Tuesday, December 21, 2010


from Portugal: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=310897&id=725549275&l=859d31d844

and Holland: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=310900&id=725549275&l=0100008f0e


I'm pretty sure everyone reading this knows all about my crazy travel stuff, but I figure it will be good to write about it anyway.

I saw my cousin, which was lovely, and my aunt, and it was great to just spend some time with them, speaking Papiamentu and talking about Curacao.

Afterwards I hung out with Nat and we went to her friends' Christmas party, which was really fun. And then next day we woke up to A LOT OF SNOW. And long story short my flight that night was cancelled, with the next available one to rebook being Sunday night, two whole days later!!

I went and spent the night at Natalie's house in den Haag - she was leaving Saturday for Boston. I went to the airport with them to see if I could get aflight, but they were all booked or cancelled, and then to see if I could get a train, but they were full, and then I decided to take the ferry to the UK. I took a train to Hoek van Holland and then the ferry to Harwich and then there was snow in the UK so the trains weren't running perfectly, so I took a 3 hour bus to London. I never want to be crammed up with that many Dutch people for that long again!

Then I took the underground to our family friends' house, which is where I am now.

The first day we just hung out, and it was lovely to not do much. It was great to just catch up with Claire after years of not seeing each other!

The next day we went to Oxford, because I had to get the rest of my luggage from the Stanford House. We took the bus into town, went to the Eagle and Child (the pub where JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis hung out and talked about their books), and then we ate at this delicious bakery chain called Valerie, and then went and picked up my stuff. After we can back we just had dinner and hung out for a while.

Now for what is (hopefully) the end of the travel saga: my flight home was cancelled because Heathrow is still a mess. They don't own snowploughs(!!!!!) so though it stopped snowing 3 days ago, the airport is still not functioning well. So...I fly home Christmas Eve. Just in time, I guess. I get a few more days with Claire, but not as many with my family, especially my mom who is going to visit my grandparents...

Today Claire and I spent the day at the Victoria and Albert, which is a super cool museum. We spent so much time just wandering, it was lovely :)

Every night we sing Christmas carols around the piano, and it's so great :)

I'm just making the most of everything, and crossing fingers to be home for Christmas.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


I left Portugal yesterday for the Netherlands - because of the way flights worked, though, I had to fly back through London Gatwick, which was cheap enough with Easy Jet.

Everything went fine, I got to Gatwick and had a couple hours to kill. Then little things started going wrong. First, the shuttle between terminals was down, so they crammed people onto busses. Fine. The flight to Amsterdam was fine, but when it landed there was another plane still at our gate that had to be de-iced, so we sat for a while waiting for that. We finally got a new gate, and I got passed customs and immigration fine. Then the train to Utrecht was delayed 10 minutes, and I couldn't quite figure out what number I had to dial to call Natalie - my phone has a British SIM card but abroad it connects through whatever lines are there. Then apparently international rates ate up my credit, because suddenly I was down to like, 2 pounds of credit. I got on the train, and then when it got to Utrecht we ended up sitting outside the station for like 45 minutes because the tracks were broken or something ridiculous. Maybe they were frozen over? Then when I got inside the station it was crazy crowded and I STILL couldn't figure out my phone so this sweet security guard let me use his and I decided it was easier to just take a taxi to Natalie's rather than the bus and her having to come meet me, etc. So I grabbed a taxi, and we're driving fine, and THEN HE HIT ANOTHER CAR. So then I sat around waiting for them to exchange information and stuff. Luckily the taxi was on a distance meter and not time.

So then I get to Natalie's place but my phone is now dead, and apparently when roaming TalkMobile charges for incoming calls, too, so Nat couldn't even call me. Finally I just asked someone walking around if I could use his phone, and I found Natalie, and everything was good again. (Nat is a friend I made when I was living in Holland in 8th grade, and we've kept in touch) It was so great to catch up!

Today she had an exam, and my cousin had other things to do so I went out into Utrecht for 2 and a half hours with Natalie's bike. I sat in a park (where a flock of ducks almost killed me), biked around, went to all my favorite stores (H&M, C&C, HEMA, Blokker, and, of course, the supermarket Albert Heijn.) I found a little cheese stand at a market and bought a hunk of gouda to take back to campus and a smaller, sundried tomato infused round of cheese for the friends I'll be staying with for a few days in London. And I bought my favorite ham and cheese croissants at the store, as well as stroopwafels and these delish cookies I forgot about that have a coffee flavored cripsy shell on the bottom. Yum.

Tomorrow I spend the day with my cousin and aunt - unless my cousin's baby decides to just pop out! And then in evening I'll come back to Natalie's - she and her friends are having an end of term Christmas party that she's invited me too, which I think will be really fun.

We'll see what I do Friday. My flight leaves from Schiphol at 9:30pm, which means I want to be there around 7:30, and I may stick around a while and then take the train to Amsterdam and walk around for a few hours before getting back on and ending my journey at the airport. And then I spend a few days in London with friends, and then I will finally be home after almost 3 full months of bopping around Europe and seeing 5 countries, if we count the Vatican.

What a life.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


As promised, a post about Lisbon so far.

So, I woke up late (aka when we were supposed to leave from a phone call from Ashley), and we rushed a lot, but we made it to the airport with time to spare, and we met another friend there who had spent the night in London.

We flew TAP, which is a Portuguese airline. We got to take 2 carry-on bags, and they served food! So amazing after Ryanair to Rome, which doesn't even have seatback pockets...

We checked into our hostel, which, by the way, is amazing. Ashley and I have a private room, so it's a litle more, but I think Jin Tik is paying about 15 Euro a night for a dorm-style room. Breakfast is included (cereal, bread, and fresh pancakes made all morning!), there's free wifi, it's clean and nice, there's a kitchen, and the door is staffed 24/7. The people also give great suggestions for things to see and food to eat. We're going to write them good recommendations on TripAdvisor and HostelWorld because we are very impressed.

We got a suggestion from the hostel for what to do with our half day. We grabbed some mediocre lunch and then headed to Belem, an old section of the city. Turns out we feel the same way about museums - we don't feel the need to pay much more than a few Euros to go into a place we're not going to spend that much time. We went into part of the old monastary, which was gorgeous, and climbed the Torre de Belem, where we could see over the city and out to the Atlantic (Lisbon is on a river that drains into the sea at the end of Portugal).

We also got some delicious pastries, called pasteis de nata. They are SO tasty. So, so tasty. I am eating so many.

We got an excellent recommendation for dinner, this tiny cafe that didn't look like much, but had AMAZING fish. And they served us balanced meals! I had a swordfish steak, potatoes, and broccoli. So yummy. We crashed pretty early cause none of us had slept much the night before.

The next morning we got up, had pancakes in the hostel (yum!) and then went, on another recommendation, to a flea market on the way to the castle. It seemed like a wash at first, as flea markets can be, but we found some cute stalls towards the middle. I bought most of the rest of my presents (WHY ARE BOYS SO HARD TO SHOP FOR?!) and then we went up to the castle.

First we stopped at this great terraced restaurant, the food wasn't amazing but the view was gorgeous. I had a baguette with chicken and mayo, but so many miles better than chicken mayo in oxford - the chicken had been marinated in ginger, and I had fresh mango juice! So good.

The castle was cool, ruined, of course, but a lot of great views and you could walk around on the walls. We took an old tram - very rickety! - up to another part of the city, where there was another church, as well as Parliament. We walked back to the hostel. After a quick break, we went out for dinner - paella! Not amazing, but it hit the spot :) Afterwards, we walked around a little, just checking out Lisbon.

Today was rainy and a little colder, so we weren't the most revved up. Museums were free, so we went to an art one, which was fine. And I saw the Lisbon mosque in the distance! Then we went to the modern part of town, which wasn't that exciting. Then we took a long break before heading out for wine tasting.

It took us forEVER to find the wine place, and then it turned out to be closed for a conference, so we wandered and found another place. I had a delish tuna steak with warm olive oil and garlic, potatoes, spinach...yum.

And now we're back in the hostel. I'll probably head to bed soon, because I'm exhausted - think I'm getting sick. Tomorrow, our last day here, we head to Sintra, a town about 45 minutes away on a cliff over the ocean. I'm excited! And then Tuesday I head to Utrecht to see Natalie and my cousin Melinche, aunt Meme, and perhaps my cousin's new baby!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Rome :)

I know that I have slacked a lot and not posted about my wonderful days in Rome. Oops. But I'm catching up now, and then tomorrow will be a Portugal update.

So. ROME. As mentioned, our flight got cancelled, but we flew out early Friday morning, after spending a few hours in the airport since I made us leave really early in case snow was an issue with traffic and stuff. I'm the mommy of the group and everyone knows it...they even call me mommy. Oops...

When we got to Rome, we made our way to our apartment, checked in, and then went out to grab food. A lot of Italian restaurants close in the later afternoon, so we just grabbed pasta from a place nearby that was closing and headed back to the apartment. Everyone was exhausted cause our bus to the airport had left at 1 am, so there were naps taken by some, and Alex and I worked on planning the trip. Everyone had basically agreed on what we wanted to do, so we tried to figure out what made the most sense to do when.

After everyone woke up less tired and less hungry, we headed out into Rome. First stop, Trevi fountain. It is BEAUTIFUL. We spent a bit of time around there, taking pictures and throwing two coins in the fountain - the first guarantees our return to Rome, and the second was for a wish. We then went to a gelato place touted as the best gelato in Rome (and therefore possibly the world)....and they're not kidding. We may or may not have gone 4 times in the three days we spent in Rome. Yummm.

After that we walked over to the Spanish Steps, which are ALSO gorgeous. The boys decided to race up the stairs, and Alex and I mooned over St. Peter's which we could see in the far off distance. We found a cheapish place for dinner for our first real Italian meal, and Alex got the best gnocchi I have EVER tasted. It was exquisite, melt in your mouth. If I was Andrea, I could tell you what I ordered, but I'm not, which is too bad. But I'm sure it was very tasty :)

The next day I woke up and headed to the Rome mosque, the largest in Europe. It was deserted, since they don't want tourists milling around during worship, but it was gorgeous and I got some good pictures. On the way back, I got on some auxiliary line of the subway and couldn't find a ticket machine, but I figured I could get away with it since they rarely check. WRONG. They were stopping everyone when we got off in the city to switch to the regular Metro, and I was fined 50 Euro. OUCH.

I met up with everyone else outside the Colosseum, and we went around there. We had a brief rainspell, but it was cool to walk around the Colosseum. After that we did the Palantine Hill and the Roman Forum - both very cool.

For lunch we went around Trevi again, since prices seemed within our range there. Andrew, Andrea, and I ordered the tourist menu: a starter (which was a bowl of pasta), a second dish (MEAT!), dessert (fruit or cheese), bread, and table wine, for 18 Euro! It was tasty.

Later we walked around and went to the Pantheon, had very rich hot chocolate at Taza d'Oro, and had what must have been another delicious meal.

Sunday turned into a bit of a wash - we wanted to walk around the boho neighborhood of Trastevere and go to what was supposed to be great brunch and an awesome flea market, but we managed to find neither. And the Tiber River is VERY disappointing. We did go to a cool church, though, and I had the best eggplant parm I had EVER had.

After that we went out to the old Appian Way, walked along that, and checked out some catacombs. There wasn't all that much to see and our guide was...interesting, but I'm glad I got to do it.

We had eaten weird all day, and by dinner time my blood sugar had dropped low. This happens every once in a while if I don't eat enough, and I didn't recognize it at first, but after a while of being cranky and emotional and hungry and then feeling sick, we stopped for a snack and then some dinner, and I had very tasty risotto. AFterwards we just headed back to the apartment because....

MONDAY IS VATICAN DAY! Alex and I were beside ourselves. We walked past the Castel San'Angelo (the one that has a secret tunnel to the Vatican) and then walked up the street towards St. Peter's, which is amazing. Completely amazing. We had to wait in line for a while, but when we got in, we decided to go to the crypts first. For someone who doesn't consider herself very religious, and certainly not Catholic, John Paul II's grave from 5 years ago really touched me. Unlike older ones, it's just a slab of engraved marble rather than a marble sarcophagus, and it's very un-elaborate and staid. There were nuns and others who were obviously very religious and were praying in front of it, but I had a lump in my throat looking at it and thinking of that great man.

Afterwards we headed up into the basilica itself. Mass had just started, and I ran over to it. It was in Italian, of course, but I can now say that I have attended mass and taken communion in St. Peter's Basilica...again, something that just seemed important to me. And St. Peter's is gorgeous. I loved just looking around and taking everything in, including the marble slab engraved with the names of every Pope, starting with St. Peter, all 265 of them. It was great.

After a break for lunch, we did the Vatican museums...amazing Rafaels and other things, but the beauty of the Sistine Chapel is, again, breathtaking.

After a failed detour to find gelato mentioned in Lonely Planet, we headed home for a bit of a rest before dinner. I got to pick dinner because it was my birthday dinner, but the place I picked was closed (a common theme for us all week). Instead, we found a random quaint restaurant, and the waiter was wonderful and italian. I had delicious roast lamb, and spinach for like the 4th time. England is sorely lacking in delicious nutritious veggies.

And at 12:30, like the good Stanford students that they are, my lovely Oxford family threw me in the shower, which is a time-honored Stanford tradition. It made it special :)

The next morning Alex, Andrew and I went to the Villa Borghese, apparently THE art gallery in Rome to see if you only see one. IT was nice. Then we headed to the airport and flew back to dreary cold England :P Oh, did I mention that it was 60 and sunny in Rome?

So, that was Rome. I loved it. I want to go back. I'm so glad we went, and I went with some amazing people who I love dearly :)

Rome pictures: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=306295&id=725549275&l=69e685af46

Not much happened back in Oxford, we were winding down and packing. We said a not-too-sad goodbye, since we'll be seeing each other again in 3 weeks, and then early early Friday morning I headed to Portugal! More on that tomorrow, it's time to head to bed.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Not all that much to update in the last couple days...Naomi and I had a blast in London. We saw Chicago, which was great, much better than the movie in my opinion.

I've wrapped up with classes, I was officially done on Tuesday at 3:30. I've been puttering around, mostly, but now...


We were actually supposed to leave yesterday, but there has been crazy snowfall throughout the UK (though not here, luckily, just some pretty flurries), but the result was that Gatwick has been closed for days and our flight got cancelled! After being really upset about it for a few hours, we got our act together and called RyanAir, which promptly booked us on a new flight out of Stansted airport, instead, to avoid the Gatwick madness. So now our flight leaves at 8:45 and we'll be in Rome by noon! Since we weren't going to get in until late last night, we're really only losing about half a day, so it's not that big a deal at all. We might just end up skipping a trip elsewhere, like Pompeii or Florence.

I promise I'll post about Rome when I return (on my birthday!) and I'll have a ton of pictures :)

Friday, November 26, 2010

my sister :)

Again, it's been several regular days, so I haven't felt a need to post that much.

I saw the Harry Potter movie and was disappointed...though my friends and I did go in costume.

The most exciting thing is that my sister is here to visit!!!! She arrived Wednesday afternoon. We've spent most of our time just walking around Oxford, exploring.

Alex's parents and brother are here visiting as well, and they rented an apartment. They were sweet enough to have us all over for Thanksgiving dinner. We baked some pies and headed over for mashed potatoes, chicken, green beans, gravy, rolls, and stuffing that Alex's mom had made, sacrificing clothes to make room in her suitcase for the ingredients...it was delicious. We had a lot of fun :)

Today Naomi and I mostly just walked around. There was a Christmas market that we went to, it was cute and we enjoyed it :)

Tomorrow, we head to London for a day before she leaves on Sunday. It was short, but really fun :)

Next week I have two concerts, I turn in my last paper, and on Thursday we go to ROME!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

the last two weeks

Wow, it's been a while since I've posted. Not all that much has happened, and I got kinda busy with work and being sick and some field trips for my soccer class.

On the weekend of Nov 5, the boys and I went to a Guy Fawkes celebration in a nearby park, which including a little fair, a way-too-nice-for-fair-food cheeseburger, an awesome fireworks display, a burning effigy, and a GIANT bonfire. It was kinda cold, but a really fun thing to go to.

The following Wednesday, our entire soccer class got on a 7:30 am bus to Liverpool. We got there and got to get a tour of the Everton stadium, Goodison Park, where we were headed to a game that night. It was actually really cool; we saw the players' locker room with their uniforms for the night laid out, and we got to see a lot of the Everton memoribilia in cases, and then we sat in the Director's box for a little.

After the tour, we had time to kill in Liverpool. After a quick lunch, a group of us went to the Beatles Museum, which was pretty cool. There were several artefacts, as well as an audio tour and just a lot of talking about the Beatles. The best part was certainly getting socks with yellow submarines on them in the surprisingly decently priced gift shop, followed closely by real goldfish in a model of the yellow submarine.

Our professor very nicely paid for an Indian banquet for the entire class, which we thanked him for by buying him an Everton windbreaker. Afterwards, we went to the game, where Everton managed to score the tying point in the last minute of overtime.

Liverpool pictures here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=298788&id=725549275&l=e8633610eb

The following Sunday, Andrew, Muthu, and I went to London for a Chelsea game at the Chelsea stadium. Chelsea is the team at the top of the English Premiere League, arguably the best English team, hadn't been scored on at home since March 2009, had won all 7 games at home this season...and somehow we watched them lose to Sunderland 3-0. It was ridiculous. It was still really fun, though--the crowd atmosphere was amazing.

Andrew and I stayed in London through Tuesday, very nicely being put up by family friends of mine both nights. On Monday we went to a lot of museums, meeting up with Alex and Andrea who came in after a trip to Canterbury and Dover. We walked through Hyde Park and down Oxford street to the British Museum, then walked to the National Gallery with a stop for sushi along the way. We got ice cream cones in the park, and then went to the Victoria and Albert to meet the girls. Andrew, Andrea, and I went to the Natural History Museum to see the dinosaurs, which was REALLY cool, though we were slightly disappointed by the rest of the museum. The gift shop had dinosaur socks, but only for small children, and we were sad.

The next day Andrew and I spent a little time in the Science Museum, which was REALLY awesome, and the headed back to Oxford. It was ridiculously foggy out and cold out of nowhere.

Last night, our group went to a formal dinner at Magdalen College. We dressed up, Oxford students wore their robes, there was a Latin blessing at the beginning and end, and there were fish knives, which I didn't even know existed but shouldn't have been surprised that they did.

That is a summary of the last two weeks. Due next week is my final paper for my tutorial, a double-length paper about Muslim women in the United States. On Wednesday my sister comes (!!!!!!!) through Sunday, and we'll have Thanksgiving with Alex's family and then go to London for a couple days.

Hard to believe there are only 3 weeks left here!

Thursday, November 4, 2010


I've made all my plane bookings for my post-Oxford travel, and I'm very excited!

Another girl from the program, Ashley, and I are headed to Portugal on December 10. We're going to spend 4 nights in Lisbon, with maybe a day trip to a small, cute town nearby. Then we both head back to London, Ashley to go home, me to catch a flight to Amsterdam. I tried getting a flight from Lisbon to Amsterdam, but it ended up being just as cheap and as easy to fly back into London - I know, it doesn't make much sense, but there you have it.

I'm staying in Utrecht, Netherlands until the 17th, seeing my friend Natalie and my cousin, who could potentially give birth while I'm there!

Then I fly back to London, spend a couple days with family friends, including their daughter, Claire, who is getting there on the 17th as well.

Then on Decembe 21 I fly home! I can't believe that's in 7 weeks...or that in 2 months I will have already started classes back at Stanford.

Oh, and I don't remember if I mentioned that I'm going to ROME from December 2-7...that's right, I'll turn 21 in Rome with my friends. No big deal. We rented an apartment which was cheaper than a hostel and now we get to cook for ourselves if we want, and save our money for giant Italian dinners. It will be good :)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

ahmed's, soccer, and a novel

I forgot the best part of Halloween! After the pub, we went to Ahmed's, the kebab van near the House that we go to probably 5 times a week at night when we're hungry. The last time we had been, we had finally introduced ourselves to Ahmed and his friends/sons/nephews. This time, though, Alex and I spoke to him in Arabic! Alex was in Arabic with me freshman year, and spent this past summer in Jordan on a dig. It was really fun, I actually remembered Arabic, and he was very impressed, I think. He's from Morocco! So I will be attempting Arabic with Ahmed whenever I remember.

For my soccer class, we have to go to a Premiere League and a non Premiere game, so tonight we went to an Oxford United game, which is the local Oxford team, not the University. There were a lot of empty seats, so we sat one row from the bottom. It was a good game, though the other team won. Oxford kept taking the ball right up to the goal, then missing shots or fumbling the ball. It didn't help that their goalie was like 6 foot 7 or something ridiculous like that.

Finally, I've decided to write a novel!

I'm doing National Novel Writing Month - NaNoWriMo. http://www.nanowrimo.org/
It's a non-profit that organizes this every November. People can make an account and write a novel. The goal is 50,000 words between November 1 and 30. If you finish you get a certificate from them and the pride that you wrote a novel.

At the moment, I'm still not sure what my novel is about, but it's currently at 602 words. I'm not sure if I'll make it to 50,000 by the end of this month, but hopefully by then I'll have something that I want to continue writing and editing until it's actually something I'm proud of doing. We'll see how it goes!

Monday, November 1, 2010


Not much of an update, but I wanted to share my Halloween with everyone.

This is a picture of me and my Oxford family on Halloween:

We are dressed as: Cleopatra (me), Ziggy Stardust (Andrew), a unicorn (Alex), Cho Chang from Harry Potter (Andrea), and the rapper Kanye West (Muthu).

We ended up just hanging out and then going to a pub in costume. Other people were there in costume, too, so we didn't feel like crazy Americans.

Remember that you can always see my pictures here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=285952&id=725549275&l=efc6a86b0d

Friday, October 29, 2010

It's been another not-too-exciting week, but I'm still having fun!

Last Friday we went to London to see the play "The Woman in Black." It was actually fairly frightening. It's just two (well, three, sort of...) actors. One is the old man and one is the actor, and they are together reenacting an experience the old man had. The actor plays the old man and the old man plays all the other characters he encountered during the thing. There is also a woman who is a ghost and kills people. She did not get to come out and bow, therefore she is really a ghost and because I saw her she will kill my firstborn child. Scary. http://www.thewomaninblack.com/

I spent Saturday being very very very lazy, and Sunday writing my paper in the most productive day I've had in a while, maybe in my life. I rolled out of bed at 10, had a draft (minus intro and conclusion) at noon, and had a final, revised, edited paper sent to my tutor by 6.30 pm. It was pretty amazing.

Monday I met with my tutor as always. I'm getting better at having discussions and asking questions to get more out of my tutorial. I got (aka asked for) my topic this week: conversion of western women to Islam. I couldn't find any good sources ANYWHERE in Oxford. There was an anthology I had found at Stanford before that I don't think exists in Oxfordshire County. And I can only get fragments on Google books. I was having a very hard time, so I tried to find some articles on JStor with the Stanford proxy that is letting me access it from Oxford, but there wasn't much there, either. I was very frustrated. THEN I remembered that Stanford has access to a lot of books as eBooks, and BAM. I found the entire book in eBrary, which I can access again with a Stanford proxy that pretends I'm on the Stanford network. AND this means I can do work in my room instead of sitting in the library. From now on, I'm first checking if the books I need are on eBrary before I schlep my way to the library. This discovery may have been the highlight of my week.

Other than that, I went to my choirs and bellydancing this week and had fun. I had my midterm for my soccer class and that was NOT fun - there was a lot of stuff we didn't talk about that he just expected us to know about soccer. I'm not too worried, though, because everyone thought it was pretty hard so it will probably be curved. And I decided I'm writing my essay for that class on soccer as an English religion, which I'm interested in and will probably therefore write a good essay about. The midterm is only 15%, so I'll be fine.

Today and tomorrow my friend Ashley and I are locking down plans for after term ends. I think we're going to go to Portugal for 4 days, and then I'm going to head to the Netherlands to see my cousins and aunt, and my friend Natalie. And then I'll be back to London to see my friend Claire, who I haven't seen in years. I'm not sure what we're going to do, but it will be nice to catch up.

Sunday is Halloween, and we all came up with costumes long before we were sure that Halloween was a big deal here. I'm going to be Cleopatra, Alex is a unicorn, Muthu is Sherlock Holmes, and Andrew is Ziggy Stardust, an alterego of David Bowie's from Mars. And we found a part ("bop") to go, so now we won't just be wandering the streets of Oxford in full costume.

I think that's about it from this week. More updates after Halloween :)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Stanford Daily column

I wrote the inaugural column for the Stanford Daily's new column, "Foreign Correspondence" - read it here!


Thursday, October 21, 2010

It's been not much of a week. I've spent most of my time doing reading for this week's essay. I've read a complete book, most of another, and half of a third...they're all in different places, so I have to go to different reading rooms and sit down and take extensive notes, because I won't be able to reference the books this weekend while I write. It's so frustrating!

I went to student choir again, that was fun, and I had bellydancing, and then last night was the first night of the fun choir. We sang the Glee version of "Don't Stop Believing" and an arrangement of "Halleluja" that I had done in high school. There were a lot more people there than I expected, including two girls from the House, and I had a ton of fun. I'm excited to go back next week and do more!

That's really all that's happened this week. Friday we're going to London to see "The Woman in Black," which is apparently very scary! And then this weekend I'll just hang around and write my essay. We might go to an Indian buffet on Sunday and make a Mexican meal one night, too. Next week I start having soccer class again...hopefully I won't forget to go for this week.

That's all...

Monday, October 18, 2010


This weekend, five friends and I went to the town of Bath, famous for the ancient Roman baths for which it is named. We took a bus from Oxford on Saturday morning, which took about 2 hours, and we left Sunday evening. We stayed in a hostel that was above a restaurant where we got a discount.

Bath is a beautiful, beautiful town, though there is not a ton of stuff to do. We saw the Bath Abbey, which is really pretty, and the Roman baths, which are very impressive. You can no longer bathe in them, but at the end you can sample a glass of the spring water; it is warm and very metallic tasting. Apparently it has healing properties, but I wouldn't drink it all the time.

We went twice to Sally Lunn's, an old tea house with "world famous buns." The buns were fine, but the toppings were delicious - lemon curd, cinnamon butter...yum. The house blend tea was also yummy.

We spent a lot of time just walking around Bath, exploring and looking at random things. We had dinner in the restaurant under our hostel, then went out again for a little while.

In the morning, we grabbed breakfast, then walked over to the Royal Crescent and the Circus, two areas with giant green spaces in the middle and housed curved around them. We found a park with a small aviary and a playground and ice cream truck. We all got Flake 99s, which Tara had told me to get: a soft-serve vanilla cone with a flake candy bar stuck in it. It was delicious!

Afterwards we really just killed time walking around Bath and going to Sally Lunn's for the second time. When we left, there were problems with the bus, so we were a little late, but it wasn't that bad.

I met with my tutor for the second time, and he seemed happy again, though he's trying to figure out how to grade that's on the Stanford scale.

Lastly, I got into the singing group I auditioned for! I'm very excited to start rehearsal this week :)

My soccer class is cancelled this week since the professor, the head of the Stanford Bing Overseas Studies Program as of this month, has to go back to Stanford for meetings. That means I only have my extra-curriculars this week, which is great, because it's just in time for the tutorial paper I'm most interested in: veiling issues in the West. Tomorrow I dive into the library and begin!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Not all that much has happened since the York return. I've been to class, started a new tutorial essay.

The big events of the past week are the extra-curriculars I'm doing. Monday night is the Oxford University Student Chorus, a non-auditioned classical choir. The first rehearsal was GIANT, probably over 100, but I'm sure it'll go down when people think the music is too hard and free drinks aren't offered after rehearsal. We're performing Bach's Christmas Oratorio in the last week of term. It's a little hard, but super fun - I like giant choral classical pieces, and we'll be doing it with full orchestra!

Tuesday nights is belly dancing through a non-university group, the Oxford Middle Eastern Dance Society. It's 40 pound for 10 classes, which is still a great deal even if I have to miss one or two classes. We worked on shimmies for the whole hour, but it was a lot of fun. And I managed to convince my friend Andrea to come with me, so I wasn't alone like I was at the student chorus.

My last activity is still up in the air: I auditioned today for the Oxford Singers, Oxford's only non-classical and non-a capella group. The audition seemed to go well- they liked my song, were impressed by my range, and seemed bummed that I was only around for one term. Hopefully I'll find out about that soon. That one meets on Wednesday nights.

So, that's my term, plus the soccer class and my tutorial. It's shaping up to be a nice schedule!

Monday, October 11, 2010


So, this weekend we went to York for our Bing trip.

We stopped on the way there at Hardwick Hall, an old house that was important in some way or another. The coolest part was the initials of the woman who's house it was on top of every tower.

Then we drove to York and went to the York Minster, which was a pretty sweet cathedral. Our tour guide was this adorable old man who made cute comments and said really random things. We got to hear about all the times the Minster had been on fire and other disasters. Then we toured the underground part, where they talked about the history of the Minster since Roman times, when it was a Roman basilica (a basilica was a Roman place of law).

Then a couple of us walked around York for a while, just exploring. My friend Alex had been on a dig there two summers ago, so she knew different places around. We got really good Cornish pasties, walked by the river, and went to a pub that had a cute little poodle in it. Then we went to our hotel, where we had a three course buffet with carved meats and stuff. It was pretty cool. I actually roomed with my freshman year suite-mate, Melissa, because we both have singles in the Stanford House.

The next day we went to Castle Howard, this pretty impressive huge house that the Howard family still lives in. The recent (2008?) movie of Brideshead Revisited was partially filmed there. We walked around the giant grounds, where there were peacocks roaming free. We saw the polar bear walk (I'm not sure why it was called that), the Temple of the Four Winds, and the ornamental vegetable garden. We also toured the inside of the house.

The final place we went was the Rievaulx Abbey, which is this GIANT ruined abbey that was destroyed by Henry VIII. It was really cool to walk around it and see all the different parts and figure out what they used to be. After that, we came back to Oxford.

On Sunday, I wrote my tutorial paper, and today I met with my tutor to discuss it. The paper was on feminism and feminist theory in the Middle East and how it translated from Western feminism. He had given me one essay to read and suggested some more, so I read two articles in depth and wrote about them. Even though I was super freaked out and wasn't sure I really knew what I was doing, he seemed to think I did a good job. Next week, my paper is on Veiling: normative (Islamic) practices and other's views on it. Again, he didn't really give me a big syllabus, but instead told me to go browse the Islamic Centre's library and find some books that interest me. Even though that's intimidating because I don't necessarily have the knowledge to find books, I guess any books in the Centre would be good, and I'm really getting a change to read what I want to read. So I think I'll head to that library tomorrow, look at those books, and maybe request them at the bigger library for the rest of the week, where I have more space to spread out and read. It's so frustrating to not be able to check out books!

Well, that's the update up til now. We're planning some trip for this weekend, maybe up to Edinburgh, so I'm excited about that!

York pictures:

Thursday, October 7, 2010

just a normal week

Sorry it's been a while since I posted! It hasn't been the most exciting week, and kind of busy, because...

I met with my tutor on Monday! He seems very nice and is super into letting me do what I want, which is nice. So I proposed some topics, and he proposed that I look at a couple articles about feminism and the Middle East for my first essay. So he gave me one and I found another in a syllabus from another class he had given me, and I've tried to go to town on them. I've read them, I've taken notes, and now I have a basic outline. Our trip this weekend has really taken 2 days away from my work, though, and I'm a little stressed about it, but I'm going to work very hard on Sunday and then see how it goes on Monday. He wants me to come in and give him a short presentation of my essay and then we can discuss it. I'm crossing my fingers that it will go well!

In the mean time, I have gotten VERY fed up with the library system here already. You can't check books out. So you have to sit in the library and take your notes there, which is fine but I tend to work better in my room. For this week, I just had two short articles, so I could copy them, but for next week I'm looking at probably 3 books, which I can't afford to copy! So I guess next week I'll learn how to work in the library. There's the tiny library at the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies, which is nice for browsing books, and then the main Bodleian library which has a ton of reading rooms but you can't really browse many of the stacks. The books are kept underground and taken to the reading room you request, and you can keep them there for 7 days but you cannot leave with them. Sigh. Oh, and I forgot to mention the part where the reading rooms are only open Monday to Friday, 9-5.

The highlight of the week was probably Fresher's Fair, the giant Oxford activities fair. I signed up for a lot of stuff, including caving, archery, music, wine tasting, belly dancing... I think I might actually take belly dancing classes, and join a non-auditioned classical choir, but the biggest thing was when I signed up for an audition for what was described to me in this way: Do you watch Glee? Then audition for us! Needless to say, I was hooked. So I'm auditioning on Wednesday...wish me luck!

Today after my soccer class we went out and played. I'm super out of shape, but I had forgotten how much I really love playing soccer. We're going to do it once a week and I think I'll try to do it every week when I can. It was awesome :)

I went to the fish store and bought a fresh tuna steak and cooked it in olive oil, onions, lime, and garlic salt...it was divine. I really like having the specialty shops... I think I'll stock up on essentials at the store and buy a lot of bread/cheese/fish/meat/veggies at the stores in the covered market.

Tomorrow we head out early for York on our trip funded by the Bing family, and we come back Saturday evening. We're seeing a lot of really old buildings, so I'm sure I'll have stuff to say about them...

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Here is a link to the Facebook album of all the pictures I've taken so far. As I update it, this link should still work. If I start a new one, I'll post the new link!



We left for London at 11 am on Saturday - it was nice to get a chance to sleep in, but we didn't get into the city until almost 2, so I kind of wish we had left earlier. We went to the Tower of London and got about an hour and a half there. It was enough time to see the Bloody Tower, the armoury, and the Crown Jewels, which are very very very impressive. Some of them were missing and labeled "In Use." If only the US had anything nearly as impressive...

Then we headed over to St. Paul's Cathedral and went up into the galleries. It was most of 600 steps to get up there, and most of them were very winding and narrow, but I'd say it was worth it for the view from the top. It was kind of foggy but still beautiful. And then we had to walk down...

Afterwards, we had some time off, and a few of us just ended up sitting in a restaurant for a while. It wasn't enough time to head too far, as we had to be at the Globe to see Henry IV, Part 1. The Globe is pretty cool, a recreation of the actual Globe of Shakespeare's time. There are standing room tickets that are open to the elements, and those people got a lot of rain on them during the play last night - a lot of them ended up leaving. The actors got rained on a fair amount, too. Luckily, the Programme had invested in actual covered seats for us, so we got nice wooden benches to sit on. The show was pretty good, though I was fairly confused for most of it, since I wasn't familiar with it at all before.

After the show, everyone headed back to Oxford, but I took the Tube to Kensington to see old family friends. I got there late at night and just went to bed, but woke up and spent a lovely night with them. We biked up Central London to Trafalger Square through a bunch of parks, and we went to the National Gallery and looked around for a while. Barbara rated their Italian collections, which has its own wing, a B-, because they had no Boticellis and very few of a lot of other Italian artists. Afterwards we biked back to their house with a detour by Big Ben and Parliament. We had a late lunch and then I headed to the Oxford Tube, a bus that goes between Oxford and London. For 15 pounds, I got a ticket to Oxford with a "period return," which means I can go back anytime in the next three months. It's a pretty sweet deal, since I'm fairly positive I'll be back to London sometime soon.

Waiting for the Tube, I was a little confused about what time it would come, so Matt (family friend) asked a woman standing there if she knew. Surprise - she did her undergrad at Stanford! She's 30 now and doing a masters at Oxford, but seriously, what are the odds? She gave me her contact info and we spent a lot of the ride back talking about Stanford, especially stuff that's changed since she was there - she didn't know what the Axe and Palm was! It was so funny to meet her.

Now I'm back in Oxford and heading to bed soon. Tomorrow I have an orientation of the library at my college, Brasenose, and I meet with my tutor for the first time!


Friday, October 1, 2010

orientation, class, and an old friend

So, the formal dinner on Tuesday...it was great. Everyone dressed up, and we walked over to Corpus Christi college for before-dinner sherry. Sherry is...not for me. It has a weird aftertaste and I couldn't finish my little glass. But I'm glad I tried it.

The actual dinner was in the dining hall, but it was so fancy. Salad nicoise for first course, breast of duck for main, and some chocolately thing for dessert, followed by coffee and mints. There was wine served during the meal, as well as water from these super fancy Corpus Christi glass bottles. I wanted one, but they must have predicted, because they say "Please do not remove" on the back. Dinner was nice and I wish we could have formal hall, as they call it, all the time!

Afterwards, Cole, our junior Dean (basically an RA, he's a Stanford grad who is doing a Masters - MPhil - here at Oxford and lives in the House with us), showed us one of the nearby pubs. We sat and talked for a while and then headed home. When we went home, Alex and I watched Scream on VHS.

On Wednesday, I explored a lot by myself after orientation. I bought a gorgeous dress for 12 pounds from a store going out of business. I wasn't going to...but it was cheap and beautiful. It's dark gray and long sleeved, with a ruched bodice and a tie in the back. I will wear it for a long time to come, I'm sure.

That evening, we had a potluck for our House meeting. I made chicken in pasta sauce, easy but delicious and with ingredients I had already bought for cooking with. There were some delicious things there. Afterwards, Cole showed us how to get to The Turf, the pub where Clinton famously "smoked but did not inhale" while on his Rhodes. On the way there, we had to go a different route, because we stumbled upon the filming of the new movie, "X-Men First Class!" We're all excited and are attempting to stalk James MacAboy while he's around.

We had orientation at the Bodleian, the main Oxford library. The librarian was wearing a robe, and we had to recite an oath about not setting fires or stealing books. The cards are disappointing, though. I wanted them to be all fancy and official Oxford, but they have a mauve stripe and star...how weird. I swear they look like the IDs we used to get in high school. And they have the AWEFUL passport picture of me I had to take for the program.

I also started my first class - Soccer and English Society!! It meets twice a week for an hour and a half each time, and it for 5 units. Our homework includes going to at least three soccer games, one with our professor and one without, and two will be Premier League games. The tickets are subsidized, as is the transportation. I am SO excited.

I'm trying to decide if I'm going to take a class on UK/EU politics. It's probably something I should learn about...though I may take a class on Qur'anic Arabic through the Islamic Center, so I wouldn't do the politics class if I do that.

I meet with my tutor on Monday afternoon and will have a better idea of my essay topics. I'm SO excited and ready to finally get started!

Today I had lunch with an old high school friend today! She is studying at Oxford for the whole year. We walked to a Moroccan cafe (delicious!) and got cous cous and mint tea. It was so wonderful, both the food and catching up. I spoke in Arabic to pay my bill, and then helped Candace find the drug store and get a cellphone. I feel like I'm so experienced!

This evening, I went to dinner with a friend of mine on the programme. She is Baha'i and invited some of us to join her for dinner and discussion at a friend's house. It was nice, and I liked talking about religion with people who had very interesting things to say. I also liked hanging out with the friend's daughters (she's much older). I miss children!

Tomorrow we head to London for the day with the Programme, and I'm staying overnight to see some old family friends who have recently moved there.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Rabbit Warren

The title of this post might seem random, but it is how Stephanie referred to the House.

It. Is. So. Confusing.

Stanford leases, from Magdalen College (pronounce maudlin, by the way), a House that consists of 6 Victorian houses put into one. Okay, you say, 6 row houses combined, doesn't seem that bad. Well, it is. Apparently, families in the Victorian times weren't fans of identical architecture, going so far as to have the floors of houses at different levels. So, even though they were six houses right next to each other, they had staggered floors. The ground floor in house 1 would be at ground level, as would houses 3 and 5, but in houses 2, 4, and 6, the ground floor was about half a floor higher (this part I'm making up from what I understand and the way the landings and floors work). So, to get to my room on the 4th floor (3rd floor British), I have to walk up 8 flights of stairs: ground to landing to 1st to landing to second to landing to third to landing to fourth. If I'm on the ground floor by the main office, and I want to go to the ground floor on another side of the House, I probably have to go up at least one flight of stairs and then back down.

Each floor is lettered, so our room numbers are a letter and a number, because just numbers wouldn't really mean anything. I'm in T7, which is one flight of stairs away from a kitchen upstairs, two flights to downstairs (on the 2nd floor). To get to a toilet I can go down two flights and then up another flight, and to take a shower I have to go down the stairs, across the landing, and up two floors. It's all very confusing and makes it VERY hard to give directions. I can tell people my room number, so then they know what level it's on, but trying to describe stairs and such gets confusing really really fast. The advice I was given was to memorize the artwork - there's some on each floor and landing, so you can memorize routes by poster. At some point I need to find my way back to the laundry room - I know it's by the study room, which is somewhere downstairs...I might just walk through the Garden to get there.

Because the House is 6 houses put together, there are 6 kitchens. One is fairly large and has a little dining area as well, and the others are scattered around the House. Like I said, I have two that are pretty close, and I picked one for my food and later found out it doesn't have a freezer, so my frozen chicken breasts are in the other kitchen. The Center provides utensils, plates, cups, pots and pans, etc, but we're in charge of our own food (though there is a meal allowance), and things like foil/saran wrap, tupperware, etc. I'm excited to cook for myself - there's a pot luck tonight, and it'll be my first time cooking in the House.

So, that is the House. I live very close to the two girls I knew fairly well before, one from Arabic/PWR2/Islam/Religious Studies (two of us from the major!) and one from my Fellowship for Religious Encounter. I live across the hall from a guy who lived on the floor below my freshman year and took Arabic with me part of last year. My freshman year suitmate lives somewhere in the House, and the girl I'm probably travelling to Italy with for a week is somewhere fairly close as well. I'm sure I'll learn where people live better as time goes on, but for now, the House continues to be a big maze.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I'm here!

I finally have internet in my room, so I'll take a moment to update everyone on what's been going on!

It's hard to believe that I landed in the UK less than 36 hours ago... I feel like I've been here forever!

So, I landed yesterday morning at 7 am (which felt like 2 am to me...and unlike normal, I didn't sleep much on the plane). I took the bus from Heathrow directly to Oxford, and it dropped me off about two blocks from the Stanford House. I should take a picture, it's a big red door and maybe the only residence that's actually on High Street; there are a lot of cafes and restaurants and shops...dangerous.

I got to the house and got taken up to my room...and I do mean up. On the fourth floor (third by British standars, which starts with ground floor, then first floor), and there are two flights of stairs to every floor, because there are landings in the middle. I have a single room, though, assigned by lottery. It's not giant, but there's a decent amount of space for one person. My window looks out over the garden out back. It's cute :)

There was some orientation and tea and scones yesterday, and I went to the grocery store and Boots, a pharmacy, with a friend for some stuff. We took a short tour around Oxford to see the important things (grocery store, post office, banks, etc), and then went out to dinner. We went to a pub but weren't impressed with the menu (no shepherd's pie!), so we finally found a Chinese restaurant. My food was good, but others weren't as impressed. After we came back, I tried to stay up for a while, and actually made it until around 11:30, though I fell asleep watching the episode of Firefly I started to stay awake. I slept really well and woke up this morning at 9.

Today we had some more orientation, then walking tours of the city. It was fun to hear all the stories about Oxford, and I was amazed at how many dates the woman knew off the top of her head. There is so much more to memorize than any city in the US, things like, "oh and this college (one of Oxford's 38) was founded in 1313, but taken over by this person in 1456 and then restored in 1678" (I made all those dates up...). So much exists here that exister long long long before any part of the US was even dreamed of. It's crazy.

Afterwards I ran some more errands and now I'm hanging out in my room. At 6:15, we're leaving for formal dinner, because they're starting to serve sherry at 6:30. According to Stephanie Williams, a wonderful (and wonderfully British) woman who is in charge of the House, they don't encourage us to drink too much, but sherry is something they feel we should experience. It's "fortified wine" (read: wine + harder alcohol) that is supposedly really strong. I guess I'll see what it's like. Dinner is three courses (breast of duck for main, I've heard), all served to us, with wine provided ("but certainly not enough to get you plastered!" said Stephanie). I'm excited for it!

I should actually head to shower and start getting ready and figure out what to wear...but I'm sure I'll be updating again soon. Stanford classes start tomorrow but I don't have one until Thursday, and tutorials don't start until the 11th. So I'll have plenty of time.

Love to you all! I'd love to get mail/phone calls from the people I love. I won't post my number and address here, since it's public, but send me an email if you'd like either.

I'll put up links to pictures when I've started putting them up on Facebook.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Off to Oxford!

I decided to recycle the blog I used in Morocco, so this starts the Oxford part. My plain leaves in 5 and a half hours...and it's direct to London! The time difference is 5 hours from the east coast, 8 from the west, and it's later in the UK.

I'm excited for my tutorial, for exploring Oxford and London, for new friends, and for my sister to visit at Thanksgiving!! I'm done with school on December 10th and returning to the US on the 22nd, with some awesome, yet to be determined travelling between those dates.

Stay tuned for more updates from across the pond!