Thursday, 27 October 2011

work hard play hard

Yes, life seems to have gotten on top of me. I’m not behind on my work – I can’t imagine that I ever would be, or at least, let’s hope not – but I’m uncomfortably close to a deadline (16 hours), and I need to spend five of those at language lessons, and at least six sleeping, which really only leaves four! It’s a little bit annoying but this essay will really be ridiculously easy.
However, allow me to pass this time on the updating you thing. Suffice to say, I had my first Georgian lesson (not sure I’ll continue as it’s about as useful as origami), met a long-distance hitch hiker, watched two Monty Python movies in quick succession, got a cold and held a sparkler. Not necessarily in that order.
And yourself?

Saturday, 22 October 2011

song and laughter

Do you know why the title is so cheesy? It’s because it’s twenty to 3 in the morning and I’m exhausted. Suffice to say today has been a long day – good, but long. I have no narrative impulse at all so all you’re getting is a list:
1) Wake up to fire alarm.
2) Apply for a job answering telephones to raise money for Exeter College.
3) Go to language centre library induction.
4) OMG THE LANGUAGE LIBRARY it is so cool.
5) Do homework for Spanish class (I learn Spanish now, don’t know if I mentioned that ever)
6) Eat an over-priced croissant.
7) Go to a lecture where every word said by lecturer is gold, but it is impossible to write down every word so I just wrote down as many as I could.
8) Show a girl where the Post Office is. Lots of arm-waving.
9) Find out you can’t cycle through Christ Church. Sad face.
10) Go back to college.
11) Have lunch and talk about course with fellow German-studier, Chicca (half Italian hence the unusual moniker)
12) Sort of kind of do some work but really watch Fry and Laurie for several hours.
13) Sign up for Georgian classes. Yes, that’s a thing that’s happening. Gamarjoba, megobrebo.
14) Therapy. Eh. Uneventful.
15) Call mother and father. Get called by brother and find out he is visiting me tomorrow. Yay!
16) Go have dinner with two girls – I ate buffalo burger. It was good, like beef but zingier.
17) This list is far longer than I thought it was going to be.
18) Go to a coffee shop where they have a panini named after Exeter. I have coffee and cake, not the panini.
19) See a slightly pretentious (in an enjoyable way) but very entertaining play based on Dorian Gray. Felt like I was high for half of it because people were talking through teapots and stuff.
20) Go to a sort-of party where everyone is relatively off their face. Not my scene but whatever, I stay for about half an hour or so before…
21) The Porter comes, breaks up the party, and gets us all to write our names down on an ominous list very reminiscent of Year 9. I, being tea-total and halfway through the door to leave, am not happy about this turn of events. I sign my name and go.
22) On the way back to my room, coincidentally meet a group of people who I know and follow them to their room. It’s ok, these are good people.
23) Find out my husband* can play the banjo, and that some people dance like moths.
23) Pure awesome for several hours.
24) Now, the end of the list, bedtime.

*I won’t even try to explain this but if you know the university/college marriage system you won’t be as confused as people who don’t. I’ll explain it sometime if I don’t forget in which case I won’t. Suffice to say I’m not really married.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

cold, cold water

You should listen to this song as you read this post:
I want to kayak down Greenland.
On the second to last night of my first time in Iceland, I got chatting to two Danish men who were ‘just stopping by’ in Iceland, on their way to Greenland where they were planning on kayaking down the East Coast. Though I’ve been interested in Greenland for years (I can even say illumi nerivunga which means I eat in the house), I’d never seriously thought about going there; I’d stuck rather more effort into the linguistic side of things. At the time, therefore, it didn’t inspire me to follow in the footsteps of these foolhardy Danes… but over the last year it’s been rising in me. I want to kayak down, ski across, climb over Greenland like a squirrel on a pile of acorns. It would be the ultimate physical and emotional achievement for me; and I think I’d really love to just be in nature so much I’m practically part of it. And which clubs have I joined here?
Kayaking and Canoeing.
Mountaineering and Rock Climbing.
Expeditions and Exploration.
Scandinavian Society.

Yeah, you know what? I’m on my way to Greenland in the long run. YEEHAW!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

rock climbing and matriculation

Sorry, this blog won’t have much energy. That’s because I don’t have much energy. There are pictures below if you don’t feel like reading about what I’ve done in the last four days. :)
I’m tired because I’ve not been getting a lot of sleep and yet I have an essay to write which has to be in in two and a half days, and was set four days ago. I hate that because normally I try to do my work within 20 per cent of the time set, at the very most 50 per cent. The reason I’m taking a little longer with this is because I’m not very confident at essay writing, especially about literature. All of my other work I did very quickly though!
Since Tuesday, I went to a German creative writing group, I went indoor rock climbing, I went on a pub crawl with the Scandinavian Society, and I was matriculated.
The German creative writing group was quite uneventful, but stimulating enough that I’ll probably go again next time. I had to write a story using the prompts “someone breaks into a house”, “a contestant on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”, “while cooking dinner”, “a box of sleeping pills” and “at Granddads house”… so it was a strange illogical story to say the least!
Rock Climbing was quite enjoyable, but very hard. It’s not the best thing I’ve done so far, but I think that’s because I can’t yet appreciate working my body to its limit since I’m a bit of a soft egg. I’ve bought year-long membership though, so I’ll go along for at least two terms (which is how long I have to go for it to not be a waste of money). Don’t get the wrong idea, I did enjoy the challenge, and the two guys I was with were very friendly and helpful, but when I struggled they pushed me which I’m frankly not used to on a physical level so I honestly just flopped off the wall, giving up! That was only once or twice though when my arms literally couldn’t hold on any more. I have to be a bit more careful the next time that I go because I don't want to get tendonitis, and it still hurts two days later! I have to go again on Monday because next Saturday I’m going on a group trip to the Peak District where we’ll be rock climbing on real rocks!
The pub crawl with the Scandinavian Society was just what I needed on Friday night after an intense, though not stressful, first week. The society is young and not as organised as the German society (who’s surprised?), so it’s all very relaxed and easy-going, and nobody was drinking very much anyway so I got to talk to a lot of people. At the end of the night I was very happy to be able to speak Norwegian for the first time ever to a PhD student from the University of Oslo, who was so patient and corrected me when I needed correcting and praised me when I did something well. I think I talked mainly rubbish but it's really given my confidence a boost!
Finally, matriculation this morning was at 7.45, which is another reason on top of the late nights and aching body that I’m exhausted. Matriculation is when you are officially accepted into the University of Oxford. You have to wear a costume/uniform, have your photo taken and then sit in a hall and listen to a guy speak Latin. It’s that easy, guys! :D It was really fun actually because we all sort of laughed about it and then had breakfast, and that was it. That is, however, where I parted ways with the other 95 people in my year. They did something called ‘Matriculash’, which is basically where you try to get hammered as fast as possible before midday, and they performed admirably. I know because I heard them all day! I on the other hand ice cream with a girl from secondary school and then hung out in my room, chatting to friends from secondary school on the phone, and pootling around sort of doing some background reading for that essay I mentioned.
I can’t believe it’s not even nine yet, but I also can’t believe it’s already Saturday! Today felt like one of those surreal days where time doesn’t pass like normal. In the coming week I’ll be kayaking in the river, rock climbing and going to the Peak District with the rock climbing society, attending the first meeting of the exploration society (who basically send people to crazy far off places like China or the Arctic so they can camp and walk around and do stuff), writing this essay and doing other Uni work, going to two Stammtisch meets (which is all the Germans going to a pub and speaking German), and going to some Anthropology and Old Norse lectures for ‘fun’, in addition to about eleven hours of German lectures, seminars, grammar classes, tutorials, film showings and language classes. I’ll also hopefully be finding out if I got into the Spanish or Portuguese courses I signed up for.
Really though, I want to spend every day in the pub talking to people, strangers, old friends and family. People are amazing. There are some in the picture below. I’m on the second row from the top, six people from the left. I’m leaving forward or something.
293564_10150354844576683_731816682_8188682_792453548_nI hope you can tell who I am in the second one. The other girl is a friendly chemist and germophile (lover of Germany, not germs, duh) called Laura. I know a little stoned but I honestly think that look kind of suits me. Can you tell how tired I am? My sarcasm muscle is just not working today. Goodnight xxx318598_10150330701544107_621764106_8067374_1470380924_n

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

indiana fiones

I’ve had a little e-mail in my inbox glaring at me for a day or so, which is from a reminder service I set up to remind me to blog. So here I am, blogging.
Something I realise I missed out last week is talking about freshers fair. It was, as all the rumours say, crazy and full. There were sports, language societies, political societies, employment societies, publishing and journalism societies, music societies, what I can only describe as geeky societies, religious societies and some free pizza. The worst group though was the charities and aid societies. This is going to sound callous but I wasn’t really interested in joining any of them because (yes this does sound awful) I find campaigning and fundraising really boring. I prefer that not-really-volunteering type of charity work which involves flying to exotic places and building schools or teaching English or selling wares. Regardless of my personal inclinations, walking through a hall where people scream at you “DO YOU WANT TO SAVE MILLIONS OF DYING SPECIES?”  or “DO YOU WANT TO GIVE UNDERPRIVILEGED CHILDREN OPPORTUNITIES IN LIFE?” is… awkward.
After quickly making my way past that, I entered sport and activities where i honestly went a bit crazy. I signed up for walking, horse riding, kayaking, expeditions, mountaineering and two martial arts. In the end, I’m only going to be sticking with kayaking, expeditions and mountaineering (which is really just rock climbing) because being outside is fun and I want to be Indiana Jones. hence the title. I’m so witty.
I’ve actually gone to the first kayaking meet, which was probably the most fun I’ve had since Iceland! Apart from the flower child feeling of being part of the water, maaaan, it was just hilarious. I, as most of the others, was a complete beginner so my first few strokes sent me spinning around in circles. After we all vaguely grasped the idea of going in a straight line, we played children's’ games like Stuck in the Mud or Bulldog, during which I twice made close acquaintance with the muddy Isis. That’s right; I fell in. Twice. It was awesome.
The other societies I signed up to wont’ really surprise you: Scandinavian Society, whose first meeting was very chilled out and happy, and German Society, whose first meeting was so packed that there was actually a queue to get in! I’m really looking forward to the events organised by both of those societies, though I have to say that the Scandinavian Society is winning with its Scandinavian themed pub crawl on Friday. I’ve got a Viking helmet. It has horns. Sorry, purists!
Finally, I applied for several language courses: beginners Spanish, beginners Portuguese and Intermediate French. I actually got placed in Advanced French which I was gleefully surprised at… but that clashes with something so I’m a bit bummed about that! Still, I won’t even know until Friday which one I’ve been accepted for, if anything, so I’ll let you know.
So that’s it. My timetable is almost complete. Ten or eleven hours of lectures, seminars, tutorials, and grammar classes a week, plus one or two hours of rock climbing, one or two hours of kayaking and one or two hours of language classes. Oh, and one or two hours of German or Scandinavian society stuff a week. I’m a busy bee!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

first week at oxford

Today began with a fire drill. It went off at eight, just at the same moment that my own alarm clock turned on, and for a few bleary moments I thought that the blaring sound was being emitted by my crappy little thing. Soon as I cottoned on, I grabbed keys, flip flops and a dressing gown and was out of the door, joining the mass of people who were crowding the corridor stairs. It wasn’t too early, really, but many people had been caught unawares, not having been warned as I had the night before. But more than woozy expressions, one lad caught my eye – no, not in that way. He had just been in the bath, and had only had time to pull on a towel around his waist. Poor bloke looked so cold that I gave him my dressing gown!
After that, the day got off to a slow and lethargic start. I obtained earmuffs from Primark which are now constantly around my neck, and went to the rather disappointing poster fair, where I was accosted by people giving away free Chinese food. In the afternoon I tried to work out some noes which I have to make for my first seminar next Tuesday, but didn’t get much done. The translation I’ve been set was something I really enjoyed and knocked out in a good half hour, but I’ve always felt very insecure in analysing literature. I really am a linguist, but this course is an honest-to-gods English degree which is conducted in German so I need to learn how to approach literary analytical work as well as the fun stuff, which is finding matching idioms and checking tense endings! Yes, I consider that the fun stuff.
In the evening, as every night this week, we had an organised event, and tonight it was dinner at our college parents’ houses. In Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh and various other universities there is a system of incoming freshers being allocated a second year who have ‘married’, one or two of which are usually related to your degree. My mother is really motherly which I love because I really feel like I can talk to her about anything. Oddly enough, she’s actually two months younger than me! We played hidden word games (which I recommend you look up online as they‘re very entertaining) and at the end of the evening, I had a long conversation with a bio-medical scientist and a physicist, discussing the merits of intelligence and science versus art. I don’t have a very linear or restricted way of looking at things; scientists seem to see that as fluffy! It may well be, I’m not really bothered. It was an interesting discussion. I’m more selfish than I realised (as in, I care more about myself and my family than I do about the thousands which might benefit from scientific advancements some time down the line) and it bothers me less than you’d think. I’m also apparently quite socialist, or egalitarian…? I don’t know, I just don’t believe in some people being better than others.
End of the boring philosophy! I too found it a little dull. I think there are far better ways of spending time than debating abstract concepts… Like camping. I don’t know – now for the good stuff! Photos!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

three days in

What do you mean, this is only the third day? I’m sure I’ve been here for weeks! In the last two and a bit days, I have met more people than I’ve ever met in as short a period of time in my life. I’ve met people who are foreign, people who are gorgeous, people who are self-conscious, people who are martial artists, but the nicest discovery of the last few days is that even though Oxford is largely full of white middle-class people, they are all people with interesting things to say, with awkward moments or with cool hair, and I don’t have to feel the odd one out – at least not in a bad way.
Even though it feels like a lot of time has passed, very little has actually happened since I arrived on Sunday. We’ve been to a  lot of talks about everything from fire safety to the history of Exeter College – the the IT talk and the doctors talk were surprisingly the best – and learnt that six people or more in a room constitutes a party (which seems a little bit pedantic, but whatever). I proudly put up my hand when we were all asked who picked the college because of Tolkien, because I honestly did at first; I amused an Irishman with stories of Iceland; and I have been set my first pieces of work.
I’m not really excited, my life hasn’t changed, but it’s been nice and easy-going so far. The new independence means that for a lot of people this is the first time they can go out without parents watching over the shoulder, and do so without abandon; other people seem to be less of the partying type, preferring to have chilled out chats in their rooms. I reckon I fall somewhere in the middle, and my favourite hours have been spent at the pub chatting to finalists about their years abroad, or to the visiting American students on the lawn of the garden. I’m starting to recognise faces, and am even able to put names to some.
There isn’t much more to report at the time being, but I hope that you’re doing well wherever you are.