Things the UK Could Learn from America:
- Public restrooms. I can't begin to count the number of times I've had to sneak into a pub, feigning an intent to buy something, just to use the toilet. How embarrassing...but they bring it upon themselves. I must be free to pee!!
- Trash cans. They got rid of them all due to bomb threats, which is understandable. But even a clear trashbag hanging on a door would help. Anything to avoid carrying around half of my sandwich and an apple core all day (which, especially on rainy days, gets quite gross).
- Church. Oxford is swarming with grand Catholic churches that make excellent photographs; however, after attending one, you realize that there needs to be something more than elaborate stained glass from the middle ages. Just because the building is pretty doesn't mean the faith is strong.
- Bringing the Check. A mixed blessing, restaurants in the UK don't seem to rush you out. Teatime is a time to relax, and they could care less if you sat there all day...but I don't want to sit there all day. I have stuff to do. Check?! Check...excuse me, check!!
- Speed Limits. I almost got hit by a bus today. And yesterday. And the day before that...
Things America Could Learn from the UK
- High Tea. No description necessary.
- Morton's. A place to have high tea in Oxford. No description necessary.
- Mass Transit. I ride the buses more than I almost get hit by them, so it balances out. I could live here for the next thirty years and never have to use a car; the transportation is incredible. And color-coded. Even I figured it out.
- Education. In just five weeks time, I feel like I'm going to come away with the same amount of knowledge as if I had taken a semester-long class at Clemson. It's because you only meet with your professor once or twice a week, and are otherwise responsible for doing your own research. Discovering things for yourself and having them validated by an expert in your field is the perfect way to learn, because you're actually learning.
- Choir. The churches may not have great messages, but those sopranos can hit it hardcore.
- "Funday Monday." At our Monday evening formal dinners, we get unlimted free wine. Why does Harcombe not give us free wine?! Get with the program!
In other news, got an A on my second paper. Went to the Cotswolds today. Saw Viola's house from Shakespeare in Love. Walked through a ruin in the rain. Had tea and crumpets. Listened to Flight of the Conchords all the way home. Success.
In fact, we found ourselves nowhere near anything resembling civilization. Fields on our left, fields on our right, and the occasional "CAR!" were all we saw for 45 minutes. The sunset, however, was gorgeous. The fields rippled like an ocean in the wind. It was breathtaking enough to subdue our fears of being attacked by crazy rapist men in the woods (yes, we do watch too many movies). Finally, when we were prepared to give up hope, we found it.
"It" was not The Trout, but a pub we had also heard of, called "The Perch." (Fish make popular pub names, apparently.)
It wasn't exactly what we wanted, but it was there, and we were ready to sit. Come to find out, The Perch is a pub that inspired scenes in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. After we walked through their doors and into their back garden, we felt as if we'd been transported into some otherworldly fantasy land. Willow trees scattered a huge backyard, with twinkly lights and candles lighting the lawn. An acoustic guitar player sang underneath a white tent. It. Was. Gorgeous. After ordering drinks (white russian! mmm), our strength revived and we went for another walk through the pub's wilderness. A winding path took us to the Thames, and we watched the sun finish setting over the river. The evening was as picturesque as I could have imagined, if not moreso. Actually, yes, moreso.
It was so beautiful and relaxing, in fact, that we spent an hour just talking and admiring the scenery; time flew by. As such, Randy was charged with leading us back to St. Peter's through the darkness. He knew a separate path by the Thames, and we crept along, laughing all the way back. What a great night. :)
Or, didn't do it.
We'll find out at 5:00 tomorrow evening. Just a few minutes ago, I turned in my first Oxford paper. I have to admit, I feel like it's pretty legit; my argument essentially turns the Austen novel on its head, suggesting her "happy endings" are actually sad commentaries on the nightmarish restraints of women's imagination in Regency Britain. He will either love it or hate it. For one hour tomorrow, I will be discussing it with him and one other student. That's plenty of time for me to 1) cry, or 2) bubble over with intelligent thought, or 3) be a quiet, intimidated American girl. Fingers crossed!
Over the course of my first full weekend here, I spent approximately twelve-to-fifteen hours writing this paper. I did, however, find time for fun. We went to the Pitt-Rivers Museum, where I saw my first shrunken heads. It was awesome. So, so awesome. They remove all of the innards from your head, then heat up the skin, shrinking it while somehow retaining its shape. Warriors wore them like necklaces, symbols of the men they had killed. Again I say, awesome.
I also got my first Pimm's at The Eagle & Child, one of the most famous pubs in England. (Pimm's, if you don't know, is the official drink of Oxford students. It's very fruity and delicious.) The next night I had my first experience with Lebanese food (delicious hummus!), after which Elizabeth and I watched Shakespeare and Love while eating sweet girly things, like cookies. And white chocolate shortbread. Mmmm. Last night I even had time for a Skype date with my dad, Nancy, and brother Alex in Washington state! It was great to talk to them and see some of their new house.
Overall, the weekend was fairly uneventful, but it gave me a chance to experience Oxford in a non-touristy, student kind of way. I had a great time cozying up at the library, researching an author I love. Big plans this week for plays in Stratford AND one at the Oxford Playhouse, so I'll have much more to say in a few days!
After lunch, I headed with some friends to Unicorn. I'll give you a few seconds to ponder what "Unicorn" could possibly be...
...It is, in fact, a secondhand clothing store located on Ship Street. It's operated by an old woman who holds no regular hours. If she wants to be there, she will; if she doesn't, she won't. Emily B has been trying to get inside for over a year, and when I wandered by this afternoon, it was miraculously open. I gathered up the troops and we rushed back, excited to go exploring in this treasure trove of vintage clothing - and we couldn't believe what met us. There are so many clothing items in this store that, unless you have a sherpa and climbing gear, only one person can fit inside at a time. They aren't organized by size, color, type, or brand. They aren't organized at all. Essentially, the store is one gigantic pile of shirts and skirts and dresses, with a tiny 2-3 yard clearance that guides you partway around the mountain. We decided it would be best to come back one-at-a-time at another date - trip #1 was a little too overwhelming.
And with the day's mundane adventures summarized for your reading pleasure, I'm off to write some literary analysis. I'll probably write again once I turn in this paper.