Sunday, August 28, 2011

Week 6 -- My birthday and riots

Monday—I had class at 2 so I spent the morning preparing for it. I think I had to so some reading of the people in the class, and such and so forth.

Tuesday—My birthday! It was a really fun day, mostly thanks to Amelia. She was kind enough to take me and Cherry down to Grandchester, which is this little village down south of Cambridge. You would not believe how beautiful it is. It is really the perfect little place—thatched roofs of white walled cottages, overgrown with climbing roses all in full bloom, beautiful little country lanes which lead off to fallow fields full of seagulls, an old church with a tall spire and a gray-stone graveyard, and, finally, the little place called “The Orchards” which was our destination. It is a small tea-house which is quite famous throughout England as the place that Rupert Brooke, the author, liked to spend his time and take his tea every day for several years. He even wrote a rather long and ambling poem about the orchards of Granchester. Virginia Woolf, Alfred Keynes, Tennyson, and other such people also spent a good deal of time there.
This is a special place because you don’t eat inside, mostly, though you can when it rains, but rather you eat under the shade of the apple trees at little reclined cloth chairs around old wooden tables. The Cam river runs behind it, and there are various little nooks and sheltered places you can sit where you’re largely out of sight of everyone else and can have just that little bit of peace to yourself. We bought scones. I got a salad, and Amelia and Cherry a BLT. I also had a ginger beer which was quite good. We sat outside for a minute until the bees realized we were there, and Cherry and Amelia had lemonade. Cherry has a fear of bees, so it wasn’t long until she was screaming and waving her arms, and we were moving inside behind glass doors. We were there for less time than I would have liked, particularly considering how incredibly delicious the scones were, but I had to get to a class. So we took a taxi so we wouldn’t have to repeat the long 2-mile walk there although I wouldn’t have minded. Though the walk was along a hedged road and had no real sidewalk to speak of, making us have to strain to hear cars and become quite adept at leaping back into bushes, it was a beautiful day and quite a perfect time for a walk through the countryside. It is amazing how quickly the buildings of Cambridge disappear, replaced by acres and acres of farmland and fields. There were the occasional large home and cottage, but not much else except vivid blue sky and us singing hymns in terrible harmony until we got to Granchester.
I spoke with the taxi man as he drove us back. He told us that he guessed we were American because American’s are always nice, unlike English people. This happened again yesterday, same scenario, but different driver.
When we returned to Cambridge I rushed to class only to find I had an hour before it began and had simply misread our ridiculously confusing color coded schedule. I really get paranoid about that schedule and check it multiple times a day just to make sure I haven’t missed anything because things are so easy to miss. I didn’t have any homework with me, so I simply chose to walk around Cambridge for about an hour. I went to places I hadn’t been before, like a park next to the Cam. I stood for about ten minutes within 3 feet of a swan who really didn’t seem to care that I was there, and I watched it preen. Its long, phenomenally flexible neck was fascinating to watch as it stretched and turned every imaginable direction as the bird rearranged its feathers. It would lean its head all the way back, stretching out its long neck, until it could reach its tail feathers with its beak and move them this way and that. It would lift its head like a snake from a basket, then coil up again and reach all the way around its side to its feet. Sometimes it would look at me, and make a little head bob, saying, almost, that I see you and if you get any closer I will bite. I stayed where I was, even as a woman came and stood right next to it, and it did start to bite her hand. She didn’t seem to mind terribly because she wanted a picture with it, though it didn’t want a picture with her. It refused to move even when people tried to touch it. I was impressed.
I ambled along further and sat by a little canal and watched as hundreds of half-foot, mud colored fish hung lazily in the water and flicked their tails now and again, putting along in a slow trancelike way. Some had lost a few scales, so when they turned, their sides flashed in the sunlight. The wind picked up, soon rippling the water and the trees until I could see little more than amoeba brown shapes. I left, and watched a man play with his dog. He teased the dog for a while, pretending to throw the ball, but then not actually throwing it. The dog would spin as soon as he saw his masters arm fling, but then would turn right around when no ball fell and start barking at his master’s hand. The master did this five or six times, the poor dog barking and spinning in circles. Finally, when the master did let the ball go, flying in a high, lazy arc, the dog didn’t notice and kept sniffling his master’s hand for the ball.
Class finally happened and things went well. After class, I didn’t want to do a single thing having to do with school because it was my 21st birthday after all and I insisted on wasting it. I must have managed that quite well, because I have no idea what I did do until the guest lecture that evening. It was in the Society Chamber, as is typical, and was a new author and her literary agent speaking about how to publish a book. Right up my alley, I know. I took plenty of notes, and really enjoyed the precious information. Right after, Amelia had planned a little party for me up in her room. Most of the BYU people had decided to go to a pizza party at first, so for the first hour and a half there were 5 or 6 girls there and Amelia and I. Amelia had bought a stunning little cake, topped by glazed, colorful fruit, and edged with a wall of chocolate. The inside of the cake was a fluffy white mix, whipped cream and more fruit. It was delicious and everyone gasped when she brought it out. She had also bought some plastic wine cups and some fruit juice for us all to share. When Mohammed came, he brought a cake, which was fortunate because it wasn’t long until the rest of the crew thundered in, all 20 or so of them, and there wouldn’t have been anything left for them with just the one cake. Amelia had bought me a beautiful little notebook I picked out in Scriptorum in Oxford, as well as a book called “Al Qaeda in its Own Words” and some very peculiarly flavored chocolates from a nearby chocolatier (violet, rose, and chili flavored among others). People hung around for almost three hours, and I felt really happy that it was such a good party. Amelia was really happy about it too because it was the first party she has ever put on, and she wanted it to be good.
I went to bed quite satisfied that evening.

Wednesday—Having done absolutely nothing on Tuesday referring to school, I really had to pick it up Wednesday so I could have something to show my supervisor. I spent the afternoon and evening writing the first 10 pages of my paper. It was a long haul, and hard to get motivated to do it because I already knew what I needed to write, having already done the interviewing necessary, but I just had to do it. I was able to go to the Mosque that evening so I could get another interview, which went quite well. The woman I found turned out to be someone of some use to the police in Cambridge and the UK in general in reference to interactions with the ethnic minority populations.

Thursday—On Thursday it turned out that I was supposed to have submitted my second 3000 words for the review of my classmates, but I didn’t realize it due to some of my own idiocies. Fortunately, it wasn’t bad as I had written it all already and had it online. I was able to read it to the class, therefore, and they all simply sent me copies of it with line by line annotation that afternoon. I was ridiculously fortunate in that regard. I had to spend the rest of the afternoon writing my paper, so I went to a coffee shop on Mill Road just out of the off chance that I would see someone I knew or could begin a conversation with who may be someone I could interview. By this point, I had 10 interviews from the whole 2 months, and ten had always been my goal (though in the fairyland where I am a superwoman, I had hoped for 30 interviews.) I sat in the shop for several hours, sipping on chamomile and apple cider tea right across from the Mosque, and wrote another ten pages of the paper. It was good to finish that. When I was done, I had everything finished that I could based on the interviews and previous work I had done. Now, it is a matter of doing the work from the Police’s perspective on the situation, and that has been really hard to get established. I have spent, on and off for the past 3 or 4 weeks, quite a bit of time trying to figure out how to get permission to interview the Police officers who are relevant to my work. With the beginning of the riots, however, the chances that I would get an interview were pretty much snuffed out (except that I might now that things seem to have settled down). The riots sort of took us all by surprise and had some really peculiar effects in the parts of Cambridge, near the Mosques, where I spend my time. First of all, the first three people killed in the riots were three Muslims who were leaving the Mosque and tried to defend the shops of their neighborhood when they were run over by a rampaging group of looters. That was tragic and on the minds of many of the people I spoke with. Also, the riots spread throughout England and tried to find a foothold here in Cambridge. There was a mini riot attempted at the local mall, Primark, but the police put it out almost immediately. The next day Mohammed went to Primark to shop and saw people being stopped and asked for their ID at random throughout the mall. There were police everywhere. Then the next day, I think this must have been Wednesday, there was an attempted riot on Mill Road where they tried to get into at least one store. They were also stopped by the Police, but it turns out that they had been there only moments after I had left the Mosque that evening. The next day I saw police everywhere, just walking up and down the street, as I sat in the café and did my writing. It has been a fascinating thing considering the topic of my paper.
That evening my class had a guest lecture by Brian Keeney who is the author of one of the books we read for the course. He was a witty sort of fellow, self-deprecating in a superbly British way, and full of excellent tidbits of advice for aspiring writers like us. After the meeting I rushed down to the Devonshire Mosque, which is a mosque a bit farther away than the Mawson mosque and much smaller. There I was able to get another two interviews with some very kind women who told me all about their understanding of the police.
I think I’m getting my evenings mixed up. O well.
I didn’t get home until late again, and had my meeting with Caroline early the next day

Friday—Supervision meeting. We pushed back the deadline for my rough draft because of the lack of interviews with the police. It meant that I am going to have to work really hard on reading theories about the police instead of hearing from them directly. Fortunately, Caroline has given me some sources I can use, so you can guess how I’m going to spend the next two days. After the supervision meeting, I had my writing class. It was once again in the room that Virginia Woolf had based her lunch in the beginning of “A Room of One’s Own.” Afterwards I went out with a girl named Samia who is from Punjab (a north-western province of India) and Mohammed to dinner. It was a fascinating conversation because Samia is a Hindu, Mohammed is a Muslim, and I a Mormon. So I spent most of the time asking Samia about her beliefs and how they relate to Islam and what I believe. We ate at a place called “The Bedouin” which is a Moroccan restaurant on Mill Road and is awesomely decorated on the interior to look like a Bedouin tent. The food was pretty good, and the conversation really quite interesting. Samia belongs to the highest caste of Indian society, the people who have historically been warriors and rulers. She, therefore, even though she is a practicing Hindu, can eat meat (though she can’t eat beef of course). She can also drink, though Brahmans, which are the priests and either the equal or the next lowest cast to the warrior caste, can’t. She went to a boarding school for four years and got a great education, and now she is going to UC Davis for economics. She explained that Hinduism is a polytheistic religion and they believe in the trinity of Gods, those being Brama, Vishnu, and Shiva. Of course, there are numerous other Gods, but these are the greatest. After dinner, we went to a Turkish shop for some sort of sweet of grains soaked in honey and rose water. We talked there until 12.30. When we finally walked back, there were hoards of drunk people on the street. It was really a striking thing to see. One man walking behind us managed to stagger the full width of the 5 foot wide sidewalk every time he tried to walk in a straight line, groups of women in skirts so short they’re pretty much shirts walked with long, thin arms slung over each other, giggling, and wobbly in their platforms, a man stood screaming profanities at a woman who screamed right back, it was insanity. The only place open other than the overflowing clubs and the taxi stands was a kebab shop glowing white in the empty market square.
It was a strange evening.

Saturday—I should have and would have gone to London but I had already planned not to because my full paper was supposed to be due on Monday. Therefore, I had made plans with people to take them to Iftar at the mosque and had already ditched them on two occasions so wouldn’t do it again. They weren’t able to come to the mosque though, so the whole day was pretty much a waste. I did go to iftar anyway, after a long day of riding my bike around and eating at tea shops. But I had already had dinner by the time iftar started and the talk on hope (also at the Mosque and given by a friend) had ended. So I left the mosque and tried to find a church I could look through. Unfortunately, the one I had intended on going to wasn’t open. So I walked by another church and saw people entering and got really excited. Then as I got nearer, I realized that there was a green seal in Arabic on the wall, and that this was actually a Mosque. It turns out the church rents out to some Muslims their equivalent of the cultural hall during Ramadan so these Muslims will have a place to go. I decided I would go in there, since I hadn’t realized there was another place like that. Naturally, having gotten into the habit of blending in, I pulled on my scarf like a hijab (it is just respectful to go into a mosque with a scarf over your head). I walked across the road and looked for the ladies entrance. When I couldn’t find one, I asked someone where it was. They said there isn’t one, but the men and women pray in the same room. This is something I’d not come across before, so I was hesitant to open the door and enter. I noticed immediately that this was different. The woman prayed behind the men, which is completely acceptable in Islam, just not typical, and the walls were lined with women who weren’t praying because there wasn’t room. Most of them appeared to be wearing their hijabs as a sort of respectful but not permanent thing, with the scarves only sort of covering their hair. I sat next to some of them and said Salaamu Aleekum, which is a fairly typical greeting. Later, when another women came over to talk to the women I was sitting next to, she only said Salaamu. Everyone replied the same. I realized I must really stand out here. Then I noticed that the women who were praying would wear a sheet over their shoulders and up over their heads like a hood as they prayed. Also, everyone had a small pale disk they would place their foreheads on when they prostrated. I was beginning to really wonder why this was different and had my question at least partly confirmed when I realized that they were standing with their arms at their sides instead of across their chests. This is something I had heard that Shi’ites did. I then saw a bucket in the corner which said “children in Iran fund” and had my theory confirmed. This was an Iranian Shi’ite mosque. This also explained why they were still praying when the Sunni’s I knew had already begun Iftar (broken their fasts). The prayer was the longest I have ever been to, continuing for more than 20 minutes. Typically a Sunni prayer lasts only 4 minutes. They had parts I had never heard, like the repetition of some phrase that said something or other about Mohammed before they started over again. By the time I left, they had only just finished the prayer and were about to begin their iftar. Mohammed who was at the other mosque I had left texted me to tell me he had finished iftar and I could come out when I was done. He was supposed to walk me home. I sort of ran back, hoping the way would work, and had to stop for a bathroom break in a bar. It was a strange sort of juxtaposition, this very English bar and the Church converted into a Shi’ite mosque that I had just been in.

Sunday—I went to church, naturally, on Sunday and only remembered after I had sat down for Sacrament Meeting that I was supposed to be teaching the CTR 5 class that day. I was lucky though, and was able to get the lesson manual after the Sacrament had been passed and the first speaker had finished. The lesson was not too hard to prepare on the fly, as most of the materials were crayons and so forth. They are pretty helpful in giving you a lesson plan. I sat through Primary with my class and really enjoyed it. It was on the Word of Wisdom. Then the class was on obeying the law. The kid’s didn’t know what law was, so I had to explain that. The lesson had them draw pictures of farm animals. Then I asked them what people do to keep farm animal’s safe. They immediately replied that you have to put a fence around them so they don’t get out. I did that with a little fence I had made during primary and explained how the law protects us and our family and we should follow it even when no one is looking.
Afterward there was practice for two songs that a group of us were doing that evening for the musical young adult fireside. Someone was kind enough to pick up me and my friend was we walked back to Kings. Amelia and I then went back in a taxi a few hours later so we could practice for our part of the performance that evening. We were singing “If You Could Hie To Kolob.” We got an amazing pianist last minute who was able to even make it into a little arrangement. Both Amelia and I had solo parts. She was really nervous, but it turned out great. It was her first time doing a solo, she said.
I went with Amelia and Cherry to Amelia’s room after the fireside and we played with the camera on her computer for a while before I finally went to bed.
And now it is today! Yay!
11.30 Friday is my meeting with the chief of police!!!!!!! WOOOOT!!!!!

Week 5 - Ramadan and novel writing

Monday: I had just returned from France late the night before, so getting up in time for my 9 o’clock class in the rafters of the Union Society was a real treat. I basically rolled from my bed 20 minutes before the class began, and rode my bike to the Union Society after doing only minimal work to make myself look somewhat reasonable. The class was all the way at the top of the building in the attic, and so the room is pointed and sloped on both sides, with tall gothic windows showing a view of Cambridge to the north. The teacher, Emma Sweeny, was much younger than I had anticipated. She is petite, brown haired, and bright. She has published one novel and is working on her second. Her first novel won all sorts of awards in England and abroad. She sat at the head of the table and I to her right. When the class began, we had a naming game to help her remember our names. The game entailed us saying our name and then the name of the people proceeding us in order. I was the first, so everyone in the class had to repeat my name. It was fortunate for me though because I had to repeat no ones. After the class ended, I went back to my room and slept for four hours. I was that exhausted. I have been taking longer naps than I ever have in the rest of my life here at Cambridge because I do so much and don’t get quite enough sleep. Not to mention, my double sized, white comforter bed with a view of the garden through its gothic windows is quite appealing. It is always perfectly comfortable. Well, that is as long as I actually take the time to do the sheets right. They haven’t quite gotten the memo about fitted sheets here in Europe, as far as I’ve found at least. I had nothing else going on the rest of the day, so I spent it in work on my novel and my supervision. I also wrote my letter home, naturally. I went to bed around 11.00 like usual, and was just as exhausted as ever. This seemed to vindicate my nap, suggesting that I really did need it.

Tuesday: I did not have class until 4.50 on Tuesday so I had the time to work on my supervision more. I initially thought that it would be at the Union Society again, so I went and sat in the coffee shop to work on my writing and my supervision. There, I ran into several people I know who were having a conversation on all sorts of things. I sat near them, and therefore pretty much just eavesdropped for a while instead of working. After a while, I joined the conversation when the topic of the philosophical importance of eating organic foods came up. The question mainly revolved around whether eating inorganic food was removing us from our natural state, and what our natural state is. One person posited that our natural state is more obvious when we only eat foods which have not been sprayed with pesticides or what have you, and we don’t consume any sort of drug. Another maintained that it is impossible to find a natural state because we have been genetically altering our bodies since the day humans arrived on this earth, invented fire, and began to cook food. Even organic food, by this strain of thought, is not natural because it was all modified from its original form by people some time ago. I tended to side with the second argument, which may be obvious from this paragraph as I have not really given the first a convincing strain. One of the guys had to go off eventually, so I spent a while speaking with Bret, another guy from BYU, about how to write in a way that is honest and faces real problems without being gruesome or titillating. He offered some really useful suggestions on the topic. I then realized that my class was not in fact where I had thought it was but was back at Kings, so I headed off that way. I rode my bike like the wind itself to Kings. Our class was in this out-of-the way room up in the administration portion of Kings. This room, it turned out, was the site that Virginia Woolf, who spent much time at King’s, had in mind when she wrote the lunch scene at the beginning of “A Room of One’s Own,” which was based largely on Cambridge, in particular Kings (Oxford she did not know as well).
This was our first seminar where we got to know each other and received our first assignment, which was to write a pitch for our novels. I had a hard time doing it well because I have so much going into the novel that it is hard to extract the main points and explain them accurately. That failure was evident when I received a critique on my work the next day. Tuesday night was also Family Home Evening, I think, though it could have been Wednesday--I’m not sure. It had been hot all day, but by the evening it was raining off and on. We went to a park to play games, but by the time we got there it was pouring rain. It was a beautiful scene though. We all huddled under a weeping willow right next to the Cam where the punts are docked and little café’s with boxes of bright flowers hang over the water. We ended up going to someone’s apartment in Pembroke for the rest of FHE. I got to meet some people who are from BYU who I have never really come to know that well, and was glad about that. It has turned out that Pembroke, largely because of the high number of married people who were given rooms there, has been the place to be this year. I feel like at Kings I’m a little out of the way and I don’t get to know the BYU students that well. I am really bummed about that.
I had to run off from FHE to meet with Mohamed to go to Iftar, which is the breaking of the fast for Ramadan. Ramadan had begun a couple of days before, though I had not paid it much attention unfortunately. I went to the feast in hopes of interviewing some people, and I did manage to get at least one interview while there. As usual, the women sat upstairs and the men below. I went up with my hijab on and sat between some very nice young Muslim girls, native to Cambridge. I had forgotten, for a moment, that I was going to the feast so I had eaten a lot of food at dinner that evening. But it was alright in the end because I was able to talk to one kind girl about her experiences with the police. Unsurprisingly, she had not really had any, and was therefore able to provide me with the perspective of someone who doesn’t really get involved in these things.
After Iftar I had treats with Mohamad for a while at the communal kitchen in the Fitzwilliam street house. Like a good Arab, he had brought treats from Lebanon to share with people and was glad to share them with someone. Another guy from BYU joined us and we spoke about the Middle East, Indonesia (where he went on his mission) and morality in general. I didn’t get home until late that night, unfortunately, and went straight to bed.

Wednesday: I had to turn in the pitch for my novel to my group the day before, and had to critique the other pitches as well. I didn’t have class until 2 though, so I went to the University Library for the first time to go through a book that could help me with my research. I had to ride my bike, and I locked it to a fence which was decorated with laminated fliers for different musical concerts going on throughout Cambridge, things like “Medieval choral music,” and “the four recorders,” and “Music of Henry the V, Baroque.” The same man who designed the famed red British telephone box, and looks just like one built the University Library (UL). It isn’t red, it’s brick, but similar nonetheless. I had to get special permission from the PKP office, and a letter from them assuring the necessity of me going to the UL for me to enter. Then, I had to go to the admissions office, which is just to the side of the exhibit on Books and Babies that I had gone to before. The man there had me sit for a while while he mussed with some papers, then took a picture of me to put on a card, then gave me a new little ID freshly rolled off the press. With that, I was able to pass security and enter into the actual library. It is strangely arranged, with long and narrow rooms that recede off into alcoves where people can sit studying. If you need a particular book, as I learned through the help of a willowy woman in a flower dress, you look up the number and title and submit a request. Within a half hour, they will have had it sent to the front desk from the deep vaults of the library. The UL is a patent library or something like that, meaning that every book published in the UK is supposed to have one copy there. Obviously it is overladen with books. My supervisor told me that it is actually sinking under the weight of the books and they’re trying to find a way to keep it buoyed up.
I got the book eventually, though I could not remove it from the room it was in. Therefore, I took meticulous notes about it instead. After finishing, I had to rush back to King’s for class. I was too late to print out everything I needed, unfortunately, and was quite irked by having to tell my teacher that. After class I had to work really hard on my supervision and I went to with Mohamed and a friend of his to Iftar at a local joint called Nandos. They serve only chicken dishes there, but they’re all really good. I thoroughly enjoyed the meal. I had to rush off to meet with Kacem because he had someone he wanted me to interview. It turned out to be four young Muslim men who met with Kacem at the Chicken Cottage, the British version of KFC.
They were really interesting people. They were between the ages of 19 and 25 and were all the sorts of guys who dress in gangster clothing and baseball caps and so forth and who sit slouched in chairs. They were really happy to hear that I was minoring in Arabic and seemed willing to open up immediately to my questions. They all called me “sister” just as they would another Muslim, so in that way at least I felt accepted. I only had 4 questions for each of them, but some of them were considerably more verbose than others. They really did not agree that the police were doing a good job here in Cambridge because they felt like they were looked down on and targeted by the police force. One of the boys said that because he is a youngster, he reacts to them in the same way they behave to him. If they say “hey!” he will say “hey!” in return he said. Another one of them told me of how he was wearing a red Kaifa at the counter-demonstration against the EDL when they came to Cambridge. He said that people started to take pictures of him and there were cameras following him, so he put the scarf around his head and hid his face. He then told me that he had been searched 4 times that evening, and once was strip searched and only saved from arrest by his uncle. Kacem afterwards explained that he had been really silly doing that because he was standing in the front of the march and was attracting attention to himself by hiding his face. I think the guy was sort of proud of himself for doing something so daring. He was only 19.
When I asked all of them what they would change if they could change something about the police, they said that they wished that the police would treat them the way they wanted to be treated. The golden rule, pretty much. I could not be sure of how much they were saying was accurate, and how much was conflated either because they thought that was the way the others wanted them to react or because they wanted to make their actions seem grander for me and for their friends. It wasn’t an ideal interviewing situation by any means, but I think that even with all the extenuating circumstances, they got the basic message across. They know when they’re being profiled and targeted and condescended, and though they would not normally necessarily act up, though it is hard to tell considering their age group and lack of a solidified job or career. They all still live at home, and will until they marry.
After the interviews, I went with Kacem to meet up with Mohamed and his friend to have some tea at a local shop. We sat for a while and discussed the image of Muslims in western media, which, unsurprisingly, isn’t good.
I think, now that I look at this, that I’ve conflated Wednesday with Thursday. Therefore, this is both days. Now on to Friday.

Friday: I had to go to the Friday prayers to meet with someone I was supposed to interview. That was a 1.15, and so I rode my bike there, jumped off, put on the hijab, and climbed upstairs. I was not a pretty site with my face all red and sweaty. The prayer was fairly typical, though there were so many women because it is Ramadan, that I sat on the steps with several other girls. They were really, really nice and they explained to me some of the things that the Imam was talking about in particular Taqwa which is the Arabic word for piety or something of the sort. Afterwards, I found the person I was supposed to be interviewing and discovered that it was actually not the person I had agreed to interview but someone else. I was really embarrassed to have confused her with the other person, and never did find the right person.
In keeping with the rules that there are 3 people with you when you travel, Amelia and I waited at the train station for about 40 minutes for Mohamed to show up so we could take the train together to London. Once there, Mohomad went to visit a friend and Amelia and I had to find our way to the place we were supposed to drop off our things. It was in a small area called Denmark Hill, completely out of the way of central London, and as soon as we got on the train to take us there things started going wrong. It turned out we were on the wrong train, so we got off after about a half hour and spent about an hour and a half trying to find the right one. We were in a place called Lambeth there. I invented a song which went something like, “I’m stuck in Lambeth and I’ll be here forever standing here in the middle of this street waiting for a light to change… let me just die…” Amelia and I also invented a joke. Two knights of the round table, Sir Cumfrance and Sir Cuitous are walking down the street one day when Sir Kel approaches them. Sir Kel asks them, “hey, do you know how to get around?” Hahahaha!
Obviously, we were getting a little punchy in our exhaustion and confusion. We finally figured out how to get to Denmark Hill on the bus. The bus took forever as well, stopping as it did nearly every 200 feet. We had to keep our eyes peeled (what a weird expression) for anything that looked like the King’s College hospital that we were staying near. Finally, we found it and made it to our rooms. Somehow that I haven’t quite figured out, the whole escapade took about 6 hours. At our rooms they gave us only one key. When we opened the door, there was only one bed in the room. Amelia just about died. We went back to the front desk eventually to ask if there was some mistake. IT turned out there was a second room we were supposed to have, thank heavens. We took the train, which we found eventually by taking a bus to the station the long way, back to London to meet up with Mohamed for dinner at an Iraqi restaurant. On the metro, the lights went out. When we began to ascend the escalator it broke. We were still at the bottom. Let me tell you, it was a great relief to be done with the journeying bit. Amelia and I decided we would never travel again. Obviously we didn’t keep that up for more than a couple hours. We went with Mohamed to a restaurant in the Arab part of the city. He had found it after living in London for a year and trying most of the Arab restaurants so we knew this one would be good because he is a bona fide Arab and knows his stuff.
I got a kebab. My heavens, I have never liked kebab before but now I do. It was AMAZING. It just fell apart on my fork and went great with the rice and vegetables. After the dinner, he showed us around one of the main streets of London. They were beautiful in the night, all enlightenment structures and lit brightly and colorfully. I was impressed really with this part of London. I realized that London is beautiful. We finally took the metro back to the hostel and went to sleep.

Saturday: I woke to a marching band outside the window. An American marching band, naturally, as there are no marching bands in England. It was time to wake up obviously; I didn’t really have a choice. This was a much better day than the preceding day in that we actually managed to do things. We first went with Cherry down to Buckingham palace and tried to get inside. Unfortunately, the lines were so long that there was no way we were going to get inside that day unless we waited until 5.30 that evening. So we just took pictures outside of the palace and sat and ate lunch. Then we went to the Tower of London where we had to pay 15 pounds to get in. The price was worth it though because we got to have a tour from one of the beefeaters, a wonderful man who had served in the Army for 26 years and was asked to be a beefeater on his retirement. He told us all sorts of stories and had a whole series of jokes that were fabulously funny and a way of projecting so everyone could hear him. He led us through the castle and into their church where he concluded the tour. He lives there, with the 33 other beefeaters and their wives (or husband in the case of the first female beefeater) and families. After the tour, we waited in the extraordinarily long line to see the crown jewels. It was one of those things I didn’t really feel like I had to do to be happy, but since we were there, I might as well. I took an assortment of pictures of the faces of people in the crowd, then grew bored with the camera and contented myself with watching the sky. Finally, we were allowed to stand on the slow moving conveyer belts that go past the crown jewels. One of the largest diamonds in the world is inset into the scepter. It is huge! There were multiple crowns that we were able to see, including Queen Victoria’s diadem. We saw the Windsor sapphire and a whole bunch of other things that I don’t really know much about. Then I raced through the museum in the white tower, built originally in 1077 and full of the original kings’ armors (all of which are stunning pieces). Finally we left, going to the play we had bought tickets for that evening. It was Lion King, and we had bought tickets for 15 pounds each to stand in the standing room only area in the very back. We were able to lean against the railing to watch the show. It wasn’t too bad standing for that long, particularly considering how good the performance was and how cheap the tickets. It was an absolute riot of color and beautiful costumes, and dancing and drumming. The only bits I didn’t like were a couple of songs added that weren’t in the original movie. They sounded very theater-y and didn’t really fit with the whole feeling of the piece. The older Simba didn’t have a very good voice either, though he really looked the part. After the show, I had to rush back to our rooms (which took 2 hours) and meet with Mohamed so we could go back to Cambridge together. It was really fortunate that he was there because the train back was full of people who were the definition of sketch. I finally got back to my apartment at 2 am.

Sunday: I went to church, which was wonderful though I was exhausted, and slept for 4 hours afterward. I was exhausted, again. When Amelia returned from London, I went to her room and talked to her about my novel writing class for a while before going to sleep at 11.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Week four--Paris!

Monday--Why can I never remember mondays? I remember two things about this last Monday and that's it. I recall running around to get the biometric photo done, and in the process discovering that there is another office for PKP that I'd never known of before, and I remember going to FHE. I also remember thinking that I had better remember that day so that I could write about it and not say that I had forgotten Monday. Alas. Naturally, I had class as I usually do, and I probably read for it.

Tuesday--Tuesday was a formal hall. I was beginning to panic about my final paper which I wanted to make sure I completed before I had to study for the test portion of the final, and therefore was reluctant to go to the formal hall. But I went anyway because I had signed up. I also had to finish going to the various places that Dr. Kerry assigned that we see and draw. He wanted us to go to 8 different locations throughout the semester and draw a portion of them so that we began to notice the differences between Enlightenment and Romantic architecture. Some of the places that he wanted us to go had nothing to do with either really, but were just interesting and worth going to for that reason alone. I sort of frantically tried to get them all done after class and before dinner so I cycled around the city for a while. I was dreadful at getting from one place to another (Cambridge is a romantic city. In otherwords, it is completely tangled and sporatic in its plan) and had to ask for the help of a man on his bicycle with his young son on a bicycle in front of him how to get from Downing college to Selwyn college. He was going that direction, so he led me part of the way. We stopped at an intersection where there were several other bicyclists waiting. He told me to continue straight and turn here and so on and so forth, and so I intended to do just that. A very collegate looking middle aged gentleman rode a bike in front of me and turned when the man tried to explain how to get to Selwin. As we began to ride, he struck up conversation, and told me he would show me the rest of the way. The ride was short, but he was the inquisitive talkative sort and so we talked for a while outside Selwin college (which is a beautiful little neo-gothic college hidden away behind the major colleges). He was all wit and self-depricating anecdotal stories. After a while, he explained that he worked for the New Yorker as a film critic (we were discussing the horrors of british journalism), and told me that his name was Antony. He left soon thereafter, so it wasn't until that evening at the formal hall that I was speaking with someone else and found out that Antony is Antony Lane and he's apparently quite famous. We were, for some reason, discussing british journalism again (I don't know why that topic came up so many times that day) and I quoted Antony's derision of the whole of British journalism, saying how he would never in a million years work for a british paper in order to prove that British journalism is untrustworthy. The guy across from me asked what this New Yorker journalist's name was, saying that there was only one journalist from that magazine who lived in Cambridge. Turned out to be the same chap. I felt very excited to have met a micro-celebrity.

That dinner was absolutely lovely. It was in the old-library of Pembroke college, thankfully, as the last one was in the marqee in the courtyard and that is simply not as pleasant as a beautiful old neo-classical library with geese and cherubs flying above you. I sat across from a Physics and Philosophy major from Harvard named Phil, who was next to a Middle Eastern Studies major from somewhere (we spoke in Arabic for a while. He had lived in Egypt some time ago and therefore we had pretty much the same accent) and he sat next to my friend Mohammed, who was next to a professor whose name is escaping me. Then on my side of the table was Aaron from BYU and two other people who I have unfortunately forgotten entirely. Ah! I remember. One of them at least was Rob from BYU also who is a History major. The professor tried to speak to me for a little while about BYU and the middle east and Arabic and so forth, but it was simply too loud to hear him all the way across the table. Therefore, I spent a good chunk of the evening trying to defend the vailidity of the state as a "legitimate" organism from Phil who contended that the work of a philosopher (Wolf or something or other) demonstrated pretty effectively that the state is illegitimate. The discussion revolved around the definitions of authority and legitimacy and was pretty entertaining.

After the dinner concluded, I went home and wrote until probably 2 in the morning. I had only until friday to get this final paper finished and I wanted to submit it to Dr. Kerry before hand so he could look it over and let me know what to fix. I discovered that the canadian geese have jam sessions on the lawn at 2 am, and that on clear nights you can see more stars than I had expected. Sleeping was a joy after everything.

Wednesday--Wednesday was panic in earnest day. I had to finish my paper, submit it to Dr. Kerry, finish going to all the necessary locations, do my class readings, and prepare for my supervision meeting with Caroline. Finishing going to all the necessary places took a good chunk of the day after our lecture because about half of them were closed when I arrived. Things have the most unexpected schedules here. I visited the botanical gardens, clare gardens (spectacular!), St. John's College Chapel (the definition of Chapel here in Cambridge is occasionally, in the case of Kings and St. Johns in particular, stretched as far as most-people-would-say-this-is-a-cathedral-because-it-is-so-ridiculously-large-but-it's-technically-not). Needless to say, St. Johns chapel is wonderful. I was glad to have finished everything though, and I finally escaped into the library where I finished writing the first draft of my fabulous paper and sent it to Dr. Kerry by 1 am. He had told me that if I wanted him to review it, I should do so by Wednesday night. So it wasn't technically wednesday, but ah well.

Thursday--so this was an interesting day. the panic continued, naturally, and would until friday at 2.30 when my test was over and the paper turned in. I spent the majority of the morning accomplishing nothing while trying to accomplish everything, which is the mark of finals week it seems. We had our last lecture, finishing up a discussion of Mozart's Don Giovanni, and then I had only a few hours until I would be taking the test. I knew what I had to do to prepare, so that at least helped. Amelia, bless her heart, convinced me that I had to go to Midsummer Night's Dream which was having its last performance which I would have the opportunity of seeing. She had seen it already, but it was the best version of any shakespeare play that she had ever seen and she wanted to see it again. I decided to go because I knew that it would mean staying up 3 hours later, but that I would remember the play not the studying for much longer. It was shakespeare in the park, properly done. So we sat on the ground with digestives (worst name ever for a delicioius cookie) and soda water and watched this play whose backdrop was an overgrown tree, and whose foreground was grass up to the audience edge. There were only 8 or so cast members, though more characters than that by a lot, so they had to do some interesting things to keep the play going when the right characters weren't on stage. It was a really rough and tumble version of MSND with a lot of movement and silliness. The blocking was absolutely fantastic, and the actors had turned the lines into tune with motion so that every escoteric and old-fashioned sentence made sense to the modern mind. The fairies, dressed in scruffy tudor clothing with feathers and things attached, occassionally ran through the audience and laughed at some child while eating the audience member's food. One of them had a particular affinity for nectarines and he ate two of them throughout the course of the show. They acted, I don't know really how to describe it, but really fairy like. At least not human. There was plenty of music and singing and making fun of people throughout the play. Amelia was right, it was fantastic.

Naturally, this meant though that I had to stay up until 2 again so I could do the studying I should have done earlier. When I sat in the King's library at 1.30 am, trying to write a preliminary version of an answer to a possible essay question, I began to deeply question my judgement. But it wasn't time for introspection or mental head-knocking, and I was able to get done most of what I had wanted to. The test the next day was to be 2 hours long exactly, and we were given an idea of what the questions might be like. We were to pick two to answer out of 8. My best bet was to prepare 3 well, and hope that 2 of them would be among the 8. It wasn't as risky as it sounds because there were some major and some more minor topics, and I was fairly certain that he was going to ask about the major ones. When I went to bed, there was still at least one person from my class still studying in the library.

Friday--Dr. Kerry had told me the night before what i should repair about my paper, and so I did that Friday morning as well as going over the topics I had studied so closely again. I was now in the mindset where it is better that you don't talk to me or interrupt me because I was libel to either answer rudely or answer the entirely wrong question. I printed the paper and finished studying in the Union Society chamber then went in to take the test. To my great delight, the two questions I had studied most carefully were on the sheet and I was able to answer them the way I had hoped. The first took me only 35 minutes, so I had most of the time left for the second question. I wrote on the Enlightenment arguments for tolerance, and on how the Enlightenment thinkers conceived of republican government. Both of these topics were not only things I had studied, but things which interested me beyond the scope of the class. I took until the 15 minutes on the essays, then went over them to make sure there were no glaring idiocies, and turned it in with 5 minutes to spare. Then I went straight down to the coffee shop and bought the caramel, chocolate shortbread square that I had previously foresworn. It was time to go to Paris, so i rode my bike back to Kings and finished packing with Amelia and Cherry so we could leave. Our best intention of taking the train then the ferry and the train fell through because of timing and so we were forced to buy the ridiculously expensive Eurostar tickets to get there. the price was definitely cringeworthy, but we were left without choice. There was no other time or day that would work for this, and no other way to get there. We took a taxi to the station, the National express to King's cross, then walked across the street to the Pancras international train station to the Eurostar. By the way, our train pulled in to platform 10 of King's Cross, right across from platform 9. Just saying.

We had to arrive at the Eurostar 45 minutes early and wait to board, which we did quite well. I bought a BLT with Cherry and Amelia, and finally was able to relax for a little while. When we boarded the train, we discovered that there actually were assigned seats after several people crowded around us settled in car 5 and stared quite indignantly until we moved. We were consigned to car 1, which wasn't bad except that it was far from the food car. The ride was only about 2 hours long or something like that, and much of the beginning of it was in the darkness of the chunnel. I kept telling Amelia and Cherry that there were dolphins and jelly fish swimming about above us, and they kept telling me to go to sleep. The train emerged from the tunnel into the French Norman countryside. It looked more like the US in that the houses were no longer brick and people drove on the normal side of the road, but otherwise it was pretty different. It was late afternoon, and the day was turning from bluish white to golden bars splayed across our compartment. I did fall asleep, or something, because I have little recollection of the majority of the ride. Finally, we slowed. The buildings around us were more urban and packed together, as well as "artistically" decorated with some incredibly large graffiti. It was everywhere, and sometimes in places that looked impossible to reach. When the train stopped in a long squeaking roar, we hopped off and squealed a bit about being in Paris then quickly fell into a state of slack-jawed bewilderment.

Everything, naturally, was in french. None of us speak french. We had expected this, but somewhere in my head I think I had hoped it wouldn't be true. There were occasional english signs which helped direct us to the underground, and after an adventure with a fickle ticket machine and an Indian man, we had figured out how to get onto the correct metro to take us to the neighborhood of the church of the sacred heart where we were staying. The metro was painted a sort of bluish green and it lurched to a stop in front of us, throwing its grafitti scarred glass doors open with a bang. We hopped in, squealing a bit more about being on a Parisian metro, and the train quickly took off. There seemed to be an overpopulation of young men of all ethnicities around us, far outweighing women and older men. The train smelled like rust and musty carpet. I loved watching through the glass doors as a the cars in front or behind us turned on the curves, like a toy snake. Amelia and Cherry figured out where we had to disembark and change metros, but we got off a station too early on my insistance. The station name was "Madeleine". I was ecstatic. Finally, people had figured it out. Amelia took my picture under one of the eight signs, and I bought some food from the vending machine. You will never guess what they had in it... that's right, Madeleine bought Madeleines at Madeleine. I still have the package.

We finally arrived at the right neighborhood and rose from the bowels of the earth into a pretty parisian evening directly in front of the paris city hall. It had the enlightenment/revolution motto "Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite" on the front which was exciting enough in itself. We found the hostel after only a bit of back tracking. It looked really hostelish with flags from every nation hung from the ceiling and walls black walls you were supposed to draw on with chalk. We were nervous about talking to the man at the desk, wanting to address him in French but to actually understand what he said. He was completely chill, of course. Our room was on the 4th floor, which he told us with a bit of embarrassment because they have no elevator. So up we climbed four floors of wooden spiral staircase to our little room. I slept by the window and Amelia and Cherry on the bunk bed. We had a spectacular view of some french sycamores and the side of a prison. We dropped off our stuff quickly and went to find food which none of us had really eaten since that afternoon. It was 10 by then, and we took a long while choosing a place to eat. Finally, we stopped at the Cafe de la Place which looked almost exactly like Mimi's cafe in the US. I had a wonderful little mozzerella and tomato salad, Amelia had french onion soup, and Cherry creme brulee. Unfortunately the cute cafe had two large televisions playing a Lady Gaga concert. I tried to switch sides so I didn't have to watch, but Cherry was too fast for me, so I was left with a view of all the disgustingness. It was truly, truly horrible and disturbing to watch. I tried to avoid it, but finally covered my eyes after one particularly wretched moment and demanded that we leave. by then we had finished eating and were only waiting for the check. I was really frustrated to have had to see that and decidedly opposed to anything Lady Gaga. We went to bed that evening around 12.30 though none of us were certain what time it was because we had seen no clocks and we didn't know if our phones had changed hours automatically or not.

Saturday--I showered around 8 and we left around 9 to see the city. Our first destination was the Louvre. We took the metro to get there, the ever diligent Amelia and Cherry figuring out the best way about it. We had to buy 2 day metro tickets at the cost of 15 euro each, which I headed up because it involved talking to French people. Not really sure how I landed that assignment seeing how good I am at French. When we arrived at the gardens in front of the Louvre, I had to buy a bag to put my stuff in so Amelia didn't have to carry it, as I had forgotten to bring one, and then i bought breakfast because I had not eaten while we were at the hostel. I got a crepe with lemon and sugar. Mmmmm. We walked through the french garden toward the Louvre among all the replicas of classical statues. Cherry was our pusher. If it weren't for her, it is possible we wouldn't have actually arrived at the Louvre itself for several hours. At the Louvre, we stood in a long line that siphoned into the glass pyramid and down into the Museum's depths. We didn't have to buy a ticket because we are students in the UK (yes!) so we were able to go right into the exhibits after security. We first went into the statuary, which I had insisted on because I love statues. They seem so much more personal and emotional than paintings. Unfortunately, with our short time, we had to rush from place to place, but finally we were able to see such wonders as Cupid and Psyche (the single most beautiful sculpture in the world in my humble opinion), winged victory, and the like. In the hall of the Italian painters, Amelia gasped at every turn because she was actually seeing dozens of the paintings in all of her textbooks. There was Caracci and da Vinci and so on. She was so excited it kept Cherry and I, the uninitiated, excited as well. It was incredible how much better da Vinci was than his contemporaries who lined the walls around him. Some of his paintings were simply stunning. We spent a while trying to find the Mona Lisa, which is strange considering how central that painting is to the Louvre. Finally we found it in a side chamber. It has an entire free standing wall to itself, and is hung behind several inches of bulletproof glass. Sure enough, her eyes follow you anywhere you go. We were able to get right up close and take pictures with it, or at least as close as you are allowed. How cool is that!

We had lunch in a cafe on the second or third floor balcony overlooking the central courtyard. I had italian salad again because the one from the night before was so good, but this time it wasn't really anything special. The view though was wonderful and worth the price of the cafe. We could see all of the Louvre, most of the gardens, the obelisk in the distance (which we were right next to when we emerged from the metro. When we first saw the obelisk, the golden plating on the pyramid top shone in reflection of the sunlight like the very eye of God it was supposed to signify) and I don't remember if we could see the Arch d'Triumphe or not, but nonetheless, it was beautiful. We could see the other arch which leads into the Louvre and has the chariot with Minerva flanked by golden angels riding across the top. Amelia took many pictures of that arch. We were able to walk under it which I did several times.

After lunch, we saw the French paintings, most of them from the time of the revolution, including the painting on the cover of Viva la Vida by Coldplay. My favorite painting of that area was the crowning of Napolean. How colorful, detailed, enormous, sparkling. I could really see the allure of the whole Napolean, Josephine, Revolution idea just in that one painting.

We tried to find the section of the museum with Chinese treasures in it for Cherry, but were unsuccessful and eventually left for our next destination--the Notre Dame.

We walked to the Notre Dame so we could spend time along the Seine. The city is shades of white and off-white, towers and spires, street cafes, painting and book vendors, plant and flower shops, and the sparkling river. The day was a perfectly warm afternoon, and the path full of tourists and parisans and cobblestones. We found the Notre Dame on its island in the Seine and waited for a half hour in the line to enter. My, what an incredible cathedral. I went directly into the nave to sit in the pews and simply look. While it was one of the darkest cathedrals I've been in, even with all the electrically lit chandeliers and so forth, it was nonetheless awesome. The stainglass reaches up stories and stories into the air, and the vaults are far enough above you you have to strain your neck to see them. It is still a functioning Catholic Cathedral, and thus has candle trays constantly lit in front of their varioius statues and side chapels. The rose windows of the transcepts are, naturally, the most strikingly beautiful thing about the building. I could hardly believe how large they were and how vibrant their blues and purples. I have to admit that I did quietly sing the song about helping the outcasts from the hunchback of Notre Dame... I couldn't really help it. We circled the cathedral from the South to the North, and left with a handful of coins to an old nun waiting at the door with a small woven bowl. Cherry got a crepe with nutella and bananas which Amelia and I both grew to envy the next day when we wanted one but couldn't find a crepe stand anywhere. Now we were off to the eiffel tower and dinner.

Amelia wanted to get a picture of the cathedral from across the Seine, so we ventured there and stood near a street violinist as she took her pictures. The light was just right now, afternoon again, and i think she was more than happy with them.

We took the metro to Bir Hakeim which is the closest exit to the Eiffel Tower, or the Tour Eiffel in french (It really helped when I figured out that Tour is the word for Tower in French because I had thought before that they were advertising tours...). It is a monsterously large structure, absolutely ridiculously big, but when we left the station it took us a while to find it because we were too enclosed by tall buildings to catch a glimpse. When we did find it, we were quite grateful because we were all getting hungry and I had some inkling of us eating on the tower. Unfortunately, we were told that the restaurants on the tower are prohibitively expensive, so we went to a small cafe instead and sat outside at a table on the sidewalk. I was determined that we do it the french way and eat slowly and enjoy the meal. I got lamb and Amelia and I both had crepes with nutella and icecream for dessert. We really got into crepes on this trip. We ate until Amelia worried that we weren't going to get good pictures of the city from the tower if we didn't go. So we went back to the tower and got into line by the South footing. We decided that we were going to walk to the second story of the tower and from there take the elevator because it would cost less and it had a shorter line. The women at the desk was not having a good day, and was surprisingly rude to us, but we didn't let that change anything. We commenced the climb. I began to count, and it was 328 steps later that we arrived at the first floor. We stayed there for only a short time before we completed the 688 steps to the second floor. This is more than half way up the structure and from it, you can see the whole city. By then the sun had set and we were looking out over the bluish city as the lights began to glimmer on the ground and the river. The city stretched out in every direction going on and on further than we could see. The city of lights. Amelia took many pictures of us and of it and everything. We tried to get to the top, but the line for the ticket to the very top and the line to get into the elevator was so long that we were unlikely to get up before it closed at 10.30. So we stayed on the second floor and wandered around. Amelia was really disappointed we couldn't make it to the top, but there wasn't anything we could do about it. that just means we have something to do the next time we go. :)

Then the lights went on. The lights, the ones that make the tower glow orange, were already on. These lights were different. They're new and they cover the whole of the tower. When they go off, the whole tower sparkles like thousands of paparrazzi hiding in every nook taking hundreds of pictures. The moment it went off, a gasp and shout went up from the people on the tower and the people on the ground. Then the ground seemed to reflect the tower. People on the arch d'Triumphe, the grasses in front of the tower, the people on the seine, all began to take flash photography so the city surrounding the tower sparkled in return. The tall building in the distance reflected the flashing lights, and so they glimmered gloriously.

A large woman with long hair and a long flowing dress walked by sobbing. A couple stood embracing for over ten minutes. Darkening figures milled everywhere, lit by orange and sparkles. It was surreal. We descended the 688 steps much more quickly than we rose, although the normal lights that display the tower shone in our eyes and made the descent somewhat precarious--like the blowout ends of scene changes they sometimes do in movies where the lights overtake the scene until nothing is defined. As we descended, I watched little purple and green glowing creatures being boomeranged into the air by the street hawkers. I don't really know how to describe them, but they made the scene down below that much more peculiar.

My knees began to protest by the time we reached the first floor, though they never got too bad. When we were finally on the ground again, the light show began anew and the whole spectacle repeated itself. We walked back to the metro and took it back to the hostel. At the hostel, Amelia and Cherry needed to shower so I took to sitting on the large window ledge and singing quietly every song I could think of that seemed parisan. I went inside shortly after a guy in the next room stuck his head out, saw me, and offered us rum.

Sunday--This was our final day in paris. We had only two things we really wanted to do: the Arch d'Triumphe and Versilles. We went first to the Arch which sits in the middle of a very large roundabout in the center of Paris. It was designed by Napolean himself, and was first built from wood. Dr. Kerry says that there was a myth that every time the construction paused on the arch, something bad would happen to the new Empire. Now it stands ridiculously tall, and from it radiates all of Paris' major streets. It was designed that way to look and act like light radiating from a source--very Enlightenment, the idea being that light can penetrate all things and that all can be seen from this one vantage point. We were there a half hour before the top opened, so we were second in line to get a ticket to go up. Stairs again, this time spiral and within the interior of one of the arches feet. It seemed like stairs were the major force we had to contend with on this trip. We climbed past various doors and chambers, which I hadn't expected to find within the arch but were there nonetheless. There was even a store and small museum. At the very top we could see all of Paris, in the morning this time instead of at night. I took pictures with the Eiffel tower in the background. The city was much more white now, less golden, and almost silent as it was earlish on a sunday morning and this was Paris afterall. I really liked this Paris.

We then redescended into the bowels of the underground to get to Versilles. We had to take several trains, then a real train, and converse with several people to figure out exactly how to get there. I was exhausted from the previous day and not getting enough sleep, so I slept for most of the journey. Finally, we arrived in time for lunch. We ate a small sidewalk cafe with a mirror on the ceiling. There were no walls on two sides of the cafe, so we sat on the inside but that was really outside. Once again they had a large television, this time playing Katy Perry which is better than Lady Gaga somewhat (everything is better than Gaga). I got an artichoke dish that was really disappointing and not at all what I had anticipated. We got crepes again for dessert, and then headed off to the palace which was only a few hundred yards from where we were. The palace is set behind a long cobblestone courtyard and with the sunlight it was all rather bright and striking. The fence and rooftops of the palace were gilded gold, and glowed quite harshly when looked at. We stood in line in the sunlight for an hour and a half before learning that we didn't need to stand in the line if we wanted the guided Enlish tour which would take us through the private chambers of the king and the opera house. We did just this, having 45 minutes before the tour began, and so we were able to rest for a bit. The tour guide was a small french man in a bright orange shirt and pointy shoes. His english was good, but his accent thick so it was a little difficult to understand him. We wore little hearing boxes which let us hear what he said into the microphone and made it easy to pay attention while not standing close. He led us through into the actual bedchamber of Louis the XVI and the XIV and XVII, as well as their private apartments and where they had meetings for treaties and so forth. Louis the XVI was crazy, having ceremonies for everything. People had to come to see him get out of bed, to get into bed, to get dressed, to eat, it was all about ceremony. The opera house was exactly what I would have wanted an opera house to be. I wished only that I could see the proper people in it, and an opera as well.

We went through the parts open to tourists after that, including the spectacular out of this world hall of mirrors with its views of the garden and the mirrors across from it, and through Louis the XVI's bedchambers. I think it was Louis the XIV who demanded to have his chamber look east so the sun would rise on him as it rose, because he called himself the sun queen. We also saw Marie Antionettes personal rooms, and her amazingly beautiful bedroom. Wow, what a place. You can even see the secret door she escaped through. Finally we went to the gift shop but didn't have time to do more seeing of the very french, very trimmed and cared for gardens than what is apparent through the windows. I would love to come back just for the gardens.

We returned to Paris in a hurry to get our stuff and get on the train back. We made it just in time for our train to England. the bell tolled exactly midnight when we walked through the doors of King's college in Cambridge. Home again.

Week Three--Making friends at the Mosque

This is going to be brief because finals are starting this week (for the first module) and I have to find 40 sources for my supervision by Thursday.

Monday--I don't recall much, it wasn't that memorable of a day
Tuesday--I went to formal hall at pembroke. It was wonderful. I sat next to two fo the programme assistants, and across from a student of Pembroke. We spoke mostly about religion and the mentalities of different religions, the educational system in the UK, and how British people perceive the influx of Muslim immigrants. The student of Pembroke is a strong catholic, and I really wanted to get to know him better, but I didn't have the chance before the dinner was over. It would be wonderful to learn how he came to believe in Catholicism in such an atheistic environment.

Wednesday--Plenary lecture on translating books into film.

Thursday--my second supervision was in the morning. I showed her some of the things I had found, and that I had arranged a meeting with Kacem Idrissi who volunteers for Muslim Education and Outreach Cambridge. She was happy about it. There wasn't really much to talk about, so the meeting only lasted for about an hour. After class, which was excellent unsurprisingly, I went to the mosque with two friends, Annie and Katie, but was too late for the prayer. Afterward, Kacem came out and took us on a tour of the mosque. It is a house converted into a mosque, so it is not big enough for the local Muslim population. We sat up in the woman's section upstairs near the curtain, all of us wearing head scarves, and spoke for two and a half hours about my subject, Islam in the UK, and Islam in general. It was a great opportunity to learn a lot more about the Muslim faith. Another man joined us, Faisal, and both of them were extremely fluent in English and quite able to explain Islamic ideas in a clear and precise way. Their children ran all around the mosque, and kept coming over to eat some of the huge dish of samosas that Kacem had obtained for us. I met his wife and three children as well, they're some of the cutest kids I've ever seen. That took until dinner pretty much, and after dinner I think I intended to do some readings though I don't know that I actually did them.

Friday--I went back to the Mosque friday in time for the prayers. A friend of mine, Kate, came along (different from Katie) and we were there for the whole ordeal of fridays. Mohammed, the guy I spent time with in Edinburgh, came also, though we didn't see him during the sermon. We sat in the woman's section, obviously, upstairs and behind a curtain. There were a lot of women visiting that day from interfaith outreach programmes of Cambridge, which I would like to write more on later, so the women filled up the section entirely. We actually had to remove the curtain so there would be more room for the women, and when they opened it it was sort of a shocker because there were at least 200 men directly in front of it. We had listened to a sermon over the intercom, about giving your alms to Allah and not spending your money unwisely, before they did the actual prayers. Kate and I stood in the back trying not to stand out. People had, several times already, mistaken us for Muslims because we did a pretty legitimate job on our hijabs. So I think they were suprised when we didn't pray with them. I met at least 5 women who were converts to Islam and born in the UK. Afterwards, we met up with Mohammed and Kacem, and Kacem gave us another tour for Kate. We then sat up in the woman's section again, and this time for four hours spoke with Kacem, Mohammed, and Faisal about Islam They asked a lot of questions about our faith, and we were able to make many comparisons of our similarities and differences. We learned a lot of how they perceive justice and mercy, compared to how we perceive it, and how they justify the idea that there is not need for a redeemer. We were talking for so long, that Kacem disappeared to the store and returned with fruit juices and fried chicken and french fries. Arab hospitiality (Kacem is from Morocco, though he has hardly any accent) is remarkable. We finished the tour and so forth around 5.30 and were then back at Kings just in time for dinner, which turned out not to be there because of a party they were having. Consequently, Kate and I went down to Sainsbury (the local version of Vons) and bought some dinner for ourselves. We then went to another plenary lecture. This one, again in the Union Society room (which I love by the way) was on how language plays a part in law. The speaker is a linguist and he discussed how he, as a witness for multiple cases, has seen the syntax of the word "approximately" or "substantially" can have literally millions of dollars riding on it. It was, unsurprisingly, a fascinating lecture.

I spoke with Dr. Kerry and Annie, her husband, and Dr. Cope for a while, then returned to Kings. It was late by then, so I went to bed pretty soon.

Saturday--Amelia, Cherry and I went to Oxford. We took the train, which was a complex procedure because one of the lines was shut down, to King's Cross, then via subway to another station, then from there to Oxford. On the first train, about a 50 minute trip, I spoke with an aging Irish man who spent the majority of his life in South Africa. He told me how the crime in South Africa drove him out of the country, after being hijacked 5 times (5!), but how he loved the people, and had spent many years creating various items to help with sustainable energy. he had designed light fixtures for telephone boxes, he had used LED to create a cheap and sustainable way to light a home at night, and had even built his own airplane from nothing (a picture of which he showed me). He had an obvious love of his grandchildren, who he also showed me on his phone, and a deep connection to South Africa which, I could tell, he missed. We had to stand the whole way because the train was crowded, so talking to him made the trip seem much shorter. The rest of the ride was not that eventful, and when we arrived in Oxford, we bought tickets to a hop on hop off tour bus. That took us to Christ's Church College first, which we spent a while touring. It is where some of the first 2 harry potter films were filmed. We also spent a while in the cathedral there, the only cathedral in the world also to be a college chapel, and I spoke with the Priest for a while. He was a retired Anglican Priest, and he explained how they do not believe that there is any one church that has a monopoly on truth. In fact, he said the only reason to be anglican over some other similar denomination is preference. That was eye opening because I had always wondered how the Anglicans justified their founding. He was a very kind man, and he obviously loved to talk about his faith. We went to the bookstore after that, and I purchased a copy of Alice in Wonderland from their store because it was pretty and because this was the school Lewis Carol had taught at and written his books in. We then went to the castle, built 1000 ad, and took a tour there. It was part castle, part jail (a working jail from some obsenely early time until 1996), and the creators had worked really hard to make it a lucrative enterprise. The building is one of the oldest in England and has some fascinating tales associated with it. We took the bus to the book store, to a place called the Scriptum (which, if I ever have enough money, I want to buy everything inside... it was wonderful) and finally to the Eagle and Child Pub where we had dinner. It is the pub that CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien met for their discussions on their books--the Inklings was their group's name. We sat all the way in the back under a converted greenhouse. These two teenage boys stared at me awkwardly the whole time. I determined they thought I looked like someone famous. I ate a lot of french fries (chips) with vinegar, salt, ketchup, and mayonnaise. Yum. Finally, we were able to get back to Cambridge around midnight. It was a crazy train ride back, because most of the help desks were closed so we really just had to hope that people around us knew what they were talking about. In the taxi from the train station to Kings, the driver got talking to me (probably because it was so late, he didn't want to fall asleep) and I finally wheedled out of him that he was muslim. He was really redecient to tell me where he was from when I asked. it was obvious that he was afraid of my reaction. I even asked twice, and both times he said something vague like "all over, florida, mexico" though he had an obviously south east asian accent. Anyway, when he found out I was studying arabic, he got really excited and started to tell me about his habits as a pious muslim. When we arrived at Kings, he gave me several pamphlets on Islam. Now I have like 20 of them.

Sunday--I went to church, which was really wonderful because I feel spiritually deprived sometimes in the mayhem here. I sang in the choir, then took the bus home with a friend. We ate plums we picked from a roadside tree, mostly because neither of us had thought ahead to buy anything to eat on Sunday, and the dining hall would not be open for a while. I went to an interfaith meeting Kacem had told me of around 4. The meeting was about why we should read each other's scriptures, mostly the Bible and the Qur'an. I spoke with several people who were surprised to learn I was Mormon, and asked me more about it. One of them is in charge of this organization, Building Bridges, and he is someone I will hopefully speak with more about interfaith outreach here in Cambridge. I ran off to attend a mass in Latin at the Church of the Virgin Mary and the English Martyrs. A friend, Alison, met me for it. The mass was almost 2 hours long, and, unsurprisingly, most of it was largely incomprehensible (though I could discypher some of what was going on). We had a leaflet which told us when we were supposed to respond and what to say. Most of the people there knew what they were doing, so it made it easier. When we all greeted each other, instead of saying "Peace be unto you" we said "Pax Toum" or something of the sort. The incense in the air, the tall, beautiful building and stain glass, the soaring music, it made it all simply ethereal. I really felt that God loves these people--the Spirit was pretty powerful, my friend commented on it too. I hope to go back to speak with the Priest at some point, asking him about the ceremony and what he says and why they do certain things and what it means. After the mass, I went home and wasted time for a while on the computer. Then I spent a few hours with Alison, just talking. I went to bed around 11.