Thursday, February 28, 2013-Sunday March 3, 2013: Oxford!

First, let’s catch up.

We left off with a confusing upload of pictures past and how I spent last Wednesday.

Thursday. Don’t remember what I did on Thursday except for my stained glass class. Ah yes. I spent a while making a folder of pictures I’d like to print in hopes of having a more visually exciting workspace. Then I tried booking my accommodations for Cornwall which ended unsuccessfully. At last, it was time to go to City and Guilds for an evening of soldering. I was quite excited because I knew I’d finish my glass map after 7 weeks of work. And I did! Well, basically. I just need to clean it up a bit. And then figure out what to do on the back and how I want to present it/install it. Carey told me that I should consider doing something simple for my next project. I think that’s a great idea. When I got home, I had a celebratory cider and sat on the couch and read for the rest of the evening. Huzzah, yo.

On to Friday. Originally my Shabbos plans were to stay at home and have the one and only Yael/Julia Stern over (IT WILL HAPPEN!), but then the Waxmans (my Beit Shemesh cousins’ grandparents) invited me to join them for a Shabbat in Oxford and as it’s their second to last one before they head back to Israel, I didn’t want to miss that opportunity. But the casting workshop I had been looking forward to was scheduled for that same day and I just want to have it all and was worried that I wouldn’t be able to. Fortunately, I got what I needed out of the casting workshop and had enough time to make it to my train on time. So yes I can have it all in case you were worried. Lovely, scenic ride to Oxford. Spent part of it looking out the window, part of it reading the Joshua Foer book about memory that I thought would be much better than it is. I met up with the Waxmans upon arrival for an enthusiastic reunion and then I was dropped off at the Friedmans, the chaplains for the Jewish students at Oxford. I davened at the Oxford Jewish Synagogue which vaguely resembles the SCC, for all you Brandeisians out there. It was lovely chatting and catching up with the Waxmans at dinner, who I haven’t seen since last Chanukah. After dinner, the Oxford JSoc held elections. An election of this sort would never ever fly with BOO (Brandeis Orthodox Organization), but I think it’s an idea worth considering. “All in favor say I” style. After the elections, everyone headed to the upstairs lounge to hang out and Rabbi Dan (Friedman) introduced me to Jean Valjean* and John Lennon*. Jokes about Les Mis, American accents, and the habits one develops during a year in Israel ensued. After a while, we made our way to Chabad for dessert because that’s what people do around here. At Chabad, I met Esteban* and we talked about wandering, Damien Hirst, and inevitably, the bunny project came up. At some point during a never ending conversation about Spinoza and the implications of religious and civil excommunication we decided it was time to check out.

After many, many kiddush competitions featuring homemade deli roll, challah, kugel, mac & cheese, and chulent by BOO’s best ish and eyshes chayils, I have yet to be a judge at a kiddush competition at Brandeis. Yet, I’m at Oxford for a day and they make me judge for the chulent competition. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong at Brandeis, but RUSSIE, YOU’RE GOING TO CHANGE THAT FOR ME, RIGHT? Thanks.

Needless to say, I ate a lot of chulent. As it should be.

Spent the rest of the day in good company, went to the Ashmolean Museum and Jewish engagement rings from way back when, pretty pottery, and beautifully crafted instruments, including a Stradivarius. Then we walked around various colleges in Oxford. I can’t go back to Brandeis. It’s too ugly. Ahh! Merton College. So lovely. The buildings in Oxford were so….Harry Potter. But also Elizabeth Price Turner Prize winning film-esque, The quatrefoils and trefoils, the stained glass, the pointed arches, the stone, the beautifully manicured quads, the attention to detail in the design of interior rooms and halls that I got to see. Ugh and Brandeis. We made Havdala (ritual to recognize Shabbat’s departure) in beautiful courtyard, rumored to have something to do with the Jewish community in the 13th century? Jean Valjean, did you say that? Did I make that up? After Havdala, we took a detour through Oxford to see Exeter College and the Radcliffe Camera (not a camera) and the Bodleian Library which houses every single book ever published in the UK.

Sunday involved a bit more Oxford University-seeing. I had wanted to see Worcester College but it was closed. I ended up walking through Port Meadow with Jean and John, though Jean had to leave early because his school work was beckoning. Port Meadow is gorgeous. My standard for beautiful sights in England is high (this video: case and point) but this met my expectations. A perfect place to walk for miles. As we did. Then we walked along the Oxford Canal, also lovely. At some point we bumped into Esteban and Robin* and joined them for tea/hot chocolate/afternoon cocktails at some nice cafe. Then the four of us climbed to the top of a tower that has a great view of Oxford and beyond. You know what I’ve realized? Oxford students know hell of lot more about their school than Brandeis students. They can just go on and on about random facts, urban legends, etc that (a) Brandeisians don’t care to know about or tell other people if they do (b) are more interesting than Brandeis.

Walked and walked and walked in and out of stores and markets until about 5:53 when I got on a Paddington-bound train in the nick of time. What a great day!

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the involved individuals

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