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Thanksgiving in England?

Week seven featured: the infamous Christ Church Regatta: boat-fulls of mediocre rowing, an English take on Thanksgiving, and the towering, epic tradition that is Teddy Hall’s Christmas Feast.

Christ Church Regatta is basically an opportunity for all of the novice boats to spread their blades and crash… or see who was able to make the most progress in 1.5 months of training. The races began on Wednesday and lasted through Saturday.  The whole thing is generally pretty entertaining, as long as your boat doesn’t sink, at which point things get frustrating, cold, and wet pretty quick. On Tuesday night the Ice Man boat shared a pasta feast and watched a little Top Gun for motivation. Our matching shirts helped a bit too. In the first round we beat Worcester C. Our second round race on Thursday was canceled half-way through because one of the boats in the race in front of us had cracked its bow and was sinking as it tried to dock. In the re-match, which took place Friday morning, St. Anne’s A ran aground on the start and we therefore beat them. Unfortunately, that was where out luck dried up. University College A beat us by about a length in the next round later that afternoon. We chalked it up to too much rain and not enough erging. But we did the best we could, and we looked worlds better than our showing at the Nepthys Regatta.  It felt good to get as far as we did. The Teddy Hall Men’s A boat crashed on their start during their race on the first day.

Thursday was of course thanksgiving. I hadn’t been expecting much, but in a college that apparently regularly hosts American students and also counts a number of Americans as tutors, I probably should not have been caught unawares when an invitation for Thanksgiving Dinner and Drinks appeared in my pidge (pidges are basically mailboxes… they work like email except not nearly as many people use them). So anyway, all of the visiting students came out for an evening of English interpretations of one of the greatest American traditions. I think the biggest difference was that this meal involved wine, champagne, and winter pimms (a fruit-laden, alcohol-based, English hot drink for cold weather). I wasn’t sure that the Puritans would have had too much of this at there dinner, but I’m not complaining. It was a phenomenal meal, and I got to sit next to the Principal, Michael Mingos. We talked about his childhood in Iraq and living in during his studies in Chicago. To my left was an engineering tutor, Amy Zavatsky, who had lived near Pittsburgh and studied at the University of Pennsylvania. I can’t think of any other times in my life when I’ve been able to talk to such intelligent people from such diverse backgrounds and specialties. Their insights into the differences between the cultures were priceless. After the meal and a Thanksgiving address courtesy of Woodrow Wilson, we gathered around the television (there’s an American tradition) to watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. It was absolutely marvelous.

Time has flown by during the study abroad England program (as you probably can tell from its perpetual repetition in these blogs), and on Sunday the college hosted its annual Christmas dinner, complete with an advent chapel service and a number of rousing carols sung slightly off-key while standing on the chairs and tables of Wolfson Hall, where we had just finished eating. The food was a little reminiscent of Thanksgiving, but then it occurred to me that I guess the two meals are generally pretty similar, unless someone decides they want a Christmas ham. I suppose those are quite popular.

Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this meal nearly as much as Thanksgiving because I had my final paper for 20th century british drama due on Monday. The paper was on Sarah Kane, a playwright who killed herself shortly after “finishing” her fifth (extremely violent and fairly depressing) play. The plays are full of shock-tactics, like cannibalism and limb-severing and flowers growing out of the stage. I felt sympathy for her because she killed herself, but I think they were just shock tactics and if they were, then she probably wasn’t a very good playwright. But it is hard to say that about someone who died so tragically and in such recent memory.

I’m really sad that coming to study in England is finally drawing to a close. I tried not to think about it during my tutorial this afternoon, because every time I did, I realized how much I really enjoyed my tutorials this semester and that I really don’t want them to end. I’m going to need to devise some scheme to keep in touch or figure out some way of coming back or something.

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