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I was awoken in the middle of the night last night by a phone call from my parents, and I think I can safely declare that I hate time zones. While I love my parents, so deeply miss them, and was so happy to hear from them, I was really tired, and being awoken in the middle of the night? Not a nice thing to do to a tired person. I think I actually came close to falling asleep during the conversation, because suddenly words made no sense, and when I spoke, I had no idea what I was saying anymore. I kept losing my point halfway through a sentence. Eventually we were forced to hang up and accept the phone call as a failure.

Because I am very strange in the middle of the night (and frequently verging on anxiety attacks), I got out my Programme Notebook and looked at some of my notes, trying to figure out what I'd have to do the next day. ...Make that "today," according to the clock. But the only thing I came up with was that I hate the strangely sized British computer paper. And when I say "strangely-sized," of course I mean "not-American sized in that lovely 8.5x11 perfection."

I also decided to take a shower in the middle of the night, because taking showers in the morning is just absolutely wretched, and I tend to be late enough as it is in the morning -- taking time to shower would just make the matter worse. The theory that showering in the morning helps you wake up is poppycock. (Poppycock? Who says "poppycock" anymore?) You're not any more awake after a shower. You're just tired and rather damp. So I showered in the middle of the night, probably to the annoyance of Anna next-door. Oh well. It's not as if my reasoning makes much sense in the middle of the night.

Thank you to all that is good in the world, or more specifically, thank you to Nikki, who is a saint for waking me up this morning because my alarm clock is evil and didn't go off, despite the fact that I set it to go off earlier than usual so I could be productive this morning. Apparently the world doesn't want me to be productive. Maybe I should accept that as a sign and do nothing today. That sounds rather pleasing.

I missed breakfast, and that added to my overwhelmingly tired haze, my mood was completely shot. I ran in to Farah in the stairwell, and when she asked me how I was this morning (damn the pleasantries of greetings), I started quoting the philosopher Fred Durst (from the band Limp Bizkit, the spelling of which I had to look up because I kept spelling it "Limp Biscuit" and that just doesn't look like the name of a rock'n'roll band). Anyway. Quoting Limp Bizkit,

"Its just one of those days
When you don't wanna wake up
Everything is f***ed
Everybody sucks
You don't really know why
But you wanna justify
Rippin' someone's head off"


(The profanity was "bleep"ed with asterixes for the readers of delicate sensibilities, despite the fact that I think I've already said "motherf***er" at least once already in this blog.)

I think I rather surprised/scared poor Farah. I will definitely not be getting any harsh words or obnoxiousness from her today out of her fear of bodily harm.

We all stumbled in blearily for our morning lecture, which was given by the professor who has already graced us with his presence previously. You know -- the stuttering, mole-toting, bad comb-over professor. The lecture did nothing to help my exhaustion. Sorry, but science at Oxford is just not something anyone wants to wake up to. But Professor Iles funds the programme, so of course what ever he wants to do, he does. If he wants to bore us all into somnolence, then, By God, he'll do just that.

Click to read my official Programme Notebook entry on this lectureCollapse )

My only note in my pretty little Lecture Notes notebook that is worth mentioning is "He seriously needs a cough drop or something." While The Anatomy of Melancholy is fairly interesting, and Boyle's air pump is hilarious, and Newton apparently was an argumentative dick, the cough drop is really more worth remembering. It has more character to it and demonstrates what I really took out of this.

Oh. And there's apparently a play called The Humours of Oxford, that's all about the sloth and drunkenness of the students. Oh, the hilarity. And I actually wrote down "And then he discussed lots of crap about Darwin," and paraphrased Hugh Cairns (the St. Hugh, I believe) as saying, "Hey, motorcyclists should wear helmets." Brilliant guy, Hugh.

When Professor Iles was just becoming more than I could handle, I wrote in very bold, capitalized letters, "STOP TALKING. TIME FOR COFFEE. NOW. You've gone fifteen minutes over and I need caffeine!" Farah was watching me write over my shoulder, and leaned over to write under my rant, "I CONCUR!" Ha. Farah, the med student, agrees that the lecture on Science at Oxford is just too much.

Other quotes of some interest:

"Penicillin is important. No duh, Sherlock." -Farah

"Smoking cigarettes is a bad idea." -Captain Obvious, Professor Iles

"This lecture if officially WAY TOO LONG." -Farah, in a letter to her brother she wrote during the lecture, which really was too long

After the lecture, everyone huddled over their coffee and biscuits, and continued the ceaseless discussion about packing-concerns. No one cares about the safety of flying due to new terrorism-scares, but the matter of how people are going to get their luggage back home is of paramount importance. When I tired of this vein of thought, I moved on to another circle of programmers, in which the topics of discussion were: girl-talk that will unfortunately go off-record, love of Disneyland (Farah, who lives in Sacramento, has promised to go play there with me one day), and hats.

We all milled about uselessly, because that is what we do here. Katie caught me as I passed her and thanked me for loaning her a pound last night at Chez Gaston, and she promised she'd pay me back soon. This concern over $2 in American money seemed a bit excessive. "Yes, Katie," I told her. "I'm going to knee-cap you if you don't give me back my pound before the deadline, got it?" We all basked in the great joy that is mocha-coffees (the best hot chocolate in the world combined with only sort-of-okay English coffee). Jennie informed me that my hair looked good, and I informed her in return that it's only by the grace of God that my hair looks worthy of existence outside my room; I don't blow-dry and usually sleep on it wet. "Well, I wish God would grant me such grace!" she exclaimed, and, of course, was adorable.

I have come to the conclusion that Noonie is like a mommy. She rubs your back and strokes your hair if you're looking bored or tired or just plain sick of it all during a lecture, and it is infinitely comforting. I swear to God, this woman was made to have children; she is too good a maternal figure not to have children. It would be an insult to nature and a very sad thing for babies who are waiting to be conceived, possibly by her.

Jennie, as aforementioned, is another wonderfully tactile friend. Her greeting to me this morning was a heartwarming (however unexpected) hug, and there really isn't anything nicer than a hug when you're really not happy that the world insists that you participate in the day.

Off to the official seminar room for the morning's second lecture, the lecturer of which looks like an aged little girl, if that makes any sense at all. She was a tiny, tiny little sprite of a person, wearing a pink cardigan and an Alice bow in her grey-blonde hair that hung long around her just-a-little-more-than-middle-age-wrinkled face. That's about as accurately as I can describe her. It was another art lecture, because apparently the whole Oxford experience is about art, or at least that's what these people are leading us to believe.

Click to read my official Programme Notebook entry on this lectureCollapse )

We learned that the National Gallery has over 2,000 pieces and that the English love 17th century Dutch art. The things that Oxford teaches you, huh?

I recognized only a few pieces, one of which was The Ambassadors, which I didn't actually recognize by sight but did so by reputation and historical symbolism because my good friend Claire Tuley had told me all about; she'd considered studying it for her IB Extended Essay. It's famous for having a stretched skull along the bottom of the painting that is so artistically amazing that no one can figure out how this guy did it.

Hayley's remark of boredom in her notes: "Wow. I'm really not paying attention." I think I was actually thinking about Hamlet at the time. Oh well. At least that's fairly academic.

And I recognized the painting "The Hay Wain" because of having to do research to figure out what on earth a "haywain" actually was for a play this year. Theatre teaches you the oddest, most useless things. But at least if anyone ever asks me what a "haywain" is, I'll be able to promptly answer, "A horse-drawn cart used specifically to transport hay, as the word 'wain' means a horse-drawn cart used to transport agricultural goods. Also, a wainwright is someone who creates wains!" Anyway. And back to our regularly scheduled program(me?), free of defining Old English agricultural terms.

There were so many interesting aspects of how the artistic movement of Romanticism manifested itself in paintings. Romantic painters would often include a few lines of poetry to their paintings, and the subjects of paintings were very frequently children because they symbolize that uncorrupted innocence of being. But the sadness of it is that life is the gradual forgetting of what we knew before we were born; it's a very mystical concept. There's a lovely Gainsborough of two little girls chasing a butterfly but their expressions are so awfully sad. Oh, the symbolism.

Romantic painters were interested in powerful feelings, and dealt so much with classical beauty and form, but not with people of standing. So many artistic movements are all about searching for or going back to the Classical. What was so damn good about the Classical? It gets a little old after a while.

Jennie and I sighed in tandem at Monet. How sad is that?

Frankly I'm more fascinated by Impressionism, which the Little Girl Lecturer briefly touched upon. Taking what's nearest at hand... the immediacy of a moment and how fleeting it is... nature and the contemporary... realism, but a representation of what is "real"... It's fascinating.

We were so rapidly running out of time with still so many paintings to get through that eventually the slides were going by so fast that we only got a brief glimpse of each painting and maybe a title, like a flipbook of masterpieces. When the lecture ended, as always, I went up to chat with the professor. I asked her if she could define Impressionism for me and she brightened so vividly at a student taking interest in what she had to say, as if this were a rare occurrence. She made me write down my name for her so she could send me some of her materials. Her enthusiasm was infectious; I always enjoy talking to the professors. They always have something to say.

Next was lunch. Maira has gotten into the bad habit of swinging around her lanyard of St. Hugh's keys-and-fob, and she rarely fails to hit herself with said swinging keys. Let her bruise herself with unlocking mechanisms. I'm just worried about being in the line of fire.

The programmers are starting to get worried about the Programme Notebook entries; we have another deadline coming up. It's hard enough keeping up with an entry for every lecture and excursion, but extra entries to write as well? It means there are two new things to write about every day, as well as another laundry list of things to write about. It's becoming a little overwhelming, and the quality of the writing is quickly deteriorating, which probably defeats the purpose of these entries. It's becoming less thought and discussion and more frantic attempts to put something down on paper. These entries are supposed to make us think, and there's no longer any thought behind this rubbish we're writing. How sad.

And after lunch, I napped. I'm clearly trying to become a European, embracing the tradition of the siesta. And, hey, I'm a teenager. I'm tired.

I was not able to nap for a long and uninterrupted period of time, however, as I was summoned from my bed to hear Nikki's request for me to be photographer for the water-balloon fight. Unfortunately for her, nothing involving water-balloons can coax me from sleep. But I was soon awoken again by another proposition. Brian was next to knock at my door; I feared a water-balloon, but he was actually coming to call in order to invite me to dinner with him, Noonie, and Wally. I believe my exact answer was "YES YES I'LL COME." After that, I didn't properly go back to sleep for fear of being late.

When we finally left, topics of discussion varied. We examined the issue of teacher pet names (Noonie, Wally, etc.) and the appropriateness of showing affection toward teachers; what is the acceptable teacher-student relationship nowadays? Especially with the oh-so understanding liberal arts teachers. On the street past North Parade when you turn right, a few shops down there's this lovely and strange antique shop I've been dying to poke around in. It's called something bizarre and ridiculous like "Liscious" (yes, intentionally spelt wrong, I assume; not sure why). The shop seems to specialize in East Asia-type decorations, and it's filled floor-to-ceiling with mirrors. It gives it a vaguely ominous carnival feeling, though it was completely silent save for (supposedly) the owners whispering conspiratorially in the back next to a large wooden cabinet with oriental-style handles on the doors. And, of course, it was dusty. All antique shops are dusty. If it's not dusty, they're not really antiques. The definition of an antique is something obsolete that is actually wanted by another generation for its obsoleteness, so, while waiting for that next generation, said obsolete thing goes untouched for a long time.

After a quick glance around we dashed out, too creeped out by the atmosphere. Outside, the four of us turned to the vitally important and pressing matter: What are we going to eat? We searched our taste buds and decided on Italian. Next, we talked about our growing familiarity with this new world we're living in (or visiting, rather). We know our way around. We're accustomed to traffic patterns and crosswalks. We know which side of the street to stay on in order to get where we're going. We mused on whether home will actually be familiar when we get back. It's probably like riding a bike -- it'll come back right away from muscle memory, but Oxford is starting to feel strangely like home. Brian was talking to Noonie about a song he's been listening to lately, some "Home" song by OAR and how ironic he thinks that is, listening to a song like that while he's so far away from what he supposes is his "home". Sentimentality, perhaps? Homesickness? Dunno.

We stopped briefly in a tourist-y shop to look at Oxford sweatshirts, but, as St. Hugh's is the unknown college, there is no St. Hugh's memorabilia. There were a few pairs of sweat-pants with ST. HUGH'S written down the leg, but the pants were clearly made for tiny Japanese tourists and not to fit my fat American derriere. Such is life.

Next stop: Blackwell's Books. Brian ran off to his political whatnot and Noonie went searching for something to do with Tolkien recommended by her brother, I believe. Wally went off to go find whatever English teachers find in bookstores. I was glancing at a Harry Potter parody when I ran into Farah and Risa, who were spending the afternoon there in the bookshop to escape the water-balloon fight. Farah informed me that she had discovered Downstairs. (There is a whole other level downstairs, which is giant and crammed with books clearly for student research.) "I had a medical orgasm," she said, which, of course, she would, being the medical student. I had my philosophy orgasm down there. On that floor, I mean.

Farah and Risa asked me if I was running around town alone today, and I said no, that I was going to dinner with Brian, Noonie, and Wally. They giggled, I raised an eyebrow, and they went on the verify the "unspeakable" quote which has already been mentioned to me off-hand; Brian was apparently the source of this quote, last night at the nightly gathering in Andrea's room, and Farah went on to inform me, "Okay, and this is verbatim. He said, 'Hayley is so cute. I would make mad, nerdy, Harry Potter love to her.' Isn't that so sweet?"

I believe my exact response was "HAHAHAHAwkward."

I gathered up my companions and we left. At some tiny shop called Tim's, Noonie stopped to get stamps and Brian asked the counter-guy if he could give us a recommendation for a good Italian place. We soon settled ourselves in Bella Italia (the restaurant chain where I'd eaten with Matt and Mom in London, actually) to eat in the atmospheric gloom of candles in Chianti bottles.

As we waited for our meals, Brian worked himself up into a rant. His performance continued all through dinner. How is it that I find him so endearing? His acerbic perception of the world is vicious and somewhat hyperbolic, but there is always a gem of truth in his biting commentary. Wally says his humor (humour?) is similar to that of Don Rickles. Unfortunately, I have no idea who that is. Will report later with further research.

Near the end of dinner, we each discovered the restaurant's bathroom. Dante could have written about this bathroom. It's down many flights of stairs, leading into what I suppose is the storage basement of the restaurant. The staircase is lit with dim, glowing lighting that makes the stairwell look vaguely... yellow. Like fire. "Descending into Hell," I commented. Also, it got strangely hot the further you descended. Everything echoed and was ghostly quiet, empty. The bathroom itself was lit with torch-styled lamps. I'm not sure I ever peed so fast in my life, but nervousness will do that to you.

Back at the table, we considered dessert while Brian played with the candle in the Chianti bottle (such a pyromaniac) and regaled us with his "thing" about sneezing. Apparently multiple consecutive sneezes infuriate him. "I only ever sneeze once. I get it all out in one sneeze. If I get it all out in one sneeze, why can't everyone else? Lots of tiny sneezes are unnecessary and ridiculous. It vexes me." I find this absolutely fascinating because it is absolutely absurd.

After listening to over an hour of Brian's social commentary, I have come to the conclusion that he likes no one. Not a soul escapes his criticism. I fear what he says about me when I leave the room. "I'd hate to be under your critical gaze," I told him. "You're absolutely ruthless."

"Well I like you," he assured me, almost in the manner of an admonishment. Funny. So do only teacher-companions and Harry Potter playmates avoid censure?

Over a lovely dessert of gelati (mmm, gelati -- thank you, England, for your gelati stands on every corner), we discussed the joys of therapy, and how no person with a medical degree and a clipboard could compare to the therapeutic powers of a good lunch with good friends and a good conversation, concluded with a good dessert. Lovely. Gelati really is a lovely thing. I will never be able to eat any other sort of ice cream again without finding it inferior.

We had to hurry back to St. Hugh's so we could get ready for tonight's rescheduled Shakespeare performance. (As you will recall, dear reader, we were supposed to see the play last night, but the performance was regrettably postponed due to the disturbance of a small rock concert at the college next-door to the open-air theatre. Inconsiderate rhodes scholars.) We all looked relatively nice, but Noonan is frustrated that she forgot to really dress up for the cute actors. (Despite not seeing the performance last night, we still got programs, so we have determined that some of the actors are really quite cute, so Noonan knew to prepare. The lot of us girls have been trying to hook her up with a cute Constable, but a British Shakespearean actor would be suitable.) She threw a right little fit.

But any chance of catching the romantic eye of a cute actor was not lost when she failed to properly "dress up" -- it was lost when the Robinson group decided to compare skills of touching one's tongue to one's nose. Noonan is just not able to achieve this skill, though she tries very hard. She even does little exercises just to prepare to try to touch her nose with her tongue. The rest of the Robinson kids are able to do it (I am positively dexterous with my tongue; it's rather freakish), but Noonan fails. We were able to obtain photo documentation of this little event. Noonan makes the strangest face, sticking out her tongue like that. It will make excellent blackmail.

I'm really enjoying photo-documenting this experience. I want to make sure I have pictures of all the programmers, but some, like Anna, are very camera-shy. She hides every time I ask to get a picture of her. So, of course, I don't ask her permission and take candid pictures of her. And it makes no sense! She photographs so beautifully. She always looks so lovely, so serene. I can't stand it. So here's my tip for you all: if you ever want a good picture of Anna Gadzinski, just take the picture while she's not paying attention and it'll be the most gorgeous photo you've ever seen in your life. I'll post some pictures here later.

Anna's grown frustrated with my candid photography, though. "You're like a camera ninja!" she exclaimed. "I never know when you're taking pictures!" Well, Anna dear, that's the point. I don't let you know when I'm taking pictures so I'm able to take pictures of you! Oh, silly Anna.

There was a gorgeous black-and-white Argyll sweater in a store window that Brian and I were talking about, even now. When a sweater haunts you, it is clear that some shopping is vital. So Brian and I are going to skip breakfast tomorrow and hunt for sweaters. How sad is it that I'm excited to shop for sweaters?

Back to the matter at hand: the play. The play is the thing... Back home, I've been to open-air theatre performances before, but never one like this. The stage was right there. Well, actually, there wasn't a physical stage, just a space marked out on the grass with chairs. Three rows of chairs facing the grass, separated by about six yards of another three rows of chairs, so that these rows of chairs are facing one another with a great strip of grass between them. It made something of a runway, not quite a "thrust" stage, but more like a hanamichi of Japanese Kabuki theatre. (See? I learned something in IB Theatre.) So the actors were RIGHT THERE. I love that sort of theatre. You feel close to the story.

I've never seen a play where the actual sun is setting around you. Beautiful.

Click to read my official Programme Notebook entry on this excursionCollapse )

What a great play! We all really enjoyed it. The actor playing Pertrucio was fabulous. He was lively, he was engaging, and he was cute. And, boy, that was one hell of a codpiece. Katherine is a lucky woman. She's going to enjoy her marriage.

I love plays with audience interaction. When Pertrucio comes stumbling in, late to his own wedding, drunk, Pertrucio passed out for a moment on the sidelines of the audience, and woke up, climbing into the lap of a random teenage boy. He shouted in surprise, landing into another guys lap. Shouted again, and then landed into mine. "Oooh," he cooed with a grin, then resumed the play. I'm not sure I'd blushed so much in a long, long time.

And in one scene, Pertrucio dismounted his hobbyhorse, and handed the hobbyhorse to Ms. Wallace. "Hold Buttercup for me, please," he said to her. Ms. Wallace, giggling, took the hobbyhorse. "No, no! Don't hold Buttercup like that!" Pertrucio exclaimed, wrenching the hobbyhorse out of her hands, petting its mane, made of ropes. "Like this..." He eased the hobbyhorse again into her hands. Everyone was laughing.

Maybe Noonan should have dressed up a little more. Pertrucio's eye would have been an eye worth catching. Mm. Shakespearean love.

We walked back to St. Hugh's from Wadham College after that. Parks Road was lined with drunken exchange students. We had to side-step groups of them to avoid broken bottles and stumbling students on the edge of passing out. Ew. Well, I suppose that's part of the college experience, right? But still, it's so déclassé.

On the way home -- I call it "home" because, well, that's what St. Hugh's is for these three weeks -- we talked about the weather. "This is the best August ever," said Brian. "It's, like, fall-y." I know that doesn't sound eloquent in text, but just being there, standing there, feeling that perfect, tepid air with just a breath of a cool breeze, knowing that this weather is perfect, and having everyone else know it and appreciate it too. You just feel good. Everything just felt so good. It made those words so much more eloquent.

The group said "good night" and we all went to our rooms to change out of our "evening at the theatre" garb. Some of us girls all changed into our pyjamas and then went out into the hallway on the third floor of the IV staircase -- my hallway I share with Nikki, Anna, and Andrea. We sat down, leaning against the walls of the hallway, and talked. Because we're girls, we must stay up until the middle of the night, pouring out our souls to one another.

It's a law of nature. If you get a group of girls together who are friendly and comfortable and emotional with each other, and stick them together, awake in the middle of the night, they will inevitably have Deep & Meaningful talks. Girls have a deeply routed instinct to form bonds with one another; I'm not sure why. It doesn't make a lot of sense, really. Here we are, a handful of girls who have only known each other for, what, two weeks now? And here we are, talking to one another and pouring out our souls like sisters, like best friends, like kindred spirits, like "bosom friends" (as Anne of Green Gables puts it). What has this experience done to us?

We reflected on our lives until the midnight be-in-your-rooms curfew. I petted Farah's hair as she lied on the floor with her head in my lap. She has such beautiful, dark, luscious hair. One of those glossy manes of an Indian courtesan that Amaru might have written about. Eventually, we switched places, and Jennie and I were falling asleep in Farah's lap. Two weeks, and we feel intimate enough to be falling asleep in each other's laps. How has this happened?

Jennie is too good for this world. She says "I love you" and she means it. The circumstances in which we all have been brought together are extraordinary, but then again, Jennie is extraordinary.

In our final news report for the evening, Daniel is gone. Remember Daniel? The Chinese boy from Hong Kong who attended the earlier St. Hugh's Programme and just stayed for the second one? That Daniel? Well he's gone. He was always something of an enigma, appearing only sometimes for meals or in the computer lab, but rarely ever coming to lectures or on excursions, so we were used to not seeing him, but it never occurred to us that he was gone. Apparently his parents came in the middle of the night and whisked him away, most likely worried about terrorist threats.

What a strange world we live in, that some of us are talking to our parents in the middle of the night because we're in different time zones, laughing about how much fun we're having, studying abroad, while other kids are being ushered home in the middle of the night by their parents, parents who are too afraid of this world to let them go wandering about alone. Because, apparently, if Daniel dies on a plane, Daniel's parents want to be with him when the plane goes down.

Beethoven, Christ Church, and Chez Gaston

I was the wake-up call for the Casa del Andrea. They should all be thanking me. I really don't think they would have got up without my cheerful, dulcet tones of "Good moooorrrrnnnniiiiinnnnggg!" There are exponentially less people at breakfast than there were during, say, the first week. People are getting tired, ergo eggs are going uneaten. But I was a good girl and went to breakfast, whereupon the conversation topics were being an only child vs. having siblings, and the subsequent relationships, and, to finish up, how much everyone hates standardized testing (mostly because this was with Noonie and Wally, who are both liberal arts teachers, who, on principle, hate standardized testing).

People are also caring less about their appearance in the morning. Take me, for example. I’m wearing my comfy Oxford t-shirt my dad bought on eBay for me before I left for England. Is this part of the dress code? No, but it's comfy, and hey, it says "Oxford" on it.

The first lecture started later than usual, so I decided to take a nap, and was awoken by a deafeningly loud blast of Beethoven's 5th, and subsequently mothered by Jennie. ("Oh, you poor baby! Did that mean Beethoven wake you up?") Such was the arrival of our lecturer, a doctor of music.

Click to read my official Programme Notebook entry on this lectureCollapse )

During his lecture, he showed us the art of conduction via the use of a tennis ball, and to demonstrate that anyone could do it, he pulled up Brian to demonstrate, who happens to be (unbeknownst to our lecturer) a tennis star. Go figure.

Nikki and Anna, being band dorks, tried to guess what instrument it was that the lecturer played ("I think it's a tuba." "Yeah, I'd say tuba.") We asked him afterwards, and they were wrong. It was something dull like the violin. After the lecture, I asked Dr. Traill about writing score music for theatre (whether I should search for already written score music, or find someone to write music for me), and he suggested that I make friends with a composer.

Jennie, the sweet girl that she is, brought me a taste of her hot chocolate (a new addition to our coffee, tea, and biscuits break between lectures), and I was sparked by the brilliant idea of making mocha coffee by combining hot chocolate and coffee. It is wonderful, and quickly becoming very popular.

I have also noticed that people have begun to talk in code when gossiping. Honestly, in code! I have no idea what any of these code words mean, but it's annoying nonetheless, feeling left out. And when codes fail, people merely gossip in different languages. It's all about secrecy in our tiny group. Extra measures must be taken as we're practically incestuous in our relationships, we're all so close.

Second lecture of the day. Not given by a doctor, for a change.

Click to read my official Programme Notebook entry on this lectureCollapse )

After the morning's lectures, it was decided that we'd make a trip to Christ Church College -- a decision made, of course, by Speck. Noonie and Wally were informed by Speck that they would be giving a guided tour for us, as he would not be accompanying us. "WHAT?" was Noonan's general response. "I don't know anything about Christ Church! If I was given time to research, I might come up with something--"

"Well, you're just going to have to do your best, now, won't you?"

Bloody petty tyrant.

So the Noonwalls (the name of us programmers while under Noonie and Wally's watch) visit Christ Church! And in that visit, I have made my pilgrimage to my Mecca, combining my two greatest loves of Harry Potter and Alice in Wonderland in one, single, fabulous building. (And I made sure to get all necessary pictures for my parental units -- the firedogs of girls with elongated necks, the portraits of Dean Liddell and Charles Dodgson, the secret little door and the garden beyond it that the Liddell girls used to play in, etc.) Note: Alice Liddell was the inspiration for Charles Dodgson (pen name: Lewis Carroll) to write Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Click to read my official Programme Notebook entry on this lectureCollapse )

In the gift shop, I was very, very excited to discover that the personalized merchandise spells my name right, which is amazing. Hayley (with two y's) is never spelt right in the United States. I bought way to much stupid personalized things, just because of that excitement (a coaster, a picture frame, a bookmark, etc.).

By the time we reached the gift shop, everyone had disappeared, mostly to go shopping elsewhere, or to return to the college. Noonie was quite annoyed, but gave up, deciding to continue sight-seeing with Wally, Maira, and me. Next, we hit the Bodleian Library -- another Harry Potter site! ...Unfortunately, we could see just about none of it, to my great vexation, though I got to hear a tour guide talk about the fact that some of the Harry Potter films were filmed there. Only the gift shop was available to visitors, where I again bought way too many things. ("But it's Shakespeare! And things that say 'Silence Please'! How cool is that? And cheap post cards!")

In other news, I've hit the 1,000 mark in my photo-taking. How have I managed to take over 1,000 pictures? That's insane.

Also, I've discovered that Noonie is likely the only person on the face of the planet who actually laughs "Hee Hee," which I find amazing.

And in some real news, there has been reports of an attempted terrorist attack at Heathrow airport. Our airport! England?! While we're here?! Why?! This makes no sense. This does not bode well for our departure, I can tell.

I'm so tired. I want a nap. If it weren't that the performance tonight is Shakespeare, I'd opt out.

...Except that, when we got there, there was a rhodes scholar rock concert masquerading as a barbeque, right next door to the open-air theatre, so the performance was postponed.

But did that mean nap-time? No. A variety of things occurred before we finally decided what we wanted to do. For starters, Brian and Ryan are on a testosterone-overload; instead of watching any Shakespeare-related movies, they want something with a war in it. I argued that many Shakespeare plays include war, but apparently that's not what they had in mind (i.e. blood and gore).

Also, Noonan has, perhaps, finally scared off Mike's creepy attempts to hit on her. I think she actually exploded. ("Stop touching me, for the love of God! Just go away!")

Finally, we decided to get crêpes at Chez Gaston on North Parade, the little street that runs right off St. Hugh's, and is practically a part of our home. It's an interesting, tiny little shop, with too many fish in its fish tank, and La terre est bleu comme une orange painted on the ceiling. The world is blue like an orange? What the hell does that mean? Oh, the French.

In distress over the terrorist attack-attempt, everyone's worried about what we're going to do about our luggage. (Wear all our jewelry on the plane? Ship most of our things beforehand? Etc.) That was the main topic of conversation over our crêpes. In addition, the pants caper develops: the boys had a cross-dressing party. ...In retrospect, I have no idea what that actually means. Jamie regaled us with stories of his shopping adventures. Apparently he can always find the very best deals, where you have to go to the back door with a password and a secret handshake. He bought a great pair of blue shoes.

Also, we all love British coins. They're so cute! And just more interesting than American money. And provides the option of just pouring out a handful of coins on a counter and asking the cashier to figure it out when you have no idea how much money you have.

We talked a little about family, and everyone has come to the conclusion that it is a marvel that Brian has not had therapy, considering the very strange dynamic of his family (even stranger than mine!).

On the way home, we found Henry Speck in a pub, the Gardner's Arms! Ha! We always suspected that he had a drinking problem. Apparently this is not the first sighting of Speck at a pub. According to Noonie and Wally, it's a quite frequent sight.

The weather outside is beautiful. I think it's something I'll remember forever. It's August, and it feels like the wonderful beginnings of fall. Brian in particular waxed rhapsodic about it, how it reminds him of the fall festival and Halloween and all. Why would we ever want to go home with weather like this?

Noonan's quote for the evening: "Ryan, call your mother!"

And in final news, to quote my archivist notebook, "I think I'm in love with Brian." If I'm to report my experience, I'm to report my experience. ...Though maybe some things were meant to not be reported, to be kept secret and sacred, and perhaps eventually forgotten. But not for now.

Harry Potter Adventures at Gloucester

Greetings, ladies and gentlemen, I'm reporting now from Farah's laptop, because if I live any longer in the computer lab, I'm going to miss living this experience in Oxford! The St. Hugh's computer lab is not Oxford.

So I ended up sleeping over at Andrea's with the rest of the girls. Andrea is the mistress of her domain. When we all wouldn't wake up on time, she declared, "By the time I count to twenty, y'all will suffer pillow-violence... except for Hayley, who cheats by hugging me." Though, actually, it was more of a snuggle.

Back to my own room, I am faced with questions: breakfast or shower? Priorities...

Actually made it just in time to not miss the bus for today's excursion. The streets were all wet. I remarked to Noonie, "I do not recall rain." Must have been sleeping hard last night.

The bus ride was fairly uneventful. I sat in the back with Noonie and Wally, helping Noonie with a crossword, which, of course, I suck at. Two people on the bus are reading The Portrait of Dorian Grey, which I find odd. I didn't know Wilde was so popular these days with teenage girls. Since I forgot reading material, I read Maira's essay on the children's crusades, and the teachers gushed about the importance of peer critique. Her essay just made me feel stupid. The children's crusades, or Alice's identity issues? Yeah, which has more weight? Also, her essay made me sleepy.

I slept badly the rest of the way to Gloucester, dreaming of Richard III and staircases. Can explain the former in that Richard III was the Duke of Gloucester before he was Richard III, but the staircases? No idea. The symbolism escapes me there.

First stop in Gloucester? The waterways museum, because... Gloucester has lots of waterways. Boats and things. Seagulls. Water sloshing sounds. I recall that there was a sign on the way to the museum in front of a locked shed that said, "DANGER: RISK OF DEATH" and there was a picture of a little stick figure man getting hit by lightning. Hilarious.

The Gloucester waterways museum consisted mostly of wax figures, a game of buying stocks in shipping companies (don't by the Oxford stock; you'll go bankrupt), and a gift shop where I spent way too much money on things I don't need.

Including an adorable sailor hat! Navy blue with a little black visor. All the girls got the navy blue sailor hats while all the boys got the white captain hats. We will probably never wear these hats again after this day, but it made for an adorable photo: five captains surrounded by sailor girls. Ha!

Though, in taking another picture of the girls in our hats, we failed to realize that the building we were standing next to-- ...well... let's just say the quote for that picture was "Uh, guys... Wet paint." Click to read my official Programme Notebook entry on this excursionCollapse )

We stopped at the museum's cafe for lunch, the teachers buying coffee and the girls buying chocolate "death bars." They've discovered these things in the vending machines in Italian territory, by the computer labs, and apparently they're the best things ever -- good enough to be late to Gloucester Cathedral.

Ahh, Gloucester Cathedral. Speck met us outside and informed us that this cathedral was used as settings in the Harry Potter films. To make this "fun," he suggested that we search for the Harry Potter sites within the cathedral, and the first person to report back to him with the correct number of sites would win some sort of lovely prize. Brian and I took one look at each other and together decided: partners. We were going to win this.

We ran into the cathedral before anyone else to make sure no one could follow us and steal our findings, though that didn't stop us from being incredibly sneaky and stealing away to the gift shop to buy the Harry Potter Guide to Gloucester Cathedral (not our idea! We went to a tour guide to ask where we should start, and she said the gift shop to buy the guide -- brilliant). So we bought our giant pamphlets and ran around the cathedral to gush in our Harry Potter fanaticism. ("OHMYGOD! It's where Ginny wrote the message in blood on the wall! OHMYGOD! It's the corridor the troll walked down on Halloween! OHMYGOD! It's the entrance to the Gryffindor Common Room!") It was basically like that for an hour or so, frantically taking pictures and having strangers take pictures of us with pieces of architecture. It was one of the best experiences of my life.

I think I'll take away forever the memory of Brian, in his white captain hat, leaning over the Harry Potter Guide to Gloucester and reading to me the information for site six as we huddled together in a corner of one of the cloisters. And after that, getting coffee in an outdoor cafe with Noonie and watching Brian read the menu with that stupid, adorable white captain hat. I hope I got a picture of that. Click to read my official Programme Notebook entry on this excursionCollapse )

This is probably the highlight of this entire trip so far. I even put a little heart and exclamation point in my notes next to "HP Adventure with Brian at cathedral!" Exclamation points are more eloquent with me; I use them sparingly.

After the cathedral adventure and the cafe, we were three minutes late back to the bus. Oops. Speck was not happy. Oh well.

So I have a philosophical question regarding this blog. Why am I keeping this blog? To remember or to report? Isn't what goes off the record what I want to remember? Anyway.

So Speck had a Talk with Noonie after our Three-Minutes-Late Arrival back at the bus, and hinted that we might be banned from the Saturday excursion for this lateness. The three of us were absolutely stunned, and then horrified. I believe Noonie's exact quote was, "...am I being... grounded?" I think this is the beginning of something bad.

Next excursion: Wales! Tintern Abbey, to be exact. I remember my stepdad telling me how jealous he was that I was getting to go with Tintern Abbey, but I had no idea what Tintern Abbey was. Now I do! I know all about Tintern Abbey and its Henry VIII-related history. ...Except we treated this historic site like a playground, climbing all over the ruins and taking our pictures sitting in the windows. We even made sure to get a picture of all the Robinson kids together for the yearbook. "Robinson Kids Conquer Wales!"

It was funny, though, when Noonie was trying to jump down from the window by herself in the shoes that she wears, and Ryan shouted up at her, "Just because you're a teacher doesn't mean that you're God!" As a matter of fact, she's not. She fell badly and hurt her ankle. Ryan definitely had a "I told you so" sort of look.

Not that there's much in Wales. There's the ruins of an abbey. There's some livestock. There's a gift shop where you can buy your medieval-themed useless stuff, like foam swords and shields and princess dolls. There's some livestock grazing around the abbey. There's a cat sleeping in the grass by a tiny little house. There's a candy shop where you can buy ice cream and excellent fudge. Yum. Click to read my official Programme Notebook entry on this excursionCollapse )

In other news, Fred is a dick. Just generally. I can't even remember what he said; it was just obnoxious; he's just obnoxious. Also, Speck is a dick. He complains about our three minutes late, and he's always late, even had us leave the abbey later than planned because of his running around... Argh.

On the way back, did more crosswords with Noonan. And probably slept. I don't remember.

Upon our return, breaking news! Nikki found a pool! I think she can finally breathe properly again. She's planning to go every morning before breakfast, now.

Nikki: Who else wants to go with me?

Smattering of Programmers: Yeah, sure, I'll go.

Noonie: [Scoffing] Getting up at five to get in cold water? Yeah right. None of them are going to go to that pool.

I must admit, I agree with Noonie.

So I've decided that I'm not going to be productive today; I'm too annoyed with Speck to be productive. "Lower the decibels!" he's always saying. Stupid decibels. I want to make loud noises just to annoy him, but I'm not in to loud noises, so I built a little castle made out of two benches outside under the trees and listened to my iPod and wrote poetry. Maira wandered over eventually and we talked about the day. She determined that "Hidden in a Dark Cloister" would be a good title, and also told me how she cries to Chopin.

She danced to my iPod. When she didn't recognize some of the music, she remarked, "Maira, Maira, on the wall, who's the dumbest of them all?" She recognized almost all the piano/classical music on my iPod, though. Apparently she's played every classical piece there is. I just listen to them on my iPod.

Noonie came over and joined us later. We watched a guy through a window in the house across the way from the Maplethrope building. He kept going up and down the stairs. Up and down, up and down. We discussed theories about what he might actually be doing. Satanist rituals were one. Cooking, but forgetting the ingredients in the doorway was another. I like the Devil-worshipping one better. More interesting.

Then I had teacher-y talk with Noonie (mostly about my fears of becoming a high school English teacher) until the boys chased her away. Ew, boys. Oh well. It was too dark to write anymore.

"Life, Like Literature, is a Leaky Bag"

I had a mysterious morning right out of a SciFi/horror movie, like "Quiet World" or "28 Days Later". My alarm actually managed to wake me up this morning, so I went to go check on Nikki and Anna and see how they're doing. No one there. I went outside. No one in sight. I went to the ground floor. No one in the lecture, lounge, or dining area. So the question of the morning is, of course, "Where is everyone?" At least Vass and his angels were up or else I wouldn't have been able to get into the ground level of the building.

I was quite the little ray of sunshine this morning. No, no wait, I kicked the little ray of sunshine's arse this morning. I was splendidly tired and cranky, and freaking out that I'd somehow got the day wrong, the time wrong, and everyone had left on an excursion without me. [sarcasm] Lovely bloody morning. [/sarcasm] I should have slept in longer. Cold this morning, too. I should have worn long sleeves. [sarcasm] Lovely, lovely morning. [/sarcasm]

I don't do mornings.

So I didn't actually lose all sense of time; people trickled in to breakfast like molasses in January, or a parade of turtles. Breakfast discussion with Wally, Noonie, and Maira (because they're the ones responsible enough to get up early) was about jury duty, after which I can conclude that NYC is scary, and Wally is, and I quote, "bad ass." Noonie and I wax rhapsodic about wanting to do our civic duty, and Wally tells stories about the crazy, scary things that happen in New York City.

Jennie greeted me with a disgustingly cheery "Good morning!" just because she's like that. If I didn't adore the girl, I'd hate her for being so happy in the morning hours.

"Adjective," I spat at her.

"Excuse me?"

"I don't agree with your adjective usage. I'll grant you that it's morning, but good...?"

"Okay. Fine." She gave me a hug and a still very cheery greeting of "Bad morning!" Strange and wonderful girl, that Jennie.

Spent the rest of the morning trying not to fall asleep during great lectures. What am I going to do in college? I'm certainly not going to get any more sleep in college, but there are going to be plenty of interesting lectures in college... Perhaps this is college-prep in Tiredness Management.

We've had another visit from the beloved Dr. Clerici, with whom I have a tutorial scheduled later, and now I know all about Romanticism! Ooh. I can say intelligent things about Wordsworth, Bryon, Blake, and Keats. Go me.

Click to read my official Programme Notebook entry on this lectureCollapse )

During the morning break, we had our tea and coffee and biscuits, and John the Over-Educated Gardener relented to giving us programmers rides in his little gardener cart (£2 for five minutes). I stood at the sliding glass door and photo-documented the experience, because that is what I do. Dr. Clerici stood beside me and remarked that this is childhood.

"What, getting rides in the gardener's motor cart?" I asked.

"Yes, that's exactly what childhood is," she reiterated.

And then there was a lecture on literature. Ooh! It's lectures like these that make me very happy to be a LitKid. And this doctor guy was fabulous. Dr. Peter McDonald. I will take away his definition of literature and carry it with me forever. "Literature is a leaky bag." I find that the quote warrants no explanation, as explaining it makes it less funny.

Also, I love his definition of poetry: justified left-hand margin, unjustified right-hand margin. I need to remember that for my writing group next year.

Over all, through the entire lecture, I was just so happy that I knew all the terms he was using. And he wrote all about the William Carlos Williams poem that I love! ("This Is Just To Say" -- the one about the plums.) Another quote of McDonald's brilliance: "Perhaps the plums are problematic!" He goes on to make an argument for the poem being a Forbidden Fruit metaphor, very Eden-like, and I just about died of glee, squealing in my seat. I love poetry analysis. I'm in my field for a reason.

I am getting rather tired of all these "What is art?" lectures, but I really did love this one. Yes, the idea of "What is literature?" can be tiresome, but the professor was just so charming in his delivery of the ideas. "I hope you've acquired a new sense of ignorance as to what is literature," he concluded, absolutely charming. I made sure to get his picture. (I'm going to be in so much trouble when I get to college, falling in love with all of my professors.)

Click to read my official Programme Notebook entry on this lectureCollapse )

Lunch, and then back to the computer lab. Lucky for me, my tutorial's late in the day, so I get more time to polish it up. ...Or just, y'know, finish the essay, which I did, though a poor excuse of an essay it may be. But still! It's something, and it's done -- before my tutorial, at that!

I wandered around for a little while, waiting for my tutorial time-slot to roll around. Outside, Maddie was discussing Tom Hardy with John, the over-educated gardener. Inside, both Farah and Risa were asleep in the lounge, so I did what any good teenage friend would do: I took silly pictures of them.

Still with about fifteen minutes to go, I sat by the elevator and waited to be summoned by Dr. Clerici, reading up more on existentialism, which is deadly depressing, and definitely not encouraging if you're already feeling nervous or anxious about something.

Once in Dr. Clerici's room, huddled in my chair opposite her and trying to hide behind my papers and notebooks, my Extended Essay is finally starting to take shape, Thank God. I've finally hit a centralized idea: identity and food symbolism. Things are finally starting to come together. Though, for the greater part of the hour, I merely struggled to find intelligent things to say. Dr. Clerici kept saying, over and over, "And so...?" and how badly I just wanted to give up analyzing and say, "And so that's it!"

Best Quote of Today's Tutorial: "You can't bloody well have any jam!" And I don't think anyone actually uses the word "foodstuffs" in normal conversation. And despite how far of a stretch it is, I love the idea of "Off with her head!" being a rejection of cerebral Cartesian philosophy.

Upon exiting Dr. Clerici's room and returning to the outside world (breathing the air that tastes a little fresher, since that moment is the moment farthest from my next tutorial), I joined Noonie, Brian, and Mike, who were all sitting on the flower-box-benches outside. I walked in on the conversation just as Mike (who I have recently learned is actually of Armenian descent) was saying, "It's the tango, Ms. Noonan. It's a provocative dance." I can only really imagine what prompted a statement like that.

Mike is apparently really starting to freak Noonan out, doing things like connecting her freckles and using bad, bad pick up lines.

Mike: So, did it hurt?

Noonie: ...did what hurt?

Mike: When you fell from Heaven.

Everyone: *groans*

In other news in the world of the boys, Fred threw a water balloon at Mike'n'Brian, violating the agreement of Friday Fights. Water balloons were reserved for Friday Fights, and as it is Tuesday, this is an obvious violation.

Mike is an interesting character. One of the L.A. boys, he's probably who you'd call the most "ghetto" of all our male programmers. He's got the ghetto-speak down, at least. ...But he's not really ghetto; it's impossible for a boy who goes to a private school in L.A. to be "ghetto," and it's easy to call him out on this.

Mike: Acting ghetto-gangster is so fun.

Brian: Thank God you're not wearing your loafers, Gangsta Boy. Might cramp your style.

Brian's always such a wit. He's taken to mocking his tutor, an ethnic graduate student of anthropology who those apparent, extensive travels have allowed him to commune with the animals of the Amazon, even the jaguars. Not the cars, the large cat animals. Obviously, the comedy writes itself. Sayings like "I'd love for you to speak jaguar to me..." are only all too easy.

Inside the Maplethorpe building, Ms. Wallace was receiving post. The Salisbury custom-ordered shirts came in today! A few of us banded together and decided to have group tee-shirts made, so we could really be tourist nerds (like the Japanese tourists with matching back-packs at Stonehenge!). They read:

got schedüle?
TALKING ROT
OXFORD 2006

Yeah, we were trying to phonetically spell the way Dr. Speck pronounces the word "schedule," though if we did it properly, it'd be more like "SHED'yule." It's just that we like umlats. We're so nerdy; we're planning to wear them on the next excursion, and to give Dr. Speck a shirt as a gift from all of us to him.

After that, a group of us (Brian, Ryan, Mike and I, led by Noonie) set off on an ATM adventure because all we have is money in coins, which is much too foreign for us Americans. We need bills. While on the walk, I was filled in on the funny things that have occurred recently while I'm not around. For example, one night in the computer lab, Dr. Speck came in to lecture everyone about late-night etiquette of being quiet, or, as Speck put it, "lowering the decibels," to which Ryan promptly responded, "Dr. Speck, the decibels will be so low that crickets won't be able to hear us," which, if you actually think about it, makes absolutely no sense, but that's Ryan for you.

Also, in the infinite wisdom that is Ryan, he has informed us all that at the next Italian party, "we're gonna have to get NASTY." I'm not exactly sure what "getting nasty" involves, but I'm already apprehensive.

In other news, we saw a dead bird on the sidewalk as we turned onto the main street. In fact, we saw it twice, once when we walked into town, and once again when we returned to St. Hugh's. I'm not sure what significance this holds on anything, but since I felt it necessary to mark down its presence in my pocket notebook (the notebook in which I use as notes for these entries), I thought I should say something about it. There was a dead bird on the sidewalk on the main drag, much like the newspaper headline "BEAR ELIMINATES BOWEL CONTENTS IN WOODS."

At dinner, Noonie asked me how I thought my tutorial went. I told her I wasn't sure, and that I thought it didn't go over very well, to which Noonie responded that Dr. Clerici had told Noonie that I, in fact, had a good tutorial. My spirits lifted immediately. As simple and obvious as it seems, it's nice and endorphin-inducing to have adults pat you on the head about things you, the silly little minor, care about.

The symbolism of food and existence in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland -- how did I end up with this topic? What made me think that this topic was at all worthy of being classified as part of the field of academia? Though, it must amuse Dr. Clerici somewhat, for, at dinner, as she passed my table, she waved a spoon at me and said, "Hayley! Remember! Eat Me!" She seemed much tickled by the Alice reference. Eat Me. Symbolism of eating, what my topic was becoming. And we were eating dinner. Ha. Haha. English humour, perhaps? Yes, with the extra 'u'.

Dinner discussion was mainly dominated by the bit of news that the pound has finally, just today, reached two, cout 'em, TWO dollars in exchange. We all weep at this financial tragedy. Shopping is a pain enough as it is, especially when you actually know how much you're spending, which is now double what meets the eye. Woe, woe, woe.

In addition, there has been an itching to go to George & Davis -- G&D's, for short -- the ice cream shop to get Irish coffee ice cream milkshakes, which are apparently a new particular favorite of Nikki. So after dinner, a group of us made the trek down to Little Clarendon Street, a chorus of "I've got a love-a-ly bunch of coconuts, diddle dee dee" breaking out along the way, don't ask me how. Brian & Ryan make a very interesting singing duo. Also, don't ask me what paper crane fights are either. It's apparently another Ryan thing I've missed out on.

Talking with Ms. Noonan as we licked at our ice cream cones, I have come up with a theory. Take any group of teenage girls and place them in an unfamiliar location, as soon as the location starts to become familiar, the teenage girls will revert to their instinctual high school mode in their interactions with the rest of the group, determining which of the girls are suitable for friendship, which of the girls aren't, which of the girls you pretend that you're friends with, but secretly dislike, which of the boys you like, and which of the boys you like. It's truly astounding. We cross the Atlantic, and we didn't get away from high school.

On a lighter note, the Spanish-speaking among our group (namely Brian & Ryan) have decided to create their own Spanish verb. Noonar. It means "to be addicted to coffee." Thus, in conjugation:

yo noono -- I am addicted to coffee

tú noonas -- you are addicted to coffee

él/ella/usted noona -- he/she/you (formal) are addicted to coffee

nosotros noonamos -- we are addicted to coffee

vosotros noonáis -- you-all are addicted to coffee

ellos/ellas/ustedes noonan -- they are addicted to coffee

Ms. Noonan was much amused by this. Ella noona, you know. Hence, the verb.

As we walked home, we ran into Nikki & Anna and the some of the other surrounding girls going to G&D's as we were leaving G&D's. Ice cream traffic, you know. And just as we were turning onto the smaller streets to go back to the college, we saw Stephen, Risa's tutor, across the street. He shouted at us that we were going to be late for the improv class if we didn't get back to the college soon, but he was the one who ended up being late. Ha.

In the subsequent discussion of tutors, it has arisen in conversation that Joe, Farah and Mike's graduate student tutor, is a dick. That is all I know at this time, but I feel compelled to report it.

Back at the college, sated and happy with dinner and G&D's ice cream in our stomachs, we had fun playing TheatreSports, but it made me a little homesick, though why I would be homesick for TheatreSports competitions to run, I have no idea. It was fun anyhow.

At bedtime, I headed up to my room, but saw that Nikki and Anna hadn't returned to their room, so I sought them out in Andrea's room, which has become the communal Hang Out area among the programmers. What I found there was a sleepover with not only Andrea, Nikki, and Anna, but also Farah, Risa, and Jennie (though Jennie didn't stay the whole night; she left around midnight to sleep in her own bed).

Once they saw me at the door, I was invited to join in the festivities. We all clambered around on the duvet covers padding the floor, laying on our stomachs and gossiping in various languages (mostly French and Spanish, making Andrea and Nikki the queens of gossip, for they understood both), but there wasn't much gossip to be had. Nothing's really happened yet. No sparks have flown yet, though we're rubbing the flint between our fingers in our pockets.
I have no idea how it happened, but I slept in, entirely unintentionally. Thank goodness Nikki came and fetched me. I missed breakfast, [sarcasm] which means for a lovely morning. [/sarcasm]

Instead of a first lecture, we had a discussion, again led by Dr. Speck. It had something to do with the connections between education, questions, dialogue, and the past. Again, it was absolutely aggravating. I actually used the phrase "It's a metaphor" in anger, but Speck did agree that "just because it's cool" is a good reason. But apparently I'm not the only one he annoys. Maira had a reaction to one point for which she whined, quietly, "No, no." It was amusing. I like to know that I'm not suffering alone. (Maira still hasn't replaced her hair-sticks. She's wearing it fully down today. The strict academic lets her hair down...!)

But between the discussion and our next lecture, we came to the end of our jean caper! One of the notes last night included the instruction to go to the "secret garden" at 10:20am. So, of course, en masse, we all went to the walled garden on the South-East side of the college. There we found another note. It was around then that I started singing lines from The Phantom of the Opera, "Far too many notes for my taste...! And most of them about our jeans..."

This note was a little more creative than the others. It was written backwards, and in a spiral. "You have done well," it said. "Proceed to the next level. Go to the III staircase, second floor kitchen." So, of course, we did. Well, really, the girls went (and Noonie, still hoping to find her bracelet), and I just followed. I'm just here for documentation purposes.

And in the kitchen, there were jeans, on the floor, on the other side of the counter! The girls, of course, were thrilled, dancing around with their still slightly damp jeans. I'm not sure any money was at all paid. I think £1 was put in the sink, but I don't think anyone ever claimed it. So it was all rather... anticlimatic, really. All happened too soon, and... not much really happened. Disappointing, really.

But then again, Noonie hasn't gotten her bracelet back yet, so more of the caper could be yet to come.

And yes, Ms. Noonan has become "Noonie," Ms. Wallace has become "Wally," and Dr. Speck has become "Speckie," "D.S.," and a variety of other things... But anyway.

In other news, we had hot chocolate as well as coffee and cookies for our mid-morning break. It is possibly the best hot chocolate in the world. Makes for a great coffee mocha. And Noonie has informed me that, in my bright green sweater, I look like a skittle, which is somewhat endearing, I think. She says that she has pants that same color. So I suggested that she wear the pants, borrow my sweater, and then she can really be a skittle. All she needs is a little white "S" on her chest.

And then the morning's lecture! The only problem with morning lectures is that those two words should never be put together in the same sentence. We've been having problems with people staying awake during the morning lectures, so everyone now pairs up with what we call "sleeping buddies" -- someone to sit next to you and poke you if you start nodding off. Anna and I were sleeping buddies for each other this morning.

Our WWI lecturer guy was back for more, this time talking about foreign policy. Fun, fun. The sleeping buddies were a very good idea.

Click to read my official Programme Notebook entry on this lectureCollapse )

What I took away from Roberts' lecture: if you are going to impose values on people, which values are you going to choose? And also, never get involved in someone else's Civil War. Ever. And pursuing self-interest rationally while leaving everyone else alone does so much less harm. So what are we doing in Iraq? No, of course college professors don't have agendas in their lectures. Anyway.

The two-week language programme for the "Italians" just ended. There were lots of tearful goodbyes the night before in various languages. So now we have new "Italians"! Very exciting. Who knows what the parties will be like now?

Lunch, and then the rest of the day spent in the computer lab, because, ohmygod, tutorials are tomorrow. But of course I wasn't alone. Jennie's practically living in the computer lab as well; we made polite conversation discussing language and synonyms and translation, and we determined that when you dream in a language, you have become fluent.

Jennie also has the possibiliy of a lucrative future as a tour-guide, for she was kind enough to show Brian and I where the bathrooms in the computer lab building are -- something unknown to me until now (and having to run all the way up to my room every time I've got to pee is no fun). The girl is a saint. Technically, the bathroom is in Italian territory, but when you have to go, you have to go.

My work on my paper has consisted of mainly going through all the post-it notes in my copies of The Philosopher's Alice and The Annotated Alice and trying to make sense of it all. My paper is actually two different papers, masquarading as a single paper dealing with both the symbolism of food in Alice and metaphysical questions of identity. Not that those two things are very clearly connected. Ugh.

I was occasionally distracted by e-mails from Anna, who was in one of the other computer labs. She has given me my first-ever nickname. Like, honestly a nickname, in that it's a shorter variation of my name given in affection. "Haylz," is how she's addressing me now. I like it. The "z" is a nice touch. I've always wanted a nickname.

When not being distracted by my fellow programmers, I was frantically looking for Martin Gardner's theory as to why Carroll uses food as such a common device in the Alice books. Mom said that she'd read it somewhere in The Annotated Alice, but I was having very little luck finding it. I skipped dinner. I skipped the dance class. In order to get the work done, you've got to miss out on some of the fun. For Nikki, it was Evensong at Christ Church. For me, it's the tango and the jive.

Jennie said that she had faith in me, though. "Don't worry," she said, always smiling. "You'll find it." And amazingly enough, I did (after some crafty work with Google and the search on the "Look Inside" feature on Amazon.com). I found my quote! "Are the many references to eating in Alice a sign of Carroll's 'oral aggression,' or did Carroll recognize that small children are obsessed by eating and like to read about it in their books?" (Gardner 9). Is that gold, or what? I was positively giddy. This is the joy of being an academic. If you're in academia and you don't find joy in things like that, you're in the wrong field, kid.

To make things even more wonderful, Matt's found Elizabeth Schuch's Shakespeare prints. I am so thrilled. I want to wall-paper my room in those prints. http://www.immortallongings.com/immortal_longings.html I was searching for those prints for hours and I couldn't find them. Turns out, Matt actually went and e-mailed the artist. Is Matt good or what?

Due to a horde of us poor panicked children, the hours of the computer lab (i.e. The Oven -- "hot from all this brain-sweat," so says Brian) were extended, and I am happy to say that I was not the last one out! But they seriously need to get some air conditioning in there. About ten hours in the computer lab, and my iPod battery was goood enough to see me through. I'm infinitely grateful.

I finally accepted that my paper is really two papers. So I split it in half, taking the food symbolism for this week's paper and leaving the notes on metaphysical identity issues for next week, and called it a night. I don't exactly feel good about my tutorial essay, but it's something, and I'm on my way.

Studying Beneath the Jean-Laden Trees

Okay. Sunday. Our first "free" day. Completely obligation-less. Thus, I spent all morning in the computer lab (for it is opened early on Sundays, as if for religious service). It was all in attempt to research for my tutorial essay due on Tuesday. I swear, it seems like I'm living in the computer labs. No air conditioning. Single office fan. Cinderblock walls and single barred window. Becoming very depressing.

Only when lunchtime rolled around did I drag myself away from the glow of the computer screen, and vowed that I would not return. Instead, I joined the study group that was actually studying. And not only studying, but studying outside. We were situated beneath one of the trees, lounging about in the shade with our books upon stolen duvet covers. I'll explain the stolen duvet covers bit: You see, since there are so few people in this session of the programme that the building is mostly full of empty rooms. They put us in staircases III and IV, but staircases I and II are completely empty, with all of the empty rooms left unlocked. So there are occasionally raiding parties to these empty rooms to get extra things: pillows, towels (especially towels -- a-cursèd showers), and, in this case, duvet covers.

So we had our little sea of duvet covers spread out in the shade (occasionally having to re-arrange said covers whenever so much time would pass that we were no longer in the shade), everyone immersed in their books, either dancing in victory (like Brian, who had found the "money phrase" he needed for his "Westerners have messed up the Amazon" paper), or complaining loudly (like me, who actually cheered when Descartes, in my Very Short Introduction book, finally died and therefore could make no more asinine theories).

Farah, who has now been coined the resident "brownie" (her phrase, not mine -- if she's the one saying it, it's fine, it's P.C.), is torn between doing retinal hypertension, which is what her International Baccalaureate Extended Essay is on, and hypertension of the kidneys, which her tutor would like her to study. Tutors can be frustrating that way. Or at least hers can, from what I understand. And Risa, in her studies of the UN, needs to figure out how to fix the world by Tuesday, or something like that. I have no idea what Ryan is doing. He was napping the entire time we were studying. It is amazing -- Ryan and Daniel; they sleep all the time. I so envy them.

Jennie, who was one of our study group, is possibly the sweetest girl on earth. She's such a tactile person -- she'll hold your hand, take your arm, or wrap your arm around you, completely affectionate. We haven't been here that long, and yet she readily initiates such levels of intimacy. And yet it doesn't seem strange at all with her; it's comfortable. She tells you how cool you are and that she loves you and it's impossible not to believe her. She is one of the few teenage girls whom I've encountered who uses the phrase "I love you" to her friends, and I truly, honestly believe it without even the faintest shadow of a doubt. Her great goodness and loveliness just shines that brightly.

She was even considerate enough to ask me about my paper! Sure, it's polite conversation to ask how the paper is going, but she actually asked me about existentialism and whether or not I believed in it. I found that so strange, and yet it's so inspiring to have interest taken in you. She claims to be half-and-half existentialist and fatalist, that there is the concept of free-will and we have the ability to make our own decisions, therefore we exist, but there is still a greater picture that we're a part of. Of course, I find this mix of philosophies completely contradictory, but so endearing. Perhaps it's just because she smiles so much as she's explaining her views on the universe.

In other news, Nikki is cute and can get away with anything. Now back to our regularly scheduled program. Programme. Whatever.

Noonan came to visit us on our Duvet Dwelling, firstly to praise us for at least looking so studious, and secondly to tell us about her adventures into town. She went to the department store and bought a Little Black Dress on sale! I was so proud of her; I can now appreciate the joy that is a Little Black Dress on sale. Though thinking about a teacher going shopping and buying a LBD seems a tad odd, don't you think?

Also, apparently Noonan had some sort of Search for Smoothies with Brian that turned into a full-on crusade. I'd think it odd for Noonan to go smoothie-searching with Brian, but then again they're always going out for bagels and such together, so I think they're just Food Friends or something. But apparently there are no smoothies to be found in all of Oxford. Anywhere (after a certain time -- all smoothie shops close at... four in the afternoon or something, possibly earlier). Noonan and Brian were crawling all over Oxford, going into every store just to ask where they might possibly find a smoothie. They'd get a recommendation, they'd go there, and it'd be closed. Process repeats.

Eventually, Noonan got to the point where, she claims, she was about to sit down in the middle of the street and scream until someone gave her a smoothie, which is a very scary situation to imagine when you consider that she's a teacher. But lo! There, across the street! A sign! Smoothies! And then Noonan went running into the street (without even looking for oncoming traffic, her desperation was so great), and didn't stop until she'd screamed an order for a smoothie at the lady behind the counter. And, so says Noonan, that lady could have charged her £70 for the bloody smoothie, Noonan would have paid it. Sometimes, you just really need a smoothie.

None of my adventures into town have been that exciting, I must admit. But then again, I have not yet required a smoothie that badly. So we'll see.

Another point of interest has arisen today (besides stolen duvet covers and smoothies -- yes, the summit of excitement, I know). A few of the girls were all doing laundry together, and, upon discovering that the dryers do not properly get denim dry, decided that their best bet for drying their jeans would be to hang them in one of the trees outside. It's properly hot enough (hot enough that I had to rearrange my fan to be closer to me while I'm in my room), and there's something of a breeze, so a clothesline situation seemed to make sense, even if it's in a tree.

Some time during the day, the jeans suddenly disappeared. All of them, all seven or so pairs, just gone from the tree. I found this rather odd, but none of the girls seemed too concerned about this just yet. "They'll show up eventually," Farah would say -- very blasé. "Someone's just trying to be funny. This isn't serious."

Perhaps isn't serious, but it does seem rather devious. By the time our group had pulled ourselves away from our studies to attend Evensong at Christ Church, I could tell more was going to unfold from this caper. But later. Now was Evensong. (Though not before being chased away from out Duvet Dwelling by some of our completely tone-deaf boys singing the Beatles' "Yellow Submarine" -- ugh.)

Christ Church College is probably the farthest any of the programmers go in Oxford, so it's a bit of a hike. I walked with Brian most of the way. He's quite the interesting character. He has a certain manner of speech that is unique, but I've found that if I hang around him for too long, I start talking like him. And his cynicism rubs off. Fun kid, though. I got a fairly good picture of him and Ryan, capturing their expressions after seeing a very badly dressed transvestite. Priceless.

But most of my bonding with Brian is over Harry Potter. We're both fanatics. And going to Christ Church, we were in a glow. The Great Hall is at Christ Church! There are Harry Potter staircases at Christ Church! We were all a-twitter over it. I was taking pictures like mad in the main courtyard, despite the fact that pictures are strictly forbidden when it's not visiting hours. But I was too happily basking in the Carrollian glow to care. I was at Christ Church! Harry Potter and Alice all at once!

(Maira, unfortunately, has fallen out of favor because she does not "get" Harry Potter. She did look nice in the self-made burgundy dress today -- or was it plum? But she knows no popular culture, I swear. She's so immersed in academia that she's completely unexposed to popular culture. It's fascinating. She'd be a great control in a sociology experiment.)

Once in the nave (which is, of course, gorgeous), we took our seats. We were somewhat late, so we were far from the choir, but very close to the pulpit. With the camera in my lap, I took a very surreptitious photo of the pulpit, though it's mostly of Risa's lap, who was sitting to my right, between me and the pulpit.

Brian was on my left. Brian's a proper Catholic boy and therefore knows the drill of these sort of things, but thank goodness they provide you with a script. They do! It lists the songs, the prayers, when to sit, stand, and kneel. It's very helpful... for the novice.

It was a beautiful choir, and a generally beautiful service. A female minister gave the service (I can't remember where she said she was originally from when we spoke with her afterwards -- Ohio?), and the choir was actually a visiting choir from Kentucky. This was their last week at Christ Church before moving on to the next stop on their tour. The Christ Church choir is "on holiday" at the moment.

Brian and I left still in the Harry Potter glow. We began making plans to take the tour of the College to take in more of the Harry Potter ambiance. (We'd tried to get in to the staircase leading to the Great Hall that's used in the beginning of the first movie, where McGonagall is ushering along the first years, but a security man shooed us away.) There has to be more Harry Potter things to see in our neighborhood, we determined, and therefore decided to go straight on a Google hunt after dinner to find what else we can see. We're going to be Harry Potter adventurers!

When the conversation took a turn, Brian, in all his sarcastic cynicism, confessed that he was praying for my wretched soul. And I just know that there was an adverb (terribly wretched, horridly wretched, pathetically wretched, etc.), but I can't for the life of me remember what it was. It was something. I don't know. We've determined that the more description that your soul warrants, the more prayers it requires, so obviously I'm in real trouble.

My premonition about the missing tree-pants was correct. At dinner, a ransom note appeared (on Andrea's door, which makes sense, since the Casa del Andrea is the standard hang-out for all the girls). I don't recall the verbatim, but it was along the lines of "If you ever want to see your jeans again, each girl must deposit £1 in the sink of the III staircase, second floor kitchen. Then wait for further instruction." It was classic.

"Well, this is obvious," one of the girls concluded. "All we have to do is watch the kitchen to see who takes the money, and we've got our jean-thief!" Seemed plausible enough.

I didn't get much time to speculate with the other girls on possible culprits, because as soon as my plate was clean, I was being summoned by Brian. "C'mon, Hayley. Google. Harry Potter. Now." What am I, his beck-and-call girl? ...Well, okay, maybe I am, but still!

I scurried on after him, and we holed up in the computer lab and searched. Christ Church and the Bodleian Library seem to be the only sites in Oxford, but Gloucester Cathedral is a big Harry Potter site, and that's on our excursion itinerary, so we have high hopes. We will be Harry Potter adventurers yet!

As the evening grew later, the computer lab grew more crowded. People like to check their e-mail and whatnot in the evening, and there are those pesky tutorials coming up, but sometimes the computer labs simply become a hang-out (which, according to Speck, they're not supposed to be, but oh well). The jean caper continues: again, enter Andrea, and in her hand... three denim belt-loops, cut from a pair of pants. "They were outside my door!" she exclaimed. Other girls went to investigate their own rooms, and other belt-loops were discovered at the thresholds. Very creepy. It's like receiving the body-parts of hostages until the ransom is paid! Straight out of a horror story, I swear.

And now Noonie's been pulled into the caper. "And look what I found in front of my room!" Again, I'm not sure of the verbatim (Nikki's keeping all of the notes, presumably for handwriting analysis), but it was along the lines of, "If you ever want to see your silver bracelet again, collect the money from the sink of the III staircase, second floor kitchen. Then await further instruction."

We were all agog. "Is your bracelet really gone?" we all asked her.

"Yes!" she exclaimed. "It's gone! I don't know what's happened to it. And I love that bracelet...!"

"Do you think someone managed to break into your room and steal it?"

"No way! I always keep my room locked. I must have taken it off while I was downstairs and it must have been picked up..."

Oh, the plot thickens. Theories are running wild as to who the culprit could be, and each theory more interesting than the next because they're all so different, but all with a very plausible intent! It's all so very exciting.

And of course, I can stand back and say that this is all very exciting because I'm not involved in it. I am simply a bystander, able to sit back and enjoy. This is worthy of popcorn.

Back in my own little world, of course, I'm concerned about this blog. Everyone's reading it! I have a following, not just among family and friends, but here at the college! I've had requests to start adding pictures. Farah's offered to help further the blog with the use of her laptop so I can finally get out of the computer lab, and Ms. Noonan wants to give the URL to her family...!

So I'm faced with the question of how much time do I donate to the blog? To documenting? Does that take away from the actual experience, just capturing the details instead of being a part of it?

Sounds very philosophical. Anyway.

Freaking out over deadlines. I'm never going to finish this paper. Liiiikkkkeeeeomigod.

To make myself feel better, I did something "responsible" and did a Programme Notebook entry on some of the wall material. Go me.

Click to read my official Programme Notebook entry on this wall materialCollapse )

That didn't do much for me, unfortunately. The weight of the academic load still was heavy upon me. So to solve my problems, I went down to North Parade (the closest street of shops), and bought a Neapolitan ice-cream cone, a liter of Diet Coke, and six post-cards. Nothing to lift one's spirits like a little independent, useless shopping.

Myths and Mystery

So I was very interested to discover that a significant group of our Programmers attended the Italian's party last night. And had quite a bit of fun, as I could tell from the photos. There is something clearly very wrong with my European experience. My friends are going to dance to provocative techno music with Italians; I'm writing essays about a misunderstood nursery classic and living in the computer lab. ...There is something very, very wrong with this picture.

Apparently, in the midst of this partying, Nikki lost one of her dangling gold earrings. This is of little surprise, for no matter how much I love Nikki, she'd lose her head if it wasn't conveniently attached to her shoulders by way of her neck. Maira was fortunate enough to stumble across the earring. (Maira's mane of hair is in a braid today -- still no replacement hair-stick.)

The only excitement over breakfast was a box of Mr Juicy (the orange juice company) squirting out the straw as a perfect expression of surprise, and someone being attacked by an orange via squirting in the eye while peeling. Dangerous citrus, the orange. Nikki informed me that she named her breakfast orange after me. I told her that I was honoured.

Around meal-time, everyone seems to dread the thought of going home, for no one can seem to imagine the mere idea of preparing one's own meals again. What are we going to do without three lovely Polish girls to put food onto our plates?

I've taken to attaching my watch onto my key-lanyard, since I'm scared enough to keep my keys on my person at all times. It's just convenient to have a watch there as well. But the really cool thing about my watch is that it's a Sisyphus watch -- instead of a second hand, it shows Sisyphus, the sinner of Greek mythology, pushing his rock along the edge of the watch's face. All the teachers thought that it was really cool. Very symbolic -- the unending punishment of time and whatnot. Maira and I quoted some Ovid to show off.

Mrs. Wallace likened us students to Sisyphus, having been here a week now, forever toiling at our studies, pushing our rocks up our hills, just to have to repeat the process all over again to meet the next deadline. It was so odd, though, hearing Mrs. Wallace talk that way. Madeleine can vouch for me on this, for she experienced the exact same thing, but for some reason, for about a minute, the word "deadline" suddenly meant nothing to me. It was like I had never heard the word before in my life, and I couldn't make any sense of it or even guess as to what it meant. Oh, to have such ignorance! To not know what a deadline is -- I'd call that bliss.

After breakfast, we were ushered out to the bus with our little packed lunches in hand. Today was another excursion day. I had forgotten this momentarily, but I could tell the day of the week by the color of Henry Speck's shirt. Green. Saturday. Excursion day.

Daniel, the enigma of China, doesn't participate in the excursions. Or the lectures. Actually, I'm not sure he participates in anything except meals. Sometimes not even meals. I think that he writes essays and has tutorials, but who knows? We never see him, in any case.

Today's adventure was to Stonehenge, and then to Salisbury. Henry Speck told us all about it on the ride there, but all I could think of was how much fun Henry Higgins would have with Speck -- Texas and Oxford; how does that mix linguistically? If I didn't think of these things, I'd go out of my mind from taking the world too seriously.

Like Stonehenge. In all honesty, Stonehenge cannot be taken seriously. It is a photo-op for tourists and only little more, if anything at all. Though we did get some very good pictures. "Here we are, looking cute in England! Oh, and there are some really old stones behind us." Also, why is it always the "mist" of time? If the history was lost in the "mist" of time, I think someone would be able to find it. It needs to be, like, the hurricane of time. Then I'll accept it.

Click to read my official Programme Notebook entry on this excursionCollapse )

We sat on the edge of the grass path and ate our lunch. Conversation was mostly of the natural vein. The environment-conscious students are irritated with Brian, because all the trees are going to Brian's T.P. efforts; he is a T.P-er. He told us stories of his many exploits in this field. Apparently you can make it an art. I know that some people consider vandalism art... but seriously. Toilet Paper? Yeah right.

And, as always, the discussion went to fruit. Brian went around judging the quality of the apples in our bagged lunches, earning him the title of the Apple Whisperer. I busied myself with playing with Brian's fancy shoes, so I got the title of the Shoe Whisperer. They are some seriously fancy tennis shoes. There are straps on there whose purpose even escapes Brian.

Brian is also always posing, as if for a picture. It's fascinating. He must do some side-business in modelling, because he just sits, completely naturally, as if he expects someone to be taking pictures of him for a Calvin Klein ad. As if to serve his purpose in the universe, I was sure to take some pictures of him.

Risa was crazy with the fruit at lunch today. I think she had three all at once, at one point. Something about the Japanese and fruit. I don't know. But Risa is the oddball Japanese girl, and is very proud of it. There were Japanese tourists everywhere at Stonehenge. I know it's such a stereotype, the Japanese tourists, but it's so true! They're everywhere in England! All the girls giggle the same way and all having matching backpacks. Risa is disgusted by the giggle and does not laugh that way. Brian has determined that we are "not as cute as the matching Japanese tourists." One possible suggested remedy to this was for us all to get matching cardigans. I'm all for this plan.

Along with honeydew, Brian has added ham sandwich to his repertoire of Things to Make Hayley Choke On While Laughing. I felt just like that singer from the Mamas and the Papas, except I didn't die. But he's got two more weeks. He'll get me.

When I was done wandering through the photo-op mists of time, I walked back with Henry Speck to the "coach" (Americans read: bus) to make sure that I wasn't late. But I did try to enter the coach on the wrong side. "England, Hayley," Speck pointed out to me. Ha, ha.

On the bus ride, I complained to Maira that I had no idea what I was going to write in my Programme Notebook entry for that excursion. Mrs. Wallace jumped into the conversation, vehemently arguing against the stridency of the programme. I found myself somewhat taken aback. A teacher agreeing that perhaps this is too much work? No way. ...And this is Oxford... Aren't we supposed to be overwhelmed? The British will laugh at us if we can't handle it. We can't have the British laughing at us.

Maira's doing the children's crusades for her next tutorial. I am intimidated simply by how impressive that sounds. Alice's identity crises don't sound nearly as impressive.

It was a nice bus-ride, though. I like the country-side. I can't say it looks particularly "English" (not like the Pride and Prejudice mini-series, anyway); actually, it looks a bit like West Virginia, which I find comforting. Looks familiar -- like home. But I especially like the trees, when the road digs down into the ground, so that the trees grow at angles on either side and form an archway, a tunnel of green.

Next stop: Salisbury. We should have spent all day at Salisbury, it's just such a cool town. Not only does it have the magic hand-washing machine in its public bathrooms (dampens, soaps, rinses, and dries -- all in one hole-in-the-wall compartment!), but there is a fabulous open-air market that Maira, Janine, Madeline and I had a grand old time wandering through. From meat to produce to cheap novels and videos to toys to bargain clothes to fancy hats to jewellery and incense! I bought myself a cheap little jade Buddha to add to my little altar of spirituality in my room. I kept him in my pocket all day, rubbing his belly for good luck and good thoughts.

We thought we'd come back later to buy some cheap, knee-high Argyll socks, but we never got the chance, being that we had a whole cathedral to see. Beautiful cathedral. Saints staring down at you all around the outside, and inside -- such gorgeous windows. The one at the pulpit was positively breath-taking, all blues and splashes of red, like blood, and glowing yellow.

Click to read my official Programme Notebook entry on this excursionCollapse )

Our tour guide was a charming old woman who showed us all the details of the windows and the effigies, as well as the clock of the cathedral, which is hailed as the oldest working clock in the world. Very cool. Such a sweet old lady, though. Brian gave her a hug after the tour. I think it freaked her out a little, but it was cute. Everyone agrees that she was "just so cute, y'just wanna put her in your pocket and take 'er home!" Not sure what I'd do with a sweet old lady at home, though.

I was particularly touched by the experience of going to the cathedral, though. Places like that, of such spiritual reverence and beauty -- it really is humbling. The priest said a moving prayer on reflection and keeping others in one's thoughts, during which I almost cried. I tried praying. I'm working at it.

It feels almost as if this experience is becoming something of a spiritual journey for me. I have no religion to speak of, but I have always had that feeling of yearning, of wanting to feel more, to feel whole and connected and loved and at peace. I've been trying to explore these feelings, and explore what they mean to me as a spiritual person. I know it might be viewed as blasphemy to some, but I lit a candle for the loved ones in my thoughts, and left a note in the Request for Prayers book.

I left the cathedral feeling lighter, feeling as if I was really breathing. There was a wedding about to take place at the cathedral, and I had a strong sensation of life beginning.

All the girls were so disappointed, not to be able to see the wedding. Obviously a military wedding -- all the men in uniform. One older man in a kilt. We were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the bride in a car as we were walking back to our bus.

I'm sorry to say that Descartes completely ruined my lovely spiritual mood. I ranted about him at Maira, after which the following dialogue ensued:

Maira: Are you sure that his work really is crap, or could it be that you just don't understand it?

Hayley: ...

Okay, so maybe that was really a monologue, but my silence was profound. It scares me, to be questioned if I actually understand something. Especially by someone who I'm fairly certain is way more intelligent than me.

Upon returning to the college, I skipped dinner, holing up in my room to work on my next tutorial essay for Tuesday. You know how sometimes people seem to put up invisible signs that tell you it's just better to leave them alone? Well, I actually did put up a sign. I taped it to my door. "SOD OFF. I'm working. Love, Hayley."

I love my room. I don't mind holing up in my room. Henry Speck hates this building (the Maplethrope Building), but I like it (despite the horrible bathrooms -- that strobe warm-up of the light is really getting to me). I like the space. I like the geometric lines. I like all the windows everywhere, so you can see the green view outside, and so sunlight can stream in everywhere. I love my east-facing windows, and I love my curtains, pulling them closed at night and being able to pull them open in the morning and flood my room with sunlight.

I love the shelf at the head of my bed. I love being able to have my little altar there. I love being able to sit on my bed and meditate or pray or whatever it is -- to just be with myself and the quiet.

And I love how fully engrossing the darkness is when I turn off the light at night.

Dancing Philosophers

Last night, I discovered the Secret of the Shower! No more hair-washing in the sink for me! So you take the right-hand handle, push the lever until you see it rise, and pull the handle toward you until you see the handle almost start to screw off the fixture. Then you get warm water. I feel like I have performed a minor miracle.

Again, only Wake-Up Service given to me was provided by a very handy, very compact, very efficient, convenient, and annoying travel alarm clock. And I was actually a good enough hall-mate to go and wake up Anna and make sure that she wasn't too late for breakfast (so much for the Nikki'n'Anna Wake-Up Service). I'm a good neighbor. Go me.

Upon coming downstairs (down the IV section, then around to the front of the building to go through the front door, which at that time of morning was unfortunately locked), I was greeted by a small group of other programmers, one of which was Brian, who approached me, saying, "I've got something for you, Haaaayyyleeeeyyy..."

Faced with a greeting like this, of course, I ran. Today is Fight Friday (so named by Nikki), and this week is water-balloons, so I figured that Brian had watery humiliation in store for me. Being as out of shape as I am, he caught up with me. Not a water-balloon. It was a bean -- one of the ones that attacked him on his run this morning, the description of which almost killed me yesterday (the choking on the honeydew incident). So he attacked me with the bean. Better than a water-balloon, though. Thankfully, the idea of Friday Fight died and there were no lobbed water-balloons today. I can have my guard down until next Friday.

More tired people this morning. Lots of people napping on the couches in the lounge area and scrambling for coffee or any caffeine of any sort. But me? No. I read Descartes. Actually, it's only A Very Short Introduction to Descartes, but still, it's Descartes, and I definitely hate it. I'm being a good girl and reading the darn thing, even taking making notes and marking pages with post-its, but Lord. I hate Descartes. Yes, "I think, therefore I am" is nice and all, but the rest of his stuff? Totally overrated. I could care less about his math and his physics, and his philosophy? My God, his "proofs" are ridiculous. ...I'm not even going to go into that insanity here. There's enough insanity elsewhere.

Then again, my only introduction to philosophy (besides Existentialism in English class, and I don't even have sources for that, and Absurdist plays in Theatre, which is weird enough as it is, and Nietzsche from Mr. Crawford) has been the Bruces' Philsophers Drinking Song from Monty Python. Though it is a very good list of The Philosophers You Should Know.

Immanuel Kant was a real pissant
Who was very rarely stable.

Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozy beggar
Who could think you under the table.

David Hume could out-consume
Schopenhauer and Hegel,

And Wittgenstein was a beery swine
Who was just as schloshed as Schlegel.

There's nothing Nietzsche couldn't teach ya
'Bout the raising of the wrist.
Socrates, himself, was permanently pissed.

John Stuart Mill, of his own free will,
On half a pint of shandy was particularly ill.

Plato, they say, could stick it away--
Half a crate of whiskey every day.

Aristotle, Aristotle was a bugger for the bottle.
Hobbes was fond of his dram,

And René Descartes was a drunken fart.
'I drink, therefore I am.'

Yes, Socrates, himself, is particularly missed,
A lovely little thinker,
But a bugger when he's pissed.


Hopefully I'll learn a little bit about these guys in IB Philosophy come the start of the school year with Mr. Crawford.

First lecture of the morning was just pretty much depressing. It was about the Great Exhibition of 1851 (not nearly as cool as the World's Fair, unfortunately). Made me feel cynical about the world (especially my own home country) and history repeating itself and human nature and... stuff. Ugh.

Click to read my official Programme Notebook entry on this lectureCollapse )

Then the scrabble for coffee. The tea is usually ignored. We need the caffeine. There was a rather unsuccessful Scrabble game that went unfinished -- I really need more practice -- and more Descartes. Not the happiest of mornings, really. But then, when I asked Ms. Wallace about getting our submitted Programme Notebook entries back, she told me how she loved my theory about art being an invitation for thought and she wants to use it in her English class! Yay! Go me! Take that, Dr. Speck. I have an English teacher's approval of my opinion. I don't need you.

Related to that last lecture was yesterday's visit to the Randolph Hotel. Really, it's actually relevant.

Click to read my official Programme Notebook entry on this buildingCollapse )

Next lecture. World War One (the lecture on the Great Exhibition was a lead-in to this lecture). Much more interesting, and almost brought me to tears. Dr. David Robertson, the lecturer, could really hit home on a personal level with this history, communicating the impact this war had on Britain so eloquently and poignantly. History is so often examined at such a distance; he brought it to an individual level that just... effects you.

Click to read my official Programme Notebook entry on this lectureCollapse )

I have got to find the musical Oh, What a Lovely War. That would be a great read, I think.

Lunch was quite interesting. Sat around a table with Maira, Jennie, Madeline, and Daniel, and the male of our party told us the story of the two girls who got kicked out of the programme last session in early July (since he was there to see it). Speck had told us that there was an incident in which "two young ladies were sent home from the programme," but would not go into the details. He was of course using it as a "don't even think about bending the rules" sort of talk, but for it actually to have happened?! What scandal!

So apparently two girls, against all better judgement, met a couple of boys while out in town. They said that they were students of one of the college and, hey, would you wanna come to a party tonight? They say "Why, sure!" I'm sure you can already sense where this is going, and why a high school girl should never speak to a college-aged boy.

The girls took the bus to the party at one of the colleges on another side of town. Only God (and a bunch of college boys) know what went on there, but they did leave the party with the intention of making curfew (not the Back on the Grounds by 10:00pm curfew, but In Your Rooms by 12:00am curfew). ...But no buses run at that time of night. So they tried to call a cab. No cabs run that late either. They were stranded.

They walked all the way back to St. Hugh's, and by the time they got there it was nearly daybreak. Had definitely missed curfew. ...And they had been missed (how in a group of over eighty, I don't know how that's possible, but anyway). Someone had noticed that they weren't around, and when it got late, panic spread. All the adults went around searching for them -- in every student's room, across all the grounds, even into town.

When they got back, Dr. Speck was waiting for them, and told them to pack their bags. They were sent back to the airport to go home that day. And it was early on in the programme, too, apparently. We asked Daniel if he was surprised -- "Y'know, were they the type?"

He said that he wasn't surprised. "Well, where were they from?" Texas, Daniel thinks. [sarcasm] Speck must have been so proud. [/sarcasm]

And, y'know? All this could be absolute rot, and I'd still be fascinated in knowing what happened. I love gossip in that way, just like I love soap operas. I don't have to know the involved persons to want to hear the gossip -- I don't even care if the people are real. You could tell me gossip about completely fictitious people, and I'd still hang off every word. I just love stories, and scandalous stories are the best.

So Anna and Maira have their tutorials today with the mysterious and elusive Dr. George Garnett. I told Maira to give me a full description of what manifestation he takes. She's still got her money on a fire-breathing dragon.

(--Also, Maira's hair-stick broke today, so her hair was no longer in the conservative bun that it's always in, but instead let her hair down!--)

Everyone was off to the Ashmolean museum this afternoon, but I've already seen it! I love being ahead of the game. The programmers who didn't go off to the Ashmolean went to the library, but I've already got my books. I just need to read. So that's how I spent my afternoon, and goodness gracious sakes, do I hate Descartes.

But we got back our first bunch of Programme Notebook entries! Huzzah! ...Except that I can't read Ms. Wallace's handwriting. Woe.

So it has come to my attention that a lot of my fellow St. Hugh's programmers (yes, that's what I'm calling them now) are reading this blog/journal/thing. Hullo, friends! I hope that I'm doing you all justice, and that you are entertained by reading about yourselves. You are now forewarned of the dangers of hanging around me. (This potentially has the power to make me either very popular or very unpopular -- to use the blog for good or for evil, that is the question...)

Also, Ms. Noonan has suggested that I begin to post pictures on this blog, along with the entries in order to illustrate the insanity and serve as proof for the silliness and hilarity that ensues here.

O Matt, stepfather extraordinaire? How would you advise that I upload pictures here? Or is that even possible?

Next was dinner. Maira informed me that her tutor, Dr. Garnett, is apparently not scary, and is in fact the epitome of the Oxford don. He has stacks of papers and books all over his floor, and he has stuffed armadillos in his fireplace. I want to be an eccentric college English professor so badly...

In other news, the boys here at this programme are very odd. Each pair of boys makes a game of wearing matching clothes against the other pair, and they keep points for how often they match (and for the best "yo' mama" jokes -- though wouldn't it be "your mum" jokes here?). When Jamie & Mike informed Brian & Ryan that they'd gotten double points for matching accessories, Brian yelled across the tables at them, "Lies, lies, lies!" It was classic. You'd think it'd be the girls who would be so interested in matching outfits, but as soon as you make something competitive, it's all for the boys.

Almost all the boys also had to ask what a "tart" was (derogatory term for a certain type of female, not the dessert). Very odd.

Ms. Noonan and I have started a campaign for Brian to change the spelling of his name to Bryan -- "i" to a "y" -- so that the unit of Brian & Ryan can merely be shortened, in text form, to (B)ryan. We thought that this was very clever, but Brian with an i refused, for he said that he knows Bryans with a y and wants to be differentiated from them. Not a good enough reason for me, personally. (B)ryan is really quite clever!

Brian tried to find out what the mysterious purple bean was for me while he was in the library. "...But that can wait 'til next week," he finally decided. So maybe he can keep the spelling of his name. Fine.

So I almost killed Ms. Noonan with a butter knife that fell off of my plate as I was standing up after dinner. That was exciting. (You can tell we get some serious excitement, here...)

But tonight was an early dinner, for tonight is the night of the first dance class! The optional dance class was on the original schedule, but then taken off (due to lack of interest in the previous session is my guess). The outcry was almost deafening, but the class is really Madeleine's resurrection. Almost the very first day of the programme (first or second, I can't remember), she passed around a petition to bring back the dance class. Every single member of the programme signed it, though some of the boys had to be coaxed into it. And when I say "coaxed" I mean either threatened with bodily harm, which is fairly effective when the girls outnumber the boys two-to-one, or very bluntly reminded of how every boy is going to get his first pick of dance partners, being that the girls outnumber the boys two-to-one. This also fairly effective.

So yes, it's really all Madeleine's resurrection, in creating that petition, but she claims that she was just "speaking for the people." Word up. You go, girl. Rock on. Or rather dance on. Oh yeah.

What boggles so many of the minds of us girls is how the boys don't seem to realize the great power of being able to dance. The phrase "chick magnet" was repeated a couple of times. The ability to dance can make almost any guy instantly attractive. Why can't boys realize that dance classes are actually to their very great benefit? And boys at an Oxford Summer Programme ought to be smart. Well, they were smart enough to sign the petition, and to actually show up for the class.

I changed clothes into what I figured would be more dance-y. This was the third time I'd changed my clothes today, but this time I actually had a purpose. Nikki said that I was cute in my black dancing outfit. Huzzah! I can dress myself and be cute. The outfit consisted of a black asymmetrical swing-dancing skirt, black knee-high tights, black Mary Jane shoes, and the black short-sleeved sweater that Claire Miller, knitting teacher and British friend extraordinaire, made for me that has a lovely low neck with an X across it.

All the chairs in the lecture area were stacked and put away (with the help of Big Strong Boys), and the class was given by a lovely, balding, and elderly British guy with a big pot belly and snow-white hair, but, Good God, the man could dance. Was not seeing that coming. His name is Bruce.

Connection to the Bruces' Philosopher Drinking Song? Coincidence? I think not.

There was much of the feeling of being in elementary school again and being picked for sports' teams (which, if you know me at all, was never a happy memory), except that this is a dance. There's the awful hormonal boy/girl factor that makes this so emotionally-charged. (There are often thoughts that actually go along the lines of "Will he pick me, omg?" and I can't even imagine what the boys were thinking.)

We learned the Cha-Cha, and then the Slow English Waltz, which is supposed to be the easiest dance to learn, but is completely counter-intuitive and really, terribly hard.

I brought a camera. And unfortunately for Madeleine, who had the bad fortune of being my partner, and who I think actually wanted to dance, I practically sat out the whole Cha-Cha and took pictures. I took so many, they practically animate. And some of the couples were really good. Nikki and Brian, my god, they really got into it. They were tearin' up the floor, all flair and spice. And Ryan and Farah -- they were definitely having a good time, all smiles as they "got down." They were over in our corner, those two couples.

The dance teacher went on and on about how the Cha-Cha's all about shakin' the butt (which is very interesting to see demonstrated on a man of his build), and Mike really embraced the concept. He was shakin' that butt everywhere. I got lots of pictures (potential blackmail?) -- Madeleine and I both, we were photo-documenting practically every step. She'd brought down a camera, too.

...I'm not that horrible a person for not dancing with Madeleine at first. I had been showing her all the photos in my camera and we were both sort of inspired to take more pictures...!

...It's not just that I'm terrified to dance. Really.

...Eh. Just keep tellin' yourself that, Hayley...

Finally, when I realized that I was being an awfully bad partner to Madeleine, I handed off my camera to Ms. Noonan and Ms. Wallace, and I pulled her over to dance, but made her be the Boy (after all, if we're going to be stereotypical about Boy/Girl Dancing, she was in pants, and I was in a skirt; it's just what made sense). It took us ages and intervention from the teacher, but eventually we pretty much got the basic step. The teacher actually danced with me for a while so I would be sure to get the hang of it. All the stuff about form and steps -- those swing-dance lessons came flooding back to me, and memories of how awful I was at it. (And Bruce had bad breath; not good for a dancing partner.)

I got to be passable with the Cha-Cha, and then came the Waltz. Dear lord, the Waltz. Madeleine and I were hopeless at the Waltz. Eventually, we all changed partners, and Maira (briefly) showed me how. She's good; she'd been the teacher's partner. Then the teacher went on to show us how to do turns and whatnot, and that was completely beyond me. This is why I don't do musical theatre. I am not in-tuned enough with my body to know which foot should go where. I can't even run properly.

I practiced with Anna in the corner. Step two three, step two three, step two three, step two three... Usually by that point you've run into someone. I was so pathetic at this that Brian took me in for a pity-dance. I, of course, was terrified ("OMGBOYTOUCHINGME" or something along those lines), but he was really good at this. ...Can't exactly say the same for myself. At all. Brian was counting the steps aloud for me, and the first few seconds sounded like this:

"Okay, so-- one two three, o--"

"[expletive deleted]!"

One could tell how often I was making mistakes by how often I was swearing, but Brian whipped me into shape. He floated across the floor, dragging me along like a dead weight as I tried to remember these bloody, completely counter-intuitive steps. Then, Brian handed me off to Mike, and we tried floating around a bit, but there was lots of knocking into other people and having to start over. That's what's awful about the Waltz -- lots of traffic.

Elsewhere on the floor, Brian danced briefly with Ms. Noonan, which was absolutely hilarious, because Brian had gone barefoot after about a minute of the Cha-Cha, and then Ms. Noonan stabbed his foot with her high-heel while waltzing with him. He danced with Ms. Wallace as well, but I don't think that there were any injuries there. It was just sort of cute.

Sometimes, the girls would dance with themselves, just to twirl around and watch their skirts flare out. Me, Nikki, and Jennie were all culprits of this, just to name a few. But as for same-sex dancing couples, go Anna and Andrea! They really got into it, and they were good. I guess there's no threat of cooties, there, which is a valid concern, as we do still at times tend to act like pre-teens at a school dance. Jamie and Mike dancing together was just amusing (it was all posing for the picture, anyway).

There were so many good couples; it was really intimidating! Jamie and Katie were really going at it, as was Mike and Risa (they were even wearing almost-matching outfits). Fred and Jennie seemed to be having so much fun, but Jennie smiles and laughs so much anyway, how can one tell? So cute. And Janine and Daniel! They were always off in a corner, quietly dancing together. And Daniel was always looking down at his feet to make sure that he was getting the steps right, so he was leaning in very close to her, bent down as if to kiss her. Made for some great pictures. So sweet.

Isn't it just so lovely for a group of young people to get together and engage in good, clean, and cultured fun--? ...I'm going to stop there. I sound old.

Eventually, as I was still so pathetic in how bad I was at the Waltz, Maira stooped to be on my arm (and she does have to stoop -- she's much taller than me), and agreed to stand up with me. Ha. I've never gotten to use those phrases before. What fun.

We tried just dancing across the floor, but apparently I was supposed to be leading and I can't see over her shoulder, she's so tall! So we slid off to a corner and tried not to run into anyone else, and she drilled the steps into me. Finally, we tried the floor again, but she led this time, and we floated.

I'd only just got the hang of it, and it was time for the last dance. The masses called for the Cha-Cha again. Maira agreed to dance with me again for this one, but basically had to re-teach the whole dance to me in the process. But I got it eventually! And I could cha-cha her across the floor, I could...! (Ms. Noonan, who had my camera, promised that she got at least some pictures of me dancing.)

We all profusely thanked Bruce, the Lord of the Dance, with many rounds of applause, and he bid us farewell until next week. Everyone's mind still on the dancing, the boys discussed how maybe mats on the floor with the steps drawn out might help, but Mike was all for the idea of having a dry-erase board with the steps written down on it -- like an American football game-plan. As a demonstration, this eventually turned into a dancing/football commentary, and then into fight-dancing, which is like karate with more swivelling of the hips.

Oh. And the Italians across the way from us (the language students in a different St. Hugh's programme, so named "The Italians" by Dr. Speck, despite the students' variety of nationalities) are apparently having some sort of drunken party, according to Janine, as I sit here huddled in the computer lab. Yay for drunk language students. The party also included loud music and frightening fireworks for Janine and I to flinch at.

Janine and I wish each other bon soir et bonne nuit, and off to bed.

Art, Art, Art -- What Do You See?

So I was very happy to receive a phone call at about 2:30 this morning. I don't think I've ever used that sentence before in my life, but the call was from my parents and I really missed them. They'd refrained from calling me before because of the time difference, figuring that I need my sleep, but I corrected them. I don't need sleep, I need relief from this home-sickness. It is not fun to miss one's parents and have an ocean between them and you.

I feel like the barman from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, right before the end of the world.

[H]e experienced a momentary sensation that he didn't understand because no one on Earth had ever experienced it before. In moments of great stress, every life form that exists gives out a tiny subliminal signal. This signal simply communicates an exact and almost pathetic sense of how far that being is from the place of his birth. On Earth it is never possible to be further than sixteen thousand miles from your birthplace, which really isn't very far, so such signals are too minute to be noticed. Ford Prefect was at this moment under great stress, and he was born 600 light years away in the near vicinity of Betelgeuse.

The barman reeled for a moment, hit by a shocking, incomprehensible sense of distance.


So anyway. Very nice, very sleepy conversation with my parents, telling them about my first tutorial and whatnot in between yawns, and then I was back to sleep.

Nikki was kind enough to act as my alarm clock this morning, for she must have telepathically sensed that I'd forgotten to set it the night before. I was very grateful, but Nikki later informed me that I "look like Death" in the morning, I guess in a sort of "how dare you disturb my eternal slumber" way.

No Alice paraphernalia today. Light purple cowl-neck sweater, blue-jeans with rolled-up cuffs, white socks, white keds, and my Egyptian scroll-in-a-vial necklace. Ms. Noonan declared at breakfast that I have cool jewellery. I am pleased.

Over breakfast, Maira and I discussed she and Anna's AWOL tutor (read: it was discovered on Monday that said tutor was not in Oxford and would not be for several more days, and we got to see Dr. Speck's Not Happy Face). It is rumoured that he may appear today, and we discussed what physical manifestation he might take on. Maira's convinced that it'll be some form of fire-breathing dragon.

So apparently last night's shenanigans of socializing in the computer lab after curfew and generally staying up late has not earned us a stern lecture (we were blessed for them not to be discovered), but apparently some of the other girls had to spend the night in Nikki and Anna's suite, since they lost track of the time and realized it was after midnight and if they got caught still out in the halls... So! It was a sleepover. Girls are ridiculous.

Everyone was absolutely exhausted, and the first lecture was not exactly... invigorating. Mostly Oxford history. Things about the Romans and the Norman conquests and changes in religious climate having an effect on the colleges... Apparently some of the others actually fell asleep during the lecture. I was kind enough to stay awake (though I did spend a bit of time sketching Maira's dangling amber earrings, since she was sitting right in front of me). Dr. John Iles, the lecturer -- he's constantly clearing his throat, stuttering, mumbling, he has a mole on his forehead, a twitch in his right eye, and a comb-over. But of course that's not the only thing I got out of the lecture...

Click to read my official Programme Notebook entry on this lectureCollapse )

After the first lecture was the blessed coffee break. Ryan poured out about five cups for all of us huddled around the biscuits-and-tea table. Nikki, in the course of only a few days, has gone from never having real coffee before (Starbucks Frappachinos without extra shots don't count) to becoming a coffee addict. I made this observation, to which Nikki countered, "I'm not an addict. I just really, really need it." Oxymoronic, perhaps? That got a few laughs.

This whole group is addicted to coffee. And to gambling, apparently. The card games continue unceasingly. I sat instead around another table with Brian, Ms. Noonan, and Katie. I believe the conversation started out with Brian informing us of how he has no soul (he tried to sell someone else's on the internet and ended up selling his own), and how he tried to invoke the Devil at a Harry Potter book-release party at Barnes & Noble, which I find so very wrong.

That led into a conversation all about ghosts, and everyone shared their ghosts stories. Ms. Noonan had stories from her trip to Ireland, and when a relative of hers recently died, and the three of us Robinsonians told Katie the stories about Mr. Peterson the Health teacher and his haunted house in Clifton. I am now determined to have a paranormal experience. I feel left out!

We've seen some advertisements for Ghost Tours around Oxford. We might go as a group one night and have some ghostly fun. I could definitely get in to some Oxford ghostly history.

There has also been talk about some of the kids going out for dinner together Saturday night. Brian asked me if I wanted to come along, and I said sure, of course. Upon later and more formal inquiries, apparently everyone but Henry Speck wants to go, so the old Texan will just have to eat alone that night. We're going out on the town!

Awkward moment of the morning: Brian laying sprawled out on one of the couches, and Ms. Noonan commenting on how he looks like he's "posing, always like he's posing -- for the Titanic or something-- oh god. ...That did not come out how I wanted it-- ...oh god never mind." The rest of us were practically in tears with laughter by this point anyway. A teacher accidentally making reference to the possibility of a student posing naked! Oh, the hilarity!

After another lecture on punctuality, "Thursday of the first week means very tired people," Dr. Speck told us when we congregated for our 11:00 discussion. Speck started off the discussion by bringing up something he'd heard in the hallway last night, that Brian had come up with a list in the Tate of what is Not Art, and Brian subsequently will never speak to Henry Speck ever again.

It was another very Theory of Knowledge-like discussion, focusing on that very same controversial question of "What is Art?" I was the first to give my opinion (that anything someone intends to be art and has a thought or feeling behind it is art, or anything that someone interprets as art because it inspires a thought or feeling in them is art), and Henry Speck immediately shot it down. ...Well, serves me right for having an opinion? I don't know.

It was a very heated discussion. Lots of strong opinions and interesting thoughts, and Speck annoying us the entire time for when he wasn't dominating the discussion, he plays the devil's advocate, though he denies it. He does it just to be annoying -- and it's not even in the endearing way Mr. Karpicus plays the devil's advocate for Theory of Knowledge discussions. This was just maddening, for Speck to go on and on and not be able to argue.

I was going crazy in my chair. And though Maira had her opinions and expressed them, she was able to keep her countenance. She calmly practiced Latin conjugation next to me while I was slowly turning redder and redder in the face. Nikki sensed my impending explosion and, from across the room, held up a sign from her notebook, "HE'S ANNOYING ME A BIT TOO NOW." To which I, of course, mouthed back at her, "A bit?!"

This is my problem. I get too passionate. It's dangerous to get passionate. Afterwards, Nikki came running up to comfort me, and to make sure I didn't hurt anyone. Daniel told me that he agreed with almost all the points I made, which pleased me much. Nikki was just generally annoyed with Speck, which I also found very pleasing.

Smoke was still coming out of my ears at lunch. I sat with Brian and Nikki and Katie, amongst others, and I tried to cheer myself up with an orange -- peeled all in one piece, eaten slowly, section by section, all found seeds arranged in a line. And then Brian had his first Brian's Quote of the Day (first, as in more then one -- oh goodie): "Don't you feel just so fresh after eating an orange? Or any citrus. Like, I don't have to take a shower, I feel so fresh. I could eat mud, but then I eat an orange and I'm all fresh again!" Immediately afterwards, Brian made a comment about how I shouldn't mock him with my eyes like that, but how can I help it?

I've started some horrors when it comes to fruit, here at this programme. It all started with Ryan and the innocent pursuit of eating a banana before breakfast. Ryan was telling us of the virtues of the banana as a fruit, and I agreed, also pointing out that it was a fruit that came wrapped in its very own biodegradable packaging. Ryan went on to argue that, no, all fruit did. I argued, no, they didn't. Yes, they do. No, they don't. And so on. Ryan's argument was that all fruit have a peel or a rind or a skin, so therefore they come in their own biodegradable packaging! He even picked up a peach and started throwing it around to demonstrate. When the peach was bruised into pulp, I pointed out that a skin doesn't exactly protect the fruit as packaging, and I won the argument.

Long story short: fruit has never again been the same at this programme.

But today at lunch, Brian almost killed me with a mysterious melon (later discovered to be honeydew) while describing the beans that would fall out of the trees and hit him during his morning runs. "They attack from above! They're like green beans. Except they're purple beans. And much elongated... they're longer..." (Brian's second Quote of the Day.)

I started choking on my bite of melon, I was laughing so hard, and spent the rest of lunch hacking honeydew out of my lungs. I think that boy has damaged my esophagus. I will have my revenge.

I decided that today would be the afternoon that I actually get something productive done. I have so much to do, and I'm not sure how to manage my time in order to do it all, not with this schedule! So I decided that I'd go in to town today and buy the books that Dr. Clerici recommended I look at for research. Maira asked me what I was doing for the afternoon, so I told her I was going out into town, and she asked if she could tag along. I said I'd be glad to have her company, so off we went!

Our first stop was the Ashmolean museum, which is a really fascinating place to visit. I can't believe it's free -- and to have so many ancient treasures right there. We spent a lot of time in the Greek and Roman section, examining the pottery and the marble, playing "Guess the God" and discussing the significance of a culture's relationship with genitalia in art and how revealing it is to that country's workings (no pun intended). Also, you can really see the progression of artistic technique in how cultures depict children. Fascinating. We wandered around and around, because Maira wanted to find the Medieval section for possible essay-material. It got a little confusing, mixing ancient with Western cultures ("What god is that--? Oh, wait, that's The God. Right."). Finally, we stopped to ask someone.

The nice security man in the corner told us that, unfortunately, the Medieval exhibit is currently closed because the museum is under renovations, and then went on to ask us if our parents had a happy marriage. I found this most odd, for I didn't think it capable for a British person to ask a forward and extremely personal question, but we'd noticed that he asked everyone this who stopped to talk to him. Apparently he had a spiel, which we were lucky enough to hear.

As for the question, I was so dumbfounded that I couldn't answer, so Maira spoke up, "I can't say, as I'm not privy to the intricacies of their relationship, so I don't think I could rightfully say... Why?" He proceeded to tell us that there was a marble statue upstairs in Gallery 56 that we had to see. "Right in the middle of the room on top of a pedestal, you can't miss it. I've seen Rembrandt, I've seen Degas, I've seen Picasso -- and they've got nothing on this guy. Just the detail on this piece is amazing. It's of a couple. The man is looking thoroughly depressed, his face downcast, but his left eye is just barely looking out to the side, to his wife, who's standing next to him with her arm around him, looking very concerned. Now, you'll be able to see a wedding ring on her left hand, but not on his! In fact, on his ring finger, there's a slight pinch... as if he's just recently taken it off. So what do you think their story is? No, don't tell me. Now, go up to the gallery, number 56, and look at the statue, really look at it, try to notice all the details, and then read the story back on the card. Then come back, and tell me what you think. Give me your rating on a one-to-ten scale."

"Based on what?" Maira asked, of course.

"Just your impressions. What you think."

So, up for an adventure, we went looking for the statue, and of course, there it was. It was a beautiful statue, intricately detailed, and Maira and I started our assessment.

"Yes, there's the wedding ring on her hand... But not on his," I said.

"Sure it's the right hand?" she asked.

"I'm sure. Do you see the pinch on his ring-finger? I don't think I see anything."

"No, I think I see it. That finger is slightly more slender than the others where a ring should be."

"And I guess he's got the slightly cross-eyed thing goin' on... lookin' at his wife from the left eye, the other eye on the ground... but it's so subtle, I think you'd miss it if you weren't looking for it. Do you think it's even really there? That maybe we're just seeing these things because we were told to see them?"

"No, I think they're there. Do you think they're actually married?"

"Yeah, look at their clothing. The print matches."

"Yeah. The clothing looks... about thirteenth-century, I'd say. But her hair isn't covered. She can't be married."

"Then why does she have the ring?"

We couldn't come up with an answer for that. Examining the assumed husband, we determined that he looks somewhat Christ-like, with his hair and facial expression. Also, he is decked out in battle garb, so he must be a warrior of some sort. Thirteenth-century -- that means the crusades! So we guessed that he's going off to the crusades, and leaving her to go fight, but she's begging him not to go. But Maira noticed that the assumed wife isn't quite looking at the assumed husband -- but slightly past his forehead. Our interpretation is that she's really looking at a halo around his head. Christ-like.

Then we looked at the card. Artist: Pio Fedi. Title: Pia de' Tolomei and Nello della Pietra also known as Il sospetto.

We flipped over the card to read the story, and discovered that we were completely wrong. They were a couple from Dante's Purgatorio. The wife is an adulteress, and the husband is leaving her, while leaving her to... be buried in a marshland or something.

So we returned to the strange security man, and we told him what we thought. Both around an Eight Out Of Ten, Ten Being Best. We told him our initial interpretation of the story, and he seemed mildly interested. He went on to tell us about a baker in town. "She does lots of things, but mostly cakes for certain occasions -- birthday cakes, christening cakes, wedding cakes, the like. But her most popular item? ...Divorce cakes."

Shock!

"Yeah, divorce cakes. And don't you think that statue would be the greatest replacement for a happy bride and groom on a wedding cake?"

"I don't know," Maira said. "If you shrunk it down, you'd lose all that detail."

I asked the man's name, and he said that he was Manfred Driver, security invigilation officer. And then he came up with an elaborate plan for us to visit the Print Room of the museum ("See a Degas or a Rembrandt! And then make an appointment for a Leonardo!"), but we declined -- for now. Perhaps we shall go back. Manfred could probably use another visit.

By the time we were leaving, we could already hear him starting his spiel on someone else. Odd man. "He must be bored," Maira assessed. Bored, or just very passionate about art.

Click to read my official Programme Notebook entry on this buildingCollapse )

Across the street from the Ashmolean was the Randolph Hotel, which, along with the Ashmolean, we need to write about for Programme Notebook entries. We stopped in front of the Ashmolean and stared at the Randolph.

"What do you see?" Maira asked.

Victorian Gothic style. Grand. Powerful. Intricate exterior details. Inside? Wood panelling. Ribbed ceilings. Like a cathedral.

That's all we needed.

I'll save that Programme Notebook Entry for another day.

Maira and I walked on. Maira's only agenda was to see the Ashmolean, and get flowers. The flowers I found a curious commodity to seek out, but she explained that she needed them to give to the professors whom she was seeing that night. "Professors?" I inquired.

Maira's mentor. He's a Medievalist -- like her, hence being her mentor. I found it very amusing that one of the first papers he sent her to see if she was interested in what he did was Heloise and Abelard, which is a student/tutor love affair story. It sounded like the beginning of a trashy romance novel -- the professor subtly propositioning the student with a historical romance. Maira laughed, and said that, yeah, it could sound like that, if your mind was so inclined.

"Inclined how?" I asked.

"Dirty mind," she said.

That, of course, led into another conversation about Oscar Wilde. But Maira lives such an interesting life. She goes to university parties and conferences, masquerading as a college student. She becomes Maira -- Cornell student, Medievalist, tango dancer, and violin player in a Middle-Eastern band. That's so cool. I want to lead a secret life with a college professor. ...See, that sounds like it's from a trashy romance novel.

She draws, too. "Or tries to," as she says.

Next stop, Blackwell's Books for the books Dr. Clerici recommended for my next tutorial essay. Long walk to get there, and Maira is a fear-less jaywalker. "There aren't enough cross-walks in England!" is her defense. Doesn't keep me from chanting "oh god oh god we're all going to die" every time we cross the street. I don't want to die via tour coach. ...Greasy stain on the front of a tour bus...

Maira also goes about town as if she's lived here her whole life. She has been to Oxford twice, and yet she seems to know every street and every shop on it (and where to find certain things in the shops). I don't know if it's intuition or a good sense of direction or just fabulous memory, but tourists were asking us for directions. Must be the Dirk Gently theory of following someone who looks like they know where they're going.

Blackwell's is wonderful. So many books. Explored the philosophy section in the basement at length. Got a Very Short Introduction to Descartes, an Introduction to Existentialism, Jean-Paul Sartre's Existentialism & Humanism (it looks small), along with The Poetry of Reverie and The Poetry of Space by the philosopher that Clerici recommended I check out and see if he suits my pursuits. Very easy to read, apparently. Intuitive ideas. Gaston somebody. Anyway. (I sound so irreverent -- ha!)

Maira and I parted at the coffee shop (right next to poetry) as I went to look for theory on children's literature. I looked around uselessly (was very tempted by all the Oxford English dictionaries -- ooh, dictionaries), but eventually had to ask for help from the Very Dismissive and Too-Busy-To-Speak-To-You-Properly Help Desk. He showed me where the section was. An Introduction to Children's Literature. It has an Alice Tenniel drawing right on the cover. Promising.

Returned to the coffee shop and started reading Descartes. "I am thinking therefore I am" is on the first page. I'm not sure if I got much farther than the first page when the words "Is it any good?" sounded close to my ear, and I promptly freaked out. It was Maira. She was amused. I don't deal with being surprised very well. I make strange noises, usually along the lines of "BWAAAHHH!"

Next stop was Boswell's Department store to buy a Scrabble game (we need it for our lounge area -- I need to take some people down). The girl behind the counter at Blackwell's recommended it. Blackwell's to Boswell's. Well, well, well. A deck of Uno cards came free with the Scrabble game!

Since we were in the neighbourhood (not that I knew the neighbourhood -- that was Maira; I have no sense of direction), we decided to stop at a little thrift store Maira knew. Called "Unicorn".

It was like a vintage-clothing nightmare in there. Or something out of Harry Potter. Maybe a combination of the two. A tiny little shop that is stacked from floor to ceiling with clothes. Shoes on rack right by the door. Hanger-bars lining the walls. One free-standing rack or dresses. But then just clothes stacked on top of one another in great big piles! Wall to wall of disorganized clothes! There was only about... maybe fifteen square feet of actual walking room. An old woman was tucked away in the corner, mending a lacy blouse with her sewing kit. She barely looked up as we came in, looking at boots and coats (Maira) and Argyll sweaters and sweater vests (me). Left with nothing.

Honestly, how does one expect to find anything in that shop? Does the shopkeeper just expect everything on the top-layer to be sold, and the stuff on the bottom will just wait? Who knows what's down there, under those layers and layers of clothing...?

Maira described it as Dickensian. I agreed, though I had no idea what she meant, and Heaven forbid I admit my ignorance. But I needn't be intimidated by her (or at least too intimidated), for she has informed me that if she ever sounds pretentious, she gives me every right to hit her in the knee-caps with a blunt instrument. I have given her similar rights, should I ever sound pretentious. I think it's more likely for me to get knee-capped than her.

Back home to St. Hugh's. Long walk back home to St. Hugh's, during which I teased Maira quite a bit about wearing all black. All the time. She argued that she doesn't wear all black all the time. "Mostly, black, though," I argued. I described her as a Beatnik. She didn't know what a Beatnik was. Okay, so she knows Dickens, but she doesn't know what a Beatnik is. I told her to brush up on her 1950's pop culture.

There were no flowers to be had for Maira's professor friends. So we stopped at a little shop to buy chocolates. Because if you can't give flowers, you give chocolates, right? We had considered taking flowers from the St. Hugh's Garden, but we decided to keep our virtue instead.

Got home to St. Hugh's just in time for a lecture. This, I believe, was and will be our first and only evening lecture, but this guy is so in-demand that this was the only time we could get him. In the early July lecture, Dr. Speck accidentally referred to him as "a professor of political silence," (as opposed to science) -- what a great term. Political Silence. I believe in Political Silence.

Interesting lecturer guy. Bad tie. Yells sometimes, and when that occurs, it is scary. Sounds like either Michael Palin or Eric Idle. One of those Monty Python guys.

Click to read my official Programme Notebook entry on this lectureCollapse )

A good lecture, very stimulating, but vastly depressing. I came up with a parody of "I know a song that gets on everybody's nerves" just for the post-lecture discussion.

Who feels depressed about the state of the world?
State of the world? State of the world?
Who feels depressed about the state of the world,
and thinks we're going to die?


Brian, Ms. Noonan and I all sat in a circle and brooded about politics, much in the same way I imagine that the Existentialist, Absurdists, and Dadaists must have. We should have started an artistic movement, right then and there. ...All the Anti-Semitism in the Middle East... honestly, haven't we fought this war before? Hasn't the issue of "the elimination of the Jews" already been covered? Brian concluded the conversation with this third Quote of the Day: "Religion just sorta sucks." Very eloquent, and very articulate of the atmosphere of the discussion.

Word of the Day is the new coined word (by Maira), "Speckimonster". Just to lighten the mood.

Excursion One

Again, woken up by annoying beeping sounds. I believe my Nikki and Anna Wake-up Call Service has become officially Unreliable. [sarcasm] Of course, I was a bright ray of sunshine this morning, [/sarcasm] especially since I had to wash my hair in the sink again last night. The ability to make the shower water warm still eludes me.

I stopped in to check on my hall-mates, and found Anna just coming out of the shower. She's still stuck taking cold showers as well. Nikki was out again for a morning run. I made Nikki's bed as Anna brushed through her wet hair -- you wouldn't believe the state of Nikki's room, it's a nightmare -- and we went down to breakfast, over which Ms. Noonan promised to show us how to make the shower warm. She has attained the ability. It's like a test of some sort.

I ate another orange during breakfast (but maybe it's a tangerine...). I've been having one at every meal and re-perfecting my technique of removing the peel in a single piece. Everyone's fascinated by this talent (Brian agreed to eat an orange if I'd peel it for him), and, after having told my story about gluing orange peels back together during Theory of Knowledge, the teachers have encouraged me to pursue this activity again. Encouraging my OCD? They must be crazy.

The weather is beautiful and English again. We are all so very pleased. It's cool and overcast, and even a bit "blustery" as Dr. Speck put it (A. A. Milne, eat your heart out). About every other day, we get a little spattering of rain; never a downpour, it's just always a little drizzle, as if to remind us that, yes, this is England. It's all so much better than the awful heat we had before! I packed all my Argyll sweaters and I'll actually be able to wear them...!

I need to spend more time outside to really appreciate how beautiful it is outside. Of course, that brings up the eternal to blog or not to blog, that is the question question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to ignore the gorgeous weather and bore all my loved ones with my trivial doings over the internet... Etc. etc.

I wore the black-and-white Tenniel Alice shirt today that Mom absolutely hates for how old and beaten up it is; she has tried to throw it away at least twice. But never! I shall wear this shirt until it is so worn that it falls off of my body (or until I find a replacement shirt with a Tenniel pattern, not just a Tenniel picture on a t-shirt, but a pattern of cloth with Tenniel Alice art...).

Maira teased me about the shirt, asking if I brought all my Alice paraphernalia with me, and if I planned to wear something Alice-related every day. I informed her that no, I had not brought all my Alice paraphernalia (that would be a HUGE suitcase), and I have not worn something Alice-related every day. "The very first day I was Alice-free!" I told her, then went on, "...but then I went to Alice's Shop with my parents, so do I lose points for that?"

So today was Excursion Day Number One! At nine o'clock, we all filed out of the building with our little bagged lunches (due to a mistake in the kitchen, the chicken salad sandwiches were replaced with cheese sandwiches -- a confusion over "C"s, I suppose), and filed onto our little tour bus, and drove two hours to London!

I sat in the back with Ms. Noonan and Ms. Wallace. We did a crossword puzzle (Washington Post -- Wednesday). I am really terrible at crossword puzzles. But I got the five-letter "Duck" clue, which was E-L-U-D-E. Go me. I have vocabulary skills.

First stop: Tate Modern gallery of international modern art. We all ate lunch outside on little pink chairs and tables, and marvelled at the size and ferocity of the pigeons. Ms. Wallace told us stories of watching NYC pigeons from the window of the teacher's lounge at her school. Mostly feathery, birdie sex. ...I'm terrified of pigeons. And London pigeons are fearless.

I confessed this fear to Ms. Noonan when a particularly large pigeon went flying right over my head. "Hitchcock has ruined me," I said.

"Oh, The Birds has ruined lots of people, darling..." was her response.

My lunch consisted of a bottle of water, a banana, a bag of "crisps", and a cheese-and-tomato sandwich. Crazy British people.

Went wandering through the Tate with Ms. Noonan, Ms. Wallace, and Maira (face it, Maira and I are the kids to hang out with the teachers). It was wonderful. We actually saw some of the Duchamp pieces that were mentioned in the lecture yesterday. And there are some really fascinating pieces there... AND MONET'S WATER-LILIES. Oh my god. Seriously. The painting was right there. Right there. What a trip. Oh wow.

So much poetry is coming out of that experience.

Click to read my official Programme Notebook entry on this excursionCollapse )

Bought some useless things in the gift shop that I don't actually need but wanted anyway. (Andy Warhol postcards? How can I resist?) Likewise in the gift shop of the Globe Theatre. ...I probably didn't actually need that Macbeth tote bag... But it was so cool! And if anyone can find prints of the Shakespeare artwork done by Elizabeth Schuch, I'll love you forever. (I adore the Hamlet print. I have it on a stationery card.)

So I was at the Globe Theatre today. Seriously. I was at The Globe! The honest-to-god Shakespearean Globe Theatre. But I forgot my camera! So I commandeered Nikki's and took pictures of everything -- every little architectural detail in sight, all the musicians, all the people in the seats, and even the creepy guy in the groundling pit with dreadlocks down to his calves. And I saw a play there, at the Globe Theatre! They're doing a Roman theme this season, so we saw Coriolanus. (Props to Michael Allen and all others related to the Reduced Shakespeare Company -- yes, I have seen the "Anus Play".)

Blinkie (http://www.quicksilverweb.net/be/beshakes.htm ) explains the Anus Play as "What a motherfucking son of a bitch," but I believe there are more intricacies to the story than that. Here is my brief synopsis of Coriolanus:

Don't piss off your amazing war general, even if he is really proud. But if you do, get him through his mommy, wife, and kid. And general? Never team up with a previous foe. Never ends well -- usually "rip your heart out" sort of tragedy, haha -- and then they dance for the curtain call!

Great play. Well, not a great play, but just so great to be there and see it. First half of the play I spent in the very top row, looking down on the stage, which is actually a really cool view, but for the second half, Jennie, Andrea and I went down into the pit to be groundlings, and OH MY GOD, it was amazing. It's a whole different experience, for the actors to be RIGHT THERE. A bunch of the plebeians sneak up behind you and stuff, because the groundling pit is sort of used as the marketplace where the plebes hang out. OH. AND. AT THE END, when they kill Coriolanus, the guy who rips his heart out was TWO FEET AWAY. I'm dead serious. He was right there. Jennie, Andrea and I were clutching at each other in fright, we were so absorbed by the play. For a minute there, I think the three of us honestly believed that was a real heart, and we looked down at the chest of the actor playing Coriolanus as if we expected to see a hole there. It was amazing.

Reactions from the play: the dude playing Coriolanus (Jonathan Cake) was amazing. I would follow him into battle. Apparently, the guy playing Cominius was also Jeffery the butler on the TV show "Fresh Prince of Bellaire", and all Farah wanted to do was ask him what it was like to stand next to Will Smith. Farah and Katie also completely ruined a really poignant moment where Coriolanus' son is reaching out to him on his knees for mercy... and then they remark on how cute the actor playing the son is.

Click to read my official Programme Notebook entry on this excursionCollapse )

There was an ice-cream truck parked outside the theatre, so Katie and I bought ice-cream while Ms. Noonan fretted over the people still in the toilets. If people are going to waste time in the loo, why not pop down the street for an ice-cream? Especially when there's Ribena ice-cream! Oh, the world is good.

On the bus ride home, we played silly little car-trip games. First, it was How Many Names of Famous People Can You Think Of From A Random Pair of Letters Serving As Their Initials (which I was awful at, and gave up after round one -- I could only think of Walt Disney and Elizabeth Taylor), and then it was Name A Continent, Country, or City Whose First Letter Was the Last Letter of the Previous Continent, Country, or City. Have discovered that there are very few "A" places, and lots of places ending in "A".

Back at St. Hugh's, I had dinner with Maira, Ms. Wallace, and Dr. Speck. We talked about radio shows, and I asked if Dr. Speck was at all familiar with Dick Barton, Special Agent. He said that he wasn't. Apparently he was a Long Ranger sort of kid (would listen to it while washing the dishes).

After dinner in the computer lab (typing up these lovely entries), I was eventually visited by Risa, with whom I sat gossiping for the next half-hour. Apparently romance is a-brewing, even in this scholarly setting... The next few weeks could be fun. With the girls outnumbering the boys 2:1, I'm sensing a soap opera coming.

Risa has encouraged me to go out and date. Because it is fun is her reasoning. "No, really! It's fun!" She has informed me that her world revolves around the three factors of shopping, boys, and tennis. How the UN works in there, neither of us can figure out. Also, her rant about how she is done with Asian boys and never wants to date another one ever again was hilarious.

Lots of people piled in to the computer lab tonight, including Ms. Noonan, who is also hilarious. Got really crowded, though. I'm leaving before a lot of the others, which is a first, and it's after the curfew for the computer labs. I hope we aren't going to get another stern "you bad, naughty children"-type lecture from Dr. Speck tomorrow morning.