Cambridge Journal: Day 25

Today was a long day, friends. And I’m tired. I’m just going to write about it and tack the photos on at the end. It’s not a big deal because there’s only five of them, because I didn’t charge my iPhone the night before so the battery died while I was in Oxford.

But that’s getting ahead of myself.

This week has been flying by, it really has. OK, I also just went back and checked and saw that I haven’t had a real Cambridge update since last Friday, so I will do a little bringing up to speed. Because the days have been going fast…

Saturday I walked down to the train station and bought my return ticket to Heathrow. Doing that really hit home to me that this is all almost over. Many people in our group had used the trip to London on Friday as a jumping off point for weekends around Europe, so I didn’t reckon there’d be anything going on back at the Hall, so I wandered out to the Grafton (the locals’ shopping mall) and watched Toy Story 3 (in 3D). Have I mentioned that there is at least half an hour of trailers and adverts before a movie in this country, and maybe even forty-five minutes if it’s a childrens’ show? But it was a fairly hot day and I was tired from walking all over town, so sitting in the only air conditioned building in town doing nothing was OK. Actually it’s not the only air conditioned building in Cambridge, but it may as well be, since it’s routine to leave all the doors and windows open here, even if you DO have the AC on.

So, yeah, the movie. It tips your heart out not long after the title sequence and hammers on it non-stop throughout the film. OK, not non-stop, I mean, they do take a brief break to horrify you, absolutely HORRIFY you, toward the end. No spoilers, but I wouldn’t recommend it for sensitive kids. Or maudlin adults.

Sunday I spent nearly the entire day cooped up in my room reading. It was evening when I heard some of my classmates talking out in front of Q, so I went out there to say hello. I didn’t want to have spent the entire day inside without talking with anyone, you know? People were drifting in from their weekends or (like me and a couple others) crawling out from seclusion, and a nice evening chat was had.

Monday I took a solid nap after class, and then after dinner a large group of us went out on a pub crawl. A collection of pubs had engineered the pub crawl so that if you got a booklet stamped for having a drink in every pub, you got a free T-shirt. If there’s one thing American college kids love more than drinking, it’s free T-shirts… Not all of us were drinking or seeking a T-shirt; some of us were simply along for the socialization. It was an excuse to get out and see parts of the town I hadn’t got around to yet, and to spend leisure time as a group. Said group split up toward the end of the evening, though eventually I ended up entertaining a couple or three of my more enthusiastic colleagues upon their return. As it was I was up pretty late.

Tuesday we had the idea that we wanted to take the punts out one last time. There was a dinner party for alumni (or fellows, or whatever), and when dinner parties are on the porters get conservative with us about handing out privileges, so that was out. The next idea was to use our classroom to view one of the Harry Potter films on Jenna’s computer, but when the porter unlocked the door for me there was no projector. I didn’t feel like pressing him to find it for us, so we all waited for the dinner party to abandon the river-wall and took it over for the rest of the evening, just shooting the breeze. Later that night there was some fireworks from the direction of St John’s College, and then from my window as I was getting ready for bed I could hear the dinner party singing what sound like an alma mater song. And there was, of course, the ever present lowing of the King’s College cattle and the cooing of the pigeons in the Hall eves.

Wednesday, today, was our Oxford trip. In Cambridge you don’t say “Oxford”, you say “the other place” because of the university rivalry. Like I said, I took some pictures but then the phone died out on me. Hopefully I can scavenge some pictures off my friends, because we took some good ones while we were there.

The first stop on the trip was Oxfam, a humanitarian NGO. We were hosted by a KU graduate who now works there, and coincidentally she was also an alum of the Cambridge Pre-Law Institute as well, so it really came together. A lot of what we have been talking about in class involves NGOs and international law, so it was a good tie-in field trip. The gentlemen who gave the initial presentation was specializing in the West Bank area and we talked about that, which was interesting. He was interested to know how the situation was perceived in the US, or is anybody even knew of specific incidents like the Gaza flotilla raid. After that the American KU grad that worked there took us out to sit on the grass for a Q&A period that was pretty good.

Then, about two in the afternoon, we were bused toward the city centre and released into Oxford proper with an admonishment that the bus was leaving at 6pm whether we were there or not. We started off as one big group walking down the High Street, but gradually broke into maybe four or five groups, with one or two people being individuals. I hadn’t any idea what I waned to do in Oxford, and the prevailing idea at first seemed to be to go into the different colleges for a look. I wasn’t to keen on that, considering there is an entrance fee for tourists, and that’s just not my thing. I’m sure they’re breathtaking inside, but to be fair, for an American they’re equally as breathtaking from the street.

We ended up following Maggie’s plan, since she was the only person that apparently had one in the group I was in, and we first stopped at Alice’s Sweet Shop. I was told that Lewis Carol used a sketch of the front of this store for “Alice Through The Looking Glass”, and that’s why it’s called what it is. It certainly is stuffed full of Alice memorabilia, if not too many actual sweets. It was neat to see, I guess.

Following that we went into the Museum of Oxford, which was not the Ashmolean Museum of Art & Archaology like we thought it would be, but it was cool too. From there we wandered down toward the Magdalene Bridge (no link this time), enjoyed the free rose garden outside the Glass House Botanical Garden (none of us wanted to pay to get in) and then headed north toward a certain pub we had coordinated to meet up with others at. On the way we took a couple of impromptu detours to look at “cool stuff” we happened upon, and a couple of us found our way inside of a science museum that seemed more to be an astrolabe museum more than anything. But it was very cool, and definitely worth the peek we took.

So we got to the pub a little after 4pm. This place was The Eagle & Child, which has a sort of comical sign portraying a giant eagle carrying away a baby! The cool thing about this place is that it was a meeting place for a group called “the Inklings”, a literary group that had at it’s center JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis. A few of us are into that sort of thing, so a pint had to be had in their honor. And some fish and chips for ourselves didn’t hurt, either. I will say without reservation that I see what they saw in the place, because it had a nice atmosphere and the food and beer was good.

From here we broke into three groups that left at varying intervals, and I was in the middle group heading back to the bus station. About halfway there I realized that I had left my bag with knick-knacks back at the pub, and, after a worried call to the group behind us didn’t go through, I took off sprinting across Oxford to retrieve it. There wasn’t a whole lot of time between then and when the bus was taking off, so I had to go as fast as I dared considering the press of people on the sidewalks and the buses whizzing down the roads. When I got there the gaffer described Joe to me, saying he had given the bag to him. So there I was with less than twenty minutes to sprint all the way out to the bus park for no good damn reason.

Of course I made it with time to spare, but I was well out of breath by then, and hot and sweaty. The bus ride back was definitely relaxing, I can tell you that.

So, without further ceremony, here are the five pictures I managed to take before my camera shut off on me:

This is the family of swans that lives on the Cam near Trinity Hall. They spend a lot of time during the day drifting in the moats that surround “The Backs”, which are the areas that the colleges on the Cam claim on the opposite side of the banks. They’re park areas that are private to the colleges, basically, and they have moats and deadly iron spiked fences to keep the peasants out. I am not even kidding about that last part. But anyway, the Cam is pretty wild during most days, so they hide in the Backs and the moats surrounding them, and then when the river traffic dies down in the evening they come gliding out serenely, and I’ve watched them passing the time from the river-wall. I was surprised to see them camping out under the bridge area, because it’s a busy foot traffic area, but I’m guessing that since we went by them shortly after 8am that they would’ve been moving on presently.

It’s about two hours by bus from Cambridge to Oxford. Round-a-bouts, yo. More than you could ever imagine would be sane to put on a highway. Just saying…

The Oxfam building. They have all kinds of thrift stores around England, sort of like the Goodwill or Salvation Army.

Sitting on the grass for the Q&A session. This was lunchtime, so shortly after I took this picture all those tables became full of employees. And I started to get hungry myself, because breakfast was early and rushed. Did I mention, while I’m sort of complaining, that there was no hot water in the shower this morning for some reason? Sucked.

The blonde woman in the foreground to the left was the KU grad who is working in the communications department (I think) at Oxfam, and I regret that I don’t remember her name.

So anyway, unless and until I can get pictures off my friends that’s all there is.

Reviresco!

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