Finally: a post about my third term here at Ox. It’s already seventh week and things are feeling pretty real- I fly home to America next Sunday. NEXT.SUNDAY. Holy God, I’m going to be an emotional wreck. But anyways- don’t want to dwell on the utterly depressing fact that I’m leaving in 11 days. Let’s recap the AWESOMENESS that has been the past seven weeks. Except for the atrocious weather (I’m talkin’ freezing rain. Like full-blown heat is necessary. Also raining so hard that my clothes need to be wrung out after a bike ride), it’s been lovely.
1. The term started off in 0th week with a Bop (themed dance in the JCR) – this time it was ’80s themed. YES. I so secretly wish I was born in the ’80s. The Bop called my name. Side ponytail, bright blue eye make-up, neon pink lightening bolt earrings, leopard tank, a skirt with patterned tights, fish net gloves… the whole she-bang (as you can see pictured on the right- there I am with second-year, Imy. Her outfit shows some pretty good ’80s dedication). I can’t believe it was my last Bop of the year. Alas- a Bop well spent.
2. So May Day happened. I’m an idiot and when I first heard about May Day I thought it was England’s way of celebrating some sort of war event… you know… “MAYDAYMAYDAYMAYDAY!” Wrong. It actually falls on the first of May every year and marks the beginning of the spring/ summer season! Most Oxford kids go clubbing the entire night until they watch carolers sing from the top of Magdalen Tower at 6 AM. Me raging all night long was not going to happen. I was a sleepy girl so I opted for the early morning wake-up call instead. We all piled out of Dale at around 5:30 in the morning and despite the pouring rain and clutter of umbrellas (oh and all the very drunk people in bedraggled outfits holding beers), we got to listen to some beautiful caroling! And I felt like I got to be a part of a cool tradition.
3. On May 6th me and a bunch of Mansfielders got to partake in OxHoli which was AMAZING. Oxford does their own rendition of the Indian tradition- it’s basically a massive, outdoor paint-throwing party. You wear all white, buy paint powder mix for a pound each, mix it with water, and DUMP it on people. You run around the grass, chase each other, and smear paint everywhere. It is every child’s fantasy. I haven’t had that much unabandoned fun in a really long time. I had paint everywhere. Not only was it soaked through to my underwear but I legitimately q-tipped paint out of my ears after my shower. Speaking of which- I had to wash my hair vigorously twice to get it all out. And it’s kind of concerning when you step under the shower and red water goes down the drain, not gonna lie. I then had to literally scrub my body with a bar of soap to get it off my skin. And even after my 45 minute shower, there was some left. But it was SO worth it. It also chose not to rain that day so I was a very happy camper. Enjoy the pics!
Ashley, me, Kelly, Sheila and Sophia after the paint madness!
4. May 12th was the day I went to a real Oxford Ball. So amazing. The tix were about 85 pounds a pop but SO unbelievably worth it. A bunch of us decided to go but tickets sold out fast for St. Hugh’s Ball. Originally, Kelly and Sophia didn’t get a ticket so it was going to be me with a bunch of Mansfield Brits- which I would’ve loved but I felt bad that my JYA gals wouldn’t get a chance to go. A Mansfielder sold her ticket to Kelly so then it was up to Sophia to scrounge three tickets for herself, her boyfriend, and Kelly’s boyfriend. Luckily, I stalked the St. Hugh’s Ball Facebook page and spotted a guy trying to sell tix. PROBLEM SOLVED. Everyone got to go and it was absolutely wonderful. We all got into our floor-length dresses and showed up at Mansfield to take pictures on the quad. I gotta tell ya- sometimes I really feel like someone up there is listening to me. The weather, as I mentioned before, has been truly miserable this term. Each day it rained, I told myself it would be fine if it meant that we could get sun for the ball. And we did. Great weather for a great night; we showed up at the ball and it was an absolute spectacle. Dozens of tents covered St. Hugh’s expansive lawn (check out the inside of a tent in the pic just above!) We were greeted with champagne and hors d’oeurves. There were a bunch of food tents, including fajitas, bangers and mash, ice cream, roasted pork, cotton candy, sushi, chocolate fountain… I could keep going. The food was endless. There were open bars too but the lines were outrageous for all of them so food quickly became the priority. YUM. There was also a crazy amount to do… there was a silent disco in one tent (you’re given a set of headphones with two channels and you can pick your own taste. So cool), a live band in another, a massive DJ set in the biggest one, a carousel (an actual carousel, people. A CAROUSEL… check out Sophie and me mid-Carousel ride to the right), and a shisha tent. I’m probably forgetting it all because there was so much to do! I never made it to the bumper cars (or “Dodge-’ems” as the Brits call them)… unfortunate, but the line really was too miserable. I spent most of the night dancing and hanging out with some of the best kids in Oxford. Most of us were troopers and made it to the survivor’s breakfast and coffee too- I was there until 3:45 in the morning. Such a success. I will never forget St. Hugh’s Ball… what an absolutely amazing experience. Something you hear about but never think you’ll get to do yourself. Is this real life? But really?
Here are our fancy pics! 🙂
5. Fifth week was maybe the best week I’ve had at Oxford yet. Firstly, the weather was actual summer weather. It was super sunny and in the ’70s-’80s every day. Glorious. But the best part of fifth week was that I got to row in Summer VIIIs. The Friday prior, the Mansfield Women’s Second Boat (W2, also affectionately called “Woooo-Two”) raced the length of the river in hopes of qualifying for the four-day racing championship Wednesday to Saturday of fifth week. Out of 33 crews, we placed 11th! Not shabby! We were so pumped going into Summer VIIIs- we were the first W2 boat to qualify for Mansfield since 2009. Raquel, a fourth year veteran rower, made us all the most amazing t-shirts–in coordinating neon, our shirts said in black, spray-painted, block letters “LOVE ROWING. HATE ERGS” with our name and seat number on the back. These shirts were perfect. We alternated blue/yellow/pink down the boat. We were neon glory. Exhibit A:
Summer VIIIs consists of ‘bumps’ racing. Basically 14 crews start along the bank of a river in a vertical line, equidistant from each other. When the gun shot fires, you all start. The goal is to ‘bump’ the boat in front of you- basically you want to catch up with them. If you do (and sometimes this involves the actual bumping of boats) then their cox concedes by putting their hands in the air and you’re placed higher the next day. If your crew bumps all four days you get a huge honor called ‘blades’. If you get bumped every day… well you get something called ‘spoons’. Yeah, you don’t want spoons. We didn’t get either but I’m thrilled with how we did. The first day we ‘rowed over’ – basically, we went the entire length of the river because we didn’t bump anyone and nobody bumped us either. The second day we got bumped but it was SUPER tight. At one point it was a three boat sandwich; we were in the middle and we were probably only two or three strokes from bumping the other boat when the boat behind us nabbed us first. The third day, we were just up against the odds from the start and got bumped relatively early on but it was to be expected- and we made a valiant effort anyways. But the last day– which is the most exciting and well-attended day in Summer VIIIs– we rowed over again which was a great way to finish. We all felt so accomplished and proud after.
Saturday was one of the best days I’ve spent at Oxford- I got to take part in one of Oxford’s most long-standing traditions by rowing for Mansfield in Summer VIIIs; the weather was perfect so we all went and sat by the river and watched the rest of the races for hours; and we drank Pimms and ate ice cream and enjoyed each other’s company (and celebrated Kelly’s 21st birthday! 🙂 I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday. The day was topped off that night with the fancy, traditional Summer VIIIs dinner held in Mansfield Chapel. Everyone gets dressed up, enjoys an outdoor champagne reception, and then sits down in their assigned tables to a four-course meal. I got to sit at the front of the chapel with the girls in my boat and I had a surreal moment where I looked around and realized I was truly apart of this place. Choosing to row for Mansfield was one of the best decisions I ever made in my experience abroad. Words can’t describe it.
6. I WENT PUNTING! Life goal complete. With the horrendous weather this term I thought it would never happen. But on Sunday of fifth week, me, Ashely, Kar, Sophia, and Kelly tried our first hand at punting. And it is way harder than it looks. You basically have to act as a gondola man and it is TRICKY. I now have a new-found respect for those lovely gents over in Venice. It takes a lot of arm strength because you are using a metal pole to shift direction of the boat, propel it forward, and- on the way back- fight the current. I broke a sweat. And Kelly at one point got caught in a masterful web of the weeping willow tree branches– check out that beaut to the left hahaha. Poor Kel. But it was so cool and something really unique to Oxford. Also, the river is stunning… we got to go under bridges, past quaint houses, through weeping willows, and along the sprawling Christ Church Meadows… Sigh. Slice of heaven.
7. When I was just two days beyond fifteen-years-old, I saw Coldplay play in New York with my friend Tara from high school. Coldplay completely changed my life and my relationship with music. Before I started listening to Coldplay at around thirteen, I hadn’t really developed a taste for music. Most of my childhood was dominated by Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys. As I got older all I ever really purchased were the Now That’s What I Call Music CD’s (embarrassing, but true) … So I basically only listened to the pop top 40 and didn’t really have a conception of what it was like to fall in love with real music. Until I listened to Coldplay. So there I was, a freshman in high school, whose birthday present was getting to go see Coldplay live. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life and I remember tearing up during ‘Fix You’, a Coldplay’s masterpiece. Now, fast forward six years. On Saturday June 2nd, I got to see Coldplay in their home country. I went to the Emirates Stadium (which houses Arsenal football team… 58,000 people fit in it) in London and saw Coldplay perform live. I didn’t think it was possible but the show actually topped the 2006 concert I went to. We were all given neon, light-up wristbands at the beginning of the concert that lit up during the songs and flashed in beat with the music. The entire stadium flashed bright colors. It was absolutely epic and this time, I lost it during ‘Fix You’ and cried my eyes out. I hesitate to say this in fear of the cliche, but its true: it was magical. I’ve truly never experienced anything like it. Chris Martin, the leader singer, said at one point, “We’ve traveled the world, but I tell ya, nothing beats coming home.” The crowd went wild and I did too- because I felt home as well.
Pics below: on the left, big, bouncy balloons were passed throughout the crowd and when popped, showered us with confetti. On the right, you can get a sense of all the neon wristbands lit up in the stadium. So amazing.
Had to blow up this pic and show you guys the magic of this concert. 🙂
Elizabeth Masi '13