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Oxford News and Farm Life

Hello again!

Since I last wrote I went to Basildon Park, the stately home where Netherfield House (Mr. Bingley’s home in the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice) was shot.  It was a lot of fun to stand where I remembered the scenes of my favorite movie happening!  The house was very impressive, of course, but honestly it wasn’t anything like Blenheim Palace, the mansion I went to last year.  There were weird, modern carpets on some of the floors and the library was kind of a mess.  Also, I think they changed the decorations a lot for Pride and Prejudice, and I think they also made the rooms appear bigger than they really are.  This makes sense, since the last occupants bought the house in the 1950s so it’s not exactly preserved in the style of the 18th century.  Anyway, it was really cool, and there was a posh wedding going on there that day which was interesting to see.  There were lots of typically huge British hats!

In my spare time, I’ve also been walking a lot on the footpaths.  Last year the footpaths were one of the things that made me realize how much I’d underestimated England rather than overestimated it.  There are little signs for the paths on fences and kissing gates all over Oxfordshire (and probably the rest of the country), pointing to the next tiny hamlet a short distance away.  But the cool part is that you have to walk through farmers’ fields full of horses and sheep to get where you want to go.  The fields stretch on for miles and miles and miles.  Sometimes it’s not entirely clear where the next sign is and the paths aren’t always visible, so it’s sort of a mystery to figure out where the path continues.  I love how it’s not paved and there aren’t sixteen neon signs pointing the way.  Is it more convenient this way?  Absolutely not.  But I love the quirk.  It reminds me of Harry Potter somehow – maybe it’s the lovable absurdity of the moving staircases.  The surrounding countryside and homes are beautiful in the most stereotypically English way, and I when I walk through it I feel like I’ve gone back to a time where the whole world wasn’t built up and ugly.

My other exciting news is that I got an important e-mail from Oxford for which I’d been waiting a long time.  It contained information about my tutorials and accommodation for this year.  During Michaelmas term (the first eight weeks of the year) I will be studying the Rise of the Novel as my primary tutorial and the French Revolution as my secondary tutorial.  I also got my tutors for these tutorials, and my Rise of the Novel tutor is also knowledgeable in creative writing.  This means that I’ll be studying the subject from a creative writing standpoint, which is pretty cool.  They also told me that I’ll be studying Dickens as my primary tutorial for Hilary term (the second term of the year) and and European Cinema as my secondary tutorial during Trinity term (the third term).  Dickens is what I wanted, but I’m kind of disappointed with European Cinema.  It should be interesting, but I didn’t request it – it was a suggestion from Oxford.  I hope this doesn’t mean that I can’t study children’s literature, which was my overall top choice.  Finally, they explained that creative writing would be weaved into my classes throughout the year.  Sounds great to me!

I will be living in the Ablethorpe building, or “Dale” as the students call it.  There were big positives and negatives of all of my choices, so I’m fine with Dale.  It’s close to the city centre and main college site, it’s in a safer area than my other options, and older Mansfield students will be living there (though they probably won’t be happy about it).  I also get a single with a shared kitchen and bathrooms, which I’m really looking forward to!  Now that I know for sure where I’ll be living, I want to visit it if I can.  I’ll probably go there on my last day off, since I’m going to Cambridge on Saturday for my first day off this week (!!).  I feel different now that I have my housing and Michaelmas tutors – Oxford feels much more real.  More concrete images of this year are really starting to form in my mind now.  It’s slightly nerve wracking, but mostly just exciting.

Aside from today’s e-mail, life on the farm has been pretty slow.  Not in a bad way – I’m enjoying the (relatively tiring) farm work and the company of the Radwans.  I got to work the market on Sunday morning, which was cool but very similar to farmer’s markets at home.  Adam is back from Barcelona, which is nice, and I’ve been playing with the bunnies they now have on the farm.  There also seem to be more worms in the ground than there were last year, which sucks for me since I hate them.   Yes, yes, you may all laugh at me for volunteering on a farm with a worm phobia.  It’s all very funny until they’re CRAWLING ON MY WELLIES.

I’m really looking forward to my visit to Cambridge – I’ve always wanted to go there, and Lutfi is going there on Saturday anyway so I get a free ride there and back.  It’ll be nice to get off the farm, because I couldn’t think of anything to do (that I can afford do to) for my last day off and ended up just hanging around here.  I’ll probably write about that next.  Until then –

Ari

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