Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Retrospect Assignment 5: Things I'm Already Missing About Oxford

(photo by Megan Bean)

#1. Our last two weeks in Oxford were probably my favorite, simply because we had finally been there long enough to get in a routine of daily living, learning how to juggle reading and writing for tutorials along with exploring Oxford and all that incredible city has to offer. One of my favorite memories of my time in Oxford has to be Monday nights at what we consider the best Italian restaurant in Jericho, Mamma Mia.
No idea who that guy is, but that's our little table with the six place settings by the door!
It was basically a place of complete relaxation to look forward to after long hours of studying and reading in Jericho cafe. I can't quite find the words to explain it other than I never felt more at home than in those moments of laughter sitting around that table, gorging on cheesy garlic bread and  Carbonara pasta (I still think it's the best even though everyone else disagrees with me), half bottle free wine night and just enjoying each other's company. I tried to ask the waitress to take a picture of us, she awkwardly turned me down, which resulted in the group selfie of all selfies. Sorry bout it.

Told you it was bad.

#2. Oh Jennykins.

Even though we're about to live directly next door to each other in the same house next year, Oxford wouldn't have been the same without this little bundle of sunshine! We've come a long way from me refusing to sleep in the double bed with you at the beginning of the trip. Any of you that know me well know that I have some SERIOUS sleeping quirks. Jenni put up with every single one of them! She's helped me a lot with becoming more of a morning person too, considering whenever I would wake up before her I would try to be quiet so I wouldn't wake her up. Just when I thought I had made it to the bathroom, she would always turn over quickly and yell, GOOD MORNING NETTHHYYY!!!! Whether it was pranking Mary Lowry with moldy bread in the bed, or listening to weird British radio in the morning, I'll always remember our roomie times together, and you having to start my laundry every, single, time.
Our friendship, in a picture.

#3. This, my friends, is Port Meadow.

This was my first real discovery while out running along the canal one day in Oxford. I went over a bridge and found myself looking out along the yellow-covered oasis of Port Meadow. It goes as far as the eye can see and is home to cows and horses of local farmers, and served as a bit of a place of relaxation for me when I was overwhelmed by tutorials. A typical afternoon consisted of walking along the River Thames, watching houseboats leisurely drift by and rowers from colleges practicing their skill. One day while exploring we even came upon some old remains of Godstow Nunnery, a monastery that was destroyed during the dissolution under the reign of Henry VIII.
I'll never forget the memories I have here from swimming in the freezing water of the Thames, running with the cows, and walking to the Trout for dinner.

Still can't get enough of this picture. 
This place served as my little paradise when I wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of Oxford life, and I hope that I can come back and visit one day!

#5. Speaking of the Trout, one of my favorite memories from the trip will forever be our last meal as a group together at the Trout Inn, one of Oxford's most famous pubs. This quaint little place is set on the opposite side of Port Meadow, so we decided to hike out there since we didn't have a car and are cheap college students who don't want to pay for a taxi and would rather walk in the dark. Naturally. Just to give you an idea of the walk....
See those white buildings at the top left hand corner waaayyyyyy far away? That's Oxford, and that's where walked from. This doesn't show the Trout but is fairly close. Here it is from the bridge.

Anyway, one night after a lovely dinner at the Trout, Jade and Jenni realized that they had to make a bus at 1:00 in the morning and it was currently 10:30 at night with that long walk still ahead of them. So they left with DJ and his friend while Clayton, Steven, Mary Lowry, and I stayed behind for a few more minutes. As soon as we left the restaurant, we walked across a bridge and heard the most horrendous, frightening, piercing scream I've ever heard in my life. The four of us literally jumped on top of each other we were so scared. Then, Mary Lowry discovered the culprit. 

That black thing on top of the chimney was in fact, a peacock. A peacock in Oxford England???? Who would have thought? After about ten minutes of Clayton mimicking the squawk and trying to get it to come down we decided to leave. Little did we know that as all of this was happening, Jade Jenni DJ and his friend (I am SO sorry DJ I can't remember his name! Ah!) were having an experience of their own. Walking past Godstow at 11 at night can be really scary, considering Lady Rosamund's ghost supposedly wanders the ground at night, and we had seen a group of seancers (spelling?) heading into the chapel that same night. They said that when they walked past the chapel a huge burst of incense hit them but no one was around. They ran all the way back to the apartments, and people, that's a long run. We were pretty freaked out walking back too but thankfully we had Clayton and Steven to protect us (HA.) Here is a random video I found from this dinner. I think we were testing out the new Instagram video feature haha. 

#6. New Challenges

This trip was one of the most mentally and physically draining things I have ever done, but I could not be more grateful for it. Being challenged weekly by Dr. Ward was an incredible learning experience that will forever be unmatched. I can't describe to you how much pressure it is to sit in front of an Oxford genius, read your 8 page research paper TO HIM, present him with your findings on CS Lewis (as if he doesn't already know, it's not like he's the foremost living scholar on CS Lewis or anything), and then have an intellectually stimulating discussion for the next 45 minutes. I'm tired just thinking about it now! After this tutorial I have learned to look at people and situations in a new light, questioning things for what they really are, and trying to figure out answers for myself. So often I would simply just accept a book or politics or religion simply for what it is and what I have been taught, but not really do any research for myself on the matter. I realized how much I am missing out on life and its little nuances that I would have noticed if I had simply taken the time to ponder it just five minutes more. 
(photo by Megan Bean)

If any of you are fans of CS Lewis and are familiar with the Chronicles of Narnia, then please take the time to read Planet Narnia by Dr. Ward! It's basically a book that he has written about his theory that the seven books of the Narnia series represent the seven heavens in every essence. His theory is iron clad and actually really creepy how accurate his proposals seem to be. I'm so thankful to have experienced the opportunity to get even a little bit of insight into the mind of a true genius. 

#7. I'm so glad that I participated in this travel blog, it's a really freeing way of telling people all of your adventures, but still feeling like you're writing "Dear Diary" every time. I'm so excited for the day that I can give my kids this url address and boy will they be in for a surprise. Just like we've been talking about in the MSU led Objects of Travel class, I've collected so many memories through pictures, this blog, souvenirs, and stories that I will forever hold dear. I came back from this trip truly feeling changed. It may sound cliche, but I really believe those six weeks were a time of unique growth and maturity that many people cannot say they have experienced. I'm thankful for being able to share in this experience with this awesome group of people (picture provided by MSU photographer Megan Bean, she's legit). It's really neat to be able to say that we all experienced this trip together, soaking in a new culture and appreciating this adventure we were granted. From meeting new friends both from MSU and other colleges around the US, to being led to amazing museums and palaces by Dr. Ben Harvey, to conquering the sights and sounds of Oxford, London and Paris, it's hard for me not to think that this was all one incredible dream. 

(photo by Megan Bean)

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