Archives for posts with tag: X-Men 4

It’s 11:39 at night here, and I’m excited because I just wrapped up all the work I set for myself to get done today. Which means the rest of the evening is me time. Which means I’m writing, as you can see.

The last few days have been pretty crazy here. I’ve pretty much been either studying Greek or working on essays since Saturday evening. Feels good to come up for air. But that’s just the way it is here. That’s the way people are here. I haven’t found a whole lot of slackers since arriving. But I knew coming into it there wouldn’t be a whole lot of people who weren’t here to get down to business. Especially at Harris manchester, where everyone’s coming back for another degree.

I remember looking at the clock at 7:42 last night and thinking there were still plenty of people in the library. Many of the same people who were there at 2 in the afternoon. That’s just the way it is here.

Church on Sunday

I did make it to church on Sunday morning, though. Before spending the rest of the day in Greek. And I’m glad I did. It put a smile on my face, just being there.

It’s kind of funny, even when so much seems foreign over here, church still feels like church. I mean, really, everything is different here. Even the outlets, for Pete’s sake.

But I remember sitting in church Sunday morning thinking, “these guys sing songs about Jesus, too.” And it made me smile.

They still have their share of cheesy church songs here, too. But they’re still about Jesus. I think they might actually have even more cheesy songs, but it could just be the church, too. It is a family service I’ve been going to, which could explain all the hand gestures. I’m not a fan of hand gestures. It just feels funny. Unnatural, maybe? I don’t know. I’m sure there’s a good reason for them (like humility, perhaps), but I’m not a huge fan.

Nor am I a big fan of making up words for church songs. You know what I mean? I’ve noticed that a few times here. But, I guess they could be real words. I don’t know what half of the words they use here mean anyway. And when I think I do, I’m usually wrong.

One of the songs we sang on Sunday morning was about not being ashamed of Jesus. That even when the world thinks we’re crazy. Or ridiculous. That we should find joy in living a life for Him. Maybe they have something with those hand gestures…

Finding a hatchet in the woods

I caught up with Ken and Lynne after the service. The hand surgeon from Oregon who is now studying Theology here at Oxford. It was good to see them again. They’re both great.

I had told Ken that Justin and Jane, well, Jane really, had offered Justin’s bike to me to get around town. I told Ken I had tried to pump up the tires but that I was unable to get it to work properly. Again, everything’s different here. He told me I likely had the wrong kind of pump, but that he might be able to help. He had a pump in his car. One that he could plug in and let the pump do the work.

“If it’s just a case of flat tires, I should be able to help you,” he told me.

Sure enough, that was it. After a few minutes, I had myself a bike with two full tires. I was so excited. I felt like the 16-year old kid being handed the keys for the first time and drooling over their newfound freedom. Or the kid who’s lost in the woods and comes across a hatchet. So many possibilities now. I’m moving up in the world, my friends.

Summertown

I knew I had a lot of Greek to get done before the start of the new week, and I really didn’t feel like sitting at home and studying, so I decided to venture out to Summertown for a bit of studying.

Summertown is probably less than a mile from here. North. The opposite direction of the Oxford city center. It’s a nice, small, more modern little neighborhood. With a couple markets.

A handful of restaurants. And a few shops.

It has a very different feel than the Oxford city center, but I like Summertown a lot. It almost feels a bit like Queen Anne in Seattle.

I hadn’t grabbed lunch at home after church because, well, there wasn’t much I could make with ketchup and cereal. And that’s about all I had in my kitchen. I planned to swing into the market after studying for a bit, so I found a place in Summertown for lunch. Brunch.

At a place called Joe’s. And it was great.

It actually felt like a place I might find back home. With the addition of the British accents. There were a lot of families when I went. And couples meeting for breakfast. I snagged a seat in the front of the restaurant. A window seat. And it was a beautiful, sunny day. So the light spilled in from the street. Tough to beat brunch on a sunny Sunday morning.

Looking over the menu, everything sounded good. French toast. Omelets. I settled on the ham and eggs, without the “chips.”

“Can I get your ham and eggs and chips, with toast in place of the chips?” I asked the waiter.

He gave me a look like I had surprised him with a calculus problem. He was completely baffled. And in turn, so was I.

“Well, we can do eggs and toast, with a side of ham?” was his reply.

“Uhh, yeah, that’s what I’d like. Let’s do that.”

“So, eggs and toast, with a side of ham?” he asked again. Just to make sure he had it right, I guess.

“Yes. Eggs, toast and ham. That sounds great.”

I was glad he was able to straighten out my confusing order. But then he brought my plate a bit later and I realized what the issue may have been. I’m not sure if I’m the only one who has ever ordered eggs and toast with a side of ham, or if it was a cruel joke played on the American, but I really did get eggs and toast with a side of ham. A side of ham cold cuts. Emphasis on the cold. I didn’t mind, though. I was starving. And it was good.

From there, I made my way to the Starbucks just across the street. To get some studying done.

It’s a great Starbucks, too. Feels a lot like home. And I know that sounds funny, but I’ve been to another Starbucks here that did not feel like home. It felt like Starbucks squeezed into a closet. Very English. But I guess it’s nice to have both.

I wasn’t quite full from my eggs and cold cuts, so I ordered some oatmeal to accompany my Greek studies. Or porridge, as it’s called here. It came plain, with a side of dried fruit. And so I had to add plenty of brown sugar and cinnamon and vanilla to make it worth eating.

And it reminded me of my sister. It reminded me of how I used to make her oatmeal, growing up. I’d throw everything in there. Cinnamon. Syrup. Vanilla. Brown sugar. Raisins. Everything. I think I may have even put nuts in there sometimes. And she’d love it. I remember her requesting it from time to time, when I was still in high school. It’s been a while since I’ve made my sister oatmeal, but that’s what I was thinking about this afternoon in the Summertown Starbucks. Made the porridge taste even better.

It’s funny how these memories spring up from the littlest things. And how they remind you of home. Even when you’re so far from it.

Monday

Monday was my first day using my newfound freedom to get to school. The bike. I ended up getting to class about 20 minutes early. I sometimes feel guilty for not walking anymore, but it’s incredible the time I save now!

And I’m certainly not alone. Everyone bikes in Oxford.

It’s actually helping me get the traffic down, too. Biking, that is. It’s helping me realize which side traffic flows.

Walking, I often catch myself having to remember which side of the sidewalk to walk on, when other people are approaching. Just as traffic is different, so too is foot traffic.

After leaving class Monday morning, I noticed another line of film crew trucks outside the Bodleian. And another X-Men 4 sign on the back of one of them. “Still shooting,” I thought to myself after riding off. It didn’t look like they were setting up, so I figured they were probably doing a shoot later.

I turned a corner and noticed people on both sides of the street. Stopped. Staring. People don’t stop in Oxford. Everyone has somewhere to be. I stopped, too. And looked back. I following everyone’s eyes to what must’ve been the director. Setting up the shoot. Talking with his hands. Gesturing. Explaining what they were going for to someone else.

“Crazy,” I thought to myself as I rode away. I had a date with the library, or else I would’ve waited around.

Dinner with Felix & Jurassic Park

I spent the most of the day Monday in the library. Not terribly exciting, I know, but like I said, I had loads to get done.

I tried a new panini shop for lunch. The Alternative Turk was packed and I was tight on time. I was disappointed; it just wasn’t the same. Plus, the Alternative Turk is five pence cheaper.

The Alternative Turk takes all my money. But I’m glad to give it away in exchange for their pesto chicken paninis. It’s like the guy who’s robbing you while smiling. How can you be mad?

Jane sent me an e-mail sometime that afternoon. While I was working from the library at Harris Manchester. Telling me her and Justin would be in London for the evening, and that I was welcome to stop in and say “Hi” to Felix while they were out. But only if I wanted to.

“Of course. I’d love to,” was my response.

“Great! Beng will have some food waiting for you, if you’re hungry.”

Being here, on my own, it’s so nice to have someone invite me for dinner. I don’t know what it is, but that’s been one of the most comforting things.

I didn’t get in until almost 9 that night. I dropped my things off at the door to my place and let myself in to see Felix. I was so excited for the break from studies. For a warm meal. And to catch up with Felix. He’s a great kid.

“Felix? Hello? It’s Ryan.” I said, making myself known.

“Hi Ryan. I believe Beng has some food for you. Do you, Beng?” he asked. Straight away, he wanted to make sure I got my food.

Beng welcomed me with a smile. “Hi Ryan.” And she made her way to the kitchen to warm up my dinner. Felix and I followed.

“There’s really nothing on, so I was just watching Jurassic Park,” he told me. I wasn’t surprised. I knew he liked animals.

“Yeah? I haven’t watched that movie in years.”

“Well, maybe you can have your dinner in the living room with me and watch it for a bit with me before I have to go to bed.”

“That’d be great,” I said with a smile.

“Beng, Ryan will take his dinner in the living room.”

I found myself sitting on the couch, enjoying my pork chop and laughing with Felix at the movie.

“This really is great,” I thought to myself.

Tuesday

John and I grab lunch on Tuesdays. At Wycliffe Hall. The guy from my Greek class. The only guy in England with a hawaiian shirt.

He’s a great guy, and I’ve really enjoyed our conversations. This day we found ourselves talking about Driscoll. I forget how he came up. But John and another guy we were eating lunch with, Sam, were curious about his ministry.

The guys were totally blown away by the ministry that’s been accomplished through Driscoll’s work at Mars Hill in Seattle. They said he’d probably face a mob right if he tried his preaching style here in England. I told them he’s not free from the mobs in Seattle. But that God has done some pretty amazing things through his ministry.

John brought up something he had heard Driscoll say at one point. How he is intentional about using the name, “Jesus” when he’s talking. For interviews. From the pulpit. Apparently he said he feels like there’s something that makes us not want to use that name. We’ll say “God” or “Christ,” but often times there’s something funny about using the name of Jesus. So he makes a point of it. Driscoll, that is.

John said he could see that. That there’s something there. He thought maybe it was the Enemy not wanting us to use that name. “If I were Satan, that’s one battle I’d be involved in. Making sure people weren’t using that name.”

By his name will they be saved,” Sam spoke up. John nodded. I like these guys.

Surprised by rain

I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the weather here. Which is funny. You know you’re from the Northwest when you’re happy with the lack of rain in England.

But our sunny streak was broken Tuesday afternoon. I was in my Gospels & Jesus tutorial when it started. Sarah, my classmate, was in another amazing outfit. Complete with red leggings that matched her hair.

But I love it. The crazy outfits. If you’ve ever been somewhere where everyone dressed alike, you’ve realized how much you appreciate people not dressing exactly like you. It’s good. It’s healthy. I don’t like constantly being around people who’re just like me. Who think like me. Who dress like me. Not all the time, at least. It’s constricting. It dulls my senses. You may disagree with me, but being around people who are unlike me is refreshing.

I think that’s one of the main reasons I enjoyed volunteering at the food bank back home. People came there from all sorts of backgrounds. Lots of variety. Lots of people very unlike me. It was refreshing. Like seasoning for a bland meal.

Sarah swore as she left the protection of our castle-like college. Darting across the college grounds in the rain. I think she liked the rain even less than I did.

“My brakes don’t work in the rain, so I end up trying not to run into things” she told me as we were leaving.

She passed me as I made my way back to Harris Manchester that night. On her bike. I laughed as I watched her stop at the intersection. In the rain. Shoes sliding across the wet pavement, acting as brakes.

Lewis Society

After a couple hours of working on an essay for my God & Israel in the Old Testament class that was due the next day, I made my way from the Harris Manchester Library to the Oxford CS Lewis Society’s lecture. Weaving in and out of traffic on the cobblestone roads, lit up by street lamps. The light reflecting off the puddles that line the streets in the night. The cool night air provided a refreshing break from being indoors so many days straight. Studying. The Lewis lecture would be a reward to myself for several days’ worth of non-stop studies.

I pulled up to the Pusey House where the lectures are held, just a few doors down from the Eagle & Child pub where Lewis used to meet with the Inklings. And I was greeted by the porter (the night watchmen, basically) as I did. He had broad shoulders that nearly filled the doorway.

“Hi there,” I said, stepping off my bike onto the sidewalk.

“Here for Lewis?” he asked in a heavy British accent.

It still surprises me. That people know I’m a student here. At Oxford. And I am, I guess. But just two weeks ago I wasn’t. Not at all. I was a business guy. Doing business things. Very much unlike the lifestyle I have here. As a student. It’s all so different. It’s such an incredible adjustment, and it happened so quickly. I think it’s going to take me a while to fully come to terms with it.

Locking up my bike under the night sky before going in for the Lewis lecture, I had another “Oh yeah…” moment. And I had to remind myself, “you are a student here, now. This really is your life.”

Greater appreciation for Lewis

Being here at Oxford has given me a greater appreciation for CS Lewis. Feels funny to say that, but it really has. To be around professors here. Even those in the Theology department, you don’t see a whole lot of them coming right out and saying, “This is what I believe.” Even less, you don’t see them writing to help the layperson with their faith. With their walk. You don’t see many here writing to help the layperson know and understand God more clearly. At least I haven’t come across that yet. The closest you’d come nowadays would probably be John Lennox. A brilliant Professor of Mathematics here at Oxford who often debates on the topic of God’s existence.

It’s little wonder why so many professors of Lewis’ day weren’t big fans of him. Professors don’t wear their faith on their sleeve like he did. That’s just the scholarly environment here. Which makes me appreciate him even more. He really stuck his neck out to do what he did, in the position he held here. But he did so because he believed in this stuff. With all he had. And because he believed it was his responsibility to use what he had to help others in their walk.

That’s a lesson for all of us, I think. We may not all be Lewises, but I don’t think God expects us to be. I think he just expects us to use what He’s given us. And I think we’ll be surprised to see what happens when we do. He can do pretty amazing things with even a small amount of faith. With even a small amount of willingness and desire to follow after Him.

You’ve got mail

I returned home late Tuesday night from a long day of studies, and from the Oxford CS Lewis Society lecture, to find two letters waiting for me. My first mail since arriving! I was so excited. Smiling like a kid on Christmas morning.

The first letter was from my Aunt Laurie and my Uncle Albert. It was a very nice, handmade card. Telling me how proud they were for the road I was on. It was so nice to hear from them.

I saved the next letter for last. The letter from Jen. I was so happy to hear from her.

I opened it with a smile on my face, and instantly the smell of Jen’s perfume came wafting out. And the smell, oh the smell! It was amazing…I cannot explain how comforting it was. Surrounding me, as if she were here, wrapping me up in a warm hug. It really was almost as if she were right here with me.

When you’re a guy living on your own, surrounded by your guy smells, the best smell in the world is the scent of a woman. Except perhaps for the smell of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies. They’re neck and neck, probably. But when you’re a married guy who is living on your own, away from your wife, the best smell in the world is the scent of your wife. Its better than cookies.

I closed my eyes and I just held the letter to my face. For quite a while. And then I remembered it was a letter. And that Jen had actually written me something, to read, and that she had not just sent me a perfume scented envelope.

We talk every day. Twice most days. And so I wasn’t expecting a letter from her. But I can’t tell you what a welcome surprise it was. I unfolded the letter and I began reading her words. And instantly I could hear her voice. It made me smile. And cry. And smile some more. It was the best thing that’s happened to me since arriving.

Jackpot

Today was another studies-filled day.

I did get a chance to finally make it to Blackwell’s, though. To pick up a book for today’s class.

Blackwell’s is an incredible book store here in Oxford. Something like five stories of books. The basement opens up into an enormous, cavern-like room filled with books. Everywhere you can see. You really could spend hours there. I’m not sure I’d ever have the time, but you could. If you wanted. I’m looking forward to going back when I have more time.

They have a really cool cafe on the second floor. Very Oxford. I think I might try it out for studies at some point. That’s how I think now, “this place would make a nice place to study…”

I returned home tonight to find more mail. A letter from Jen’s Grandma Anne (she promised to write me once a week). And a package waiting from my grandpa.

“You’ve got a beeg box here,” Beng said as I came through the front door, in her Philipino accent.

I opened the letter from Jen’s Grandma first. It was a great letter. She’s a great writer. Filling me in on what’s going on back home. How everyone’s doing. I loved all the details. It made me feel not so far away.

She told me they were proud of me. She told me she knew Hayley would be, too. That she loved me very much. And I had to stop reading at that point. For a few seconds. To catch my breath. To let the tears fall. It still hurts. Those wounds, it seems, are still so fresh. But I did appreciate it. Her words.

My Grandpa’s box was next. He had been asking what I needed since shortly after I arrived, so I knew something would be coming at some point. But, boy, I can’t tell you how happy I was to see it.

And to open it. I felt like I had won the jackpot!

This package was amazing. I was stunned with all the food from back home.

Life cereal (my favorite, which you can’t find in England). Some protein bars to snack on during the day (so the Alternative Turk doesn’t steal all my money…I can’t prove it, but I’m 95 percent sure they’re putting nicotine in those sandwiches. I find myself wanting another chicken pesto panini two seconds after I finish one), enough crystal light for me to make juice for the entire city of Oxford, Quaker maple & brown sugar oatmeal (again, my favorite), Cheez-Its, newspapers (so I’m up to speed on what’s going on in Bellingham), a first-aid kit, vitamins (“I take a vitamin c every night before I go to bed, and I never get sick,” he always tells me), a resistance band to get some exercise in along with my studies, and, the cous de gras, Kirkland brand trail mix. Oh man… I was so excited.

He also sent me a dry erase board, which I thought was a great idea. Will be nice to have, for sure.

I put on Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” and began stocking my shelves. Taking a handful of trail mix, crackers, etc as I did. I really have an incredible family.

Thank you.

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I didn’t have a very exciting day here today. I really didn’t even take any photos. Except for this one that I shot on my way to the Bodleian for some studying.

Looks like they’re not quite wrapped up yet…

I did have dinner with an amazing couple tonight, though. The guy is in my Greek class with me. Another guy from Wycliffe Hall. His name is Lynden. Yes, just like the city back home.

Suuuuper nice guy. He’s from New Zealand. He was a bond trader in London for six years or so before deciding he wanted to go into the ministry. Now he’s studying Theology at Oxford. These are the kind of people I’m meeting here. The kind of people who mention (in passing) that they have a PhD in computer science. The kind of people who invite me over for dinner. For mexican food. Rad.

Dinner with Lynden and Mems

Lynden (or Lynde) picked me up around 7:30 tonight. In his silver Audi wagon. “It’s secondhand. I got a great deal on it from a guy I used to work with. It’s actually eight years old,” he told me after a compliment on it.

He and his wife and their two kids live in a neighborhood just a 10-minute drive north of me. Northwest. Beautiful home. It’s been remodeled recently, from the looks of things, so it has a really modern feel to it. Lots of light colored woods. And vaulted ceiling. It’s not claustrophobic like a lot of the homes you see here.

We walked in and it instantly looked like a home with children. Not in a bad way. I loved it, actually. Toys on the floor. Trainset. Blocks. Crayons. It made it feel like a home.

Mems was putting the boys down to bed when we pulled in. She came down to greet us shortly after we arrived. They’re an amazing couple. Like I said, he’s from New Zealand. So he has that New Zealand accent. And a bit darker skin. Darker hair. And he’s always smiling. Always laughing. And Mems (I can’t remember what it’s short for), Mems is very English, as she told me. She has a few inches on Lynden. She’s about as tall as I am. And blonde.

They met while at university, and they lived in London for about six years while Lynden was in bonds trading. Moving to Oxford has been a pretty big change for them, as well. They have a lot more space here. Their two year old son, Joshua, calls the back garden a park.

Mems finished work on the tacos while we talked in the kitchen for a bit. I was so happy to be having tacos. I love the British food, but tacos definitely sounded refreshing.

Mems told me not to worry about spilling or making a mess, because she’s incredibly messy. Sure enough, she made her point right off the bat with the rice. I told her it was just an ice breaker to make sure I didn’t feel embarrassed when I spilled. She assured me it was not.

We had a great talk over dinner. About our interests in the ministry. About some of our favorite pastors and authors. They had a stack of John Piper books beside the table. We instantly had a common bond.

We talked a lot about the state of the Church in America. And in England. We talked about the differences between the two countries. How America’s portion sizes match the size of the country’s homes, both much bigger than here in England.

“It’s totally okay if you don’t like my cooking,” Mems said, “but I’ve made some pudding for dessert.” This was after my second plate of tacos.

The English call everything pudding, by the way. You have to remind yourself that by pudding, they could actually mean a number of things. Like cake, for example.

“It has pears and cinnamon and almonds,” she explained to me. It looked amazing. And it tasted even better. Especially with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

Mems excused herself to comfort their youngest. Joel. He’s just eight months old. She brought him into the dining room where we were at. You could tell he had been woken up from a nice sleep and he wasn’t happy about it.

“Probably had a bad dream,” Lynden said.

Mems went to return Joel to bed, and Lynde got up, stepped around the table and kissed him on the forehead before he left.

We moved to the living room after finishing our dessert. To chat some more. We talked about some of our coursework. And about how we were dealing with the things that flew in the face of our beliefs.

I told him I kind of knew that’s what I’d be getting myself into. That, even though it’s not always comfortable, it is a conversation I felt like I needed to be familiar with, if I wanted to take this seriously. He agreed.

They told me about how they planned to move to New Zealand after Lynde finished his degree. To work in the ministry back home.

“There’s a real need for it there, that’s for sure,” Lynde told me.

I asked if that was going to be a hard transition for them, after being in England so long.

“I think I’ll realize just how English I am once I get there,” Mems said with a laugh.

I thanked them for having me after a while. Not wanting to overstay my welcome. It was nearly 10. They said it was no problem. They said they were sorry I had to be here for so long on my own.

They told me if I ever just want to be around people, not to hesitate to give them a phone call. That they were only a little ways away.

“Yeah, and we have a spare room, so even if you wanted to stay the night,” Lynden said, making me feel completely welcome. “And if it’s just not a good night, I’ll let you know,” he said with a smile.

“Yes, they’re quite blunt in New Zealand,” Mems piped in. “Took a bit of getting used to.”

I told them it was nice to come somewhere so far from home and still feel comfortable. To a place that felt like home. I think they appreciated hearing that. I appreciated them having me even more.

Saying goodbye, Lynden made a joke about trading Mems in for a younger wife.

“Pretty soon you won’t be twenty anymore…” he said with a sly smile.

“If that’s the case, you should’ve done so whilst you were still a bond trader,” she fired back.

“Hey there, I’m going into the ministry,” Lynde mocked a pickup line.

It made me miss Jen. The back and forth between them. The kiss on the cheek and saying goodbye. I can’t wait for her to arrive.

Sam & Maddie

I returned home to find an e-mail from Jen. She had been babysitting two kids from back home. Sam & Maddie. And she sent me their photos.

I love these guys, and seeing their faces made coming back to an empty home to study after being in such a warm, familial home a bit easier. Thanks, hun. I love you.

Oxford is beautiful in the fall. Not that I have a whole lot of other seasons to compare it to, but it’s beautiful.

Particularly the neighborhood I am in on Northwood Road. It’s very green. Lots of leaves on the ground. Children in their private school attire. Little girls in skirts and sweater vests running and laughing. Boys in suits getting out of class. Parents in BMWs, Volvos and Mercedes waiting to pick up their kids after school. It’s all so picturesque.

The 2%

About 99% of the time I’m here I’m incredibly anxious. Uncomfortably so. I find myself thinking, “Everyone else is supposed to be here; I am not.”

You wouldn’t think so, but everything is new and foreign, and out of my comfort zone. Most of my time is spent wishing there was more time and wondering how in the world I’m going to possibly do this. How this is going to work out. How I’m going to learn everything, be everywhere and hand everything in. Worrying how bad its going to hurt when I fall completely on my face.

One of the Tutors gave a talk this morning. Or yesterday morning, perhaps. One of the two. My days are all blending together at this point. And she mentioned that 98% of all mature students (over the age of 21) who attend Oxford complete their degree. I wondered if I’d be in the minority.

If this was just about adding some letters behind my name, or putting a piece of paper on my wall, I wouldn’t be here right now. I would’ve given up long ago. This is simply the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. No, if it weren’t for truly believing God was going to use this experience to work in other people’s lives. In other people’s hearts. For His glory. So that they might see Him more clearly, I simply wouldn’t be here.

Thank God for close friends who encourage me. Who spur me on. Thank you more than you know.

3 out of 104 libraries

I walk a lot. Every day. I’ve been averaging about two hours per day. But today was three hours of walking (three roundtrips to and from school).

I was at school most of the day. For meetings. To be shown around the libraries (I was introduced to three of the 104). One of which was the Bodleian Library. Its an incredibly old Library, and it houses everything thats ever been published in Great Britain. More than nine million books.

Apparently it’s a very difficult place to get into. Oxford University students show their card to get in. The public cannot. I take that back. They can see a bit of it, but not all. The inner courtyard is crowded with tourists. Again, I still feel like one, most times.

Even professors who aren’t a part of the university who want to come to access a book (you cannot check out books from the Bodleian) have to write a letter stating their interest to do so. They’re also required to include a bunch of background information and go through an application process. It is a breathtaking place, though. Lots of stone. Walls. Ceilings. Lots of incredibly intricate carvings. Of saints. And words.

Back to Harris Manchester

I didn’t think about it in the morning, but I needed my suit and gown for our first formal dinner this evening. I should’ve brought it when I went to Harris Manchester in the morning. I didn’t. Which meant an extra trip in the evening. An extra trip I really didn’t have time for.

I arrived back at the house only to realize I had forgotten the slip of paper with the door code in my jacket back at school. I didn’t think anyone was home, but fortunately Beng (the housekeeper) was in. “Forget  the code?” She said with a smile when she opened the door for me.

I decided to try and take a shortcut back to the school. To save myself some time. It ended up taking me twice as long.

I arrived back at Harris Manchester just in time for tea with our Theology tutors. Completely drenched in sweat. A perfect way to meet them for the first time.

More and more, Harris Manchester seems like the perfect college. Not too large. Beautiful. Incredibly friendly people.

I met another student in the Theology program during the tea meet and greet. Cole. He’s an American, from Houston, and he’s a very big C.S. Lewis fan. He’s actually head of the C.S. Lewis Society and he’s living in Lewis’ old home. He told me that the society’s Christmas party this year will be held at the Kilns (the name of Lewis’ old home). I’ll definitely be talking more with this guy.

First Formal Dinner

After tea, I squeezed in a bit of studying in the College Library (Tate Library). I forgot to mention this yesterday, but the Library includes stacks of soft, fuzzy blankets on several of the tables around the room. It’s amazing. Jen would love that about it.

After about an hour of Greek, I made my way downstairs to change into my suit and gown and I crossed the college grounds to Arlosh Hall for our first formal dinner. It was an amazing sight. Very Harry Potter esque. The room was dimly lit, and everyone was dressed in their finest. Suits and ties. Dresses. And black gowns. Tables, long tables, with candlelight and plates and glasses and cutlery. High, arching ceiling. Huge portraits hanging from the stone walls. It was beautiful. I felt honored to be standing at the table.

Everyone stood until the table was filled. At that point, Steven (the chef, “Caterer”) would rap something on the door then everyone would sit. Once everyone was seated and the main doors were closed, there came another rap on the door. At that point, the main doors were opened and the faculty, led by our principal, entered the room and made their way to the head table. All dressed in gowns. Another rap, then everyone sat.

The dinner was amazing. Three courses. A salad, of sorts. Tuna served over green beans with tomatoes and hard boiled eggs on the side. It was very good. That was followed by the main course of mashed potatoes and pork steak, with vegetables. Lastly, there was some sort of warm, gooey chocolate cake with a custard sauce. It was amazing.

Dr. Ralph Waller, Principal at Harris Manchester College, gave a speech following the main course and before the dessert was served. He talked about the incredible honor it was to be a part of this community. Both the college and the university. That it would take a lot of hard work, but that we should not lose sight of where we were. He talked about how the university had denied 20,000 applications this year, and how hundreds of thousands of others around the world who didn’t apply would love to be in our shoes. He talked about the great men and women who had attended both the college and the university before us, and their contributions to society. He talked about the amazing things we can find at Oxford, including the blackboard from when Einstein visited for a lecture years ago and wrote the equation to solve the size of the universe. His handwritten equation is still on the blackboard, which was cut out and placed in one of the many museums here.

It all left me feeling very humbled. Like I was in the wrong place.

A conversation with Tim

I sat next to Tim. A student from Singapore I mentioned before. Really nice guy. He’s studying PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics). We talked about church for a while. If I went to church back home. If I had looked into any churches here. He told me about a small group he attended earlier in the week he really liked.

“This all feels very much like Harry Potter,” Tim said over dinner. I laughed. I told him I couldn’t stop thinking that.

Another guy by the name of Tarik sat with us. Tarik was practicing medicine before coming to Oxford to study Philosophy. Very bright, but also incredibly down to earth.

Of all the challenges Oxford throws at students, its people really are the redeeming factor. Both students and faculty. Everyone is so friendly, and so willing to help in any way they can.

Steven (the head chef and caterer) comes by during the meal, places his hand softly on (nearly) everyone’s shoulder, smiles and asks if everything’s okay. This room has nearly two hundred people in it.

I asked Tim if he thought anyone ever told Steven no.

Tim arrived at the school a few days before me. He told me there were a bunch of bright spotlights shining on Christ Church when he arrived, and that there were  a large number of catering vans parked around it. He asked someone what was going on and they told him X-Men 4 was being filmed there.

“Of course it was,” I said aloud.

He asked me a bit more about my Theology interests. What I wanted to do with my degree. I told him I really appreciated Lewis’ writing, and the ways in which he used analogies and logic to help people (non-academics) understand the things of the faith. Tim nodded. “We don’t have anyone who does that these days. Some say Tim Keller will be the next Lewis, but I don’t know.”

I asked Tim if he had read any of Donald Miller’s writing. Blue Like Jazz, or anything else. He hadn’t. Never heard of him. I explained that Donald Miller wrote about everyday experiences and stories and he also introduced his faith and how he approached it in these experiences. I told Tim I would love to combine the two approaches. Lewis’ use of analogies and logic applied to the faith, with Miller’s approachable, everyday situation writing style. I told him I thought that’d be an effective way to talk with people and to teach the hard things of our faith. For the guy on the street. Not the academic type. And that that’s what I wanted to use this for.

In a way, that’s very much what I hoped to achieve with hands&feet.

Tim listened to me rant before nodding his head in agreement and saying, “Theology isn’t an end in itself, but it’s a means to an end.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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