Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Once upon a time, I was in AP Lit, and my teacher made me a conspiracy theorist. Well, at least in regards to Shakespeare.

One of my fondest memories of that delightful class (other than one of my classmates microwaving a marshmallow Easter peep) were the discussions on who Shakespeare actually was. Was he really the William Shakespeare of Stratford upon Avon, England? Or could he be Edward Devere? Kit Marlowe? Queen Elizabeth?

In any case, Stratford has always been high on my places to visit. This is because I love Shakespeare's plays and I am a nerd. But that works for me, and I can always fall back on my good looks.

My first impression of Stratford? Tourist trap.

I'm sorry, but it is. I still love it, it was still fascinating, but geez, could they exploit the hometown of Shakespeare any more? Don't answer that.

The first place we visited was Shakespeare's birth place.


The museum was fairly interesting, and I REALLY enjoyed seeing one of the old folios.

Old books make me very happy.

No judging.

The house was designed to look like an Elizabethan's home. It included tiny beds, a cradle in the master bedroom, etc. The outside gardens were very pretty as well.

One of the really neat things was the window pane. People scratched their names and initials on it--we were looking at 600 year old graffiti.

When I walked upstairs, I passed Juliet, looking wistfully out the window.

The actresses were really nice. And I love their dresses!

They then performed a scene from "Two Gentlemen of Verona".

And then we came to the church, where Shakespeare--at least the one that lived in Stratford--was buried with his wife, Anne Hathaway. Now that was something truly neat!

Afterwards, we went to the Dirty Duck, which is where the actors of the Royal Shakespeare Company go after each performance. The walls were covered with autographed pictures of various actors.

And of course, in the evening, we saw them perform a rendition of "Merchant of Venice", which was possibly one of the more bizarre experiences in England. Patrick Stewart was the lead, and it was sooo cool to see him perform up close, but the play as a whole? ...I'll post a review of it tomorrow.

And now, I shall leave you with a picture of a boat which contains a rather sick joke if you know anything about the play "Hamlet".

Friday, August 19, 2011

Oxford Part 3

WARNING: This blog will be chock full of sentimentality, emotion, and blatant Christian themes. If any of these things offends or makes your stomach hurt, please disregard this post. If not, enjoy an obnoxious outpouring of my soul. I promise the random silliness and cool Euro pics will continue afterwards.

So...time for some honesty. Me and God? We have not been on the best terms these past six months. Well, past two years, really.

This may not be a surprise to some. My relationship with God has been a tumultuous whirlwind. Picture in your head a screaming toddler who only calms down when the parent gives her a cookie. Something like that.

But for these long six months, it's been the worst it's ever been. I rarely spoke to God, except to occasionally pepper Him with demands I felt I needed. I call this, 'grocery listing.' I stopped calling myself a Christian and even (I'm ashamed to say so) allowed a horrible feeling of condescension and superiority fester inside me. I mocked what I once believed with my whole heart.

It should also not surprise many that these past six months have been the worst in my life. There were times where I could not even manage to get out of bed, I felt so horrible about life. I was miserable. I think some might diagnose it as depression, but all I could see it as were periods of the utmost darkness. I couldn't even see past my own emotion. There didn't seem to be a point in going on anymore.

I was lucky though. Well, I suppose luck had nothing to do with it. I had wonderful friends who loved me, who wouldn't let me succumb to the darkness. There were certain days where my only reason to get out of bed was to go out to lunch with one of them. And then, my trip to England suddenly became a reality, so I had something to look forward to. How could I think life wasn't worth living when I was so close to seeing a place I'd dreamed about? Seeing the homes of C.S Lewis, the cities of Jane Austen, the birthplace of Shakespeare?

So you can understand, maybe a little more precisely why Oxford was so meaningful to me.

After C.S Lewis' grave, I decided I would get dinner at a pizza restaurant that had caught my eye and finish my night off with a drink at the Eagle and the Child. I took the bus from Headington back to Oxford and walked to Fire & Stone, where I enjoyed a delicious dinner. As I left the pizza restaurant, it began to rain.

Once I arrived at the pub, I ordered a beer and sat down. I began to read "The Great Divorce" while enjoying my drink. This was probably not the best idea. After all the emotion that had consumed me after seeing my favorite writer's grave, reading one of his best novels while at one of his favorite places was sure to open the floodgates. And sure enough, it did. I had to set my book down while tears misted my eyes. I believe I worried several of the patrons.

But at that moment, the queerest feeling came over me. It felt almost as though I was having a beer WITH him, with my favorite writer. C.S Lewis himself. As if he was sitting across from me, probably sneering at my light beer and asking me questions I didn't want to answer. And then, it felt as though I was having a real conversation with him.

Immediately, I grabbed my computer and typed out all I heard. As soon as I finished, the floodgates were open, and I was legitimately crying. I wasn't even sure what I was crying for. I downed the rest of my drink, shut my computer down, and hurried out the door.

It was twilight. I opened up my umbrella and the rain kept pouring down on the cobblestone streets. I walked aimlessly, with the vague notion of heading towards my hostel but if you'd asked me then where I was going, I would probably have only stared at you blankly. I could feel it. I could feel God trying to niggle His way back into my life and I was both desirous and petrified. Could I really do this? Could I really put my trust back into something I had scorned and ridiculed for the past year?

I stopped in the middle of the sidewalk. I was still crying. I didn't say anything nor did I really have coherent thoughts at this point, but all I can say is that I apologized to God for being such a rotten person and asked quietly for Him to forgive me. I told Him (without saying or thinking, it was a strange sensation, I can't really explain it adequately) that I wanted to come back but I needed His help--I certainly couldn't do it on my own.

And then I felt peaceful.

So there you have it. I'm now a Christian. I hate to call this a conversion story since in all honestly, I've been bouncing back and forth from Christianity to skepticism to agnosticism over and over again for the pat three years. But I can say that has stopped. The time for pretending is over. I know that it's not always going to be all sunshine and roses and I know that it's going to get harder as I go on. But all I can say, is I'm here. And I'm staying.

Oh, if you're wondering about the 'conversation in my head with C.S Lewis' that I wrote down, I'm not really sure where to put that. Another blog post? Let me know if you want to see it. Or let me know if you're sick of this nauseating sentimentality and want to get back to the pretty pictures and hilarity.

Love to all!