Saturday, February 28, 2015

Rabbits and the History of Science

One of my favorite things to do while walking around the city is to pick a person and try to imagine how I would describe them if they were a character in a book.

I learned in creative writing class that the best way to do this is to pick the 2 or 3 most descriptive and memorable features about a person, because your readers will get bored with any more description than that.

This game is easiest when someone has a very distinctive facial feature or article of clothing.

Then sometimes there's a  man standing outside of the shops wearing a giant stuffed rabbits head and riding a bicycle while using a bubble blowing gun and your job is done for you.

I would have taken a photo, but i'm doing my best not to look like a tourist. I do great until I need to speak and am betrayed by my accent.


This week I visited the Museum of the History of Science, another one of the small cozy little museums here in Oxford.

I'm still not used to the freedom they give you to wander around wherever you please in British museums. I walked in and looked at the docent to see if he was going to tell me where to go or something. Because they also don't believe in keeping everything locked up and so some of the stuff was just sitting out and I wasn't sure how close I was allowed to get. And the docent just looked back at me like:

"what the hell are you looking at ME for?"

So I took that as my cue to wander around wherever I wanted.

There were docents wandering around making sure I didn't touch stuff but they were kinda scary because they never spoke and just walked around quietly watching you like name badge wearing ghosts in sensible footwear.

 Moon Globe! 
 The fanboys at Oxford saved a chalkboard that Einstein wrote on.
 Lawrence of Arabia's camera 

Photography supplies belonging to Lewis Carroll, who wrote Alice in Wonderland

Friday, February 20, 2015

Things I heard outside my window #3

1.)  Someone decided to play "Uptown Funk" really really loudly in the middle of the night...

2.) [two boys arguing ]

-Mate I could totally beat you in a race

-No, no you couldn't, never I will always win

-Fine, let's race right here


-I'll race you to that lamppost there.

[Five minute argument over which lamppost]

-Wait we need a judge


-A judge someone to say who wins

-The winner will be the one who gets there first idiot we don't need a judge

[Finally someone agrees to be the judge and the race commences. The thrilling saga ends in dramatic fits of coughing and no clear winner]

That time a stupid shark almost ended my life

So I'm walking home from headington shops, super happy because I had found some gluten free biscuits (cookies). I was walking home a slightly different way and at a corner I stopped to turn and look to see if a car was coming when I saw this...

Now, understand that I'm  living in a really proper, old fashioned and quaint area of Oxford, so this random shark sticking out of the roof of this building is about as out of place as Kanye West at a tea party. I had no idea why it was there so of course I stared at it in confusion trying to understand why there was a gigantic shark in the roof.

And that's when I almost got hit by a car.

The shark had distracted me so much that I'd looked the wrong way for traffic which I thought I'd finally stopped doing.

Luckily the car stopped although the old lady driving the car looked at me like she wished she hadn't. It was a really small car and no one drives all that fast around here so I probably wouldn't have been all that injured but I was still glad to have escaped unscathed.

It's probably unfair to be angry at the Headington Shark, as it's called, for almost getting me run over since it's an inanimate object but i'm going to hold a grudge against it anyway. And none shall  convince me that that shark did not have malicious intentions. Stupid shark.

[The shark was built by an American cinema owner and radio presenter who by the sound of it just wanted to do something weird and annoy the city council. He succeeded since they tried really hard to get the thing taken down but there it stays. Now it's apparently a bit of a tourist attraction]

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


While leaving Christ Church I got a little disoriented and ended up on one of the many small side roads in Oxford. I tend to avoid these because they are usually one way and you may get run over by an angry cyclist. However, on that road I beheld one of the most glorious sights I had seen since arriving in England. A Mexican Restaurant!! It was called Mission Burrito and they served Tacos!!!

They were surprised when I asked for beans on my taco because they were't aware you could DO that, but they were very nice and humored me since I was obviously from America. Being from America makes some people are nicer to you and other people automatically assume you are terrible despicable human being.

Anyway TACOS!!!!!

Christ Church

Visited Christ Church, which was absolutely gorgeous! It was a lot bigger than I expected since it's a school, a gallery, and a cathedral.

The Cathedral was beautiful and they still hold services there. They were holding a small Catholic liturgy in one of the alcoves while I was there. The stained glass was beautiful, and there were lots of places where you could light candles at the shrines for certain saints. I was a bit perturbed that the exit to the Cathedral led right into a gift shop, it reminded me of Disneyland. But I figured it must cost a lot to maintain the building.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Onnnn Myyyy OOOOOOWN......

    So, I'm not actually living alone, I have 5 roommates, but I am living more on my own than I ever have in the past. I'm actually very  impressed with how well I've been able to keep myself alive so far. Here's a couple fun facts about life in the Dorms, or "Halls" as they say here.

1.)  This building is really old and so a week where nothing breaks is a good week. Though, I was able to fix the shelf in the fridge with some clever thinking and a dose of desperation.

2.)    The laundry room is a really fun place full of lint and spiders (My Aussie roommate is unimpressed and informs me that those are not "real spiders" but i'm a wimp shall continue to live in fear).
       Also there are two washers and two dryers for 18 people and one of the washers has broken twice since we arrived. This has led to some Hunger Games like tensions on busy days, so for my own safety I've been doing laundry in the middle of the night when it's just me and the spiders.

3.) My room has these nifty hot pipes running across the floor on one side to keep it warm. Which is great, but you can also burn yourself accidentally if you are a stupid Californian and you decide to touch them.

4.) My window looks out onto a very busy walkway and a dorm building inhabited by some very loud people who like to party. So I get to hear a lot of fun non sequiturs from the drunk people walking by in the evenings.
My favorite this week was the guy trying to convince his posse that he was friends with the DJ at a club and his friends telling him that he was making it up because -"theres no way. you're not even that cool mate" .

Wait I take it back, the girl trying to ride a scooter and failing right now is the funniest thing this week.

Monday, February 16, 2015

My James Joyce Moment

      First off, I think it says something about my parent's taste in music that I started missing home while listening to the soundtrack to Pretty in Pink.

I blame them entirely for my love of 80s music and movies.

      So, most young adults I know can point to a moment, usually in their freshman year of college, an earth shattering James Joyce esq epiphany moment when they realized that adulthood is not fun or liberating, and is actually a hellish nightmare from which there is no escape.

      I mean we're told growing up that adulthood is not as fun as it seems, but come on. These are the same people who told us that we would use cursive in high school, that being nice would make you popular, and that appearance doesn't matter. LIES. So we can't really be blamed for not trusting them about the whole adulthood thing.

      I remember distinctly the moment that I realized adulthood was a terrible nightmare from which there was no turning back. I was working at Raley's at the time and some clumsy butterfingers, who had no idea they were playing a role in my life changing moment, dropped a large jar of salsa in the parking lot leaving a big mess of spilled salsa and broken glass.

Worried about lawsuits should some loser slip, the management decided that someone would have to go clean up the mess. That someone turned out to be me because (a.) everyone else flatly refused to do it, and (b.) my deeply ingrained work ethic trumped my pride (thanks Dad).

So there I was, cleaning salsa off the pavement of a very ghetto parking lot, when I had my epiphany.

Adulthood. Is. Terrible. It's terrible. And there is no going back....

This realization had been kind of stewing in the back of my brain for about a month with the responsibilities of new college, new job and my future all piling up on me. But that moment standing over the salsa covered pavement was where it all came together and smacked me in the face.

Really, it literally felt like I'd been slapped in the face with this newfound knowledge. It's the best way I can describe it, some spirit of wisdom floated down and smacked me upside the head.

In retrospect, knowing that adulthood is horrific has actually made it easier to cope. Because there's no expectations being shattered. To me at least it's less traumatizing to walk through a minefield when you know it's a minefield and you aren't expecting a field of daises. So overall I would say it was a necessary and ultimately helpful growing experience.

But it still really sucked.

*I was inspired to write this after reading Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce in which he deals with this same topic in a much more articulate and poetic way than I just have. I was also inspired by his study of the "epiphany" moments in life in Dubliners.*

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Funny shop names #1

One of my favorite  things in the world is clever shop names and this one was especially brilliant. A pie shop called the "Pie-minister" :)

Though it in no way tops the brilliance that is "Sun of a Beach Tanning"

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Catholic holiday I use as an excuse to eat chocolate

      Valentines Day at my Lutheran elementary school was handled with the type of delicacy usually reserved for handling poisonous snakes.
      There was a party and class moms brought cookies and all,  but words like "friendship" and  "Joy" and "The love of Christ" were thrown at us like bricks by manic eyed teaches who wanted to make sure we knew this was without a doubt NOT a romantic event.

     And since Valentines Day has it's roots in Catholicism it of course involves their favorite thing in the world...Saints. And if you're looking for something to crush a romantic vibe, you really can't find anything better than a really sad story about a Saint who died tragically.

So little skort* wearing me wasn't really wasn't expecting more than a cookie and watery punch.

*The "skort" is the mullet of children's clothing which has thankfully disappeared from the world and will hopefully never return.  It was the beginning of a lifetime of questionable fashion choices for me. 

     Therefore, I was intrigued when one of my friends told me she had "something really really important to tell me" so I should meet her in the middle of the field by the playground, which is where clandestine meetings of extreme secrecy usually went down.

    She told me that a boy in our class totally "liked" me and that he was going to give me a Valentine. She also said that she wasn't supposed to tell me so I needed to pretend that I didn't know.

She was thrilled and jumping around squealing, but I was immediately distressed. I'm socially awkward in the best  of times so handling a delicate situation like this, in Elementary school the social equivalent of open heart surgery, was for me a Hell on Earth.

The boy in question was I'm sure very nice, but we had very little in common since my pastimes at the moment were reading my beloved Redwall books and avoiding conflict and his seemed to involve sports and following the most obnoxious boy in our class around and laughing at his jokes.

So how did I decide to handle this situation?

Well, when I walked into class I could see a folded up piece of binder paper sitting on my chair.

      Looking back, writing something on a piece of binder paper obviously torn out of a notebook did not show a lot of creativity or initiative so it makes me feel less bad about what I did next.

     Which was to walk over and, feigning ignorance, brusquely push the paper off my chair onto the floor  in my most businesslike manner, and then sit down and avoid eye contact with everyone for the next few hours.

Which, honestly, is a pretty good description of my personality and coping skills to this day.

The boy in question and I probably spoke less than 10 words to each other in the next 4 years. But I don't think his psyche was damaged in the least by my dismissal since he later became one of the most sought after boys in Junior High. However, since he continued in his occupation as the obnoxious boy's laugh track, I had no regrets.

Anyway, I'm off to happily eat some chocolate and watch Netflix. Bye.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

At the Pitt Rivers

       I read the short story "At the Pitt Rivers" by Penelope Lively when I was in High School and it has never failed to enchant me with its description of the haunting maze like Pitt Rivers museum where a  pretentious hopelessly romantic young boy goes to write poetry before he discovers exactly how stupid he is.

Seeing the museum for myself, I was not disappointed. It was one of the most eclectic and disorganized museums i'd ever seen in my life and looked more like the personal collection of a crazy eccentric old person than a museum.

It was exactly the sort of place you would expect to find a pretentious poetry writing teenager.

There was case after case heaped with artifacts, some things were even stuffed under the display cases in boxes, either because there wasn't room for them in the cases or they were not deemed important enough to merit a spot.

There were even boat paddles and spears haphazardly crammed into the rafters of the roof!

Were I a character in a fantasy novel, it is exactly the place where I would have found the cursed/enchanted object that would change my life.

And were I a character in a teen romance, it's exactly where I would have met a tall dark stranger with deep knowing eyes and mysterious past.

Being neither of these things, I was thankfully allowed to browse to my hearts content without any interruptions.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


Being a Californian abroad has been interesting to say the least.
1.)     Upon hearing you are from California, more exuberant individuals will start singing Katy Perry's California Gurls or start quoting rap lyrics that feature California and L.A. Meanwhile, I'm left wondering how on Earth I'm supposed to react to that kind of introduction.

(Listening to British people rap is endlessly amusing)

2.)      Lots of people will attempt an American accent. However, the easiest American accent to imitate is the teenage mall rat in a 90's movie/valley girl variety. This never fails to make me laugh because while it's wildly exaggerated, it does sort of sound like me and the other California girls. Nothing like a healthy dose of self awareness.

3.)     Something I noticed right away is that Americans talk loudly. At first I thought maybe it was just me but I realized it's an American thing. My theory is that in America we worship confidence and so we are conditioned to speak loudly and assertively.

      This is especially evident in the classroom where 15 years of experience in the American school system tells me to give my opinion loudly, clearly and assertively when addressing a classroom. In England, however, quiet politeness is the accepted social norm.
      I fear I may have already distinguished myself as the "Loud Feminist American" in one of my Literature classes. Which, while accurate, is not exactly flattering. Not being able to keep my opinions to myself is among the many American stereotypes that I've accidentally perpetuated.

All that being said, I really love my classes. It's all literature which is where I'm absolutely in my element.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Things I heard outside my window #2

After the first snow since I arrived in England there were midnight snowball fights and general rowdiness during which I heard 

"Do you wanna build a snowman?" - 5 times 

HASHTAG FROZEN!!!!" - 3 times 

LET IT GO!!!!LET IT GOOOOOO!!!!- I lost count and put in my earplugs 


There have only been a few moments in my life that I can in all honesty say were truly life changing. 

    The very first was when I learned me and my Mom were going to go to the American Girl place in Chicago. A legendary far off Mecca to all little girls who considered their AG dolls their most prized possessions and poured over those magical catalogs for hours. I seriously think that if someone had tried to take my AG doll from me at that age they would have had to pry it from my cold dead hands. Maria cut my AG doll's hair once and that tragedy is still dragged up in arguments to this day. 

   The second was the day I FINALLY  got my drivers license and could at last shove it in the face of every single patronizing adult who had pestered me about it for the past 2 years. I had nearly lost my mind in anxiety over this test (having failed it the first time) and the relief that flooded over me was the best thing in the world. Del Taco's taco and fries combo still reminds me of unbridled joy to this day. 

And today standing in the aisle of the Sainsbury's in the Headington Shops I had another moment of complete and total joy. I saw GLUTEN FREE BREAD. My trembling hands quickly reached up to snatch it off the top shelf as if it might vanish like a mirage. I read the label 3 times to make sure I was correct and triple checked the ingredients and it was without a doubt perfect. 

Already about to scream with joy I looked up and realized that I was looking at a whole GLUTEN FREE SECTION. Admittedly it was very small, ill stocked, and all of the food in it was also vegan and dairy free. But to me at that moment after weeks of finding nothing at all Gluten Free in any of the shops or restaurants here in Oxford it was the most beautiful thing I had seen.

I mean the paintings and sculptures in the Ashmolean were lovely.....but you couldn't EAT them...

If the virgin Mary had flown down from heaven and smacked me in the face I probably would have been less surprised. I almost sat down and cried with joy in the middle of Sainsbury's. 

Anyways I'm very happy. And about to go have some bread and jam. bye.