Samantha Sigmon

Although I kept a journal for the 10 months I was in England, I decided to only type the entries from the first term. In the next few terms I go to Poole England, London, Amsterdam, and Paris. And I have many more adventures. But if I printed all of this I would probably be writing a book. Sorry the journal is so late! Thanks!

On Becoming an Oxford American

September 3, 2008

I’ve been reading everything that I can get my hands on that has to do with England, from magazine articles to academic histories. My appetite for learning has not been put on hold for my desire for experience this summer. Recently all my girl friends left for home again bound for their prestigious northern schools. I just recently moved once again into my parents’ house, a little place out in the country, to prepare for my departure for England later this month.

Today I attended a meeting on applying for the most prestigious graduate scholarships. These few Americans that receive these scholarships get their entire graduate education paid for in any UK university they choose. I became so excited, like I used to be when I thought of all the great things I could do and places I could go. I realized long ago that the best way to be happy was to travel and the only way I can do that is to do well in school. I have tried so hard at school. At this meeting I was one of the last people out of the house. I was so interested in talking about school and academics. I need to be involved in more organizations at school I know, but I am always working nights. I hope I can find a way to participate. Graduating in time will most likely meet at least 18 hours of school per semester plus summer school, but I will not quit. I am determined.

After the meeting I was so excited that I went to Barnes and Noble and strolled through the sections on England at closing time. I went to the children’s classics section remembering the time Barnes and Noble had just opened in Fayetteville and I would lay down in the classics section and close my eyes, breathing in all the great adventures and knowledge the books held. Back then my favorite poet was Emily Dickinson and she was the only writer I knew on the mural in the café next to the bookstore. I always insisted my mother and I sit underneath her. Now I can name all the authors and most of their major works. I bought Keats and Rimbaud and discovered that both of them died very early. After I read a bit of both, I go to bed happy, stimulated, inspired, nervous — all good things to be, productive things to be, I hope.

September 27, 2008

“I like salt, don’t I?” two-and-a-half-year-old Bailey said, pondering over his chips. He is constantly chattering and ends every single statement with a question. I’m quite sure this is something toddlers would not do in America.

England is like an upside down America. The faucets turn the opposite way, instead of one faucet with warm and cold water combining it’s two faucets–one for each. The cars go on opposite sides of the road, and the language is just a little different. When people talk fast they have to repeat themselves. There are almost no mirrors. I’ve yet to see a full length one, even in public restrooms. In America mirrors seem to be everywhere, even places they shouldn’t be. Words and their pronunciation really do make more sense. I get made fun of for saying certain things, most recently “trash.” The living room is called the lounge and the restroom is called the toilet.

I am staying in Haverhill with Dan and his girlfriend Laura and their three children, Bailey age three and twins Codi and Charlie one-and-a-half. Laura is actually younger than me. “I’ve always wanted to be a young mother,” she tells me as she warms up the peas and shoves bread into the toaster while giving one of the twins a cookie. She is very attentive to her children and cleans and cooks all the time, making me feel useless. I’m much more useful at school then I am sitting around her house trying to play with her kids and being a terrible cook. I wonder if I have ever felt this unable to connect before. Here is an English working class woman just my age, but our lives are completely different. I pretend to be interested in make-up and reading her gossip magazines, though the gossip magazines are actually quite interesting.

Haverhill is about 30 minutes away from Cambridge. It’s pretty small, but looks confusing with the rows upon rows of small brick flats, each two story and stuck on one another with brightly painted doorways enclosed by little wooden fences. Everything in England so far is really compact. Every desirable destination is fifteen minutes away – if it is longer, why really bother. Walking is much easier and all the cars are very small and indeed seem exotic to my American mind with names like Fiestas and Golfs until a Ford or VW emblem comes into sight. The cars are mostly diesel and manual. The shopping markets have the smallest isles with huge crowds of people. Sainsbury’s is like a Wal-Mart in the way they have everything, clothes and all, except the aisles are half the size and everything is packed in like sardines which makes me a bit uncomfortable. They have more vegetarian things than we do in Fayetteville at the market and even all the microwave dinners are good.

Sam, Dan’s brother and also a good friend of mine said all the similar little apartment houses were where poorer families live. Laura said Haverhill is a place for young mums, and it’s true that I’ve never seen so many buggies about a town in my life. They clog up every aisle and sidewalk. But I like that I’m here in the middle of modern working class life. It’s as much of a learning experience as school is.

I saw my first old church yesterday. It is beautiful, but the company I was with, Dan, Sam, and Sam’s girlfriend seemed to think it was quite shabby compared to most. It was standing just right in the middle of town, next to Lloyds, the preschool, and the local pub and everyone was passing by it like they thought nothing of it. America is not old, and I love old things, so I just wanted to hug the building as we passed. They let me walk in, and I loved it. It’s called St. Mary’s and it has to be very old by the gothic style of it. I have never seen such stained glass before. I might go and read some afternoons while I’m here wondering alone, if I don’t get lost in the rows and rows of houses and alleys. I can’t wait to meet more people.

I love England, from the bits I’ve seen. Maybe I am a traveler after all. I feel like one, and I love it! I talked to my dad on the phone and he said “don’t like England too much. Remember you’re an Arkansas girl.” Yes I am, but he is right to worry because I am in love with England at first sight like I always thought I would be.

Bailey, Cody and Charlie Strasters

Bailey, Cody and Charlie Strasters

October 1, 2008

So here I am sprawled out in the dark on Dan’s floor in Haverhill England at ten o’clock at night befriended only by the loud spin of the clothes washer and the Coors Light that I am drinking, legally.

You can say “I’m going to Oxford this fall” ten thousand times previously without it actually soaking in enough to hit the depths of reality. I didn’t reach reality in all the times I tried to brag about my situation to the less fortunate, so the fact that I would be traveling alone on a twenty-four hour journey through some of the largest airports half across the world to a completely different country for the first time to go to school in one of the best schools in the world and the oldest of all English speaking schools just sounded nice…

The day before I left, exactly a week ago, boasting finally sunk down to fact. All day I was trying to say goodbye without sniveling and shaking uncontrollably. For a moment there, scared and unsure in the Tulsa airport gulping in the tears of fear at leaving my home for a good, long while, I was positive this fiasco would be an assurance that I am incapable of living up to the potential I have created for myself.

At this moment, it has taken me less than a week to realize that England is in my being, whatever that can be defined as. I can almost make some sense of myself here. Even as an outsider in this country I have become finally an insider to a little corner of myself.

The moment of truth came when I was up all night trying to make sense of my future on British Airlines non-stop from O’Hare to Heathrow. It was almost morning and I had had my first legal drink of the rest of my life on the plane in the form of two personal plastic bottles of red wine. We were passing right over the Northwestern English coast and coming right into London. I was sitting on the left hand side window seat viewing the back of the left wing when I saw the most beautiful thing I probably will ever see. In the light pink light of the horizon the plane turned right so the left wing had come up. It met the riotous horizon of the new day with the tiny sliver of silver moon left over from the tired night. Below me at this moment we passed central London, right over Buckingham Palace and then the Thames. The new day and the waning night with the moon balancing on the tip of wing greeting sunrise in London was a good sign of how I was to feel upon arriving in England—the middle of a great change in my life. I wanted to poke the guy to my side to share the moment but he was asleep and didn’t speak English. No one else noticed the magical frame I had just seen.

Dan, twenty-four, looks like a walking model for American brand logos. Sam, tall and thin and twenty, smokes like a chimney and drinks like a fish. I am staying with Dan, his girl friend Laura and their three boys all under the age of three on Marlborough Lane in Haverhill, within a 20 minute drive from Cambridge. The house is attached to all the rest and is gray and bricked. Looking out from it, one can see thousands more government houses just like it, a literal maze of separate linking existences. Like Laura, the mums lugging the whining toddlers around are almost exactly my age. I can’t imagine being in her position, but she literally is a super hero with these kids every day. One or more is almost always screaming to the point they turn red and start choking on their own tears.

I am in love with Cambridge. Last Sunday, Laura, Dan, Sam, and I all dressed up and went to this “posh” place in Cambridge to eat. Passing by all the colleges lit up at night was right up there with the sunrise over London plane ride as the most beautiful place I’ve been and shivering Englishmen passed by the centuries old feats of architecture and one of the world centers of academic life as if they were Northwest Arkansans passing by another Wal-Mart. Fools! Once at the restaurant, we ordered two bottles of wine and Sam who is a bit of a foody from working tirelessly as a cook in a 16 century pub in Clare said it was one of the best meals he had ever eaten. For the occasion, I even tried a bit of his duck. I have been a vegetarian basically my whole life, and of course I hated it, but the glow of the town made me up for anything. Past the spires of Kings College and the Tudor-style Queens College and the white St. Johns College and the round medieval church and the huge cathedrals with armies of history’s finest carved in stone guarding the structures from time itself. And then there was the clock created by Stephen Hawking and only unveiled a few weeks ago. I can’t gush too much because now I must be forever loyal to Oxford in a rivalry that has gone on for centuries.

Tuesday night we arrived only minutes after the train to Ipswich where the championship league was playing. A few Carling beers and explanations later we won the game and celebrated at a pub with some more English ale. I explained to Sam, later that night, almost every big literary movement in American history and a few movements in his own country.

So I am here, in England, getting fifty pounds for every hundred dollars and loving every second of the screaming children and the slight poverty and the cold windy rainy gray days. Bring more of it on!

King’s College, Cambridge

King’s College, Cambridge

October 10, 2008

A lot has happened since the last time I wrote. A whole event filled week has gone by. When Sam showed up on my last day in Haverhill, we sat around the house for a while with Dan’s friend, who was quite a character and liked to say “paralytic” a lot when talking about getting drunk. Then we went to Drabbet, the local pub. The night ended with a very dramatic domestic dispute so Sam offered for me to stay at his place. We talked for hours and woke up early in the morning not wanting to actually get up and face the day. We walked to his work, feeling as dreary as the day outside looked. I waited at the restaurant for almost an hour for Dan to show up and talked to a guy named Paul who served me free coffee; I looked like I needed it in my ballerina skirt from last night. The rest of the day is a long sad series of events with me trying public transportation alone with all my bags on the train to King’s Cross and then on the Underground through two stops and tons of flights of stairs. Thankfully, nice people helped me but I’ve never felt so hopeless yet determined. I was covered with sweat and on the verge of tears when I found the St. Giles hotel. London kind of sucked. It was just so different being around only English people in the countryside for 9 days and then in a hotel with a bunch of fresh-off-the-plane Americans. Needless to say, I hated the later. I was sad and shocked at the recent events and couldn’t really talk to anyone. That day was horrible. I went to the bar by myself and talked to some nice people over red wine. The next day was spent in meetings all day and then we went to go see a Pinter play No Man’s Land which was presented very well but I didn’t really like the writing. Two great stage actors who play in Harry Potter were in it. Then the cool, loud Americans went off to find a club and the dorky Americans went to bed and I walked around alone, made a few desperate calls on a pay phone and found an alright bar to sit and write in before bed.

Next day we were headed to Oxford. I was so excited when we rolled up into town and got my first glimpses of a city I’ve read about and wanted to see for ten years. I was still very affected from the previous ten days in Haverhill and Cambridge so my dream city had lost a lot of its sparkle. I did get to meet my “college parents” including a Scottish girl named Kirsty Bell and a ridiculous yet amusing lad from Devon, Rob Moore, who has a very deep, posh accent. We went to The Turf where Clinton “didn’t inhale” and talked with my fellow “brothers” and “sisters” including a very tall lanky and red-faced chap Chris from Manchester. His accent is quite different than Rob from Devon.

The next night I went to a club for a Catz event (what my college is called) where I became better friends with the loud Americans. Next night I went out with the loud Americans again to The Turf where we had long political discussions mostly about regulations on sex such as abstinence teaching, abortion, condom distribution, etc. Called Sam yesterday but he was in the middle of band practice and quite busy with it. Things are so different here than they were in Haverhill.

My Fayetteville friend Molly and myself at the Turf Tavern in April 09.

My Fayetteville friend Molly and myself at the Turf Tavern in April 09.

October 13, 2008

Today it is very dark and lovely outside, brooding really. I’m in quite a good mood though a very repressed one. I swear my dreams have been crazy. I need to start keeping a dream journal. A funny thing dreams are while reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I really could not be rereading this play at a more suitable time. Especially since it is a romantic comedy of sorts, light hearted but perfectly inlaid with depth and care.

Kevin Spacey spoke today outside my building. I could hear him but couldn’t see anything.

Must get things in order. Spent all day reading, literally all day. Tomorrow more reading and writing my (dadadum) first essay!. Going to go out for a bit maybe by myself. Find Hassan’s kabob truck again. Wish I had someone to go with though.

Saturday was the first Entz, a themed fancy dress party in the Junior Common Room. Brits love getting dressed up, esp. guys dressing as girls. At the Entz I met a guy from Hong Kong who lived in London when young and his dad is Scottish and his mom Italian and he’s obsessed with America and the idea of a road trip. Also got some free beers on staircase one thanks to Jesus and Pauly Bleeker with Mr. Transvestite Tiger in the middle of the circle. Think I told them my name was Holly or Hannah or something like that. It was fun running away from the Jr. Deans for awhile, but all the fun was had and to bed we went. Went to the Bodleian for the first time Saturday and cried and couldn’t get my reading done because I really couldn’t believe where I was and how did I really get here? Amazing!

October 22, 2008

Discovering How to Be an Oxford American (written for the Arkansas Traveler)

 When I first arrived in London for orientation, I immediately hated all of the Americans there with me. From this point, it has been difficult to find a balance between being an American and living within England. This is still a work in progress.

In my cocoon in the English countryside, I had not seen an American in ten days. All of the sudden in London I was thrown in with 40 of them fresh off the plane. Being born in the South and attending a Southern state school was a novelty to them. At dinner the first night, one wide-eyed girl from Maine said “You’re from Arkansas? Wow! That’s just so cool!” And because most all of them are from small liberal arts schools in the Northeast coast, they seemed more foreign to me than the English people were; this was a bigger culture shock than getting off the plane!

I realize now that I was limited in my views of England and unfair to the other Americans. I had been accepted as part of a Haverhill family the week before. I stayed with only a few people and met only their close friends. All of us were on holiday, and we treated the week as such. I had basically been cradled in the lap of Suffolk, and was suddenly thrown into London alone on my first day away from home.

During those nights of (dis)orientation the group split into those that would go out searching for a club and those that preferred to go to bed early. Instead of these options, I decided to seclude myself at some bar nearby and pine away my romantic emotions with only a glass of wine, pen and paper for company. I’m sure I looked pretty foolish writing feverously away about ‘how lonely London is!’ I tried in vain to work the red telephone booths to call my Haverhill friends, and left pathetic messages on their voicemail. London was a place where I was in grave danger of wasting away in my own egotistic solitude.

Once we Americans moved from London to Oxford, a new problem presented itself; as we were isolated in the orientation process, the American and the English students had already formed groups. This is painfully evident on any night in the Junior Common Room (JCR) Bar. American kids sit as isolated as an island in the middle of a vast river of English students. When the Americans went out, we traveled in large groups, so we never really met anyone. These groups made me feel out of place within them.

Determined to meet people, I started going alone to pubs. The 16th century Turf Tavern is just a five minute walk away; Sometimes, students will get just tipsy enough to start talking to me. I tell them I’m from Arkansas doubting they will know where that is, and they will say proudly “Little Rock!” or most likely “Bill Clinton!”

Most English students know more about America than Americans do. Some of them can name just about every state capital. All of them are fascinated by the American election. They are fascinated by American ideas of Sarah Palin, gun control and the legal drinking age. All of the students that I have talked to have traveled to America at least once. Quite a few Oxford students romanticize about The Great American Road Trip. Unlike Americans, Oxford students spend all day studying and go out drinking at night; the pub culture is essential.

I have finally tried to be outgoing, and I have made some American friends. Mostly we go out dancing. European clubs took a bit to get used to, but dancing with loads of people between flashing neon lights can be fun. Afterwards, we usually stop by Hassan’s, a van that stays open late and sells cheap and delicious kebobs and chips with endless topping combinations.

I have also found that joining Oxford societies is the best way to make friends outside of the Americans. I attended the first Indie Music Society meeting in a seedy Hertford College underground joint called the Bop Cellar. It was impossible not to find friends as we all dipped plastic cups into plastic vats of cloudy mixed alcoholic drinks in a tiny off-white concrete room. There were about ten brightly colored balloons scattered throughout the floor sporadically to try to make it feel not like a prison. Everyone was emphatically talking about music in the dark little cellar.

Since I am at university, there are plenty of times that I don’t go out. I walk a lot. Most of the streets are cobblestoned and the buildings are imposing. Oxford is an extremely manly city. Nameless Greek stone heads stuck on the posts around the Bodleian are the scariest and oddest example of this. I have felt them looking down on me appalled that their upstanding university would allow me to step foot into their home.

I cower before them and run to the upper room at the Bodleian library, where I read. The library is so old and so full of knowledge that the first time I tried to concentrate above a portrait of Sir Robert Dudley a few tears threatened to stain the library’s copy of Romeo and Juliet. History’s weight was too overwhelming; I was in the place where too many great minds had been before.

As of today, I have formed a theory about how to live as an American student in Oxford. Some of my friends say they are from Canada when talking to other students, while some Americans don’t leave their room except for attending tutorials and lectures. There is an in-between. We must say that we are American, unabashedly, but we also must immerse ourselves whole-heartedly in the exciting culture around us. We are Studying. Abroad. We have two jobs in those two words. I have yet to work out the specific actions my theory implies, but hopefully people I meet can recognize the accent and then look past it to see an eager student and an eager friend.

Entrance to the Bodleian Library

Entrance to the Bodleian Library

October 22, 2008

On not eating, reading too much Joyce and Shakespeare, and writing essays:

I forget to eat. It doesn’t matter to me here. I live off of words. Living, breathing, words. Does that make me a carnivore? I do bite into them with much ferocity. With James Joyce I nibble cautiously. What animal is this I’m eating? Joyce won’t tell me. I’m afraid to find out. Perhaps its blood is poisoning my essay I am writing. Am I supposed to understand? For over 6 hours I have tried to swallow you but this morsel won’t go into my ravenous stomach. I can’t stomach words anymore. My eyes want to rid themselves of this awful computer screen and these ill tasting words. Should I leave early? Must I give up these books to the others? They look like they can stomach it more. Am I a vegetarian in words as well as food? I do hope not. I hope I am a carnivorous reader! But my stomach is faint at the moment and craves substantial food. Then it’s back to the hunt! I wish I were enthusiastic about the hunt tonight…

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I’ve been too blissfully busy! I live entirely here. I smile to myself like a fool walking down the street feeling the chilling air. I have made friends and we go out and dance. I actually fill fulfilled when I am done with a tutorial. I love my readings. Work hard play hard is really the motto in Oxford.

I could be an expatriate. I hope I get to stay for the year. The air of Oxford town is so much more refreshing and enlightening. I read so much Shakespeare, I think in Shakespearian. If I ever have a little girl, I might name her Rosalind Cordelia. I’ve learned that it’s what James Joyce leaves out that matters most. The spaces!

O fortune, don’t make me leave!

December 2, 2008

Living, Breathing Oxford (written for the Arkansas Traveler)

The scholar William Hazlitt said that “in Oxford an air of learning breathes from the very walls. Halls and colleges meet your eye in every direction; you cannot for a moment forget where you are.” Before I went abroad I checked out every book about Oxford at the Mullin’s library. Though all of them were slightly outdated, as in circa 1899, I eagerly skipped classes to sit in my apartment and read yellowing histories of Oxford’s great colleges. I was only romantically enthralled with the great buildings and stories of the past; that Oxford in many ways is a myth.

The last two months in St. Catherine’s College have seemed like years. The pangs of homesickness have been transferred to my college when I try to venture away to London for the weekend or even Cambridge for the day. How did it so quickly become such a solid substitute for my real home where I have lived in Fayetteville all my life?

Not much has changed in the Americans here except the gap has widened between those visiting students that literally take up entire hall tables at lunch and those that have become part of a British circle of friends, which are not many. Besides the knowledge high I get after my tutorials, it is because I have found such a solid group of Oxford students as friends that I feel so at home.

My friends center around Staircase 1 where we go for many social events, including Thanksgiving dinner. The English boys hosting the event had no idea how in over their heads they were. My day was spent helping some American girls cook potatoes, make salad, heat bread and make my chocolate chip cookies. The boys began cooking around 7 for the 8 o’clock dinner. The only kitchen in the college happens to be the one where all the boys live, so naturally it was a mess. Nothing was clean, there was no counter space, and we had to scrounge up utensils. Nathan was scurrying around looking for a baking sheet to put turkey patties on, which he had to wait for until my cookies were finished baking.

Meanwhile, the rest of the boys were setting up George’s room, because his was the biggest, with two computer tables and benches to sit on. They came up with a list of the night’s proceedings, place markers, and borrowed plastic cups from the JCR bar. Jack, the appointed maitre’d, served wine on the bottom floor for all the people coming to eat. As people were arriving, I ran to my dorm covered in flour from the day’s baking and threw on my very American Hank Williams Jr. shirt and a party skirt. I had earlier that day drawn a hand turkey like all elementary school kids do for decoration. I grabbed this and a ceramic thanksgiving bear my mother had needlessly sent me in a care package. This would be the centerpiece.

Dinner was adorable, although we were packed together around the table where we were literally unable to move. We each stood up one at a time and stated what we were thankful for. My English friends took this quite seriously. They were thankful to God for their friends, for the meal, and for the Americans who they were celebrating it with. When it got to be my turn I really had no idea what poignant thing to say that had not already been said so I said “I give thanks to Bill Clinton, Wal Mart, and Johnny Cash because without them no one would have any idea where I am from.” Although this is true, it will be the first and last time I will probably ever thank Wal-Mart for anything.

Seriously though, no one has any idea where Arkansas is, which puts in perspective how small the world I have lived in for twenty years really is. Also most people think it is pronounced ar-Kansas. I am very quick to point out that it is not. Once while a bouncer was checking my ID he said something like “wow, you are from ar-Kansas!” I stopped him and said “no sir, it is not called that. It is called Arkansaw, please remember that. No one calls it ar-Kansas. We have nothing to do with Kansas.”

Thanksgiving 08 in Staircase 1

Thanksgiving 08 in Staircase 1

Early December 2008

Going to Liverpool on a train listening to the Beatles. One of those moments when you pause and life hits you–wow! I’m going to where the best band ever is from. Where Gerry and the Pacemakers ferried across the mercy. Where the Titanic sailed.

The countryside looks bit like Arkansas over here. Stratford was nice. Shakespeare’s grave didn’t really hit me, especially after intensely studying him these past few months. All I could think about was the stained class being so beautiful. I have seen Shakespeare’s home–his home like Fayetteville is mine–but is it the same at all? Now it seems like a Disneyland town made for tourists. There is As You Like It Pasties, Iago, Othello, and Hathaway shops. Would Shakespeare even recognize his old, dear home? What would he say if he could raise up from his grave past the few old landmarks like his birth place and some churches into the novelty shops that sell Shakespearean Insult Bubble Gum and Macbeth finger puppets?

And then there was Birmingham city centre which I enjoyed quite a lot. Selfridges is this ridiculous and expensive department store that sells novelty goods like edible bug candy, American foods, etc and looks like the inside of an egg. Selfridges and the 3-story mall beside it was awe-inspiring. The building is made out of metal disks, looking like something out of a Dali painting. All these new stores everywhere, and Starbucks perched on top like its on the deck of a giant ship surrounding the old cathedral with rising spires overlooking the seedy side of Birmingham. The town was adorned with blue and silver snowflakes twinkling on and off to look like snow falling. Birmingham was so alive in its Christmas capitalism, bustling more than I had seen any other city before. And in the middle of all the bright lights and new buildings sat the ancient church, as usual, in the centre of town to constantly remind the English of their proud history.

The Birmingham German Market is the biggest one in England and the most Christmasy thing I’ve ever seen. It was completely packed. But there was hot mulled wine and mulled cider, filled donuts and chocolates and pretzels and sausages, colored kits hats and dolls and twinkling trinkets of all sorts. It was so wonderful.

Church at the Full Gospel Tabernacle is interesting. I’m staying with my Oxford friend Nathan, a first year and the first person in his school to go to Oxford. He is the only poor Tory I know and it very Christian, going regularly with his adorable grandmother to her Pentecostal church. He is the only person probably below forty that attends, one of the only males, and seems like a pillar of the church society. When I first entered the church elderly ladies flooded me from all directions with huge kisses and well wishes. I was very interested in what a Pentecostal service in England would be like after attending a few in the South. Because the church English it seems much more toned down, more subtle, less flashy and angry. The sermon was on miracles and Nathan got so into the service. He was holding out his hands and singing loudly, standing and praying aloud, crying. He is preaching the New Year’s sermon, I heard after church. He is grandmother raised, everyone told me. People from Arkansas would eat him up.

Nathan’s grandmother is one of the sweetest and most genuine people I have ever met. She wouldn’t let me get up to do anything. Always calling me love and deary and saying I love you, giving hugs and kisses generously, crying out in church and whispering ‘o sweet Jesus’ to pray for a miracle for Tracy’s legs which pained her. She has pictures and plates and ceramics of puppies and angels and Bibles and pictures of her two grandsons everywhere. Nathan’s whole family is kind. His dad wouldn’t let me pay for a thing. I was treated like another one of his children. We played lots of Wii together as a family and I lost pretty terribly.

Liverpool with Simon will be nice I think. I really like the souse accent. After that it’s off to Manchester to visit George. I don’t want to go home!

Stratford at sunset

Stratford at sunset

Central Birmingham/German Market Xmas 08

Central Birmingham/German Market Xmas 08

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I used to wonder if people actually care about each other when they are not seeing each other regularly. I have concluded recently that they do care. From being at Oxford to visiting home for Christmas (called the hols in England), I learned that the right people are the ones that do care and you can find that out without ever really saying it . The ones who look as happy to see you again as you are seeing them are the ones worth seeing. They are your real friends and will be for a good long while. From going back home, I would say I have substantially increased bonds of many relationship I had before I left. I never wanted to be anywhere else then where I was and am so thankful for all those people I love so much.

I came back to Fayetteville certain that the town was dead or dying. Everyone looked sad and said only “I’m doing okay” with resentment, resignation, or regret. No one was doing really well it seemed, but then I delved deeper and would get so lost in good times that I would have to withdraw myself from the situation and smile at being in the right place and time with just the right people.

It was so easy to fall back into hometown life that I didn’t really want to leave again and for over twice as long! How could I go without my people for so long? The day I arrived in England I was so sad that I just walked to my new room and went to bed not bothering to see my friends. It was such a dreary day anyway. But when I woke up and went to hall, on the walk over to St. Catz I got very excited my Oxford friends and was practically skipping when I got to my best American friend Jessica’s room. Then there was hall itself…the biggest one since the first day of school in October. And in line I saw all the boys and it was wonderful to get big warm real hugs from everyone. After hall, we talked excitedly in the JCR and John’s room, catching up and simultaneously solidifying our friendships. The next day John and I exchanged music. As usual everyone tuned us out while we discussed all sorts of bands and music with the utmost enthusiasm. He has almost 20,000 songs on his computer! Later we had a first big night out where the boys came over for a dorm room party and then went out dancing.

My new room at the Hertford Graduate College is really nice, but also about a mile away from Catz. My window opens directly to the river which winds into the Thames. Little houseboats line up outside. I have learned that I hate living near geese; they are so loud! My quad has a canal from the river running right down the center; the quad is only connected from one side to the other with a bridge. My kitchen is huge and only serves 5 dorms so there are tons of huge sparkling kitchens everywhere. I also have a towel warmer, heater, bigger bathroom, and a full length mirror which is sorely missed at Catz. I also have a housekeeper who mothers me. She always comes in around 9 or 10 in the morning. If I am still in bed she will tell me to wake up and stop being lazy. If my room is messy, she will chide me for that as well.

Walking more is good for me too, and I love walking. Especially enjoying the walks from Catz late at night with the iPod on shuffle as I pass the Radcliff cam and Christ Church’s tower and drunken well-dressed kids clutching Styrofoam boxes of chips or kabobs from their favorite truck.

Fayetteville is wonderful and always will be. This term feels completely new, and I am scared about the upcoming tutorials–afraid I lost all of my Latin knowledge. I think I might get a ukulele tomorrow. No room of mine is complete without some sort of instrument. Life abroad is quickly falling back into place.

St. Catz in the snow, January 09

St. Catz in the snow, January 09

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