(Overheard from the most adorable little British girl to her mother.)
Oh, but we must.
Celine told me last night how someone had said to her, before she came to Oxford: “Now is your chance to be someone completely new!” While neither of us can wholly agree with this concept (be yourself – stick to your values), it holds some merit in the fact that I am here, in a completely different place, surrounded by a whole new set of people, with a whole new set of experiences. I am finding it hard not to take it all in at once. I want to see everything, taste everything, absorb everything….
Last night I had an epiphany of sorts. I had just stepped out of the Bodleian Library, after having just finished my first essay of the semester (woohoo!). Perhaps because I was starving and my senses were heightened (or maybe because I was high from the euphoria of finishing my first paper), but I was at once amazed by the absolute beauty of the empty courtyard. I was alone and suddenly struck by sensations that pictures couldn’t describe: that feeling of calm in a bare winter night; that feeling of cool air on a warm face; that feeling of openness: being surrounded by the infinite; that feeling of belonging. For the first time, I truly felt like a part of Oxford. It’s funny how it takes moments of intimacy to really see how everything fits into place.
So that’s that on the personal stuff. Now I want to tell you about my week. Specifically, the process I went through to write my paper (because I think it’s interesting), and about all of the new things I’ve tried in the past 48 hours. Also interesting.
Sunday was not so eventful. I spent the day reading C.S. Lewis’s Of Other Worlds – a collection of short stories and essays. Monday, on the other hand, was the day I began my essay for my 20th Century Poetry tutorial. My assignment was to find a commonality between five of W.B. Yeats’ earlier poems: “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” “He wishes for the Cloths of Heaven,” “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death,” “Easter, 1916,” and “The Second Coming.” If you read the poems, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a commonality between them. However, I finally settled on a theme of tragedy in tone throughout the works (if you want to email me, I can tell you how I built my argument for “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”). Needless to say, it was a thin stretch, and not much to work on. I stayed up late into the night, but my thesis was poor, and my support wasn’t looking too good either.
Here’s where it gets interesting. At about midnight I went into the JCR (Junior Common Room) in search of inspiration and a place to concentrate. Surprisingly, I was not tired, and was incredibly driven to write my paper. And so, the time passed… 1:00am… 2:00am… until I was all alone in the JCR, at 3:00 in the morning, attempting to write my paper (which at this point was nothing more than a thesis, really).
And then the most miraculous thing happened. It was like dream. In walks Pearl, one of my CMRS housemates. She asks me what I am writing, and I tell her it’s an essay on Yeats. She exclaims “I love Yeats!” and then comes over, bends down, and, without a word, proceeds to read my paper. Needless to say, I was horrified. I knew my paper was bad, I knew she would think it was bad and tell me so, and at 3:00 in the morning, I knew that the last thing I wanted was someone criticizing the paper that I had no idea how to fix.
So Pearl reads my paper. And she tells me that it’s bad. Well.
But then she starts to tell me something else. She starts to tell me everything she knows about Yeats’ poetry, which she has read, and some important things to note. She reads the poems that I have in front of me – out loud, softly, with purpose as they should be read – and suddenly I am completely attentive to everything she has to say. I explain to her why I want to stick with my theme of tragedy, to which she replies, “How about, then, you explain how this theme matures throughout time within Yeats’ poetry?” Boom. And just like that, I had a solid thesis for my paper. There were of course other details, specifics that brought this thesis together, but Pearl’s suggestion was essentially it. She said a lot of other helpful things too, so that at the end of our conversation at 3:30am, I was sufficiently satisfied to finally go to bed.
And so, yesterday afternoon, after my second seminar meeting for the Inklings, I wrote my essay. And it was far easier than I could have imagined Monday night. I went to the Bodleian Library to bunker down and consult some sources. While there, I took some pictures, because the Bod study room is beautiful:
I also took a picture of the Gladstone Link, the underground tunnel that connects the Bodleian Library to the Radcliffe Camera.
So it was here (in the Bodleian) that I finished my essay, on time, a day before my tutorial session as my Instructor had asked me to do. And then I went out into the night, had my “epiphany,” and returned to my building in time to join some friends for an evening out!
It was my friend Jolie’s 21st birthday, and so a group of us went to a pub called Eagle and Child to celebrate. Eagle and Child, if you didn’t know, is the pub where the Inklings – C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, and Williams among others – met every Tuesday morning for more than 30 years. It was the place where much of The Lord of the Rings was written. Even the least nerdy of us can get excited about that. Here I got my first own glass of Winter Pimms (having tried it only once before) and I have to say, it was just as delicious the second time around!
We stayed at Eagle and Child until it closed at 11pm. We watched the conclusion of a hilarious bar game, and my friend Alex scored a date with the cute bartender. 🙂 After we left, a little “happy” and very hungry, we decided to get kebabs at the #2 kebab stand in the city. And so, I tried my first Oxford kebab, and it was delicious!
Today I didn’t get any work done. It was like my Sunday, in actuality. I worked-out in the morning with Hannah like usual, and we tried some interesting new work-out videos. Every Wednesday afternoon there is a fresh food market in the square by the Oxford Central Bus Station, and so Celine and I went there and Tesco’s to get our grocery shopping in. At 3:30 I had my first official tutorial meeting, at my Instructor’s house 15 minutes away. We reviewed my essay, and though Dr. Winn had plenty to say about it, and disagreed with a few of my arguments, he said that it was a well-done and compelling essay overall! He also asked that for my next essay I compare and contrast only two of Yeats’ poems, so it should be much easier for me! I really enjoyed my tutoring session: it was much less formal than I thought it would be. The walk over was also pleasant and dry, and has some interesting scenery along the way:
Tonight we had a giant pot-luck birthday party, since there are three people in the program whose birthdays fall within the week. I will confess – I ate the mac’n’cheese. And the cake. And the lasagna. Not even lactose intolerance can stop a girl when homemade birthday deliciousness is involved. Oops. 😉
By the way, did I mention that I bought a guitar? She was £40 at the second-hand music shop and, according to the shop owner, I can resell at the end of my semester for about £15. A steal, right? She’s already gone through several names, most notably Shaniqua and Lolita (you know, like the novel?), but I think I am going to switch up the name each week. So I don’t get too attached.
So, that’s my week so far. I hope y’all at home are having a good one. I’m pretty disappointed that the one snow day that St. Mary’s College of Maryland gets happens while I am abroad, but c’est la vie. I think I still have the upper hand.
I’m in Oxford.