Friday, September 24, 2010

A day at 'Bawth'

Hello hello! sorry, it's been a week since my last update. Mostly, I have been busy writing away at my papers. Last Saturday, Natalie and I did visit the Pitt Rivers natural history museum, which is a great little place. I posted pics of it on facebook, so you can see them there.
However, yesterday we took a field trip to Bath, or 'Bawth' as Dr. Liz Baigent, one of our senior members calls it. She grew up there, so was the leader of our trip.
We first visited the very famous Roman Baths that are there. From the shoulder down, the baths are from roman times, but from the shoulder up, there was some remodeling done by the Victorians, who just loved doing that sort of thing...sometimes even tearing down legit old stuff to build old looking stuff 'the right way.' Ha ha. Anyway, the baths are filled from a natural hot spring there, and the Great Bath was all filled up and everything! The staff at the baths said not to touch the water because it wasn't sanitized, but I still did. It was very lovely and warm, like a jacuzzi! I also visited the pump house, the hang out spot in Northanger Abbey, but it was converted into a restaurant, so there were a lot of tables. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get a taste of the famous Bath waters, (mostly because there wasn't an attendant there so that I could buy a cup) but I did get a photo of the fountain!
Because Jane Austen lived in Bath for little while, the town like to capitalize on that, though she actually loathed the place. They tend to over look that part, he he. So, Natalie, Libby (another girl from our house) and I went to the Jane Austen Centre gift shop. We didn't got into the centre itself, because it was expensive, but we did shop a little! I got 2 post cards, one of which is staying on my door, and one is going to dear old Gabby. Bath is also known for its stone, which is a yellowish limestone, and it actually what many of the buildings in Oxford are made out of too, so Oxford and Bath have a similar look. However, Bath has TONS of shops. It was known for that back in the day too, as one might remember from Northanger Abbey. Everything was very expensive, but such cute stuff! I wanted to buy several hats, but they were rather steep, so I did not.

We saw some famous buildings, such as the King's Crescent (which those of you who took Downing's Romantic Period class will remember!)
We also saw the Haha in front of the crescent, which is a type of wall that was made in the lawn to keep out animals (and peasants) without having a fence line to mar the beautiful green view. It's a little hard to describe, so look up a picture of it. Anyway, it is called a Haha, because people on the other side can look down on the people below and say haha, you can't get in. Seriously.

Well, that is all for now, except that today we had a lecture by a lady who is going to be my Victorian lit tutor! Dr. Emma Plaskitt is her name, and she is very funny and incredibly almost scares me a little, actually :-) Anyway, I am looking forward to having her though. She talked about Gothic and Romantic women writers, and mentioned some stuff about Northanger Abbey that was similar to things I said in my paper about it, so that made me feel like I was on the right track.
Well, have to keep reading for my next paper! tomorrow I am going to Dorchester for a few hours, so I need to get a lot done tonight.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday, but not Free-day, plus tales of Hampton Court

I successfully submitted my first case study last night, and returned by books to the library this morning. I felt like I had done as best as I could have done in that time period, so that's all I can do. It still won't be good it enough, because this is Oxford, but I guess I'm going to have to get used to that, eh? I realized another awesome thing about being here with all these great people in your house:
There are so many people to proof read your stuff and do a great job of it. Seriously, back at Messiah, it's not easy to find a easily accessible person who is experienced enough in high-level writing to proofread for you and give you useful comments besides the usual punctuation and grammar type things. The writing center at Messiah is good for that sort of thing, but in my experience, I've never actually been able to read through a paper in it's entirety with someone there...there just isn't enough time.
So, I have been really loving all these great proof readers! I was able to get mine read by five different people counting my mom.

I should say a bit about the Hampton Court trip. The place is huge, and has been used by at least three kings, the most famous of which is Henry VIII. In fact, there was an actor playing him wandering about, as well as some of his advisors and his wife Katheryn Parr (forget which one of the six that was...I think the last, actually, the one that survived). Probably the most beautiful place there was the chapel, but unfortunately we weren't allowed to take pictures in there. The ceiling was ornately carved and painted blue and gold. There was an upstairs balcony just big enough for the King and Queen to kneel at their own personal heavily embroidered altar cushions and each had a little reading pedestal with a big old bible on it. The kitchens were also impressive; in the time of Henry VIII, 800 people worked in them!
I really liked the decoration of the Georgian apartments though, which were the newest parts of the palace. Lots of paintings and beautiful furniture. The gardens were HUGE, with a lot of green, including the world's oldest collection of Yew trees, around 300 years old. They also have the longest grapevine in the world there; it was planted in the 1700's and still produces grapes! there were a lot of big, juicy clusters on it when were there. It was planted by a man named Capability Brown, which I think is just about one of the best names ever.
Another plus about the palace was that they had robes for you to wear, if you wanted, which I did, of course. It was actually very handy, because it was colder that day than I thought it would be, so I had a little extra layer or warmth and medieval style.

Natalie and I forked over the 3.85 pounds to go inside the famous Hampton Court maze. The maze is mentioned in Three Men on a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome, so there was no way I was passing that up. I figured it would be a cinch, as Harris in Three Men did, but it was trickier than we thought. It's a relatively small maze and I think it took us a good 20 minutes to find our way out.

Today was kind of sleepy...I think everyone was probably struggling to stay awake during the Simon Schama video. However, I woke up for our lecture by Dr. Richard Lawes, (who is my seminar leader) about Little Gidding (the place that inspired T.S. Eliot's poem) and the Metaphysical poets. I really liked it, and from what he told us about the place, I can see why Little Gidding would have inspired Eliot. It was almost like a family Protestant nunnery or something, only with married couples and their families. They had a small chapel, and they kept watches praying through the night, and had spiritual discussions where they would discuss scripture together, but also literature and other things and how they pertained to faith. That sounds pretty cool to me. I have been gaining some more fondness for the idea of liturgy while here. I'm still not convinced it should be the main focus, but I am very appreciative especially behind the ideas of it. One of the girls here wrote a paper that I proof read about the Common Book of Prayer, and the reasons it was written, and what the author hoped it would do. It was really a way to get the whole church to worship as a community, instead of the priest just doing everything and the people looking on. The Puritans thought it was papist trash, but I don't think I agree with them.

Well, I have to get reading for my next case study, which is on Jane Austen this time! I'm answering the question of whether film adaptations of her book betray her writing or whether it simply speaks to the universality of her writing.

I leave you with a quote from Dr. Lawes which I found funny and rather true: "Just about anyone who is anyone from a literary point of view dies of tuberculosis."

Tinkety Tonk!


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Busy busy busy

Sorry that I haven't been updating...I have been focusing on writing my first case study paper for the British Landscapes course. I am writing on Robin Hood, which has proved pretty interesting, but a little nerve-wracking simply because I don't know a ton about him, nor did I have much time to research. I am definitely more knowledgeable about the subject now though, I'm just afraid that though my paper has a lot of citations and that sort of thing, I still feel like a fake scholar, because I wasn't able to read thoroughly all my sources, I only skimmed, and I'm afraid that whoever reads it will notice that. On the surface it might look like a well researched essay, but in reality it is a fraud!
Oh well, as our Senior members told us in orientation, "Oxford is a place where your best isn't good enough." It think that was supposed to make us feel better, like we should be expecting not to do as well as we thought, so we shouldn't feel too bad, it's a normal thing, but in reality, that little phrase just kind of discourages me and tempts me to turn in second rate stuff, since my best isn't going to do any better. Oh well. First weeks are always the hardest, right?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

London adventure

Here is the promised post about said London trip. We headed out fairly early, taking the Oxford tube to London. It was only about a 90 minute ride. We were then taken to a few famous sights of London by Dr. Simon Lancaster, our jovial Australian tour guide...places like Grovesnor square and the Buckingham palace and such. Well, Natalie and I left the group at around 1 to try to make it to the 2 pm showing of The Merry Wives of Windsor at the globe. With some directions from Simon, we went to brave the London metro system alone. As some most close to me know, public transportation/getting lost on it was one of the things that caused me anxiety coming over, but I am determined to get over this, so off we went. We got all day tube passes (which proved to be very wise) and climbed aboard. We got off at Mansion House station, which is one of the closest to the Globe, but we still needed to find our way across the Thames.

Unfortunately we got a bit lost, and it took much longer to get there than anticipated, and we missed the beginning of the play by ten minutes. However, by the time we would have gotten there, they would have sold out of tickets anyway. So, we browsed the gift shop, and then decided that though we had missed Merry Wives, we would get tickets for the 7:30 pm showing of Henry IV part one. We paid our five pounds for groundlings tickets and then decided to explore the area. While we were there, there was a Thames River Festival going on, so we went around there, visited the Tate Modern Art Museum (which I took two illegal photos on accident...I didn't see the sign until later. however, the pictures were for a very good reason! visit my facebook album to see why). Then at 4: 30 we went over the Bridge past the Salvation Army HQ to St. Paul's Cathedral to join with the rest of the group for Evensong there. St. Paul's, as those of you who have been there know, is absolutely gorgeous, with glittering mosaics on the ceilings of echoing Roman domes and chandeliers and just so much space that the eye just keeps going up. Now imagine that whole space completely filled with the sound of a men and boys choir, up to their chins in white robes. The sopranos went somewhere to the top and nestled in the corners, and the deep notes in the organ made the bench under us quiver a little. It was one of the best experiences I've had, and though I'm not really very familiar with the liturgical way of doing things, I absolutely loved it. If you ever have a chance to go to Evensong there, do it!

After that, we all went back across the Thames to the festival to get dinner. From a little stand, I bought something that called itself Les Pommes de terre d'Or, but that was a little pretentious because it was really just herbed potatoes and carrots. Very delicious though! Natalie and I then got in line at the globe, managing to be in the first 70 or so in line. This meant then when we finally walked into the Globe, we were right up near the stage, and also by some stairs that the actors frequently used. So cool! The play was three hours long with an intermission, which was rather tough on the feet, but it was so incredible. There is nothing like Shakespeare performed well...I know a lot of people don't care for him, but until you've seen a play done live and done well, I don't feel like you're allowed to completely write him off as boring or tough to understand. Natalie and I were a little nervous that Henry IV part 1 might be a little dull being a history play, but that couldn't haven further from the truth. It was hilarious, and also serious at parts and just FANTASTIC. The costumes and music were amazing, and I just wish I could go there every weekend! I wasn't able to take pics of the inside during the performance obviously, but I got pics before the actors came out of the stage and surrounding area.

It ended at 10:30 pm, so then Natalie and I had to get ourselves back to the Oxford bus stop in the dark. I was pretty nervous about this part, but we were able to find it. We had to take the tube to Victoria and then walk by some clubs (scary!) and ask someone at the train information booth, but we found it and got on. The ride back was good too, thought my legs were aching from standing for so long. There were some slightly annoying/funny British drunks sitting behind us. (annoying because they were loud sometimes, but mostly they were funny). One lady was wearing all sorts of Union Jack gear, including I think a small flag on her shoulders, a jester hat and a thong...outside her jeans. She sort of passed out right away and slept. Three others in the back were a little more talkative. Here's a sample:

Drunk woman: "What's churlish mean?"
Drunk man 1: *drunken mumblings* " means being rude...for the sake of it."
Drunk woman: "That was a very good definition."
Drunk man 1: "Was it?" *drunken mumblings."

Apparently this group was just interested in definitions and words, because they also had another conversation related to it:

Drunk man 1: "What's the difference between will and shall?"
Drunk man 2: "I dunno..." *drunken mumblings* "Well...Will is...'I will go to bed before 4'...and shall is...'I shall slay the dragon.'

And try to imagine these conversation spoken in a slurred British accent. He he. It was pretty funny. Then we got in at half past 1 and to bed right away!
And now that I'm back from church and have eaten, it is time to work on my paper!

Friday, September 10, 2010

"Lazy" day

Well, today felt a lot less crazy than the past couple. I've officially been here for one week! time flies, eh? Today we had British Landscapes like always, and we got out relatively early, so me and some of the large group doing Robin Hood for our first essay went over to Frewin court (kind of the hub/hang out place...or at least, it will be once we really get into the term more. Right now everyone is just trying to get their hands on books for research!) and then to the Bodliean library. I passed by the room there where they filmed the restricted section of Harry Potter! didn't go in yet, but I will be doing that soon. Unfortunately, I don't think you can take photos there, so poo on that. I've done an ok amount of research and have written about 150 words of my 2000 word's not much, but it's a start. I'm learning a lot about Robin Hood though, that's for sure! Tomorrow we are heading to London, and will do a touristy action there. I've seen most of the sites we're going to, but it will still be great. We're most likely going to St. Paul's for Evensong, so that will be fantastic. I am going to try to see The Merry Wives of Windsor, but I'm not sure if there will be tickets available or not, so here's hoping!

Something I'm pretty sure I've mentioned, but feel like saying again, is that I love living here with all these great people. I remember being a little sad that we wouldn't get to live with British students, but to be honest, I don't think I would trade my housemates for any number of Brits (though Brits are great!) They are all very fun, and all serious about both academics and faith. Part of our time here is to help us see how being a scholar and being a Christian work together, and I just so appreciate having these great people around. I know that Messiah is tooting the community horn all the time, but I really do think they're right about how important it is. I'm looking forward to what God is going to teach me through them.

I also really appreciate the staff here. Dr. Baigent, our senior lecturer is both very intense and kind, Dr. Rosenberg helps translate into americanese for us, the two Dr. Kirkpatricks, Matthew and Jonathan (brothers) are just genuinely jovial and brilliantly intelligent at the same time. So far I haven't really spent much time with the English seminar lecturer, Dr. Richard Lawes, but he seems great too. On top of that, we've got a great junior dean here at The Vines looking after us, Graham. He he he, we had a mandatory fire drill last Sunday morning at about 6:45, which was kind of horrible, but I was planning on getting up at 7 anyway. Poor Graham said he just absolutely hated to do it, and thought we would all hate him after that. However, we were readily pacified by the fact that he was running around in his slippers and dressing gown looking fantastically British. He also prepared a movie night for us on Wednesday, where we watched his favorite movie, Valiant, an animated film about homing pigeons.  So needless to say, this is a great place to be!
Well, I must continue reading the Book of Margery Kempe for my seminar (must be done by Tuesday!) so Cheers!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Stonehenge, Old Sarum, and Salisbury Cathedral

Great day of sightseeing today! Stonehenge was very beautiful, but perhaps less exciting than one might think. You can't get that close to it, obviously, and there are unfortunately two highways that go right around it, so it kind of takes away from the mystique of the place. There were flocks of birds perching on the stones though, and it looked really neat. I will put pictures up later. By the way, contrary to what you may have heard, Stonehenge has nothing to do with druids or aliens. It does have a lot to do with the winter and summer equinoxes though, at least, that is the speculation. Pretty much everything about it is conjecture. However, interesting fact: the stones used to build it game from an area 150 miles away, so these huge stones had to be transported that far. Apparently a while back a mock stone transportation happened, where a group of researchers tried to transport stones of the same type and size that far using only prehistoric transportation methods. They failed, so you can imagine how tough it must have been to get those stones to where they are now!
Old Sarum is an ancient military stronghold that was used from the neolithic era through Henry II I believe. There was a cathedral build next to it which was severely damaged by lightning 5 days after it was completed, and the stones from the cathedral were used by the priests to build the new cathedral and town in Salisbury.
As for the cathedral itself, WOW! so absolutely beautiful, and less smothered in icons than some cathedrals I've been in. We went on a rooftop tour, and so when up partway into the spire, which is the tallest in the country. I'm not too bad with heights at all, but even I was feeling a little unsafe at points-it is high! we got to stand on a closed of balcony on the outside of the spire and see the view of the surroundings from there. Breathtaking! I took photos but I don't think that they do it justice at all.

Well, I have to get back to work! things are getting a lot tougher academic wise here...I may have to update this thing a lot less :-( All right, that's all for now!

in a rush...

Just have a few minutes to dash this off. Yesterday we had some orientation/Simon Schama movie, and were supposed to have our first seminar in English, but apparently we were supposed to have read three books a head of time, but the lists weren't given to us until we got here, and we didn't have library access until today, so it was canceled until tuesday. I was able to register at the English faculty library, and get books out for my first essay for British Lanscapes, which will be on Robin Hood. I was getting antsy having something due and not being able to start research on it. It has to be 2,000 words and is due thursday (not today, but a week from now). I am a little nervous about it, because it is to be written in the British style, but I figure if I accidentally bomb the first essay, there are a lot more for me to make up for it with! Well, I have to grab breakfast and get out the door. Field trip to Stonehenge, Salisbury Cathedral and Old Sarum today! yippeee!!!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sunday recap and Monda: First day of British Landscapes course

Hey, sorry I missed yesterday. Quick recap, we went to church at this great church called Emmanuel, you can check out their web site. Around 160-200 members, so not that big, though they said that they grow a bit when the semester starts and the students return. Such friendly people and the sermons were very rooted in scripture, which I really appreciated. It was geared sort of more toward the young adult age, though they have a good number of middle aged and older there are well, so the opportunity for mentoring is there. They are praying for more families with children though, so join with them! In the afternoon we had tea at the Crick road house, which was super fun. We played some fantastic games of ninja and steal the bacon. Then return to vines and bed.

Today we were up early and out of the house by 8:10 to go to Wycliffe hall for orientation and meeting the rest of the staff. The other "Senior members" (as we are to call the staff; we are junior members) are really nice. We had lunch there and then began our first bit of the British Landscapes course which was a great history video done by Simon Schama about the history of Britain. If you are into history and aren't bored by documentary type stuff, I totally recommend it! it was extremely well done and littered with great Britishisms too. I really enjoyed it. We then had a photo scavenger hunt contest where we broke up into teams and had to take group photos in front of certain places in the city, mostly all places that we will be visiting often, to help us get used to navigating the city. If we got all 8 spots, we were eligible to enter our photos in the contest to win either Most British Photo, Most American Photo, Funniest Photo, or Nicest/Best Photo. My team was great, and I had a lot of fun. I'm not sure if we will win anything, but it was worth it to walk around the city and take photos.
Well, I have to take a shower and I absolutely MUST make more headway on Cymbeline, so toodle pip! Tomorrow is my first day cooking for my food group, so I'll fill you all in about that after it happens.
EDIT: I forgot to say, I learned how to play Rook today! I like it a lot. I pretty much stink at it, but it is very fun.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


So, we slept in until 9 this morning, then after some devotions and breakfast, a group of us headed town to the city center. It's about a 35 minute walk from The Vines, but it was a nice day and we were ready to see the city.
Well, I'm not much of a city person, but it turns out that Oxford isn't much like the cities I've been used to. I'll sum it up in this: the majority of our walk was through wooded parks and along bike paths through fields that had cows in them. But even the city part was great; large portions that we were walking in were pedestrian only, and there are so many awesome little shops. There are also awesome big shops, like Blackwell's book had 4 floors! I bought international stamps, a blank paged note book for mine is all used up and gave 50 pence to a street juggler. Then at two we returned to The Vines for a barbecue with the kids from the Crick road housing. It was a lot of fun, very delicious and we played a great, chaotic game of soccer in the garden. the area was only a bit bigger than the multipurpose room at church (longer I think, but not too much wider) and we had 22 people playing. It was fantastic, and  I scored a goal while cherry picking.
Now I am sweaty and muddy-footed but very happy.
Well, I think I'll go downstairs and have some tea! tinkety tonk!

Friday, September 3, 2010

At The Vines

Hullo hullo hullo!

 I apologize in advance for any incoherency. I am so jet-lagged right now I can't believe it.
Flight over was pretty good; Natalie and I watched How To Train Your Dragon, which I highly recommend to any one. I did not sleep a wink, though I tried. I normally am not able to sleep anyway, but any attempts that I made this trip were thwarted by a loverly pair of unaccompanied minors behind me who decided to was a good idea to talk loudly all the time even when everyone around them was trying to sleep and the lights were all off. Oh and also kick my seat. And also drink as many beverages as their annoying stomachs could hold. I swear I heard them open somewhere near six cans of soda. Maybe that' an exaggeration, but it seemed like a lot. So no sleep for me. But that is ok, because now I am here!
Heathrow was uneventful...the customs people there scare me to death, but the only comment I received was the woman's disbelief at the high tuition cost for the program. "Who pays this bill? do you pay this? That is a lot of money!"
Alas and alack, I know it too well, customs agent lady.
We took the coach bus to Oxford, it was a 90 minute ride. There was some really nice scenery and quaint houses, but I think it was wasted on me, since I was kind of in a haze. I did see a half-timbered McDonalds though, which was pretty stylin', and also a man riding his bicycle beside the highway with a basket and Farmer Hogget (Babe reference everyone) cap. I didn't get a really close look at him, but he may have even been wearing overalls or something awesome like that. There were also two German fellows a few rows back in the bus, and the were quite talkative, so I got to listen to German the whole ride, which was fun, especially since one of them had a very deep voice and kind of sounded like Mufasa. I've only had one beginner's German class, so I couldn't pick out much, but they did talk about the number five, or words that had the word five attached to them a lot.

Then we hauled our luggage from the bus stop to The Vines. In reality, it is a very short walk, but today, with my arms done for after dragging the luggage through the airport on top of no sleep, it felt like three billion miles. I was so close to cussing a swear and crying at the same time. But I powered through, because I felt like maybe scholars should be a little more couth than that. Also the only other option was sleeping in the lane on the ground, soo..yeah. I made it to The Vines.

Well, that's all for now! I guarantee that all my posts will not be this long, so consider this one a special treat.
Tinkety Tonk!