Sunday, July 17, 2011

Paris the city of Love?

I don’t want to scare anyone so I think I will keep this blog about Paris brief. If you do go to Paris though make sure you know FRENCH!! That is my only advice. This isn’t Canada or Mexico they will not try to be bilingual for you. If they know English they will not speak it!!
The Eurostar left London speaking the safety instructions in English then French and when we arrived in Paris she spoke some words in French. Nope no English, and this is when I relieved it was going to be a long three days.
Ok I’ll give you one more piece of advice, try to go longer than 3 days. Trying to fit Paris into three days didn’t work. Instead of enjoying the Eiffel Tower and then enjoying some wonderful French cuisine, it was all about the time schedule. I should have stayed on the Eurostar to Paris Disneyland now that might have been more fun!
Thanks to the tight time schedule and not getting tickets in advance we didn’t actually get to go up to the top of the Eiffel Tower, which I wanted to very badly. But seeing and standing under the amazing tower was an awesome experience. I was like I was in a movie or I was dreaming and any minute I was going to wake up. BUT I DIDN’T. I WAS REALLY THERE!
It was truly amazing to be standing under the Eiffel Tower; it was something I thought I was never going to do in my lifetime.

You can just see the excitement on my face huh!!

After visiting the Eiffel Tower we decided to see a glimpse of the city on the tour bus.
We saw 9 different tourist attractions in 2 hours. Wow that was a lot to see but it got me excited about what I was going to do the next day.
After our tour bus we went on a night boat cruise and go to see different sites in Paris from the water. We also learned some history about the bridge names and history about some statues that stood near the water.  My favorite part of the boat tour was when we were on our way back the Eiffel Tower light up and sparkled.

And I got this gorgeous picture of the Tower. This picture can’t be replicated!

The next morning was tough, I could have slept all day but I had to get up and experience more of Paris. By 9 am we were at the Musee du Louvre. Now I’m not a morning person so for me this was an accomplishment in itself!
My favorite part about the Musee de Louvre was the Roman Goddess statues and of course the Mona Lisa.

This was just one of the interesting statues I encountered.

The next thing to see in the Louvre was the famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci the Mona Lisa. To my surprise the painting is actually kind of small and it is behind a thick sheet of glass and a rope so you can’t get very close.

I think this picture depicts how close I was but how small the painting actually is. And actually getting to the painting was an adventure in itself. It was like a mosh pit but at a museum. I had to slowly get closer and only doing this as one person left the front and pushing myself to the front. I got my picture and tried to get out only realizing I was kind of stuck. It took me a while to get out of the crazy and a bit angry mob of tourists but I got out eventually!!
By this time Jenna and I were ready to head out. It took us two hours to find the Mona Lisa and our feet were ready for a rest.
After a quick lunch Jenna, Stephanie, Clara, and I were off to see the Norte Dame.
This is an amazing cathedral and when I think of it I think of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame movie. I also learned that the Norte Dame was once called the Norte Dame de Paris, which means “Our Lady of Paris”.

This is the Notre Dame in all its beauty. We also got to tour inside the cathedral and no pictures were allowed inside, but I will tell you it was absolutely magnificent inside. From the artwork, to the stone work, and to the beautiful stained glass windows.
When traveling not everything goes as smoothly as you would like. When we went to get money out of an ATM the ATM took the card due to security reasons. Come to find out the ATM was actually broken. This isn’t like in America where you have diligent people and would have someone put a sign over the ATM saying it was out of order. This was Paris and that would be too much work. They would rather have Bank of America deal with calls all day due to the ATM eating every ones card. Oh the joys of traveling. The rest of our only full day in Paris consisted of calling Bank of America and trying to get emergency cash. Easier said than done!!
After the ATM chaos we decided to take our minds off it by trying some escargot. Eating snail will take your mind off anything I’m sure of it!

Yup that green slimy thing is escargot! After I got over the chewy, gum like, I am actually eating snail, something I would find in a garden thoughts, I actually enjoyed 4 pieces of escargot. For me eating snail was just a mental game. I really enjoyed escargot; Jenna on the other hand didn’t!  

After dinner we headed back to our lovely hotel in the dirty part of Paris to get ready to go out and enjoy some Paris night life. We decided we wanted to check out the night life on the Avenue Des Champs. Avenue Des Champs-Élysées is one of the most famous streets in the world. How famous you ask? Well rent can be up to 1 million pounds, that’s got to be pretty famous! No wonder it was 20 pounds to get into a club and all the clubs were super prestigious. The night life on Avenue Des Champs-Élysées was bit out of my price range but I did have fun exploring the night life with Clara and Jenna!
When going somewhere the night life can tell you all you need to know about a city. And in this case Paris, France definitely thinks there something special. I on the other hand I think Paris is just full of dirty streets, rude people, and over priced night life. Nothing special here, Paris is just lucky they have the Eiffel Tower and the Arch de Triumph because if not they probably wouldn’t even be on the map.

Arch of Triumph (pretty cool to see the crazy roundabout that surrounds the arch)

Over all I can official say I saw Paris so I never have to go back! I can say I experienced everything I wanted to in Paris. It wasn’t about seeing everything I could possible see in three days; it was about the pure experience of being in a new place. It was about trying the food, going out at night, and walking around exploring the not so famous parts of Paris. We also got to see the cops block off a whole intersection for a rollerblading group to encourage people to go out and do other things besides drinking on a Friday night. Now you don’t see that every day! I guess Paris isn’t all that bad, I would just recommend being very good at French and you will have a swell time!!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Another day in Paradise

Studying abroad can be great, you get to get out and explore what else the world has to offer. But today is kinda a quiet day and its days like these that make you wonder what your missing back at home and how badly you want to see your family!
I am a bit homesick I guess you could say. But when you have a cold and flu like symptoms all you want is your mum to bring you soup and take care of you! Ha guess I'm on my own.
Never the less, last night was super fun and I must blog about it! I hope Gawon had a great birthday. It would be weird studying abroad and have your birthday come along. I am glad everyone could make it feel a bit like home on her birthday!

We went to see Macbeth at Trinity college, which, I hardly understood. I am not a big Shakespeare person but the play was outdoors and we got to drink Pimms lemonade, which was wonderful.
Anna explained the play to me after and I couldn't thank her enough; it was like a light bulb went off in my head and I actually understood the play! It is much more exciting when you understand it!

As the play ended we headed off to Kings Arms and sure enough the actors from the play were also at the pub! Kaitlin and I had a chat with the actor that was wearing flannel like pants in the play and no shirt on. It seems as though he decided a shirt was necessary for the pub! There were so many people out at the Kings Arms, we meet up with some locals and had quiet an awesome time. They taught me how to say whatever and make it sound like I'm British! HAHA! You have to say it without pronouncing the T so its like wa-ever. I don't feel like a tourist in Oxford anymore I definitely feel like I'm starting to fit in. Now only if someone would ask me for directions~
Overall it was a fun night and I wanted to blog about it. We did a lot this week, with punting, to the move to Jesus College Graduate housing, classes, and research. I will blog about that tomorrow when I do a much needed catch up session :)
Just wanted to give a shout out to my mom; when she told me she was reading my blogs I was completely overwhelmed with happiness. Love you and miss you I can't believe I won't see you until September but it will come soon enough. And thanks to anyone else reading these it means a lot to me!!
Sunset over Oxford Copyright: Chuck
Thanks for the wonderful picture!

Monday, July 11, 2011

The wonderful week of July 4th - July 15 th

I went to publish a post before Paris, France but looks like it didn’t go through, so here I am writing a whole week behind. I can't believe how fast time is flying by me. I feel like there is so much to do and so little time! We are also moving to another housing location which is the Jesus College Graduate housing! Wow another move I can't wait to finally be done moving! As I was packing and looking through my notes I came across something that made me laugh. Churchill’s A Number is about what makes us human and what makes us different from everyone else. PUZZIA HUT. Ha ha I must have been hungry and tired!!!
Fourth of July here is the UK was an experience for sure. It was weird not hearing fireworks and no smell of bbq; just the smell of burger king, and that is so not the same!
To get into the Fourth of July spirit we decided to hit up a few pubs to see what the night would bring us. We found some students from Indiana, yay, and then we headed off to the Turf Tavern. As we walk down the alleys to get to Turf I spot a girl draped in an American Flag!! It was awesome I didn't feel like the only one that wanted to celebrate!
And to top off my Fourth of July we sang our national anthem down the street from Kings Arms to Cornmarket! Oh the stares we got from all the British, I didn't mind one bit.
That same day in class we talked about Blasted. I have written a blog about blasted but some interesting points were mention in class I thought I would write down.
 -The play blasted was about basic social bonds and the way Ian acts towards Cate isn’t very polite.
-All three of the plays we have read so far are reaching towards religion as a solution but don’t even give an actual solution
-Each play so far is reaching for a solution but never really spells one out.
-The plays give off a since that government doesn’t really matter and that government isn’t a solution.
-Each play asks the question what is moral?
-Blasted had this interesting ending to each scene and that was spring rain, summer rain, autumn rain, and then heavy winter rain. You could think of that as melancholy or tears. This is a sad play or the rain at the end of each scene is supposed to give you that feeling of sadness.
-The war in the play Blasted was the Yugoslav Wars. This was a series of wars in the 1991-1995. 
-There was a flood of Yugoslav refugees to the UK in 1992.
-Cate doesn’t relate having sex and a relationship together. Ian thinks having sex is having a relationship. Cate believes a relationship is more than just sex.
-In-yer-face how local and global consumerism co-exist
-In this play you get a since of how the elite travel and how they aren’t tied down by place.
-Cate was amazed by the classiness of the hotel and she has a lack of money awareness
-Ian is money absorbed and shows off this money right at the beginning, fancy hotel, Champaign, and drinking bar gin (not necessary cheap)
-Ian is arrogant and he uses slang and then expected the hotel staff to speak the Queens English.
-The boundaries we try to keep between polite and women don’t always work.
-In the end of the play money blinded Ian. (Literality and mentally)
-When the hotel ended up in a war zone Ian lost everything. Ian couldn’t see clearly before and after he got his eyeballs sucked out he was still blinded
-Human actions- At the end of the play what are humans willing to do to survive.  
Lady in the van isn’t quiet an In-yer-face play but it is over the top. You have Alan picking human poop off a garbage can and you keep hearing about how the Lady stinks. This is not a polite conversation that you would typically use in day to day conversation. In this play you have the theme of keeping the homeless moving. The people shouldn’t have to look at the homeless so the city tries to keep them moving or hidden. They are people to and they are struggling; the government should try to help them not hide them and pretend like they don’t exist.      
Just like in blasted, you heard the birds chirping in between scenes in this play. This to me was a calming effect and pleasant, but they play was about a homeless lady so I think the birds chirping were to lighten the mood of the play.
The play did have some good British humor, I just laughed when everyone else did!
You also wonder what the relationship between Alan and the Lady is. It’s not just an ordinary relationship; he is helping someone without asking for money. The Lady dies and leaves money in her van but Alan doesn’t take it. It tells you how greedy society is and how selfless Alan is. He also took care of The Lady and his own mother sacrificing his own social life.
I think going to see Lady in The Van was a great experience, we have been reading a lot of British plays so it was nice to go see one for a change!
After watching THE LADY IN THE VAN

This has been my favorite museum here in Oxford, UK so far. All the objects in the Pitt-River Museum were random and full of many objects from different cultures.
The Pitt Rivers Museum was founded in 1884 when Lt.-General Pitt Rivers, an influential figure in the development of archaeology and evolutionary anthropology, gave his collection to the University. His two conditions were that a museum was built to house it and that someone should be appointed to lecture in anthropology.”
"The Museum displays archaeological and ethnographic objects from all parts of the world. The General's founding gift contained more than 18,000 objects but there are now over half a million. Many were donated by early anthropologists and explorers. The extensive photographic and sound archives contain early records of great importance."
Just to name a few the museum contained an Egyptian cat, parrot fish lamp, pottery water jug, lawkanat, shrunken heads, baskets, Mongolian temple, peacock fiddle, kevaro house ornaments, Hawaiian cloak, funerary boat, huge totem pole, sailing chart, moccasins, Egyptian mummy, crocodile mask, figure of Queen Victoria, carved stool, carved drinking horn, pipes, magical items, breast implants, tattoos, baby carrier, war clubs, Japanese armour, and so much more!!!!!

Even though Pitt Rivers probably only wanted to build a museum and show case his findings to educate people, museums like this come with controversies.
You have the fact that these objects belonged to someone or a group of people and it is a part of their culture and they could want it back because technically they own it.
You also might have people disagree with the displacing of certain objects; some objects to cultures are sacred and shouldn’t be put on display.
Then you have the question if something displayed in the museum is actually real. We came across a sealed silver jar in the magic section that was given to the museum under strict orders not to be opened. It couldn’t be opened because if it was bad things would happen. Supposedly the jar has never been opened, according to the tour guide, but it was x-rayed and it does contain something inside. You don’t know if they really opened it or not, I mean if someone gave me something and told me not to open it, the first thing I would do is open it!!
There was also a display called the shrunken heads from South American, and Peru/Ecuador. These heads were collected between 1871 and 1936. There was such a demand from private collectors and museums that sometimes the heads of sloths and monkeys were substituted for human head. This tells you right there if they were willing to replace heads from monkeys, for all we know they could all be fake.
But over all real or fake, ethical or not, I really enjoyed this museum. You didn’t know what you were going to find around the corner and everything was grouped by like item I enjoyed that very much!!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Weekend trip to Cardiff, Wales

I was doing so well, even blogging twice a day, but that was at the EF international housing center about 10 minutes outside of Oxford City Center and now that I am in the heart of Ox and stay at Jesus College I have just been out exploring 24/7!

I am now in the blogging mood and have so MUCH to blog about that I don't want to forget!
Last weekend I adventured outside of Oxford with some great friends from my class to check out Cardiff, Wales.
As we arrived outside the Cardiff Train Station, I was a bit blow away and a bit sceptical at this point. It was dirty, run down, and all I could think of was OHHH NO WHAT DID I GET MYSELF INTO!?!

But turns out Cardiff, Wales is the Las Vegas of the USA. The people didn't hold back if they want to dress up in costumes or sing obnoxiously in the street with all his friends at 10 am!
Cardiff, Wales was not so bad, besides getting bite by what I hope was not a poison spider my adventure to Cardiff, Wales was more than I could hope for. We stayed in a hostel called nomad (awesome name I know right) it was a backpackers inn. Which was in a scary area of town, but the people running the place were very friendly and showed us the best places to visit, including the Cardiff Castle, only a ten minute walk away!!! Just ten minutes from the nomad we were right in the heart of the city center of Cardiff. There was shopping, pubs, cafes, and even clubs.

Behind Kaitlin and Jenna is the Cardiff Castle, I was so excited to see my first castle in the UK!

Friday July 1st after going to lunch at a pub we went back to the hostel to get ready for the night. We all got cleaned up and hit the town. I believe its imprtant to also explore the night life of ones city, it gives you a since of there culture :)
We learned how care free there culture is compared to Oxford, Oxford is a prestigious area full of some of the best colleges in the world. Cardiff is a bite more relaxed and there night life showed us that.
The next morning we got up and decided we wanted to do some tourist things around the city. We decided we wanted to see Cardiff Castle and Cardiff Bay.

This would most likely be the look out tower and the building they lived in below:

This is me at the Cardiff Castle, with the dragon, which is there symbol that seems to be everywhere!
After taking an hour tour inside the castle we all wanted to go down to the Cardiff Bay. We got lucky on are weekend to Cardiff because it was about 70 degrees out both days! The bay was the perfect place to go on a warm sunny day. The bay area was buzzing with people and all the bars were packed with people. We picked a nice resturant looking out into the bay.
Even though I could have stayed at Cardiff Bay all day, there wasn't really a beach to lay around on so if was back to the hotel for me to catch up on some much needed sleep.
The next morning we checkout one more tourist attraction before heading to the train station. This was a muesum of natural history in the City Center of Cardiff. It was a free muesum which is always nice.
It was full of history on Wales and other different artifacts. There was also an art gallery showing different pictures of kings and queens of different British times.
We went to one more pub, which seems like the most practicle place to get lunch, and then we headed back to the train station.
And so it was Goodbye Cardiff, Wales and home sweet home Oxford.
What an adventure, I got out of my comfort zone of Oxford and went and explored what else the UK had to offer. It was a fun experience and I can't wait to be headed to PARIS this weekend!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sarah Kane's Blasted Review!

Before I forget all my thoughts about this play I am going to blog about Blast by Sara Kane and save my blog about the adventures of Cardiff, Wale for tomorrow!
Yet another vulgar play by a British writer in the 1900's. I don't really understand why this is the recurring theme?
I do believe, though, behind all the vulgar in this play there is that since of hope. I was hoping that eventually Cate would get away from Ian's abuse and leave the hotel. I also had hope that Ian would change his vulgar ways so Cate and Ian could be together because in different scenes you do get a since that they once or still do love each other.
Even in a moment of unfathomable violence, like the war going on outside in scene four and five, people can give each other the gift of survival.
It was mentioned in the story that the hotel was so expensive it could be anywhere in the world. And then the hotel in the fourth scene ended up in the middle of a war zone. I feel like Sarah was trying to express that no matter how much money you have, your life could still resemble a broken and beaten theme like a war zone.
Ian could have all the money in the world  but it doesn't mean his life is great and it doesn't mean he is capable of happiness and love.
The war I believe brings Cate and Ian together. It makes Ian relieve all the messed up things he had done to Cate and I believe how close he was to death made him appreciate Cate.
The writer, Sarah Kane, gives Ian what he had coming to him. He is subjected to rape by the soldier and then he gets his eye balls sucked out.
At the end of the play the characters scrape a life out of the ruins. Ian turns to being vulgar and eats the dead baby in the room to survive. Cate has sex for food, we know that through out the story she isn't completely innocent, and knows how to be resourceful to live.
In the end Ian dies and then is brought back to life, not really sure what that was about? Cate coming back with food and even sharing it with Ian after all the horrible things he did to her, shows that she does truly love him and that she has a very kind heart
Cate provides the feminist role in order to show, first the mechanisms of the stereotypical gender relations in a patriarchy as they inhabit Ian, and second, the way sexual violence and war mirror these same gender dynamics by exposing or posting the weakness of the victims in order to negate weakness and flexibility in the victimizer.
Overall I enjoyed this play by Sarah Kane it was a very in-yer-face play!
A Preview: Cardiff Castle!! AMAZING!! :)