Friday, October 1, 2010

orientation, class, and an old friend

So, the formal dinner on 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 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!