March came in like a lamb, not like a lion, contrary to the saying. Every day of this month so far has had sun. Granted, this is England, so even sunny days have clouds, the majority of the clouds this past week have been big, white, and puffy. Only a few days were the clouds a grey sheet, which usually cleared away by midday.
My homework level has come in like a lion however. Mondays are killer. I’ve made it my routine to have a full English breakfast on Monday mornings to start off the day well. But no matter how much I eat to keep me going, I always end up feeling starved and exhausted by the time 5:30 PM rolls around (when British Literature ends). My energy is drained so much I don’t feel like participating, no matter how interesting or illuminating our discussions about Great Expectations are–which is unfortunate, because I really would like to participate. … And Monday being Monday, it never ends, spilling over into Tuesday. I stayed up quite late (2 AM) doing homework and reading just to be prepared for Tuesday.
Sleep deprived, it was hard to get up on Tuesday for British Culture class, but I did it. We reviewed and reflected on our British Culture tapestry that we are creating, so it was a nice break from having to prepare a presentation. Tuesday turned out to be a good day (better than Monday). I went to Morrison’s and splurged myself a little. I got jelly babies–these incredible soft gummies with powdered sugar on them. I also stopped by Sainsbury’s for a few cheaper items. The cashier was very friendly, asking me “Where abouts are you from?” When I told him Michigan, he thought for a second and said “That’s where Detroit is, right?” I said yes, and then he went on a ramble about how he didn’t like American football and how he thought baseball was boring. I told him I wasn’t much of a sports person (just “sport” here). He smiled because I bought peanut butter and jelly. They don’t mix the two here, and they can pick out an American when someone buys the two together. …
All night Tuesday I avoided homework (which probably wasn’t a good idea), but instead booked trains, ferries, and planes for my spring break. We have a 3 week “Easter break” here at YSJ, so we get an incredible amount of time to travel. I will be going to Italy the first week, Ireland the second, and to family in the Netherlands the third. It’s going to be awesome. I’ve never coordinated so many means of transportation and hostels in my life. … The nice thing about having family in the Netherlands (my last stop) is that I can stay with them! And practice my Dutch! … All this took a monumental amount of time, so I was up quite late for the second night in a row, and I started developing a cold.
I didn’t want my cold to get any worse, and I had loads of Great Expectations to read, so the only thing I did all Wednesday (besides nap a bit and eat) was read and relax. It was beautiful outside, so I cracked my window open while I whiled the hours away at my book. I would have gone outside to sit on a bench in the sun, but if you’re not moving here–even in the spring-like weather–it gets chilly quickly. It is still officially winter.
I thought of my mom quite a bit on Thursday. It was her birthday, and I would be video chatting with home that night. It was my turn for devotions in our British Literature class. I didn’t know what to do until an hour or so before class, so I simply read 2 of my favorite poems: “The Road Goes Ever On” and “All That is Gold Does Not Glitter” by J.R.R. Tolkien from The Lord of the Rings. When in doubt, Tolkien is always the best way to go. I also ended my devotions by reading a song called “O God Beyond All Praising.” I first heard this song at Woodlawn CRC in Calvin College’s chapel. If you have not heard this song, look up the hymn tune THAXTED or Gustav Holst’s “Jupiter” from the Planets suite. It has become one of my favorite songs.
Brit Lit was a very different and enjoyable class for me that day. Dean mixed things up a bit and allowed us to draw! We had to think about scenes from Great Expectations with Pip’s parental figures and “adapt” it for a dramatic movie. My group and I chose the scene with Pip and Joe Gargery in London (I don’t expect you to know who they are if you haven’t read the book, but I’m mentioning them for specificity’s sake). We also got to decide on what the costumes looked like, the lighting, the props, the cinematography, and who was casted as which character. I was glad to do something other than just discussion in class. It may have been my favorite Brit Lit class period yet.
York Christian Heritage Walk
At 3 PM that afternoon I did something I did not expect to do when I woke up that morning. A few girls had heard about a tour called the Christian Heritage Walk from some members of St Michael-le-Belfrey (the church next to the York Minster). I joined them and we had an excellent tour of sites in York where famous and influential Christian figures lived, preached, and/or worked, including Emperor Constantine, David Watson, Joseph Rowntree, D.L. Moody, Margaret Clitherow, John Wesley, and Billy Graham. Our guide was an old but wise man named Douglas Greenfield. He told us that he had traveled the world extensively, having been to some 110 countries. He also lived in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, for a big part of his life, and taught at Princeton University. I was amazed at just how many influential Christians passed through or lived in York. Places that I have already been to in the city, like the Shambles, were illuminated in new ways. For instance, we learned that Margaret Clitherow hid Catholic priests in the nooks of her Shambles home (which then was the street where all the butchers lived). We also saw many squares where John Wesley and Billy Graham drew big crowds and learned that York was a key city to the Quaker denomination of the church. Our guide even had a personal connection to D.L. Moody. Mr Greenfield’s father had been converted to Christianity by Moody himself. …
That night I video chatted with home, wishing my mom a very happy birthday. As I may have said before, missing birthdays is one of the hardest things about being away from family. At least we have modern technology to communicate in real time though! I found out that my parents are officially coming to visit me in York in April! We had talked about it a lot, but they finally booked their tickets. I am excited for them to come and can’t wait to show them the great city of York.
I’ll skip right to lunch on Friday, because nothing remarkable happened in the morning except that I mailed out a few more postcards. I had a brie (a kind of cheese) and courgette (the word they use here for “zucchini”) focaccia sandwich, which was delicious, in the dining hall. I then headed to the York Railway Station to pick up some tickets I had bought for my return to York at the end of spring break. … Since it was a beautiful day, and I didn’t want to be cooped up inside all day like I had been on Wednesday, I decided to walk the entirety of the old city walls. Flowers are beginning to shoot up everywhere around the walls. In a week or two I expect many daffodils to be blooming. The crocuses are already blooming.
I headed to Sainsbury’s directly after my wall walk and bought salad, croutons, and salad cream for my contribution to a Grange Potluck we held that night in Natasha’s flat. It was quite expensive, and we definitely had more than enough food at our potluck, and now I have a lot of salad left over to eat. It was still worth it, I think, for the better quality food and the fellowship. … I then headed to Dean and Nancy’s to hang out with the people who were there. I got to see the last 5 minutes of the Simon Schama episode they were watching, but we had good conversation afterward.
Lincoln: Tennyson’s Town
The next day was Lincoln (not Abraham). It was a 2-hour coach ride to the south. Lincolnshire is where Alfred Lord Tennyson grew up, so we visited the Lincoln Library and were given a special lecture at the Tennyson Research Centre. The Centre was in the dome of the library and kept by an amiable and enthusiastic Grace Timmins who knew almost everything there is to know about Tennyson. When she was telling us all about what they kept in the archive, she kept going off on tangents and tangents of tangents, but it was all very interesting. The archive had 4000+ of Tennyson’s personal collection, his father’s books, his son’s books, and his wife’s (or sister’s–I can’t remember which) books. They had letters from Queen Victoria to Tennyson, including one that she wrote to him in condolence after his son Lionel tragically died. They also had a first edition of Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, that the author had given as a gift to Tennyson, and a copy of Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, that the author had given to Tennyson as a Christmas gift. The best part was that we were allowed to touch and hold most of the things in the collection. We could see Tennyson’s actual doodles and marginalia in his books. I liked the doodles drawn by Edward Lear on his letters to the poet. It was a fascinating library, and one of Lincoln’s best kept secrets, according to the keeper, Grace.
We hiked up Steep Hill street (probably the steepest I’ve been on in England so far–and perhaps the steepest), and visited the Lincoln Castle, which was built by William the Conqueror in 1068–just two years after the Battle of Hastings, when he invaded England. The Castle was basically a wall with a few buildings, a lawn, and a court in the center, but it had an interesting prison. The prison had a chapel with individual cells for the prisoners to stand in during the service. A documentary was being filmed at the castle, which made it difficult to get around some of the rooms because cameras and cables were lying everywhere, but once we got up on the castle walls, the view got to be spectacular. I could see for miles and miles over Lincolnshire. Only here could I really tell that Lincoln was up on high ground (besides for the Steep Hill).
I strolled around the Lincoln Cathedral. Some sort of processional must of priests or bishops or clergy must have been going on for their many people lined up outside. It also explained why the Cathedral was closed to the public for the day. We weren’t allowed inside. A few of my group members spotted Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. Unfortunately I did not see him, nor did I capture him the picture I took of the processional. … A statue in memorial to Alfred Lord Tennyson stood on the other side of the cathedral. It is still hard for me to imagine this, but he was as popular or well-known (or more) as J.K. Rowling or President Obama is to us in our time, in his time. Although not quite as charismatic as Charles Dickens, he was just about as famous as his contemporary. … We got back to York after 5 PM. The rest of the night I read Great Expectations and finished it. I loved it. It just might be one of my favorite Dickens books now. (I hadn’t ever read it before.)
Sunday I meant to wake up around 8 AM and have a very productive morning. The only productive thing I did, though, was keep sleeping. I must have turned off my alarm clock after pressing snooze 3 times. It’s not like I had anywhere to go in particular, I just had a lot to get done, including laundry and reading and writing assignments. I did get my laundry done after borrowing a spare pound from Samantha. It’d not like I didn’t have the money, it’s just that the machines only accept coins and only specific amounts.
At 2 PM I went to Dean and Nancy’s house on Markham Crescent for Sunday dinner. They’ve been having groups of 5-6 of us over every Sunday that we are in York in rotation. I went with Alicia, Natasha, Geri, Mary, and Teresa. The Wards served us mash potatoes and lamb and beef stew with vegetables and salad. It was SO good. Probably the best and heartiest meal I’ve had in a long while. They also gave us a desert of ice cream and we shared a good long conversation. …
As I am writing this I am about to go to the 7 PM church service St Michael-le-Belfrey (affectionately called St. Mike’s) downtown with a group of people. I’ve heard lots of good things about the church, but haven’t been there yet. I’ve met some of its members, though, on the Christian Heritage Walk that I talked about earlier. Other than that, pray that I have a good 6th week of class (the homework is really starting to pile up) and that I stay safe. I am praying for all of you back home or wherever you may be reading this from throughout the world. Things are about to get chaotic as I pummel through the rest of March to Easter break. … I’ve made this pun before, but (since I rarely tire of puns) I have great expectations for the rest of this month!
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