Category Archives: Europe

among sandy gardens set: Winchester and Theale

among sandy gardens set: Winchester and Theale

Read Part II: Wales, York, Edinburgh

A slick black engine shot me from York to London in two, maybe three hours, followed by a more sedate connection to Oxford. I alighted on the first morning of the Awakening conference, the Canterbury Institute’s pilot program for high school students on the verge of university studies.

Canterbury boarded me at St Edmund’s, a college I had yet to explore, and engaged me for two days in such fabulous sessions as, “What is the purpose of a university education?” and “What is the meaning of life?” One-on-one tutorials in law and classics (the participants’ chosen areas of interest) gave the program its backbone. With only two students attended by about a dozen graduate students, I suspect the conference staff relished the event even more than our guests did.

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eastern cities, miles about: Wales, York, Edinburgh

eastern cities, miles about: Wales, York, Edinburgh

Read Part I: London and the Isle of Wight

After ten months of bouncing between the cosmopolitan worlds of Oxford and London, I was overdue for an encounter with the British parts of Britain.

The family in Wales not only adopted me for the week, but embraced tour guiding for their corner of the island. Don’t go to Cardiff, they advised, so I took the train to Bath for the day instead. You can’t visit Abergavenny without “walking” up the Sugar Loaf, I learned, so they drove me there themselves.

Best of all, they unleashed me on three children and a library of picture books – in English and Welsh!

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parrot islands anchored lie: London and the Isle of Wight

parrot islands anchored lie: London and the Isle of Wight

The summer before traveling to Oxford, I dreamed up a short wishlist for travel in the United Kingdom: 1) Yorkshire, the site of beloved stories from my childhood, and 2) Wales, the only British country still alien to me. With my lease winding to a close on the 30th of June and my plans for the oncoming autumn undecided, the months of July and August opened like a window of opportunity before me, if only I could find the key.

I have a dear friend (and former professor) to thank for almost everything that followed. With a few emails, Sam enlisted friends across the country to host me for weeks (or months, if requested). Buoyed with confidence born of traveling towards a friendly destination, I boarded the bus to London.

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wide as England, tall as a spire: Cambridge and Oxford

wide as England, tall as a spire: Cambridge and Oxford

As coursework wound to a close, I determined to collect all my end-of-term travels into a single story.

A few weeks have stretched into a few months, and here I find myself with three months and five countries to cover! Make that six countries – I write to you from my quarantine facilities in Tokyo, Japan. (No need to pity me: my organization, JET [Japan Exchange and Teaching] has arranged for us to pay our purgatory dues in commodious and well-stocked hotel rooms near the airport. They delivered breakfast to my door at precisely 7:30am: scrambled eggs, salad, and…chicken nuggets. More anon.)

Appropriately enough, my ventures beyond Oxford began with a trip to her sister city: Cambridge.

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Che figata: Trinity Term

Che figata: Trinity Term

I didn’t know what to expect from Trinity Term – it was the first time in my life that I would be responsible for a single, mammoth assignment with no classes, no fixed schedule other than to research, read, and write write write!

In some ways, my time at Oxford began anew this term, as relaxed restrictions prompted a flurry of renewed gatherings and opened new doors.

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الحَمدُ للّة: Hilary Term

الحَمدُ للّة: Hilary Term

Springtime comes in February for Oxford. Bluebells, snow drops, crocuses, and daffodils are disrupting the sombre charcoal tones of winter, lifting my spirit from lockdown doldrums to a hopeful (and often anxious) anticipation of the future.

With most of the libraries shut down for most of the term, I played church tourist and commenced a round of endless walks, reminding myself that I’m not alone here no matter how much it feels like it.

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Ube nokhisimuzi omuhle: Holidays

Ube nokhisimuzi omuhle: Holidays

Christmas cheer was thin on the ground last year. Despite my best intentions, the week leading up to my final essay submission demanded a slog of sleepless nights and soul-searching doubt. Just when I thought I was free to relax into the holidays, the UK government shocked everyone by declaring a stay-at-home order with less than 24 hours notice.

Even so, God was good to me.

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Woordeboek: Michaelmas Term

Woordeboek: Michaelmas Term

Just when I was settling in, the second lockdown hit. The first news that the UK government would impose new restrictions sent me into a tailspin: I imagined myself trapped in my room for four more weeks of self-isolation, cut off from library access just when it was most critical for me to do research for my upcoming term essay.

In the end, as is almost always the case, my fears outstripped reality.

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Plain Living and High Thinking: Exploring Oxford

Plain Living and High Thinking: Exploring Oxford

“We should celebrate!”

My first day out of self-isolation, the gracious Audrey paraded me around Oxford for a tour and congratulatory tea (in classic British style, with scones and clotted cream). We last encountered each other while doing undergraduate studies in Michigan – small world!

She inaugurated my first ventures afield into the puzzle of walls, roofs, and doors that unwinds from my newly built accommodations, overlapping medieval, modern, and everything in-between.

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Mi Mosse: Quarantine in Oxford

Mi Mosse: Quarantine in Oxford

Never would I have guessed that my past six months would be spent on my family’s farm in the USA! When I concluded my Peace Corps service, I was making plans to return to South Africa as an independent volunteer in a couple of weeks… or a month or two… and then maybe for the summer… or even just for a quick visit?

Instead, South Africa’s borders have yet to reopen for international travel, and I grudgingly submitted to a time of restoration and fellowship, reconnecting with my loved ones while future opportunities unfolded.

Given the international travel climate today, I can only be thankful that I landed without incident last Wednesday in the United Kingdom: newly “enroled” for graduate studies at the University of Oxford.

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In All Godly Quietness: USA Visit Via London

In All Godly Quietness: USA Visit Via London

If there’s anything Peace Corps service has taught me, it’s the necessity of waiting.

My nature rebels against the humility and simple surrender of acknowledging that further action will avail nothing; the outcome is beyond my power to influence; there’s nothing to do but place my trust in the Lord…and wait.

In some small areas, my expectations have made the adjustment: the taxis to my shopping town, the line at the grocery store, the printers at school. Although service providers here rarely hurry and sometimes acknowledge requests reluctantly, that doesn’t mean they aren’t responding. A patient smile does wonders for my health and theirs.

It’s the big questions – about career, family, and the future – that send me into the wrestling ring with God. As a Christian blogger pointed out, there’s a difference between waiting for something you know will happen (eventually) and waiting when you’re not sure whether it ever will. The Biblical images of sowing and reaping acquire new resonance for me as I wonder when the time invested in these critical areas will begin to bear fruit.

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Celtic Steps

Celtic Steps

DSC_0282After riding the Ring of Kerry, we collapsed in our room at Lar Kinley. I refused to succumb to road weariness for long, though, because dancing awaited me.

Dancing! Irish dancing! Irish music, too, as it turned out. My angelic father accompanied me to a local performance, “Celtic Steps,” starring five musicians and four dancers. Despite the relatively small size, the show impressed with its sheer talent and irrepressible charm. Read the rest of this entry

The Jewel in Ireland’s Crown

The Jewel in Ireland’s Crown

DSC_0783 Bed & Breakfasts save you money. First, they feed you enough for breakfast and lunch. Second, the good ones double as travel agents.

Thanks to Fernroyd‘s hosts in Cork, Avril and Tony, we abandoned our plan of traveling the length of Ireland to visit Derry and instead skipped off for a two-day detour to Killarney Read the rest of this entry