Monday, July 2, 2012

Cambridge At Last

So last time I updated, there were a lot of pictures and talking about a journal (that I'm sure no one really cares about), and not a lot of my feelings about the place. And there is a lot to speak to, so I apologize in advance that this post will not be brief.

In case you did care, I found a very nice journal at the Covent Garden market, by a young man whose brother makes them in Turkey. It has a charm on the front, and very nice, smooth blank pages. I am very excited, and couldn't wait to sit down and write in this new one when I bought it a few days ago. This was my first entry:

I write this from a garden, next to Westminster Abbey, that rings with the echoes of Big Ben's last announcement. A child laughs into the grass beside me, and then promptly falls into it, simply reveling in the aliveness of it all. I don't blame her. 

The pictures of Big Ben never show how much it glistens. Gold reflects off its surface. I didn't realize just how much I considered the clock to be the symbol of "I did it," until I turned the corner, and there it was. Beautiful, majestic, hard-working, and constant. Surrounding me, there is grass. I have seen it as green before, but never felt it so soft. A bumblebee sits beside me in the shade of a leaf. We share a laugh about my utter amazement at the place, and then he leaves, his break over.

The day was just so gorgeous. I can't begin to talk about the blueness of the sky or the freshness of the breezes without first citing the works of other great authors. It is, truly, one of the most beautiful places in the world. I am eternally grateful that I've gotten to see it.

Things were not all wonderful, however, and that is the sad truth. That evening, there was a huge party of some kind at the bar below the hostel, and the bass bled upstairs to us travelers trying to sleep. I realized as I tried to find sleep among all the noise just how miserable I was there. There wasn't a place for me to brew any tea, which is a surprising stress reliever I've developed. No place to write postcards to friends and family, no place to journal while at the place I sleep. And did I mention they tried to kick me out of my bed at one in the morning? Something about my bed was changed and wasn't I made aware? I told them pretty sternly no of course, and they didn't ask again. Which was weird.

In any case, I was glad to check out the next morning, even though it meant lugging around 50+ pounds of luggage for the next few hours. It's surprisingly easy in London, though. I took the national rail from New Cross to the London Underground, which eventually brought me to King's Cross. While I failed miserably to take a picture of Platform 9 (or the unofficial 9 3/4 they've put up), I did manage to get to the train rather quickly.

The countryside... I never wanted that train ride to end. For one, it was every bit as picturesque as you see in the movies, and for another... I realized I was scared. Logistically, I had no idea where I needed to be next, and had no internet access to find out. And then of course, there's the programme itself. I am ever afraid when it comes to making friends, though I seem to do all right in the end. But back to the sky--it is impossibly blue. As if the blue feeds from how green the earth is. And though the green goes on forever, you continue to hunger for it, especially as a desert-bred lizard like me.

I came to the station, took out my cumbersome luggage, and waited in line for about twenty minutes while storms formed dramatically overhead. I let the taxi cab driver know about where I needed to go (Trinity Hall College), and he took the circuitous route there of course. To be fair, it only about 7 pounds. But still.

I'm going to make the next bit brief, because it included a good deal of waiting, small-talking with the porters, and eventually making it to my room.

It could not be more beautiful. I have seven separate window panes which open to the street, from which I can see another set of rooms directly across from mine. To the west, the sun set lazily, like even he did not want this first day to come to an end. To the east lay the college. I have a sink in my room, and two mirrors. Two chairs. A couch. A wardrobe, a desk, a night table, and two bookshelves. The light is a Chinese lantern  hanging in the center of this enormous room. I might have cried when I saw it, considering how cramped quarters were at the hostel.

After checking in, I made my way to King's College, for a brief orientation and then dinner. I walked past buildings made of stone that have been here since before America won independence. Not all the roads are cobblestone like I had half-hoped, but they are still impressive. Clouds loom overhead pretty much as a given, and the rain is constant. It is light, though, and umbrellas are only necessary if you're bothered by it hitting your face at irregular intervals.

I got to the main courtyard of King's College, and walked in past porters in long black robes. Many of the buildings are open to the public, and many are not. Many of those which are not... are open to us.

The main courtyard... God, the size of it is fantastic. You have no idea what it's like to be dwarfed by these grand buildings until you're there. Seeing the pictures is one thing, but to watch the spires change in depth as you walk by them is another entirely. The grass is so green you're afraid to look away for fear it will disappear, just like this one, perfect moment. The green bit of the grounds is even bigger than I imagined, and untouched save for the feet of those holding a Ph.D. Clouds stare down absently, and you wonder if they see you among the other beautiful scenery which surrounds you. Every stone whispers of a time soaked in majesty and antiquity. Kings, queens, Nobel Prize winners and other Greats have set their feet upon this ground. And here you are, somehow lucky enough to set your footprints beside theirs.

The day was not particularly long after that, but it certainly felt like it. I made friends quicker than I'd anticipated, and a few of us went to a nearby pub to watch the Italy v Spain game. I left before it was done, but Spain won, 4-0.

This morning, we had orientation at the Cambridge Union Society, which was a society created in 1815 to allow students free speech and debate, set apart from the University. It has a long history of fantastic speakers and thinkers, and some very controversial ones as well. Different men and women introduced themselves to us while we sat in comfy leather chairs and let us know who we contacted for different needs. We met the Lay Dean (aka Dean of Discipline, who's also a Fellow of Stalin's Russia), the Dean of Chapel, head of the King's College porters (they are all quite lovely, and only drink tea, so I hope to stop by and bring them all a brew at some point), head of catering, IT, Academics, the Bursar... so many people who welcomed us completely.

I learned that this is only the second year the programme has been open to non-Ivy League students. I am even more honored to be here.

This is a very long post, and I'm so sorry. I've gone on long enough. Feel free to ask questions, I guess, if I've left anything important out. 

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