I keep telling myself I can’t possibly keep up the pace with this writing. I feel like I haven’t slept in days, and my body is punishing me by beginning to shut down. Sore throat. Wanting to fall asleep before noon. Each day I find out about more and more reading, studying and writing to be done. About another exam, it seems. But there’s so much I want to capture. So much I don’t want to miss or forget.

The Great Hall

After a Skype with Jen, a bit of studying, a quick workout (in the family’s gym) and an even quicker breakfast, I made my way to the final Greek Pre-Sessions this morning. Through Oxford City Center. Even at 8 in the morning, there is still a lot of hustle and bustle going on. Plenty of people starting their days. Students. Business owners. Tourists.

It was the morning of my last class at Hogwarts (aka Christ Church) for the quarter, this morning. I’ll miss the school, for sure. The class will carry on next week, in a different building, unfortunately.

Even though classes are getting going this week, there are still a bunch of tourists around. You can hear their voices over the sound of the professor while in class. Jen and I commented last summer while we were here how strange it would be to be studying someplace that was such a large tourist attraction. And it is. Particularly for someone who wore the tourist shoes only a year ago.

Leaving class, I remembered our conversation over dinner the night before. The one about Harry Potter being filmed here at Christ Church. I asked around, and a few steps later I found a line of students getting ready for lunch. In here…

I quickly put my tourist shoes back on and snapped this photo. You’re welcome.

Harris Manchester Library

I found myself back at Harris Manchester this afternoon. To be introduced to the university’s Tutor System. Which basically equated to what we could expect from our course load and how best to handle it all.

The woman speaking was incredibly nice. A professor at the University (or Tutor, as they’re often referred to here). Leslie Smith. She helps students adjust to the frantic pace of Oxford life. She told us to expect to feel completely overwhelmed for the first few weeks, and that we’ll then then quickly find ourselves adjusting. Our terms are shorter here. Only eight weeks long. And, since it’s Oxford, that means more work to complete in a shorter period of time to complete it in.

Leslie said the most common things she hears from students is that there must’ve been some kind of mistake. That there’s simply no way they could’ve actually been accepted here. Everyone else seems so. . .brilliant. Apparently I’m not the only one who feels that way. She said she always tells such students not to worry. That they have a very careful selection process and each student was chosen because they not only have the potential to do well here, but to contribute to their field.

“It’s all just an act,” she said in her very British accent. “Everyone’s scared out of their minds.”

We were introduced to the library afterward. By a woman who guys by a title other than Librarian. Library Fellow, perhaps. She was incredibly kind. She told us she was here to serve us. That there’s no stupid questions. And that if there’s anything she can do to help, that we should just ask. After looking at our reading list (mine’s 11 pages, for one class…), I was hoping she knew what she was doing.

I absolutely loved it there. In the library. I was so at peace. It’s a beautiful place.

Old books, of course. Row after row after row. Stacked all the way to the ceiling. Lots of leather and wood, everywhere you look. Leather chairs framed in wood. Leather-topped tables framed in wood. Ceilings and walls, all old, dark, rich wood. The room has a second floor for additional seating, and you can look up at it as it is merely made up of overhead walkways. The first floor has windows at the end of each book aisle. Stained glass windows. An ivory statue of an old cloaked man with a book in hand sits at one end of the room, and there’s a fireplace at the other. A clock sits on top of the fireplace, tick, tick, ticking away.

The room is incredibly quiet. So much so that you feel guilty about the sound of your footsteps on the wooden floor beneath. A pile of shoes sit just outside the door. By students who’ve found them to make too much noise, apparently.

Dinner with Felix

With Justin and Jane at Sir Elton John’s private dinner party, I joined Felix for supper shortly after returning home tonight. Beng had prepared us dinner. A meat and noodles dish. Italian. Very good, although I’d be hard-pressed to describe it. She called it spaghetti, but it definitely wasn’t the kind of spaghetti I’ve ever had. Again, very good, though. Broccoli. Green Beans. Carrots. Plenty of vegetables to round out the meal. It was great.

Beng set the table and served us before excusing herself from the room so Felix and I could carry on. It all felt very odd. Very much. . .for someone else.

Felix was still dressed in his private school attire. Dress shirt and slacks. Dress shoes. Although his shirt was now untucked. His latin homework book sat at the end of the table. Latin. At 10. He’s brilliant. I’m confident his vocabulary outnumbers mine by a ratio of two:one. On a good day. My good day.

He’s very into animals. We talked about the different kinds of animals he has here in Britain. The kind of animals we have back at home. And then he told me about the safari he went on. And all the animals he saw there. He told me there probably aren’t any African animals I can name he didn’t see. I gave it my best shot. And, after getting through about three or four, I had to turn to my memory of The Lion King to think of more animals to throw at him. Still, no luck. He’s pretty much seen them all.

We went out to the backyard after finishing our second plates of dinner. To show me around. To introduce me to the rabbits. To point out which neighbors get fussy when you accidentally throw a ball into your yard, and which neighbors don’t. And to give me a quick introduction to the game of Cricket. As if I didn’t have enough to learn all ready. I really did want to learn, and I think I have a better understanding of it now, but I still don’t know whether the guy who throws the ball is a pitcher, a bowler or a punter. Too many new terms all at once, I suppose.

We returned to the dining room for dessert. Warm apple cobbler and custard. It was amazing. The phone ringed for Felix while we were eating, so I sneaked in a second helping.

Pub Crawl

The folks at Harris Manchester hosted a pub crawl this evening. To show the freshers around. To introduce them to the best spots. And to provide a chance for everyone to meet one another.

I had debated on going or not going. I really hadn’t been feeling well. Sore throat. Exhaustion. Surely a side effect of going to bed at 1 a.m. and hardly falling asleep before the alarm went off at 6 since arriving.

But I decided to go. “It’ll make a better story than staying in and studying,” I kept telling myself.

And I’m glad I did. I met up with about 20 other students at the college before wandering back down the cobblestone alley to a pub called the Lamb & Flag. A small place with low ceilings. And it felt a bit like you were walking into a sauna that had been stoked with Guinness for a few hours stepping through the door. We placed our drink orders at the bar and found a small room toward the back of the pub. Less crowded. Less hot.

I met a handful of very nice people who’re also members of Harris Manchester. And one girl attending another college. It’s a bit of an odd thing, really. Even though I am technically a student of Harris Manchester, I don’t actually have any classes there. If you’re confused, don’t worry, so am I.

I met a guy from the south of England by the name of Jamie. Really nice. Thick in the chest and shoulders. Bit of a sporty look to him. He told me about the time he hitch-hiked from Canada to Yosemite to go mountain climbing. When he was 20. Or just turned 21. And about how he met the nicest guy in a mountaineering shop in a place called…”Port Angeles?”

Harris Manchester is specifically for students over the age of 21, so most of the group was made up of people returning for second degrees. A lot of people who have decided to change careers, for some reason or another.

“English is what I’m really passionate about, so I applied and now I’m here,” said a girl by the name of Faith. She’s from the Philippines. Her father’s a pastor outside of London. “I actually studied law here at Oxford about nine years ago, but English is my passion.”

“I’d have trouble saying that about law,” said Wei Meng, a really cool guy who went from banking in New York to studying law at Oxford. Wei is originally from Malaysia, but he’s worked for quite a while in the states now. Young guy, still. Late 20’s, probably. “It’s something I’m definitely interested in, but I’m not sure I’m passionate about it.”

I interjected. “Sure, but you could be passionate about a purpose you could use law to accomplish.” He nodded. Others nodded. Another guy spoke up, “Like helping the homeless.”

“Right,” I said. “That’s probably true of most subjects. We’re here because we believe what we’re studying can help us accomplish something. Something special. Something we’re passionate about.”

And I immediately was reminded of the words Hayley sent me a few months before her passing. Shortly after hearing the news I’d be studying at Oxford.

“You’re going to impact a lot of people’s lives. You have mine.”

And it was all I could do to not lose it. I turned my head to the window and the conversation quickly drowned out like stars lost in the thick clouds of a night’s sky as my thoughts were swallowed up by her words.

I am here because I believe in something I am passionate about. Him. And introducing Him to others in a way that makes sense. In a way that removes the haze from the seemingly difficult things of the Christian faith. In a way that makes them appear clear.

And I believe studying Theology here–at Oxford–will help me achieve that. And once that has happened, that’s when His work can really be done. His work of changing lives. Others, just as He has mine. Not because I am so special. Or really because of anything I’m going to do. But because of what He can do. Because of what He’s going to do and what He is doing. By working through this experience.

Goodnight.

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