Monthly Archives: September 2013

London-ed Out – Oxford Update 4

I had a plan all worked out for travel week. I truly did. It came to me in a moment of utter brilliance while I was boiling water for the bath (our hot water – or I should say heat in general – is not working, again). Instead of joining the other students headed to far off places like Spain and Scotland, I would spend my week combining travel with my favorite pastime…reading! A tour of England’s Writer Museums! One day in Bath visiting the Jane Austen Museum, the next spent up North at Bronte Parsonage. Maybe a trip to Portsmouth to see Charles Dickens’s birthplace and a more detailed Sir Arthur Con Doyle display. I would finish each day with a review of the museums I’d visited. A splendid goal.

Unfortunately, as I was noting specific routs and time tables on Sunday, I made a rather important discovery. What I had taken for bus stops on Google maps were actually train stops. And trains happen to be very expensive here. The cheapest trip I could find to Bronte Parsonage was 93 pounds….which is equivalent to roughly 150 dollars. Just to get up there. Other ventures proved to be equally expensive. Soooooo, in conclusion, my brilliant plan was scrapped and I suddenly have found myself with an entire week of free time. What to do?

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Armed with an overly pricey tourist map, a camera around my neck in the quintessential tourist look, and a stock of granola bars….I set out to conquer London today. They claim it is a 100 minute bus ride but it feels way longer. It might have helped if I brought a better book along to read. A Brief History of Thought by Luc Ferry is many things…but entertaining it is not. I also strongly disagree with both of the author’s main foundational points, namely that Philosophy and Religion are mutually exclusive and both are trying to give answers to what happens after we die. Perhaps I’m simplifying it a bit, but he certainly simplifies and glides over way too much in making those assumptions. There was also a lady sitting behind me on the bus ride who spoke very loudly with a very thick Slavic accent (I know it was Slavic because she referenced it…many times). She proved her mastery of English vulgar language the entire trip. I did not know the f word could be used so often in one sentence. It made for quite a long, distracting ride.

However, despite the lengthy beginning, the bus arrived in London and I duly paid my respects to that most famous of addresses…

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Which technically doesn’t exist. However, I suspended reality for the sake of enjoyment. The Sherlock Holmes museum is a bit of a tourist trap, complete with maids in costume to direct meandering visitors and a “period” uniformed police officer at the door to remind you tickets can be purchased in the bookstore. Narrow staircases lead up in a recreated bordering house with Sherlock Holmes’s bedroom, Dr. Watson’s practicing rooms, and Mrs. Hudson’s private quarter.  There is even a china toilet in the attic.

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I was a little bummed that there were no red dressing slippers with tobacco tucked inside in the parlor. However, the true “treat” of the museum – and what I am beginning to sense is a very British sense of humor – are the wax-like figures recreating some of the more exciting moments in Holmes’s career.

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It truly defies (or perhaps defiles) the vocabulary.

After meandering around the Sherlock Holmes Gift Shop for a while, and wondering why on earth I should pay 35 pounds for a pipe that isn’t even real, I decided my venture would be to the Victoria and Albert Museum. So I looked at my map. And I looked at the little bus guide map. And back at my map. And I thought ‘where the heck am I?’ And I looked back at the bus map. Eventually I realized the V & A museum was located on the other end of the city. Not going to happen. So I figured, why not pick whatever seems closest? Like….

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And turns out….it would have been about the same distance to get to the V & A museum. That’s a lot of walking. I got especially confused somewhere around the University of London. HOWEVER…..I did arrive! And I got to see…

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Bam! Statues of sitting Sakhmet. And…

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And a bunch of Assyrian stuff, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The Rosetta Stone was cool, and all the Egyptian mummies were nice, but the Assyrian statues were my favorite because they were unique.

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Plus, how can you not respect the ‘stash?

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Always a bummer when a random, animal headed creature stabs you in the back

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And you thought the ones in The Mummy were bad….

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I call this one ‘Buddha after Thanksgiving Dinner’

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Found the Muffin Man.

I emerged from the British Museum at 3 o’clock after a slideshow like experience of everything, completely exhausted. The next ten minutes were subsequently spent in staring at my map. And back at the bus map. And back at my map. And deciding to walk again. I initially played with the idea of trying to make it to Charles Dickens’s London house, but I wasn’t sure I would make it in time. And then I thought ‘wait….I have to catch my bus back to Oxford. And I don’t know if they pick up from Baker Street.’

In fact, the only place I knew for sure they picked up from was the Victoria Cross Station. At the bottom of my map. I was at the top of my map. So I started walking. I figured I could find a bus that would take me the rest of the way. I didn’t. I figured the subway would make sense. I walked instead. I saw a whole lot of London! Crossed Buckingham Palace and the Queen Victoria memorial. Walked down the Mall. Took a random side trip down Birdcage Walk before I realized that was in the opposite direction. I passed The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, and a random bagpiper. It was great…and absolutely exhausting. I arrived at the bus stop closer to 6. London is a lovely city…but you see, I’m rather London-ed out tonight!

Planning to spend tomorrow doing more local things, like visiting Oxford’s own free museum. Apparently it has a dodo bird! I’ll keep you all updated.

Here is a picture of me with our new flatmate….Chris!

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And another random picture…. of teatime! I do rather like this tradition.

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Eating lots of bread and cheese – Oxford Update 3

Well, I am alive. I have been a rather unfaithful blogger and I apologize. Life just catches up! Our Worldview intensive has been going on for the past week, so by the time I get back to my flat in the evening I am so mentally drained I have barely enough energy to make supper and do my readings. In fact, this really isn’t much of an update. I did think I would answer a few important questions, and then post pictures (You can’t fool me, I know that is why you are reading this)

1. Have I ridden on a double-decker bus yet? Yes! Almost every day to get to Eynsham village. So far the experience has yet to prove dull

2. Have I acquired an English accent yet? No, and here is why I don’t think I want to purposefully do so…American accents are cool. Now, maybe not as cool as an English accent in America, but nevertheless fairly popular. At the very least it is a conversation starter or an excuse for why I have to examine every coin I give to the cashier at the grocery store. Why is the 2 pence so big?

3. Have I had fish and chips? Yes, they were excellent. However, the mushy vegetable substance they were served with needed salt.

4. Have I been to the Eagle and the Child yet? Not yet, on my list of things to do. Some of the students in our program went and said it was a bit of a letdown. Apparently locals rarely go because it has become a tourist trap. However, I will make it a priority to eat there at least once before heading home. And yes, I will take pictures.

Now, for the real fun. Here are some pictures I took around the village of Eynsham. Eynsham is the home of Kevin Bywater and his wonderful family. We meet in the music room of this FABULOUS English house every day from 10 till 6. And we think.  And debate. And think some more. Hence why it is called an intensive.

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(The “courtyard” of the English house…so to speak)

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A bit of the garden

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Thatch roof!

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All that is connected to one stump

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Did I mention zombies can frequently be found in the square?

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Potentially the only weather-vane of Tolkien’s insignia in the world

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Some awesome lunch companions right there

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NOT BACON. LIES.


Jet Lag – Oxford Update 2

ImageYou know you are in England when….

Actually, quite a nifty thing, Poundland. It is our equivalent of a dollar store and the place to go on a budget! Jet lag has been rough, and I keep forgetting to do basic things like eat, but Oxford is incredible. I have two fabulous flatmates, Image

Stephanie (in yellow) and Elsha (the one who isn’t Stephanie.) They both attend Master’s College in California. Eventually we will be getting a 4th roommate in our flat, but just when we don’t currently know. Our address is the ever lovely

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The rooms in our flat (which is a fancy name for our apartment) initially seem a bit roundabout, with doors leading into living rooms which lead into bedrooms, but overall it is quite comfortable once we figured out how to get the internet working and use hot water. It reminds me a bit of the Bryan College townhouses…only up three flights of stairs.

Oxford the city revolves around Oxford the university, or more precisely, the 38 distinct colleges that exist here. Some of them are quite gorgeous. Their influence is everywhere, even now five weeks before the official term begins. Coat of arms bearing the different schools’ insignia are scattered about random buildings and bridges everywhere in the city, a constant reminder that most of the property at Oxford is owned by the colleges.

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There are also a lot of pubs. Everywhere. It is the social thing to do, after all. Pubs is short for public houses. It isn’t exactly like a bar as we picture it in America. I had my first British fish and chips at…

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And according to the fellow who helped Elsha and I set up our phones, the best place to go with mates is

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Haven’t had a chance to check it out yet.

The WISC/OSAP/Summit building is located in Image(home sweet home!)

on

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Yay! Anyway, I am still jet lagged and unable to form complete, grammatical sentences without hurting my head so I will allow the rest of my experience to speak for itself with a few pictures I took this afternoon…

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Image Image(buses!!!)

Image Image(the enigma of Oxford…gorgeous, old buildings on the top, modern shops on the bottom)

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Image(some pictures from the walk we took before supper…this trail is right outside our building)

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Live Blog – Oxford Update 1

Firstly, I am alive! Secondly, due to extreme jet lag and an inability to sleep, I have taken it upon myself to transcribe my notes from the flight at 12 am. Quite an interesting beginning, I must say. I live blogged my first international flight…here you have it.

6:32 (Central Time. Pre-Boarding)

Dan says I should live blog my first international 8-hour flight. So here it goes.

There are two very nice elderly couples sitting to my right. The man in plaid can’t figure out how four people take up six seats. His wife is telling him to hush.

To my left is a woman with a little girl. Her carryon is a very, very hot pink princess bag. Quite stylish.

Across from me is another young woman. She looks bored.

Oooh! We board in 5 minutes. Full flight.

The noisy group behind me has been playing a form of charades with their phones. So far the words have been rhino, The Batman, and March of the Penguins.

In between announcements about non-smoking and unattended baggage, the lady on the news can be heard talking about Miley Cyrus. I’d prefer to hear about Syria.

The elderly couples have boarded and have been replaced with a fellow ginger.

I wish I could remember which pocket I put my ear buds in.

The news has moved on to a video of moose.

7:05 (Central Time. On board, pre-takeoff)

8 seats across! This is my first flight with classes. I am in seat 40C. The little TV in front of me is showing fish. Previously it was clouds. Adorable little British boy (maybe 6?) to my right. He has a book of Star Wars stickers he is fast making his way through.

Just got hit in the head with a suitcase. Bit cramped in here.

There are lots of buttons around me. And I think a remote. Do we get ear buds? Will they explain how all this works? Will I get to keep the cheap pillow and blanket they provided us with?

The nice lady who helped me shut the bin above my seat is wearing heels. Classy, but not particularly comfortable looking. I suppose that is why she is sitting and not walking for the next 8 hours.

Why is the mini TV now playing sea turtles eating coral? Who watches this stuff?

Guy in front of me is playing Sudoku. That man is a genius for bringing it along. Must remember for future flights.

Buckle seat belt light turned on!

The elevator music they have playing sounds like a piano version of What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger. Except not really. Someone is talking! We’re leaving soon!

7:25 (Central. Still no takeoff)

Airplanes leave one with so many unanswered questions. Like, do male flight attendants have to wear the little neck scarves too? Is “Fasten Seat Belts While Seated” an utterly profound or slightly redundant thing to put on the trays? Why is the woman 3 rows over allowing her son to chant “poopy”?

Really, this is the place to be for the scientific mind.

TAKE-OFF!

Distance to London – 6348 km
–  3944 miles

1:32 am….London time

20C/68F

7:45 (Central…moving towards takeoff)

So guess what! There are games on this thing! And music! And movies! And I still have no idea how this whole volume thing works. How do I not disturb those around me?

Woosh! I love takeoff and getting up to altitude. Goodbye Chicago!

In the clouds now. They are lovely. And very white and fluffy. Hope the guy to my left doesn’t think I am staring at him. I just want to look out his window.

One question answered – male flight attendants do not wear the little neck scarves. They have ties.

Above the clouds now. Pink sunset and a carpet of fluffy white.

THEY HAND OUT FREE EAR BUDS. THIS ROCKS.

Games include Sudoku. Win.

8:10 (Central…in air)

THEY HAVE THE DISNEY CHANNEL

9:15 (Central….flying)

Fancy cheese with supper!
Fancy cheese isn’t that good.

10 pm (Central…flying)

Watching The Great Gatsby…otherwise known as Spiderman Gets Drunk. Boring so far, but intriguing.

Might be time for some shuteye…if this movie doesn’t put me to sleep first.

11:35 (Central…in the air)

Planes are not conducive to sleeping. I seriously might trip the next person who walks by. As heavy a sleeper as I am I can’t fall asleep when I hear thud-thud and people brushing up against me. And how many times will the extremely large man behind me get up? Lack of sleep is making me excessively testy.

7:44/1:44 (London/Central, flying over England)

Rough night but breakfast was lovely. A warm croissant with butter, orange juice, and blueberry yogurt followed by coffee. Mmm. Happy Amy

Debating the merits of landing in London watching more Disney channel. Betas listening to the Jonas Brothers, currently playing in the background…who knew they were making a comeback?

2:00 am/8:00 (Central/London…Over England)

Note: Laughing out loud to Good Luck Charlie makes everyone turn and stare. And yes, I did settle on Disney and yes, I am going to Oxford.

Still beats Jonas Brothers.

2:30/8:30 (Central/London)

Flying over Oxford! Almost 30 minutes out. Ear pressure killing me. Even gum not helping.

Watching Big Bang Theory now….mwahahaha

8:45 (2 minutes till arrival)

First glimpse of England is beautiful. Lots of trees.

10:20 (England – at Costa Café)

Met up with Justin, no one else here. I have begun compiling a list of Things I Cannot Do…

I can get into Oxford but I can’t…

1. Figure out where to purchase a voltage convertor

2. Work the toilets here (actually, I did figure that out…eventually)

3. Get Justin to talk (not tryng to hard…my internal clock is convinced it is 4:20 am and not time for conversations)

4. Get my cell to work. Sorry, Mum.


Impossible. Difficult. Done.

I ought to have something totally brilliant and profound to say on this day, the morning of my departure. Tomorrow I will be in London! From there only a bus ride away from Oxford. Yet somehow, I have very little to say. I am nervous and excited and anxious to begin my adventure.  I am running around throwing last minute items into my suitcase and wondering if I can really get by with only 3 pairs of jeans. I suppose I can rough it 😉

I am so grateful to everyone who made this day possible. It seemed like an impossible dream two years ago when I first heard of Summit Oxford. An impossible, wonderful dream. And it is really coming true. God has provided abundantly. I am so blessed. Thank you to everyone who has provided financially, offered advice, or kept me in their prayers. Thank you for the encouragement.

Today I leave for England. I will be studying at Oxford University. It is really happening. God took what looked impossible even half a year ago, and made it reality. I don’t ever want to forget that. I don’t want to take this trip, or this opportunity, for granted. Each moment is more precious because it never should have been.

Mom found this picture online and it sums up what this journey over the pond has been like so far…

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