Kenyon College

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Some things - Bath & Other

A couple of weeks ago, we went to Bath to see a rugby game. We spent a good part of the day wandering around Bath in search of the elusive music shop. The best music shop turned out to be the first one we found, and it was obscured by scaffolding. Guitars lined the walls and floor, and it was staffed by a cheeky long-haired fellow and several skinny lads who I could only assume were his underlings. He seemed like the sort of music shop employee who would enjoy having underlings.

An exchange:
Me: "Can I hold a guitar?"
Him [pausing for an uncomfortable moment to assess me]: "Yeah, it looks like you could hold one."

I smiled in a resigned sort of way, and perhaps mumbled something appreciative, and led him over to the guitar I wanted. And there was a certainty in my heart as I held it. I would post a picture, but its beauty cannot be captured by the photographs on the internet. All you need to know is that it is made of an exotic wood called Bubinga, and it is quite simply the most beautiful creature that human hands have ever crafted.

It's a Tanglewood, which I feel is an appropriately poetic name, and on the back it says "Tanglewood Guitar Company - United Kingdom," and I love it.

I got a bag for it and we ate pasties for lunch. A pre-game pint of Guinness later, we were off to the stadium, where we queued orderly for a bit, then shuffled to the wrong seats, as we were to realize later on. It was all okay, though it was a bit cold. A rugby game goes something like this: there are men running for two seconds, then there is a tangled knot of dudes sort of trying to give birth to the rugby ball, then there is a second more of running before another knot gathers violently, and so on. It was entertaining, and Bath Rugby beat Edinburgh, a fact I attribute entirely to the man behind us who would yell every five minutes at the top of his lungs, "COME ON YOU BATH BOYS!" His voice thundered over the field like a war cry. I hugged my guitar.

More on trains:

Just the other day it was Christmas Eve, and I had to wake up quite early to catch a train to London Paddington. I curled up as the train was pulling out of Exeter St. David's, passed out, and woke an hour later to fields of snow going by out the window. I was delighted, as I was living with the certainty that I would never see snow in the UK. How wrong I was! It was grand.

Paddington station is freezing and full of people carting bags and children and clustering around the arrivals and departures screens. I both love it and hate it. This conflict probably arises out of the tension between my love of trains, and my dislike for crowds and waiting in the cold.

Nevertheless, I picked up my charge-for-twelve-days at Paddington, and we caught the 12:06 back to Exeter. This was a journey spent in the vestibule, listening to the mumbling train manager joking with us over the speakers about delays caused by someone pilfering the copper out of some vital electrical component, and how we may have to divert etc, etc, and it all added up to the train running 1 hours 41 minutes late.

As concerns Christmas, it just isn't the same when the country you're in doesn't do pumpkin pie. This caused me several moments of incredulous despair.

That is all I have at the moment. In the next few days my charge and I will be going to London, and from there tunnelling to Paris for the new year. More on this later!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Topsham Adventures

Last weekend I went to Topsham, a small town about 15 minutes from Exeter by train, to do some shopping and get some cream tea with our professor. Everything was going well. Tea was amazing (if you ever find yourself in Topsham, get cream tea at the Georgian Tea Room) and Topsham was adorable. Our little group went to get the train back to Exeter and that's when things went pear-shaped. We were early by about 10 minutes but we figured something was wrong when the train hadn't shown up after half an hour. So I called Deborah (our professor) who lives in Topsham to ask what we should do. As she was suggesting that we wait for the next train, a guy waiting for the same train told us (don't ask me how he found out) that the late train, never mind the one after it, was going to be another 32 minutes. O.o When Deborah heard that she told us to come to her house and that she would drive us back to our dorms. And that attitude is precisely why everyone loves Deborah.

I also took some pretty, pretty pictures!


Sunday, December 6, 2009


Sadly (or maybe productively)we took our last group trip of this semester this weekend. We went to Stratford yesterday to see Arabian Nights and came back to Exeter today by way of Bath. I think it was a wonderful way to spend the weekend and a brilliant trip to end the year!

1) The play was excellent. I got really into it. They had some great special effects (in fact, I am of the opinion that Harry Potter was backstage lending a hand) and told some awesome stories. There were some stories that anyone would recognize like Ali Baba and Sinbad, as well as some new ones like The Big Fart (I swear!). Plus the actor playing the king was hott (yes, with two t's).

2) If you ever find yourself in Stratford, eat at the Garrick. I had the duck. It was delicious.

3) Bath. I enjoyed myself immensely. It was the last day of the Christmas Market so it was crowded, but not unnavigable. Other areas of interest include The Circus, Royal Crescent, the Pump Room and Roman Baths, and Bath Abbey. Oh. And Sally Lunn's restaurant. Wonderful buns.

Here be pictures!


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Large Continental

Some little things:
  • Tea. I am perhaps more addicted to tea than I am to coffee, if only because tea is more mysterious about its purpose. Think of coffee like a golden retriever with the leash in his mouth, and think of tea like a black cat looking at you plaintively from the windowsill. You know they both want something, but the dog's motives are easier to guess.

    I need several cups of Earl Grey every morning and afternoon, or I will go about clutching my head. If you asked me before coming here if I thought that England would make me go off coffee, I would've laughed at you. Now, look where I am. Relying on tea to get me through the day. In the evening, however, my mood shifts, and I have a selection of tea for every shade of melancholy. Camomile? Peppermint? Lady Grey, the Earl's lighter, sweeter friend?

    The ability of tea to fill in shadows and bring out highlights in any given day is one of the many things I love about living here.

  • Trains. These metal beasts are a comfort in a different way. I stand on the platform, watching the neat and ordered ticking-by of the arrivals and departures. There is something reassuring in it, in hearing the wheeze and puff of the trains as they whine to a stop, sigh as if overtaxed, and push humans out into the drizzle. Something like the rhythm of poetry. There is an order to the operation of trains that, like the pulse of meter, can be felt but not immediately seen.
Thursday, 19 November, 2009.
This day, I have recently said to Ai Binh, holds the single happiest moment of my time here, so far. It is the night when one of my favorite bands, Frightened Rabbit, came to the Lemon Grove.
It was, in a word, glorious. It was, in many words, like this:
They were there supporting Gomez, a band in whom no one of my party showed much interest. However, the opposite seemed to be true for the rest of the crowd, meaning that when we got there at the opening of the doors, there wasn't much competition for standing room to see Frightened Rabbit. Meaning that I, TJ, Logan, Lauren, Sam, and our flatmate Melissa got to stand closer than anyone to these marvelous people. We were mere feet away from Scott Hutchison, the lead singer (though thankfully not situated properly to catch his flung-off beads of sweat). Unfortunately, and this was the only damper on an otherwise perfect night, the people at the door took away our cameras.

But nevertheless, from the first "We're Frightened Rabbit, we're from Scotland," until the last beautiful notes of "Keep Yourself Warm," drifted away, I was enchanted, entranced, in a state of pure musical bliss. I could barely move - usually one is inspired to punch other people when at a concert? - but I was rooted to the spot, transfixed, the music loud and all around.

And afterward, we got to speak to the entire band. Actual conversation! With Frightened Rabbit! I was still a bit loopy from the show, and so remember very little of what I actually said. But I do remember getting my broken drumstick signed (TJ got the other half), and being able to step on a guitar player. Like so:

So, like I said, basically the best thing ever.

There is still much to speak of, so if you'd like, you can take a break at this point. Get a cup of tea. I'll still be here when you get back.

Mama Stone's (again)
I love this place. It just so happens that they have the most delicious chips (but they call them fries, which throws me off, as I have already adjusted to chips) in the galaxy, and also the coolest vibe in town. It also happens that on Tuesday, 24 November, 2009, they hosted an event called Beat Roots, a night of spoken word, comedy, music n all that mixed together. All of us, however, came for Logan's performance with Jessie, and they were scheduled to play last. So we got there early for dinner, which was the right idea as the place filled up quickly as the night wore on, and we now had guaranteed cushions.

Mama Stone's was more packed than I had ever previously seen it. We chilled until Logan and Jessie got up, and then TJ and I went down to the very very front and took pictures. Here is a link to Logan's music, which rocks: Reindeer Johnny and the Hop Scotch Kid
And here are some pictures (please do click for larger versions):


Everyone on the stairs before the posh London party (a big thank you to our hosts!):

Some thoughts (inspired, if not coherent)

Now that it is December, we have been here for a little more than two months. It came to me as I was walking to Boston Tea Party on a silent Sunday morning. I am in England. My home is very far away, and very different to this place. The people who are most important to me are an ocean away, and yet I am here. I am creating something. In Plymouth we saw The Pitmen Painters, a play about coal miners who learn to paint, but also about (to me) how art is about single voices speaking together, and how people go about finding themselves, and expressing that to others, and the difficulty of understanding any of this or making yourself understood. Harry says, "Everybody has their own journey." You set about to create your life, and in doing so, find your own way of looking at things and processing the world.

And we are here, us Kenyon students, doing all this together. It is a properly epic chance to create something, and I'm being completely serious. It needn't be tangible. The Kenyon-Exeter program is about everyone's individual experience together.

This is a side-quest, to throw in a video game analogy. A track that diverts from the main thoroughfare of your life as you know it, but runs parallel, and when you see that thoroughfare through the trees, you'll be looking at it from under the mercurial English sky. Nothing will ever be the same again.

Monday, November 30, 2009


We went to Plymouth this Saturday and went through Dartmoor. It was not a pleasant busride. Other than motion-sickness, the moor was wonderful! I'll post the couple pictures that I took, but be prepared for more (get on it, Caitlin!).


I thought I'd post about this before anything else, after all we know that food comes first.

I really enjoyed Thanksgiving. It was not necessarily the meal I always have (no yeast rolls, for one) but I really liked having the celebration itself. And the turkey was delicious.

We all went into Topsham (home of Deborah and Jim) and converged on The Bridge. This particular pub has two claims to fame (as far as we are concerned): it has hosted the Kenyon Thanksgiving for 35 years and is the only pub the Queen has visited. So they know what they're doing every time the last Thursday in November rolls around.

There were about 50 people there because a lot of our Exeter profs attended as well as a couple other people connected to the group in some way. There was a REALLY tall guy, too...

I think something that a lot of us students liked was the "First three drinks are free" rule (that's only for this party; don't go to The Bridge expecting free alcohol!). I know I did. :)

In all seriousness, we are all very grateful to The Bridge for hosting this. It was a great way to make us feel even more at home. A lovely tradition!

Saturday, November 21, 2009


So before we went to Stourhead we spent a day and night in Stratford-Upon-Avon. Of course, it was Shakespeare's hometown so we HAD to see some Royal Shakespeare Company. We eventually saw Twelfth Night (with Richard Wilson in the role of Malvolio). It was...okay. I loved Richard Wilson, but the play itself was iffy. Not my favorite.

BUT! I adored Stratford itself. We had several hours to look around before we needed to be at the theatre (sadly not the regular RSC theatre as that was undergoing renovations). So we...

Had tea. Nomnomnomnom.

Saw Shakespeare's grave. (Ah, to be in the presence of the Bard...)

Took a walk down a trail that looked very much like the Gap Trail. Very cool.

(PS. That's Ai Bihn taking a picture of a leaf)

Hung out with Hamlet. And Yorrick.

And had lunch at the Pen and Parchment.

And really, all of these pictures should be viewed from bottom to top because apparently Blogspot puts them in the post in the opposite order from which I upload them (and from which we actually did these things) and I'm too lazy to fix it.

Stratford was amazing! For more pics look here:

Stratford, Stourhead

Wow! It's been awhile.

Hello again!

I can't believe how long it's been since I posted. I have so much to say so I'm going to split it into a couple of posts.

First! A few weeks ago our whole group went to Stourhead. It's a wonderful estate with a HUGE garden. Gardens really. One of the things that is most recognizable is the Temple of Apollo. Here is why you might recognize it:

Lizzy and Darcy are standing in the Temple and afterwards Lizzy runs over the Turf Bridge. Of course it's even more beautiful when it doesn't rain!

We went as the trees were turning and the colors were absolutely breathtaking. I have some photos here of the gorgeousness:

Here is a nice view of some of the lovely fall colors and part of the big man-made lake.

I just love all the wonderful trees and greenery! Most of the vistas were inspired by 18th Century Italian paintings and you can really tell when you're there.

This is the famous Temple of Apollo. It's being renovated right now (poopy) but should be back open in February (can anyone say "return trip"?).

This is the gate at the front of the drive to the house. Not only do I love the colors of the leaves on the vines, but it's a wonderful example of medieval architecture. It's one of the few surviving pieces of the original estate that was burned down during the English Civil War.

This is part of the kitchen gardens. Now it is used in a program where schoolchildren come and do the gardening. They get to plant, care for, and harvest the vegetables. I wish we had more of that in the states!

I have more awesome pictures on Picasa and here is the link:

Stratford, Stourhead

We had an amazing time there. It's so much more beautiful and serene than any picture can convey. I could have stayed there for days!

Next post: Stratford!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Music, Swans, Graffiti & Good Red Wine - Part 2

There are a few things about which I promised I’d talk. One is The Cavern.

The Cavern is so called because it is literally under Gandy Street, a windowless burrow where the true fans go to rub shoulders with moles and earthworms so that they can stand centimeters away from the music that’s right there!

It’s divided into two main chambers – one of these is where the band goes, and you’re all mushed in together in the darkness with everyone else. You are a colony of grooving ants taking a break from the everyday. Next room over (it would be cool if you had to take a narrow rope bridge across an underground chasm to get to it) is the bar. Nothing much to say about this. As bars go, it’s unremarkable. In this room you can rest and not be overpowered by the music, and even carry on a yelled-out conversation or fold paper airplanes with the flyers sitting around.

And then there is Mama Stone’s. The sign outside declares this pub/music venue as “the coolest vibe in town!” At the time of my first visit to this place, that slogan threw me off, seemed forced – I mean, who gets introduced to you and says, “Hi, I’m the coolest person in town!” It’s a matter of implication. But I was just a nervous American then. Things are different now. I am, after a couple more visits, a nervous American who has had the chance to sample the food, the drinks, and talk to the bartenders. The bartenders are chatty and amiable, they will engage you in banter (whether or not this is contingent on your being an American girl I’m not sure), and they are severely apologetic that they have no teriyaki sauce, only mustard (!) to put on your steak, and no tartar sauce for your fries (not chips for this place). The English are a strange breed. Nevertheless, the food is good.

But, moving on, their red wine is relatively inexpensive by the bottle and relatively delicious. Better than fancy cheap wine from Mallorca (confirm/deny.) Furthermore, the seating by the windows is loaded with multi-colored cushions, there is quirky music-related art hung about the place, and the lamps overhead are mosaics of color. There is also live music, including a dude who plays songs on his acoustic guitar. Also, little candles on the tables. I am basically smitten. I might even go on to say that Mama Stone’s has the coolest vibe in town; it certainly has a story.

As concerns the “swans” bit of my journal entry’s title, trust me when I tell you that if you drop bread into the River Avon near the sun dial in Stratford, you will experience a storm of swans and other waterfowl. Proceed with caution.

Here are some links:

Mama Stone’s (please note their slogan at the top of the screen):

The Cavern:

And here are some pictures from our last group trip to London. I visited the Camden market and it was quite lovely.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Here I am!

Hello all! I hope you have been enjoying Caitlin's posts. I'll be writing on this blog as well so I hope that she and I can keep it fresh.

Any-hoo. Since I am hungry right now I thought I'd talk a little bit about the food here in Exeter. Professor Laycock (Deborah) told us before we arrived that should we so choose we could easily survive on bread and cheese. I am happy to report that she is completely correct. I have occasion to know this since I took quite a bit of time to settle in and am only now starting to actually cook meals rather than munch on loaves of french bread.

If, however, you want to do more than walk to the little Co-Op store about 7 minutes away (if that, it might be more like 5) there are several options.

1) Mooch off of others. Everyone in LaFrowda has to cook so there are plenty of times you can go into a kitchen and be offered food. Meal times are bonding times so Kenyon-Exeter students tend to cook for each other and have little dinner parties. You should reciprocate at some point, but for the moment both your belly and wallet are full!

2) Go out to eat. There are lots of awesome pubs and restaurants, many of which our group hasn't discovered yet (more on those as the year progresses). I can already recommend The Old Firehouse (yummy and I hear their desserts are to die for. Unfortunately the one time I went they were out of sugary goodness) and Giraffe. If you go with friends consider splitting something for the sake of your bank accounts.

3) Dumpster diving. I haven't actually tried this but I'm sure you could find something edible. However, you do run the risk of food poisoning.

4) Get bread, cheese, and Nutella. Those are the major food groups so what else do you really need?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Music, Swans, Graffiti, & Good Red Wine - Part 1

First things first: I'm writing this upstairs at Boston Tea Party, a cooler and more expansive version of Starbucks (forgive me, it's nothing like Starbucks). The upstairs is an ordered confusion of tables, chairs, and slightly more comfortable chairs. You can come here with friends because the noise level is enough to have a pleasantly loud conversation, but the space has the acoustic feature of blurring everyone's voices together to create an ignorable white noise, so it is perfect for the solitary student as well. The atmosphere is such that you could disappear, if you felt like it.

I have a beefy white mug full of deliciously strong coffee. Since coming here I've been surviving on about seventy-seven cups of Earl Grey daily, simply because it is too expensive to keep my coffee habit up. This excursion's coffee is a rare treat.

Right. Let us speak now of music:

The Exeter Phoenix - I've only been here once, to see Idlewild play before I knew of their gloriousness (it was quite an enjoyable show!), but it left a good impression on me. And when I say good, I really mean to say complex, in the way that a complex wine is good.

Walking up to this grand edifice, you immediately feel an uncanny tug of remorse for all the books you're not reading at that moment, for it feels like you are approaching the front steps of a magnificent library. Similarly, the atmosphere inside is like the attitude of a group of students playing hooky in town - like it still isn't right to drink pints and listen to music in so scholarly a place, and at any moment a severe woman will chastise you and drag you by your ear to the door. The thrill is there, and it's brilliant.

The Phoenix's auditorium only triples this effect. You are funneled through industrial double doors into your old high school's gymnasium, complete with folded-up bleachers. I half-expected to see basketball hoops being slowly lowered and raised during the course of the show. But oddly enough, instead of making me feel a wave of anxiety over playing badminton, the high walls and ceiling disappearing into dusky darkness made me feel very close to everyone. It is an intimate venue; a pleasant euphoria steals over you, brought on by knowing everyone around you loves music as much as you do (whether or not this is true, the feeling comes regardless). A word of caution for the directionally impaired: from the gymnasium to the toilets is quite the trek - bring provisions.

Next time, I'll tell you about the Cavern, at once similar to and completely different from the Phoenix.

Now, two weekends ago I took a day trip into Bristol with my new tour-guide friend T.J. Having been away from Bristol now for nearly two weeks, I feel myself going into withdrawal; there is a small creature in my chest that longs to go back to that eccentric, lovingly disorganized city. It is quite different in its hold over me from London. As wonderful as London is, it is honest with me about its feelings - Bristol, on the other hand, is a tease. It plays hard to get.

Here is why: The sunlight in that city on that day, the 17th of October, was warm, strangely thin, falling palely on the buildings and the water, as though it were distracted or lost in thought. Similarly, you would happen upon small wonders in Bristol almost as if they were put there mistakenly, or as an afterthought, dropped by an absent-minded artist like splotches of paint on a dusty studio floor. A bridge with huge bugle-like protrusions, as though it were at any moment going to burst into a symphony over the narrow canal; in a small park overlooking a muddy river far below, a hill made of stone that has been so smoothed by the seats of many trousers sliding down it that it shines alluringly (I will slide down it next time!); the works of famous street artist Banksy appearing to you on the sides of boats and buildings; even a sleek black Lamborghini parked in between two other unremarkable vehicles - I felt a child-like sense of wonder, ambling naively around this unfamiliar city, being constantly surprised and captivated by what I was seeing. This is better than any museum.

Stay tuned for Part 2, including swans.

Here are some pictures of Bristol (click for high-resolution images):

The colored houses of Bristol.
The Lamborghini.
Christmas Steps - another joy to behold.A strange disco ball.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Greetings from Exeter!

I've been here for a little over half a month now, and I still feel slightly overwhelmed every now and then. There is so much to see and do here; everything is completely different.

Small things:
- My little room in Lafrowda has an east-facing window, so I get to see the sun rise over the buildings when I wake up in the morning.
- There are small dirt and gravel footpaths that weave all over campus, making their way through woods and by ponds and gardens. I've only just begun to discover the beauty of this school, let alone the countryside!
- Nutella is probably the most delicious food in existence. Strange yet tasty breakfast: fry two eggs, toast two slices of bread, put peanut butter on the toast, put Nutella on one of the slices as well, then sandwich the eggs in between and cut diagonally. Made even more scrumptious if the eggs are still runny.
- If you weren't completely grossed out by the above, then kudos to you for your courageous palate! Devon cream tea.

But, as I said, it was somewhat overwhelming, trying to adjust to living here. Not only are there the everyday aspects of life to which I must adjust, but also I have to come to terms with the fact that so many other Kenyon students have done this before me! Bundles of us have tottered weakly off airplanes, been shipped to the university on a bus, introduced to a grand disorganized set of rules and regulations, not to mention a whole host of new faces and strange ways of speaking (read: sometimes indecipherable British accents) - and so many of us have been wildly successful.

It is fascinating to me that, in coming here and living here, each of us has had a different experience of this place. Each student who has been on this program had a series of first impressions, and made different choices as to how to adjust. I am trying to write a blog of impressions and choices - there is, as one might encounter when trying to write a sonnet, a whole tradition behind me, a whole gallery of experiences that other students have had. The question is, how will my story stand against the backdrop of Exeter impressions? What will I add to the great complex picture? The answer: what I can.

The Thames at night

To begin I'd like to talk about London and Shakespeare.

To be completely frank and not hyperbolic in the least, London is the greatest city in the universe. I arrived, I stepped off the bus, and fell immediately into a sort of breathless love - breathless in that I kept looking up and around me at the glorious city tumbling on every side, and I forgot to take breaths.

Before I met the lions of Trafalgar Square, I and everyone else went to go see Shakespeare's As You Like It in the Globe Theatre, which sits on the Thames and is quite near the Tate Modern. We stood as groundlings in the yard as the play unfolded whimsically around us, Orlando's verses tumbling from the wooden pillars and Touchstone's antics drawing the audience even closer to the happy energy of the production. I couldn't help thinking of our discussion in class earlier that week: These characters were exiled to the Forest of Arden, a place completely different than the pomp of the court from whence they came. As Professor Laycock mentioned, is that not our situation, as American students in England?

I thought about it: Rosalind, Celia, Orlando and even Touchstone, they all change in the process of being in exile. Rosalind experiences the sort of liberty that comes from pretending to be of a different gender - in short, she rocks it. She was a fantastic man. Celia lets the restraint and elegance of court go loose when she takes on the role of Aliena, and Orlando plunges himself wholly into a role-playing scheme with boy-Rosalind. None of these drastic changes could've been made if they were all still at court. There would have been no need, and yet they are all now happier for the change.

I thought about it further: Being American students exiled (by choice) to the United Kingdom, a magical place in and of itself, we have just such an opportunity as Shakespeare's characters had. We can buckle under the weight of too many differences, or we can embrace them, adapt, and change. We have an amazing opportunity here to grow: by being alienated from what is familiar to us, I am certain we will find out of what stuff we are made.

The Globe theatre: open to the sky, with yard standing and seats.