I felt like my gradual immersion into England started in Atlanta at the plane flight to London, where I began to hear lots and lots of foreign accents. There were several French and British people on the plane, one being a family from England that sat fairly close to me, and I began to hear the coveted British accent then.
Upon arrival in England, I was walking with my carry-ons when a British man stopped me and handed me my boarding pass telling me. "You dropped this, it might be important." I said thank you, and was just super excited to hear the British accent. Getting through customs was easy, as was getting my luggage. Now, getting my bus ticket to Oxford was a bit more of a challenge. I tried to use the self-checkout because the sign told me to, but it never accepted my card, so I got in line and had to purchase it from the lady, but she was really nice so it worked out in the end.
I think the bus driver got mad at me because I had no idea what I was doing, but I eventually got on the bus and we left the airport. At this time, all I had seen of London was the airport and the sky, so I didn't quite know anything about it. London-Heathrow airport is a fair distance from the city, so when we left the airport, we pretty much went straight into the countryside.
The best word I can think of to describe the land is gnarly. Everything seems old, and twisted, and the ground seems to be covered in shrubs. On the softly rolling hills grows this grass that seems so soft and somewhat uncared for.
I wasn't that weirded out by driving on the wrong side of the road, but more so--much more so--by the driver seeming to be on the wrong side of the car. It is somewhat odd to look down and where you're used to seeing a driver is and empty seat. You'd be surprised at how disorienting it can be, especially in comparison with the relative ease it is to accept that these Brits drive on the other side of the road.
My first viewing of Oxford was the outskirts, which wasn't that impressive, but once I got more towards the center of the town, I was struck by the buildings. You can't really describe the experience of seeing these 15th or 16th or whatever-century-they-are buildings everywhere, especially when they're oddly juxtaposed next to buildings obviously built much later, as in the last half-century. (It's weird thinking that half-century can mean 1960...)
Unfortunately, after getting off the bus, my card didn't work in the ATM, so I had to walk to Crick (the house I live in is on Crick Road), and unfortunately had no idea how to get there, so I wandered around Oxford for about an hour until I found it. Thankfully, being lost in Oxford just means you get to see more of the fantastic buildings, even if it is raining. I don't mind rain, so it was all good, but I have to admit I was very glad to find Crick at the end, and get moved in.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to walk around Oxford with one of my roommates, and that was very enjoyable. Pretty much everywhere in a certain area is so utterly beyond anything I've ever seen in the States. My roommate and I walked around talking about Philosophy, Theology, and Literature, soaking in the sights, and sometimes indulging in conversation that wasn't quite so deep, which is also (I believe) important. It was a great experience. During that walk, I had an English Americano, if you can catch the irony there. I also heard the story of how the Americano was invented, and I hope the story is true, because it's pretty hilarious. And no, I'm not going to tell you.
Ok, just kidding. Basically, the story is that some Americans in France wanted some normal drip coffee, and couldn't find it anywhere, so they went to a Barista and asked for drip coffee. She made espresso then added water, and handed it to them and said, "Here's your Cafe Americano."
I hope that's true.
I was also able to go to a pub yesterday (and had a coke, in case you're wondering). That was pretty fun, to be in that environment. It was called an "old man's pub" because it wasn't that rowdy, and the atmosphere was one more relaxed and conducive to conversation (rather than rowdiness).
Today, then, I went to St. Ebbes church, which is like an Evangelical Anglican church, and I was very impressed at the expositional style of preaching. I felt like it was fairly close to a church that I would choose to go to back home. Obviously, having real wine for communion was a bit different, and the fact everything was said with a British accent.
As far as people are concerned, Sam and Graham (Which is not pronounced "gram" like we do, but "Greyam." He's rather particular.) are great leaders. Both are PhD students at Oxford. Sam studying History, and I'm not sure what Graham is studying. Then the students for the most part are really neat people. My roommates are really neat people, and I am really glad I am with them. One of the students is from Zimbabwe, and he seems really cool. It threw me at first, because his accent sounds very similar to British ones (they are not all the same). Another student was born in Sudan and moved to the States when she was nine, so there's a pretty broad range of students, though all of course go to Christian schools and are on the more intellectual side of things. It's an experience I probably would not have anywhere else. I also have a pretty firm belief that I'm the youngest person in the programme....though that hasn't been confirmed yet....
The British accent is one of the coolest aspects, and I am hoping I learn how to speak it (which I have a feeling I probably will, seeing as I already am figuring it out). Some of the things they tend to do is rather odd. They'll add syllables where we don't, and drop them where we don't. One of the weirdest things, however, is the "r", which is dropped out of words where it shows up in the middle, like "bird" or "here", but is added to the end of words like "pizza" so Sam will say "The pizzer is heah,"
I am looking forward to see what else will happen. I will try to get some photographs up onto this blog here in the near future. We shall see, we shall see. (Because, well, we'll have to).