Sunday, June 29, 2008

Ok, 28 minutes until time is up at the internet cafe.
We're in our last day in London, the first leg of the journey. Tomorrow we start the southern excursion for a few days, visiting places like Bath, Tintagel, Tintern Abbey, Salisbury, and Stonehenge, probably not in that order. London has been great. I've seen Midsummer Night's Dream, Les Mis, Pygmalion, King Lear, and Twelfth Night, my favorite was Les Mis, followed by MND. We get student discounts, and then discounts from the program for going to see plays, so some of these i saw for £5. It doesn't get much better.
We've taken day trip to Canterbury and Dover. Cantebury Cathedral was beautiful. We stood in the place where Thomas Beckett was murdered. It's strange to be in those places where other people have been. Standing by Elizabeth I's grave was kind of like that. You sort of can't believe it's her. It makes her existence much more real. Anyway, at Dover, we went to Dover Castle, and I stood on the top and looked at the sea for a long time. We went down to the beach and Dr. Ryken read "Dover Beach" to us, the very same one that is posted below. The beach is just like Penzance, so I felt pretty melancholy and missed it. I didn't expect to. I think I will try and visit before I go home.
Westminster Abbey I didn't like very much. It's less of a church than a cemetary. Most of the other students I talked to felt the same way. It's strange. The culture of the time seemed fixated on death, being remembered, etc. There were a lot of people there fighting each other to get the better view of the graves. Throughout this whole trip, I'm wondering what the good of all these museums are. It doesn't really do anything for anyone to see the place where Dickens is burried. I wonder if we all go because everyone else goes. I had similar and worse thoughts about the British Museum, which I will not get into here.
We visited Cambridge and got a fascinating tour of the different colleges led by a Christian theologian of the organization/school Christian Heritage. He talked about the reformation and the roots in Cambridge and effects on the later founded colleges and on the US. He was so warm and kind and wise. I would like to write more about this because he said some really insightful things and now I have a few books I need to read, including Francis Schaffer, who I had never heard of until that day.
I finally got a complete cream tea on Thursday from this little hole in the wall place that also sold hotdogs by the Tower of London. Got some great material for one of my travel essays.
We had another day trip to Rochester and Penshurst. We went in Rochester Castle-- that was cool. Penshurst has been one of my favorite places. The state rooms in the house were alright, but the gardens were beautiful. The best I've ever seen and the best over here. I think I like them more than the rose garden in Regent's Park. It's set up so you can only see one section at a time because of trees and hedges. There's a fountain with pink and white lily pads, so many roses, one garden with flowers arranged like a british flag, hedges you can walk through. My favorite section was closer to the house, with a path down the center lined with white rose trees(?) planted on a bed of some light green fuzzy leafish stuff, then there were pink rose bushes (?) further away on the sides. You could see a church in the distance. And it had just rained about a half hour before, so there were water drops on all the petals. It was absolutely beautiful.
One fun thing, that night, my friend Julie and I went to this place for sushi. We passed by outside and were riveted to see little bowls of sushi passing by on two conveyer belts, one going in each direction. We had to try it. The little dishes had all kinds of things in them, color coded by price. Ginger, wasabi, soy were built into the table as well as a tap for still and sprakling water and glass and small plate dispensers. We paid too much, but it was worth it to be able to sit there and watch the sushi make its rounds with the opportunity to grab anything we wanted right off the line and eat it. So much fun.
Yesterday we saw Twelfth Night in the open air theatre in Regent's Park. They had it 40's themed. I had never read it or seen it, but I enjoyed it. It was a little slow moving at first, but Dayna and I had a great time talking and racing to try and get tea and coffee at intermission with every other person in the theatre. We were cold, so we wanted some. We had a good time and it was fun to walk back to the hotel with everyone afterwards.
All the people are nice and I feel like I'm getting to know some of them pretty well.
I love being back with the food. Every morning we have the option of full English breakfast at the hotel. I've had a couple of coronation chicken sandwiches (chicken salad with curry), my favorite crisps, pastys, yogurt.
I have purchased another hour. I think I'm going to try and upload some pictures. We should arrive at Oxford on July 3, and more internet will follow after that. The phone situation is not good. From the hotel, it's not good and it's not even set up for international calling. The entire program (30 people) have been using one girl's cell phone to make all their calls because she has unlimited international calling.
I think that's all for now.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

And thanks for the birthday wishes, everyone who wished them ; )
Our first full day in London has come to a close, and my birthday. I think this is the only birthday that I will be able to say I went to St. Paul's Cathedral for church. It was incredible. I was glad for my Wheaton education while we were sitting in the service, because it's an Anglican church and I was raised non-denom. I was glad that I had been to Church of the Resurrection and Berlioz's Requiem so that I had a context for the liturgy and for Latin singing. It was a sung eucharist, and the woman's voice was so beautiful and British and clear. The choir, the ceiling, the sunlight coming in the windows in the dome-- clear and bright the same as if you were outside. The sunlight was so incredible that the whole dynamic in the cathedral changed when the sun went behind clouds. Communion I drank out of the cup for the first time- I had always resisted it before because of germs or weirdness, but everyone else did. I didn't want to be the one who had to dip their bread and slow the line down, so I did too. I saw so much value in the service, history, beauty, etc.
We went on a few walking tours, one literary one, and one of the main things in London-- Big Ben and Parliament, Westminister Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Trafalger Square, Leicester Square. There was a lot of walking. I think my favorite part after St. Paul's was lying on the grass outside of Westminister Abbey looking at the towers and clouds and thinking that it was my birthday. That was the most sublime, to use a romantic term. Dr. Colon would be proud.
The other best moment was when a bunch of the students came up to my room and gave me hugs and sang. Ellen gave me a "Happy Birthday" balloon and Liz gave me a trifle pudding cup.
I'm very happy to be here. Tomorrow we go to Cantebury and Dover. I'm excited for Dover. There's so much literary attached to Dover. I hope it's sunny. That's all the time I have for now.

Monday, June 16, 2008


I'm feeling so much better. The weekend was just what I needed. The medicine is working and I am probably about 90% right now. It felt good to be in class today, and I'm so glad that we'll be in England on Saturday. We leave Friday night and arrive Saturday morning in London. Then Sunday is my birthday. And it is also Jana's birthday. This is the girl I met in a taxi our first day coming to Wheaton from O'Hare. We are both the oldest daughters in a family with two girls and a boy, in that order. Both sort of from the south-- she's from Kentucky. And we have the same birthday. So we're trying to plan some kind of shenanigans to celebrate even though we have virtually no knowledge about the city of London and what kinds of birthday activities it offers. Someone suggested high tea at the Ritz. We'll see. Hopefully we won't be too jetlagged.
Three more days of class: one research packet due, one presentation, both on wednesday. Lots of reading as usual.
I'm going through the pre last minute phase of packing, wondering if I should have anything mailed from home before it's too late and I'm stuck without my camera cord or iPod cord, or something that I really need. Cookies would be nice hint, hint. Or one of those magic books with the marker that reveals what's underneath. Those were my airplane toys when I was a kid. That, and the guy's face that you could decorate by moving the shavings with the magnet wand. Anyone remember?
We're leaving the 20th, so if you want to call, call now. The first twenty callers will receive, for the low, low price of $19.95... yeah, I don't want to read those articles. Anyway, I'm not sure what kind of internet I'll have over there. Once we get to Oxford, I think there will be pretty consistent access, but before then, I have no idea what it will be like, or if I will use it if it's there. I'm going to be out exploring and going to museums and walking in rose gardens...

Friday, June 13, 2008


It's the end of our first full week of classes and I am whooped. It's been so busy. I just checked my email and facebook for the first time in four days, I think. It's hard to keep track. I think I would be able to juggle it all if I was not sick. I have an ear infection, and now, a sinus infection. This makes school hard because I don't feel like sitting in class or staying up late. This weekend will be good. I can catch up on what I haven't done and hopefully get a little ahead for next week. Everyone's been really great. The girls take care of me with medicine, tea, food, etc. No profound thoughts for today. But I will say that "Christobel" is very interesting to learn about and discuss when you haven't read it. And there was a great thunderstorm in the middle of the night that I woke up for for parts of. It was the good waking up, where you're aware of what's happening but have no problem going right back to sleep. We had an excursion due today for travel writing where we talked about the different images of England from books and literature that informed our expectations, and I talked about Austen and Bronte and then poets like Larkin and Arnold. These authors offer very different images of England. And here is Arnold's poem, tragically beautiful. Compare it to rosy life in a manor house and you might get some shivers.

Dover Beach Matthew Arnold

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand;
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the A gaean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Day Three

It feels like a summer camp. We have the same routine everyday and there are no furnishings in our rooms. We have kitchens, but not dishes. Today my roommate Liz and I realized too late that we have a five day meal plan, not seven day. We arrived at Saga and the card swiper told us. So we ate her quaker oats cereal on a bench outside and then two girls brought us granola bars. It was kind of a day of mishaps, small in scale. The video wouldn't play for the Shakespeare class. We got to watch about five hilarious minutes of Patrick Stewart alternately gesturing and stroking his chin, talking about Shylock, before it shut off. No A/C in Travel Writing, perhaps because it is Saturday and no one is in the offices, but it was so humid. Downtown for lunch at Quiznos, shameless plug, if you want a $5 meal for two people, go there. This is the second time I've eaten at Quiznos since I've been here, the same meal, too. Jana and I got away with a 6 in sub each, a shared bag of chips and a drink for less than $8 total. Subway is doing the same thing, I think, but I don't like Subway. Then in Romanticism we talked about Blake who I do not like or really understand, and I think should not be taken lightly. He's so confusing to me. One minute praising the creativity of God, the next storming against the church and every other institution, and then spouting "proverbs of hell"-- the good and the bad mixed together so the reader has to spend an exponentially greater amount of time trying to figure out what he's talking about, which ones he supports, which ones are nonsense, and then, if the ones that seem good and make sense are still "proverbs of hell" not to be followed because they are spoken by someone who, in the work, calls Satan "messiah." I hope I never have to read him again. And I probably shouldn't have this attitude. I'd rather not see the big picture of his weirdness and take away the parts I like, like "The Lamb." At least we're only spending a day on him. End of Blake rant. Tonight, we're going over to a girl's house in Wheaton for pizza and movies to rest our brains.
Last night we got to go to "The Winter's Tale" on campus for the Shakespeare conference and it was quite good. They condensed it to under an hour and the actors were older, so it was a more polished performance. Not your typical performance, but very good.
A more detail oriented post today, less raw thought. I'm having a good time. It will be nice to sleep in tomorrow and have a day off.
Love from Wheaton,

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Day One

So, day one of Wheaton in England comes to a close, and I am realizing that I forgot how exhausting sitting in class was. 8:30 to 2:30 is kind of a long time, especially when you are cold or when the chair is just enough off so you fee like you are either slouching or laying on the desk. I am very excited about the material, however. The courses are Shakespeare, Travel Writing, and Romanticism. I've never taken classes with any of these professors before. Shakespeare is with Dr. Ryken, who I have heard so many stories about, and would like to please stop hearing stories about because I want to form my own impression of him. So far, I like him and find his personality perfectly agreeable, to reference the romantic period. Travel Writing I think will be my favorite. This professor is not going with us on the trip though. And she said it would be "a great challenge" for those who need to have someone over their shoulder making sure they're getting started on things. She also commented a little on the writer's life, and how we need to develop the habit of writing when we're not in class, which is something I definitely struggle with. I think this class will be good for that. For today we read an essay on exploration, travel, and tourism, and I noticed some of the themes we discussed in other students doing the program after class. Another girl and I exchanged glances and smiled, both thinking, "you're an anti-tourist!" as she described what she imagined doing when we got to England. We're talking about our expectations and motivations for travel. For me, it's different because I've already been to and lived in the country. I don't think I have any expectations because I know what it's like. I know there will be the initial readjustment. She said that often our expectations will come out in our essays, and I'm wondering how that will affect me. Will I have fewer funny stories because I knew that it was vinegar and not water and didn't drink it? In one of the readings for the course, someone said that the really horrible trips often make for the best writing. We'll see.
Romanticism will be interesting. I'm excited to do the poetry part, not so much the drama. I don't want to act out a scene from a play. We're traveling to Tintern Abbey. Tintern Abbey. "Tintern Abbey" was one of the first poems I ever read. It was Dr. Fraser's Honors British Lit. class at West Georgia. I remember sitting in a circle and him teaching us that it was a descriptive meditative lyric and that meant it started from the outside and then... My thoughts about poetry now are more macro than micro, wondering about the purpose of poetry. Talking with my roommate last night and asking her the difference between poetry and prose, she says poetry is like a punch in the stomach and prose is like a tap on the shoulder (aside from the differences in lineation, etc.). We use poetry when we can't use anything normal. We use it to make a point, to say what we're really trying to say in the language that speaks to the part of us beyond the level where simple understanding is. When we see injustice, simply explaining it to someone doesn't get rid of that feeling in us. In learning the history of the Romantic period today and having done some of the reading for class tomorrow, it becomes a little bit more clear why things like Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey" and Barbauld's "Eighteen Hundred and Eleven" have the feeling that they have. The sort of sadness.
And the other thing I wonder is if people read their poetry at that time. Dr. Colon said that people weren't reading Wordsworth and Coleridge, they were going to Baillie's plays. So, then, what is the purpose of poetry? If no one reads it at the time, it doesn't matter how hard of a punch it packs on whatever social issue. It's not for the reader, it's for the author? Or for an imagined reader? Why do we write it if it doesn't do anything? I guess paintings don't really do anything either. I don't want to talk about this. I know why we write. It's for a lot of reasons. It's for getting it out of our heads and onto the page, for figuring out what exactly the feeling is, because we can write, we can create and make art, and there is joy in that. There's a feeling in creating something that you love and no one else has ever made. We can write because of our frustration in injustice-- that is a sort of hopeful writing, that the situation can change, or a complete despair at the suffering of others and the author's or the world's failings to notice or do something about it. These are all just thoughts on the question and I'm sure I will keep understanding more and more...
So, Wheaton in England, eh? Who knew there would be this much thinking the first day of class. And I haven't even started my homework yet ; )
We're here in Wheaton until the 20th, then we're in London for 9 days, and then some other places that I will post later, the library is cold. This will be my primary means of communication with everyone. I don't know how often I'll have internet access while I'm there.
Tune in next time to hear Larry sing about... (Mom, I thought you would like that)

oh, yes, and on a lighter note, the url comes from finals week and my friend Erica, who was studying for a test, and used me in all of her memory devices, which I wrote down to put into some kind of poem, some time. sarah and erica in bright shoes.