Saturday, January 16, 2010

Surprised by Joy

For the last three mornings, I have waked to the sound of English rain on my window. It was saying something to the snow.

"Come now, you know you don't belong here! You've got to leave. Yes, that's right, out the door."

The snow is gone! *happy dance*

Before I get mobbed, I loved the snow while it was here! But not only did my feet turn into prunes, but also, it is extremely hard to walk in snow! I'm not just talking a few hundred yards. MILES. Every day. Which I do enjoy, by the way. But when combined with snow, I get a little whiney. Not good for first impressions.

Luckily, Oxford and I have made friends. Three days in the beautiful Radcliffe Camera have reminded me that I do actually like researching enough to be annoyed that all the libraries close on Sundays. Also, I loved living in Philadelphia. But Oxford is so much better! The green, the history, and the community all combine into a beautiful, enchanting place. Even the fact that England ran out of road salt just adds to the charm.

No adventure too grand as of yet, although I am beginning to think that I can't stay away from the Kilns for too much longer. It calls to me. I'm also looking into doing some horseback riding while I'm here, but unfortunately, it seems that the university club is defunct, which means many more pounds must be parted with. My mid-term break comes along in a few months, and I am planning on going to Wales with the SCIO group. I will root out some old Arthurian castles and take pictures. Maybe I'll write my own "Idylls of the King"! *nerd joke*

I have had some awkward moments figuring out the coinage here though. Most cash transactions take place with coins, and it's really awful when you're rooting through the fifty coins, knowing that everyone else knows you don't know what you're doing. I think I've got it down, but bus fares need to happen quickly, and I'm not quite up to that speed yet. I was thinking about purchasing a bus pass, but the walking is definitely good for me. I'd like to follow in C. S. Lewis and Tolkien's tradition of walking everywhere, provided the weather cooperates. I don't mind the rain at all, and as long as the snow stays on the western side of the Atlantic, the poor plow and salt-less Oxford roads and I will get on just fine.

Tomorrow I'll go to St. Ebbe's Anglican in Headington, which is about a 15 minute walk from my house The Vines. I went last week with some SCIO friends and I really enjoyed both the English company and the tiny service. It reminded me quite a lot of Liberti, the church I attended off and on in Philadelphia, and the people are very welcoming (my accent makes me more interesting, I think). After church, it's back to the house to write up my first Oxford paper, which is due Monday morning.

My primary tutorial is C. S. Lewis in Context, and, as much as I love him, I don't want it to turn into a biography. Instead, my first paper is about the power of myth and story, how the Scottish writer George MacDonald connected that with the Christian faith, and how his book (fairy story for adults, really) Phantastes "baptised [Lewis'] imagination." Story is a powerful thing, the extent of which I haven't yet grasped, and to be studying writers who devoted their lives to it is a privilege.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

On the way

Here, for you lucky readers, is what I wrote while on the plane over here. Once the world stops spinning I'll let you know how England is for real.

I'm on my way to London.

If I wasn't actually here on a huge, uncomfortable plane, I wouldn't believe it. Or else I would think that I should be having a nervous breakdown or vomiting butterflies or something. Strangely, I'm not. I'm so not nervous, in fact, that I almost feel guilty. This is a huge deal. I just changed the time on my iPod to 4:59 (military time!) when really we all know it's 11:59 pm! I can see Reykjavik on the map of our flight, and London is blinking at me in ALL CAPS as we get clsoer.

Why am I not nervous? Maybe I'll go crazy after being forced to drink tea, but I hope not. I have a theory, as usual. England has always existed in my head. I read Narnia when I was six and lord of the Rings in middle school.* - 2 hours and 13 minutes to destination - I have spent my whole life imagining England, so it doesn't seem like the unknown to me.

Now I'm getting sleepy.

England is a person, an old friend who writes letters to me about her life, about the people she meets and the adventures they go on together. And now she's written to ask me if I would come too.

So, this flight, despite taking me away from family, friends, my church and most of my books, is also taking me towards one very dear friend, many new ones, more books than I can imagine and a part of the Church I haven't yet met. I'm not nervous.**

It appears that I will not be getting any sleep. As soon as I decided I was tired, the crew decided it was time to eat.

*I am definitely not bragging about my literary prowess (HA!). When I read those books the first few times, I had no clue what they were about.
**I really am, but..."I can't think about that now. I'll think about it tomorrow."

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

We're off to see...

Well, here I am, going to England...


I feel slightly like the night before my dad and I left to drive up to school for the first time, when I was so nervous that I couldn't stop trembling. I'm pretty emotional right now for several reasons: one, I've dreamt about going to England for a long time. It's always been a sort of mythical place in my mind, because, obviously, that's where Narnia is! I know, I know - if I flounce off the plane with the camera flashing and my eyes sparkling, asking where Mr. Tumnus is, I will get eaten alive. So don't worry, Internet. I'll play it cool.

Two, I know that this term a lot of big decisions about post-college life (what???) must be made. Oxford is a great place to do that, but the fact that it's far away from home and school makes me nervous.

Along that same idea, with every step forward I take, I can feel myself growing up a little bit more, and it's sad! I'm really excited to see what I get to do in the next few years, but soon, my enjoyment of going home in between semesters will be dampened by the totally lame fact that there are no more semesters! I will be offered the choice of kicking myself out on my own or having it done for me by my (extremely loving) parents. Living for several months in another country (on another continent!) speeds up that process a lot, I think.

With that physical separation comes the natural worries for my family. If something horrible were to happen, I would have to drop everything. Not a pleasant idea, certainly, but there's really no choice to make. I already know what I would do.

On a totally different note, I am absolutely terrified of the academic work. But in a very good way. Basically, Oxford is going to kick my butt. There's no getting around it - it's going to happen - but frankly, I need it. At this point in my college career, I know what I want to do, which lets me automatically eliminate any effort not aimed at that. Not good! I'm hoping my research skills, which are seriously lacking at the moment, will improve, plus I am especially looking to learn much more about C. S. Lewis, a man I have idolized since I was six but have never studied academically. As a Christian, I almost feel guilty that I haven't read all of his theological books (which of course I will do this term); as a reader, I am utterly ashamed that I haven't read the Perelandra series (that's not the series title, just one of the books, but I'm too lazy to Google the series right now); as a historian, I really really want to connect him to his context: the Great War, World War II, the Lost Generation, the Great Depression, all of that good stuff.

My flight leaves at 7 PM tomorrow and I still have a work-study project to finish. Time for sleep.