Monday, September 21, 2009

Sabbath, 20/9/2009 Record

After liturgy at St. Andrews at 8 AM, I embarked on an adventure.
Just my bike and I - off for a Sabbath rest to remember that God created me a human being... not a human doing. And after a busy week of researching about six to eight hours a day, it was immaculate timing.

I "forgot" my camera, which was rather therapeutic. Thus I could just wander, soak in the delights, and never worry that I was missing the documentation of such experiences.

C.S. Lewis writes in Surprised by Joy that joy itself has one characteristic that he can fathom. The one who experiences joy will desire it again. Joy is never in our power to remain. It is like trying to hold water with a sieve. Impossible. It flows in and out when and how it pleases. But joy is not pleasure, for Lewis writes, "Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is."


If it was possible - I'd ask you to now shut your eyes fast and imagine with me the setting I shall depict. In this instance, I do not defer to the idea that a picture is worth a thousand words. Had I had a camera, no amount of photos would have sufficed. A word, I believe, is worth a thousand pictures.

Sunshine - deliciously touching glistening grass... flooding autumn breeze with warmth - life

Rustling of emerald leaves on trees resurrected from Middle Earth - dusted with gold

Hidden gates, forgotten paths, dilapidated docks

A grand palace - marvel of human hands

The smell of earth, the crunching of soft, dry grass under bare feet

Solitude vast and unmeasured
Amidst the backdrop of a painted sky, of dollops of cloud and puppet birds

A girl - ragged jeans and weathered cap - dreaming, wishing, hoping

Time could stand still.

So that sums up my day in the best way possible. I sabbathed at Blenheim Palace. Rode my bike there, had a meat pie for lunch, and washed it down after with a hot chocolate. Went tromping through the back gates that peasants used hundreds of years ago into the palace gardens. The Rose Garden was amazing. Have you ever realized that each rose smells distinct. I wonder if that is what God means by a fragrant sacrifice, in a way. Perhaps each human gives off a special, unique scent in sacrifice.
Well, must be off. Cheers!

PS - all these photos are off google.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

I hope this blog is found intelligent and entertaining at the same moment to my faithful readers. There is nothing quite so distasteful as a boring journal where one blabs about nothing for a great while. That is the antithesis of my goal.

There is so much to write about. (My mind is overflowing with goodness!) Yet, again, time escapes me. Thus, this shall be abbreviated.

I do have many more photos to post. Since I last wrote, we have traveled to London and to Hampton Court (where Henry VIII vacationed.) Both were interesting, but not my favorite trips.
At this time, I have my first case study due on Monday. It is an eight page paper on the character of Robin Hood. Very interesting findings. Fill you in on it later. I am almost finished and ready to step into editing mode.

Today has been marvelous. I went to a local farmers market on my bike (what could be more glorious?) There was freshly baked bread, eggs, home made cheese, Middle Eastern food, vegetables and fruit for the harvest season, and silk scarves. I got milk in a glass bottle, and every week I am supposed to bring it back for a refill. The cows live on a farm, free range, right down from where I live. Got some falafel (much to Lindsay's chagrin,) and a loaf of grain bread. Plus I got turnip and parsnip and runnabeans (how do you spell that?) and carrots... etc., etc. I am thriving here. (We will see if I still say that after I turn in my paper...)

When I was little and I dreamed of who I'd be and where I'd go, I'd always hoped to study in Oxford. England, I imagined, was the land of my favorite tales - where I could smell the veggible foremole baking nicely in the oven (for all those Redwall fans out there,) see an old library encrusted with dusty books (like the Duke Humphrey's library in the Bodleian,) sit around a pub table with friends like the Inklings, debating philosophy, anthropology, and whatever else I so desired. And I envisioned the woods to be the greenest of green - a place where Peter Pan might fly past you at any moment and Robin Hood dart out of the glade. And it's all true. I am thrilled. Can you see the picture I am painting before you?

Or perhaps I should point to the ten hours of sleep I reaped last night. Perhaps that's why the world is so lovely!

Well, I am going to go write. Obviously, I have a need to spurt words and phrases at this moment... I feel I could write a book at the moment.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

There is just so much to write about. If only time coincided on those grounds. But, alas! I have hardly any time to bide. I must write... and write furiously.

Right now, I am in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. It is beautiful. Rows and rows of books. I feel like Belle in Beauty and the Beast. This is a piece of paradise for me.

I cannot even dream of where to begin on relating what I love about being here.
Assuredly, I should begin with the people I am privileged to live with. Such a fantastic group of brilliant individuals. My favorite moments of time are the durations spent after dinner with a group of philosophizing intellectuals, discussing God and who He is. I love that these aren't the classic, quote the Bible verse speech that we hear in church. These are hard questions... questions that arouse debate... questions that spark other ideas. We were discussing the idea of perfection last night. Heaven is never said to be perfect... and that leads to what do we know of afterlife anyway? Then one might ask if perfection is a stagnant word. What if perfection was a continuing process? Would that then be tied to time and space? Somehow that led to what infallibility means and language and then God's presence (or absence.) As you can see, it can be hard to tear oneself away from these deep conversations. I thrive off these hours.

I have a friend here - perhaps I will get a picture to post someday - who challenges my thought pattern in every way. Christo, strangely enough, dreams of building a school in an impoverished country. Not necessarily living there, but building it nonetheless. Ironic. My greatest dream also, except that I wish to live there among the people. But, Christo keeps challenging my world view, which I find refreshing.

On to another subject. Food groups!
We have established a new system for eating hot meals four nights a week. (Excellent!) We have named our group of thirteen members the "Hungry, Hungry Hippos," which sounds most becoming, does it not? You can reference my picture with Grant and Bryce previous for my team. They want our mini-team to be named "Mia's Minions." I refuse that name. I believe that "Kamikazees" suits us better. We made (successfully) homeade pizza for all thirteen hippos last night. It was delicious. (And not too hard!)

Saw my first hedgehog ever two nights ago, when I purchased my bicycle. Thought it was a strange sort of weed initially, but then it moved! Gracie would be thrilled.

Went to the farmer's market and covered market today. Next week I will buy duck eggs; they are cheaper than chicken eggs. Got port cheese for 2 pounds.

So, I must away to my "Robin Hood" case study paper. Did you know that Robin, in reality, was most likely a terrible rogue that pillaged and plundered for his own betterment? Sadly so. But I am arguing that the fact does not overshadow the truth. The legend of Robin will live on beautifully!

Got to seize the day!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Quick update.

So, went to London on Saturday as an optional field trip. If I didn't realize in San Francisco how much I dislike the booming city, I needed to experience London. Crowds... everywhere. But, it was so worth it to dash through a smidgeon of The National Gallery. There is nothing quite like standing before Michelangelo's work in awe of its resplendency. Can words truly express the unreality of that moment?

Cannot wait to go back to the British Museum and the Gallery. My friend, Christo, says that he and I will go catch a Shakespearean play, hostel it, and go touring the Museum and Gallery. I am beyond thrilled.

Sunday: went to church at St. Andrews. Two Asian families then thwarted my plans to escape without notice. They asked me my nationality and promptly invited me to dinner within their homes later. Amazing what diversity within a human can do.

Then I backpacked like forty pounds of groceries around Oxford. Good practice for our trip, Mark.


Friday, September 11, 2009

On a roll here.

The pictures are uploading at a rate I can hardly believe (and I can hardly believe this rate will last!) Right now, I would very much like to be sleeping with my new and improved pillow that I discovered naught but last night, but I choose to write.

There is so much to ramble about. I am learning at a magnitude that is nearly overwhelming, yet having a ball with many new friends. Let me introduce you to these people. I wish you could meet them all in the flesh and blood, but this will do for now.

This is Simon Lancaster. As our Australian-born professor/teacher/history expert/caretaker/comedian, he is a man of many hats (and talents!) I so enjoy Simon. He showed us around Old Sarum, which was my favorite place on our field trip. What a set of fabulous ruins! Here he is pointing out where a doorpost would have been hundreds of years ago.

This is Genevieve. She is amazing. Also my nifty running partner. I love her wit. This is taken today at Stonehenge.

This picture has three girls: Genevieve, my roomie, Heather, and Laura. Splendid people!

This is my newly created food group. I have dubbed us the kamikazes. These guys, Grant and Bryce (the egg destroyer) are my new pupils. God save me! (Actually... we are going to have so much fun, and God knows I love to teach!)
So, this room is in Christ Church, which we visited today. It is also the room most associated with Harry Potter films. The sets were created to double this room. In this room rest world famous oil paintings of famous people whom attended Christ College. King Henry VIII's portrait heads the room, which, as far as I am concerned does not impress... in a good way, at least.

Here I stand with my most beloved poet.
Pseudonym Lewis Carroll (aka Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) is also one of my favorite authors. Did you know that Alice was a real child, who was daughter of the dean of Christ Church?

Here is the door to their abode. The Queen of Hearts was modeled after Henry VIII (always beheading people for sport, just like the Queen of Hearts!) The White Rabbit was intended to resemble Alice's father, always busy with a task at hand. What important facts to learn!

Here are some pictures from yesterday. It was such a grand field trip to see Salisbury Cathedral, Old Sarum, and Stonehenge. So much to tell. But I suppose you will have to take tea with me to find out the details.

This would be a live representation of Stonehenge. (Not drawn to scale.) And unfortunately, I was the only crooked stone. The
"weakest link..."
And a quick Salisbury Cathedral photo...

Today my dreams came true... I had Bailey's Irish [ice] cream with my roomie, Heather! Amazing, homeade creaminess. (Although, not as good as Superiors!)

So that is my update for the time being. London calls tomorrow like the siren called to Odysseus. Hopefully it will be less treacherous.

Cheers, my friends! God keep you!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


I am trying to go to bed in the next couple minutes.

-I scored a bike of craigslist. Call me shopper of the Oxfordian year. Bicycles are tough to get for a decent price. I got mine for about 60 pounds (that depends if I can haggle it down.) It's not my beauty at home, but it will get me around. Just pray that
I can hold my left-side of the road Brit mentality. No longer "left, right, left." I need to look "right, left, right."
-That adventure to get the bike was definitely interesting. Writing it in my real journal later.
-Tomorrow is Stonehenge. And Old Sarum and Salisbury.
-I found one other morning person. He gets up at 6 AM too!
-Had a great conversation with a Muslim today. Supposedly, he is going to take me to mosque sometime with some of my friends. Then to a Pakistani eatery for discussion. So interesting.
-Tried again to volunteer in the community garden near my house. Unsuccessful attempt numero dos. I recall the wise words... "try, try again!"
-Oh, and my 6 AM friend, named Bryce, tried to make scrambled eggs
tonight. The guys here (actually, most people) just are confused about cooking. He must have had about an egg wi
th a
half cup of milk. It looked like cottage cheese. I took a picture while making fun of him. He took it all so well.

Good night!

I hear I have blog followers. So to prevent riots from my lack of blog initiative, I shall write. Not much... just enough to satisfy. Perhaps.

Here is a picture of the tea from Sunday.

Lovely to have tea every few hours of the day. There are three types of teas. The kind with only tea, the kind with a cookie or scone, or the kind with a massive del
icious assortment of goodies. (The last is the noteworthy tea in my own mind.) Notice my lovely roommate and friend, Laura.

Started my British Landscape class this Monday. It is fabulous. Here's another random shot from one of our excursions after class.

Wycliffe Hall, where I am studying, was founded in 1877, which is recent for most halls. I am a member of four institutions through this program. First, my home, William Jessup University. Second - the SCIO program, which is the study abroad program I come through. Then I am a member of the Wycliffe Hall, since individual colleges make up Oxford. Lastly, I am a student of the vast Oxford University. I'll have to take a photo of my card! It will be my greatest keepsake from this trip.

And a funny commentary. My first introduction to British pillows.
They are flatter than tortillas. What happened to supporting one's neck while sleeping? Here, Heather demonstrates the ironic powers of a pathetic pillow.
PS - this is my new favorite food that I devour in our hall as if I am preparing for the hibernation months of winter. (I must say that
hibernation is very similar to the period of time that elapses between lunch to my next breakfast. Dinners are miniscule here for me!) A grand introduction to yoghurt and passion fruit preserves. Delicious!!!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Adventure Begins...

Here I am at the Vines! A quick recap of the last two days.

I love it here. It is beautiful. My room is like a magical attic room with windows that open onto the roof and a view of
the treetops blowing and the spires of the city in the d
istance. We can hear the church bells!

My roommate is a gift from God. Her name is Heather, and already we are making our room feel like home.

Highlights thus far:
Walking the city.
It is just unbelievable that I can walk through buildings of the 1300's. With our special Oxford Student card, we can tour just about every building for free, where the public cannot usually enter. How exciting!
Building look like this everywhere:

By our home at the Vines, there is a community garden! I volunteered my services th
ere, in hopes of working in the ground and receiving veggies as payment. The lady kindly took my email down and gave me some fresh (giant!) beans! Made my day!

Went to the Eagle and Child. For my first drink, I sat where the Inklings would have held their writing discussions.

Laura and I shared fish 'n' chips, while my roommate, Heather, had Banger
s and Mash.

Today, we visited Christ Church for our first Sunday. It is the oldest church in England, so I understand. Amazing. I wish I could have captured the interior.

And a quick look at the Bodleian Library. Here my roommate and I stand next to one of the entrances.

We have yet to enter into the actual library. Mariah, Harry Potter had two scenes filmed in this room.

Ta ta for now! Must go seize the day!

London, England
September 4, 7:42 AM

I am here! I cannot believe it still - on the bus to my new home! So ethnic, diverse, and big!

It's becoming reality!

Oh! And as of now I am starting a travel tip and memory guide with a wacky twist:

1) Before departing - buy a strange flavor of gum. Like mint mojito (a cocktail in a gum... odd.) It will forever remind one of the excursion.

2) Same thing with a playlist on the ipod.

3) Choose a theme song for your trip. Mine is "Breakaway." Not corny... very true.

4) Have awesome friends that send you off with all manner of goodies!

5) Of course, thank the awesome friends profusely and realize you do not deserve them.

6) Pack a bagel. They're like hardtack... only better.

7) Don't journal while on the first bus ride. There is so much important sights to see!

8) Look starved - people will donate airplane food to you! Amazing compassion! (Or is it that people don't value airplane food?)



Expectation and patience do not mix well.

Only a day left until I am there though - I will wait patiently (or attempt to...)
The last flight was more interesting. I acquired an alias - Amitava Sarkar. (Do I look like a dashing East Indian man?) It was a bit confusing (and there was even a time when I thought I might not make the flight!) But, I figured if God has helped my blunders thus far to succeed, He is in control. I made it into my seat with my proper name restored, seated by the window for my second flight! What a pleasant surprise!

And for my troubles, I received a free snack! (It is worthwhile to possess an alias!) And I had the opportunity of speaking with a soldier returning from Iraq. We spoke on his views of the War. Interesting yet melancholy views - he sees America should not be in Iraq. He feels his years served were wasted time, not spent fighting for his country, but another that did not desire his aid. What a perplexing situation!

Well, boarding starts for the last flight! Must say cheers for now!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Just arrived in Dallas.

Since I spent some quality time with George Eliot's Middlemarch on my flight, I thought I would relate my enriched experience. Simply love the book (even though it is over a thousand pages!)

Here was my favorite conversation between Will and Dorothea. She's a passionate philanthropist/intellectual, while he is the artist. After they converse (quite bluntly, in fact) over the value of art, Will confronts her impetuously with his idea of the "fanaticism of sympathy." Dorothea states that art does not better the social injustices of the world, yet Will retorts, "I suspect that you have some false belief in the virtues of misery, and want to make your life like a martyrdom." And when you think that they should never embrace their opposing perspectives, the next conversation shows otherwise.

Will tells Dorothea, "'To be a poet is to have a soul so quick to discern, that no shade of quality escapes it, and so quick to feel, that discernment is but a hand playing with finely ordered variety on the chords of emotion - a soul in which knowledge passes instantaneously into feeling, and feeling flashes back as a new organ of knowledge. One may have that condition by fits only.'
'But you leave out the poems,' said Dorothea. 'I think they are wanted to complete the poet. I understand what you mean about knowledge passing into feeling, for that seems to be just what I experience. But I am sure I could never write a poem.'
'You are a poem - and that is to be the best part of a poet - what makes up the poet's consciousness in his best moods,' said Will, showing such originality as we all share with the morning and the spring-time and other endless renewals."

Can anyone say beautiful, witty, intelligent, and romantic in one breath?

Dorothea is a marvelous character... I find so many shortcomings in her that resemble a crazy, passionate girl I know rather well. And Will... he's quite the chap.

Over and out.