Monday, 23 February 2009

All's Well that Ends Well

So last night I decided to audition for a Shakespeare play that is being put on at Oxford next term called All's Well that Ends Well- its one of Shakespeare's lesser known works, but it is an entertaining comedy. I auditioned for the heartbroken yet witty Helena, and the smart and sassy Diana. It was a fun experience and I am glad I put myself out there into the theater world. Next week I am auditioning for a play done entirely in French- perhaps I can finally put all those years in the classroom to use! The weather has been absolutely stunning here in Oxford the past week- I think the spring flowers may start blooming soon, which makes me so happy!

Saturday, 21 February 2009

FEAR (Oxford Cambridge Track and Field Competiton)

So today I was on my way to the library, but before I left the house I grabbed a bit of breakfast in the kitchen. I was chatting with Ciara when my housemate Ellaine popped into the kitchen for a quick "hello" and said she was going to practice for a track and field competition called FEAR. She said she was going to throw the discus and also the hammer for Oxford. I said casually, "Oh! That's neat, I use to throw discus!" Then she persuaded me to throw discus for the Oxford Varsity team that day! So I changed out of my chic library clothes and changed into my running shoes and headed off to the Varsity training area. Meanwhile, I was thinking in my head "I haven't thrown a discus since I was 14 years old! Perhaps this was a mistake..." But when I held the discus in my hand today, I thought "I can do this" and it WAS like riding a bike. I found that I slipped back into the old throwing maneuver with startling ease! I really enjoyed myself and even got some pointers from the coach. They want me to throw at the competition called FEAR next Saturday in London for the Oxford Team, but I remembered that Laura is coming to visit me in Oxford- and she is much much more important than a track and field competition- but I enjoyed myself nonetheless for those brief moments when I was reliving my middle school track and field experience!

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Birthday Week

Cheerio! Things here at Oxford have been nice and quiet for my birthday. On the Tuesday after my birthday I went to Jamie Oliver's restaurant with my housemates. My mother was very generous and treated the 4 of us to dinner (Thanks mom!). Jamie's restaurant certainly lives up to its reputation- it has a very 'casual-Italian-market' feel to it, which is great for conversation. The food of course was spectacular- it has the typical Jamie Oliver flare- very rustic with simple bold flavors. I had an amazing creamy truffle pasta and my housemates had a variety of lovely pastas as well.

The next day, Wednesday, I headed into London to see the musical Grease. It was a really unique experience because I met the leads of the musical the week before, so when I saw the show I felt a much more personal connection to the characters. It was a truly amazing experience and it reminded me of watching my best friends perform in Les Miserable and Oklahoma back in high school. The musical itself was a HUGE crowd pleaser- everyone was dancing in their seats and humming along to the music- it is such a captivating show with amazing sets that it is hard NOT to at least bop a bit in your seat! Afterward we met up with Stuart and Nic at the local pub and had wonderful conversation. They are truly wonderful people and I am really lucky to have met them!

Then it was back Oxford to hit the books and drill out a few essays! That weekend Ciara, my housemate, had some friends in from Northern Ireland. We had fun showing them around Oxford and taking them to the "must-see" places in our busy little town.

Sunday is one of my favorite days of the week because I head to Spencer House, where many of the American students live, and we make a huge dinner together. It was a great time to make conversation while cooking together- I am usually in charge of baking dessert (last week was apple cobbler a la mode). Then after dinner we sit down together and watch a movie.

Then to catch up on this week- I headed back into London yesterday for Nic's 26th birthday celebration. We went out for Indian curry and then headed to the pub for some nice conversation. Its nice to get out of the Oxford bubble every once and a while and head to London!

All in all I am working on getting my summer plans together. I am really excited to come home to the family vacation at Holden Beach. I haven't been to the beach in a few years, and now that I am abroad my appreciation for our family traditions continues to grow! I am also in the midst of planning my spring holiday which includes trips to Paris, Florence, Rome, Germany, Ireland, and Istanbul. I am really excited to get some more world travel under my belt!

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Birthday Suprise!

Well it was my birthday yesterday and I opened up my window shaes in hopes of seeing glorious sunshine and blue birds swooping by my window and was greeted with cold dismal rain splatter which didnt let up the entire day. So to say the least my birthday didn't start off...beautifully. I went to one of my tutorials and then spent the day in the libarary reading for an essay that I had to write the next day. To say the least I came home exhausted and as I was walking home in the rain I kept thinking- wouldnt it be nice to come home to some balloons or some kind of birthday suprise. And to my utter surprise and joy I walked into our kitchen to see my housemates hard at work making me a a homemade birthday cake!!! I came early than planned so I got to help in the baking process! It was grand and made me feel so happy and made my birthday so special!

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Snow Day! And a trip to London

This past Sunday the snow began to dust the rooftops of Oxford. I returned from Durham just in time to watch the Pittsburgh Steelers play in the Super Bowl. When I first arrived in the Junior Common Room (JCR) at Regent's Park there were about 5-6 English students watching the game. I was a bit disappointed at the turn out, but glad for the company none the less. I stayed up until 4:30 am to watch my team win! Hurrah!

The snow continued to fall throughout the night and i woke up the next day to a winter wonderland! The snow had a truly magical effect on Oxford and somehow augmented the already fantasmical nature of the place.

After going to a lecture I headed into London for a Yale reception that was held at 2 Temple Place (A gorgeous late 19th century home built by a very wealthy American Family- it looked like the first class cabin of the Titanic with Tiffany stain glass and dark panelled wooden rooms). The event was marvelous and very fancy. They wined and dined us to say the least and I once again came to appreciate what Yale has to offer! While at the party I met up with some Yale students who are taking the Yale-In-London semester abroad. I stayed at their apartment that evening in Covent Garden (which was right next to the Lion King Theater in the West End). We ended up baking chocolate chip cookies and watching a chick-flick.

The next day I woke up and headed to the Victoria and Albert Museum which was huge like all the museums I have encountered in London. The collections were spectacular! I particularly enjoyed "the history of fashion" exhibit. I also went to Harrods and did a bit of shopping. It was not crowded because the snow kept most of the tourists at bay. Apparently it was the worst snow storm to hit London in the past 20 years. It was actually quite precious that they got so excited about 6 inches of snow. As I was passing Marble Arch and speakers corner I saw all these school boys having snowball fights and families making snowmen. It was straight out of "its a wonderful life".

All of these jewels are real diamonds and precious stones at the Victoria and Albert Museum

That evening I met up with my friends from Oxford to go see Phantom of the Opera. We were so lucky because my friend Sarah knows someone who works behind the scenes of the show and he gave us a backstage tour of the theater! I got to walk on stage amongst the elaborate set, see the chandelier, see the Phantom's boat and organ. We also got to go into the depths of the theater and see where the mist comes from and where all the trap doors are. Then we headed up to the fly space of the theater where all the 100 year old pulleys are that operate the curtains etc. Sarah's friend was also nice enough to have our programs signed by all of the cast. The show itself was amazing! It was one of the most heart wrenching performances of Phantom I have ever seen! The acting was at a level that was far beyond local theaters and in my opinion better than Broadway!

After the show we went for a drink at a local pub and we met up with Ali's friends who are currently the leads in the musical Grease (they play Danny and Sandy). They invited us to come see their show next week and offered to get us discounted "friends-of-the-theater" tickets! So I am going to head over next wed or Thursday with some Oxford friends in celebration of my 21st birthday!

Durham England- A Visit with Laura

I was lucky enough to visit one of my best friend's from high school, Laura, this past weekend at Durham. Located in northern England Durham is a quaint English town built on a somewhat treacherous hill. Durham is best know for its Gothic Cathedral which was built in the 11th century. It towers over the surrounding woods and can be seen miles away. Laura and I popped our heads in on Sunday afternoon and a service was being held. The choir was magnificent and truly sounded like Angels. It was very pure and simple music which I think fit the plain yet bold interior of the cathedral. Laura and I went out to grab a nice lunch in town and then headed back to the Cathedral to explore a bit more. To my joy I discovered that Durham cathedral is another place where harry potter was filmed (it IS strange how much the movie keeps coming in and out of my life here). And on our way out of the Cathedral I notices a very large door knocker with a little plaque next to it explaining that village people could place their complaints in the mouth of the door knocker way back when...interesting and effective for getting ones attention!

Christ Church

Last Friday I was meandering around campus after turning in an essay and I noticed that small pockets of people kept flowing through this magnificent iron gate. I had nothing to do so I decided to follow the next group of people into the "unknown". After passing through various courtyards and walking along somewhat stark and scary pathways I came upon a sign that read "Please Keep Off the Grass" and I knew at that moment that I had stumbled across Christ Church- one of the most famous colleges at Oxford.

I continued through the massive wooden doors and passed the traditionally dressed English Guardsmen to find myself swept along by a group of 40 or so teenage French students. There was no way to fight the tide so I just went along for the ride. We swept through Gothic Corridors and into the Chapel and back out into one of the many giant courtyards. It was a beautiful place but it was also felt hardened and cold.