A Day of Exploration

Having finally taken care of most of the practicalities of setting up here, as well as settled on a topic for my essay evaluation (the inadequacy of language in Virginia Woolf’s The Waves,) I was able to spend nearly all of my free time today exploring the city that is Cambridge and the parts that make it up.

Highlights include the open air market where vendors sell everything from bags made of recycled leather to vegetables to used books, the Cambridge University Press Bookstore full of pretty much every book Cambridge has ever published (and it has published a lot of books,) and what must be the Cambridge equivalent of Kentucky’s sQecial media — a vendor to the ‘alternative’ lifestyle.

By way of a couple of anecdotes: I went to a rare book vendor and was looking through the stacks outside when the young woman from Vienna mentioned earlier appeared and, upon seeing each other, we both said ‘what a coincidence!’ in unison. Inside that bookstore they had some cool editions of Old Possom’s Book of Practical Cats — a set of poetry by the notoriously depressing and dense modernist poet T.S. Eliot which is inexplicably filled with rhyming couplets about cats with funny names (I didn’t buy it only because I already have about 13 books with me for the courses and don’t know if I could fit another into my backpack.) I was also faced with the challenge of explaining the word ‘any’ to a non-native English speaker. Later, when we went into a fudge store, the man giving out free samples recognized her accent as German and had a brief conversation with her in fluent German, then recognized my accent as American and said ‘Howdy’ in a British accent.

Also, today when one of my instructors was describing his emotion upon realizing that Marvel commissioned a graphic interpretation of some Jane Austen novels, he said that he had ‘had to go lie down in the dark for a while and have a cup of tea.’

I later finally took some time to explore some of the gardens at Clare College — of which I did post some photos on Instagram (@abby.schroering) — and was totally taken aback by how serene and beautiful they were. I have been in gardens before, but I have never before strolled around them with a consciousness of over 600 years of scholarly history, and felt the full effect of the plants and the life that they represent. If that sounded overly soppy, it is because I felt overly soppy.

Dinner today was fish cakes, pork something (but a ball of rice something for me — my tablemates are sometimes jealous of my ‘pesco-vegetarian’ card), and roseberry cheesecake. The friend I made today is Australian, and we sat together to watch the former British ambassador to Russia give a lecture about the Russian revolutions and whether or not they were inevitable.

If it isn’t obvious from my writing, I’ve started to think in a British accent and do not know how much longer my ‘ers’ and ‘ays’ shall last. Do let me know if you want a postcard because I have about 90. I would end this post with ‘ta ta for now’ if it wouldn’t make everyone want to punch me in the stomach.

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