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Last Call

So I’ve been home for about two and a half weeks now. Been meaning to get some thoughts out.

The day after I got home, I went for a long walk in my home town. Down to the pier and up to Peace Arch park, both of which I’ve been to dozens and dozens of times. I sat by the water, then I sat on the Peace Arch. I talked (via the glorious internet) to one of my housemates who was still traveling at the time, got a sweet sunburn, and didn’t want to go home. I noticed that I was still in picture-taking mode whenever I saw something beautiful—I saw a lot of beautiful things that day.

Settling back into life at home has been just about as strange as I thought it would be. I’m in the house I grew up in once more, surrounded by too many things. I took one suitcase of things with me to Oxford, and it was nice to live simply. I need to get rid of all my stuff.

Going back to work wasn’t easy, but it had to be done. I work at a State Park as a Park Aide, which means lots of bathroom cleaning, litter pick-up lawn mowing and generally fighting against the havoc that guests, nature, and time can wreak on the park. We have a good crew this year, and I enjoy working with them.

When I went down to PLU to visit some friends less than a week after I got home, I noticed that so much of what I had to say to them was just one Oxford story after another. I hope they’ll be patient with me. I’ll be patient with them when they get back from studying away.

I miss Oxford very much. At first I don’t really think I missed it, mostly because it sort of felt like I was still there. Or rather, that I should still be there, and I couldn’t really get my head wrapped around the reality of being back home. Now, I just miss it. Not all aspects of it, of course! I’m glad I’m taking a break from school right now, and glad that I don’t have to deal with housemate drama anymore. But I miss the city itself, I miss going for walks, I miss Port Meadow, and I miss the easy routine of happy interactions with my housemates.

That being said, I’m home, I’m here, I’m living in the moment and soaking up the Washington sunshine. I spend as much time outside as I can stand, and am working on cleaning up my room and simplifying my life. I look back with happy memories, and look forward expectantly, knowing that I am better for the six months I spent abroad.

My Favorite Place on Earth

Above, you will find a picture I took today of my favorite place on Earth. It’s called Port Meadow, it’s just outside of Oxford, and it is absolutely beautiful there. I’ve walked home via Port Meadow too many times to count, and always knew that when this program went through its ups and downs, I could find solitude and peace there. It was here that I learned the value of taking the long way home, which I did as often as I could once the weather got nicer in spring. I explored as many different ways to get home as I possibly could, with the goal to never go the same way twice. I did go the same way twice, or many times over, because this path next to the Thames on the far side of the Meadow has stolen my heart. I wish I could spend the rest of my life living in Oxford and walking along this path. It is beautiful to me not just because of the grass and trees, but because it embodies all the freedom that came with my time in Oxford, away from the stress of PLU. I hope to return here someday, and feel just as peaceful as I did when I was walking home today.

Tonight is my last night in Oxford, and on the recommendation of a good friend, I’m blogging out my thoughts right now. I spent the weekend in Amsterdam with two good friends. Saying goodbye to them this morning was heartbreaking, as they continued on travels of their own while I returned to Oxford and tomorrow, the States. I spent the last 6 months barely going a few hours without seeing them, and now I’m headed home and won’t see them again for a few months. It’s a weird, weird feeling to realize how dependent you are on those closest to you for support in a foreign country. I will miss them, very much.

The last few weeks have been filled with the very best memories and experiences, as we all made the most of our last few days. I’m headed home with mixed feelings, to say the least. I’m ready to be done with school and to see my family and friends again, but I am so not ready to leave Oxford. This city stole my heart; all of England did, really. I don’t know when I’ll return, but I can only hope it will be soon.

This blog entry is mostly for me, as a reminder of what it felt like to be in this house for one more night. Also, as a summary of a program that had just as many ups and downs, in balance with each other and the rest of my life. I’ve learned more about myself than I ever thought I didn’t know, mostly through travel and getting to know my housemates. I feel changed, for the better. So here’s to good changes and learning who I am. Here’s to finding my place in the world and learning where I do and don’t belong. Here’s to laughing with housemates about the ridiculous things we’ve had to deal with, to new cultural experiences, to stepping outside of comfort zones, and to taking the long way home. The program is over, but the life I can live based on what I’ve learned from it is only just beginning. Here’s to what comes next.

Onward

Yesterday was my last full day in Oxford, as today I’m heading to Amsterdam for two nights. I’ll be back in Oxford on Monday for less than 12 hours to pack up the rest of my things, then I’m flying home. There’s a great big fat blog post I need to write; I’m thinking I’ll write it in paper on the bus to Amsterdam, and post it on Monday or sometime next week. It’s unbelievable that I’m leaving Oxford so soon, and I’m not totally sure how to process it. That being said, I’ve had an amazing last couple of weeks here, doing all the things that I’ve been meaning to do in some seriously sunny weather with really good company. Stay tuned for the big farewell post, it’s gonna be a doozy.

A Trifecta of Sorts

This week, I attended three big performances, and I’ve just got to blog about it. All three involved separate trips to London, which is a little goofy, but totally, totally worth it.

The first was One Direction, which I’ve already blogged about. But the more I think about that show, the more I realize just how cool it was that I saw them that night. It was the boys’ first night in sold-out Wembley stadium, the biggest show they’ve ever played. And that stadium is practically soccer mecca, for goodness sake! They may be just a boy band, but they are very, very popular and probably will be talked about for years to come. It’s wild that I got to see them there!

Second performance: Les Miserables in the Queen’s Theatre. We went and saw it as a study group, one of the few trips we’ve done as a group this term, and it was absolutely amazing. The talent was top notch, the set was unbelievable. I laughed, I (almost) cried. It’s the last musical I’ll see while in England, the culmination of a pretty significant list: Sleeping Beauty ballet, Ghost, Mamma Mia, Wicked, Once. Only in London can you have the high quality theatre scene at reasonable prices a student can afford. Thank goodness for that!

Finally, to complete the trifecta, Tyler and I went back into London yesterday to see Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus at the Globe. We’ve been meaning to go see a show there all semester. I saw an article about how bloody and horrible this version of Titus Andronicus was, and how legendary the special effects were, and we decided we had to go. It was something of a snap decision, and maybe not a totally well though out idea (we had to practically sprint from the tube stop to the theatre to get there in time), but we saw it and certainly were not disappointed! 

So ends my week of fantastic performances. I’m going to really, really miss this place. But I’ll save that kind of talk for another blog post!

The Band of the Trip

Another super exciting event: Jasper, Haley, Tyler, Priya, Sarah and I went to see One Direction in Wembley Stadium! Thanks mostly to Haley and Tyler, a love of 1D has been sparked in me that actually made me pretty excited to see them live: their music has come to be associated with all things Oxford for me, and that is a happy thing indeed. We spent a few hours waiting in line, and a few more in the stadium before the headliner band actually came out, but it was totally worth it. If nothing else, those boys sure do have charisma. I had a great time freaking out with my housemates and gushing over how adorable they all are, no shame at all. Also, I got to stand on the pitch of Wembley stadium, what? It may have been all covered up with a platform, but it still counts. Anway, when I’m back in the states, I very much plan on listening to One Direction while reminiscing so hard about my time in Oxford. Wouldn’t have it any other way!

Up the University Church of St Mary’s Tower

This morning, Tyler, Jasper, Haley, Sarah (awesome visiting friend) and I went up the tower of the University Church of St Mary’s. This is totally a tourist thing to do—we probably should have done it ages ago, but the weather was fantastic for it today and I’m pretty glad we waited. The top of the tower is teeny tiny, and it’s kind of terrifying trying to squeeze past other visitors while walking around the outside of it, but totally worth the view. This is my city, from the top of a tower.

Summer Eights

Last Saturday was the Oxford Summer Eights regatta, which is a university-wide rowing competition between all of the colleges. Tyler, Jakob, Jasper and I went to go check it out, and found ourselves in the middle of a really cool little waterfront festival of sorts. All of the boathouses were selling burgers and Pimm’s while students and townsfolk alike watched the races. Regents Park did pretty well from what I understand; it was really neat to see some familiar faces rowing out on the river, and cheer for “our team.” Also, check out some of the signs hanging from the Jesus College boathouse, they were pretty clever. The Regents Park rowers are the ones in red and white! And the last photo has to be credited to the fabulous Jasper Sortun.

Regents Park Formal Hall

Last Friday, my housemates and I got the chance to attend Friday night Formal Hall at Regents Park. The students there have dinner every night of the week, but Friday nights are special: everybody is dressed up (dresses/suits and ties), there are more formal procedures for dining, and the food is absolutely on point. It was really cool to be a part of this bit of Oxford culture that we, as students who don’t live at the college, normally don’t have access to. After dinner, there was a “bop” in the Regents Park Junior Common Room, which is pretty much just a dance/social thing. It was casino themed, so we had some fun gambling fake money and getting to know some more of our fellow students. In all: it was a great evening, and I am so glad I was there with these crazy housemates of mine! Photo credit to the lovely Haley Ehlers.

Punting

I have now been punting on the rivers in Oxford twice, and if I’ve learned anything at all from the experience, it’s this: punting is NOT EASY. Those gondoliers in Venice make it look like an absolute dream, but now that I’ve tried it, using a pole to propel a boat is probably the worst idea ever. That being said, both times we’ve gone punting, we’ve had a lot of fun floundering around in the slow moving river, laughing at each other fail at steering the darn thing, and generally just making fools of ourselves. If you’re ever in a place where you can rent boats to punt, I highly recommend it—but be prepared for a humbling experience!

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