Friday, September 7, 2012

A Fleeting Moment of Feeling Like a Local...

which comes from standing at a bus stop for five hours waiting for the arriving students to arrive from various US starting points and answering questions from random strangers who are getting off the bus from London.  So, Oxford Brookes has graduation in September, a couple weeks before classes start again.  And, the stops which are the set down points for coaches coming from Heathrow are basically stops for any coach (a bus that runs intra-city).  And it turns out, I know how to answer one question, which is how to get to the graduation events, mostly because I've walked through and around them for days now.  So, my Thursday was spent sitting on a wall for five hours, waiting to greet my students and directing graduation traffic to Gypsy Lane.  (I have no pictures of this particular campus-- there is a ton of construction being done and it's really unattractive at the moment. That said, the buildings that are on this campus and those being constructed are really kind of modern and functional, not at all attractive, so it's not particularly worth seeing).  The fact that I knew how to direct those fresh off the coach from London and other places (question: "are you local," to which I said "no, I'm American and I've been here four days," thought about it a moment and asked what the man needed and then said something like, "oh, yay, I did know how to answer your question!" when I could point his party to the campus) made me feel for one moment like I may actually start feeling at home here soon.

Then, other things happen and the feeling of disorientation returns, though sometimes in a good, surprising way.  Like, grocery shopping-- nothing is entirely different, and yet nothing is quite the same.  For example, buying yogurt feels complicated-- it's all yogurt and I get that, but what I really want (since I keep having to rush out of my flat in the morning and don't have time to be an adventurous eater in the morning) is Greek yogurt in a variety of flavors.  But, I don't think Greek yogurt is all the rage here the way it is in the US-- there are only a couple brands and really only plain or honey to choose from (I did see one offered in blueberry).  By contrast, the regular yogurt offerings are numerous and come in flavor varieties we don't have in the US-- like timperley rhubarb and bramley apple and blackberry, as well as scottish raspberry (I have no idea how these might differ from other raspberries, but I will find out sometime in the next few days). So, I've gone back to non-Greek yogurt...but have interesting flavor choices in my future.  (While Greek yogurt is not very popular here, Activia is-- there are more varieties in that brand name than I've ever seen, both in flavor and in the sort of digestive service the yogurt is supposed to provide.  I didn't really check that out though...maybe next time.)  And, then there's using the gym, which I did for the first time on Wednesday.  The gym itself is packed-- not with people (I'm using the campus gym and the semester doesn't start for a couple of weeks), but with machines.  The treadmills are pushed right up against one another-- no room to walk between them. Same with all the other cardio and weight machines. I chose to use an eliptical located at the edge of a bunch of machines, located right next to a circle of bikes (the bikes are placed in circles so 5 or 6 riders could ride facing one another-- which I guess is social) so that at least there wasn't anything crowded on one side of me. And, it was a cybex machine, which I know-- excitingly, it seemed to work like the ones I'm used to.  So, I set it at 15, which is the setting I start at in the US.  And then, I struggled.  It was really hard-- and I was feeling terrible about myself for a while (and forcing myself to continue struggling because, really, it's only been about a week since I was last in a gym and there was no excuse for this), until about 35 minutes in when it finally occurred to me that 15 in the UK is indicative of kilograms, not the pounds I'm used to thinking in, so I had started at 35 pounds.  It made me feel like a dumb American; it also made me feel pretty good about myself because it's amazing how many calories (which I assume are the same the world round) I burned starting with about 20 pounds more resistance than I'm used to.

The next week and a half of my life is a combination of being touristy as I go with the students on excursions and being the "adult" in charge.  They were led on a brief tour of Oxford today, so I got to see some things I hadn't seen yet:

This is at the Bodleian Library, which I have been to already, though not with extras from the next Sherlock Holmes film wandering around it.

This is the Tower of Architectural Orders, which is also at the Bodleian but I didn't know what it was last time I was wandering around.  Each level is representative of a different period of architecture, ascending upward in historical order.

This is one of the entryways to the covered market, which we passed through quite quickly. I didn't even have time to find Moo-Moos, which is supposed to have fabulous milkshakes (I did see it located on a map though, so I can find it when I go back).

These are a variety of views of Christ's Church, one of the Colleges at Oxford University, but more recently famous for being the site of filming for the Harry Potter movies-- the dining hall was replicated using a green screen however.  The dining hall scenes weren't actually filmed here (though most people who don't live in Oxford seem to think they were-- some even show up in costume to try to "act out" those moments themselves).

And this is the gate you would have to go through if you went around non-street side of Christ's Church to get to the large field to the left (and, not pictured since it just looks like grass) or to walk around to the front.  These are some of the students going through it-- it was easier to film it rather than try to explain it.

I'm living a strange combination of tourist and resident.  Tomorrow, we're all heading into London and doing quite touristy things like watching the changing of the guard (which I saw once about 10 years ago and was unimpressed with-- but, I've been told what I saw was a regular changing of the guard, not a ceremonial one, so maybe it won't be as boring as I'm expecting it to be), visiting the Tower of London and Westminster Abby, etc.  Snapping photos, I'm sure-- though it's really a whirlwind, "get oriented" tour meant to feature some highlights and give a sense of the city's layout, so hopefully it won't go by so fast I don't know what I'm snapping pictures of.  But, unlike a tourist, I come home to a flat, which I'm going to have to spend some time cleaning this weekend.  And, hopefully, having a cup of coffee here:

which is the private garden in the back of my flat and my favorite "room."  (There are chairs for the table- they are all stored in a box so they don't get wet when it rains.)

Currently, I am making my first attempt at's one of those washer/dryer combos.  On first try, my clothes have come out VERY hot and still wet. On the upside, I'm excited that they were clearly washed because I couldn't even tell if that was happening-- it doesn't seem to use much water and so it was hard to tell if I had set the wash cycle correctly.  (My clothes do smell like the detergent, so I'm pretty sure soap made its way from the compartment into the machine which is also making me hopeful that I didn't mess this up completely.) On the downside, clothes that are so hot I can't even touch them which are still wet is not what I was going for.  (The heat was set on the second lowest glad I didn't try to go for the real heat.)  I'm now trying drying for a longer period of time at the lowest temperature setting... stay tuned to find out if I ever get dry clothes (and exciting and inviting reason to keep reading, I think!).

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