Sunday, December 18, 2011

L'esprit du temps des fêtes

Ah, décembre. Le mois synonyme avec neige, mauvais temps et magasinage de cadeaux à la dernière minute. (Et habituellement aussi stress des examens, mais Dieu merci j'en suis épargnée cette année!) Personnellement, je ne suis pas super fan du temps des fêtes: les décorations omniprésentes me tapent sur les nerfs depuis le mois de novembre et les magasins sont bondés comme pas possible. Cela étant dit, mon petit coeur sentimental se réchauffe quand même assez facilement lorsque confronté à d'authentiques moments d'esprit de Noël. Comme par exemple...

Une soirée "Carols on the Stairs" organisée par mon Collège, où ils ont servi du vin chaud et des mince pies (petites tartelettes sucrées -- et que j'ai toujours cru seraient plutôt salées...). Ceux-ci furent suivis d'un petit concert par la chorale du Collège, avec un mélange de chansons de Noël, des chants traditionnels que le public pouvait chanter en choeur (les paroles étaient fournies), de même que des lectures de poèmes. J'ai trouvé le tout extrêmement charmant et réconfortant.

Effectivement, les chants ont eu lieu juste à côté des escaliers..

Plusieurs musées dans la ville avaient aussi organisé quoi de spécial en vue du temps des fêtes. Le Pitt Rivers Museum, un musée anthropo-archéologique,  a monté un spectacle de lumière et une visite spéciale de ses collections à la lueur de lampe de poche, accompagnée de musiques du monde:

Jeux de lumière projetés sur la plafond du musée

Les collections du Pitt Rivers Museum.

Plus qu'une semaine avant le jour de Noël -- comme le temps a passé vite! Cette année sera la première fois que je ne célèbre pas les fêtes avec ma famille à Montréal. Plutôt, j'ai décidé de rester à Oxford, question de faire de la lecture et de rattraper 2,500 ans de philosophie (bon, cela en était mon très honorable intention, mais en réalité je suis plutôt apathique ces jours-ci...). Je passerai par contre une semaine à Stockholm, du 23 au 30 décembre, chez mon amie S et sa famille super accueillante. Mon premier Noël suédois et retrouvailles avec mes amours fika et gastronomie scandinave...hmm, j'ai hâte!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The ABC of Oddities: 'A' is for All Souls

(Hello hello! Remember how I said I might be an ABC of Oxfordian oddities? Well, here is the first entry from that series. One down, hopefully twenty-five more to come!)

All Souls College is famous for being: a) drop-dead gorgeous; b) the richest of the Oxford colleges; and c) not having a single student. That's right, not a single student! Instead, all of its members are fellows of the College (which admittedly includes some graduate students who are research fellows, but usually professors and lecturers).

The Rad Cam overlooking All Souls' main quad.

The North Wall of the main squad. This entire side houses the college's
(gorgeous, envy-inspiring, need-permission-from-a-Fellow) library.

I first wrote about All Souls when I went there for a Jurisprudence seminar in Week 1. Since then, I have been back...well, weekly for the duration of the Michaelmas Term, since I had my "Law and the State" seminar there every Friday from 5 to 7pm. Said seminars took place in the rather intimidating Wharton room (as if Jurisprudence classes by themselves weren't intimidating enough). With its green felt-covered wooden table, paintings, chandeliers and bookshelves, the room is more wartime-conference room than classroom:

The Wharton Room, All Souls College


Two Saturdays ago, a bunch of us attended the very last bop (ie. big old party) of the semester, organised by the same people who did HallowQueen, namely St-Anthony`s College. The theme of the evening? Soviet Santa. Yes, you read that right. Spread some holiday cheer...with a touch of hammer and sickle! Think Marx meets Santa Clause (it's the beard, I tell you), Rudolf meets Sputnik, or in our case...elves meet the proletariat:

Elves (plus one reindeer) on strike. Look at our angry faces and sign!

Okay, we can be nice as well. Something about asking nicely?

We met up before the party at K's place for an elvish potluck and a sign-making session. I am ridiculously proud  of our protest signs. You can click on the pictures above to see the bigger versions, but in case it isn't legible, let me regale you with some of the brilliance that we came up with that night:
"Stop Elf-Ploitation" 
"No Work 4 Candy Canes" 
"Stop the Sleigh-Driving"
"Santa = the 1%" (plus mandatory #occupynorthpole tag)
"Santa's Workshop = Santa's Sweatshop"
"End Elf-Trafficking" 

...and much much more. My comrades and I had a grand time making those signs. The fact that we looked like a big ol' family making crafts whilst waiting for Santa and turkey was an unexpected bonus:

Straight out of a Christmas special TV movie, no?

We ended the night dancing away to Rasputin and walking back from St-Anthony's singing carols and Disney songs. Not bad for a bunch of striking elves!

(Picture credit: Taken from K's delightful "Christmas, crafts and the proletariat" album on FB)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Masquerade Ball

(Catch-up time! I meant to post this before I left for Fuerteventura, but got sidetracked by errands. I've actually got quite a few posts lined up for the next days -- exciting!)

On a Thursday a few weeks ago, a few of my friends went to a Masquerade Ball that had been organized for American Thanksgiving. (A Canadian celebrating an American holiday in England with an Venetian-themed party? Pourquoi pas?) It was held in the beautiful church of St-Aldate's (where I had an International Student Welcome Dinner the first week), and I think that they did a great job of decorating the place: 

Dinners and balls and Church services...who knew that 800
year-old buildings could be this versatile!

The view from the other side. They even managed to get
a real gondola in there!

I will also mention that a few wardrobe crises were had right before this event. I had been warned to bring a lot of dresses to Oxford, but clearly I will still run out of formal wear before the end of the year! And also I could not believe the line that day at the costume shop for buying a mask...

My friend J and I. Yes, together we are Jay-Z.

Last-minute wardrobe crises notwithstanding, I think we all look pretty spiffy!

Since the event took place on the day following Guest Night, I was a bit tired and very grateful (haha) indeed for the delicious Thanksgiving meal that they served. Nothing like turkey and pecan pie to make one feel at home...even if it is served a month late by Canadian standards!

Quelle forte aventure!

I've been back -for a few days now- from my wonderful vacation to Fuerteventura, in the Canary Islands. My friend M (the same one who celebrated her birthday with a 20's theme) and I wanted a few days of sun, sea and Spanish food to get away from the Oxford stress and English weather. We got exactly what we wanted and couldn't have been happier. 

(A tip for future travelers though: Rent a car to get around, or else you'll walk around for hours in the dark looking for the hostel and be then left to the mercy of buses -- or guaguas, as they call them on the island!) 

We went, we breathed in the fresh ocean air and got slightly sunburned.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Bollywood Guest Night

Je réalise que mon blog donne peut-être la (très) erronnée impression que nous faisons rien que faire la fête et aller à des dinner parties, mais je vous jure que nous travaillons très très fort le reste du temps. Après tout, vous ne voulez quand même pas voir entrée après entrée sur les heures que j'ai passé à lire dans la bibliothèque, n'est-ce pas?

C'est ça. Il y a quelques jours, notre collège a eu son trimestriel Guest Night. Bref, c'est un peu comme un formal dinner, mais avec un thème et des invités hors-collège. Cette session, le thème fut: BOLLYWOOD. (En d'autres mots, le seul magasin indien du coin a fait fortune sur nous.) Certains de mes amis se sont procurés d'authentiques saris et tuniques. D'autres, comme moi-même, avons décidé d'être créatifs avec ce que nous avions déjà. Dans tous les cas, les résultats furent assez jolis, je trouve:

Nos habits/costumes super colorés.

J'ai aussi beaucoup aimé l'effort mis dans la décoration de la salle où nous avons eu nos second desserts (habituellement porto et fromage, mais cette fois-ci cocktails et desserts indiens):

C'est joli comme ambiance, non? 

Sur ce je vous laisse à propos du Guest Night. Je dois aller faire quelques courses pour mon voyage de demain (aux îles Canaries, ouaaaais!!!) et je voudrais aussi écrire une entrée sur le Bal Masqué qui a aussi eu lieu la semaine dernière. Pour les curieux, mon costume «Bollywood» consiste en une très grande écharpe rose, un collier sur mon front et 2394234 épingles à cheveux tenant le tout ensemble.

Photo credit: Tati, si estas leyendo eso, graciiaass!!

Friday, December 2, 2011

London Calling

Last Saturday, my friends S and L and I took a day trip to London. It was my first time in London proper, which is kind of shameful seeing how I've been living in the UK for 2 months now. (I had been physically in London before and taken the Tube many times to get to various train stations, but actually visited the city. I know I know.)

(Reminder:every picture posted can be clicked for a bigger version!)

Getting out of Oxford for the day was relaxing beyond imagination. I honestly had no idea that I was under so much stress! As we walked across Green Park I could feel the tension melting off my back....aaaaah.
Across Green Park lies...the Queen! Well, if she's in Buckingham Palace, that is. 

The highlight of our trip was an excursion to Borough Market, which is: a) huge; and b) FULL OF SO MANY DELICIOUS FOODS. (No pictures I'm afraid, I was too busy eating.) I also managed to run into a friend of mine who is studying in London and whom I hadn't told that I was coming to town. I figured, hey, it's a huge city, what are the odds of running into her? (Pretty damn good, actually. Her first words after spotting me? "You!! You didn't tell me you were coming to London!!!" Oops.)

Behold, a food mecca. I walked around with an insane grin for the rest of the day.

London had an interesting vibe. It screamed "big city!" and "international", yet there are barely any tall buildings and it's not very crowded. (That might just be the Asian-North American metropolis bias speaking, though.) And I think that it's a sign of having been at Oxford for too long when you start thinking that 300 year-old buildings look so new!

A few more of my favorite shots from that day under the cut: