Moving into Second Week

November is just around the corner and, amazingly, I am able to sit outside in the evening while typing this. It drizzles plenty here and the pavement always seems to be wet but there are bouts of sunshine and the temperature has been appreciably mild. But with the shortening days the leaves have started to turn and my bike kicks up swirls of yellow leaves. Looks like I couldn’t have picked a better season to come.

So today is the first day of second week. The essay I was procrastinating on is now finished, submitted, and discussed. And I must say that I could not be happier with my tutor or chosen field of study. We had our first tutorial meeting yesterday and it was great. For someone that seeks out professors outside of class anyway this system is a welcome development. Meetings are generally supposed to last an hour but yesterday the hour and a half we had still felt rushed. The meat of the meeting is supposed to be discussion of the written essay and its topic (the topic was “What do ethnomusicologists study?”) but I am fond of tangents and wish we could have discussed more in detail. But for what it was I couldn’t be happier.

And, best of all, I got this week’s topic: “Why is North Indian music attractive beyond its national boundaries?” The reading list is limited to one short book (Music in North India by George Rucker) and for the rest I am left to my own devices and observations. After the meeting I returned books to the Christ Church library (the only place I am actually allowed to borrow books; otherwise I have to read in the library) and found one about the Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper album. It has a chapter about the Beatles in India, so I checked it out and will use it as a reference. I have also listened to The Concert for Bangladesh as a reference. Dreams do come true!

Other avenues for exploring this topic in the next week include taking vocal classes with the Oxford Classical Indian Arts Society (Long digression: they are having a meet-and-greet tonight! By the time I post this I will have already attended since I am typing this post up in a Word document while at the Turf Tavern with a pint of Old Rosie cider. Let it be noted that this is my reward after eight solid hours of reading about human trafficking and smuggling, which is the topic for my second essay for my minor about immigration. That essay isn’t due for another three weeks but I am working ahead. Another day like today and I will be sitting pretty indeed!) and learning more about Hindustani (the music of North India, as opposed to Karnatic music in South India) classical music in general. I plan on doing a few sketches of instruments while listening to the music they create to get a better idea of how it all goes together. So yes: I am listening to Ravi Shankar and reading about the Beatles for research. I couldn’t be happier with this state of affairs.

As for the future of my ethnomusicological (how many points do I get for that in Scrabble?) course: that remains to be seen. My tutor and I have agreed to adjust the course as it progresses, meaning that we have no fixed meeting time and that the topic for future essays will be fixed according to my interests. We are starting with exploring my original proposal of Indian-English cultural exchange but, based on how the readings and explorations go, we can look at other ideas. Where else do you get this kind of experience? I would love to come back here at some point, either as a graduate student, dPhil (dee-phil = Doctor of Philosophy = Phd) candidate, or intern.

The aforementioned immigration minor also has promise. My tutor for that has a syllabus, which she sent me upon arrival, for a fixed course. I am happy to follow this form as well since it gives an idea for different ways of how things work at Oxford. We will be meeting every other Friday from 10:15 to 11:15 in the morning starting this week. The essay about “What is driving international migration?” is already written, hence why I am starting the next meeting’s readings so soon. This topic has an incredible number of related lectures. I have already been to one about family migration and its relationship to well-being and have a number of others in my planner for the coming weeks. Not surprisingly, there is no shortage of interesting academic talks to give one a pause from reading.

But, as I have previously indicated (to the occasional consternation of Mother Dearest), there are plenty of other more recreational ways to spend one’s time here in Oxford. As my roommates pointed out in conversation last night: pretty much every meeting or activity I describe is associated with whether or not a pub visit is included afterward. I can’t help it! A) There is a strong pub culture here, where even my tutor clarifies lectures with whether or not the speaker goes to the pub with attendees afterward. B) Many groups advertise their events with a promise of “drinks at the pub after the meeting — free drinks for first-timers!” C) There are so many fabulous pubs here that it would be a shame not to make an excuse to visit as many as possible. (Hence why I am at Turf Tavern, a well-known pub only accessible by navigating a few narrow alleyways.)

Case in point: on Saturday I volunteered with a group called KEEN, which is a local organization that is aimed at providing an opportunity for kids and young adults with disabilities to play sports and have a creative outlet. In Tampa I do a fair amount of volunteering, but I will admit the impetus of this involvement is my involvement in a leadership program (President’s Leadership Fellows = PLF) in Tampa. This year the group is picking a local organization to collectively work with and my job, since I am abroad, is to do research on a local organization with goals similar to our own. Since the topic we agreed on in the spring is “kids with disabilities” I thought KEEN would be the perfect place to explore.

The experience itself was interesting, especially since I have no experience (nor much interest in) children but overall it went well. On Saturdays KEEN organizes physical activities (this week we did baseball, basketball, and boxing aerobics plus other warm-ups and cool-downs. Speaking of which: the cool-down was the hokey kokey. It is like the hokey pokey but… British.) but they also organize arts and crafts and such. In the coming weeks I will try to get involved with different aspects of the program so that I can have more to share with my peers back home.

But back to the point: they went to the pub afterward. J It was a nice chance to socialize, which is also of importance. Being here only one term is really too short, which I believe I have lamented before. But the reality of this short-term situation is that there is much less incentive to really get to know people here. I had a whole post about the dilemma of the short-term visitor planned, but the gist of it is that if you are not going to be somewhere for long then you are much less likely to make meaningful connections in that place. For example: during my year abroad there were a number of Americans in Thailand for an eight week program in the summer. The experience was amazing and not to be discounted (eight weeks is still a long time to be abroad) but the result is that they likely know far fewer Thai people on a personal level. I feel the same applies to me being here. Sure, I can meet locals and chat it up at the pub but will we exchange numbers and do something later? Most likely not. My word of advice to anyone else doing this program is to really get into it and enjoy it as much as possible but know that the temporality of your visit will inhibit your ability to make friends.

All right the alarm just went off that tells me it is time to move onto the next thing, which is in this case a meet-and-greet with the Oxford Indian Classical Arts Society. Maybe someone will be interested in writing my essay for me…? At the very least I will get some ideas. And get a cheeky peek at TrinityCollege! My goal here is to visit as many pubs and colleges as possible. It’s all about balance, right? 

PS This has been posted with editing, as I tend to do with blog posts. Apologies if I, now or in the future, drone on a bit in regards to particulars about my courses. I can’t help it; that is what I am here for after all. Thanks for reading.

PPS The Indian Classical Arts Society meeting gave a lot of insights and connections to even more places where I can immerse myself in this topic. Mission more than accomplished.

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