Get pumped! Today’s the last day of class. Looking back, the experiences were surreal

  • played pingpong for 2 hours
  • last tutorial/afternoon tea
  • punting
  • watched my third Shakespeare play (Hamlet, Love’s Labor’s Lost, Midsummer’s Nights Dream)

Breakfast was open from 8am – 9am…and I woke up at 8:55. When I had dressed and ran down to the dining hall, the clock had struck 8:59. During breakfast, you had the option of choosing a “full English Breakfast” (which consisted of scramble eggs, bacon, hash browns (seldom) and a pastry) or the continental breakfast (e.g. yogurt, milk, cereal, fruit). You usually had to ask for the “full English breakfast” and a student of Brasenose would serve you, but the continental breakfast was just a grab-and-go. So I asked a student if I could still eat a full English, and she checked her watch (which by the way was 8:59:45) and then had the audacity to REJECT me from food! Solemnly, with my lips pursed and my stomach growling, I walked out (but as I left, I snatched an apple, box of cereal (rest assure it was a to-go cereal; the smaller lunch box sized) but I forgot the spoon).

With all my food, I walked into the recreational room (AKA: JCR) and sat down at the computer to print out my final essay for my last tutorial. After I had printed out my essay, I hung around the guys and played ping pong. Who would’ve thought we’d end up playing ping pong (jungle pong to be exact) for around 2 hours before I realized I had to go to my tutorial session.

My final session with Andrea was short and sweet.

Then after lunch, my entire class (the all five of us) got together to sign an intricate card from an authentic cute stationary shop around the corner to thank Andrea. With that we headed out to our first and final afternoon tea party with her. We were served a couple of fluffy biscuits, a metal kettle of tea (English tea I presume) jelly and scones. mmm they were soo filling and delectable.

Quickly following our tea party,some of us went to go punting (a national wide sport that’s similar to kayaking but its not). Punting requires a person to stand at the end of the boat with a long (10ft?) metal hollow rod to leverage and steer. Claire, who had been on the rowing team, kayaked her way (by “kayak” i mean like lifting the entire punting rod out of the water and pushing their boat forward with kayak like strokes). Andy, Jonathan and I punted our way through the thick and with a little orr in our boat, helped me and guided me through the waters. Even though we were only able to row half way up the stream, and we switched out punters, we were able to get back to shore in the allotted amount of time before our money was lost.

Finally, I got the chance to watch my third and final Shakespeare’s play: Midsummer Night’s Dream. As the play began, we sat down on the first row of seats on the right side of the stage. As the play (played by Oxford drama students) went on, night was quickly approaching. At one of the scenes the high-spirited fairy was frolicking around, he performed a risque move–he stuck out his butt facing us, and MOONED us. He quickly pulled it back up and resumed his coltish behavior. Other than that, the play was a delight to watch. It’s rare to see happy endings in a shakespearan plays but they’re just as good as his infamous tragedies.

“Life is but a dream”

 

 

Honors in Oxford: Tutorial Essay #3

“There are more things in heaven and earth…than are dreamt of in your philosophy” until I saw Hamlet. For those that do not know, Hamlet is one of Shakespeare’s most illustrious plays. It tells a tragedy of a man named Hamlet seeking to avenge his father’s death, which ultimately leads to his own demise.

hamlet

Creation Theatre’s new rendition of Hamlet was performed outside in University Parks. The play provided the perfect synthesis between the modern visual cues to successfully bridge the script and the preservation of the original Shakespearean language. The vernacular of Shakespearean English is central to understanding Shakespeare’s writing because it creates depth in the development of the characters. His distinct rhythmic structure allows their dialogues to become more realistic, creates comical affects, and reveals the character’s mental stability.
To recap: the play follows the plot of the original story with only a few minor changes: after the passing of Hamlet’s father, the former King of Denmark, Hamlet abides by his father’s apparition to avenge his father’s death by killing Claudius. Upon seeing his father’s ghost, Hamlet goes mad and his maddening insults towards Ophelia, like deserving to live in a nunnery, drove her nearly to depression. Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, marries Claudius, the brother of Hamlet’s father, and thus a coronation ceremony is held, crowning him as the new King. Hamlet then devises a plan to prove that Claudius was the true murderer and succeeds. When he finally has the chance to speak to his mother, he notices someone eavesdropping and immediately shoots the eavesdropper. Unfortunately, expecting it to be Claudius, Hamlet realized it was Polonius, in this case, Ophelia’s mother. Infuriated by the death of Polonius, Claudius orders Hamlet to be exiled and killed with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as his escorts. However, Hamlet escapes and instead leads his two comrades to death. Back in Denmark, Ophelia mourns over her mother’s loss and allegedly commits suicide. Laertes, Ophelia’s brother, swears he will seek revenge against Hamlet by challenging him to a sword duel. Claudius then prepares a poisoned drink for Hamlet. However, during the duel, Gertrude drinks the potion and dies. Eventually, the duel between Laertes and Hamlet results in the former’s death. Ultimately, Hamlet fulfills his father’s commands and murders Claudius. With his last breath, Hamlet tells his friend, Horatio, to continue his legacy.

The play began with a vintage van cruising along the path of the park. The van was the vehicle that transported the entire story onto the field for everyone to see. Vandalized on one side of the van were some of Shakespeare’s other well-known plays including Macbeth, and Romeo and Juliet. As the actors assembled their props, rock music played in the background. Their choice in goth-like clothing and style of music added a touch of modernity and a sense of foreshadowing a tragedy. Their music and clothes represented the shadow of doubts in thoughts of suicide and murder. The stark colors represent an eerie gloomy presence of death looming in the air. Of course, that’s not to say that all dark clothing is doomed to death, but the skulls painted on their faces was a key identification.

The use of guns was neatly integrated throughout the story. Like most modern plays, these guns were never loaded with bullets. Firing a blank never diminished the dramatic affects, but it also allowed the a quick and easy transition from one scene to the next. Frequently seen, guns made their first appearance when Hamlet contemplated on committing suicide. However, when Laertes asked Hamlet for the duel, it was not like the epic duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, rather it brought us back even further in history when the use of swords and daggers were common. By reverting back to swords, it stalled the scene, making the audience sit on the edge of their seat in anticipation for their next move. Nonetheless, when Hamlet killed Claudius, the sword was not needed for extra dramatization. The gun that shot Claudius appalled the viewers. The mixture was a nice addition to the overall story and never left the audience unsatisfied.

Additionally, the use of cell phones and other telephones appeared frequently in the show. It allowed the audience to relate to the situation more. Instead of using human messengers like they did in the past, the playwrights added the use of phones to send texts and make phone calls from one person to another in order to make the process of delivering and receiving messages more efficient. For instance, Hamlet was able to send Claudius a text via cell phone. By sending a text message to Claudius, it significantly reduced the amount of time spent on the delivering process of the message. Regardless of the medium Hamlet used to deliver his message, whether it be a text or by a human messenger, to Claudius, the message never lost its intended purpose.

Simultaneously, however, Creation Theatres incorporated a healthy balance of both mediums of transporting messages in order to retain the intended meaning behind the action. For example, Hamlet continued to write hand-written correspondences to Ophelia. The idea of hand writing letters, in this case, makes the letter more sentimental and personal. Hand writing letters to a loved one never fails to convey the love one has for another.

In order to maintain the audience’s attention, they were able to cut down a typical six-hour play to merely two hours, with a twenty-minute intermission. In doing so, one could argue that some of the meaning was lost due to the significant time that was lost. But this was not the case. Creation Theatre effectively incorporated ad libs to clarify the shortened prose so that even with a condensed play, the meaning would remain intact. To illustrate, Hamlet’s and Claudius’ monologues were abbreviated, yet the quality or the purpose of the message was never compromised.

With only six men and women collectively, many actors and actresses had to double up in roles, even leading to a woman having to play Horatio, Polonius, Gravedigger and Guildenstern. She mastered all the roles with ease. Moreover, because they lacked members, some of the scenes were also abridged or cut to compensate for the lack of roles available. For example, instead of Laertes instigating the idea of a duel between Hamlet and himself, the original play has Osric, a member of the court, create rules for the fencing match. Even with the short-handed staff, they were still able to convey the message clearly, thus the duel was set. In the essence of time, some of the minute details were removed, yet the clear and concise plot never failed to follow Shakespeare’s intentions.

By keeping Shakespeare’s prose rich and dramatic, we can truly enjoy his parlance. Even more so, the modern addition aided in the transition and kept the audience on their feet. Creation Theater’s rendition of Hamlet was impeccably written and played. Even though most of the play had been dramatically abridged and many scenes were deleted (like most of the long Shakespearean plays nowadays) they were all necessary revisions. With high ratings and an experienced cast and crew, they did not fail to provide another award winning show. “Hamlet” was riveting and provided a perfect amalgamation of modernity and Shakespeare’s timeless prose to create a worthwhile source of entertainment.

 

Today I decided to visit some 25 ton rocks.

  • bus driver notifying us that the lsat tour bus would come around 7pm and if it didn’t then they could lie in the soft pasture
  • we walked towrd the mintuare huts thwere they assumed the cavemen(?) would live. little tipies were buitl with straw and caly–so cosy i thought this would make a second alternative
  • then we ran toawardss th ebus that tooks us to the rocks.bus traversed a low shoulder, one war street for pedatrians and buses –not fit for two buses going in opposite directions. everuthing was timeily?
  • walking there with our audio, we followed the path htat went around the wrong way 98-1)
  • then we ran to the bus, hoping on just in nick of time to catch the tour bus
  • then we headed down the narrow road withsteep jmounded of dirt were piled (burried underneath were bodies of men adn womena nd chidlren) similar to egypitain pyramids and maya pyriids to commenerate the dead
  • when we arrived at our next desintation: city on hill, we walked up a hill which led to apth that circled the entire city. we nknkew we didnt have enought ime. so we cut through the grass and headed tworads the delapitated castle built form rocks (which we thought were also imported from wales since there weren’t any toher traces of rocks newarby_ all was grass terian)
  • we walked aroudn adn read the signs, found a pit stop to drink some water and taste tested odd flavors of nutella/jam (like rum and honey) then headed out into the castle and the reminents of the cathedral (befor ethey split into anglican)
  • then we walked out to the bus stuation and cuaght a city bus to the train station where liz will and i caught it back to…didcot.

It ended with Will, Liz and I stuck at the train station for over two hours waiting for a train accident to subside

we had left the train station around 7. we arrived in oxford around 10:30 makign stops at every station before finally arriving at oxford.  all the passengers from our train/cart had to all board the only train that would run thru oxford.

it would be the last time i would see liz again.

 

Honors in Oxford: Tutorial #2

labels

“Where are you REALLY from,” Sellman-Leava’s voice booms as he imitates another peer; his voice echoes off the walls of the small theatre.

Joe Sellman-Leava is the writer and star of a solo show called “Labels”, which chronicles his raw and authentic story as a mixed-heritage boy growing up on the rural side of England and the relationships that were either formed or destroyed between him and his peers. Drawing on his past experiences, he examines the way words are used today, from arbitrary labels to offensive languages, and effectively communicates the need to acknowledge the prevalence of racism around the world. By arranging his family narrative amid quotes taken from the words of various public figures, allows the show to deal with broader themes.

Peppered throughout the show, he impersonates many political and public figures including Donald Trump (American conservative nominee), Idi Amin (Ugandan dictator), David Cameron (former UK prime minister), Jeremy Clarkson (British talk show host on Top Gear), and more to describe how racism has continued from history’s worst moments to modern mainstream media. As he eloquently speaks in the original accents spoken by the aforementioned public figures, he holds up placards to indicate the speaker and the year, that it was said in, that serve to highlight the ubiquity of these racially charged statements across time and space. These statements encompass issues from immigration to culture and ethnicity. By using their accents, Sellman-Leava is able to paint a portrait that shows their ludicrous acts with the best possible portrayal. His mastery of accents and his idiosyncratic speech patterns are perfect, and the humor is never derived from mere caricature, with an exception of one politician. Furthermore, he also brings issues like immigration into perspective by dissipating cards written with varies different six digit numbers on each card. As he flings the cards into the air, he imparts that the numbers of Syrian refugees had drastically increased, yet no one seemed to have cared much. Some politicians even compared them to “swarms” of bugs and felt the need to “build a wall”, labeling them as “cockroaches” and “bad immigrants”. His point is clear: the numbers are people—humans—each one carrying a value. It is unjust to gamble their lives like cards on a playing field. The symbolism he incorporates is impeccable.

Frankly, it is not just those racist bigots that apply labels to everyone, everyone is guilty of becoming slaves to the power of labels. Everyone uses them in their daily lives. Fortunately, labels do not always have a pejorative meaning. Labels are used to describe friends and enemies for evolutionary survival purposes.  Sellman-Leava uses this moment to interact with the audience on the front row by using sticker labels. Thus, he is able to effectively demonstrate the arbitrary nature of naming, categorizing and classifying others by using labels such as “boy” and “friend” on a couple people.

Everyone is a hypocrite. Sellman-Leava acknowledges this, and with a sheet of rice paper written “HYPOCRITE” he crumbles it up, chews and swallows it. The message he displays shows that the taste of a hypocrite is disgusting yet it is inside of everyone. It is difficult to swallow. Everyone, however, has the ability to suppress it, to hold it in those hypocritical thoughts.

Throughout the show, he continues to make a constant effort to interact with the audience. At one poignant point in his life, he desperately seeks to find love and thus tries a dating app called Tinder, where usually people want to find love, or better yet “approval”.  He asks for a volunteer from the audience to be his “Tinder girl”. With cue cards, they each read off the conversation he had with “the girl”. As the conversation began with Sellman-Leava greets her with “hey, how are you” it quickly escalates when she replies with “where are you from”. When he replies with a short and honest answer that he was from Devon, England, she was not satisfied and asks, “No, where are you REALLY from?” When he finally admits he is partially English and Indian, she responds “so you’re Indian.” At first, he brushed it off his shoulder and acted as if it was a joke, but with further correspondences, it was evident that she despised Indians and eventually he leaves the chat. The label “Indian” held a lot of weight–a prime example of one of those labels we use in our daily lives that can be overlooked. With such emotion and his incredible acting skills, he compels the audience to tears.

This is not the first, nor his last, encounter with racism. All through his life, he has encountered kids his age, or younger, ask why his skin was just “a shade darker” or why his dad “walked a little funny”. Even attending a university, the haunting juvenile school boy racism followed him. Oddly enough, racism never ceased to end—nor does it seem like it will any time soon. The label he was placed never left his side. A name equivalent to the “n-word” in America to describe the African Americans was spoken about Sellman-Leava behind his back. The way he dealt with these situations was riveting. He places the label on his back, and carries on the story as if it did not bother him.

As aforementioned, his mixed descent stems from his father who is Indian and his mother who is English. Intermittently, he would put on his father’s persona and talk to the audience as if his dad was talking to him. He explains the struggles his dad had to overcome just to arrive in the UK including the voyage from Uganda as an Indian refugee in the 1970s and even dreamed of becoming a pilot. As an Indian refugee coming to the UK, his father struggled to maintain a feasible living. His father had chosen to put his family as his first and foremost priority, thus he left his dream of become a pilot. He was dedicated in trying to find other jobs to support his family. However, finding a job was not easy, especially with an Indian last name like Patel.  His father was constantly jeered by men who mocked him with fake, thick Indian accents. But the way Sellman-Leava portrays him was clear that he admired him. Every time he would use his father’s personage, he would wear a blazer, indicating success and confidence, in which only his father carried.

Sellman-Leava ended on a note of hope. Through the obstacles of racism his parents had to overcome, they realized one of the only solutions was to change their surname from Patel to Sellman-Leava so they would not be subjected to others predisposed discrimination. In other words, realizing that another label is needed to reverse the original label can be life-changing.

“Labels” offers a new way of evmy english boyfriendaluating the use and effect of our words and challenges the propensity of language that either transmits ideas or is affected by it. Sellman-Leava conveys some personal aspects of his life that are identifiable, and is therefore treated as universal and understandable concepts. His show is magnificently written and performed. It is apparent with his audience’s response, press reviews and the myriads of awards he has won. He plans on spreading from the UK to the US (but so far, he only plans on going to the eastern coastal states). Needless to say, he truly is an inspiration. (I even had the honor to take a picture with him) *o*

 

Honors in Oxford: Reaction Essay #1

As one of my six 350 word essays, I had to write about the differences between American and British culture–so, I thought it would make a pretty descent post (at least this one doesn’t have as many typos):

The British and the Americans have many different cultural aspects, but one in particular is the way the British use their money. Firstly, British pounds come in different colors, sizes and shapes. Taxes here are included, not added. Tipping is uncommon, and their shopping bags cost money. Lastly, and the most unfathomable of all, their social class ranking is not affected by one’s financial status.

Contrary to the American currency, which include green, uniformly sized bills, the British use colorful notes. Not only is this aesthetically more appealing, but the size and color also provide a more efficient way of identifying the worth of each note, especially for the seeing impaired. Moreover, efficiency is also increased by including the taxes in the original price, so I can pay the exact amount without having to perform extra calculations.

In addition to aiding the efficiency in purchases, the British money culture is also fair. Instead of penalizing the waiters and waitresses for the lack of gratitude from their customers, the workers are paid with a consistent salary. Tips are, thus, not the norm.

Furthermore, the British also use money to deter careless usage in natural resources. Plastic shopping bags, usually made from petroleum (a nonrenewable resource), is not complimentary with most purchases, unlike in the states. Because the bags cost a little extra, citizens are psychologically less likely use them. Evidently, this system effectively cuts back on the amount of plastic used, keeping the Earth greener.

Contrary to a typical American social structure, where the ranks are usually determined by our financial standing, the British only use heritage. If I was descendent of a prestigious, or royal, British family, then regardless of my economical standing, I would be considered an upper echelon. Royalty is heritable. Only the few are lucky. This just proves that money cannot buy everything.

The money culture in the UK is far more complex and bizarre than the states’. However, its complexity allows for a more efficient system of exchange and is also used for frugal environmental sustainability. The British social standards are also not based on one’s financial standing, exemplifying that money alone does not, nor should it, define every aspect of one’s life.

A couple days ago, I’ve acquired the “Oxford Lungs”. It’s an euphemism for saying that I have caught a cold. The built up stress (from falling behind in class), eating too much (yes i consider this a factor), and the weather (drastically colder than Italy and the states).
During the second week, I’ve been trapped inside the choking, chalk white walls of my dorm. I had wasted my weekend on day trips visitng my friends from London, and watching a musical on Sunday. When Monday rolled around, I crammed two essays (350 words each) and read for 2 hours to catch up for Tuesday. On Tuesday, I read through the needed readings for Wednesday and starting brainstorming for my essay for my 1200 word essay that was due wednesday night at 8pm. However
It’s been a struggle. I came into Oxford thinking I’d be having the time of my life but because I wasn’t able to finish all the readings (430pg of coursepacket) I suffered the consequences…ALONE. In Ochem, oh sure I was struggling and I constantly tried to study, but at least I had friends to support me and understand the struggles (probably because they were stuggling with me). But here, there’s about 42 kids with me, so I quickly cliqued up with my friends from Italy. Don’t get me wrong, the Honors kids are halarious and intelligent as Einstein but I just don’t belong. I constantly struggle inferiority complex and it’s not that difficult to tell when soemone acts a little conscedening

I GIVE UP