Monday, January 16, 2012

Back to the grinding stone*

Remember how I took up fencing at the beginning of last semester? If you're wondering why I never updated about my progress (or lack of),'s because I sort of didn't go to the rest of the sessions. Ahem. Hence why I've joined another Beginners class this semester!

The first session was on Sunday. It felt great (and sweaty, I will never repeat this enough) to get back into action, although I honestly did not miss the smell of shared, sweat-drenched fencing equipment. Even fencing gloves leave the most persistent stale-sweat smell onto your hands. Sorry, a glamourous hobby this is not.

Things I realized during the session:

a) Whatever muscles or reflexes I might have previously acquired...gone. Vanished. Pouf! I think that I might need Remedial Fencing Footwork 101.

b) Most likely due to (a) above, I am now suffering from the strangest and most localized aches and pains (it's Monday as I write this): a nagging pain in my left lower back, sore right leg and hip, aching right shoulder, tense left-side neck. Ow. Maybe I should become ambidextrous to even out the pains?

c) Footwork drills and freestyle bladework will get your heart rate up. You will sweat. A lot. Especially inside your fencing mask. Which means, if you were glasses like me, that they will fog up almost entirely. Which means, logically following, THAT YOU CAN NO LONGER SEE YOUR OPPONENT. Which is of entirely, inherently and generally PROBLEMATIC for a combat sport.

Sure, look cool, you non-spectacled person. AT LEAST YOU CAN SEE.

So in other words, this semester I shall endeavour to: i) not skive off any fencing session, ii) become ambidextrous so that my pains and muscle mass will be evenly distributed on both sides, and iii) get custom-made glasses/miniature windshield-wipers installed inside my fencing mask. Or possibly get contacts.

*But not, like, literally since fencing swords aren't actually meant to cut through anything. Or anyone. Thank God.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

On the other hand...

Despite my wailing about my courseload, there are many many fantastic benefits to living in such an intensely academ---fine, NERDY environment. In the spirit of scholarly shenanigans, themes like Soviet Santa and bad puns such as the name of this blog (yes it's very much intentional!), let me present to you an excerpt from "How Oxford Jurisprudence Student Exchange Holiday Greetings":

Click for bigger

It's official: I have no shame nor regrets when it comes to bad puns. Next step: mastering malapropisms!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Hilary in 3...2...1...

Hilary Term starts this Sunday January 15th. (In case you forgot, Oxford goes by Terms and Weeks; the former being Michaelmas, Hilary and Trinity, and the latter starting on Sundays!). It's been exactly six weeks of nice, quiet and much-needed break since the end of Michaelmas. Part of me is itching to dive back into the insomnia and existential crises-inducing bosom of academia...but most of the time I am dreading the beginning of term and cowering in fear.

The reason why? Well, according to the term's lecture lists and my various syllabi, I should be having EIGHT seminars a week this semester, plus another EIGHT tutorials spread out throughout the weeks. As a standard of comparison, may I point out that during Michaelmas, I had a measly six seminars a week, zero tutorial, and I still felt like bursting into tears of unworthiness and frustration every time I realised how far behind I was. The more you learn, the less you know. And the more you read, the even more readings you have left to do! (I am convinced that reading lists magically grow longer at night, every night.)

All this to say that, oh fee-fi-fo-fum, this upcoming term ought to be an interesting one! And by interesting, I mean it driving me madder than a bat and, oh dear, (finally?) blinder than a mole. (My poor eyesight has never thanked me for my choice of studies. Oops.) Hopefully fencing and yoga will keep my mind sane and endorphin levels high, because otherwise...actually, I really really don't want to know what would happen otherwise. Bah, humbug!

Thank you for reading, and here, have a picture from Matriculation, back when I was young and naive and carefree, merrily skipping down the sunlit Meadows with nary an idea of what the terrible future held...

Ah, the innocence of youth!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Amour londonien

Mes chers amis, j'ai une confession à vous faire: mon coeur capricieux s'est récemment amouraché d'une nouvelle ville, laissant derrière mes anciens flirts Paris, New York et Barcelone. Mon amour récent n'est nul autre que la capitale du monde britannique, située à un peu plus d'une heure d'Oxford et, comme par hasard, lieu des meilleurs soldes de l'année. Mesdames et messieurs, vous l'avez deviné, je suis retournée à Londres.

Au fait j'y suis retournée pas une, mais DEUX fois la semaine dernière! La première fois, mon amie T et moi avions l'intention d'aller faire un tour au Tate Modern, question de se cultiver et de changer d'air. Seulement, nous avons commis une erreur fatale en (ne pas) planifiant notre itinéraire: nous avons débarqué de l'autobus sur Oxford Street -- vous savez, seulement l'avenue de magasinage la plus occupée en Europe -- eh ben...nous y sommes restés. Toute la journée. À faire le tour des soldes. (Non mais vraiment, les soldes étaient incroyables!) Et oui, je suis consciente qu'il y ait une certaine ironie dans le fait que nous sommes partis d'Oxford pour seulement passer la journée entière sur Oxford Street.

Oxford Street et ses décorations festives. 

J'adore le fait que les magasins soient illuminés par toutes sortes de couleur!

La deuxième fois, qui fut exactement deux jours après notre tentative échouée de se rendre à un musée, j'ai refait le trajet londonien avec L et C. Notre destination cette fois-ci? Le British Museum!

Le hall d'entrée du BM. C'est vraiment très très impressionnant et joli!

Le British Museum est bien sûr l'un des musées d'histoire et de culture les plus connus du monde (c'est peut-être même LE plus connu des musées non artistiques), avec un volume époustouflant de collections et des objets incroyables qui font pleurer d'envie les gouvernements égyptiens et grecs. (C'est toute une autre histoire, ça.) Parmi ceux-ci, mentionnons:

La pierre de Rosette. (Non, mais vous vous rendez compte..

Un buste de Ramsès II. (Mais qu'il porte bien ses 3000+ ans!)

Sarcophages de momies durant l'empire greco-égyptien..

Les marbres des frontons du Parthénon. fait, presques tous les marbres du Parthénon, exhibés dans la Galerie Duveen.

Des stèles de donations de terre babyloniens. 

Un de mes préférés, les gigantesques statues de lamassu
de l'Empire Néo-Assyrien.

Plaque votive de Sesuna-Minerve de la Bretagne romaine. beaucoup, beaucoup plus encore! Puisque tous les musées nationaux sont gratuits (merci gouvernement britannique), je pense bien y retourner un jour pour examiner en détail les collections celtiques et médiévales.

Mais pour retourner à nos moutons: pourquoi est-ce que j'adore Londres? Hmm, bonne question. Peut-on vraiment questioner l'amour?? Haha, non, je rigole. J'adore Londres car c'est une métropole internationale, cosmopolite et excitante. Il y a une telle énergie, mais son atmosphère est unique et très...bah, British! C'est aussi une ville qui n'arrête pas de se ré-inventer: dynamique, mariant son côté historique avec ses projets ultra modernes. Cool et classy, cream tea et punk rock. J'ai encore tant de quartiers et de coins à découvrir, mais pour l'instant...London, I love you.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The land of sauna, fika and Ikea

First off:
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year! 
I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season, and may 2012 bring nothing but the best! 

Secondly: SWEDEN was wonderful. I was there for 5 days, visiting my friend S and celebrating the holidays with her family. (S and I met during our exchange semester to Paris earlier this year and I had already visited her this summer. Her family generously extended the invitation to spend Christmas with them after learning that I wouldn't be going back to Canada.)

Hello, again. View on Gamla stan (the Old City) in daylight.

Stockholm in winter remains as wonderful and interesting as ever. I completely fell in love with the city when I first visited it in July (pictures on my FB here), and I continue to find the place fascinating and enjoyable.The weather this year was incredibly mild (easily +4C on most days) and the infamous Nordic darkness didn't bother me nearly as much as I had feared. Sure, there's about 4 hours of daylight and the sun sets around 2:30pm, but compared to the ever-grey Oxford where the sun sets at's really not that bad. The darkness didn't make for a lot of pictures, though. (That, and the fact that I kept forgetting my camera, erm.)

View on Gamla stan and the South harbor in the evening (ie. 5pm).

Overall it was a very quiet and relaxing trip, with both S and I battling colds and residual post-semester fatigue. We spent a lot of time at her parents' house up in the suburb of Akersberga, meeting her extended family and going to the sauna. We also went into Stockholm a few times to hang out with S's friends, some of whom I have met last time and actually remembered me! We also went shopping (hellooooo H&M), saw the Nick Brandt exhibition at the Photography Museum and walked around Gamla stan, taking in the holiday decorations and breathing the fresh Nordic sea air. Aaah.

In the streets of Gamla stan.

S's parents' house in the countryside. You can see how close it is to the lake!

One of my favourite things about Stockholm is its food. Wholesome, delicious and entirely underrated. Also, they have this wonderful thing called fika, which is basically coffee or tea with some cakes or sandwiches to nibble on. It sounds straightforward, but it's a veritable institution in Sweden and: a) their coffee is amazing (Scandinavians are the biggest coffee drinkers in the world), and b) their breads and cakes are fantastic. Aaaah, fikaaaa.

Traditional Swedish Christmas food. There's A LOT of herring involved!

Fika at the Photography Museum: orange juice, latte and cinnamon buns!

We also went back to Hermans, which is a WONDERFUL
vegetarian buffet whose food I dream about weekly.

Other notable events from this trip include: me going to the wrong terminal at Heathrow; my continuing love/hate relationship with S's family cat, Zlatan; slipping on the wooden deck of the sauna after a dip in the icy-cold lake (and getting worried looks from old, naked Swedish ladies); and finally starting to learn the Swedish language the day before I left. Ah, Sverige. I miss you already.