Caroling

Last night, I went caroling with my friends around our neighborhood! It was BEAUTIFUL.

We had candles that people had put inside of glass jars that had been collected all semester long and song-books. And about half the group sounds like they could be professional singers. And we were all bundled up and walking around the houses of our neighborhood, and had such wonderful responses.

The first house had a big living room window, and we saw a teenage boy inside look startled and alert his parents that we were outside. They all stood in their doorway smiling as we finished the carol, and then they asked if we were Americans. We said yes, although we did have a Canadian in the group…sneaky Sarah ; ) But technically I guess “yes” is still the right answer, because the US and Canada are both part of North America, as are other countries.

Anyway! They said that it was “more traditional” that way, and that they always look forward to the Americans from next door caroling. So that was sweet. We had a few more houses where people had nice reactions to us, a couple houses where no one answered the door, one house where the people opened up their second-story window and watched us from up there.

And then the last house I went to (Hannah and I split off to head back home early. Essays were calling our names.) was so so wonderful!! In the first place, it was visually stunning. We weren’t sure if it was some kind of boarding school or house, but we sang outside the front door anyway. And we saw people moving around inside, but no one answered the door. So we all laughed and walked away, and as we’re exiting the driveway, a man walking his dog stopped us to ask if we had just sang at that house.

We said yes. He explained that he had just returned, and asked if we’d mind singing again.

We said “heck no, fool. You’ve missed your chance.” And skipped down the rest of the road.

 

Just kidding. We said “sure!” and followed him back to his house. He invited us inside. It was awesome! Rustic hardwood floors, a giant Persian rug, giant fireplace, super cozy…crazy amazing house. And his wife was inside, as was an older lady (I’m guessing one of their mothers), and a young woman (I’m guessing the man & his wife’s daughter). So we sang a carol and the man gave us a donation for charity (apparently that’s what the Brits do for carolers. It’s normal to give a donation for the carolers to give to charity) and asked us to sing another one. So we did. And then as we were leaving, the oldest woman had tears welled up in her eyes and said in the most lovely British accent “thank you!”

It was such a lovely moment. Hannah and I decided that we couldn’t top that, so we might as well end on a high note and get back to work.

AND THEN THE GROUP SANG TO EMMA WATSON’S PARENTS WITHOUT US.

The end.

Mince Pies

Today, I ate one of these. It’s a mince pie.

Except I didn’t know if I was supposed to expect sweet or salty. I’d heard conflicting reports about what these “mince pies” had inside of them – meat, fruit, both, neither, fairy dust, etc. And you know how when you don’t know what to expect, it’s never a good first impression? At least food-wise… people-wise, that’s usually okay.

Anyway. Took a bite. It was sweet, with some kind of chutney-type stuff inside. So I’m thinking “cool. fruit. this is tasty.” Except lumpy food textures often make me feel gross, because food textures just really get to me. But it was okay, because I’ve grown to be okay with chunky fruit stuff.

And then someone reminded me that mince pies usually have meat inside. And suddenly I had no idea how to interpret what I was eating. Chunky fruit? Acceptable. Sweet, chunky fruit-meat mixture? NOT OKAY.

Still am not sure what I ate.

Done with Tutorials & a Wonderful Weekend

Wow. I can’t believe that my tutorials are finished! Life and Thought of St Augustine, and Philosophical Theology… never knew I could be so challenged and fulfilled at the same time. Now I just have one long essay to do, and then it’s back to Ohio I go!

Everyday, the thought of going home becomes more and more bittersweet. But I’ve still got a week and a half here, so no sad posts about leaving yet.

Instead, I’ll fill everyone in on this incredibly fun past weekend!!

Saturday was filled with Thanksgiving festivities. Since England doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, my friends and I didn’t do anything on Thursday. Actually, I totally forgot that it even was Thanksgiving for an hour or so in the morning. And then it struck me, and I wished my friends Jessica and Andy a happy Thanksgiving, to which they responded “oh YEAH! It’s Thanksgiving today!” I think we all had kinda forgotten.

So I didn’t expect it to bother me too much, not being home on Thanksgiving, seeing as I had practically forgotten about it. But then as the day went on, I felt more and more depressed. But THEN, we had the best Thanksgiving celebration possible on Saturday.

The house underwent this awesome transformation of Christmas/Thanksgiving decorations.

Then we played poker for awhile. I had no idea how to play, and neither did Jessica, Tala, and Hannah, but the guys did a good job of teaching us : ) I actually won a round/hand! (not sure of the terminology here…)

We all ate lots and lots of food. We were all broken into groups and assigned certain foods to bring, and my group was in charge of the mashed potatoes and pecan pie. And then we had my favorite part: the talent show. (Which is saying quite a lot, since the food was so incredibly yummy.) Oh my gosh, do we have some crazy talented comedians & musicians (most were comedic musicians, actually) here in SCIO. I don’t remember having laughed that hard in a loooong time.

And then we watched The Santa Clause, which I hadn’t seen since Sarah and I last had a sleepover at the Petzke’s in elementary school. A lot less of the jokes went over my head this time.

So Saturday was beautiful. It really did feel like Thanksgiving. We did all the stuff that a family does: played lazy games in the afternoon, ate lots of food, spent lots of time together talking and laughing, and watched movies late into the night. It really does feel like a family over here, and I love it. A whole bunch of brothers and sisters sharing a house.

And then on Sunday, some friends and I had our last fun trip into London! We went to the Winter Wonderland in Hyde park first.

My wonderful friends : )


It was pretty cool! I’d never been to a carnival in the wintertime. Lots of mulled wine & cider & warm, yummy food for sale. (Mulled cider is my favorite, by the way. Warm, cider-y, citrus-y, cinnamonn-y goodness.)

After Winter Wonderland, we walked to Nando’s, the best chicken restaurant in the history of chicken restaurants (because that is a very well-known category of restaurants, of course). Most of us couldn’t get enough of the tasty hot sauce, so we sat at our table with runny noses and red faces, but it was too good to stop. I’ve heard that there’s only one Nando’s in the US, and it’s in Washington, DC (yet one more reason why DC is the best city ever). It has almost a Chipotle feel to it.

Finally, we made our way to Oxford Street to look at all the Christmas lights. Pretty spectacular, London : )

Then we rode the bus back to Oxford and all fell asleep on the way home. (At least, I’m pretty sure everyone did. I know I did, at least.) What an incredible blessing to be able to head to London for a day-trip. What an incredible blessing to become friends with these people here and go to school here and just experience these past few months. I’ll never forget it.

School, God, and Starbucks

Me: I wonder if we ever get to stop wrestling with big questions.
Hannah: No! Never stop wrestling with them.
Me: I know. But I kinda just wanna take a nap on the wrestling mat. Because it’s padded and comfy and I’m feeling like I want a break.

Today was a big question day. In addition to researching questions for my two tutorial essays for this week, and my long essay, my friends and I pondered:

1:  Is there a “right” system of formal education?

2: Why did God create the world?

3: Why is the Peppermint Mocha not included in Starbucks’ buy one get one free Christmas drink special?

4: Why, oh why, do British couples think it’s okay to obnoxiously make out a mere 2 feet away from you and your friends when you’re discussing said big questions in Starbucks?

Christmas Music and Kebobs

Yesterday was a good day.

  • finally learned how to get the wifi to work on my iPod at the library! I just can’t be using it on my computer at the time. This would’ve been nice to have figured out earlier, but oh well
  • found some really good articles for my long essay
  • listened to Christmas music (Josh Groban and Relient k) while studying. (Starbucks already has their Christmas drinks out, so Christmas study music is officially allowed)
  • spent some time in Turl Street Kitchen, and they have a FIREPLACE! with a real fire and EVERYTHING!
  • tried a beetroot cupcake! And it was good! Kind of like a pink, funny carrot cake.
  • stopped on the walk home for kebobs with Hannah and Jessica. And then we all walked across the street to eat outside while sitting on a little half-wall, and ate like we hadn’t eaten in a week. We’re all still looking back in a state of mild shock at the way we devoured those kebobs. It was not ladylike, let me tell you. But we realized that our diet here doesn’t really include much sodium, so mayyyybe our bodies were like “YES, SALT NOW,” but maybe not. Maybe we just felt like pigging out.

And a couple nights ago, I got to “talk” to my sister for a long time. (“Talk” = facebook chat while she was in class.) So that was fun 🙂 It’s pretty crazy how much I miss everyone back home. I’m sure that I’ll start to feel more sad about leaving once it gets closer to December, and I already do feel kinda sad when I think about leaving the people here and Oxford, but right now I’m just feeling kind of excited to see everyone back home again.

Recap of Term Week 3

Today I realized that I have only 5 weeks left here. 5 WEEKS! Such a mix of sadness and excitement to go home.

Anyway, here’s a recap of what happened this week:

  • went to Kebab Kid for dinner for the first time. Think Quiznos, but with kebabs. My 3 friends & I were the only girls (women? are we “women” yet?) in the entire place. Sooo yummy.
  • bought my Oxford hoodie! I’m kinda glad I waited this long. It doesn’t feel so tourist-y now, it feels like “yeah, this is my school right now.” And even though I’m only here for one term, I’ve already learned SO MUCH, and not just through tutorials/lectures
  • caught another cold
  • fulfilled a lifelong dream of eating ice cream for dinner
  • wrote two essays – one on the the incarnation (the prompt was essentially “explain the nature of the Savior of creation in 2000 words, thanks” haha), and one on St Augustine & On Christian Teaching and The Nature of the Good. It’s a lot of work, writing these, but I looooove researching the topics, so it doesn’t totally feel like work.
  • wrote out my long essay proposal (the implications of predestination on God’s relation to the world. kinda. it might end up getting more specific.)

Also, something that happened a couple weeks ago that I forgot to write about: on Cornmarket street (pedestrian street with lots of shops & street vendors/performers) I saw a violinist performing ON A TIGHTROPE! New life goal.

End of Term Week 2

Uggghhhhhhhhhhphewwwwwwwwwpoiasdnf

(my exhale as I flop onto the couch at the Vines)

Today was good. This week was good. Productive. But so tiring. And no end in sight for reading and writing and thinking.

I think I made myself half an inch shorter today. You know how people say that you shrink as you get older ’cause gravity makes the space between your vertebrae shrink as time goes on? Well I think I’m speeding that up by stuffing all my books into my backpack and walking half an hour back to the house every day. And biking doesn’t help too much, because unless you’re super awesome, you can’t bike back up the hill to get home. And you still have a heavy backpack, biking or not.

But then I got back to the house & grabbed a snack in the kitchen with friends, which somehow launched into a “hey let’s listen to songs from middle school!” time. (Blink 182, Pink, Lifehouse, etc.) So that was great.

And now I’m sitting in the living room, ignoring the books I brought with me, and talking with my friends about how we want to go out tonight but feel like we have way too much to do. So we decide we just want to go to a coffee shop that’s open late, and one guy brings up how there’s a French cafe with coffee and wine that’s open til 11. This leads to a brilliant discussion on mixing wine and coffee. Which then led to “oh they should mix coffee and chocolate!”

We all need a nap.

Scepticism

I love when people encourage you to ask questions and then expect you to really think about why you had that question in the first place.

Example (as tutor and I are talking about Augustine’s various garden moments, the first one where he steals fruit as a kid, another later one where he prays and struggles between his will and God’s will in Milan):

Me: *says something obvious about how these garden scenes seem symbolic of biblical garden scenes, like the garden of eden and gethsemane*

Tutor: *says something nice and affirming*

Me: Well, that seems kinda… manipulative. And untruthful.

Tutor: Okay. What do you mean by both of those words?

Me: Well it seems manipulative because he’s arranging his story to make a point.

Tutor: Hmm. Is there something wrong with that?

Me: I guess not… But it’s wrong if it’s not true.

Tutor: Well, it’s true that we don’t know for sure if Augustine’s garden stories really happened. All we have to go on are his writings. But there’s nothing to say they didn’t happen. Are those Augustine’s only garden experiences? Probably not. But it’s definitely possible that when he was looking back at his life, writing Confessions, he saw these particular garden experiences and saw in hindsight how they fit in with the point of his Confessions quite nicely.

And then I realized that that’s the way everyone tells stories. You look back at your life, you tell the relevant parts, the parts that you see now make sense with the particular story you’re telling. You don’t tell every single part, and no one accuses you of being dishonest when you tell just the relevant parts.

If my friend says how much she loves bluegrass, I can bring up the fact that I love the Avett Brothers and Danger and the Steel Cut Oats, while leaving out the fact that I also love Relient k and the Foo Fighters. I’m not being dishonest. I’m just being relevant.

I was feeling all suspicious for possibly no reason. Maybe St Augustine’s making up garden stories, that sneaky saint, but I don’t actually have overwhelming evidence to believe he is.

I like realizing when my scepticism isn’t necessarily valid.

I can be sceptical about everything, but that doesn’t mean everything isn’t true. I can be sceptical that my parents really love me. Maybe they’ve been taking care of me for the past 20 years just to look like good people. There’s no definitive proof that they really love me. But I know it anyway.

Procrastination (warning: this post won’t make sense)

I will probably regret saying this, but I have an entire paper to write tonight about St Augustine and his conversion and why he did and what it was like compared to other conversions in Late Antiquity and what he ate for lunch that day and why all of his friends had names worthy of being in the movie “Gentlemen Broncos.” (I love that movie.)

So I really shouldn’t be writing this. But I’m just feeling so hyper and goofy and strangely happy, despite my undoubtedly long night ahead of me, that I can’t bring myself to focus on Mr. Augustine right now. It probably has something to do with the fact that I just ate a lot of dark chocolate. And none of my friends are here right now to be silly with.

That’s going to be sad, when I don’t have roommates anymore. I like being goofy with people I live with. Stephanie and I would make each other laugh and laugh some nights, and it’s the same thing here. I hope if I get married someday, my husband’s goofy. I don’t think I’d marry someone boring, though. So that’s good.

Today I tried to attend a lecture that happened two days ago. I went into the Exam Schools building and tried to find my lecture on the board. But Prof Edwards name wasn’t anywhere. So I stood there, staring at the board/TV screen for a minute, waiting for it to update itself. But it didn’t. And I realized I looked really silly.

So I went to the information desk girl and asked her where the lecture on Early Church History from Nero to Constantine was. And she typed away on her computer, and told me that it was on Tuesday. And then she called me a nincompoop and told me to go back to Ohio.