Summertime Mayhem

So, my month of May and beginning of June has been incredibly busy, and I think we’re all starting to feel that we are rapidly approaching the end of our stay in Oxford.

Most of May has been dedicated to studying for our tutorials. Mine is on book and print culture in the Victorian period, and I can say (with some relief) that I seem to be meeting the expectations of my tutor. So far I’ve looked at the text and illIMG_1374ustrations of Dickens, Gustave Dore, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Beatrix Potter, Kate Greenaway, Lewis Carroll, and JM Barrie. Most of my sources are from Oxford’s Bodleian Library, and every week I’ve gotten to look at first editions of my authors and illustrators. Most of the texts have to be read at Weston library (which is part of the Bod) in this reading room that’s quite tedious to get to: you go through several security checkpoints,leave all your stuff except your computer in a locker, and sign in with a guard before you go into the reading room at all. But once you get past all that, you can spend your time thumbing through all sorts of texts, no big deal if they’re from the 1800’s or earlier and are extremely fragile. I saw this one girl reading what looked like a handwritten book while simultaneously on Facebook. Only in Oxford, right? If I’m not in Weston, I’m usually in the Gladstone Link, which is basically an underground part of the libIMG_0278rary with movable shelving (there’s little steering wheels on each shelf to move them back and forth–it’s quite fun); you just have to make sure you don’t squish anyone between shelves. And then I go off and write my paper, and every Friday I meet up with my tutor and we discuss what I’ve studied during the week. Super simple, but I’m learning so much! Preparing for my tutorial usually consumes my week (what am I going to do when I have 5 classes at PLU next semester?!), but there’s always fun things going on.

Some weeks back I foIMG_0270und this bookseller that appears in Gloucester Green’s outdoor market every Wednesday, and he always has really nice old books, which of course I can’t resist. I found a copy of Persuasion from 1901 and it’s really quite pretty, as well as a copy of The Importance of Being Earnest and A Tale of Two Cities, from 1906. I won’t be having any regrets until I try to bring home all my newly acquired things with me. We also attended Regent’s Park’s college tortoise, Emanuelle’s, birthday party. It’s actually a charity event, and it was super fun! They also brought over other Oxford colleges’ tortoises to visit with Emanuelle. ChriIMG_1369st Church’s tortoise kept trying to eat, or at least, climb over, a baby tortoise (that was absolutely adorable!). More recently, there was another tortoise-related charity event at Corpus Christi College–a tortoise race. They make a circle of lettuce and put a bunch of the Oxford Colleges’ tortoises in the middle, and whichever tortoise gets to the lettuce first wins. I’m proud to say Emanuelle got 4th place.

IMG_0375We also went punting for the first time! Basically you start at Magdalen Bridge and end in Christ Church Meadow. It was a beautiful day for it. However, the ducks expect you to feed them and they’ll steal your food if you’re not careful. But other than that, it’s a wonderful way to spend a few hours on a sunny afternoon. As long as you don’t crash into the banks or other punting boats. Also, there’s ducklings that follow you on the river. Too cute.

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A couple weeks back, another girl and I took a train and a taxi to get to Highclere Castle, where they film Downton Abbey! It’s a hassle to get to, especially on a Sunday, but as it was the last weekend that the castle was open, it was oIMG_0459ur only opportunity. But it was definitely worth it! The house inside (you can’t take pictures) looks exactly like in the show–the same furniture and everything! Also, the grounds are HUGE. As in, the fields surrounding Highclere just keep going in every direction. You can’t even see the town it’s closest to, Newbury. Lots of people probably have to maintain all that, and it really puts Downton Abbey into perspective–the issues about tenant farmers and land and stuff discussed in the show makes so much more sense.

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Formal Dinner at Regent’s

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The group at our cabin

And, this past Saturday, eight members of our Oxford group (including me) went to Snowdonia, which is a massive national park in North Wales. The Oxford Mountaineering Club owns a little house that we were able to rent for very cheap. Problem was, it was in a teeny village named Pentrefoelas (as in, there was a convenience store, a pub, and a chocolate factory, and that’s about it), where, upon getting to a neighbouring town, we found that there were no busses to Pentrefoelas (internet was inaccurate on this) and we almost had to walk nine miles there, as most taxi services were busy. But we finally found one, and after tramping through several farms, fields, and even climbing over some barbed wire, we found a little stone house that at first we thought was abandoned but realised it was the right one (later, we found the footpath you’re supposed to take from the main road). You have to walk for a good ten minutes or so from the road to even see the house–it’s just surrounded by fields and fields of sheep and cows. Anyway, the house was super cool, complete with a little fireplace, massive bunkbeds (think five bunkbeds conglomerated into one long one), and magazines from the 1980’s. It was really nice to fall asleep to the sound of baa-ing sheep 🙂

The nexIMG_0656t day (Sunday), we headed out to Mt. Snowdon, the tallest mountain in Wales and the highlight of Snowdonia. It’s about a 9mile hike, and the first four or so miles are uphill. But the view was absolutely breathtaking–just miles and miles of mountains and lakes. One of the lakes we passed to put our feet in is, according to legend, where King Arthur threw Excalibur at the end of his life. It certainly looked magical enough to be part of the legend! Anyway, this hike was probably the hardest I’ve ever done, and the fastest–we climbed to the summit of Snowdon in about two hours. I’m still sore from all the walking, but I’m proud that I made it and didn’t wimp out IMG_0591or anything. OIMG_0800n Monday, we also took a bus to Carnarfon, to see the beach and Carnarfon Castle, which is where the Princes of Wales (as in, Prince Charles) get validated or something when they are 17 or so. Another thing that’s really cool: most people in the northern Wales area actually speak Welsh–when I was in Cardiff and Tintern, I barely heard any, but here, we actually met someone (a bus driver) who couldn’t answer a question because he didn’t understand enough English. So, Welsh is definitely not a dead language!

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So, that’s me up to date. This week, I’ll be finishing my tutorial (I had two essays this week), and then I’ll be doing some last-minute travelling for the rest of my time here. This Saturday is Final Fling, which is kinda like prom, at Regent’s, so I have that to look forward to. I also have a ticket to see Shakespeare’s King John at the London Globe on the last week of June! So I guess there’ll be one more blog post, presumably when I get back to Hawaii. Have a wonderful month of June!

Feeling Oxonian

[Sorry about all the wonky formatting ahead of time]

As April comes to a close, I’ve found myself astounded at how quickly these months have gone by. We have, roughly, a little more than two months before it’s time to pack our things and head back to the good ‘ole USA. But before that sad day arrives, I’m happy to report that we’ve been keeping quite busy.

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The group at Easter

After Spring Break, our class started our last IHON (international honors) class, a four week course (so basically the month of April) on conflict and peace strategies. We’ve spent the last two weeks in groups researching different countries in conflict. My group looked at the current ethnic violence against the Rohingya people in Myanmar, and the other two topics were the Mexican drug cartels and a conflict in the West Sahara. This week, we’re still looking at our conflict zones, but the next two weeks are devoted to finding existing peace strategies that are working in these countries. And, next week, we’ll be starting our Oxford tutorials! Tutorials are basically a one-on-one independent study with an Oxford tutor about a subject of your choice–mine is on the design of books and print culture, primarily illustration, in the 19th century (the Victorian age). The tutorials are once a week, whereinwhich I write a 2000 word essay each week from a very large reading list my tutor gives me. Good thing I have one of the world’s largest libraries at my disposal! The first essay is on the Victorian aesthetic and literary culture in general, but the next one should be focussing on the illustrations in Charles Dickens’ novels! The best part is that the Bodleian Library has an agreement that makes sure that a copy of every book printed in England is given to the library…which means I can go look at (and touch/examine) first edition copies of Charles Dickens novels (or, I guess the first edition periodicals)! I also just met my tutor for the first time this week, and he specialises in the design of furniture and domestic objects. Looks like the next two months are going to be grand…although quite busy!

on a run to Port Meadow!

IMG_1212The other students have returned to Oxford from their spring break, as term starts this week. The beginning of Trinity Term also means that Emanuelle, Regent Park’s (very old) college tortoise, is now roaming the Quad during the day (the main courtyard at Regent’s). There’s a birthday party for her in the beginning of May, and we’re all super excited! (Why can’t we have a PLU tortoise? It would be great.)

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Oxford vs. Cambridge!

Three weekends ago, we all took a trip up to London to watch the Oxford/Cambridge boat races! It’s a HUGE event, with roughly 300,000 people gathering on the banks of the TIMG_1181hames screaming for their respective teams. I’m very proud to say that Oxford won all three races: women’s, men’s, and the reserves. Apparently, this year’s race was a very significant one–this is the first time the women’s team have ever rowed the same course on the same day as the men’s team. It was amazing to be part of a very traditional event, and we felt quite proud to support Oxford. When we were departing by bus to London, the driver said to us (mostly joking, but maybe 20% serious), “If you’re supporting Cambridge, the coach is full.”

Also, a newly renovated building that is part of the Bodleian Library opened this month! There are several exhibition rooms that display these amazing treasures (and many others!):

  • The original illustration of the first edition book cover for the Hobbit that JRR Tolkein designed himself (with his notes on it)
  • A copy of the Magna Carta
  • First edition copies of all the Jane Austen novels, plus letters to her sister, Cassandra.
  • A folio of Shakespeare plays, published 7 years after he died
  • works of Isaac Newton
  • a copy of the Qu’ran
  • diaries by Percy Shelley and Mary Wollenstonecraft,
  • (handwritten) writings by Ghandi, Kafka, John Donne
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The Hobbit illustration! Ahhhh!

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Magna Carta

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A map of Virginia. I think it said it was made by John Smith or something. Not sure.

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A first edition of Pride and Prejudice! Interestingly, the Bodleian didn’t get an automatic copy like they usually do, because they dismissed novels as unimportant…later they had to buy a first edition copy and it was a bit pricey. Just goes to show that novels are significant too!

And I almost forgot! On the Saturday before Easter, we participated in the International Pillow Fight, which commenced under the Bridge of Sighs, near the Bodleian Library. Students and (presumably) Oxford residents showed up at 3pm with pillows, a whistle blew, and we joined in a massive pillow fight in the middle of the street that was utter chaos and pure awesomeness. There’s nothing quite like whacking complete strangers with pillows on a Saturday afternoon.

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This past weekend, it’s been a mix of crazy working (on our tutorials and our peace mapping presentation) and enjoying ourselves as always. Friday morning, we headed down to London, where we visited the Churchill War Rooms, where Churchhill and his staff effectively planned out the entire British war strategy. There were rooms filled wall to wall with maps, with everything looking as if they had just left. A really cool bit of history if you’re in London any time soon! My favorite part was seeing this quote by Winston Churchill:

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“We are all worms. But I do believe that I am a glow-worm.” –Winston Churchill

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Shakespeare, National Portrait Gallery

After the war rooms, we all split up, and I went to see the National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery, which are right next to each other. I didn’t have too much time, but I think I saw all the good stuff. There were portraits of kings and queens from the 1500’s, and a very certain playwright, AND a portrait of Jane Austen by her sister, Cassandra. In the National Gallery, I felt very proud to bIMG_1235e able to look at a few paintings and immediately guess who they were painted by–the obvious ones being VanGogh, Seurat, and Monet, but I recognized a piece by Gustav Klimt. Go education! Also, the picture (below) of the couple is by Jan van Eyck, which I studied last semester in Art History II. I originally thought it was in the Louvre (when I was there, I spent 20 minutes trying to find this painting…no wonder I couldn’t find it). This is probably my favorite painting from that class because it’s done in the miniturist style–in the painting at the far back, there’s a teeny mirror with a weensy reflection of the couple’s backs and presumably the painter. Isn’t that the most adorable thing ever? I tried to get a close up picture of the mirror.

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National Gallery, Gustav Klimt

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Vincent Van Gogh

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Jan van Eyck

After all the museum touring, we headed back to Oxford in time for Regent’s Park’s Bop (a dance party at the beginning and end of each term) that celebrates the beginning of Trinity term. It was Disney-themed, so naturally Disney songs were incorporated into the usual dance music (the highlight was the “Circle of Life”, where we Americans made a circle and swayed back and forth).

But when we’re not participating in crazy Oxford traditions, or pretending to be English, we get to enjoy Oxford’s lovely springtime weather. Flowers are blooming, bees are buzzing (literally everywhere, I live in fear of one flying in my face), and the sun is shining most days. Almost every day after class, the best thing to do is sit in our little back yard with a cold drink, food, and music. And maybe take a nap in the sun. It’s a good life. IMG_0237

Spring Break Shenanigans

So I’ve spent the last two and a half weeks on spring break, and it was quite the adventure! For those of you who don’t know, I did most (like, 90%) of my traveling entirely on my own, which was an amazing learning experience. So, what did I do? Where did I go? Read on…

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Narwal Horn

1. First stop, Paris! I think the theme of this trip quickly turned to seeing all the art and architecture I possibly could in a four-day period! I spent my first full day in Paris with two girls fromIMG_9557 my Oxford group–we went to the Louvre and to the top of the Eiffel Tower. The Louvre is, of course, amazing, but honestly, there is so much to see that it’s hard to take in all at once. It did help that I recognized a few of the paintings and sculptures from my college art history classes, as well as from my years at Trinity–the big one being the Mona Lisa, which I painted a replica of in my junior year of high school. I think the best part of being in the Louvre was seeing works of art that I recognized, and being able to remember the stories, the time periods, and the artists behind these famous works. In short, the Louvre is amazing. Except that there’s no way to go through the whole thing in a day, though I did my best to see most of the main attractions. But of course the Louvre is not the only art museum in Paris! Throughout the rest of my stay, I went to D’Orsay Museum, which houses Modern artists like Van Gogh, Picasso, Seurat, etc., the Orangerie, which had Monet’s famous Water lillies, and DeCluny Museum, which is a small Medieval museum that had,among other things, a narwal horn, aka a unicorn horn 🙂 (For more images, see the attached gallery to this post)

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I climbed some very terrifyingly narrow spiral stairs to the top of Notre Dame, whose view rivals that of the Eiffel Tower’s. I also went under Paris–more specifically, the Parisian Catacombs, which are equally creepy and cool. It’s basically a sort of maze, where half the walls are made from rows and rows of arm, leg, and skull bones, not to creep you out or anything. It’s really hard to process how many people’s skeletons are down there. The day I went to the catacombs must have been my morbid day, because I also went to the Pantheon to see the tombs of all the famous French writers–Rousseau, Marie Curie, Victor Hugo, and Alexander Dumas among them.

Those were the highlights of my Paris trip! I had a bit of trouble with the border police when trying to re-enter the UK (basically, they didn’t believe that I was supposed to be studying IMG_9856in the UK for six months) but I made my way back to Oxford and then set out the next day to London, and more specifically, the Harry Potter studio tour, where you can go see a ton of the sets, costumes, and props they used in the films. It’s quite a hassle to get to (amounting to a 3 1/2 hour journey from Oxford) but so worth it! Also, there was a solar eclipse that happened on the way to London, but unfortunately it was super cloudy and I didn’t get to see the whole thing. Anyway, I got to try butterbeer (whIMG_0873ich is basically root beer combined with cream soda), climb on the Hogwarts Express, and my favorite, see the miniature model of Hogwarts they used during filming. Basically, a HP nerdling’s dream come true. After that, I had to hurry back to Oxford for a fancy dinner with the PLU president, who was stopping by Oxford on his way to Namibia, his wife, my professor, and Oxford people. So pretty much a really cool day!

My next trip out was to Cardiff, Wales, which is more of a shopping area than anything else. On my way into the city, there were lots of fields full of sheep and newly born lambs and of course I squealed and a lady on the bus looked at me funny. But anyway, I went to an Anglican Church on Sunday that was spoken entirely in Welsh, and this nice old man helped me follow the service/sing hymns, and as impressive as that may sound I am pretty sure I have completely botched the pronunciation of the Welsh language! But it was really intriguing and I’m half-tempted to go learn some Welsh.

I also went to see Cardiff Castle, which is in the heart of Cardiff and its wall surrounding the castle has a bunch of stone animals that appear to be sitting on the wall. Those IMG_9869Welsh sure know how to make castles fun! This was the first proper castle I’ve been in, since we didn’t go in the one in Ireland. Basically, inside the walls, it’s an open field, with a fancy house where the owners would have lived, plus a mini-castle on a little hill that is the castle keep. A fun fact: Wales has more castles per square mile than anywhere on earth. Even though I was only there for a few days, and passed through only a handful of towns, every town I passed through, big or small, had some sort of castle. Just so’s ya know. Also, their flag has a DRAGON on it. Best. Flag. Ever. These flags are also on every street corner, building, and castle–the Welsh must be pretty proud of their country. Flag_of_Wales_2.svg

On my last full day in Wales, I took a train and a bus up to the town of Tintern, located next to the River Wye, which serves as a border between Wales and England. It is IMG_9965also situated in the middle of a foresty-farm area, but only the forest on the east side of the Wye is considered the Forest of Dean (which makes a brief appearance in the seventh Harry P. book). Tintern Abbey is located in this lovely secluded spot, and though it was probably smaller than Notre Dame, its presence felt so much larger, because it is the largest building around. It was built in the 13th century, but is perhaps more associated with 19th century poet, Wordsworth, who wrote a poem about the surrounding area of Tintern Abbey. HavinIMG_0033g seen the area up close, I can see why.IMG_0002 Though a little town has sprouted near the abbey, there are few cars that go by, and the nearest city is about twenty minutes away. Tintern is surrounded on both sides by mountains and trees–simply stated, it is a wonderful place to spend your day. I spent a few hours climbing up some trails on the mountain, and I would have loved to go all the way to the top but I didn’t have the right shoes on and no inclination to go up there by myself, as safe as it probably is.IMG_0008

From Wales, I traveled back to Oxford, and then set out the next day to Manchester.IMG_0982 Manchester is the second most populated city in England after London, apparently, but honestly, it’s nowhere near as cool as London. I visited a couIMG_0948ple of old libraries, including one that Karl Marx used to meet up in with Friedrich Engels. The John Rylands library is famous for having a fragment of papyrus from c.100AD that has a translation of the Bible, more specifically from the book of John. Chetham’s Library was the one with the association with Marx. Both looked like they could definitely be part of the Hogwarts library! Those two places were probably the IMG_0978highlights of my stay, because there wasn’t much else to do besides shopping. I also saw Manchester Cathedral, the Manchester Art Gallery, and rode on the Manchester Eye (basically a very large ferris wheel), but it’s not really somewhere you can spend a large amount of time.

My last excursion was to Poole, which is on the south English coast. I had planned to take a ferry to GIMG_0168uernsey from Poole, but unfortunately, the 25mph winds cancelled the ferry. So instead, I spent my time on what’s called the Jurassic Coast, which spans the southwest coIMG_0109ast of England. It is characterized by sheer cliffs and lovely beaches (and supposedly lots of fossils, not that I found any). Of course, with the wind and rain going on, it wasn’t exactly the ideal beach day, but it was still an amazing place to go! I went to Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door, and they were probably my favorite place to visit this spring break!

So that’s all from me. It’s been quite a busy month, but I think we’re all glad to be back in Oxford, ready to start our next two terms. The Oxford students don’t get back from their break until the end of April, so in the meantime, our class is doing our last class together in four weeks, and I think we’ll be talking about conflict and peace mapping. After that, we’ll be starting our tutorials (independent study) with our Oxford professors from April till June.

Also I updated the photos page so now all the photos are finally in order, from newest to oldest. It would make me happy if someone looked at it. Also, I added some information about quirky Oxford traditions that we’ve been experiencing. It’s under the tab ‘Oxford Culture’.

And since I was back in Oxford, I went to visit the inside of Christ Church College! Here’s some pictures!

The grand staircase they use in Hogwarts. The dining hall wasn't open, unfortunately.

The grand staircase they use in Hogwarts. The dining hall wasn’t open, unfortunately.

Christ Church Cathedral

Christ Church Cathedral

Perfect day for sight-seeing!

Perfect day for sight-seeing!



Taking Ireland by Storm (or, more accurately, getting stormed on…)

Lots of exciting things have happened over the past few weeks since I’ve written…except, I’m not totally sure I remember everything I was planning to write. So, I’ll start with the freshest event: Ireland!

Two other girls in my house and I travelled to the county of Kerry in southwest Ireland IMG_9341this weekend (Saturday-Tuesday). We stayed in Tralee, which was in a convenient location near both the airport and the beach. We hopped off the plane into a tiny airport and found that we had to take a ten-minute walk over to a little village to catch a bus. To all you someday travellers to Ireland, it’s important to have Euros before you get to Kerry (the only ATM in the airport was broken), because then we had to find a store that was willing to exchange pounds for Euros, then run after the bus that we needed to take to Tralee (it was the last one of the evening–it was a bit of a close shave).

We had booked a nice bed and breakfast a little ways outside of the city centre in Tralee, where I’m pretty sure we were the only customers. The owner was very attentive to our every comfort and served us tea every afternoon when we returned to the B&B, and cooked us breakfast every morning. We asked for a traditional Irish breakfast on our first morning there and we very quickly learned that Irish people eat a lot for breakfast–there was three kinds of meat on our plates, plus bread, eggs and fruit, plus the owner kept offering us cereal and orange juice. Also, what they call black pudding and white pudding. For the squeamish, one is blood sausage and the other made of fat. If you don’t know that before you eat them, it tastes at least interesting. I’m proud to say I tried it but that’s a one-timey thing only. Also, they have this magical kind of bread they call brown bread, and people in Ireland serve it with almost every meal–think really dense heavy cake that tastes like nutty whole grain bread. Really tasty with soup.

Anyway, we also discovered that Ireland’s weather is very temperamental, meaning IMG_9437that one minute, it’s sunny with a nice blue sky, and a minute later it’s aggressively hailing. I have never seen that much hail in my life–plus it hailed overnight twice and I thought it was snow when I woke up in the morning; there was that much. On our first full day in Tralee, we decided to take a 30 minute walk down to Blennerville, where there was a famous windmill and also the shoreline. Five minutes into the walk, it started hailing, then raining, and then a sort of snowy-rain-hailing-windy mess that we powered through nevertheless (it stopped within twenty minutes and the sun came out). We took a road that ran parallel to the highway to Blennerville, and we were so excited by the green fields and snowy mountains and abandoned train tracks and general beauty of the landscape. That was probably the bestIMG_9413 part of the journey–the windmill was pretty cool except they took off the wingy things that spin (sorry, don’t know the technical term) so it was actually just a white tower. Still, it was a fun excursion.

A bit by accident, on the first night we picked up a brochure at our B&B advertising the Killarney Aran Sweater Market. In case you haven’t heard of Aran sweaters, Ireland is very famous for it–they make the kind of wool clothing that you IMG_9446pass through generations. Also, according to the brochure, there were drawings of people wearing Aran sweaters in the Book of Kell. That old. So that was all to say that the minute we heard it was in Killarney (a town about an hour or so away from us) we decided to go there on Monday. And get woolly sweater things. I got a very thick grey scarf that has a hood attached, and it’s probably my favourite thing ever–scarves with hoods just make sense! Also, it was very handy protection against the surprise hail storms that plagued our trip! Here’s a picture of me looking entirely too proud of my hooded-blanket-scarf:

The other big attraction we went to see in Killarney was Ross Castle, which was another 30 minute walk from the town center. It’s on the edge of a national park, and IMG_9466we saw a couple of deer (with little antlers, so I guess they’re bucks) peeking at us through the trees. And it seemed to be a tradition by then for Irish weather to start hailing/raining/snowing on us for fiIMG_9458ve minutes into our walk. But the castle was gorgeous, set on the edge of a loch. It was pretty windy, though, and we were literally almost blown away by the castle. The castle’s interior, unfortunately, is closed at the moment. We walked around it and found construction workers apparently hosing down one side of the castle, so I guess even really old stone castles need a good cleaning now and then. The wind started picking up again though, and–you guessed it–hail and a very strong wind literally drove us away from the castle. When we got back to town, we all got brownies with ice cream and chocolate sauce and immediately felt better.

Those were the best excursions–on the last day we went to the Kerry County Museum, where they had some really cool old photographs of the people of Kerry. Then we went downstairs to see “The Medieval Experience” and found an entire medieval village complete with painted manikins and props. Needless to say, it was utterly terrifying, especially because some of the manikins talk. We were pretty sure we were going to die, because it was dark and the path led down a very dark corridor….but we’re fine. Maybe a little scarred for life. Life lesson: Don’t trust anything that says “Medieval Experience.”

All in all, though, it was an amazing trip and a great experience in learning how to travel in a foreign country. Those Irish accents are a bit crazy to understand at times!

What else am I up to?

1. Oxford University is having their annual Regatta rowing competition, where the goal of each rowing team is to bump into as many other boats as possible. We went to watch them today (the competition goes on all week) and it’s really exciting to see. And of course, we’re cheering on Regent’s Park’s team (the college we’re affiliated with)

  2. Apparently we’re taking a trip to Parliament next week as a class trip, yay!

3. Spring break is coming up. We’ll basically have from March 13th-March 31st to do travelling. I’ll be going to Paris, Wales, and around England–it should be pretty fun!

Yep, that’s about all I’ve got! Here’s a few pretty pictures of the Radcliffe Camera from the tower of St. Mary’s! The best view in Oxford 🙂IMG_9297

Pop Culture Pleasures

So, the past two weeks have been a variety of slow, easy going days and really jam-packed full days! As usual, here’s my list of highlights:

1. On Saturday, we finally got to go see Andy Serkis! We’ve been waiting for his appearance in Oxford for several weeks now, ever since we saw an advertising poster outside one of my new favorite bookstores (Blackwell’s). He was here for an interview alongside an author he’s promoting, because his production company is making a movie of her book. And, of course, in theIMG_0402 middle of the interview, he definitely took an opportunity to use his world-famous Gollum voice. I think all of us who went died (and went to heaven) a little bit inside after that–we were in the second row of seats, so we had a great view! After the interview, he sat down with the author at a table to sign books, so of course we all bought a copy…and maybe posed with him. And got a picture. And then geeked out. And I promise that it wasn’t just me. And my greatest claim to fame is now that I didn’t just get an autograph and a picture. After he signed my book, I said, “nice to meet you” or something lame like that and he replied “love you too.” Andy Serkis loves me, guys. Just thought you should know. The rest of the weekend for me was madly writing a 2000 word paper for my philosophy class, so that’s what I mean by slow days…very slow (in case you’re wondering, it was a possibly insightful look into how human rights and utilitarianism intersect).

2. But by Tuesday night, I was all finished with my paper, despite a minor cold and a temporary house crisis, whereinwhich our heating accidentally turned off. We wereIMG_0459 gathered together in our living room, watching Les Mis the movieIMG_0416 (because why not) when the other house group came by to inform us that it was snowing outside! This
would be the first big snow fall we’ve had here in Oxford! We walked down to the canal near our houses to throw snowballs at each other, but on our way back, we noticed that our across-the-road neighbors (who are also Oxford students) were peering at us through their windows. Eventually they came out of their house and we randomly started a snowball fight with them in the middle of the street! Then they thought it would be a great idea to surprise their various friends around Oxford with a few well-thrown snowballs, and they invited us along. So we walked around our neighborhood trying to snowball people but no one was really fooled into coming out. After one last friendly-fire fight with our neighbors, some of us headed out to see Oxford city in snow… and it was absolutely beautiful. Also, I have discovered that eating snow is incredibly addictive.

3. Then the very next day, all the girls went on a bus trip to Bath! It’s about a 2 hourIMG_9132 journey by bus, but definitely worth seeing! Unlike Oxford, all the buildings match and do look pretty rich. We stopped first at the bridge and river that they used in the Les Mis movie (for Javert’s last song)! In case you’re wondering, the makers of Les Mis changed the bridge that’s next to that waterfall thingy he crashes into. And the whole thing isn’t even in Paris. But hey, still pretty. Still awesome. IMG_9148IMG_9159

IMG_9193The wonderful thing about Bath is that everything is in walking distance. So from there we went to the place where Bath got its name: the Roman Baths. There’s this hotspring that the original natives of Britain thought was rather magical, and then the Romans came in and thought that it would make a fabulous bath house. You can’t touch the pool anymore (because someone got it in their nose and got sick and died…awkward), but there is a fountain on the way out that’s clean because it’s directly from the ground. After hearing the whole tour about how so many different people thought the water was magical/IMG_9201or good for you (literally, everyone- the Romans, the monks, thIMG_9210e British aristocracy), we were a little excited to drink of the waters…except then it tasted like blood because it’s warm and full of iron minerals. That’s definitely a one time thing only. Next we went to the very attractive Bath Abbey next to the baths–an amazing Gothic church with all the things I’ve learned in art history. It’s a relief to know that I didn’t study 15 million cathedral structures and blueprint plans for nothing. But really, it’s a sight to see!

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Royal Crescent

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The Assembly Rooms

After the abbey, we spilt up–another girl and I went to the Jane Austen Center. I suppose we should have been tipped off by the fact that there was a man dresIMG_9224sed up in Regency-era clothes outside the door, but we went in anyway and discovered that it was much too touristy. I guess we thought there were actually real Jane Austen things there but there was nothing authentic, not even in the house that the center was in was the one Austen lived in. So from there we headed to the famous Royal Crescent and the Circus, which are both rounded townhouse blocks that are very posh looking. We also saw the Assembly Rooms, which is where people went for balls and parties!

4. And the next day, yesterday, we headed to London with  our professor to see the play version of Les Mis. But after having class in a pub, we had several hoursIMG_0462‘ worth of free time, so of course we went to see Platform 9 3/4 at King’s IMG_0436Cross Station. We had trouble finding the sign, and I was disappointed that it was not actually near Platforms 9 and 10, nor was it actually next to a train like in the movie. In reality, the famous brick arches of King’s Cross Station is by Platforms 1-8, and 9-11 are in a more modern section of the train station. The line to pose with the designated 9 3/4 area was huge, so we just took discrete selfies.

Anyway, the play was at Queen’s Theatre on Shaftsbury Avenue. We had balcony seats that were quite nice! The play was amazing, although it’s a bit difIMG_0453ferent from the movie–for instance, Fantine sings “I dreamed a dream” after she gets fired, not after she becomes a prostitute. Also, some of the lyrics are different. But my goodness, the actors! The guy who played Javert had a very deep voice and it was a pleasure just to hear him sing. Valjean was good too–the actor had a huge range. I could go on forever! The music from the orchestra! The adorable Gavroche! All I can say is, it’s a real treat to see it in person. Also, there’s a giant part of the stage that moves in a circle, which is used in every scene for the depiction of movement, time, etc, and maybe it’s a popular theatre trick but the way it affects how you watch the play is just awesome. In short, I’m really glad PLU considers watching Les Mis as an educational part of the social justice program. This kind of education is the best.

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And on that note, I will conclude that it’s been a wonderful week of meeting my fantasy heroes and seeing my favorite places from my books. And watching Les Mis come to life!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Living the Oxford Life

I can’t believe it’s already been three weeks here in Oxford! These past few weeks have breezed by. A few highlights of the last week (PS this is going to be a LONG blog post…)

1. Last Friday, we were inducted into the Bodleian Library, which is the central library of Oxford University and holds a copy of every single thing published in at lIMG_8935east the UK for several hundred years or so (the librarian who inducted us said they get an average of about 1,000 books a day) and then some. There are entire libraries devoted to art history, science, philosophy, maps, anything you can think of. And now we have access to all of that! The librarian inducted us in Oxford’s Parliament room, where she casually mentioned that Oliver Cromwell used to speak there, King Henry V used to sit in the throne at the front, and that parliaments from the 1600’s used to meet here when they couldn’t meet in London. No big deal or anything.

IMG_8937After we took a verbal oath promising to not burn down the library, we headed to one of the oldest sections of the library, Duke Humphrey’s library, which he organised himself hundreds of years ago. It might also be known as the library they use in the Harry Potter films! No photography allowed, unfortunately, but there’s a reading room in there that I can access. But anyway, most of the books there are from early as the 1500’s…copies of Cicero, Homer, Plutarch, Virgil, (basically everything I’ve read at Trinity!), leather-bound and fading, on the shelves. Can’t touch them, but they’re so very incredible to behold!

2. After our fabulous experience in the Bodleian Library, we went on a walk into the Oxford countryside with our J-term professor. The minute we hopped off the bus in the countryside, however, it started hailing! We huddled under umbrellas until it IMG_9020stopped, and prIMG_9022oceded on our somewhat muddy walk through fields and country dirt roads. When we reached the top of a hill, though, everything was worth it: a bird’s eye view of the city and the surrounding countryside of Oxfordshire. Also, our professor then remembered that he brought brownies for us to eat. All good things. IMG_8960

3. Then on Saturday, we made our way down to the Cotswolds by train. The train stopped at Moreton-in-Marsh (I love town names like this!). The town is also tIMG_9081he home of The Bell Inn, which, according to the sign, was the inspiration for The Prancing Pony in JRR Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings. We went inside but it didn’t look muIMG_9080ch different from any other pub…but hey, still pretty cool. After lunch we took a bus to Bourton on the Water, another adorable English village about 15 minutes away. There are lots of Jenny-sized doors, sweet little cottages, bridges, ducks…think Beatrix Potter.

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I don’t have any pictures of Regent’s Park yet, so here’s the view from my window every morning.

4. This week, the Oxford students were back in session, which meant that we got to have lunch with the students from Regent’s Park. Lunch is held in a huge dining room, family style (complete with painted portraits on the walls!), where waiters serve you lunch. On the first day, we kept to our group, but since then we’ve been branching out to talk to other students.

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King’s Cross Station!

5. And yesterday, we went on yet another trip to London, but this time as a part of our class. Before J-Term started, we were assigned The Princess Casamassima, by Henry James, which is a story set in the late 1800’s about the British working class. So we were broken up into groups of three with map instructionsIMG_0344 to places described in the book. Along the way, we toured outdoor markets, underground vintage shops, and learned how to navigate the bus, Overground, and Underground, all on our own. At one point, we had to board the Underground at St. Pancras Station, which is right next to King’s Cross! We couldn’t go in because of time constraints but at least we got to be there! (When we returned home, we found out that Tom Felton had been stuck at King’s Cross about five hours before we got there…so very close!).

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A walk along a canal to get to Hyde Park

We met up with our professor at about three to get to Hyde Park, which is the setting of another scene in The Princess Casamassima, but also might be recognised as the park shown in one of the Sherlock episodes (while on the bus to Hyde Park we rode past  221B BakIMG_0349er Street!). We rented bikes to ride around the park, but because I was not comfortable riding (last time I was on a bike was a very long time ago), my professor and I took the shorter way, where he re-taught me how to ride a bike, which was pretty cool of him, I must say. We then walked through Mayfair IMG_0378(a very rich part of town) to get to a very fancy, rich-looking tearoom, where we got to experience having High Tea, courtesy of our PLU program. Earl Grey tea and coffee-chocolate cake was the best way to (almost) end the day. From the tearoom, we headed to our last stop of the day, which was the British Museum. I definitely geeked out because there were SO many pieces of art from my art history clasIMG_0369ses at PLU. Seeing them in person is the BEST. Also, the Rosetta Stone. And, my favorite, the sculptures and friezes from the Parthenon IMG_0363were there! I sat for a long time contemplating those sculptures, trying to imagine how they might look on the Parthenon, which I saw in my travels three years ago. I guess I can say that I’ve officially seen ALL of the Parthenon now!

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Lamassu guarded the gates of cities to ward enemies off. I think it was Assyria. They were super cool because they have six legs, so people can seem them from two different view points.

You can probably guess that after that, we got on a bus to Oxford, walked home, and promptly crashed. Andthat’s the end of my story for now. It’s been a wonderful week, guys. Thanks for reading!

London…and other things.

IMG_8596Saturday was our first big excursion into London! It almost got called off by gusty gales, but we by the time we made it, the skies were clearing, and we had a perfect walking day. We explored Trafalgar Square, the Parliament area, Piccadilly Circus, and a walk along the Thames. Buckingham Palace was pretty cool. No Queen in residence, but we did see the changing of the guard! One thing I love about this trip is the relaxed-ness of it all. We IMG_8637are certainly wandering around London with purpose, but it’s a relief not to have to be constantly on the move. Our professor gave us about two hours to explore in London/get lunch by ourselves. My group went into Soho, where we ordered sandwiches at a cafe before wandering the streets, looking at play advertisements, nosing through churches (and its accompanying crypt) and completely by accident, finding M&M’s world. There’s something wonderful about walking in a city for no other purpose than wandering through its streets.

We walked as a group to Parliament, where we gaped at Big Ben and exclaimed over the London Eye and Westminster Abbey–in other words, we stopped trying to pretendIMG_8847 we were locals and just gushed like tourists over everything. We crossed a bridge and walked along the Thames as the suIMG_8678n went down, and came across a little book market under a bridge. There were so many maps and prints and books that there just wasn’t time to nose through,though I did see a first edition of Harry Potter #5 and thought about it for a moment (or two). Though we were too far to go, our professor told us about this pub that’s only open on weekends, called the Mad Hatter, where apparently they ask you a riddle atTrafalgar Square the door and if you get it wrong, I don’t think you can go in. I REALLY want to go back there!

We ended up eating at a perfectly nice pub called The Shakespeare, which has delicious chicken pies that are ridiculously adorable. I really should have taken a picture. But that was pretty much our adventure in London, because shortly after food, we got on a bus back to Oxford, and we pretty much all passed out until we arrived. Buckingham Palace!

I didn’t think we would do anything particularly remarkable on Sunday, but hey, it’s England, so I guess that’s why anything can happen. Including by making friends with a random horse in a field. After lunch, it was decided that we would go on a nice afternoon walk throughJust a swan chilling with the ducks. Same old, same old ;) Port Meadow, which is a five minutes’ walk from our house. We walked on a path that paralleled the Thames, and along the way, we saw a swan hanging out with the ducks on the river. Things like that just don’t happen in Washington (or, you know, Hawaii). Anyway,it was pretty exciting. When we got to the Meadow, though, it was sight to see. I’m not going to describe it, I’m just going to show picIMG_8884tures, but seriously, wow. We need more meadows where I live. So anyway, as we crossed the meadow, we realised that what we took to be cows were actually horses. We were observing one that was pretty focussed on chomping grass when another one started running at us–not charging, but the way a dog might run up to investigate a new potential friend. She was white with blue eyes and wanted to be pet. And also wanted to eat our coat buttons. We named her Casamassima (after a character in this book we had to read for class)We found a horse in a meadow. What is this, Lord of the Rings? and had fun petting her, but as we left, she started following us! It was a pretty magical experience until she decided grass was more interesting and ditched us. But still. I suppose there’s more to be said about how we tasted some delicious cider, tried to go on a different route through the meadow, and ended up having to cross some very swampy areas to get home, but it wasn’t as magical-sounding as London and horses.

So I’ve come to the conclusion that this will be a once-a-week blog cycle. There’s plenty of pictures under the “Photos” tab if you want to see more!

Here’s the things I’m looking  forward to this week:

1. We’re getting inducted into the Bodleian Library on Friday! That’s right, inducted. Church of St. MartinFancy clothes and a ceremony is definitely more than we expected…I thought they were just going to hand us library cards…

2. Though we initially wanted to go to Cardiff, Wales, this weekend, the Bodleian induction ceremony kind of postponed those plans, so we’re seeing if maybe we can go to Cotteswold this weekend for one of my housemate’s birthday.

3. Not as exciting, but I bought some paints, brushes, and paper from a bookstore so that I can art while I’m here…got to keep up my skills! If they’re worth seeing, I’ll post them next week. And as a sidenote, in case anyone’s wondering, yesterday I wandered through a grand total of four bookstores and didn’t buy a single book…though I was very tempted and will definitely be going back.

That’s all from me this week! Thanks for reading 🙂

_Jenny

We called her Casamassima (after the character in this book we have to read for class)

This photo just makes me happy.

As does this one, for different reasons.

There was a book market going on along the Thames! There were these old maps and prints for sale (from the 1800's) but of course they were expensive.

A New Beginning

Hello everyone!

The group at Sea-Tac.

The group at Sea-Tac.

So, I’ve finally flown, landed, and parked in Oxford, England! We’ve been here for a grand total of four and a half days, and already we’ve settled into a routine. We have two lovely flats on Juxon Street, five people in each house, and our own rooms, which are huge, by the way. We’re still working on gathering everything that we have deemed necessary for living (aka, the coffeemaker—we all confessed

 that we are addicts), but we are well on our way to being self-sustainable. Our biggest obstacle this week was setting up the wi-fi, but now that we have, we are much less dependent on cafes, stores, and any shopfront we can find with free wifi. Our flats are about a ten minutes’ walk from the central part of the city of Oxford, and there are so many cafes, bookshops, restaurants, pubs, and clothing shops that we don’t know where we want to go first.

 We spent the first two days just walking around Oxford, discovering shops like Waterstones, which is a five story bookstore that I died of happiness in. There’s also a covered market area that sells everything from meat to fancy fondaIMG_8416nt cakes, and primarily, a ton of new shop fronts mixed in with intricate Gothic buildings and the like. On Tuesday, we took a two hour walking tour around the Oxford colleges, where we learned about the personalities of the colleges (Merton College is “where fun goes to die,” in the words of our tour guide), the on-going resentment between the townspeople of Oxford and the students at Oxford, what a “posh” accent sounds like, and the incredible history of the city of Oxford itself. For example, there is an unpaved patch of cobblestone in one of the streets that our guide told us was left un-asphalted out of respect for the Protestant martyrs who were burned at the stake in that exact spot (during the reign of Queen Mary). It is history like that that makes Oxford a truly special place to be in.

Speaking of which, on Wednesday we started our J-Term class with Professor Strum, which I might add, is at the most agreeable time of 1:30, from Monday to Thursday (that’s right, we get Fridays off). The title theme of the class is social justice, and in class on the first day we talked particularly about the major privilege problems students from Oxford and Cambridge have and always have had—there is an incredible amount of hubris going on here. In our American university systems,

Exploring our neighborhood!

Exploring our neighborhood!

diversity is a huge part of many colleges’ admissions goals. But in Oxford and Cambridge, that is not the case in any way—most students are from privileged, private school, rich backgrounds; fewer than 10% of Oxford students come from poor backgrounds. I suppose it is questions like this that we will be examining and discussing in class. So far, we’ve read quite a few things that mention Oxford, like Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own”–it really makes a difference to be here in Oxford while reading it!

As for the non-academic side of things, we’ve had a series of triumphs and a few bumps along the road.

A few averted crises:

  1. We locked ourselves inside the house and had to send out someone through a window, over a wall, and through a gate to unlock it from the front
  2. Someone threw an egg at us from a moving car, which was absolutely terrifying, but at least only one person got hit in the foot…
  3. The stairs in our flats are VERY narrow and steep and at least half of us have already slipped and fallen, but I think we’ve all learned the lesson of walking very slowly down the stairs…

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Good things:

  1. We now own utensils. And food. And things to cook in.
  2. We discovered that our laundry machine was also a dryer (we were having major problems figuring out how we were going to dry all our stuff).
  3. Cornish Pasties are delicious.
  4. We’ll be heading to London tomorrow!
  5. We found a poster advertising an event for Andy Serkis (aka the voice of Gollum) for the end of the month for only 5 pounds. If we can get tickets, we’re definitely going!

In short, this past week has been absolutely amazing, if a little chaotic (we’re all still pretty jet lagged).

Christchurch.

Christchurch.

“We could pass our lives in Oxford without having or wanting any other idea—that of the place is enough.” -William Hazlitt, “Oxford”

Not entirely true, maybe, but it is a place of dreams come true for all of us.