Sunday, July 17, 2016

To arrive where we started and know the place for the first time

For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice. 
But, as the passage now presents no hindrance
To the spirit unappeased and peregrine 
Between two worlds become much like each other, 
So I find words I never thought to speak 
In streets I never thought I should revisit 
When I left my body on a distant shore. --T.S. Eliot, "Little Gidding"

Two Sundays ago, I had an unexpected opportunity to return to Cambridge.

Every summer, there is a program (Pembroke-King's Programme) that invites undergraduates from across America to study as a Cambridge student for 8 weeks. I participated in this program 6 years ago. (It's really interesting to look back at those first blog posts--I was so young then.)

Coming back to Cambridge--one day shy of 6 years exactly since arriving there for my first time--was, in many ways, a coming home for me. A coming full circle.

I decided to just soak in the day; to remember all that brought me to Cambridge and all that had transpired since those 6 years. A lot has changed. A lot has happened.

I have changed. I have become a different person.

The years have brought refinement. They have brought wisdom, strength, sorrow, joy, and experience.

And yet, as I stood at the base of King's College Chapel, filled with wonder, awe, and humility, I was reminded of a 19-year-old girl who did the same thing 6 years ago. She was uncertain about the future, wonderstruck and amazed by the beauty and magnitude of the world, and eager to save and savor the world.

In those respects, not much has changed at all.

And I have come to a better understanding of that girl from six years ago. After my mission, I felt like I had changed so much from the person I had been before that I never wanted to go back. Honestly, I felt a bit of contempt towards that nineteen-year-old I once was. But at Cambridge, it was a reminder of who I was--the goodness, the naivety, the striving.

I have become kinder to that girl. To the girl I used to be; the girl who used to be mine.

Hopefully I can continue to be kind to the girl I am now, while looking with hope towards the woman I am still becoming.

[With friends at Cambridge.]

In which I go to a ball

. . . because every girl deserves to go to a ball at least once in her life.

Once upon a time, I decided that I wanted to go to an Oxford ball. Each spring, many of the colleges in Oxford have balls. They are basically just big parties with a lot of alcohol, free food, dancing, and people dressed up in tuxes and fancy dresses. The first one does not interest me (for obvious reasons), but the other ones . . . well, I like free food, dancing, and dressing up in pretty dresses, so I wanted to go. But I didn't want to go alone (because that's kinda lame and boring), so somehow I convinced some of my friends to go with me.

We went to Wolfson College's 50th Anniversary Ball, since 1) it was one of the cheaper balls, and 2) Joe and Emily live at Wolfson College and the party was literally right outside their door.

And I certainly had a fun time.

We all dressed up--

[I am in love with this dress.] 

. . . we had good food . . . 

. . . and there were so many different activities . . . it was basically a giant party.  

[Guys! There was a carousel! I love carousels.]

[There were also tea cups. I got super dizzy.]

["Raise your hands, Maurice! It's more fun if you raise your hands!" (Also, if you look closely in this picture, you can see a Vladimir Putin look-alike in the background.)]

Those are all the pictures I have from the evening, but there were also free arcade games (got the highest score on Pac-Man, baby), fireworks over the river, a big band, a silent disco (which I discovered that I love), oh, and I finally won something from one of those "claw" games. 

So, all in all, a success. Glad I have friends who think my crazy ideas are at least good-crazy. :) 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Red carnations, old halls

Hiya world.

It's been awhile.

And to be honest, these posts will be few and far between starting Monday because I'm headed off on an Eastern European Extravaganza, and I know I will have zero time to update this blog. So I figured I should get some things down that I've been meaning to.

Like the time I took my exams.

Like most things in Oxford, exam traditions are generations-old. Part of these traditions include sitting in the Examination Schools with two hundred other students (graduates and undergraduates, all from different courses), writing our respective exams.

I sat the exam with the thirteen other students in my program, and we all sat in a row, like 14 penguin chicks. 14 stressed-out penguin chicks.

Because that is another Oxford exam tradition--we all wear our sub fusc (Latin for "dark brown," which is funny because we don't wear dark brown, we wear black and white).

Another Oxford exam tradition is the tradition of carnations. The carnations are color-coded. If you are sitting your first exam, you wear a white carnation. If you are sitting your middle exams, you wear a pink carnation, and if you are sitting your last exam, you wear a red carnation.

I wore red.

[The lighting is terrible, but this is what we've got.] 

I still don't know why we have to bring our mortarboard. We're not allowed to wear it, and it just gets in the way. Oh well. 

When we finished our exams, we waited outside a bit for everyone to join. Then we walked into another Oxford exam tradition--trashing. Essentially, your friends spray you with champagne, silly string, foam, etc.

But I didn't want a trashing (perhaps I am lame, but I wasn't so keen on spoiling my clothes) so I skillfully avoided the crowds and headed towards another gathering of friends . . . where they trashed me with confetti.

That I can get behind. Confetti is okay. Baked beans . . . not so much.