I apologize in advance for the lack of photos in today’s blog entry, but there just wasn’t a whole lot of time to take many pictures. And, even if I did, they would’ve looked something like this…

Not so exciting, I know. But that was what the majority of my day looked like. Trying to play catch up in Greek. Still.

Getting my cap and gown

We had Pre-Sessions (class before the real class begins) from 10 to 12 this morning, and then again from 4:30 to 6 this evening. In between? That’s right, Greek. Oh, and I bought my cap and gown. Because that’s what you do when you’re at Oxford. You wear your gown, and you carry your cap until you graduate. No, the funny get-up isn’t just for graduation. Not at Oxford. So when do you wear the gown and carry the cap, then? Why, to formal meals and tests, of course! Ridiculous, I know. Anyway, I have one now.

I’ll have a chance to wear my gown (more appropriately, with a full suit and bow tie) on Wednesday evening for our first formal dinner at Harris Manchester.

Harris Manchester

Harris Manchester is the college at Oxford University I’m a member of. And today was actually my first time seeing it. I hadn’t had a chance to see it last summer, and I did my application interview over the phone, so today was my first experience with it. It’s really quite nice. It has a really pretty grass and stone courtyard surrounded by a large stone fence that you can look into from the street through an arched gate. The school itself has some very beautiful architecture. Lots of stained glass windows. Lots of stone. Really cool two-story library.

I checked in at the front desk and picked up my mail (all internal school paperwork). I met some of the other students who were in the common room waiting for lunch. Most of them were very friendly and easy to get a long with. There were three guys from Singapore who just arrived. They’re studying economics. Very bright, but very friendly and easy to talk with. And they remembered my name. I was surprised. I’d be hard pressed to remember the name of someone from Singapore. Except for Tim. I remember Tim.

There was only one other American at the school who I met today. Moira, I believe. I heard it a couple times and I’m still not sure if that’s right. She just moved over. A transfer from Brown. Daughter of a professor back in Ithaca. And she seemed like it.

Brown had a change in its Anthropology curriculum, she explained to us over lunch (bangers and mash – my favorite English dish!), so it was either take a two-hour bus ride to Harvard for some of her classes, or change schools. So she chose to transfer to Oxford. Naturally.

I came because I didn’t like my 20-minute commute from Everson to Bellingham. Naturally.

Back to Greek

After picking up my gown, finding my college for the first time and a bit of studying in Starbucks (felt almost like home), I made my way back to Christ Church to get my brains stomped in by some more Greek. But not before passing a number of incredible buildings and still being blown away by it all.

Including this one: Magdalene College (where Lewis taught during his tenure at Oxford).

We were tested right off the bat, which I knew was coming, and it did not go so well, which I feared was coming.

I found myself sitting in the second Pre-session of the day thinking to myself, “You know, this was probably the worst decision I’ve ever made. I don’t need to know Greek to write! . . . Now, all I’ve got to do is ask for my job back and things will be just fine.”

Being talked off the ledge

After class this evening, I stayed after until everyone else had gone. All except for one other classmate who was also feeling a bit behind, and I explained to the professor that I still felt terribly behind. She said not to worry. She said I certainly had some catching up to do, but I had time before our actual classes began in a week. She told me to take my time, to walk through each chapter, and to not get anxious. She was sure I would do fine as soon as I had a chance to be caught up on the reading material. (To put it into perspective, most of today was spent discussing chapters six and seven of the book. I’m about halfway through the third chapter).

On the way out, I told the other classmate I was planning my escape from England. And that I was wondering how easy it’d be to ask for my job back.

She quickly shrugged it off. Telling me I would do fine, and that this material would be confusing for anyone who hadn’t seen it before. That each chapter build on the previous, and I shouldn’t be surprised I don’t understand chapter 7 material if I am still working on chapter 3.

I explained that I’m not used to being lost in class. And that it was all so disorienting, particularly after traveling to a foreign country and trying to orient myself. She assured me to just work through the material. And not to book my return flight just yet.

Groceries and my talk with myself

I stopped by the grocery store on the walk home. My first time at a British grocery store. The place was packed. Lots of 20-somethings stocking up on staples. The place was bustling, and I did my best to not look like it was my first time at a British grocery store, which included my best attempt not to appear shocked when their cereal aisle ended after only about 10 brands.

I have 20-min walk from campus to where we’re living. Which gives me plenty of time to think. When I’m not reading my flash cards (tough to do with two hands full of groceries). Walking home, I thought about why I was here. About what had brought me to Oxford. And what I wanted to do with all of this.

I really didn’t come here just so I could have the prestigious “Oxford” label by my name. What I wanted was to write in a way that helped reveal Christ to others. In a way that made the difficult things of the faith a little more clear. I knew Oxford has something truly unique that could help me reach this goal. And I knew they’d give me the opportunity to write to a much larger audience than I otherwise would be able to. “If he’s coming from Oxford, he’s gotta have something worth hearing, right?”

Also, because this is where Lewis studied and taught. And he is the reason this passion began in me so many years ago. So here I am, not for bragging rights, but so that others might be touched by my words. Sounds cheesy, I know. But that’s why I am here. And that’s what I want to take away. The opportunity to help others. The opportunity to speak into their lives. The opportunity to illuminate the difficult things of the faith. No matter how difficult the road getting there might be.

I’d stick it out, I told myself. I’d keep plugging away and give it my best. And we’ll see where that takes me. At least until Jen has a chance to come over and see everything.

About halfway home I got to thinking, “I just bought all of this food to go home and make dinner, but I really would like some company. Particularly company that is not interested in talking about Greek.”

JK Rowling, Sir Elton John and dinner

When I arrived home, I found a note from Jane waiting for me at the door, inviting me to have supper with Felix (Jane was on her way out the door for tennis). Beng (the housekeeper) was cooking fried rice. Things were already looking up.

I set down my things from the day, put away groceries, and I quickly found my way into the family’s kitchen. Justin (the father/husband of the home where I’m living) was in, which I was excited about, since I hadn’t actually had the opportunity to meet him yet. Justin works in London Tuesdays through Friday each week, and he is at home the other days of the week.

He invited me to come join him and Felix at the dinner table while Beng warmed up a plate of dinner for me. They had just finished. Felix was wrapping up some math homework; Justin was wrapping up a bowl of cereal.

Beng brought me a plate of fried rice, freshly warmed from the microwave, and a glass of water. Felix and Justin asked how my Greek exams went. “Poorly,” I told them. They were familiar with the circumstances of my departure, so they weren’t terribly surprised to hear about my need to play catch up.

I explained how I had been studying at Christ Church, and Felix told me that’s where his Dad studied. He then told me that’s where Harry Potter is filmed. Funny, as that’s exactly how it felt.

“Yes, Hogwarts,” Justin chimed in from the kitchen, filling up his bowl with another round of cereal. “Do you know who I’m having dinner with tomorrow evening?” he asked Felix upon returning to the kitchen table.

“Who?” Felix asked, leaving the table himself for the kitchen.

“J.K. Rowling,” Justin responded. Felix’s eyes grew big.

Apparently Justin co-owns two newspapers in London. One of his business associates is having a party tomorrow night. It’s being hosted by Sir Elton John. Hugh Grant and many other close friends of Sir Elton will be there. Including Ms. Rowling herself.

“Ask her if she plans to write any more books,” Felix told his dad.

I finished my dinner just as Felix returned to the kitchen table with a bowl full of ice cream. Justin eyed Felix’s bowl with a smile and wide eyes. “That’s a lot of ice cream!” Felix grinned. He has a terrific grin.

“I hear ice cream helps with mathematics homework,” I said from across the table. Felix smiled and nodded.

Harris Manchester, the college I’m a member of, is hosting a pub crawl this evening. After going to bed at 1 a.m. last night / this morning and not being able to fall asleep until just before my 6:30 alarm, I decided to stay in for the night. The school is continuing the pub crawl tomorrow evening, so I might try to squeeze in some studying tonight and catch up with them tomorrow evening.

It’s only Tuesday tomorrow, but it already feels like I’ve been here for ages.

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