Saturday, 27 November 2010

The Beginning of the End

Thanksgiving sort of marked the beginning of the end of Michaelmas term here in Oxford, but before I get to that I need to rewind a little bit.

First of all, my parents flew in on Monday morning. I met up with them after my final creative writing tutorial. It was great to spend time with them and show them where I've been living these past couple months.

On Tuesday, we flew to Dublin and spent 2 nights there. There was lots to see, including a writers muesum. I bought a book of children's stories by Oscar Wilde. I had to read "The Importance of Being Earnest" for my Introductory Course and I really enjoyed it. We also saw the Trinity College, which was set up a lot like the colleges in Oxford, basically courtyard style with several old and very beautiful buildings. They don't really have campuses like we do in America. As a side note, Oxford University itself is actually made up of several smaller colleges which are spread out throughout the town. There's a student union a few blocks away from my house. It's sort of like the SLTC at Hendrix.

On Wednesday night, we went on the Dublin Ghostbus. It was definitely something interesting to do at night since the city tours stop around six, but it was a bit overdone. We were given a little bit of history about Bram Stoker, the guy who wrote Dracula. We were also told about how grave robbers used to bring freshly buried corpses to a doctor/anatomy professor who used to use them to teach his students about the human body.

We spend much of Thursday, Thanksgiving, in the Dublin airport. I'd like to go back to Dublin someday. It was absolutely freezing while we were there, but based on the postcards, the Irish coast looks absolutely beautiful in the summer.

I spent Thursday night with the OOSC gang. I missed most of Thanksgiving dinner, but I heard everyone had a good time. Lucky for me it was held at my house so even though I missed the food, I arrived just in time for the clean up.

Obviously the British don't celebrate American Thanksgiving, so after Halloween, it sort of went into Christmas mode here. Last night, Friday night, there was a "light up the town" parade. We saw part of it, mostly a couple marching bands, but it looked pretty fun. Lots of the local businesses had street vendors out giving away free samples or in some cases, reindeer antlers. I got a pair. They fit sort of like a Burger King crown, basically a band of thin cardboard that wraps around your head.

Today, we went to London. I took a lot of photos, all of which are now on facebook, in case anyone is interested. For those of you who are friends of my mom, I'm sure she'll be posting hers soon. Her internet access has been limited while she was here.

We saw all the usual places. I climbed up on the lions at Trafalgar Square. We also saw Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Piccadilly Circus, and several other monuments. We breifly went through the Tower of London. They had an outdoor ice skating rink set up outside the tour, so you can guess what I did. Forget the history, bring on the sports. Just kidding. We did the educational bit first, then I got to play.

My parents have an early flight out tomorrow morning. Right now I'm playing catch up on my homework and tv watching that I missed this week. I'm mostly done with the latter since all my Thursday shows weren't aired becasue of Thanksgiving. I'll be glad when I can sit in front of a real TV again, though I'm sure the thrill of it won't last long.

As I said at the start of this blog, this week marks the beginning of the end. We have one more week of term, which means one more week until Karina and I leave for Venice. All I can say is GONDOLAS.

Tomorrow will be my last "Failed Novelist" meeting. That's the creative writing group I've been participating in while here. Last week's meeting was really fun because we had a guest speaker, Juliet E. McKenna. I was able to talk to her about the "agenting" process a bit after the meeting. I told her about the emails I'd received and she said it was all very encouraging. I'm hoping to write back to the agents soon. All the editting is done. I just need to add an epilogue.

On Tuesday, we have a farewell lunch at St. Peter's College, where we had our Introductory Course lectures. It will basically be the last time all of us will be together this term.

I also have my last track practices this week. I'll be competing in a meet after I get back from Venice. Fingers crossed I'll do well. Then I'm off to Iceland, Denmark, Switzerland, and finally Sweden.

I'll be sure to update about my travels, so expect an update post Venice, so around December 7th.



Saturday, 13 November 2010

"Mom, I'm traveling to five countries." "Okay. Have Fun" "Oh yeah, and I'm dying my hair." "WHAT?"

It's been a pretty busy week here in Oxford.

On Monday, we went to see "Design for Living in London." It was pretty good, very funny, hysterical at times, but the plot was a little contrived. If you like comedy or have an interest in plays about threesomes I'd recommend it. If not, I'd find something else to Harry Potter which will be coming out next week. Can't wait.

Karina and I went to Cardiff on Tuesday. We did a bit of sight seeing. Unfortunately, some of the sights were closed off due to a car show. (My Uncle John would have been in Heaven, but I was unimpressed.) We saw Cardiff Castle, well the outside of it, because tours were a bit pricey, then we went down to the Bay Area, which was pretty, but quite cold. I think my favorite part was see all the signs in both English and Welsh. I guess I really am an English nerd if that is what impressed me the most, but no joke, Welsh is a cool language with, shall we say, some interesting vowel combinations. Welsh words also have a tendency to have repeated consonants. I took a picture of one of the signs and posted it one facebook. Even simple words are more complicated in Welsh. The only one I really remember though was "Ffordd." I saw that on a sign by the train station.

Anyway, enough about the Welsh language. After visiting the Bay Area, Karina and I found an arcade. In Scotland it was a playground and it Wales it was an arcade. The two of us are planning a trip to Venice once term ends, so I can only imagine what we'll stumble upon there. We've promised ourselves a gondala ride though.

Right now my end of term plans are looking very adventurous. I'll be going to Italy, back to England for a track meet (hopefully, I'm still waiting on the okay from my coach) then off to Iceland, Denmark, Switzerland, and fianlly Sweden. I should have half a day in London and then I return to the States on the 20th just in time for the holidays.

In other news...

I dyed my hair today. Nothing too exciting. It looks the same, but my roots are gone. Hooray!

Other exciting news..

My parents are coming to see me in about a week. We're going to Dublin for a couple days and then I'll show them around Oxford.

On the home front, our water boiler has been serviced, the shower drain now functions properly and our recycling was collected yesterday for the first time since we've been here. THANK GOD. We filled the bin about two weeks ago and so a collection of cans and boxes formed on our counter. Not fun when your trying to cook. Bascially what happened was no one ever put the recycling bin out on the correct week, so it never got collected. At first we didn't even have a bin at all. We finally got a bin a month ago and somehow around Halloween it ended up in our neighbor's driveway. I remembered to put it out 2 weeks ago and that very week the city decided to change our recycling day to Friday. No one told us, so now finally two weeks later, our recycles have been collected for the first time since the middle of September. If my brother were here, this would never have been an issue. If Danny is good at anything, it is handling the trash and recycle. I guess I took that for granted and assumed that all men had this inherent inclination to take out the trash. Nope. Clearly my male housemate can learn a thing our two from my brother. (Random thought alert...I was just reminded that both of them use Spongebob toothpaste. That's at least one thing they have in common.)

On the academic front...

I had another creative writing tutorial this week. It went well. I've got one more left before the end of term. I'm still editing PUTP in the meantime, so once I finish that and ship it off to the two agents who asked for revisions, hopefully I will have enough time over winter break to finish the piece I started for my tutorial.

I also had another French tutorial. I had to read Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan. I think it is my favorite book I've read for the tutorial thus far. Sagan was about 18 or 19 years old when it was first published and it became an instant hit. She's written several other books, which I intend to look into in the future.

My track session with Coach Barry went well yesterday. I have gained some of my shot put distance back. I feel like I've made a lot of progress on my technique while here, so hopefully it will all come together soon. Barry seems to think it will. There are a lot of differences in the training style here as opposed to the States. In the States, I have access to a wonderful weight room at the WAC and I have a coach watching me throw at least five days a week. Here...not so much, but overall, the experience itself has been worth it. It is interesting to see the differences in the sport, but of course, the basics are all the same. My teammates are pretty awesome too. I'm going to miss being surrounded by British accents and being told nice "putt" instead of nice throw. (In England, it's shot putt, not shot put.)

And, to end the usual way, I'll include my latest British slang. My new favorite British word is twat. I've heard a couple other good ones lately, but I'll save those for next time.


Sunday, 7 November 2010

2 Silvers and a Bronze

If only we actually got medals, I'd have won six total over the course of the past two meets.

As the title of this post suggests, I had 2 second place finishes this weekend and a third place finish. I'll start with the third place finish, because that is the one that requires the most explaining. I placed third in shot, but despite the numerous technical improvements I have made during my Friday sessions with Coach Barry, these improvements have not yet translated to distance, so my shot put distances are significantly shorter than what they were last season. Let's just say, had I thrown today what I was throwing in May, I would have blown the competition away. Unfortunately that didn't happen, but I am optimistic about the improvements I've made and hopefully they will prove useful this spring. Also, I tweaked my back while throwing discus, which was an hour before shot, so that probably didn't help the situation.

Dur to the back problem, I opted to throw standing throws for my last two throws instead of trying to spin, which seemed to be what caused the tweak in the first place. It's not the same type of injury I had last season. It's an annoying thing to have happen the day of competition, but it's nothing to worry about. Anyway, I came in second thanks to one of my standing throws.

The girl who won discus also beat me in hammer. She's currently 7th in the nation for U20s though so I don't feel as bad. She through the hammer well over 40 meters today. I only got one legal throw in and it was a safe one at that, but it was enough for second. This was the first week I've actually been able to practice throwing hammer, but my turns are a lot faster and more powerful than they were last season. If what I was doing at practice was any indication, hammer this season should be pretty fun.

Overall, the O.U.A.C lost to the C.U.A.C. by 8 points, a very narrow margin. We had 13 girls total with all but one doing multiple events. Each team could only enter two athletes per event, but with only 13 girls, we some people doing at least 4 events. Cambridge appear to have more girls to pick from for their entries. Had we had a bigger team, we might have won. The O.U.A.C has a strong tradition of winning the Varsity Match which will be held in May though, so while a win today would have been nice, May is when it really matters.

Enough about throwing...This week was pretty hectic. I had another positive French tutorial, which was followed by some late night grocery shopping. I found Mountain Dew Energy drinks on sale so I bought some. It tastes almost the same as regular Mountain Dew in the States, definitely better than Diet Mountain Dew. It's funny because the bottles they sell it in are florescent. I haven't checked, but it is quite possible they glow in the dark. They are just that bright. I also bought a chocolate covered apple. It was good, the closest thing I could find to a caramel apple, which I rarely buy in the States, but have sort of been craving lately. They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away...and they never said it couldn't be covered in chocolate :)

Tomorrow we are going to see the play Design for Living and Tuesday I have tentative plans to go to Wales with a couple friends. I'm letting Karina take care of making the itinerary, so I have no idea what we are doing, but hey, it's a day trip and once we get back I can check Wales off the list of places I need to visit while in Europe.

I can't remember if I've mentioned this yet, but I plan to go to Belgium, Switzerland, and the various Scandinavian countries after term ends. That was the original plan, then it occurred to me that a writing vacation in Fiji would be fun, lol. I'm going to stick to the original plan, but warm places are tempting right about now.

Speaking of writing, I'm starting to make some of the revisions, so I can re-submit to that agent. I also heard back from another agent, who wants to read the full manuscript once I've made these particular revisions. Both have shown equal interest, so we'll see what happens, but in the mean time, I have a lot more revising to do.

I can't believe it's November already. Four more weeks of tutorials and then term is over. I can't say it's flown by, but it has been fun so far.

Check back in next weekend to hear about my adventures in Wales.