Thursday, May 19, 2005

Sigh of Relief... I hand in my final essays for the term--hurrah! That's three drama reviews, a six-page analytical essay on the structural use of the flashback in Dogs Barking and Top Girls, and a seventeen-page learning log for Creative Drama. Now all I've got left to finish off this term, academically at least, is a Metaphysics exam. Wow. The semester has simply flown by. Today is my day of rest, in which I think I'll start Harry Potter book five so I'll be all prepped for the sixth book coming out on July 16th! Toby has taught me how to bake a Yorkshire Pudding today, which is rather exciting. And last night, after a picnic dinner with the Skeptics folk, a few of us went to the fringe festival to see Bonnie In Brighton, a new play about an American girl who travels abroad and ends up living in Brighton for a year. Her experience differed just slighlty from mine, however, in a few small details, like her coming upon several thousand ecstasy pills and raking in thousands of pounds as a drug dealer, for instance. Other than that kind of stuff, though, quite apt. ;-)

Anyway, just wanted to let any of you who are still reading this thing in on my celebrations today! My friend Savannah, who is in slightly ritzier on-campus accomodations than I, gave me a congratulatory card today with a voucher for a relaxing bath in her flat's tub, complete with bath fizzies, candles, and a glass of wine. Fun. Ooh, I also did actual laundry today, another cause for celebration.

Oh, I did make it to that rabbi's talk on the Tprah perspective of free will, which was quite interesting. Learned lots of things about the orthodox Jewish belief system that I never knew. And the rabbi was quite a funny guy, as well. If you're interested, I'm happy to go into further detail.

That's all for now. Love as always!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Almost Done?

Although I still have nearly two months before my flight back to California, there is a definite sense of drawing to a close about this week as I write my final essays to be handed in the day after tomorrow. This weekend my dad, Pam, and Allie fly over to visit for a week, and after an oral exam next Monday I will join them in London for sightseeing and theatre before a tour of Stonehenge and a weekend in Brighton. Then I have a few days to study for my Metaphysics exam, pretty much immediately after which I will depart from the University of Sussex, quite possibly and tragically forever, for a month of exciting adventures across Europe in the company of the Fantastic Fox, visiting such countries as Greece, Switzerland, France, and Scotland. So there is much in store for the next several weeks, after which I will most assuredly be ready to come home and relax amidst family and friends.

It's hard to believe I'll soon be leaving all the people and places I've come to know and love in my semester's stay here. Luckily, I'll get another chance to see the Skeptics folk when Kate and I meet up with them for the week in Taize. But my darling flatmates and pseudo-flatmates, it may be a long time before I ever see again. Alas! I will definitely miss this place...

In another hour I have my final class at Sussex. My essays are at the moment each about 2/3 done, and will be handed in on Thursday. The Brighton Fringe Festival has started up, which is quite exiting! I went to my first Fringe show the other night, entitled Death of A Tomato Salesman, in the company of my Metaphysical Materialist friend Justin. The show itself had potential, I thought--an interesting premise, involving a tomato-obsessed man who, following some unorthodox psychological treatment, went from believing that processed tomatoes (and I do hope, as you read this in your head or aloud to your imaginary friends (or mine...), you are not pronouncing the word, as you might be inclined to do, "tom-ay-toes", but rather, in the proper fashion, as "tom-AH-toes") were the only cure for the selfishness of mankind, to believing that they were, in fact, the original forbidden fruit which had first caused our sinful state. The acting and script were a little rocky, and there was far too much sexual innuendo for my personal tastes, but I count the evening worthwhile for the five-hour-long philosophical discussion the play initiated (rather unsurprisingly, actually, given the company), concerning contemplation on the relative merits of selfishness and selflessness, the concept of inalienable human rights, the criteria of justified belief, the proper meanings of the terms "true", "know", and "exist", and the wisdom or foolishness of various courses of action depending upon one's metaphysical beliefs. Which is, of course, always enjoyable.

That's most of the excitement of the moment. I've posted some more photographs on my parallel page for your viewing pleasure, which you can access, as usual, by clicking on My Photos. These mainly depict various fun group activities I've participated in over the past few weeks, as well as a couple of shots from my recent Creative Drama performance (which went splendidly well, thanks! We had a huge audience, and were really happy with our final performance. It was also quite cool to see what all the other groups had been working on.)

Well, off to work a bit on my essays before my final class (Writing For Theatre), a talk on free will by a famous rabbi, and Bible study this evening. Have I mentioned I'm going to miss this place?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Home Sweet Homestay

There is something about being in a home, even if it isn't your own, which is incredibly comforting, pleasant, and utterly unlike that of being in on-campus housing. I've been trying to pinpoint the cause of this difference, and I think a lot of it has to do with the separation between living and working which a home allows but a campus prevents. When you live in university, you're always at work, you always could, and probably should, be working. So anytime you aren't, there's a mild feeling of guilt about it. Also, everyone you live with is also working all the time, so even when you're taking a moment off there's probably someone else nearby doing work. You can never wholly escape from it. While in a home, you have physical separation from the workplace, and functional separation as well. A home is designed for living, while campus accomodations are designed around work. For instance, in my flat our rooms work fine for studying but are nearly impossible to hang out with a group of people in, and our common area has a dining table suitable for a quick meal, but not enough space for everyone to eat together, and horribly uncomfortable chairs clearly not intended for an evening's social gathering. Also, at home there are usually people (perhaps your parents, or younger siblings) who leave their work behind and are able to do as they please in the evenings, so even if you have homework there are other people in the house who are relaxing, so there's an overall atmosphere of peace rather than productivity.

Ok, forgive the ramble. I'm just trying to get a handle on why it was so relieving to get off campus for a weekend to stay with a family, and why I'm really glad I'm living in an off-campus house next year (although Trimble suites, with at least one sofa in the common area, were a bit better). But aside from the general benefits of homes in general, the one I visited last weekend--that of Debbie and Steve Isaac in Petersfield, Hampshire--was a particularly nice one to visit. They had three kids: the oldest girl, Carly, is 17, and the twins, Hannah and Fraser, are 14. They were all incredibly welcoming, friendly, and polite, and accepted me into their lives immediately. The home itself was lovely, particularly the garden, which was absolutely stunning! It was a square yard closed in by brick walls and hedges, with a patio near the house. The rest was grass interlaced with twisting beds of flowers which broke the yard into winding paths. The flowers were gorgeous--tulips and others in a purple and red color scheme--and they also had a trellis with roses and a trampoline. Plus, they had sweet peas starting up as well. Add a hammock and a climbing tree and you've pretty much got my ideal garden. I ended up spending a good portion of the weekend when the rest of the family was busy just sitting out on the grass appreciating the beauty and serenity of it.

But there was lots to do, as well. When I arrived Friday afternoon, Carly and four of her friends were preparing for a fancy-dress rugby ball that evening. After we had seen them off to that, Debbie and Steve walked me into town and took me out to dinner. When we got back, we watched a rather odd reality TV show called Playing It Straight with Fraser as we waited for Carly to return with the gossip about the ball. Saturday morning Fraser and his friend Jess went over to the nearby town of Chichester for some busking (playing music on a street corner) to raise money for a World Challenge trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. So we went along to listen for a bit, and also visited a village called Bosham which was quaint enough to make you cry, and took a guided tour of Chichester cathedral. It was a gorgeous day of giant fluffy clouds rolling impressively across the sunny sky, and the countryside, all yellow with flowers on the rolling green hills, was so beautiful I thought I might explode. I could definitely live here, I thought.

That afternoon I accompanied Debbie out to visit her friend in the hospital (I sat on a hill outside and wrote) and to get some flowers from a plant nursery. We watched an elimination ballroom dance program called Strictly Dancing, and then Steve and Debbie went out for the evening and I spent some time with Carly, Hannah, Fraser, and Jess. We played pool and watched Cold Mountain, a civil war movie with Nicole Kidman which was pretty good, except for the implausible suddenness with which the main characters fell in love.

Sunday morning I got to watch some home videos from a trip the family took travelling all around the world for six months a few years ago, which were amazing. We took Fraser, Hannah, and Jess to tennis lessons, and then I walked around a lake right across the street from their house, in this gorgeous heathland that has been set aside as a public park. It had fields and trees to play in, and ancient burial mounds, and a playground, and tons of people out enjoying the morning. Yup, without a doubt I could live here.

That afternoon we went into town for the VE Day celebration, at which Jess, Hannah, and Fraser were playing in their school orchestra. It was the cutest little fair in the town square, with cotton candy and little rides and old army vehicles and veterans dancing with their wives in period costumes, and the whole town out to celebrate. What a wonderful atmosphere! We walked back home for a last cup of tea in the garden, and then, sadly, it was time for me to catch a train home. Indeed a wonderful and worthwhile weekend!

Oh, and don't worry, I learned from my mistakes with the trip to Rome and made extra sure I had brought along my camera. Unfortunately, I had neglected to charge it before I came, so it ran out of batteries the moment I turned it on and once again I was unable to get any photos of this fantastic experience. Alas!!! But perhaps I can get the Isaacs to send me some so I can share a bit of the experience with you all visually...

This morning I finally turned in the Matrix essay, which I finished last night and ended up being quite happy with. Thursday evening are the performances of our Creative Drama projects, so we've been working hard to get those ready. We got to see all the other groups' pieces yesterday, and they were all quite good, so it should be a fun night of theatre. And a relief to be done with them. After that, I have another week to turn in my last three papers, and then my dad, Pam, and Allie come out to visit for a week, which I'm incredibly excited about! Then only a Metaphysics exam will stand between me and a month of travelling Europe with Kate Fox. And then, I'll return once more to my very own home, and be quite reluctant to leave at the summer's end. Except for the excitement of the Ministry House, and the return to the UPS theatre world, and...

So it goes.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

The Matrix Had Me

Sorry it's been so long since last I posted. I have been deeply immersed in the writing of an "essay" for my science fiction class. We were given permission to do something more creative to fulfill the assignment, and I decided to do something I've been wanting to do for a long time, and rewrite the second and third Matrix movies. Which has been a fun process, allowing me to gain an even deeper appreciation of the first movie and its many layers and complexities, and to do some creative writing in the process. At the same time, putting together the plot of two entire movies, while attempting to remain true to all characters and principles established in the first one, has been quite a complicated and time-consuming process, and there have definitely been moments when I wished I had just chosen some boring but simple traditional essay topic. Anyway, the thing is nearly done at last (just have to go through and cut out 700 words, and write a 300-500 word autocritique) and soon I shall be unplugged once more! Or at least, released into a wider Matrix of the remainder of my essays and projects for the term.

The time over the past week I have not spent working on the Matrix sequels has mostly been devoted to rehearsals for my Creative Drama project, which is the group performance I've been working on for the past few months, and which we perform a week from today... (yikes!) It's been a rocky process, as we usually start each meeting by tossing out at least 50% of what we did in the last one. But what we have kept has become increasingly honed, and I think by the time we finally perform it we will have a piece we are all quite proud of.

This weekend I will be in the neighboring county on a homestay, which should be quite exciting. And towards the end of the month, my Dad, Pam, and Allie will be coming to visit! Hooray! A few days later I'll have my final exam, and then it's off to Greece, Scotland, and Taize with the Fantastic Fox! And then back home... When put that way, it seems like my time here is almost over, but there are still over two months to go. Wow... I just tallied it up, and the total number of days I'll be home over the summer is a mere 24. Which I'm sure will be nowhere near enough... Life rushes on, doesn't it? Ah, well. I wish you all love and joy and a few of those moments when time stands absolutely still.