Best Friends, Worst Bus Patrons, and a Whistling Crawfish

Greetings all! Still in the UK, still at Oxford, and still mad as ever haha. The past few days have just been a whirlwind of catching up with old friends, making new awesome ones, and of course FISH AND CHIPS!!!!

fc1 fc2

This past Sunday (9/20/15) I took it relatively easy; did a more proper grocery shop (meaning more than just diet coke and Kettle Chips). And I swear as much as I try to curb my Minions obsession, Tesco’s keeps thwarting me. Case in point: MINIONS CUPCAKES!!!

minioncupcakes

As I walked back from the store through my usual shortcut (the cemetery), I got the most wonderful surprise as I ran into Maria, a D.Phil student I knew last year. She is so lovely she actually ended her phone call just to stop and chat with me. She will still be living in the same accommodation as I will this year, so that’s fantastic! See: hanging out in cemeteries clearly has its benefits 😛

Later that night I met up with one of my best friends from last year Lid. She is the literal personification of a fire cracker and it’s impossible not to feel energized just being near her!

We walked around the city for a bit (god it’s so beautiful here at night) and then she showed me where she is living now. After being totally jealous that she now has an actual bathtub, which she agreed to let me use for £100 (SO GENEROUS!), I was reunited with the things I had to leave behind when I left last year. Lid along with Jenny, my flat mate from last year, saved everything for me. I can’t even begin to describe how awesome that was of them and how much it meant. I am so so lucky to have friends like this <3

last years stuff

The next day (9/21/15) was the first day of my pre-term Latin course which meant I had to get up to catch the bus at 8:30 AM (FYI not a morning person!). The class seems like it’s going to be pretty intense but we’ll see how it goes. YIKES!

There are two sessions a day for the next three weeks (9-10am and 1-2pm) so after the first hour I went to college, which is luckily right up the street from the Classics building, to study in the common room. Official registration of new Freshers doesn’t start til next week so it’s still relatively quiet around here.

latin 1 latin 2

A little before noon I walked up the street to one of my favorite places in Oxford, Greens Café, for some lunch and tea. I love this place not just because of the free WiFi but it has this really cozy upstairs area where you can just sit and eat and read for hours if you want. Absolutely peaceful.

greens1 greens2

After enjoying my time, I journeyed back to make it through the second hour of Latin (once again YIKES!). Afterwards I had plans to meet up with another old friend from last year, Genevieve, and of course we wound up at Greens. We had coffee and sat upstairs chatting for easily 2 ½ hours. Needless to say we are both just awesome at conversation haha 😛

It was so nice to catch up with her: along with being American and sharing my love of tattoos, she is just a brilliant human being. At this point it was a little after 5PM, and we both had to get back. I had plans to meet a couple of people at the local pub in Cowley at 6PM.

I caught the bus a little before 5:30PM and this is where that brilliant literary tool called foreshadowing took a stroll into reality. The bus was packed and I ended up sitting next to a guy who was 50 shades of green (hence the foreshadowing). I was in a rush and didn’t have much of choice on where to sit so…yeah.

I met up with my new flat mate (we’re currently the only two living on our hall) for the first time, even thought we’d corresponded over FB a few times. Ah technology. She, a friend of hers who is also living in Stonemason (once again they don’t know I’m writing this blog so I won’t reveal their names until I’ve asked them), and I all walked to the City Arms, a great pub right on the corner where we live, to have a pint and some awesome, greasy pub food.

One pint turned into two and then two-and-a-half (god I love the UK) and we sat there, talked, discussed various relevant political topics, and basically just got stupid in the best possible way 😛 I’m definitely looking forward to living with them over the next year.

By about 9:30PM we parted ways: they walked back home and I walked a couple blocks to Yulia’s for chocolate and banana cake as well as the beer I had forgotten a couple nights ago (I swear this has never happened before!).

As with all conversations with Yul, the one we had this night was incredible. We talk about everything: politics, religion, our courses, our lives, everything. She is quite simply the best person to talk to.

I also learned the most brilliant phrase of my life: “when the crawfish whistles on the mountain.” It’s a Russian expression equivalent to “when pigs fly” but I like this one a million times better!

crawfish
http://www.zazzle.co.uk/when_crawfish_whistle_on_the_mountain_card-137085832111042713

And before we knew it about 4 hours had gone by and it was 1AM. We parted ways, me with cake in my stomach and beer in my hand, and Yulia making me promise to message her once I got home safely.

I walked home, vigilant and with my key in hand, secured between my fingers in case I need to improvise a weapon (the sad reality of walking home alone at night as a woman). But I got back safely, Skyped my family in the US, and then crashed.

And here is where the foreshadowing reaches its conclusion: I woke up early the next morning with terrible stomach pains and that special kind of sick sweating ie that green bastard on the bus spread his love UGH!! It’s not really his fault although I will have to find and kill him.

Thus today was spent dividing my time between my bed and the bathroom. So not fun, and I hate getting behind in Latin especially since we’re covering SO MUCH that each class is like a week’s worth of info. But I’m pretty sure my classmates wouldn’t be too keen on me turning our room into a petri dish!

I’m starting to feel a bit better, and we’ll see how I feel in the morning. Fingers crossed for me :)

But hey if you’re going to be sick, is there really any better place to be sick than Oxford?

ironing board

I’M BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Part Two)

The arduous journey to Oxford began, at least in the immediate sense, on Thursday (9/17/15). I decided to fly out of Dulles in DC this time, as a direct flight is much cheaper and much less of a hassle.

luggage

I was also able to see a lot of my family that I hadn’t seen in any context outside of FB in a long time! And I got to have my last dinner in the U.S. with my big brother Myles which was pure awesomesauce, first and foremost because of the rib-breaking hugs he gives!

But after delaying the inevitable for as long as we could, I finally bid my dad, my step-mom, and America farewell. Let me be clear: it was definitely easier on some levels to make this trip again: I had done it before, I knew basically what to expect and kind of where to go, not as many unknowns as the first time. But I was still scared. Excited and so thrilled that I get this unbelievable opportunity TWICE, but still scared.

For me the hardest part is the anticipation of something, the waiting. Thus, I was not thrilled about the long hour and a half I’d have to wait prior to boarding my flight. Luckily, I met a really nice doctor on her way back to London and we chatted for a bit (luckily she was a nerd of the Harry Potter/ LOTR/ Doctor Who/Big Bang Theory vein as well) so the time went by fast.

The flight itself was completely full; actually it was overbooked. And I found myself sitting in the middle seat of the middle aisle i.e. if I had to pee, I was pretty much screwed!

flight

I relaxed a bit more once on the plane, thanks in part to the Linux penguin who popped up on the screen in front of (credit to Harry for letting me know he was the official Linux penguin). Penguins are by and far my favorite (spirit) animal, so I took this as a good omen.

linux penguin

Also when we were driving to the airport, a car passed us with a license plate that read “BLEU CHE”. This had particular significance for me as bleu cheese was my mom’s favorite food of all time, and how random is that plate! So I had another good omen to keep in my back pocket :)

Miraculously I slept a bit on the flight, and despite the screaming child in front of me, went by relatively quickly. Before I knew it, we had landed at Heathrow. This instantly took my excitement from about a 4 to a 109.

Getting though customs took a bit longer than last time, but the line moved relatively fast and within no time I had officially crossed the border into the UK!!!! Retrieving my luggage was without a doubt the trickiest part as collectively my suitcases weighed 115 lbs. But still that’s less than last year!

uk border

It took me a while to find the bus from Heathrow to Oxford as I got three different directions from three different people. But luckily, after dragging my human-sized bags all over Heathrow I finally found it.

The bus gave me a bit of a respite and I slept a little on there as well. Fortunately, my stop is the end of line at Gloucester Green so no danger of missing it. The bus ride into the city was a literal trip down memory line, as I had thought of the city centre so often over the past year and now all of a sudden I was kinda sorta there again!

oxford

Once I arrived at the bus depot, I then began the next task of hailing a taxi. Once again this proved a bit more difficult than last year. There is a taxi pool not far from the bus, but as opposed to before it was totally empty. Usually they are lined up for fares. But the term still doesn’t start for a few weeks (I came early to do a preterm Latin course) so maybe that’s why. I eventually found one and proceeded to St. Cross College to check-in and get my room key.

This took all of 5 minutes (yay!) and then the porter Paul (who rocks) called a cab to come and take me to my accommodation which is about a 30-45 walk from the college. I arrived at Stonemason, my new (old) home at about 2:30 PM UK time, approximately 12 hours after my journey officially began.

I can’t even begin to describe how surreal it was walking into this room. It’s not the exact same one I had as last year, but they are all pretty much the same. And I’m a person who remembers the way things smell a lot, and man when I got hit with the room, I knew EXACTLY where I was.

room

At this point, I was running on adrenaline and knew that if I took a moment to rest I would crash from jet lag. Not so great for adjusting to a new time zone! So I got to work and unpacked, set up my bed, put my clothes away, and decorated in a very loose sense of the word.

The next task was to walk to Tesco’s for some groceries, as well as to this discount store on Cowley I love for a hairdryer, towels, and hangers. While I tried to focus on buying essentials, at Tesco’s my primary mission was to procure the magical Polish Cheetos I had experienced the previous year (once you’ve had them there is no going back!). Luckily Tesco’s not only still has them, but the current bags are MINIONS THEMED!!! FYI: learning that the Polish for Minions is Minionki was one of the most significant experiences of my life!!!!!

minion cheetos

After striking gold, I then walked home and started laying claim to the fridge and cabinets in the kitchen. Like I said term hasn’t started yet, so I practically have the building to myself for a bit. At this point it was early evening, around 5:30 or 6PM, and I was trying so hard not to fall asleep.

Fortunately, my friend Yulia, who among with several others from Oxford kept in touch with me over the past year (thank you!), messaged me and asked me if I’d like to have dinner and then go out with her flat mates. I could’ve been near a coma, but I was so excited at the prospect of seeing her in person and not as a FB alert that nothing would’ve stopped me.

yul cupcake
A pic Yulia sent me on my birthday, her enjoying a cupcake in front of the Rad Cam in my honor :)

She met me at Stonemason at a little after 7PM, and after agreeing that it was the best kind of strange to see each other in person, we set off in Cowley to look for a place to eat. We came up with the idea to partially recreate the night we first met, which was at a college social event “A Night Out in Cowley”. I talked about this in a previous entry, but basically too many people came to the restaurant, and we ended up going with a smaller group.

So after a year of waiting, we finally were able to gain entry to the elusive Indian restaurant, Majliss. Dinner was ridiculously fun, thanks in part to our inability to understand the waiter’s accent and the unintentionally complicated question of “what do you suggest for appetizers?”

Mostly though it was just wonderful to catch up with her. It was like I’d never left :)

Afterwards, we stopped at Sainsbury’s, bought some beer and wine, and went back to her flat. I then met two of her three flat mates, as well as a friend of one of them. They are all awesome and incredibly fun, however, they don’t know I’m writing this blog so I will not name them.

After some great conversation and a couple of drinks, we set out to find a place to dance. We tried several locations but were disappointed, and once we realized we were going to have to walk a little farther than originally planned, two of the girls had to go back to the flat for something. So while waiting for them, Yul and I indulged our nostalgia again and went to the bar, Café Tarife, we went to after the restaurant incident a year ago. We ordered Mojitos like before and continued our exercise in cheesiness, enhanced by Yul’s checking-in with me several times to make sure I wasn’t getting sleepy (so sweet!!).

After some miscommunications the four of us eventually wound up at Maxwell’s where we were finally victorious in our quest for dancing! We stayed there until about 2:30 AM, but after having our space invaded one too many times by a drunk creeper, we decided to call it a night.

We then walked back to their flat, where I had left my enormous bag (I don’t plan well when going out!) and then I walked back to Stonemason which was only a few blocks away. Yul of course made sure I messaged her once I got home because she’s just awesome. And then, after being up for nearly 24 hours straight, I rewarded myself with the most magnificent crash in sleep history!

And so we end up back where we started. Me disoriented, waking up underneath a Union Jack, wondering where I was. And then I remembered. I remembered everything that had happened the previous night. I remembered the previous year. I remembered everything. And despite my grogginess, I felt nothing but pure thankfulness.

I’m so lucky to be back here. I’m so lucky for the friends that I have. I’m so lucky to get a second chance because I know how many people don’t. And while I know this year will bring both victories and hardships, both pleasure and pain, for the first time in so long I feel like I’m actually doing the right thing.

me
LOVE YOU WEIRDOS!!! (And yes that is a Time Turner I’m rocking. Thanks V!!!)

I’M BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Part One)

You know when I woke up this morning (9/19/15) for about 10 seconds I wasn’t quite sure of where I was. And then I looked down and saw the Union Jack on top of my duvet. And it hit me: I’M BAAAACCCKKKKKK!!!! I’m home, I’m actually home once again in the UK and it is glorious in every sense of the word: exciting, terrifying, bewildering, everything! But as with all stories, the best part to start is usually the beginning. So with that in mind, let me fill in some of the gaps and provide context to how I found myself once again slumbering beneath the British Flag :)

bed

For those of you who don’t know, I originally began my (M. Phil) course in British and European History last September (2014). My original blog entries are available if you’re interested or if you literally have nothing better to do.

I arrived, took to the country immediately, and made wonderful friends. However, despite all of it falling into place almost too perfectly, I couldn’t escape the fact that the timing of it was just completely wrong. My mother had passed away suddenly a month prior and while I honestly thought at the time that immediately beginning this next stage in my life was the right step, I found myself in the rare position of being absolutely wrong. So as hard and as painful as it was to leave this new country and this new life which I took such great joy in in such a short span of time, I had to go.

I departed Oxford in mid-October and returned to Virginia to rebuild the foundation of my life before starting this next chapter. For those of you who have read my blog before, you know that for the most part I don’t hold back on certain subjects, however painful. And I won’t hold back here.

I don’t do this because it’s easy (it’s quite hard for me actually), but I do it because it’s the truth. And I know when others are honest about themselves, especially with their scars, I find it to be the most inspirational and relatable. And hey anything that makes us feel a little bit less alone in this world is for me the very point of our existence.

But I digress (which happens a lot!). Once I was back, I moved in with my dad and step-mom for about 6 weeks. I can’t thank them enough for how understanding they were about my decision to come back, knowing that it wasn’t just homesickness I was experiencing but something much more serious.

You see, I was, and still to a certain point am, a person who does not admit when they need help, or that they even need it. I just forge on through things, not stopping for a second to think how they affect me. I just go, go, go. And to put it simply, I finally just hit a point when I couldn’t “go” anymore. I was out. My tank was empty. I had nothing, no strength, no energy, no more quick-witted comments or sarcasm to carry me through. I was done. And I knew that if I didn’t admit that, admit that I actually needed help and couldn’t do everything myself, I was going to end up hurting myself.

So as soon as I got back, I started seeing a therapist. For those of you who have been in therapy before, you know 90% of its effectiveness is the compatibility you have with your therapist. And luckily for me, I worked with a woman, Maryann, who had no problem understanding me, even when I didn’t understand myself. She never judged me, she pushed me when I needed to be pushed, and most importantly she gave me the ability to at least start understanding and processing everything I had been through, not just with my mom’s death, but her illness prior, my childhood, everything.

It’s ironic but for a historian, whose very discipline is predicated on examining the past and its impact on the present, I had never given any real thought or consideration as to how my past had or has affected my present.

Honestly, I was afraid of what I would see. Which is what I think stops most of us from looking back. We’re terrified that if we go back and reexamine our choices, our mistakes, ourselves, we’ll come to the conclusion that the life we have in the present is a product of circumstances out of our control and not something that we chose or that personally fulfills us. Also it’s just fucking painful.

But luckily Maryann was the catalyst for me doing the work I had avoided for so long. And I am beyond grateful. She saved my life. I’m certainly still at the beginning, as it will take years to fully understand everything that has happened. But I will continue therapy here at Oxford once I get settled.

So before I continue I just want to stress for anyone struggling with any mental health issues, to please seek out help. Believe me, I understand why you might be reluctant, as I basically went kicking and screaming. I was always the strong one, and while I never judged anyone else for getting help, actually I admired them, I always thought it would be unacceptable or a sign of weakness on my part.

But it’s not. The strongest people are those who can be vulnerable and admit when they need help. I wish I had done it sooner. I wish I’d done it before I started cutting myself at 14. I wish I’d done it before I experimented with eating disorders. I wish I’d done it before I decided getting blackout drunk or using drugs was the answer. I wish I’d done it before I decided that relentlessly punishing myself mentally for not being strong enough and considering suicide was the right thing to do.

But it’s never too late. You are worth it, and you can get better. Please never think otherwise. No one is perfect. We’re all just trying, plain and simple. I still have my good days and my not so good days. Your scars are what make you beautiful. It’s okay not to be okay. <3 <3

beautiful version

Okay, tangent over (until the next haha). So I moved into an apartment in December 2014, my first ever apartment all to myself!!!! It was 800 sq. ft. of pure heaven :) And yes I miss it like crazy!!

kitchen couch bathroombed2

I had also been working at a museum called Agecroft Hall, a Tudor revival museum/mansion in Richmond, since November as a tour guide. Of course this was the ultimate nerd job for me. I was getting paid to nerd out over my favorite period of history.

agecroft nametag

I also met so many wonderful people, including a ginger spitfire named Tracy. It turns out we went to (ie suffered through) the same high school, but we had never met until Agecroft. Although she’ll never admit it, Tracy is a complete badass artist/jewelry maker, and also just a hilarious human being with a command of sarcasm to rival my own. This is one of her paintings that I own and I’m sure in 10 years it’s going to be worth the sum of my student loans (fingers crossed!)

tracy painting

Unfortunately, while the museum was fantastic, it was only part-time and paid little above minimum wage. So it took me until April but I finally found full-time employment at Good Feet, a retail store specializing is custom arch-supports. I worked as a salesperson, a job which I apparently gained by my less than elegant analogy of a tour guide essentially “selling” history. Honestly when I think of it that way I feel like some kind of weird history prostitute (which would explain why I was tipped so much at Agecroft). But that’s neither here nor there!

Despite our vast political and religious differences, my coworkers immediately made me feel welcome and like family at Good Feet. Case in point: my co-worker Jackie is the one who gifted me the Union Jack under which I awoke this fine Saturday morning! And while I’m very much into digression, it would take a whole other website to list all of the wonderful things about my former co-workers/current friends at Good Feet. So I’ll be out of character, keep it short, and just say thank you!! Thank you all infinitely for everything you did for me <3

union jack 1 union jack 2

So after coming back, starting therapy, having my own apt., working two jobs, and getting 2 new tattoos, I crammed a fair amount of adulting into a year if I do say so myself 😛 It was painful, incredible, but above all necessary, I’m so grateful for it. But luckily, Oxford made the smart choice and decided to readmit me for the next year.

3 tats
Bottom Left: My mom’s favorite flower, a star gazer lily I got in November 2014 to commemorate her first birthday after she died. Bottom Right: My mom’s initials and her favorite poem by Robert Frost which I got in August 2015 to mark the one-year anniversary of her death.

Hence, we come to the end of Part One. Part Two will recount the events of the past couple of days, as I once again prepared to make the crazy journey to my home. To Oxford.