We have all returned! Jordan and Sam came back on Thursday morning and now the gang is all here, back in the suddenly freezing cold city of Oxford, and giddily awaiting the beginning of term.
Haha, yeah right.
Something they neglect to tell you when you are applying to Oxford and preparing to start work on the Monday lectures begin for the term is that term at Oxford actually starts up to a week BEFORE lecture series do. Many of my friends arrived to emailed essay assignments and deadlines already fast approaching. The term hasn’t even officially started and the college library is seething with stress and tension. Granted, traditional students have collection exams and are studying, but even visiting students were circling the main room trying to find an open desk. Meanwhile, it was Thursday and I hadn’t received any correspondence from my tutors much less assignments, so my newly arrived friends were willing to put away their books for a few hours to catch up.
We went to my new favorite coffee shop on Turl Street called The Missing Bean that has the most amazing Dirty Chais that I have ever had, and I couldn’t resist peer pressuring Kelsi into ordering one as well (as if that took a lot of pressure!). I don’t know if the employees there don’t get orders for dirty chais often, because they certainly knew what it was, but for some reason on of the baristas commented that Kelsi had joined the Cult of the Dirty Chai, while looking over at us. I was the only one sitting there with that drink making his comment even more confusing, but entertaining nonetheless. Next door is also this great secondhand bookshop complete with a cooking section for Kelsi and an extensive collection of other genres for the three of us.
Coffee and books may have taken us a while, but not quite to dinner time, so we all ran an errand together and then just hung out in the JCR before eating our first dinner back in hall. Sam joined us then, along with a new visiting student, and I felt so bad for her because we five were catching up with each other in rapid fire and probably overwhelmed her to the point of deer in headlights eyes. I mean, it’s to be expected, we haven’t seen each other in 6 weeks! We went back to old times–well as old as last term can be considered–and chilled out in Kelsi’s room until we parted ways for bed, finally feeling like life was getting back to normal.
Friday was much of the same, unnoteworthy drudgery of the rest of the week. I had a meeting with someone I’m doing research for in the psych department and then went to the science library to study because I finally had an essay assignment and was aching to feel productive. And that’s kind of what I did the rest of the day, just did my readings, some on my own, some next to Jordan in the college library, all with the thrill of holding pen to paper alongside a textbook again. My first essays are due Wednesday and Friday, but oddly enough the Friday one was assigned first so that one is getting priority. Plus the topic is fairly simple and thus a good one to ease back in with. Another coffee shop on High Street, another dinner at hall where Jordan and I somehow couldn’t find Kelsi and Janosz, and another night of talking until 11pm without understanding where the time went.
And then came today. Beautiful, bright, blue, -3 degrees Saturday morning. Yup, winter has officially hit Oxford, in my Southern California opinion with a vengeance. I should have looked out my window this morning because then I would have seen that the ground and buildings were covered in a fine layer of frost (which I insisted on calling snow) and therefore would have known that it was a poor decision to wear sweatpants and a tank top to dance practice at 8:30 am. But alas, I didn’t look out my window, I didn’t dress appropriately, I did freeze. At least practice went smoothly so it was worth losing an appendage or antenna or two to frostbite. Mental note: windows can be a wonderful tool. Use them.
Continuing in our cooking exploits, the mutually agreed upon social activity of this term, Janosz took the lead in our making sweet potato pancakes. Sounds kind of odd, and they definitely were not the fluffy American breakfast pancakes that we associate pancake with, but they were pretty tasty. Of course, we always pick recipes with huge yields so we are having sweet potato pancakes part two tomorrow for lunch again. It gives me an excuse to leave my room and walk through the (hopefully) nicer sunnier weather tomorrow to hang out with my friends 🙂
Jordan’s parents are still in town so they graciously took the four of us out for our traditional weekend cream tea. We were planning on taking them to the Rose as that is thus far our favorite local tea place, but the wait would have been an hour so we went to The Grand Cafe instead. The Grand Cafe and Queens Lane coffee house both battle over which of them is the oldest coffee house in England (guess which one is right) and they couldn’t be more different. The Grand Cafe is truly grand, small in size but big in atmosphere of a Revolution-era Paris salon and mirrors on two walls that make you think the cafe is more than double the size it really is. The tea was pretty good, second best in Oxford so far for me. The Earl Grey was loose leaf and you could actually taste the lavender, which is the mark of a good Earl Grey. The scones were a little too large for me, had a slightly more salty/almost biscuity like flavor (in my opinion, I was the only one who thought so), but they were warmed! I love it when they are warmed, makes such a difference. Clotted cream was once again the unsalted butter, but the jam was very complementary. And service was great, something rather rare in England. The true highlight though was getting to know and converse with Jordan’s parents. I really enjoy meeting my friends’ parents. Besides the fact that I just get along well with that generation of people and academics (Jordan’s dad is a professor at Chico State), I always find it interesting to see how my friends are with their parents and also the similarities. Call it the psychologist in me haha
We felt really lame after dinner at hall for saying that we were all just going to go back to Kelsi’s room and chill…again…on a Saturday night. None of us are really big on partying or anything, but it is the first weekend and even people who you wouldn’t think were the clubbing type were doing something. Now, we really were not in the mood to go clubbing and Jordan, Janosz, and I had all of our school stuff with us so we really really were not going clubbing like that. But we wanted to do something! So we went back to The Grand Cafe, where from 7-11 pm, the elegant restaurant and coffee house becomes a decently priced cocktail bar.
And dang the cocktails were yummy! I tried a White Peach Bellini; it was so good.
And while yes, theoretically it wasn’t that much different than hanging out in Kelsi’s room since we all just sat and talked, but it felt different, more like going out without the actual hassle of going out. So good drinks, good company, good decision in my book. We definitely found our post-formal hall hangout spot too.
Happy to be getting back into the swing of things here!