Thursday, February 16, 2012

Because It's Important.

"It's one thing to realize what your life is worth to you, it is another thing entirely to realize how little it is worth to someone else."

I met a man today, I'll call him M. This is quite a humble name for a man who quickly became someone in whom I have the highest respect, but it will have to do. I was introduced to M. by a very nice woman named F., who is one of the academic advisers here at the OPUS program. I had mentioned to her that I was going into medicine and she was kind enough to give me the email address of a friend of hers, which would eventually bring me out of the comforts of rural Oxford to the bustling city of London one Wednesday afternoon. I was to meet M. at Picadilly Circus around 2 in the afternoon, so I caught the train over from Oxford. I arrived in Picadilly a little after 1:30 so I grabbed a coffee and waited to hear from M. A short while later I got a text message:
"1420 at the Blue Posts Pub on Rupert Street. I'll be the bloke with the blue jacket and all the luggage."
I killed some time a bit of time and headed over to the pub to grab us a table, after all it was shortly after lunch time and I didn't know how crowded the pub was going to be.
Looking back, part of me is sorry that I went early, it wasn't until later on that I realized what I had interrupted when I got there.
When I walked in the pub I saw a youngish looking man with a blue windbreaker casually strewn over a suitcase, but he wasn't alone like I was expecting. I stood awkwardly for a couple seconds before the man with the blue jacket noticed me and said, "Ach, you must be Wezz." (English people always pronounce my name wish a 'z' at the end instead of an 's')
"Yes that's me"
"This is K." he said, introducing the man sitting across from him at the table.
As it turned out, K. was an old friend of M.'s from their college days at Cambridge. Whereas M. was a slightly more reserved individual, K. was animated and eager to chat about just about anything, we talked about Baseball, virology, American Football, the different meanings of the word "sorry" for English people, all sorts of things. He isn't exactly what I would expect to be the stereotypical collected and seller of antique books, but it takes all kinds I guess. K. apologized for interrupting our meeting and said that he would be heading back to work in a bit. He knew that I was meeting M. to talk about the trip he was about to leave for.
"I'm just here to say goodbye", he said.
It turned out to be a much different goodbye than I was expecting. The English tend to be very reserved, as I'm sure you've heard, especially in public places. That's why when K. got up to leave-I stood and shook his hand- I was surprised when he turned to M. and gave him the biggest hug I've seen my entire time in England so far. It wouldn't seem out of place by APU standards, but here it was, and that's when I realized what sort of a goodbye this was. It wasn't like when I said goodbye to all my friends when I left APU back in December. When I overheard M. say, half-jokingly, "It's alright, only a couple of murders and abductions this month." I knew that I was watching two close friends saying goodbye, possibly for the last time.
M. went on to tell me of the dangers of what he was about to do.
"Sometimes terrorists just want to make a point."
Sometimes the point that they want to make is that no one, even aid workers, are welcome in their country.
I asked him how he could handle that emotionally,
"You just don't think about it until you have to", he said.
There are two things that I'm worried about as I tell this story, one is that M. will find this and be incredibly embarrassed that I am writing about him. The other is that you will get a romanticized view of what his life is like. It's understandable, after all most of the violence we see on t.v. isn't very realistic, its either romanticized or over dramatized. This however is very real.
It's one thing to hear that sometimes guards have to be bribed to get into a country safely, its quite another to see the money that's meant to do it.
It's one thing to hear about only three of the bodies of abducted aid workers being found, it is quite another to realize the body of the man you are having dinner with might never be found.
It's  one thing to hear that terrorists are targeting foreigners  in some countries, it is quite another to look at one of their future targets.
I am not telling this story because I want to make people feel guilty for not going and risking their lives to do what they think is right, our individual callings are much more complicated that I could deal with here. I'm telling this story because I want to remember and I hope you will too, that there are people who are taking risks right now. Not the kind of risks you read about in stories where you somehow know that everything is going to be ok. I'm talking about the other kind of risks. The kind of risk where you have a sneaking suspicion that things won't turn out ok. Yet, in spite of having no illusions about the danger of what they are about to do, some people risk it all anyways. Please pray for those people.

Monday, January 16, 2012

I was reminded recently by a good friend of mine that I haven't updated my blog recently, and as it is my solemn duty to those who are trying to live the Oxford life vicariously through me, here goes.
A lot has happened since I arrived here almost two weeks ago. These first weeks have been spent getting oriented to our program, getting ID cards and library access and going on tours of various building that we will be frequenting over these next few months. Also, I have gotten the chance to get to know the other (about 30) people who also came here with the OPUS program. I live with 6 people in a house next door to 7 other people from the OPUS program a very southern part of the town on Abingdon Road. It feels kinda like living in one of those MTV reality shows, but with considerably less drama.
To top of the end of this introduction to Oxford culture, most of the APU crowd went to London for a weekend where I personally got to see Wicked and Phantom of the Opera. One of my favorite parts about London is the awesome public transportation, and one of the best places in the world to people-watch. Especially so during the rush our when the subway is packed with more people than should reasonably be expected to be cramped in such a small space.
My favorite is when the train starts to pull into the station and everyone kinda looks around, wondering who is going to make it on and who isn't...
And that's when I saw her.
She was probably about 70, and the quintessential sweet old grandma type, except for one thing.
This woman had the most epic game face I have ever seen. It said "Well, I don't know if you're gonna make it, but I'M catching this subway."
Needless to say she beat me onboard.
Every ride after that, I made every single subway, after all, I had learned from the best.
I got back from London early Sunday afternoon, just in time to catch Hertford chapel choir practice, which was fun, but a lot different than in the States. The biggest adjustment was that there was no piano, all notes were given by the conductor who used a tuning fork, and that was it. Sight read the whole piece. If choirs had boot camp, it would look something like this. It was great fun though, and an hour later we were singing for the Evensong.
Also on Sunday night was the first Hertford college bop, a chance for us to get together and socialize in a less...academic setting.
We'll leave it at that.
Anyways, tutorials start in earnest this week so wish me luck!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Hi from across the pond

For those of you who didn't know, England is a real place. Like, ACTUALLY real, not just a place in books or movies.
I know, weird right?
They even do things that don't make sense like we do! My favorite so far: the toilets in the train have crowbars next to them. Yah, crowbars. Its like, here, just in case the stick fell out of your ass, HERES A CROWBAR!!! Now stick it up there and DONT lose it!
Anyways I am at a hotel for the night and go tomorrow morning to check in with OPUS and get moved into the new apartment!

Monday, December 19, 2011

On Goodbyes

I have had to say a lot of goodbyes over the past few days.
It sucks.
I left the APU community last Friday and had to say goodbye to my friends and roommates, and tonight I had to say goodbye to friends and family here as I will be leaving for Florida early tomorrow morning. All this is to say that I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out the best way to say goodbye to the people that you really care about, so here is what I have so far:
1. Come back.
It's a short list but I think it fits for me, because all of the stories that have started between all of you back home and I are incomplete. I have to come back so we can finish what we've started. So for all of those of you who I have said goodbye to over the past couple of days (or maybe if I forgot to say goobye, Sorry!), goodbye, and at the same time, see you soon.

Friday, December 9, 2011


     This blog started because I am going to spend the next semester, January through April studying at Oxford University in England. This blog will chronicle what is hopefully going to be a great adventure for me and it would be nice to have some people from back in LA along for the ride as well. So since I am not attacking this whole thing with a clear mission, all I can say is that I am going to do my best to update my blog whenever something interesting happens and whenever I have time, and hopefully that will be pretty regularly.
     The only drawback is that in going to Oxford, I have to spend a semester away from everybody at APU which makes me a lil sad. But I will be back! I hope that I will get a chance to say goodbye to everyone before I go but in case I don't, Merry Christmas and have a good semester!