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9.03.2011

Week 2 - On to Oxford

We had a wonderful week at Wadham College in Oxford. Every morning, we had a hot breakfast in the Hogwarts-style dining hall. On Saturday night after Week One, we had a fancy dinner served in Wadham's old library. 'Fancy food' and 'scary food' are usually synonymous in my book, and the menu had all sorts of goat cheese and randomness, but it was pretty good. Dressing up and being waited on as a group was definitely a treat. We switched to only candlelight towards the end of the meal and sang the Doxology, which gave us goosebumps (our "goosie-pimples," as I've heard an English woman say). 

Hilary and Hillary at Wadham College
On Sunday, we were required to have lunch with someone we didn't know well yet. I had picnic-type lunch with Lila (Hilary). Lila and I have almost the same name (Hilary Morse and Hillary Moser), so we get each other's mail and emails at school, which has been fun. Sort of. We've laughingly bonded over that, anyway, and we've enjoyed finding other commonalities, including our purple Mac laptop cases, our Chicago suburb residencies, and our inability to tell when the other Hilary/Hillary is being sarcastic. 

We spent much of each day in Wadham discussing and analyzing Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus and Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. I especially enjoyed acting out a scene from Merchant with my classmates. Although we were pretty busy with homework and class, we took a few afternoons off to explore Oxford:

BLENHEIM PALACE
On Wednesday, we toured Blenheim Palace, where the 11th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough live. The tour was one of the most informative, interesting, and entertaining tours that I’ve been on – partly because English tour guides are adorable and hilarious, because EVERYTHING was as expensive and ornate as possible, and because so much of it connected to English history in fascinating ways.



After the palace tour, I wandered around the grounds for a while. I accidentally found the Secret Garden, which was mediocre and not worthy of its name, and then walked to the Rose Garden, which was gorgeous. I took plenty of photos at that garden and walked by the place where Winston Churchill proposed to his wife, which was pretty cool. There was a whole Churchill exhibit going on at the palace because he was born there and loved that property. Delightful.





HIGH TEA
On Thursday afternoon, an American-born Christian Scientist lady invited us to high tea. She owns a beautiful property where she and her employees make seventeenth century-style hand-painted pottery.  We had a movement class in her barn, toured her pottery workshop, and then had a lovely high tea. (High tea just means the tea is accompanied by all sorts of goodies such as scones, finger sandwiches, and scones.)  The hand-painted china was gorgeous and definitely added something special to our tea.

CHRIST CHURCH
After high tea, a few of us attended Evensong (a sung service) at Christ Church, which is part of the college by the same name and is part of the University of Oxford.  It was quite beautiful.  Attending Evensong in York and Oxford (and hopefully at Westminster Abbey in London) has really helped me appreciate what church means to people of other Christian faiths.  It is filled with a sense of reverence, peace, humble petitioning, and harmony.  If I hadn’t been raised in Christian Science and had never heard of it, I think I would have been drawn to the atmosphere that is created in these churches.  As I am, I feel comfortable kneeling in these churches on occasion and, in silent prayer, gently affirming what I have learned in Science, even though it conflicts with what I am hearing prayed aloud. On a less religious note, attending Evensong is a nice way to see the inside of these beautiful churches without paying for a tour! 

BODLEIAN LIBRARY
On Friday, we went on a tour of the Bodleian Library, which is part of the University of Oxford. Two different rooms at the library were used to film the Infirmary and Restricted Section of the library in the Harry Potter movies. Pretty cool! When we were in one section of the stacks (standing quietly and calmly), an irritated female patron accosted our tour guide and loudly asked him to remind us that we aught not obstruct the aisle and that we should be quiet because there are people here actually using the library. Ignoring his polite reply, she emphatically repeated this admonishment, and then shuffled away.  He looked at our group, smiled apologetically, and murmured something like, “That must have been one of our library ghosts!”

Random side story: Perhaps that ghost lady had cause to be wary of me in particular. Have you ever googled yourself? Well, when you google my name without quotes, the second site that comes up is about a trial in which a woman with my name got in legal trouble for making a scene at a library in Hawaii when she was asked for her middle initial during the library card application process.  It was an “i,” by the way, which obviously excuses her indignation…

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