Tuesday, July 17, 2018

July 11-17 (Papa's Birthday!) : Oxford

Sophie's poem, written from Oxford Summer Camp:

The morning is green
Dry grass tickles my legs
and a cold breeze makes me shiver
The lake is smooth
Swwans and ducks gliding
over ht eglossy water
Flowery scents  and distant laughter
The sound of rustling leaves is soft
And combined with the bright blue sky
there seems to be peace

Feathers are scattered on the grass, and
trying to avoid duck droppings is difficult.
The cold is unexpected, and the sky
matches the green lake: cold, smooth, 
and full of birds.


This week's adventures shall be told through pictures. Behold some random moments:

I like religions. I always have. I am a very spiritual person and I have always liked studying and attending services of all different faiths in all different buildings. Also, I have wanted to attend Evensong every Sunday of this trip, but the timing has never worked out. I am determined to make it happen this week! 

Still not particularly in the mood to go around exploring by myself, but I dragged myself out the door to the world-famous Ashmolean Museum, which is the world's first university museum. It housed an astounding number of ancient artifacts, beautifully displayed and organized. Here are some 4-5,000-year-old snake goddesses from Knossos like the ones I saw last year in Crete

And the famous octopus jar I remember seeing in Dr. Steidle's pre-Greek history lecture

Glass table wear from Pompeii (I've always wanted to go to Pompeii but have never been)

And a re-creation of what a Julius Caesar statue would have looked like before the paint faded

One of my favorite moments of the week: Meeting Lindsay and Lucy for lunch!!!! We met on campus at a little restaurant called "Vaults and Garden" - the inside is an original 12th Century abbey (vaulted ceilings) and the outdoor seating is a beautiful little garden. We chatted and hugged and then I walked them back to their classroom (on the way, a man came up behind us and said "excuse me, ladies," and it was Erik, who just happened to be passing us on his way home from a work meeting with an English employee! So fun to run into him). L&L are having so much fun at school!!

The best Thai food in England (according to reviews) is a restaurant right around the corner from our house. We tried it and proclaimed it probably the best Thai we have ever had in our lives. It's booked months ahead of time, but they always leave a little room for walk-ins, so we arrived early and joined a line of people hoping to get in... and got the very last table! Sadly the people behind us in line didn't get in. This is a picture of the duck panang curry. Usually not a fan of duck, but oh my goodness this was so tender and the curry was so divine I wanted to eat this all day for the rest of my life. 

And this was a refreshing apple cashew mint salad

Lucy just read the Da Vinci Code so we're seeing the Illuminati everywhere :)

On Thursday Lindsay and Lucy met Erik and me for lunch at the Eagle and Child pub, where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien used to eat together and discuss their book ideas.

The service was sooooo slow and the food was meh, but the atmosphere was neat and we love those two authors

And we really really love hanging out with our girls

Picking Sophie and Stone up from their summer camp on Saturday morning. They had a great time but were ready to come back to the family. Wycombe Abbey was astoundingly beautiful - they are so lucky to have been able to spend a week there.

My favorite moment (which I didn't capture on camera) was when I saw Stone coming out, accompanying two Muslim families who turned out to be the families of his roommates. The moms and dads of both families (both Pakistani-British) were so warm and excited to meet me, saying "we have heard so much about Stone!!" They were very eager to have the boys keep in touch via email.

On the way to the car

This was where they ate their meals

After arriving home we headed to a ropes course place Erik had found online. It was so much more amazing than we expected!!! Many, many challenges, high up in the trees. It was high enough to make Erik feel sick, and I was pretty freaked out most of the time. I couldn't believe how brave and capable Sophie and Stone were - Stone even leapt off the 13-meter-high platform at the end (which none of the rest of us dared to try)! 
Back home, hanging up laundry to dry

Our local park, which we visit just about every day now, sometimes multiple times per day

Stone has named this sweet, adorable cat Ava. She's a regular visitor at the park

Balance exercises on the wobble log

Church on Sunday. We sang "All Creatures of Our God and King," which felt so comforting I cried and cried. The choir and the organ were so beautiful in those amazing acoustics! And we loved the change of having natural light and beauty in a chapel.

Lindsay and Lucy had the day off so they spent it with us!! They met us for church and then went back to their dorm to get some stuff to bring back to the house

We walked around campus together 

This is a tribute to martyrs who were burned at the stake for daring to translate the Bible into English

The girls' favorite statue at the Ashmolean

I like the bottom middle head the best

After a little while walking in the city we met Erik and Stone at the Boudleian Libraries to see an exhibit of J.R.R. Tolkien's original drafts and illustrations

We couldn't take pictures in the exhibit, but here's a fun Lord of the Rings quiz

After the Tolkien exhibit we crashed at home, and I helped Lindsay with some stuff in preparation for her college applications. Then we watched a bit of the world cup, all of us snuggling on the couch, and then sadly Lindsay and Lucy had to get back to school. Erik drove them over to campus, and afterward we all took a walk to the park again. 

On Monday Sophie and Stone and I walked to get tea and scones and visit an amazing bookstore near Tolkien's house. I love, love, love, love walking around old streets with so many stories in the walls

This interesting mural is on the outside wall of a nearby Target-like store. I was thinking about how our local Trader Joe's have murals depicting the history or culture of each location. If your history starts in 912 (see above), you need at least three panels. :) Oxford started as a literal ox ford, a place where the Anglo Saxon oxen could cross the river

See Oxford University press in the middle. It started out as a literal printing press.

Shout out to our friends the Cowleys! The Cowley family must have been important here - many streets are named after them.

I took a picture of this because my dear sweet husband saw how sad I was about running by myself and found a local gym for me to join for a week. That man is so action-oriented, and it has made a huge difference for me to have somewhere to go with music and weights and more humans around. Also interesting is that there is a Ladies Only gym, which is full of Muslim women exercising, some with their hair covered, and some not, but all in long pants and dresses. I wonder if they opened the Ladies Gym just for that demographic. It's so interesting to see. 

Our very working-class and very high-Muslim-immigrant-population neighborhood. Doesn't look like Los Altos! We like it here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

July 10: The Cotswolds + Lucy at Camp

I have a really wonderful husband. He has his quirks, and even after almost 23 years of knowing each other I often cannot understand why he does the things he does. But he is so, so kind to me. He really listens to me. He really cares about the way I see the world. He really wants to make me happy.

I seem to be going through a significant life transition and facing some sad times ahead, so I was crying again this morning as Erik and I drove to the Cotswolds, which is a beautiful area of rolling green hills dotted with picturesque towns. I spilled out all my feelings and he did such a good job just listening and trying to understand and then expressing support and compassion and validation. By the time we arrived in Chipping Campden I felt so much better, and just hugged him all day long.

He had to do some work during the day but I was so grateful to have him with me. I thought I would enjoy time alone this week the way I loved exploring alone in Spain, but I am finding that the last thing I want to do is venture out by myself. Maybe that's because in Spain I had four very young kids and never got time to myself. But now my kids are so independent and I know Lindsay is leaving me soon, and I get plenty of time by myself during the school-year. I miss the kids so much it hurts and I feel so lonely and melancholy with them gone. So anyway I was so grateful that Erik came with me on this adventure (the other option was me taking the train by myself, since I do NOT want to try driving on the left side, especially on the freeway!). We started in Chipping Campden, then went to Stow-on-the-Wold for lunch, where we had sandwiches and learned that they call curried chicken salad "coronation chicken" because it was invented for the queen's coronation, and we also ate a glazed lemon cake that we agreed was the best thing we have eaten on our whole trip, and we ended in the beautiful ancient Roman city of Bath.

Here are photos, none of them containing people because Erik was working on his phone while I wandered around and I didn't feel like taking selfies. :) It ended up being a beautiful day, and we had delicious Greek food on the way home, which reminded me of my beloved siblings and our Greece trip exactly one year ago this week. I miss and love them!!!

Here is the stuff I saw. It was all very Stanford-golden and I loved it. And then Courtney texted me while I was sitting in the cathedral so it was like she was sitting there next to me. Boy am I grateful for my sisters.

Also, I told the kids to share something about their summer camp, and characteristically, Lucy is the only one who has done it so far. :) Here's a journal entry from Lucy, followed by pictures from the Cotswolds.

(July 10, 2018):
We woke up today at 6:30 and got ready for the day. For breakfast, I ate a chocolate croissant, beans, a hash brown, orange juice, and lots of sausage. After breakfast, we went to our first class. My Shakespeare teacher and I spent almost the entire time reading Twelfth Night. Reading it with her really ensured that I actually understood what was going on, so that was nice. We did, however, start from the beginning which I found strange because I had already read the entire first act the night before. But it didn’t really matter because we got through almost all of act 2 as well. In the next class (The History of the Tudors), it was basically the exact same as yesterday, but I took four pages of notes instead of three. For lunch, Lindsay and I went with the same group of girls to Subway, and then to Sainsbury’s where we got Magnum bars. Linz and I bought a box that had three inside so I suggested that we give the third one to a homeless man who was sitting right outside. He was very grateful :). After lunch, we went back for our elective class- mine is called Profile Your Personality. It’s a psychology class where we talk about personalities, memory, mental illnesses/disorders, etc. It was fascinating, and even though it was three hours long, I was never bored! I was one of seven people in my class which seems tiny but felt huge in comparison to the other classes. After class, we went back to our rooms and had dinner soon after. For dinner, I ate a sort of chicken curry thing, some flatbread, rice, broccoli, and potatoes. It wasn’t very good. After dinner, we went to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which was maybe one of the worst shows I have ever seen. I know that the play itself is amazing, but this production was absolutely pathetic. It was some of the worst acting, costuming, and everything… I had ever seen in my life. It was also painfully long. Some people left at intermission because it was so awful. When it finally ended, Lindsay and I speed-walked back and got to the rooms before anyone else, and showered. I then organized my desk and put all of my clothes into the closet. It felt very nice to clean everything up and feel prepared for the next day. I’m now going to stretch, do my physical therapy, and then go to bed. Goodnight! Or as they say here in Great Britain, “YEET YOTE”.