The rain was just starting as I trudged back from the library this morning– not enough to douse me or anything, but just enough for me to get wet sand from the Oxford University Parks between my toes. This environment seemed conducive to pensive thinking, so I tried to come up with some deep thoughts to share with the Northwestern community about Oxford. The only thing that really came to my mind was “Nature is so stupid,” but that was after I spent ten minutes walking around a tree, trying to take a picture of an extremely elusive gray squirrel.
That’s pretty much how time works here in Oxford—I find the hours fading away as I spend most of the day sitting on the same part of the same couch in the same room, reading, reading, reading, writing… maybe some Facebook in there. Oxford literally means the ford of oxen (no, really?!), which doesn’t exactly pay tribute to its rich history of academia and prestige. The ox thing sort of makes sense though, because everything seems to move more slowly here.
Everyone’s days are mostly filled with study of some kind, but not in the boring, mind-numbing way. Reading, drinking tea and frequenting the local pubs make up the population’s daily schedule. In fact, people used to refer to studying any subject as “reading;” this makes sense for people who read C.S. Lewis, but not as much for those who “read mathematics.” The thing is, everyone seems to thoroughly enjoy what they’re doing—and no one here seems to be stressed out.
One of my favorite pastimes is to walk slowly down the pavement (English-English for “sidewalks”) and watch people. I realize that’s pretty creepy, but this way I get to take in the variety of people walking down the streets. The typical Oxfordian is a tall, skinny man with glasses and a long face. He’s wearing a black detective-looking overcoat, and shiny black shoes. He is probably carrying a shoulder bag bursting with thick books about Plato and Shakespeare. But this “typical” man isn’t all that typical. Oxford has this great thing called pedestrian-only streets, where the whole street is colored with different shades of black and grey jackets and jumpers (sweaters).
Here and there I’ll see a pair of bright yellow tights and a zebra-striped handbag, a Mohawk, or jewelry in a place I never thought metal could pierce. It’s terribly strange to see these ultra-modern flairs walking next to a thousand-year-old building—but that’s the word I would use to describe Oxford: paradoxical. The only other words in my mind were “really really cool,” but that would get a frowny face on any College Writing paper, so I’ll wait and write about that part later.