.

13 December 2008

It is raining and I leave Oxford in two hours. I feel like my soul has died...

10 December 2008

In the past 14 days, I've gotten a grand total of 30 hours of sleep.

In the past 9 days, I've written 54 pages worth of papers, 19 pages of which were written in the last 24 hours.

I think there is something seriously wrong when the amount of pages I am writing far exceeds the amount of sleep I am getting.

On a happier note, I had my last tutorial today. I wrote a 3000 word paper for it last night summing up the Imperial Theme as we had discussed it this past semester. I started the paper at 6:00, took a break at 7pm in order to get a Katy's Cider at my favourite pub, Far From the Madding Crowd, and then went back to work at 8:30. I was finished by 10:30. Not too shabby. The tutorial went well, despite the fact that I had to fight incredibly hard to keep myself from spacing out due to exhaustion. Immediately after, I started work on the integral essay that was due at 3pm. I suppose it is my own fault for having left it so late; however, I had so much other work to do there was no time to start it earlier. Anyways, I finished within by 2:30, which means that I wrote 1960 words on the integration of religious thought and practice in the western church between 1000-1400 in two and a half hours. Also not too shabby.

Tomorrow, I am going to London fairly early in the morning for the Oxford versus Cambridge rugby match. I've been looking forward to it for quite some time, but was doubtful whether or not I was going to be able to go due to the purse situation. However, I now feel that I will be able to spare the 15 pounds that it will cost to get me to London and back, so am going to go. It should be great fun and a well-earned reward for all of the work that I've done this past term.

It's hard to believe that I will be leaving in three days. In fact, I am trying hard not to think about it. I mean, I know that I will be back in Oxford to visit Karen in 44 days, but it still hard. Incidentally, I will be moving in to my flat in Edinburgh in one month's time! I'm living in 5/12 South College Street, Edinburgh. What does this mean? I'm in Flat 12 at 5 South College Street. It is self-catered and I will have 3 other flat-mates. But I am incredibly excited. On to better, colder, more northerly things...

I've recently been thinking more about grad school and have created my short list: (posted in no particular order)
1. University of Oxford
2. University of Edinburgh
3. London School of Economics and Political Science
4. John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies

It's going to be a stretch, but perhaps I can do it...

06 December 2008

Where am I today? I wish that I knew.

I've had one absolutely hellish week. I still love Oxford, but, man, it has been tough. It was eighth week, which is the last official week of term and equivalent to finals week. To be honest, I only just barely made it through.

My schedule:

Sunday: Arrived home from Istanbul around 5:30pm, caught up with friends, attempted to start 'Imperial art' paper but failed.

Monday: Went running in Christ Church, went to History Faculty library, realized that books had been all taken out, went to lunch, went to Bodleian, went to Stained glass, cut glass for bowl and placed it into kiln, went to bodleian, had major freak out due to stress back at St. Michael's.

Tuesday: went running, went to seminar until 1230, ate lunch, went to stained glass, started cutting glass for new bowl as last one did not fire properly, went to bodleian, went to dinner, went to bodleian and started research for Bermuda tutorial paper and seminar paper, went to St. Peter's library until 3am to write 'Imperial art' tutorial paper.

Wednesday: went to History faculty to research, went to lunch, went to stained glass and made jewelry, went to bodleian, wrote colonialism in Bermuda tutorial paper from 4 to 10, ate dinner, sleep.

Thursday: Went running, lunch, continued research for Arthur paper, went to tutorial, went to stained glass, placed bowl in kiln, went to bodleian to research, went to St. Peter's bar with friends, came back and pulled an all-nighter to get my 15 page seminar paper done.

Was up from 730am on Thursday to 1:30 am Saturday.

I spent from 1230am to 1pm writing my seminar paper, edited it, and then turned it in. We decided to go to the club last night to relax, but while there, my purse was stolen. Now I have no way of paying for anything and am really stressed out.

03 December 2008


My camera has a video function which allows you to take footage. Unfortunately, the quality is absolutely terrible. But I did make a few attempts to bring the action to those at home.

Here are some of the results:

My Message Home from the Piazza de San Pietro

Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi by Night

Quick Greetings from Italy (Where, apparently, my eyebrow had a spasm attack)

Fake BBC Newscast from St. Peter's Piazza in the Vatican City (Which quickly descended into an attempt to just name every single British thing that we could think of)

Tour of St. Peter's Basilica (Which, unfortunately, did not really turn out that well due to the low video quality. Still, it gives you some sense of the immense size of the place.)

Prayer Call at the Blue Mosque (Our first full day in Istanbul and this is what we heard)

Istanbul by Night/ Blue Mosque by Night, the last night

02 December 2008

I can't post until I finish the three papers that are due this week.

But some photos for your viewing pleasure...

Perugia 1: http://www.new.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2030290&l=68ca1&id=115201975

Remember that time...? (Perugia 2):

This Strange Place in which we live (Oxford):

Turkey on Thanksgiving (Istanbul 1):

Crusade 2008 (Istanbul 2):

This is Istanbul (Istanbul 3):

23 November 2008

What's the point of trying to dream anymore?

To be honest, it has been a rough couple of days. But it is my own damn fault, I've done it to myself, and I am getting what I deserve. That said, I regret what has happened immensely...a rarity in my life. This, coupled with my trip to Turkey and the fact that the end of term is rapidly approaching, is the reason why I will not be updating this blog as frequently in the near future. I simply have neither the time nor the energy at this point. Perhaps once I get back from Turkey a post will be in the works. But in the meantime...yeah.

Moving on, I have realized that I have three weeks left in Oxford. Tomorrow marks the beginning of 7th week. Which means that I have three seminars and three tutorials left. Four more papers to write (three 8 pagers and one 15 pager). Loads of work, to be sure. I have mixed feelings about leaving Oxford. The highs and lows of my time here have been epic. The highs have been great, the lows...not so much. What I know for sure is that I will miss this city incredibly once I leave it. Granted, I will have the chance to come back next semester. It will be difficult, as Edinburgh is so far from Oxford, but I can make it work. However, Oxford will never be 'home' to me again. I highly doubt that I will get into graduate school here, so I might as well just accept the fact that this is it. The end of the Oxford-Rebecca relationship. How sad.

Going home is going to be hard. I'm excited to see my family. I mean it! It may not show during the first few days (or weeks), but I will be happy to see them. It's just that going home means a return to a place that is not Oxford. It means a return to responsibility, to normalcy, to...life. And, though I am loathe to admit it, I am not entirely ready to return to regular life just yet. Granted, it is only going to be for about a month. I return home on 14 December and will be leaving on 8 January. Still...the re-adjustment, the reverse culture shock, is going to be an absolute killer. I can feel it already.

Equally hard is going to be getting reacquainted with my friends from back home. I have changed here in Oxford, whether for the better or the worse has yet to, if it ever possibly can, be decided. Oxford has changed me as it does everyone who visits here for any significant length of time. It is an experience that I will never forget even if I wanted to. And just as certainly as I have changed, my friends have as well. They've gone off to different colleges, met new people, had experiences that I have not been there for and cannot possibly fathom. The same is true for me. Each semester is a bit harder than the last. And each semester I end up wondering if this is the final change, the final blow that will cause us to realize that we all have grown apart.

20 November 2008

Upcoming Schedule (because I am going to need it when my life becomes hectic)

Thursday (The remainder of today):
-Notes for seminar paper until 4:20pm
-Skype with Julie 4:20-5:30ish?
-Dinner 5:30-6
-Notes 6-8
-Hang out in the JCR 8-9
-Library 9-11

-Notes 10-12
-Lunch 12-12:30
-Notes 12:30-2
-Run 2-4
-Dinner at Eagle & Child
-90's party, St. Peter's bar, O'Neills


-Study/Prepare for Turkey

-Stained glass 1-5

-Seminar 10:30-11:30
-Take the bus to London
-Tutorial at the National Portrait Gallery with Miranda 2-5
-Bus home to Oxford
-Thanksgiving/'We are going on Crusade' dinner with Karen and Christian
-prepare for Turkey

Wednesday-Sunday: TURKEY!

17 November 2008

This past weekend I traveled to Perugia, Italy. (Perugia is the capital of the Umbria region and located in the mountains.) Overall, the weekend was...interesting. Just about everything that could go wrong did. Still, it had its good points and I feel that the more distance between myself and the actual trip, the fonder memories that I will have of it.

We left Oxford at 1AM on Friday. I immediately started things on the wrong foot by leaving my umbrella on a ledge on the High and only realizing it as we pulled onto the Cowley Road. Overall, the bus ride was not too bad. I managed to get some sleep and was not too tired when we arrived at Stansted at 4am. After getting a bit of breakfast, we headed to our terminal (out in the far reaches of Stansted...we were basically sitting in a trailer). I started getting an incredibly bad feeling about the entire trip and almost did not board the plane because of how anxious I was getting. However, I did board the plane and our take-off went smoothly.

We landed in Perugia around 11am. The airport consisted of three rooms: the arrivals room/waiting room, security area, and the two gates (which were really one room with a line drawn down the center). I fully expected to see chickens running across the runway. We found a shuttle bus to take us to the city center for 3.50, watched as it passed our hotel, and then had to walk partly down the mountain in order to figure out where we were staying. Surprisingly, we were staying at an actual hotel rather than a hostel. The Hotel Iris. It was an 19th century Italian villa and quite nice. We had our own room with one double bed and two singles. I got my own bed (because I share only my bed only occasionally) and marveled at the fact that we had a 'nice' bathroom. What luxury!

After having a bit of a lie-down to recover our wits, we walked up the mountain to the city center, which consisted of a giant square near a church (that, apparently, could be classified as a cathedral). Unfortunately, it got incredibly cold around this time and started to rain. I was in a dress, tights, and ballet flats, which became completely soaked after two minutes. (In my defense, it was supposed to be sunny and we weren't supposed to be doing much walking. How wrong this turned out to be.) Elysa and Tony hadn't changed their money at the airport, so we spent an hour looking for a bank. However, it was siesta time and so everywhere was closed. To add to this, Brad's bank account froze when he tried to withdraw money. So I was basically bank-rolling the entire joint for the rest of the day. We got pizza and gelato for lunch and then walked to the bus station to take a bus to Assisi. When we arrived, we were informed that the buses did not run hourly (as our travel guide had informed us) and that the earliest bus would leave at 6pm (when the basilica was closing). So we decided to walk down to the train station and take a train. On the map, it appeared to be about a mile away. However, it turned out to be five miles and completely off the mountain. So, yes, we walked down a mountain to get to the train station.

We bought tickets to Assisi and boarded the first train that arrived. Two stops later, we got off on a random platform, only to realize that Assisi was still seven or eight miles away. Luckily, we were able to jump on board the train before it departed again. When we arrived at Assisi (and the proper station), the town was still five miles from the station and it was 4:30. I was convinced that the basilica would close at 5pm, so we took a taxi up the mountain and sprinted the last 100 meters to the basilica proper. It was everything that I had remembered it to be. The sun was setting and the white stone of the church gleamed. Amazing. We walked through the lower basilica, and then headed down into the tomb of st. Francis. It was here that I basically had a breakdown and ended up sobbing for twenty minutes in one of the corner pews. I still don't know what came over me, however, I don't believe it was a 'miracle' as Brad claims it was.

By the time we had toured the upper basilica and come outside it was too dark to clearly see the 'Pax' in the grass outside, which was a bit of a disappointment. However, we took plenty of pictures of Assisi by night and started climbing further up the mountain in search of one of the two castles of Assisi. We walked down a dark and deserted road that was incredibly eerie for about twenty minutes before realizing that there was no way we were going to reach the castle in the near future. So we descended into the old medieval town, did a bit of exploring, and grabbed dinner at a pizzaria. On our way out of town, we entered a small wine store and met the owner, whose two daughters play for a chamber orchestra in Washington DC. Brad bought me a bottle of limoncello and Tony bought a bottle of wine. We were also informed by the owner that no buses ran to the train station this late at night (late being 7pm) and that we would have to walk.

Thus began our descent of the mountain. Keep in mind that I am still in a dress and soaking wet ballet flats. Elysa's feat have basically deteriorated to the point where she can barely walk. And in this state we walked five miles down twisty, completely dark roads. The cars whipped by at lightning speeds and it was always a toss up as to whether or not they were going to hit us. At the same time, their headlights provided a bit of much needed light. At some point, the side of the road disappeared and we had to walk on the muddy grass. My shoes had become so soaked by this point that they started falling off every two or three steps. At one point, they were falling off each step and became completely trapped in the mud. By the time we had descended the mountain and were in the outskirts of the town surrounding the train station, I had removed my shoes and was walking in my stocking feet. When we arrived at the station, I felt incredibly hard core and certain that I had probably contracted innumerable diseases from having walked two miles essentially barefoot. Still, I was alive and in one piece.

It was 9;45pm by the time we arrived back at Perugia's train station. As we were leaving the station, Tony dropped his bottle of wine. It had survived the trip down the mountain, but couldn't make it the last few miles home. How anti-climatic. On top of this, he had somehow lost the postcards that he had bought in Assisi. We took the bus to our hotel and I promptly collapsed in the shower as soon as we arrived in our room. Unfortunately, my shoes and stockings had to be thrown away as they were in too poor a state to ever be worn again. We relaxed a bit with some of the limoncello (so smooth going down before it burns your soul. It's even worse than vodka.) and then went to bed.

We awoke relatively early on Saturday with the intention of going to ROme. Once again, we had been informed that the trains ran frequently to Rome. However, upon arriving at the train station, we discovered that the earliest train departing Perugia for Rome was 11:15 and would arrive at 1:45, and the latest train leaving Rome for Perugia left at 7:45pm. Our 'epic day in Rome' had been incredibly shortened in a matter of minutes. Since it was 8am, we had plenty of tiem to kill before catching the train. Brad and I went to the co-op and bought apples (for me), water, and Pringles (for Brad). Elysa and Tony went in search of a place to change their money, but were unsuccessful.

We caught the train at 11:15 after having been told that we needed to simply present our tickets on the train. However, we were not told that we needed to stamp the tickets in one of the machines in the Perugia station. So, an hour into our trip, we were informed by the ticket conductor that we were going to have to pay 31 euro each when we arrived in Rome because we had failed to stamp our tickets. This dampened the mood considerably and we came to the universal consensus that we were going to try to get out of the charge any way that we could. Now, this may seem like a morally reprehensible thing to do. However, I am a poor college student and simply do not have 31 euro to spare, especially when I had no idea that I had to stamp my ticket in one of the yellow boxes. If this ends up getting me sent to hell, then so be it. You live and you learn.

Anyways, we saw a lot of the Italian countryside as we traveled on the train. It was absolutely beautiful and I have loads of lovely pictures to prove it. We arrived in Rome at 1:45 and promptly ran out of the station so as to avoid having to pay the charge. We need not have worried, however, as the station was massive and there was absolutely no one enforcing these charges. I think it was more of an honor system. I guess this means that I don't have much honor, but oh well. We returned to the station to buy our return tickets and, to our delight, discovered that there was a train departing Rome for Ancona at 8:33 and that we could catch a bus in Foligno to Perugia. This would allow us to spend a bit more time in Rome than we had previously thought.

We took the metro to the Colosseum but did not go inside. Instead, we took loads of pictures in front of it and the Arch of Constantine. Brad led us up the Palatine hill to see the ruins and then to the Forum (which was closed by 3:30...hmm. Who would have thought that you can close the ROman Forum? Oh well.) Since the boys were on a much faster than Elysa and me, we came to the mutual decision that we would split up and meet at St. Peter's Square at the Vatican at 5pm. Elysa and I got on the metro and arrived at St. Peter's by 4:30. We ended up sitting in front of the obelisk and on the stairs of the square watching the sunset over the Vatican. It was amazing. I have video footage recorded on my camera of us giving a documentary-style tour of the square in British accents. Unfortunately, the accuracy of this 'tour' leaves much to be desired as it mainly consists of things I learned four or five years ago when I traveled to Rome.

By 5:15pm, the boys had not arrived, so Elysa and I entered St. Peter's Basilica. It was wonderful to be there at night. It was much less crowded than during the day and I was able to take video footage of a mass being celebrated and of the inside of the basilica. Afterwards, we went to the gift shop and I sent some postcards to a few select individuals. We then ate pasta at a small restaurant outside the Vatican, got gelato, and then took the metro back to the train station.

As I was checking to see which platform our train would be departing from, a creepy Italian man came and started chatting up Elysa. Now, I may just be incredibly cynical, but nothing good comes from strangers approaching you, especially in a foreign country. She thought nothing of it as this was her first time in Italy. I tried to pull her aside and we walked away from him, but he followed us. After trying to invite us for coffee, he left but I could see him creeping around in the distance, so I remained alert while we tried to find a place to sit. A few minutes later, he returned again and tried to invite us for coffee and began stroking Elysa's arm (in a most forward manner). I grabbed her arm, declared that we had to meet our friends, and dragged her outside through one of the cafes in the station. In the window reflection, I could see him following us. So as soon as we were out of the cafe, I started sprinting as fast as I could down the street with Elysa following. We ducked into a farmacia and hid out for ten minutes. Luckily, when we emerged we did not see him again. Tony and Brad showed up five minutes later.

The return trip home on the train was uneventful. We got off in Foligno and took the bus to Perugia, going through Assisi as we went. When we arrived in Perugia, we took a bus to the city center and roamed around in search of entertainment (there was none since the city shuts down around 7pm). By this point, however, I was feeling pretty ill and was plagued by a steady cough. I returned to the hotel and fell asleep.

On Sunday morning, we woke early and took the shuttle back to the airport. As I was checking in, the Ryanair counter person informed me that I didn't have a return ticket booked (which I did since I paid for one) but that i might have one if I paid 10 euro. This is clear evidence of corruption, but when I attempted to fight this charge, he claimed in Italian that he didn't know what I was saying. So I paid the 10 euro and got my ticket. Still, I was horribly shaken by the entire experience and I doubt that I will be using Ryanair again. (Of course, I say this now, but the next time I want to travel somewhere on the cheap, I will probably end up using Ryanair again.) Our plane was supposed to start boarding at 10:55. However, by 11:30 we still had not even left the terminal. This wouldn't be a major problem, except that our return bus for Oxford was booked at 2pm GMT, so we had to land in London by 12:50 (1:50 Perugia time) in order to have enough time to get through customs and catch our bus. We finally took off around 12 and landed at Stansted at 1:20 GMT. Tony and I sprinted through the entire airport (staying with the underlying current of the weekend, we landed at the furthest gate from customs) in our attempt to get to customs as fast as possible. People were literally pulling each other out of our way.

Was it rude of us? Perhaps. But I was determined to catch the 2pm bus, since the next bus wouldn't leave until 4:30pm and I had no intention of staying at Stansted any longer than necessary. Luckily, since our plane had arrived late, there was no one at customs and we were done by 1:35. We grabbed a sandwich from Costa and caught the 2pm bus. We arrived in Oxford at 5:15, walked from High to St. Michael's Hall and made it just in time for dinner at St. Peter's. I was sufficiently recovered enough to go to pub quiz at Far From the Madding Crowd at 8:30pm and had a gin and tonic. We came in 14th out 15, but we weren't last. So far, I have yet to be on a losing pub quiz team. Granted, we have never won. But we have never lost either. And that is all one can hope for in life. Not to lose at pub quiz.

This morning, I went running at Christ Church. I did a large lap (the meadow plus the football fields near Corpus and All Souls), but couldn't do any more since my calves kept cramping up (due to all of the walking the past three days). I did manage to run back to St. Michael's from the meadows, so it wasn't a total loss after all. I took a shower, grabbed lunch, and then headed down to stained glass tutorial, where I applied stain to my painted glass window and began the design for my copper inclusion tiles (which will be four fleur de lis coasters). Afterwards, it was off to dinner and then to St. Peter's library for a few hours to read about Ben Jonson and his masques for Thursday's tutorial. Halfway through, Karen and I went to St. Peter's bar and grabbed a drink to help us maintain the rigorous pace of our studies, and it proved to be a nice pick me up. I finished the five books of mine that were at St. Peter's and will have to go to the Bodlean tomorrow after stained glass/dinner to finish the rest in preparation for the writing of my paper on Wednesday.

My life has assumed an insane schedule, which looks very similar to the following:
Monday: running in the AM, lunch, stained glass 1-5, dinner, St. Peter's library
Tuesday: running in the AM, chivalry seminar 10:30-12:30, lunch, stained glass 1:30-4, dinner, St. Peter's library until 2 or 3am
Wednesday: running in the AM (or sleep depending on how late I was at St. Peter's), lunch, isolation in my room as I write my paper 1-7pm, turn in paper at 7pm, make/find dinner 7-7:30, off to the pub/St. Peter's bar/O'Neills with friends to recover
Thursday: running in the AM, lunch, tutorial with Miranda 2-3, stained glass 3-4, dinner, fun at St. Peter's/pub
Friday: running in the AM, lunch, free time/attempt to do some work but mostly just recover from the past week, dinner, go out with friends
Saturday: sleep in late, lunch, Bodleian 1-4, dinner, St. Peter's/go out (depending on what I've done)
Sunday: sleep in late, brunch, St. Peter's/work, tea, dinner, Pub quiz.

Next week I go to Turkey.

Anyways, I am incredibly tired yet I have to write a one page summary of the research I've done for my chivalry paper and have to read the seminar sources for tomorrow. And I am planning on going running at 7;30am.

There is your update.

14 November 2008

Fifth week is over (thank god!) and I'm leaving for Stansted airport in half an hour. From there, it's on to Perugia, Italy. We will land around 11, take the bus into Perugia city centre and then head off to Assisi. I visited the Basilica in 11th grade, so it will be interesting to see how my memory of the place compares with reality. All I know is that it made a lasting impact on me. We are spending all of Saturday in Rome (another place I've been and loved). We are hitting up the major sites as Elysa and Tony have never been, and are visiting Basilica de Santa Maria della Concezione (aka the bone church) in order to fulfill my morbid fascination with obscure European burial practices. Sunday morning will be spent roaming around Perugia before we head back to London.

I am not sure if I am going with the best group in the world (Tony, Brad, and Elysa) or the worst. Either way, we are going to have one hell of a trip. Of that I am entirely certain.

08 November 2008

We're strangers in an empty space

Update soon, I promise.

Fifth week is beginning...we are more than halfway done the semester. My year abroad is almost halfway done.

I would be mildly depressed if it weren't for the fact that I have too much work to do to give it anymore thought.

05 November 2008

It is truly a historic day; Obama won the presidency.


03 November 2008

Long-awaited Pictures

Valencia, Day 1

Valencia, Day 1 and 2

Valencia, Day 2 and 3

CMRS Autumn 2008 Beard Competition

01 November 2008

A super update will take place eventually.

Upcoming events:

Nov. 3: Bush Bash (as in Bashing Bush) at the Korner Klub with Democrats Abroad
Nov. 4: Election parties and no sleep for me!
Nov. 14-16: Trip to Perugia, Italy with Brad and Tony
Nov. 26-30: Trip to Istanbul, Turkey with Karen and Christian

28 October 2008

It was an excellent weekend. Unfortunately, I doubt that any weekends in the future will be able to live up this past one.

23 October 2008

Just got back from a run around Christ Church meadows. I still can't get over how beautiful that place is. One day, perhaps tomorrow, I will actually take pictures of Oxford so everyone back home can see this wonderful place that I can calling home until December.

I ended up turning in my paper promptly at 7 last night. To celebrate, a bunch of us went to St. Peter's college bar (what a marvelous idea!), the Eagle and CHild (where Tolkien frequented) and Copa. It was an interesting night to be sure. But I must say, I love my friends here. I still can't believe how lucky I truly am and how well things have turned out.

Today, I met with my tutor at the History Faculty Building on George Street. It was cool to actually get out of St. Michael's hall for a class. The tutorial meeting went well, even if it did show me exactlty how much I do not know about the Elizabethan era. Oh well, I will just read more this week. For next week's tutorial, I have to read Othello, Antony & Cleopatra, and The Tempest by Shakespeare, and Christopher Marlowe's Tamberlin, and write an essay on "What impression did Elizabethan audiences get of the world from the plays of Shakespeare and Marlowe? To what extent did those playyrights promote the concept of empire>?"

This weekend, I am really going to get lots of work done. I'm going to read for tutorial, do my third stained glass design, copper foil my second stained glass piece, start researching for my integral essay on the 12th century church reforms, and start finding sources for my seminar research paper (15 pages!!!) on The Arthurian Cult. And I have to research the deterioriating political situation in Turkey in order to write my article. Yes, it is true. I may have scored an actual piece of free-lancing journalism work. But I will keep that on the DL (down-low for those who don't know) and share more if it pans out.

22 October 2008

Taken at last week's CMRS rugby game. This is where I actually scored a point.

I'm sick and dying, but other than that I'm fine.

The past week:

Saturday: Saw the Masked Canterbury Tales at a local theatre. Library until 3am.

Sunday: Worked on stained glass designs and researched paper. pub quiz. Library until 12:30am.

Monday: Running. Stained glass from 11am to 5pm. Library until 2am.

Tuesday: Seminar from 1030-1230. Stained glass from 2 to 5. Library from 10 until 4am. Received email from tutor saying that paper was due by Wednesday at 7.

Today: Paper writing from 10 to 12. Lunch. Paper writing from 1 to 2. Stained glass from 2 to 3. Have been working on my paper since then. . It's at 8 pages with the bibliography. I will be done by 7pm, but I have no idea how good it will be. It's entitled: What contemporary political questions did Sidney respond to in writing The Arcadia and how are they reflected within the text?" I suppose it is my own fault. I made up the question. At least once this is turned in, all I have left this week is tutorial tomorrow at the History Faculty. After that, I can relax and be merry.


19 October 2008

Oxford is a crazy place. How do I know this? From the fact that I have spent the last five of seven nights at the St. Peter's College library. All of those times lasted well past midnight, and last night I was at the library until 3AM. Last night was a Saturday night, by the way. Oh geez. I never go to the library at St. Mary's. What is this absolute madness? This goes against almost everything that I stand for. The world will never be the same again...

A run-down of the past few days:
**Monday: Jasy was here. Walking trip around Oxford, breakfast at Cafe Loco, pictures at Christ Church, Bodleian, Oxford Castle. United Nations Association club meeting at Trinity College. After party at Copa. First trip to the library.

**Tuesday: Seminar on Chivalry and Courtly Love. Colloquium on Andreas Capellanus' On Love. First night of the Beard/How To Be A Man Competition for the CMRS Boys. Judging topic: Natural Beard Growth. Winner: Adam. Late night at the library.

**Wednesday: Library most of the day. Second night of the Beard competition. Judging topic: Styled beard. Winner: Garrett. Stayed up to watch the last presidential debate which Obama totally owned, by the way. McCain shot himself in the foot. I mean, Joe the plumber? Come on. And the repeated allegations that Obama associates with terrorists? It has truly turned into a dirty election and I, for one, am sick of it. I'll be glad when it is over. Either way, the person we get has a better chance of being more successful in the presidency than George Bush. That said, the US can't fall much lower in the eyes of the international community. However, I digress. This isn't a political blog...

**Thursday: Phone chat with tutor for the Imperial Theme. First assignment: read Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia; how does he represent and answer the political questions and themes prevalent at the time of its writing? Ran in Christ Church with Brad and Tony. Winner of Beard competition and third night (mustaches)? Garrett. However, I missed this as I was attending the University of Oxford Islamic Society dinner at Trinity College. It was a free three-course dinner in the Trinity dining hall (very swank) and I got to meet some great people. Afterwards, library until 3:30am.

**Friday: Rudely awakened by fire alarm at 7:30am. Forced to stand outside in the cold for twenty minutes while we figured out what the alarm was all about. It turned out to be nothing. Went to the library. Went running in Christ Church with Brad. CMRS Junior Common Room get-together at University Parks. I went for a run around the park, drank cider, and played a rather fierce game of rugby. I also might have gotten a concussion, but that is beside the point. (And, to those readers with a vested interest in my health and safety, i.e. my parents, I am fine. I was a bit dazed and confused for a few moments after, but I am fine, as is evidenced by the fact that I am writing this in a mostly coherent manner.) US edition of the Office viewing party in the common room. Went to O'Neills (the irish pub) to hear a live band (who did covers of the Kaiser Chiefs and The Pretender's 500 Miles song and quite possibly the only Scottish song to ever make it semi-big) and to Thirst Lodge (the dance club where I keep getting in for free).

**Saturday: Studied/relaxed at Georgina's Cafe in the Covered Market. Watched part of some Quentin Taratino movie. Studied in the library until 3:30am.

Yup. Craziness.

16 October 2008

I talked to my tutor today and now am surrounded by fifteen books pertaining to Sir Philip Sidney and his Arcadia. I have to read the actual book and write a paper on how he responds to the political questions of the time. So...we shall see how this goes.

Tonight I went to the Islamic Society's dinner at Trinity College's dining hall. I am incredibly stuffed...and everyone was incredibly nice. It provided an opportunity for me to let them know that not all Americans are incredibly ignorant and believe that all Muslims are terrorists.

In the meantime, happy 58th birthday to my father!!!

14 October 2008

Update coming soon. In the meantime, I booked my tickets for Turkey last night. Nov. 26 through the 30th. Our plane will be landing at the Sabiha Gokcen Airport, which is technically in Asia.

10 October 2008

I had a feeling that I belong

It's only Friday but it feels like it is Sunday. This week has been so incredibly long and taxing that it is unbelievable. And so I apologize if this post is short and pithy. So, first, the Valencia trip....

Fiona and I caught the bus off High Street to Stansted airport at 1:04AM last Friday morning. I attempted to sleep throughout the three hour bus ride but failed miserably. At the airport we checked in and then spent three hours in the freezing terminal waiting for our plane to board. Surprisingly, RyanAir wasn't as bad as I had expected. Our plane landed on time and we had absolutely amazing views of the Pyrenees Mountains and the Valencian coast as we flew in. I wish I had taken pictures, but that is too touristy even for me.

We took the subway to the Xativa stop with no problems, which filled me with a bit of self-confidence in my navigation skills that I almost certainly did not deserve. Luckily, I fell off my high horse fairly quickly after getting out of the metro station. As soon as we emerged into the Valencian sun (which felt quite nice after having left rainy, cold Oxford), glanced at the bullfighting ring, and pulled out our map, I was immediatetly besieged by a man who, apparently, thought that Fiona and I were lost. Now, I have taken what could possibly amount to three and a half years of Spanish (although the quality of the last year in high school is debatable) and had studied intensively for four hours prior to departing, however my skills, potential understanding and, indeed, brain deserted me in that moment as it hit me that I was supposed to be the official translator for everyone on this trip. I'll admit, I panicked. In what had to be the equivalent of a five year-old's eloquence, I told the man that I was sorry but we needed no assistance. All I can hope is that I did not manage to offend him and that, indeed, he was attempting to help us with directions and was not trying to ask us anything more substantial. In retrospect, however, I actually don't feel quite as bad since he was speaking catalan, of which I have absolutely no knowledge.

After suffering a bit of discombobulation at not being able to figure out which direction we were supposed to go, we managed to find our way to the hostel. We passed both El Lonja de Seda and El Central Mercado. Our timing worked out perfectly as we met Garrett and Alex in the square outside of our hostel. After checking into the hostel, we went to the plaza de virgen and ate sandwiches outside the Basilica Virgen de los Desamparados. We also went to the Cathedral of Valencia, where we saw the alleged Holy Grail, and climbed up the steps of the the tower of El Micalet to see the amazing city view that it provided.

Afterwards, it was paella for dinner (containing chicken and rabbit) with the customary sangria. Best thing I've ever tasted. What was even nicer was that nothing in Valencia was hurried. Everyone took their time. It was a nice change after Oxford, where everyone is speed walking in an attempt to get here or there, or DC, where time is money and therefore one of the most important assets you can possess. We bought cheap wine at the grocery store (1 euro? Excellente!) and sat on the rooftop of the hostel, marveling as the world passed us by. Around midnight, we walked back to the plaza de virgen and sat on the steps watching everyone else. I feel that this might have been one of my favourite moments of the trip. The light from the streetlamps cast a golden tint onto everything and everyone. The sheer vibrancy of that moment will stay with me forever.

The next morning, after having realized that apparently no one in Spain goes to bed before 4am, we set off for the old city gate. We climbed the massive amounts of stairs into the mini-fortress and were greeted with amazing city views. We also visited the jardines botanica or botanical gardens of the University of Valencia. They had their own cat horde and, I will admit, it made me homesick for a moment. Afterwards, we headed to the beach. I'll admit, I am not a fan of beaches at all, but this beach got very close to changing my mind on the entire subject. The blue of the mediterranean and the white, soft sand was too overwhelming for even my steadfast resolve. We walked along the beach for a while, ate seafood paella at a local restaurant, and climbed a gigantic rope pyramid that had been set out on the beach for purposes of recreation. I must have laid out on the beach for half an hour and got such a strong tan that, upon returning to Oxford, many believed that I must have stayed out all day.

Alas, all good things must come to an end eventually, and so we packed up our things and headed back into downtown Valencia. We visited El Centro Mercado and La Lonja de Seda, saw seven newly wedded couples (as evidenced by the fact that they were in tuxedo and bridal gown) within five minutes, and ate gelato for dinner. I bought boxed sangria at the supermercado while the others bought bottles of wine, and we sat on the rooftop reminiscing about St. Mary's while fireworks (or bombs...we aren't sure which) exploded in the distance.

After a late night, we took the metro back to the airport and caught our plane back to Oxford. The bus ride home took so long! Fiona and I were absolutely starving by 5:30 (since we had breakfast at 7:35am) and tired from sitting the majority of the day. However, this didn't deter us from going to pub quiz at 8:30 that night. Unfortunately, it was spectacularly poor night and we finished second to last.

Last week was particularly intense as it was nonth week (0 week), fresher's week, and the week of our integral exam. Between orientations, meeting with tutors, first seminar meetings, and studying for the exam, I had very little time to get anything else done. Christian, Karen, Elysa, Becky, and I split the 32 possible exam topics between ourselves and prepared presentations/study guides on them to help everyone else learn. Despite the fact that we had all attended lectures on the topics and were only required to know four (one for each of the four essay sections), we decided that if everyone had a more than general knowledge of at least two or three subjects from each section, then we would have a better choice of essay questions to choose from. On Tuesday night, our study session lasted until 1am. On Wednesday night, I ended up sleeping in the extra bed in Elysa and Becky's room and studying until 4am.

The exam itself went well. We had three hours to write four essay questions. I had originally planned to answer questions on the Black Death, Chivalry/Knighthood, Andreas Capellanus, and the 12th century monastic explosion, but I absolutely hated the Andreas question so I switched to one on the Mendicant orders. I think I managed quite well and am anxious to see the marks for the exam. Since exams were over, most people left to travel. However, those of us remaining went on the St. Peter's College freshers' pub crawl. Now, freshers' week is when the first year students come to Oxford. On Wednesday, they had a club fair at the examination school on High Street that was more massive than anything else I had ever been to. Besides the loads of free things that were given out, I signed up for more clubs then I can recall. It was literally twelve rooms and two large pavilion-style tents full of clubs.

Friday was spent leisurely reading at a cafe with Christian and Karen, kebabing, and watching movies. On Sunday, Jasy came to Oxford and I was able to give her a walking tour of the city. Since the food at St. Peter's dining hall is horribly overpriced for anyone not on a meal plan, I made dinner (pasta, of course). We went to pub quiz at Far From the Madding Crowd, got kebabs, and sat around in the common room. Monday morning was spent at Cafe Loco across from Christ Church, meeting the tree woman Zoe Peterssen in the meadow, and going through the covered market. While I am an abysmal tour guide, I feel like I was able to give her a good feel of Oxford without having to spend too much money. Overall, it was a nice weekend.

This week has been crazy for everyone else as their tutorials began, but not so much for me. Mrs. Feneley is in Rome, so I haven't had stained glass this week. Of course, this means that I have two cartoons, two essays, and two cut-line drawings due next Monday and will have to make two stained glass windows during tutorial. (My stained glass tutorials are 6 hours long.) I attended the United Nations Association meeting on Monday night and will probably end up joining the club. The first session was a mock debate on the situation in Georgia. Quite interesting. Yesterday, I had seminar (Chivalry and Courtly Love) from 1030 to 1230 and colloquium from 3 to 4:30. At 8 was the first day of the men's beard competition. For the past three weeks, the men of CMRS have been growing their beards out in the attempts to see who is the most manly in that regard. Last night was the natural growth competition. It was hilarious to see the boys attempt to justify why their beards were the best (even if they weren't). Adam won, however, as his beard was the fullest. Tonight is the style competition (think mutton-chops, goatees, and weird designs) and tomorrow is centered around mustaches. It's going to be quite interesting.

In the meanwhile, I spent from 9pm to 3:15am at the library last night reading books for my seminar, working on my stained glass design, and reading international relations texts. See, I am at Oxford to do some sort of work.

08 October 2008

Still studying for tomorrow's exam. I'll upload pics this weekend and post an actual update.

Until then, some pictures to occupy your time...

Last week we went to pub quiz at the Turf Tavern. This is the spot where Bill Clinton allegedly smoked an illegal substance but "did not inhale". Yeah right, Bill.
Alex, Garrett, Fiona, and I on top of the tour at the cathedral of Valencia. It was 206 steps to the top and had an absolutely brilliant view of the city.

On the bus to the beach in Valencia.
Christian, Becky, Elysa, and I picnicking in Christ Church meadow two weeks ago. Karen was taking the picture, but I apparently was not aware that this was taking place.

02 October 2008

Voy a Valencia!

Adios amigos! I am leaving tonight (technically tomorrow morning) at midnight for Valencia. Alex and Garrett left after lecture today, and Fiona and I are catching the bus at 1:04am from High Street to Stansted. We should arrive at Stansted around 4:15 and our plane leaves at 7:30. We will be in Valencia by noon. Then will commence roughly 2 1/2 days of absolute craziness as our group ventures around Valencia with me acting as the main translator. I am currently studying up on my Spanish so as to not look like a complete idiot when we get to Spain.

Anyways, I'll be back in Oxford around 5pm on Sunday. However, pub quiz is Sunday night so don't expect an update until at least Monday.

01 October 2008

It came to my attention that not all of my pictures are available on flickr. So here are the facebook links to my albums so that the pictures can be viewable:

Album 1: London (or, Am I Even Alive?)

Album 2: London Calling and Lovely Warwick

Album 3: Warwick Castle and Town

Album 4: The Search for the Bishop's Palace in Winchester

Album 5: Winchester Cathedral and City

Album 6: Even More England

Album 7: Bleinheim Palace

30 September 2008

As it is 1146pm and I am incredibly tired, this blog post will have to take the form of a numbered list (my favourite). As soon as I get back from Valencia on Sunday, I will once again resume paragraph form. However, laziness overcomes any sense of literary decorum at the moment and so...

Wed. 24th September: We took our field trip to Warwick Castle. Once owned by the Dudley family, it now is in the hands of Madame Tussaud's and is very Disney-esque. It has wax figures that move (somewhat) and the oddest assortment of exhibitions. I really wanted to go into the Ghost Tour but decided against it as it required an extra ticket. I climbed all of the towers and walked the ramparts of the castle, which provided an extraordinary view of the surrounding countryside. It was absolutely amazing.

Sat. 27th September: After spending the day doing work and browsing around Primark, I went clubbing with Brad and Elysa. It was a bit of a letdown (however, I can't complain too much, as I did get in free), but this was made up for by the presence of two men dressed as a cowboy and Uncle Sam respectively. Quite interesting. I think the entire night can be summed up in two words: freak side.

Sun. 28th September: More homework and reading. The highlights of the day were picnicking in Christ Church meadow with Elysa, Becky, Christian, and Karen; eating at an italian restaurant with Christian, Elysa, and Adam; and going with a large group to pub quiz at Far From the Madding Crowd. It was a tough week for us Americans, and we filled the bottom two spots. However, the winning score itself was quite low, which meant that everyone in the pub was having a rather tough time of it. I also tried cider (Spartan's) for the first time. Delicious.

Today: After receiving a wonderful package from my parents bearing all sorts of amazing delights, I had colloquium in which we discussed Anselm's Proslogion. After dinner, I went running with my roommate, Becca, and Elise. Immediately following this was pub quiz at the Turf Tavern, where Bill Clinton allegedly 'did not inhale' during his time at Oxford in the 60s. Yeah right. We came in 9th out of 16th, which is not too terribly bad considering that it was a different format from what we are used to.

A few pictures are up on flickr. I hope to add the 400 or so that are currently on my camera before my trip to Valencia this weekend. Fiona and I are leaving Oxford for London at 1AM on Friday morning in order to meet Alex and Garrett in Valencia by noon. It should prove to be quite interesting as I am the unofficial 'translator' for this trip (meaning that I have the most Spanish). So...yeah.

Also, I have been receiving requests for my address.

It is:

Rebecca Kaisler
St. Michael's Hall
Shoe Lane
Oxford OX1 2DP

I like mail.

29 September 2008

In the next blog post (which will be appearing within the next few days) you can look forward to:

- Lectures!
- Field trip to Warwick!
- Movie nights!
- Trips to the Kebob stand
- Clubbing
- Quiz night (part three)
- Black Death lecture
- Preparations for Valencia!

24 September 2008

It's official: I am going to Valencia, Spain from 3 October to 5 October with several people from CMRS. It's going to be awesome!

22 September 2008

Things that have happened recently:
1. Went to Far From the Madding Crowd for pub quiz yesterday. This time the Americans were out in force, as we brought enough people for 3 teams of 4. Halfway through, the CMRS junior dean, Quentin, joined our team. All in all we tied for 3rd out of 6 teams. Still, not too bad.
2. (Finally) bought a rain coat for 4 pounds at Primark, the British equivalent of Walmart except with better prices.
3. Made a birthday brownie for Evan who turned 21 today.
4. Went running in Christ Church meadow (as I do most everyday if I can help it.) Luckily, the rain held off until I had finished my four laps round.
5. Went to the french market at Gloucester Green and bought the best pain chocolat I've had outside of Paris.

Things that will be happening in the future:
1. Pub quiz tomorrow night.
2. More reading!
3. Field trip to Warwick (pronounced Warrick for your information) on Wednesday.

21 September 2008

London Calling (or, am I even alive?)

Yesterday, several of us from CMRS traveled to London to enjoy a bit of the (bigger) city life. I'll admit, I have a bit of a soft spot in my heart for London, despite its major flaws. After all, it was the first place out of the United States that I ever traveled to, and because of this its magnificence can never be dulled in my eyes.

We arrived in London around 1030, ate breakfast/lunch at a panini place, and then promptly headed to Westminster Abbey, passing Buckingham Palace and the changing of the guards ceremony on the way. As I am not familiar with the particular ceremonies associated with the Queen's Guards, I don't feel that I have any right to explain what was going on. However, I will admit that it just appeared to be a rather lot of stomping and a very intense staring competition between one of the black-furred helmet guards and a man with a sword.

It's been sunny in England (surprise!) for the past few days and, as a result, walking into Parliamentary Square was a dazzling experience. Big Ben was at his finest, the gilted tower veritably glowing in the morning rays. The Halls of Parliament looked as splendid as ever, with the rather imposing Westminster Abbey just a short distance away. The abbey is one of my favourite places in London apart from the Tower of London. So imagine my surprise when several of our group did not want to go in because of the £9.00 entrance fee. After all the cathedrals that we have gone to on our field trips, there is absolutely no way that they could miss Westminster Abbey, where the tombs are basically on crack. There is just no way and I told them as much.

We ended up going through the abbey in just under an hour, since several people were heading off to Buckingham Palace and the others were off to see 'The Glass Menagerie' near Kew Gardens. My father will be happy (or perhaps not) to know that Becky (not me or my roommate) was able to covertly take pictures of several of the tombs inside the abbey. Yes, I knew of this blatant delinquency. But I refused to pay £15 per photo just to make my father's geneology book complete. I am a student after all and, because of this, poor.

In accordance with this sudden fit of stinginess I've been having, I decided not to pay the £18 to get into Buckingham Palace and instead met up with Jasy, one of my closest friends from home who is currently studying at Temple's campus in London. We ended up walking around several of the districts of London, climbing up the pedestal of the Trafalgar Square monument, and heading round to Piccadilly Circus. Piccadilly Circus is where my father and I stayed when we traveled to London in 2003. The Regency Palace, the rather...interesting hotel that we stayed at last time is closed down completely and the building is undergoing renovations. However, the Jewel restaurant and The Crown are still down the street, which reassured me that not everything familiar can disappear in 5 years time.

There was a period of time when we did manage to get horribly (not really) lost. We walked along the docks of the Thames across from the London eye, visited the Embassy of Texas (which, in fact, really does exist), passed by a monument that informed us we were in Crimea, and a large chunk of buildings who boasted formal government-style titles but in Spanish. Needless to say, we were quite confused by the time we found Buckingham Palace again. I met Jasy's roommate, Beckah, and together we joined those of the CMRS group who had gone to Buckingham Palace. Afterwards, we took the tube to Kings Cross station to visit the infamous Platform 9 3/4 from Harry Potter. It was...interesting.

Overall, it was a fascinating day in which I found that, with the help of a detailed map, I may not be quite as directionally-challenged as I thought. The next few weekends will probably be spent at home since I have to start planning for Armenia (Dad: The current situation in Yerevan is stable, it is only in the north that they are having problems. Also, I am not even entirely certain that I can go due to my tutorials. However, this opportunity is such that I simply can not dismiss it lightly. I will find out all the details and then make my decision based upon that.) and Istanbul (where I am going for certain in November with two guys so I will be safe),

Short trips are in the works for Valencia, Edinburgh (over the long weekend and where I will be acting as impromptu tour guide), Dublin/Cork (instead of Edinburgh), or Geneva. Of course, this all depends on how well my budgeting plan goes, how much work I have to do, and what the current airfares are.

Thanks to everyone for their supportive emails. I will reply to them tonight. It has been a hectic couple of weeks and I apologize for the delay.

Dad/Mum: Don't worry about me. I am fine and loving every minute of Oxford. I promise that I will not pack my bags and head off to Armenia without careful consideration and study.

18 September 2008

I apologize for not updating this blog more regularly. However, with a booklist of 65 items of required reading, it is hard to justify using the internet as opposed to studying. And, apparently, I am here to study. Or so they tell me, since classes started up last Monday.

Anyways, the integral course started last Monday. It lasts the four weeks before nonth (0) week of Michaelmas term. Everyday we have two lectures, each lasting an hour, focusing on various aspects of medieval Europe. For the most part, these lectures have proven to be quite interesting. However, we have had a few virtually decrepit lecturers who read directly off their note papers, thus making the lectures incredibly tedious to get through. The integral course will end in another two weeks, after which we have our three-hour final exam. Tutorials and seminars begin the following week. We will meet our tutors for an hour each week, but will be set work which we are expected to complete by the next meeting. I suppose this entire experience will prove to be an exercise in both self-motivation and discipline.

Anyways, on the 11th, we took a trip to the UK's smallest cathedral city, Wells. The cathedral itself was my favourite amongst all the ones I've seen so far. While impressive from the inside, it lacks the elegance of other gothic structures I have seen. However, the inside boasts an appeal that it almost indescribable.
Three of the cathedral's distinguishing traits are its scissor arches (erected in 1338 to redistribute weight while the towers were being built), 13th century jousting clock, and cartoon carvings.

(Left: Unique scissor arches in Wells. Top Right: Medieval 24-hour clock. It still keeps excellent time and the knights at the very top of the clock joust on every quarter hour).

(Immediate right: Medieval carving of a man with a toothache. It looks like it could have been carved yesterday!)

Other remarkable features at Wells were the steps leading to the chapter house. After almost 900 years of continuous use, the stairs have been so worn away in places that they are like a slide. It is hard to fathom 900 years of people going about their lives and using the same path as me; almost a millenium of people living and dying in Wells while the cathedral remains an unchanging constant. As a history major, I tend to fall into the pattern of analyzing the past based on this event or that. I often forget about the real people, the teeming masses of unknowns, who are also part of history. Seeing the worn stairs leading to the chapter house were akin to a slap in the face reminding me once more of the human element that is the most important in history. For without people, there would be no history worth recording.

Almost as incredible as the cathedral itself was Vicar's Close. A 13th century street, it was built to provide housing for the vicars saying mass in the cathedral. It has changed very little since that time. To see these houses was, once again, proof of the everyday people whose names we have forgotten. Today, the houses serve as private residences, but are still fascinating to look at.

After Wells Cathedral, we traveled to Glastonbury to see the Abbey. Destroyed during the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1500s, Glastonbury Abbey would have been one of the largest in all of the UK had it survived. While not as fascinating as Wells Cathedral, it still had its own charm. Christian, Elysa, and I attempted to climb up the hill to the Glastonbury Tor (an ancient tower) not knowing that it is 2 kilometers away from the abbey itself. After a while, we were forced to give up and bought a postcard of the Tor from the gift shop instead. Glastonbury is also home of the (alleged) burial spot of King Arthur. (See my new profile picture!)

On the way home, we passed by Stonehenge on the Salisbury Plain.

On Thursday the 12th, we celebrated the birthdays of Karen and Garrett by having a wine and cheese party in the common room before going to the Red Lion for drinks (Pimm's and Lemonade) and then to Capo, the late night bar.

On Saturday, Karen, Rachel, Amanda and I took the bus to Bleinheim Palace in Woodstock (the birthplace of Winston Churchill). Unfortunately, the internationally-rated horse show that was supposed to take place that day was cancelled due to the torrential rain that had fallen the previous day, causing several people on the bus to become quite upset. We spent several hours at Bleinheim traveling around the absolutely enormous gardens since the ticket to tour the palace was too expensive (13.50 pounds with the student discount. Do they think we, as students, are made of money?) Now, I am not usually a garden fan. However, these were so well laid-out that the experience was pleasant. Bleinheim has one of the tallest hedge mazes in the world. It does not appear to be much upon first glance, but once inside it becomes rather imposing. We quickly became lost and only with difficulty were able to find our way out. We spent Saturday night at the Red Lion, Capo, and walking around the streets of Oxford.

Sunday through Tuesday were spent actually doing work (Surprising, right?), although I did watch 'Fight Club' on Monday night for the first time, and 'The History Boys' on Tuesday night before Marie's 21st birthday party and our kabobing trip. Wednesday we went to Winchester to see the cathedral and the Great Hall (which is all that remains of the once extensive Winchester Castle, but which boasts King Arthur's Round table). It was an impressive sight, though I did not enjoy it quite as much as Wells. We had pasteys for lunch (pronounced pah-stee, they are pastry pockets containing meats, vegetables, and cheeses), went searching for ruins of the bishop's palace (that we only found later thanks to the helpful direction of Garrett), and saw Jane Austen's house. It was quite an exhausting day. On Wednesday night, we finished off 'The History Boys' and drank the meade that we had bought at the cathedral (much too sweet and syrupy for my tastes).

Yesterday consisted of going to lectures, running four laps around Christ Church meadow, and going out to the Red Lion to hang out. Afterwards, Karen and I tried to make cookies but ended up burning them to bits due to the fact that we forgot the oven is in celcius rather than fahrenheit. Tomorrow, I am heading down to London to see the sights (again) and to do a bit of shopping (or not, since I am being so careful with my money that I refuse to even buy souveneirs).

Other things accomplished so far:
1. Made friends with several of the students from St. Peter's College (our affiliate college here). They are actually British. It is amazing.
2. Went to the pub quiz at Far From the Madding Crowd (Bill Clinton's favourite pub in Oxford but not, incidentally, the one that he did not inhale at). For those who do not know, the pub quiz is a trivia game held weekly at the pub. It consists of ten rounds of five question each, with categories such as history, maths and sciences, sports, local, pot luck, films, etc. The announcer kept making fun of our group since we were American. However, we did manage to get 5th out of 7 teams (not bad for our first time out), beating one team who had been coming to the quiz for "far too long" and had achieved their best ever score that week. This coming Sunday we have recruited even more people to join us and are going to show Far From the Madding Crowd just what a bunk of Yanks can do.

Unfortunately, these are the last pictures that will be posted on my blog for some time to come. My USB port on my computer broke mysteriously one night and I have no way to upload my pictures. I am looking into getting it repaired, but this is more easily said than done. Unlike in the US, England doesn't have Best Buys or Targets, places that contain everything and can perform almost every service imaginable. And the search to find a computer repair shop has proven to be much harder than imagined. I will get my computer fixed as soon as possible though. So, I would appreciate it if the emails informing me that it is imperative that I get it fixed were to cease immediately.

Upcoming trips:
09/20: London
09/26-09/28: Valencia, Spain
October: Yerevan, Armenia
November: Istanbul

11 September 2008

09 September 2008

So This Is England...

Today is the first day that I haven't actually been completely exhausted by 8pm. Amazing. Absolutely amazing. I guess I have finally gotten over my jet lag.

Anyways, England is amazing. I absolutely love Oxford. It's definitely not what I expected, but is still wonderful all the same. It's the little things that completely throw me for a loop. The fact that I have to look left to make sure that the cars aren't coming rather than to the right. The fact that the the same is true for walking on the street and passing people. Seeing the cross of St. George on the inflatable hammer balloons at the St. Giles fair rather than seeing the Stars and Stripes. It's weird, but great at the same time. Here is a run-down of my last few days:

I woke up early (7;30!) and took a shower. At around 8:45 I headed over to the St. Peter's College dining hall for breakfast. It had been posted as lasting from 8 to 9. However, they apparently close at 8:45, so by the time I headed over there it was technically closed. Luckily, they served me breakfast (and a few other CMRS students who had gotten lost on the way). Afterwards, we had our general orientation and computer orientation, with lunch in between.

At 2, Quentin (the junior dean) led us round Oxford showing us some of the semi-important sites (such as the various colleges, the bookstores, pubs, sheldonian theatre, etc.) and then left us to our own devices. A couple of us went exploring around the Broad Street area, looking into Christ Church meadow and heading into Blackwells. Now, for those home in the states who have never experienced the...wonder that is Blackwells, let's just say that it is the ultimate bookstore. It has roughly 6 levels, two store front windows, a cafe, and a secondhand book shop. We lost one of our number in the bookshop for some time, and spent a long time browsing within. They have books on every subject imaginable. Absolutely brilliant. Afterwards, we went for tea at The Buttery, which was quite nice with its minimalistic decor. We returned home in time for dinner, after which my roommate, Karen, Elise, and I went to Evensong (an Anglican half hour singing service) at Christ Church cathedral. The church itself was absolutely stunning; the choir was decent, as the world renowned Christ Church choir was on vacation and the replacement one was much more amateur.

Saturday: On Saturday, Karen and I went running at 7 in Christ Church Meadow, which is absolutely beautiful (I, unfortunately, have yet to take pictures of it). Afterwards, it was off to the shower and then to breakfast at the Queen's Lane cafe (reputedly the oldest coffee shop in Oxford) with my roommate and several other CMRSers. At 1145 we had a field trip lecture in which Alun Thortun Jones, head of the field trips and quite an interesting character, describe the four groups of places that we will be visiting during the integral course (Gloucester Cathedral and Berkeley Castle, Warwick Castle and Town, Wells Cathedral and Glastonbury, and Winchester Cathedral).

Since dinner is not offered in the dining hall during the four weekends outside of the Oxford term, my roommate and I, as well as an assorted group of people from the program, bought the ingredients for pasta. In all, the dinner fed between 10-15 people. It was quite nice. We had pasta, sauteed zucchini and peppers, salad, bread with butter, and wine. Very nice. At around 8, a group of us went to the local convenience store and bought wine and ale. I had a pint of Old Empire, which was very light and bitter, but not all that unappealing. We drank our drinks in the St. Michael's Hall common room, chatting away. At around 11:30, most people had gone to bed, and the few of us still remaining were all from St. Mary's. The rest of the night mainly consisted of telling stories of crazy St. Mary's happenings until 1:00AM.

On Sunday morning, I went with Christian and Nalui to the catholic church, St. Aloyicious. (Sp?) It was strange going to the service after two years of having not attended church. The mass was nice and the inside of the church was absolutely beautiful. I'm not quite sure how old it was. All I know, is that when the Brits receive communion, they kneel down at a sort of stone fence to receive it from the priest, rather than standing in a line.

Gloucester, which is to the east of us (I think). It is a medium-sized town and fairly modern. The cathedral is hidden from view until you come to the city centre, upon which it rises amongst the houses. It is roughly 1000 years old and quite beautiful inside. Of special notice is theAt 1145 we departed in the coach for Gloucester cathedral. It was about an hours trip to East Great Window, which takes up one huge wall of the cathedral. My favorite part, however, was the cloisters. The stained glass and detailing on the ceilings and walls were stunning.

After eating at BurgerStar (home of the fried mushroom) in Gloucester, we went to Berkeley castle. The castle is the oldest castle in England continously occupied by the same family (900 years). Seeing the castle was impressive, however, I was a bit disappointed since we were not allowed to take pictures inside and the vast majority of the castle was off-limits as it was the private residence of the Berkeley family (who still reside in the castle). We also had the chance to go to the Butterfly garden on the castle grounds. I think I may have developed a fear of butterflies for, as soon as we entered the steamy greenhouse, butterflies as large as my hand were swooping on my head, landing on my arms, flapping in front of my glasses, and generally freaking me out.
Monday: Yesterday marked the actual start of term for CMRS. Unfortunately, it started on a rather bad note for me, since I somehow set my alarm clock an hour late during my sleep. Becca woke me up at 8:25 (which I, only 5 minutes earlier, had looked at and seen 7:25, not knowing that my clock was wrong). I was able to grab a piece of toast with jam and then went to the lecture hall for our academic orientation at 9. Following this, we had our first two lectures of the semester. The first was incredibly fascinating and entitled 'The Roman Inheritance: Latin Culture and Roman Empire'. It described the various things that the Middle Ages inherited from the Roman Empire. The second lecture was 'The Bible in the Middle Ages'. I suppose it would have been more interesting had I been able to actually hear what the lecturer was saying. I was in the fifth row and could barely hear her because she was talking so softly.

After lunch, Karen and I went shopping for school supplies and then bought our cell phones from Vodafone. Theirs was the least expensive plan I could find that would still work in Scotland, but even so it is fairly expensive. So don't expect any calls from my european number anytime soon! After dinner (and following a power outage on my side of the building), Adam, Karen, Christian, and I hit up the White Horse, a nice pub off Broad Street that supposedly sells the best fish and chips in town. However, it was too late for food, so we had a pint of ale and talked for the two or so hours that we were there. On the way back, we passed through the St. Giles Fair (an enormous American-style carnival that takes over the entire street for two days (Mon and Tues) so that the other three could get kebabs from the kebab van.

Today: Today's lectures were on 'Augustine of Hippo' and 'Monks, Monastaries, and Hermits in the Middle Ages'. Both were equally interesting. I think that by the end of this semester, I am going to know all sorts of interesting trivia facts. After lunch, I attempted to go buy a couple of books at Blackwells (which had been closed on Mon because they were fixing the air conditioner) only to find it closed due to a power outage. I think it is a sign that Oxford doesn't want me to study. We had our official CMRS group photo at 230, and around 4:30, Becca, Elise and I went running twice around Christ Church Meadow. I actually ran the entire first lap around and most of the second before I had to walk. I was actually quite proud of myself. I think Christ Church might actually be my favorite location in Oxford thus far. In the middle of the meadow is a cow pasture, and there is a path that leads down to the college boathouses (and the Thames). So beautiful. It makes me want to jump into a crew shell and row each time I see it.

I just did my laundry (1.20 per each load washing and the same for drying), which took forever. As a result of the fairly steep prices, I am going to: a) buy some more clothes (since I didn't pack enough (silly me for believing all of those tips to pack light)), b) wear my clothes for two or three days at a time, or c) wash them in the Thames. Since I refuse to pay almost 3USD to dry a load, my clothes are currently hanging all around the room on hangers. Yes, I am cheap. But you have to be when the exchange rate is 1.7USD to the British pound.

Tomorrow we are going on a field trip to Wells Cathedral and Glastonbury Abbey. Pictures should be up on my Flickr account tomorrow nice.

And yes, I am having the time of my life. Unfortunately, either the fun or my life may end soon, as I currently have a booklist of 65 books that must be read by December (roughly 15 need to be read by October) so that I can write my integral essay.

Currently reading right now: 'Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism' by Benedict Anderson.