Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Se va por aqui al parque zoologico?

Hola! Yo estoy muy excitant por la semana proxima! Tomorrow afternoon, we head to London again, and the first item on my agenda: go experience Les Miserables at the Palace theatre! I'm so pumped for that. Thursday, we do the political relations thing and sit in at the Houses of parliament, shmooze with the parliamentarians, and pose for pictures. Should be interesting, although I trust it would be a lot more interesting if I knew anything about politics. Should have taken that political science class!
On Friday morning, Joel, Tina and I will be setting out for Gatwick airport where we'll catch our plane and by 6pm we'll be in sunny Alicante! Well, ok, the weather forecast is predicting rain when we arrive, but it should be a balmy 15 degrees, and throughout the week is supposed to climb up to 20, and there should be sun for the rest of the time.
So. That will take me away from this country until the 6th of March, and I'll return to Charlbury on the 7th. That's almost two weeks away! Time flies when you're taking off to Spain....
I was unable to get the pictures of this past week by today, so when I return from Spain I'll post pictures for three weeks. Funny thing about the pictures.... They've been viewed an average of 55 times per day since I started posting them. I know that people from my site, Tina's site, Joel's site and Heidi's site look at the pictures, and I know that Joel's a phenomenal photographer (and I am very very greatful for his letting me post his pictures) but the site has been viewed over 1800 times! Crazy. Then again, there's an awful lot of people reading this blog, and I couldn't even begin to guess who all does read it. At any rate, it's fun to know that there's that many people who care about what's going on with the five wayward Redeemer students in England.....
By the by, just in case you Redeemer students didn't already know, Man is an amazing guy. I think that maybe I should make this site a tribute to him. Check out Tina's blog as to why he made our day yesterday....
I'm off to pack for break. Cheers, all, I'll post again in two weeks!

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Home again, home again....

London Bridge is falling down.... Not quite, but if it did, you could blame it on Sam, Tina and Joel...you can never trust those three when they're together!
We just got back from our two days in London, and covered quite a lot of ground during that time (both literally and figuratively). Friday afternoon we had a tour of the Globe theatre-- something I didn't know --the Globe was destroyed or fell to ruin at some point and more ore less was forgotten in terms of theatres. In the 1950's, an American gentleman was outraged when he found out that England was not doing anything about the theatre, so he took up a crusade to build another Globe and have it used for theatre performances once more. It took almost fifty years to have all of the plans approved, the building built, and plays performed in the new Globe. This year marks the seventh season, and the theme of the season is "star crossed lovers"- can you guess the opening play? The location of the original Globe is about a five minute walk up the Thames. I had absolutely no idea that this wasn't the original Globe still. Learn something new every day!
After the tour we went to St Paul's Cathedral for Evensong- it was fantastic, and I was again quite disappointed that I didn't have anyone from the Redeemer choir with me- I would have loved to sing Magnum or O Vos Omnes or something under that dome! The choir that sang was fantastic, and it was so interesting to think that we were worshipping on a piece of land that people had been meeting on for 1400 years for services! -the start of meeting on that land is closer in years to Jesus' time than to ours! My church at home just celebrated their 50th anniversary. Kinda makes it seem pretty little in comparison....
Next stop: All's Well that Ends Well- Countess played by Dame Judy Dench. Fantastic performance by all, it was a great evening. We were a little far away from the stage- Last row on the top balcony, I think that if I leaned forward too far I could have somersault all the way down the two balconies and landed in the laps of those on the main level. The theatre itself is over 400 years old.
On Sat, we learned how to get around on the tube, and journeyed to see Portobello Road Market, the changing of the guards, Trafalgar Square, and the National Gallery, where I got to drool over Van Gogh's Sunflowers, Monet's Water Lilies, Degas's Ballerina, and random paintings by Picasso, Manet, Seraut, and others.
I also made a quick trip to Canada. Yes, that's right, I was sat down on canadian soil yesterday.... We passed the Canadian Embassy in Trafalgar square, and I couldn't resist going home a minute.
That was pretty much my time in London.... Cara and I split off from the others to walk around the shopping district for a couple hours, and Tina, Sam and Joel trapesed around London to the Tower bridge, and Sam apparently performed in a busker's routine. Good times were had by all, I guess it's back to London on Wed morning, from whence we shall depart for Spain on Friday afternoon! Time flies when you've got a full agenda- the week only began today, and it's pretty much over already!
(I should have pictures of London up by Tuesday)

Dinner in the Shire

Thursday night, Tina and I had dinner with Bilbo Baggins. However, he went under the pseudonym of 'Michael O'Flannigan.' About the same height, the same white frizzy hair, and very much the same disposition. He and his 'friend,' Jill, are our neighbours and they decided that it was high time that they had us to their place for dinner. What a fantastic evening! When I told them that I was studying PG Wodehouse for my Independent Study, they were quite pleased! They have quite a soft spot for Wodehouse; when they were dating way back when, they would read Jeeves and Blandings Castle and Mr Mulliner stories to eachother.
These people are fascinating people. They own some sort of a clothing company, I believe, and have therefore traveled across the world, coming in contact with an incredible number of cultures. Upon mention of one of the Asian countries (pardon my not mentioning the specific one, I kept trying to remember things to write down and they progressively got stuffed out of my head), Flannigan told us of the religion that is practiced there- one that I'd never heard of before, but perhaps the World religion students or the son of a religion prof could help me out here- something to the effect of 'confusion' but it can't be spelled like that, but that's what I heard. Interesting, at any rate, this country has managed to combine all the religions practiced within that country into one, for what reason I'm not sure, but I believe it's called 'confusion' or maybe that was one of the ones that was assimilated. I made the comment that it was interesting that they were able to do that will all different religions, because somehow within the Christian churches we can't even do that among denominations, and we all believe in the same God. This turned into a segue for a huge discussion on religion and denominations, and as Tina and I were the only practicing Christians in the room, it made for quite an interesting time! Flanagan came from a Catholic background (as he said, you're born Catholic and you die Catholic but you're rarely catholic inbetween), Jill was christened in the Church of England, went to a Presbyterian Sunday school, and went to a Catholic school, Marion was Methodist at on point, I believe, and Tina and I are both CRC. Different traditions were quite well represented, then, but most of the viewpoints that came out were quite cynical of the Church. The Alpha course was brought up, and Marion brought up an interesting view point, saying that she didn't like the course because it brings people into the church by creating a community for them, and that's the primary reason that the people who attend become 'religious.' It's therefore creating a false pretense to draw in people. It very much reminds me of discussions that I've had with people about cults, because very often, cults will create a 'safe' place for people to come, make them feel welcomed and loved, and draw them in as such. I didn't realize that people felt the same way about Christianity!
I suppose that I've got a lot to learn about what others think.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Sunny days, oh sunny, sunny, sunny days...

Visited the open air market today, and I found just what I was looking for: two Wodehouse books for £1 each. I've not yet read any of the Jeeves books, so I'm quite looking forward to that. I think it shall be my reading material for the bus to London, tomorrow, and probably the plane to Spain next week Friday.
The sun was up when I woke up this morning.... Nothing unusual in this, it usually peaks its head out from behind the clouds about the time that I get up, just enough to tease me because I know that by the time I finish my breakfast there will be no sun in sight. However, the longer I stayed in bed, the more evident it was that there was a genuinely sunny day outside, just waiting to be enjoyed. I got up, opened my blinds, and true tosuspicionss, there was a bright blue sky and an even brighter sun awaiting our enjoyment. Thisimmediatelyy put a song in my head, and as I walked down to get breakfast, I found myselfsingingg a littlesnippett of a song from White Christmas... 'bright son, shining on me! Nothin but blue skies, do I see....Blue bird, singing his song, nothing but blue skies, from now on...' And that's as far as I got because that's all they sing in the movie. So I just sang it over and over, as I am known to do. It was a fairly relaxed morning, we started late, so when Tina and I set out for the church, we took our time and ambled down the streets of Charlbury, greeting those who were out for a morning walk, and for once, most of them greeted us back! We decided it must be due to the weather. Eventually I got another song stuck in my head, so Iserenadedd Tina with that one as well... 'It's a great day to be alive! I know the sun's still shining when I close my eyes, there's some hard times in the neighborhood but why can't every day be just this good!' I do hope she'll tell me when she gets sick of my singing....
Anyhow, when we got to Oxford today, I walked a bit by myself, down a path that went alongside a river, and then out to the market. I love the people that I'm with here, but I realized that it had been quite a long time since I had been able to walk by myself and not be rushing somewhere. By the time I went to Regent's for lunch, the sun was still out and that just made my day.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

The Bird and Baby

Or I suppose you could call it the Eagle and Child. This afternoon after our lecture, we the students of Redeemer and the two non-redeemer/abu students joined Dr Loney for a pint at the pub famous for a prestigious customer, CS Lewis. Well, we all had a pint, and Loney opted for a soda, I believe. And really, I didn't have a pint at all, I had about a quarter of a pint. I was going to just go with the Smirnoff's again, and thought, well, no, I can't do that, I have to at least order a pint once while I'm here. It didn't grow on me at all, in fact, the more sips I had the worse it tasted. But apparently it's the beer that's won for the past five years at the English beer festival or something.
Quite an experience, to be sure.... What was even more of an experience was lunch yesterday. It consisted of a bunch of meats an 'Black Pudding.' Rich, if you didn't like the sounds of Toad in the Hole, you won't like this at all. I knew there wasn't something right about it, but I thought, I haven't backed down from trying anything since I got here, so I'm not going to start now. Well, I got half way through, and decided that was enough. The chap sitting next to me very kindly informed me that the primary ingredient in what I had just been eating was pig's blood. Well, now I can say that I've eaten it. I don't know that I'd do it again, but it's all about the experiences here, isn't it?
I have decided that I really do enjoy reading the comedies of Shakespeare quite a bit more than any of his other plays. We have thus far covered the tragedies, the histories, the roman plays, and we are now onto the comedies and quite frankly, they're the clearest to me. Oh, I know, I happen to miss out on 80% of the references that he makes and that's not lost on me, but I would rather be able to understand and enjoy reading 20% of his comedies than nothing of his other plays. I loved studying the other plays in class, however, I realized how brilliant Shakespeare really was, how he worked his plays together, what techniques he used, how he took liberties with history.... But if I had to choose to read a play on my own, without studying it with someone else, I think that I would have to say the comedies. And Kristin, if you're still reading this, I would have to agree with you, I think that Much Ado About Nothing is a phenomenal play, I loved reading it!
This said, I am going to go back to my research on PG Wodehouse. I'm currently reading his last novel, 'Sunset at Blandings Castle,' and it wasn't until I had gotten into the book that I flipped it over to the back cover and was confronted with the truth that HE NEVER FINISHED THE BOOK! I hate reading unfinished things..... It's bad enough when a novel is finished and there's no sequel, but to read a book that was never finished in the first place? It's going to annoy me so much when I get to the end of what was supposed to be chapter 16 out of 22.....

Monday, February 16, 2004

Lord, what fools these mortals be!

Dr Loney has arrived in Charlbury, and is quite impressing our group with his wit. Our first lecture with him took place this afternoon, and I must say, was one of the most fun lectures thus far. When Sam asked him a question as to which line we were starting from in Midsummer Night’s Dream, this was Loney’s reply: “This is Sam being tactful. Make note of it, it doesn’t happen often. Oh, I wasn’t making fun of him, that’ll come later.”
Shortly following this delightful comment on Sam’s personality, we headed into discussion on the play, specifically, talking about the characters within it. For those who didn’t know, there are rather interesting characters in Midsummer, two of them being faries. On this topic, Dr Loney: “These two faries are married. Well actually, do faries marry? Or do they just cross pollinate?” (badum-ching.) There is also a certain element of cat-fighting–a man declares his love to one girl, and then falls in love with her best friend (to very shortly summarize) –at this point, Loney broke into song, gracing us with his spectacular version of “Sisters” from White Christmas: “Lord, help the mister, who comes between me and my sister, and Lord help the sister, who comes between me and my man!”
Finally, with the end of class drawing nigh, Loney asked how a plot within Midsummer could be similar to Romeo and Juliet, and here’s the exchange that followed:
Sam: Well, they both stab themselves in the end, and–
Loney: Actually, in the chest, really, but I know what you mean....
Quite entertaining, I must say. Not that I didn’t love my lectures with Loney last semester, but given the choice, I’d take a two o’clock lecture with him any day over an 8am.
For those of you guys who are trying to stretch out Valentine’s day, here’s a way *not* to get the girl of your dreams:
Hippolyta, I woo’d thee with my sword
And won thy love, doing thee injuries

(I should have more pictures within the next couple days)

Valentine's day...

And a Happy Valentine’s to all! I trust that everyone either enjoyed their day, or enjoyed hating it, as is sometimes the case at this time of year.... Getting my mail was quite exciting for me yesterday, there was a long, narrow box waiting for me with my name on it.... Further inspection revealed a white rose within this box.... :D It quite made my day, I must say. Maybe even my week. Today we had, of course, our Valentine’s celebration. Much work and time went into preparing the food for this, and many good times were shared between Tina, Julie, Madeline and I (myself? too late at night to figure that one out.) Last night we made chocolate cakes with mocha icing, this afternoon we made salads, chicken, sauces, potatoes, garlic bread.... all sorts of good stuff. I came a little late to help last night (had a nice chat with Ms Briemer and the ladies of D26), so when I rang the door at Mad’s place, this was the conversation inside: Mad: who is it? Tina: It’s a lady–Oh, no, it’s Jenn. So there we have it. And tonight Dr Loney made some direct comparison of myself and his dog. Good to know that people think so highly of me!
This morning we went to Uffington Castle, which is really just an incredibly high mound on a hill, with what used to be a moat around it. It dates back to the Iron Age, I would believe. Directly across from this magnificent plateau on the side of the (really really steep and large) hill is the chalk horse-- I’m not quite sure if it has a specific name, but it’s quite a sight to see (hopefully Joel got a picture of it for me to post). This landmark stands out so well that it was used against the English in WWII, the enemy planes would fly over this mark and be told to drop their bombs however many seconds away in whichever direction- it became such a hazard for the British that they had soldiers spending their days hauling dirt from anywhere to cover up this horse.
We walked a ways down a path to an ancient burial tomb. It was constructed over 5,500 years ago, and when the Romans came across it 3,300 (?) years ago, there were the remains of fifteen individuals placed there. The Romans built on top of it and used it as their burial tombs as well. Today, Sam and Joel decided to contemplate life from the grave. It was actually quite a task to convince them to come out of the tombs.
It seems as if every time we get in the bus, we put our lives at risk just that much more.... Our driver, though very able, I’m sure, gets distracted when he drives and things got a little tense in the vehicle today. A couple very near collisions, some question as to which roads are one way, thoughts on if the speed limit says 30m/h does it really mean 50 m/h, etc... It makes life interesting, for sure, and I think that it also raises our blood pressure. Anyhow, we’re home, and we’re alive, so the day was a success.
Redeemer’s now on break for ‘reading,’ whether that means a break from reading or a break for reading, I’ve never been quite sure. I hope you all have a great time where ever you all end up, Florida, Mississippi, Alberta, skiing, sleeping, catching up on readings.... Do think of me hard at work, studying Wodehouse and Shakespear in the Upper Reading Room of the Bodlian Library!

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Meaningless blatherings and observations...

Cara informed me today that today marks the beginning of our 6th week in England. Strange how time goes by, I haven't quite figured out how it (time) works yet. This afternoon, I got together with Cara to pray with her about things going on in our lives; this is the second week that we've done this, and I'm very thankful for her presence on this trip, it really is encouraging to be able to share things with someone else in the programme!
Phones. I'm so grateful for them! Isn't it strange how you can call someone who lives on a different continent and talk to them as if you were in the same city? I personally think it's amazing. Not that I'm spending all my time in England talking to people back in Ontario, but I had a few phonecalls this week that were really good, they just made me smile.
Traveling. Strange how I'm living in England, going to Spain for a week on my break, and yet am jealous of Ben and Dave, who are going down to Florida this coming week. I would love to spend the week in Florida, knowing that the sun still exists!
About the paper I finished earlier in the week: someone in the group told me that they wished that they could be as motivated as I am in relation to my school work. I was quite sure that I would never hear the words 'motivated,' 'schoolwork' and 'jenn' in the same sentence, unless there was a negative in there somewhere!
Richard II-- if anyone is considering watching the RSC production of Shakespeare's Richard II on video, I suggest that you don't. Last night, eight of us went out to the farm to watch it, and only two made it through the whole thing without falling asleep. I was not one of the two. There's an unnecessary amount of long, elevated speeches either spoken by Richard or Henry, and it really does get to be quite tiresome and boring. By the end of the movie, the general consensus in the comments was: 'just give him the crown, die, and end the play already!' It went on for far too long.
I bought a copy of the '100 Best-Loved poems' today for 50p, not a bad deal I thought. I'm not quite sure who got to decide what the best one hundred poems of all time were, but it's a nice selection of poetry nonetheless. Although, I was quite angered to find William Carlos William's 'Red Wheelbarrow' in there.... so much depends upon the red wheelbarrow....glazed with rainwater....standing beside the white chickens.... I still maintain that that poem does not deserve to be studied in class. In any class, grade 12 English or first year University english. and definitely not both! (sorry, welfare, I know you grew attached to it a bit...)
Conclusion for the week... It's been an amazing week, I'm really settled in here, and although I do miss all of you to the core, I'm definitely making some amazing memories in England. Cheers!

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Am I that Scary?

So, I was sitting in class this afternoon before our lecture, and I asked Joel if our break was in two weeks, to which he answered 'yes,' and then if our break was in three weeks, and the answer to this was also 'yes.' When I questioned him on his positive answer to both questions, he replied, 'I'm just agreeing with you because that's what seems to be best in most cases.' Hmm. How does one respond to that?
Tickets for Spain are now booked! I'm so excited about going! We're traveling to the south-east coast of Spain to the city of Alicante, where Tina has a friend from Canada who's willing to share her apartment with us for a week. The plans for the week are not big, and they're not complicated: we're going to relax, walk through the markets, sit on the beach.... The temperature should be about 15-20 C, so we've decided that we have to go swimming at least once, but beyond that I think I'll just take a book along. None of this rushing from here to there, trying to pack everything in that we can see-- just kind of live there for a week. Do you think it would be difficult for a Dutch girl to look like she fits in in a Spanish city? hmm.
Dr Loney is going to be arriving in Charlbury on Saturday afternoon, which all of us Redeemer students are quite excited about. Of course, his arrival marks a week of two lectures of day, which we've not had since our first week here, but that can be overlooked. On the day marked Valentines, our group is having a group supper and then an 'evening of entertainment.' The most exciting part of the entertainment is that Freddy Jones, a member of the RSC and quite a famous British actor (so I'm told) will be doing some readings of Shakespeare's sonnets. The less exciting part is the part where we, the students, have to get up and do our own little thing, recite a poem, sing a song, do a skit, etc, all, of course, on the theme of LOVE. (Now I'm curious, why do you think that they would have that as the theme?) Granted, it should be fun, but I have this little streak of independence/defiance in me: when something fun is made mandatory, I have a very strong urge to refuse to participate. Isn't that awful? I haven't decided what I'm going to be doing yet, most likely a reading of some sorts. Any ideas? Any? At all? I welcome them with open arms.
I finished my first paper yesterday. Considering the fact that it's not actually due until April 5, I think that it's quite the accomplishment for me! (and those of you that have lived with me, or next door to me, or had me in their class, will know that it is, indeed, an accomplishment!)
Oh, right. Supper last week. Our host invited Tina and myself to dine with her last Monday, and it's almost ironic, the meal that she prepared. It was a dish that contained: a)fish b)peas c)rice d)mushrooms. And that's about it. Again, those who know me should be quite proud that I ate a large serving of it and finished everything I was given. (and for those of you who aren't aware and care, I'm really not fond of any of those foods on their own, much less in combination with eachother....) I must say, though, I'm getting to be quite talented at eating the 'English' way. They use their forks upsidedown, piling the food onto the back of the fork with the knife, as opposed to just scooping it up. Strange, but I think I can almost do it and look somewhat refined now. In the beginning I must say, I was a sight to see.
Anyhow. Thus endeth my entry for the day. Oh right, one more thing. Many of you that read my site are Redeemerites, so you'll know this already, but for those of you that aren't: Dr Chaing (the redeemer bio prof) had a brain aneurysm at some point in the last week and a half, and has been in intensive care since then. The doctors have tried a procedure to fix some problems, but it was not successful and it is still bleeding. Please keep him in your prayers, especially tomorrow as he is having brain surgery in Toronto at 1pm, I think it's a three hour procedure. (I apologies for the incredibly vague details, there's a reason why I'm not a bio major.)

Monday, February 09, 2004

Another weekend come and gone

Today we had another chance to walk through history. Lady Sele of Broughton Castle graciously welcomed us into her home this afternoon, even though their open season for visiting is from May - September. (In AngloSaxon, Broughton simply means, by the brook.) This place was quite a bit more entertaining to travel through than Warwick, perhaps because we had a tour guide whose family has owned the castle for the past 600 years, and perhaps because parts of Shakespeare In Love and Three Men and a Little Lady were filmed there. Last night in preparation for our trip to the castle, we all got together and watched Shakespeare in Love. It’s quite an impressive building (I hope that I’ll have Joel’s pictures to post by the time I post this), built in 1300 and 1550, with a three acre moat. As we toured through the place, we saw the Great Hall in which they filmed the dance in “Shakespeare...” and the hallway in which Colin Firth threatened whats-his-face who played Will, and the stairs that Gwyneth Paltro ran up after reading the sonnet... All sorts of fun.
The castle is a very cold place, I’m not so sure that I would want to live in one of those huge rooms, I think that I would just section off a part of the building to heat and leave the rest to freeze. Upstairs, we went through Queen Anne’s room, where Anne of Denmark slept whenever she came to visit the castle, and it was quite interesting, in her room there is a quaint little window on one wall, if you open the shutters, you’re looking into the chapel downstairs- if you sleep in, you don’t have to worry about getting ready for church, you could just sit by the window and look down on it! I think they should do that at Redeemer. If you walk out of that room, you’re in the gallery- apparently before 1836, this gallery had all sorts of wonderful and valuable paintings in it, by Vandyke and I can’t remember who else. However, the gent who owned the place at the time was quite a bit more fond of cock fighting and cards and gambling than he was of his valuables, so in 1836 there was a huge auction and everything was sold off. Pity. Just off the gallery, there is a room for King James I, which he stayed in when he visited in 1601. (Does that make sense? I can’t remember if she said 1501 or 1601. At any rate. He stayed there.) The walls in his room are handpainted with Oriental flowers and birds, it’s magnificent, I would think that it would have taken a long time to paint!
Just before the civil war in Britain, Broughton Castle became a parliamentary meeting place. It was most likely one of the locations in which the decision to go to war was made, but the meetings were “officially” about different trading companies. This castle was one of the first to be attacked in the war, and there’s still several cannon balls lying about the place.
In the height of the castle’s prosperity, the garden was kept up by 15 gardeners- for the past hundred years, it has been maintained by one.... I would have liked to see the garden when it had 15 employees!
We spent a bit of time on the grounds outside, but it was fairly chilly, although the sun was out. (the sun in England in Feb is a lot warmer than the sun in Ontario in Feb!) And I even lost my mittens today.... we had church at Banbury Baptist, (for you redeemerites, it was an awful lot like Meadowvale CRC) and it was an excellent service, fun to have a little more contemporary praise and worship than usual, and so much fun to watch the little kids dancing around at the front of the church with their flags! However, I did manage to leave behind my mittens under my pew, so that was quite traumatic for me. I was intending on having a back up pair of the stretchy gloves here incase that happened, but I think I left them in Dorm 25 before I came. Oh well. Hopefully it won’t be cold that much longer....

Thou shalt not tempt Tina Koopmans thy housemate....
Hmm. Yeah, so Tina told me at one point that if someone tells her that she can’t do something, she has to do it to prove them wrong.... I was feeling mischievous last night when we started to walk out to the farm for the movie, so I said to her, “Tina, I bet that you can’t skip the whole way to the farm.” Her reaction: “Why do you say that? I think I can do it, I seriously think that I can!” And she proceeded to skip and jump down the road.... The poor girl had it in her head to do it the whole way.... A mile and a half later, uphill most of the way, and on a very rocky footpath for a section, Tina skipped up to the front door of the cottage, red faced and panting, but victorious. I couldn’t stop laughing the whole way there. I’ve never had a younger sister, but I think that I would have liked to have Tina as a younger sister...see what you could get her to do by daring.... I guess she could be somewhat of a younger sister, even though she’s older than me-- we figured it out tonight that because she’s my third cousin once removed, I’m one generation ahead of her.... I think that should give me seniority.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

It is not enough to be busy.... The question is: what are we busy about?
–Henry David Thoreau

Good question, Henry. I’ve realized that a lot of my business here doesn’t so much pertain to my actual studies as it does to a learning of experience. There is so much that I would like to do, but then I find that I might as well not have paid my tuition and used that to come out here and just get involved in things, because I won’t have any time left for homework. I don’t want to just spend my time studying *in* Oxford, this semester- I want to immerse myself in it, and get involved. I want to be able to say to people who go, the choir at Magdalen is fantastic, but the welcome at Christ church is phenomenal, and even though most of the students at Regent’s Park already have their own circles of friends, if you sort through them, you’ll always find the ones who would just love to sit down and have tea with you, and explain the strange names that Britains have for things....

The reading list thus far has been fairly extensive.... Since the beginning of the semester a month ago, this is what we’ve been expected to read and know well: “Way of the World,” “School for Scandal,” “The Beggar’s Opera,” “Hamlet,” “Othello,” “Julius Caesar,” “Antony and Cleopatra,” “Coriolanus,” and “Dr Faustes,” (the A and B scripts of that). A fair amount of reading, considering the fact that we have been given secondary readings to do for each of the plays and also have to be researching our essays in the evening, writing papers at night, and somehow doing readings for our Independent Studies at some point. Suffice it to say that we’ve done some partial readings of some of the texts, such as reading Acts 1, 3, and 5 in a group of 4 or so, and then reading a summary of the rest- we haven’t quite mastered the art of speed reading that would be required otherwise.

Heidi and the farm girls have flown the coop this weekend, they left for Venice on Thursday morning and plan on returning late Saturday night. I’m so jealous! I really do hope that everything’s going well for them, though, and that they’re having a fantastic time.... They were all sooo excited about it.

On Friday afternoon, a group of us went to the trainstation to get on the 3:53 train into Oxford for the Chapel service at Regent’s park again. Surprise surprise, the train was delayed by 20 min. And then 40. And then it was cancelled so we had to wait for the next train. It was really great fun though, sitting at the on the bench with everyone... singing little diddies such as “Rain drops keep falling on my head” or “Let the sun shine in, and face it with a grin”... Sam was in a very pesky mood, if it were still in fashion for girls to slap guys then I think he’d have a sore cheek from all the smart alec comments he made about the five of us girls that were there. I think that that hour of waiting was one of the best times that I’ve had, just relaxed, hanging out with people, it really felt like a good Friday afternoon. After the chapel service we went to a Taize service at the Wesleyan church, it really was an interesting service, I’m glad that I went. It was a really good time for quiet contemplation and praise... more of the humble aspect of worship, getting down on your knees rather than a high-paced worship with clapping and a lot of movement and noise. Not that I don’t like up beat worship, but it was a really nice change of pace.

For those of you that haven’t been able to access the pictures from the link and would like to see them, copy this link and paste it in the address bar, it should take you there then. http://community.webshots.com/user/jennvb

A wonderful quotation that is to be found absolutely everywhere around Oxford:
The more I study, the more I know.
The more I know, the more I forget.
The more I forget, the less I know....
So why study??

“Man can only signify in words what God can signify in things.” –Augustine

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

mind and matter

When you spend up to 10 hours a day, 7 days a week with a group of 20 people, what goes around is bound to come around. And it's come to me. Over the past week, I've watched person after person being hit with the cold and/or flu, and despite my devout consumption of vitamins, I have now been hit as well. It started off not so bad, I had a sore throat and was pretty congested, but I knew that something was wrong this morning when I came into the church, sat down, and felt as if I was in the middle of an Ontario summer heat wave (in the mornings, the temperature in the church hovers around 10 degrees when we get there). I think that the fever has subsided somewhat throughout the day, and if I don't think about it, I can forget that I'm sick. Mind over matter!
One thing that I cannot forget-- that I played football (soccer) all afternoon yesterday. My body simply won't let me live that down, everything from my ribcage down is in agony every time I move a muscle. But it was worth it-- Jeff, Tina and I were victorious against Cara, Brad and Julie, 4-3, and I even scored a goal! I'm usually just happy enough when I touch the ball in a game!
Today, we had 'Toad in the Hole' for lunch-- an absolutely delicious meal consisting of sausages in the centre of what looked to be yorkshire pudding, I think. It's so exciting to have lunches with such unique names- we should make up fun names for our peanut butter and jam sandwhiches, no?
On sunday night, we had an evening of worship, praise and prayer at the farm, just us students, no adults. It was really good bonding time, and a very relaxing evening for us all. Much needed, I think. I played some dutch blitz and we had one of the closest games that I've ever played- from the second round to the last round, all four of us were within 15 points of highest to lowest-- pretty intense! (I came in second...sigh.) Tina and I had an arm wrestle, and we were deadlocked for two minutes, at least, and I knew that no one was going to win and I was quite frankly getting tired, so I conceeded. Tina said it was a tie, though, so we're gonna go at it again sometime. (check out the pic in my album)
Anyhow, ta ta for now, I have to go figure out plane ticket stuff for spain, have a grand evening!

Monday, February 02, 2004

What a weekend...

Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge.
Proverbs 23:12

I read this the other night when I was doing devotions; it caught me on a certain level... I don’t mind school but lectures and papers are by no means my favourite things in life. When I sit in my 2pm lectures right after a morning at the library and a huge lunch in the dining hall, I don’t always apply my heart or ears to what’s going on. I listen, yes, I take notes, yes, but it’s more of a reflex thing, I haven’t been actively applying myself to these lecturers that I’ve been so blessed to be able to hear. Thus my confession. It’s easy to get through classes, it takes a lot more to apply myself to them.

On Friday, Sam, Cara, Erica, Julie and myself took part in the chapel at Regent’s Park College. Sam, of course, played the bongos, while the rest of us sang. There was also someone playing the cello, the flute, and two on the guitar. The lady who was directing chose a great selection of songs. All (except the last one) were sung in English but had verses for Spanish, french, Dutch, or Swedish. The last song we sang is called “Siph’ Amandla,” and I have no idea what language it’s in. The main verse is:
Siph amandla Nkosi (English, roughly, I think) O God give us power
Wokungesabi And make us fearless
Sioh’ amandla Nkosi God give us courage
Siyawadinga To walk in Christ’s way

I really enjoyed this song quite a bit, it’s South African, I think, so the beat to it was phenomenal, it was so much fun to sing.

On Sat morning, we gathered together and drove out to Warwick Castle, and managed not to get lost on the way. This place is breath taking. It rained pretty much all day, but it somehow managed to fit in with the atmosphere. I believe the castle was ordered to be built by one King Richard sometime in the 11th C, and has undergone additions and restorations for the past 10 centuries. Our first stop was the dungeon, where we managed to lose Tina. In the armoury, on a shelf behind a piece of glass was Oliver Cromwell’s death mask. Quite strange to study a play like “A Man for All Seasons” that has these people in it and then go to a place and walk through the halls of the castle that they visited and whatnot. One of the Earls of Warwick was a presiding judge over the trial of Joan of Arc, and is buried in St Mary’s church in town. Coming from a country so young as Canada, I feel quite insignificant in this country in which so many centuries of history has taken place. Odd.
My favourite part of the day was standing on one of the older towers, looking out on the countryside, when the sun was shining behind the clouds. The grass looked both hunter-green and neon-green where the sun rays came down, the trees all looked like they came out of a fairy tale book, and I almost had to hang onto the railing to avoid being blown down the hill. The air was mild but it sprinkled rain every now and then, and it just felt so fresh and renewing.
The drive home was another adventure... we were apparently on the right path until we got to a round-about and none of the signs seemed to point to the town that we wanted to get to. So, we drove around again, to see if we could figure out which way to go. And again. And again, and again and again and again. I didn’t start counting right away, but I know that we went around at *least* 18 times, in all probability it was over 20. This does nothing good for the stomach, let me assure you. What made it worse was there was a gas station on one of the corners- after the 15th time around, we started trying to convince Doug to pull in and one of us would ask for directions, but, nothing doing. Finally we pulled over, checked out the map, pulled back onto the round about for another two circles, made an educated guess, and continued on our way. Ten minutes from the church in Charlbury, we ran over a curb, which wasn’t so bad, but the second curb we went over two minutes later was a little higher, there was an awful noise, and then as we continued on, Sam and I decided that there was an unnatural noise coming from under our seats at the back of the bus. And seconds later, there was a smell to accompany this noise, and both grew stronger very quickly. We suggested to Doug that maybe we should pull over so that we didn’t have to be sitting right on top of whatever it was that was going to blow up, but he kept driving till we got to the church... by this time it smelled as if we were having a bonfire made of tires in the back. Upon exiting the vehicle, we found that the back tire was smoking and had blown completely. But, we arrived safely.
Sam, Tina and I went to Joel’s place for the evening and watched BlackAdder the 3rd for a couple hours, which is always good fun.
Sam’s quote for the night (to Tina):
“If I was a sailor, and you were a porpoise, and I was drunk, you’d look like a Mermaid.” (way to go sam)

This morning, (today being Sunday) Tina, Sam, Joel, Erica, Julie and I all went to the Catholic mass. It was the first Sunday Catholic mass that I’ve been to, so it was quite interesting. There was so much incense that it was hard to breath sometimes, and they say the Nicene Creed as opposed to the Apostle’s creed, but it was quite a nice service. The Arch-Bishop’s right-hand man for Oxfordshire was there today, and he really did look a lot like Father Todd, which really wasn’t a good thing cause that show’s really not the most wholesome... But the people were all so very welcoming and had us come to a little luncheon social after lunch, so that was really encouraging, it’s a great parish community.

After this little lunch, Joel’s hosts had everyone in our group over for a phenomenal lunch. They had all sorts of hors d’ouvers, and then we sat down to a meal of chicken, stuffing, potatoes, brussel sprouts, carrots, chilli, stew, salad, bread, and wine, followed by desserts including grapes, after eight mints, eclairs, strawberry shortcake, and peach cheesecake. It was nothing short of amazing. This afternoon, I watched my first Rugby match on TV, and I must admit, it’s quite a bit of fun to watch, provided that there’s someone there to explain it. The don’t stop the clock except if there’s an injury, so it takes about half the time of a football game. They don’t stop the plays every two seconds, they just let them scrum for the ball and whatnot.
Tomorrow we don’t have lectures, it’s Groundhog’s day, and I’m not sure what the two have in common but I won’t complain. I was going to go to London but plans have been changed so I’ll be working on a paper instead... And then probably go to Joel’s at night to watch Groundhog’s day- can’t skip that. And happy 21st birthday to the beautiful Natasha Moore! Enjoy your day of eating junkfood, ladies!

Sorry for the length today, I do have a tendency to ramble sometimes...