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