Saturday, 23 May 2009


On the way to rowing practice in the morning: A view of Magdalen Bridge

A Rainbow outside of Regent's Park College arching over St. John's College

Christ Church Meadows: the path to the River Isis

Two old men punting quite successfully down the Cherwall tributary

A view of the bridge with a crew racing under the arch of the bridge

Regent's Got Talent

Yesterday evening, to raise money for charity- Regent's Park held a talent contest spoof off of Britain's Got Talent. I headed off the program by singing "Something to Talk About" which reminded me of the wonderful women in Something Extra (my a cappella group at Yale) who I miss so terribly much!

The event was a huge success and Regent's had SO MANY wonderful performers come out to sing, pay guitar, tap dance, recite poetry, break dance, and in general just have a wonderful time!

Rowing On: A Success!

Yesterday, my crew and I were in a qualifying race for the big crew event this spring called Summer Eights. We qualified with a terrific racing time placing us 9th out of 46 boats! The BIG competition starts next Wednesday! Wish us luck!

Lincoln college did really well in the qualifier. We had 4 men's boats and 2 women's boats attempting to qualify and the men's 2,3, and 4 boats and my boats (the women's 3) qualified.

Here is a fun shot of the Men's 4 (also known as the beer boat) warming up on the urgs before the race- as you can probably tell they are concerned more with their matching outfits than their technique!

Friday, 22 May 2009

Ascension Day at Oxford

So yesterday was Ascension Day-the second Bank Holiday of May (the first being May Day). This day is also known as "Good Thursday" and is traditionally the 40th day after Easter- marking Christ's ascension into heaven. Lincoln College has a special Ascension Day celebration where they open up their courtyard to the public and give out free pints of cider. As I walked up Turl Street I saw that the college had draped the front of their entryway with medieval looking banners splashed with the various symbols representing Lincoln College.
The big event of the day, however, was the “hot penny toss” Traditionally on Ascension Day the heads of college would invite all the young Oxford children to come to the Lincoln quad and they would throw scalding penny’s down at them which they ran to collect, but when their hands were burned when they tried to pick up the pennies they were supposed to learn that “greed” is a bad thing.
Now a days the JCR board go up to the tower and throw 3,6000 pennies down at the children (not scolding) and the kids go around picking up money. It was so funny because the pennies were throw in the sky and it would block out the sun and then there would be a pause and an occasional scream from the frightened/excited children as they waited to get pelted by money and collect it as well.
Its moments like these that I think "Yes- I am ACTUALLY in Oxford- and only in Oxford would something like this happen!"

Monday, 18 May 2009

Fields of Gold

I wish I had a picture to show you of these amazing fields of golden flowers that I saw on my way back from London the other day. Literally, as far as the eye could see there were rolling fields planted with these saffron colored yellow flowers- it was amazing! and made me think of the Sting Song "Fields of Gold"

You'll remember me when the west wind moves
Among the fields of barley
You can tell the sun in his jealous sky
When we walked in fields of gold

So she took her love for to gaze awhile
Among the fields of barley
In his arms she fell as her hair came down
Among the fields of gold

Summer Fete at Regent's

This past Saturday in celebration of the summer weather our college had a BBQ. This of course included hamburgers and hot dogs as well as home made cakes and brownies and the famous Oxford treat G&D's ice cream. All of this food was sold to go to charity. We also had three legged races, coconut knock-down games, face-painting, and a bouncy castle. Believe it or not, the Oxford students had their faces painted and were huge fans of the bouncy castle. Those members of the college who did have families and children could bring them to Regent's for the day to bask in the sunshine (which was also peppered with the occasion spring rain).

A Walk Through Oxford: Magdalen and Lincoln Colleges

This is Magdalen College- one of the most famous colleges in Oxford. As you can see it is absolutely BEAUTIFUL! I always sneak in here and take a stroll around the grounds.

Magdalen is famous for their deer park- yes...they have a deer park in their back garden. For what purpose? That I cannot answer, but I do think it is quite cool (but also quite pretentious!)

Here we have some of Magdalen's tulip gardens.

This is Lincoln College's main quad. It is MY FAVORITE quad in all of Oxford- the grass is perfect and the Ivy reminds me of something straight from the Secret Garden.

Van Dyck and a trip to London

After having a chat with my art history tutor, we decided to take a field trip into London to see the Van Dyck exhibition at the Tate Britain Museum of Art. I had gotten the idea from my friend Lissie who had told me once that she went into New York City for an Art History class, and I thought 'Well- London is only and hour and half a away- why not take advantage of the exhibition while its still in London?'

So this past Friday we headed into London bright an early (8:00 am) and had our tutorial in the Van Dyck exhibition. It was incredible to be chatting about these great works while they were right in front of us (rather than discussion them over pictures in a text book).

After we went to the Tate Britain, we decided to find the Whitehall Banqueting Hall which has a very famous ceiling painted by another artist that we studied: Rubens. The hall was absolutely deserted, so Jason and I took advantage of the privacy and took the liberty of lying on our backs and staring up at the ceiling!

Crew Date: A Rowing Tradition

Being a member of the Lincoln College Rowing Team has been so much fun! Not only have I met a bunch of wonderful women in a Lincoln college, but our boat also gets invited to go on "Crew Dates" by the men's boats of other colleges. Last Thursday we were invited by the Jesus College Men's Third Boat to attend their formal hall (A fancy dinner in their college dining hall where we get to wear cocktail dresses and academic gowns). As the invited guests we brought the wine and had a thoroughly wonderful dinner date with these gentlemen (I ended up in a very interesting discussion about early American history with a first year who was taking a course on 18th century America)! We actually had so much fun that we are going to go to their Monday Night Port Tasting! This is just one of the fun traditions that is unique to Oxford.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Brasenose 500 year Anniversary Ball

There is a huge tradition here at Oxford: Trinity term commencement balls. Every year the colleges take turns putting on these extravagant white tie events that include champagne fountains, fire works, Ferris wheels, live music, and delicious treats! Last night Brasenose college hosted their 500 year anniversary ball which WAS a spectacular event (and it had the price tag to fit the ocassion at 150 pounds a ticket!)

The balls that are hosted each Trinity term have different themes. For example, last night Keble College also hosted a ball that was called "Neverland" and themed after Peter Pan. They had entire ballrooms and outdoor courtyards themed after certain scenes in one of Disney's most popular animated movies.

Later this term, my college will be putting on a ball called "Arabesque." This will be a nice opportunity for us to let our hair down, so to speak and enjoy the friendships we have made in the past few months before shipping off home!

Fireworks from Brasenose Ball:

In general Oxford has been a real treat to be in these past few weeks. As the weather warms up the scenery gets more beautiful! The morning are misty, but you can see the suns rays through the low hanging clouds. The birds chatter away with one another in an endless gossip. The afternoons are cool and breezy: perfect for taking walks in the park- looking at the colorful array of tulips and seeing local dogs frolic around. The nights are magical: the full moon has been absolutely breathtaking these past couple days! I will definitely look back on these first weeks of Trinity term fondly!

The Performance: HMS Pinafore (Oxford University Gilbert and Sullivan Society)

Oxford has been quite busy this past two weeks for me between rowing, yoga, running, golf, academics and of course the OUGSS (Oxford University Gilbert and Sullivan Society) production of HMS Pinafore! This show was a real delight to be in. In general musical theater is a great way to make lasting friendships with fellow cast members through the long process of crafting such a magical production. Throughout the performances it was hard to maintain a professional face and not laugh along with the audience (and in some instances we couldn't help ourselves!) because our leads were SO FUNNY!

We got some rave reviews from the local newspapers and we no doubt had our best performance on closing night. The audience was great and we really got into a great rhythm. The leads were playing off one another and the chorus was so interactive! I am very proud of what we did in just 2 short weeks of rehearsal!

Some of the Reviews:

"Accompanied flawlessly throughout on piano by Samuel Swinnerton, the voices of the cast are truly impressive, especially that of Anna Sideris, playing the part of Josephine, whose powerful delivery is definitely a reminder that H.M.S Pinafore is an opera, not a musical. Overall, the OUG&SS production of Pinafore provides a refreshing look at an old classic that any fan of Gilbert & Sullivan should be sorry to have missed!"- The Cherwall

"All in all a very spirited and technically accomplished production."- The Daily Review

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Tortoise Racing

May Day just past recently and Oxford fully embraces the pagan rooted traditions in the celebration of the first day of May the mid point between the Winter and Summer solstices. Celebrations begin the night before as students attend black tie events at the various clubs in the City center. General merriment continues throughout the night until daybreak where all of Oxford makes the pilgrimage to the Magdalen bridge to hear the Magdalen Choir sing from their tower to greet the sunrise. Morris dancers dressed in traditional garb parade up and down the bridge rejoicing in the rays of sunshine breaking over the gently rolling hills of Oxfordshire.

The following day Corpus Christi College hosted their annual tortoise fair. They opened up their fortified gates to the general public of Oxford. The smell of BBQ was tantalizing and the colorful balloons and life symphony orchestra music weaving its way across the courtyard and out into the street invited passerby to come into the college and explore. Some of the best music selections included the theme to James Bond and a medley of Disney songs (i felt like I was in Anaheim California at Disneyland at one point!)

The big event of the day is the traditional Oxford College tortoise race. 14 or so of Oxford's 44 colleges have tortoises living in their courtyards. Regent's Park's tortoise is a 90 year old lady tortoise named Emmanuelle. If you look carefully you can normally see her sunbathing under the wisteria bush in the corner of our courtyard or snacking on fresh fruit fed to her by Regent's students who are drinking Pimm's and playing croquet on the college lawn.

We had high hopes for Emmanuelle this year because she got 2nd place in the race last year. When it came time for the race we all stood behind the banner we made for her and cheered for her from the sidelines. There was a HUGE crowd so it was difficult to get a good view of the race, but in the end Emmanuelle came out VICTORIOUS with 1st place in the final round!

An Oxford Tradition: ROWING

My friend Kelly came to visit me my first weekend back at Oxford and I was telling her that I really wanted to have a proper go at rowing. So I got in contact with a few colleges here at Oxford and Lincoln college was the first to respond to my e-mail. So come Tuesday morning at 6:30 am I headed out to the Isis river to climb into the first boat (the best rowers) of Lincoln College. The sun had just risen and a gorgeous mist blanketed the river. The cows were still napping in the lush green grasses of Christ Church Meadows and the swans were swimming gracefully in the Cherwall. A few brave scullers were already out on the water- perhaps trying to complete their morning ritual before hoards of Oxford students broke the calm waters. As I showed up in my newly bought leggings, hot pink socks, and sparkle baseball cap I heard a chuckle from our coach as she gave me a brief course in Rowing 101. She prepared me for what she called "a baptism by fire." My first "outing" on the river as they call it, was definitely a trial, but ultimately an athletically rewarding experience. Most shocking was the strange athletic mentality of "crew." Rowing is unlike any other sport that I have ever participated in. In rowing, you are only a power house- a giant muscle. You don't think, you don't make decisions. The cox tells you everything that you should do and your only goal is to synchronize perfectly with the other 7 engines of the boat. There is something calming about rowing- almost like yoga where you attempt to clear your mind and just focus on the strength of your muscles and the stamina of your body. I survived another outing last Saturday and I intend to keep training for our first competition known as Summer Eights. It is held the last week in May and it is a "bump" race where you attempt to catch up with the boat in front of you and physically hit the boat with your oars- thus 'bumping' them and moving up in the ranks. There are 4 days of racing in total and the goal is to climb your way via bumping to the front of the river. Wish me luck!