The Bustle in Bristol

What’s the bustle in Bristol? Well, let me tell you…
            I have been in Bristol for about a week and a half and have: had about 30 meals, moved into my room, registered for classes, been exploring around the city, had my first English tea, my first English cider, my first English pint, been dancing, been to a faux toga party, gone running around, traveled to Bath, traveled to Stonehenge, and not been to a single class… 🙂 (I know what you’re thinking, “what a slacker!”, and I totally am. It’s fantastic!). Right now I am sitting with my roasted carrot and hummus, (with an unidentifiable, but delicious sweet chili sauce), on brown bread sandwich (£1.90) that I picked up from a tiny stall just around the corner from the Arts and Social Sciences Library (A.S.S. for short) in which I am now typing this post as I munch on my food.
The weather when I arrived in Bristol was thoroughly snowy and cold. I was afraid that I had come to an area of the world that was going to be even colder than my Chicago winters back in Wheaton. Thankfully, my fears were quickly assuaged when in a few days the snow was whisked away by rain and has been a temperate 35-50°F here ever since (with quite a bit of rain). Yet, even this weather of rain and cold fronts is particularly freezing to my British counterparts. Hence, when I talk about how warm it is outside, most times my comments are met with looks of confusion, and a polite noncommittal shake of the head… Oh well, it feels absolutely lovely for me considering it is February and it feels like Spring weather already.

Speaking of upgrades, while I desperately miss my sweet sweet roomies back in Wheaton, Terrace apts cannot hold an aesthetic candle to living in Wills hall (aka the closest thing to a castle I will ever live in).Wills hall is about a 25-30min walk away from the main campus. It is set up at the top of a long hill along which runs a road called White Ladies rd. A majority of people in Wills hall don’t have a roommate, which seems to be the norm here for Uni students. Each room is equipped with a sink (with two spigots.One is scaldingly hot, the other bitterly cold. No happy medium)

Another fun tiddly bit about Wills Hall is that it is one of the very few (maybe only) dorms on campus that have an Oxford/Harry Potter style formal meal every Friday. Most Fridays this includes formal table settings in the eating hall, table service, and formal gowns. Everyone brings a bottle of wine to share with friends at their table, and afterward go to the bar downstairs to sit and enjoy one another’s company. On special days there are themes for the formal dinners, my first was Robert Burns night, and the upcoming one is Chinese New Year themed.

The Uni provides students out in Stoke Bishop (where Wills hall is located) with a bus pass. Each day I will catch a bus to the university campus. Nearby where I live there is a retirement community that has lovely grounds. I have been walking around and through it about 2-3 times. The buildings are all made to reflect a more traditional English architecture. They have massive knobby trees, and tiny flowers smattered around their grounds. I don’t really know what are the trespassing laws here in England, so whenever I walk through their grounds I always hope that those in security will just think I am visiting my grandparents and fancied a walk.

The way that classes work here in the UK is apart of a two part system. Classes have their lectures and then their seminars/tutorials. The lectures have a large audience of about 100 people, whereas the tutorials are much smaller, maybe 7-15 people. For me, my classes on Early American Literature, Paradise Lost, and Medieval-Renaissance Literature are just beginning this week (last week was a reading week for those in the ENGL dept.). So today I head off to my first lecture. Unfortunately, the Univ. has been a bit backed up in terms of scheduling, so I still dont know when my smaller tutorials are… I head to the Humanities dept today to see what I can find out.

One of my adventuring days consisted of going into Bristol’s city centre and looking at some of the street art that decorates the buildings on Nelson Street. Here is a link to find out more Nelson Street Art. I guess it is the UK’s largest outdoor Street art project. It was a lot of fun to wander around and take photos. Some of the pieces looked as though they had been drawn from charcoal, others were fascinating in their use of color and shading, and others were just funny looking.

After my friend Meg (a Canadian) and Sophie (an Aussie) walked around downtown Bristol for a bit we stopped by a tea shop where I had my first English tea. A fruit scone, clotted cream, and a rosemary-thyme tea made a splendid spread for a mid-afternoon snack.

This past weekend, on Sunday, I went to Bath and Stonehenge with my same friends Meg and Sophie as well as another chap named Reilly from America. It was a cold and blustery day, but the loveliness of Bath made the venturing well-worth the uncomfortable temperature.

This was a lovely town. Lots of tiny shops all around, and the whole city made out of a lovely yellow stone. I’m sure that during the summer, with the sun shining all around, the city is even lovelier. It was here in Bath that I had a delicious and spicy veggie burger (on the suggestion of my Rick Steve’s [I call him “Ricky”] guidebook we went to the Market Cafe. Delicious!). Unfortunately, we realized that since it was Sunday, we could not tour the Abbey until after we visited Stonehenge.

At stonehenge we were given audio guides that informed us about the various theories surrounding Stonehenge. I found myself enjoying the site, but also in conflict since the sheer man-power and massive capacity needed to build stonehenge was lost to me. In an era of cranes, and building equipment, it was difficult for me to conceive of just how many men it would’ve needed to move these massive plinths of stone. Some of the stones were taken all the way from Wales, some 200 miles away! If you do a bit of research into Stonehenge, you will come to understand that no one really understands how it was built or for what reason.  This boggles my imagination. In anthropology I remember learning about a hierarchy of needs: food, shelter, procreation, etc. When the needs at the top are met, then the capacity of a society to build ornate places of worship, go to war, expand their territory is increased.
The knowledge that multiple groups of people (since stonehenge was built, rebuilt, and built again) thought that the transport of gynormous stones across a muddy and slippy landscape was well worth the resources, food supplies, and manpower necessary is fascinating. Either it had a great significance, or the people of that time were really really bored…and strong…and celestially fascinated (some think stonehenge is a celestial calendar, which due to its set-up is not a far-fetched idea). The heel stone is set in such a way that at the summer solstice it lines up perfectly with the rising of the sun.Well, I have been having a fantastic time. I can’t believe how blessed I am to be able to travel and to have such grand adventures here in the UK. This weekend I am going on a youth church retreat, and also hopefully on Thursday go to my second LeRoc dance class.
I went to my first LeRoc class (which is a hybrid of Modern Jive, Salsa, Swing Dance, and Jazz dancing) last night, and had a delightful time. I danced there for about three hours. There were mainly individuals in their early 30’s to their late 70’s. Those gentlemen that were older were wonderful dancers! I was amazed at how well they moved and at how good they were at dancing. I am very excited to go again!In conclusion, I have been having a great time. These upcoming weeks include the church retreat, beginning of classes, and dancing. I’ll try to be better about sticking to my weekly blog rule. Life just flys by, and trying to coordinate photos and writing can be difficult, but also so much fun! Have a blessed day, thanks for reading!