Wait? There is a City out There?

It has been a handful days since my quarantine ended, and I am relieved that I have a new found freedom, despite the limitations of being an international college student with some things yet to figure out (i.e. a bank account, setting up my kitchen, destroying the washer/dryer which is just about the most ineffective appliance on the continent, activating a UK cell phone number, etc.), I am doing pretty well. My plan is to treat college like a job, classes are meetings, assignments are detailed memos or press releases, and staying in my flat is not where I need to hang out, so the common room (see above) or the library (I am yet to book and visit) is where I need to be for “work.”

It is hard to explain what it is like to leave a small flat after fourteen days, but I liken it to jumping into a cold pool after a very, so very long, hot walk on the beach. This is a picture of the first beer I had, at a pub down the street, when I broke quarantine.

Holy Crap

So, St. Cross College, like the 50 plus colleges here at Oxford, are small, self-contained cities. I would guess they are built the way they are because at one point they needed to be (see my post on Facebook about the Carfax Tower). In addition to rooms, meeting spaces, a kitchen, wine cellar, two libraries, walls, a dining hall, offices, passages, courtyards, and hallways; it has a church that was built in the, I believe, 1500s.

I just want you to understand, these are not forbidden spaces, this is not a museum, this is the spot where my fellow college members and I will live and work. That begin said, I celebrate the moment my pass-key opens up the door and I can walk in. I also laugh inside when things get too outrageous. For example, when the person next to me, this actually happened at lunch, looked at his knife and asked the table if he had a fish knife or a butter knife to cut his lamb moussaka.

Excuse me!

About once a day I find myself in a strange or surprising situation. On Wednesday I went to the store to buy a travel mug and was met at the door by a security guard, masked up, by a stack of shopping baskets. This was our conversation:

HIM: Good morning.

ME: Good morning.

HIM: Are you a bastard?

ME: Excuse me!

HIM: Are you a bastard? (As he pointed to the baskets.)

ME: (Pausing) Oh, no thank you, I don’t need a basket.

Thanks to his heavy accent and his mask, I thought he said bastard, in actuality, he was asking me if I was interested in taking a basket for my shopping trip. HA!

The Things Cameron Has Seen Waking Around

A column down my street, I love the ivy.

A snap steps from the Edmond Halley house.

A cool drain pipe.

The Ashmolean Museum.

The building where I will be able to book access to research.

This is the hotel across from the Ashmolean Museum, by the way I was there this week to see an exhibit of Rembrandt’s early paintings and drawings. It was good, but not quite my “cup of tea”. I respect the works and loved the wrinkled faces of his subjects. If you look closely, the room is full of pillows — PILLOW FIGHT!

The Sheldonian Theater, designed by Christopher Wren.

Boats and brave students punting.

Oxford’s covered market.

Center city, just by the Carfax tower.

This is my street.

A peek into a random college courtyard.

The legend is that this door inspired C.S. Lewis to write the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Stores and apartments on the way home from college on Cowley Road.

Matriculation

For those of you who know me, and if we were not in a pandemic, I would be at the ceremony in full sub fusc (academic dress), but I had to attend virtually. It was nice to watch and to be formally inducted into the University of Oxford. Here I am trying on my gear — my jawn — before I put it to use at my welcome dinner next week. Yes, I will wear this and a black suit, white shirt, and a white bow tie (it will be tied by hand). This weekend many colleges are doing their welcome events and I hardly got down the street without seeing a chap with a clip on bow tie, white socks, all his jacket buttons buttoned, not a stitch of clothing ironed, or a blue jacket with black pants. I swear I’m surrounded by heathens, HA!

I Think I Figured It Out, It May Not Be A Typo

I have joked, saying that a typo brought me to Oxford, but I think my Tobias Lear research (see CameronKline.net) was what put me over the top. In my first Zoom meeting with my thesis adviser, a globally recognized Thomas Jefferson scholar, he asked me about my research after a few seconds of chatting. As an aside, I have a college adviser too, he was an ambassador from the United Kingdom to the Sudan and the UAE, WTF! Who knew a random dart in the dark hit the bulls eye. I still have trouble processing the tectonic changes in my life these past six months and the fact that I am in a master’s program at one of the world’s top universities is humbling.

Now, I know I have been posting fun moments, new events and experiences, and engaging pictures; but understand that for every one of those, there is the inverse. There is the longing to be with my family; there is the loss of the life I gave up; I don’t own a home or furniture other than a desk and a chair back in Illinois; there was the end of a 20 year career; I have no friends here in Oxford yet and I know many Philly friends and beyond will fall way; I no longer have any civic or governmental connections or influence; my relationship with my family and friends are exponentially strained; and there has been a whole host of other sacrifices. I liken my situation to a riverboat gambler who has just pushed all his chips, all he has, into the center of the table with hopes that the river will give him something to work with.

In all honesty, I do not feel that I am worthy of this honor, but I was given a gift, and I will do my very best — to the marrow in my bones — to repay the universe, improve lives, and honor those loving souls who are rooting for me. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for the wind in my sails and making me feel alive again.