Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mapping My Coordinates

Today's my third day of orientation and of living in the Stanford House. It's been a nice time to meet people, get settled, and explore Oxford without the pressures of schoolwork, and the general air in the house is that of meeting an exciting adventure. The pressure cooker will turn on soon, of course (I saw my course syllabi today - yikes!), but thus far our days have been filled with staff talks, group activities, and general logistics. Yesterday a number of Oxford historian-professor types guided us around some of the colleges; the woman with my group had a wonderfully kind British air, not to mention a smooth cadenced accent that I found enthralling. The history of this place keeps blowing my mind. Last night was also our welcome dinner, on long lamplit tables in Corpus Christi's dining hall. We had sherry and wine (the wine was good; the sherry not so much, especially since the sugary variety reminded me of concentrated cough syrup), and I kept wondering how many generations of students had sat there before us, and what kinds of things they had discussed.

Other than the formal orientation activities, I've been wandering around Oxford, getting settled and figuring out details like where to buy books and groceries, as well as getting to know my fellow students in the Stanford House. Living in the house has been an adventure in itself. Imagine the most convoluted maze, labyrinth, rabbit warren, with in-between floors, corner-nook rooms and kitchens, and staircases that lead up and down and twist in coils, so that when asked "Where's your room?" all 48 residents can only shrug and point, "Over there somewhere" - imagine that, if you can, and you've visualized where I'll be living this quarter. The house itself is a series of interconnected living spaces that have been smashed together to accommodate as many students as possible. There seems to be little logic behind the architectural organization, but I find it refreshingly eccentric, besides worrying about what would happen to me if I got lost during a fire alarm.

My room is easier to access than some, up a flight of stairs (just one!) and facing the back garden near the fire escape. (Fire alarm problem solved!) Since the view is beautiful, and since it doesn't involve getting lost, I find it one of the best rooms in the house. Some other rooms have huge old (albeit blocked-up) Victorian fireplaces and spectacular glimpses of the Oxford streets, but I like sitting out on my set of steps, breathing in the damp cool air, and gazing down into the garden and the walls of the city beyond.

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