Punting, Peasant food, and Pianos

Orientation continues to stretch on in a not-unpleasant fashion, leaving us OSAP with plenty of free time. The quiet before the storm, as it were. For example, today we only had to attend a brief lecture about how to use the library system. That’s it. Beyond that we are free.

It is a cloudy day and rain spat on us awhile back, so I am home eating spaghetti and chattering with my roommates. We may put the TV on and relax for a couple hours before getting up to make guacamole for anyone and everyone that wants to come, including anyone that is reading this blog. If you can get to 169A Woodstock Road around 7 p.m. tonight and bring something to pass (a bottle of wine, perhaps? Maybe some pizza rolls?) then you are welcome to come.

That is what is on today. Yesterday someone else took an initiative in organizing a group activity. Eighteen of us met in the morning and went punting. Punting is much like gondoliering (that is a verb now) in that the punter stands up in a boat, called a punt, which is propelled by pushing off of the riverbed with a long pole. A maximum of five people, including the punter, fit in a boat. Everyone gave it a go with mixed degrees of success. I was at it for no more than ten minutes, during which time I moved the boat a net difference of fifteen feet. It is not easy to go straight with these things! But this outing was more for the experience than sightseeing, so no sweat there. But I will have to come back on my bike to explore Christ Church meadows and other surrounding parks.

Afterward, I visited the farmer’s market to get avocados and other goodies. Produce is much cheaper from the Wednesday market, so I stocked up. Knowing that we would be having guac night I got two dozen avocados and hope that’s enough. But the price was right: one pound for six glorious green jewels. Can’t wait for tonight!

At the market I also swooped down on a freshly baked roll (twenty pence) and little wedges of brie near their expiration date (fifty pence a piece). Brie + bread = perfectly good lunch, a “French peasant lunch” as my friend Alex put it. The only thing I was missing was a hearty bottle of wine but perhaps it is best that that was missing.

Yesterday’s orientation lecture was about the history of London and Britain’s standing with the E.U. Interesting enough, but the really interesting lecture came later. In the evening I attended a brief talk about gypsy music, which once again had me excited for studying ethnomusicology (and immigration; it is all related) and my head was set swimming in the web of musical influence. You know what I mean? How one artist listened to a lot of that artist, who studied in this musical school, which really had that origin… And so on. Music is an amazing web of influences which is what made me interested in the first place.

Following the lecture there was a concert that I was not planning on attending due to the price tag (twenty pounds! That is almost forty dollars!) but I was told that there was a scheme (that’s what the British call it here sans the nefarious connotation it has across the Atlantic) for students under twenty-five to get in for free. Wammo-bammo, I qualified and was in for free! It was a marvelous concert. Not exactly Django Reinhardt in style, which is kind of what I was expecting, but a lovely night of music nonetheless. The crowd favorite was a piano duet where the players seemed to be the same person and whose expressions made me feel like I was watching piano theater, if there is such a thing. If the instrument and players were lifted up to the sky and whisked away I would not have been surprised.

So that is what I have been up to for the last couple days. The rest of the Oxford students will be here shortly, and in the meantime I am enjoying my leisure time guilt-free. From what I hear things will be a little more hectic from here on out. But for now, guac taking it easy.

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