Oberlin Blogs

"I know the moon / And this is an alien city."

February 8, 2011

Abby Ryder-Huth ’13


I haven't been the best blogger lately, in fact haven't really been a blogger at all, if blogging activity is the defining factor of a blogger. My lame excuse for that is that this was a kinda odd semester, spent largely in a haze of Renaissance poetry and modern poetry and Twin Peaks. But all of that is over (except are those things ever over?)--this is a new semester, a new year, resolved to contain more blogging. And so I begin.

More Interesting Things:

This may be a blunt start, but I'm in London. Actually lots of people are--among them, at least 21 other Oberlin students and two Oberlin professors, all of us bravely abandoning the safe and nurturing confines of NE Ohio, where drivers stop at green lights to let you cross, for a massive cloudy city where drivers have the legal right of way. This makes crossing the street constantly thrilling, a sort of commit-and-risk scenario where you have to pay attention or risk being crushed. Other dangers, I've been told, include card-eating tampered ATMs, child pickpockets, unlicensed and criminal fake cab drivers, and fierce cyclists who also crush pedestrians. These are some of the many differences I've noticed between London and Oberlin, and though maybe they're all somewhat obvious in theory, the reality of London and its vastness and noise and life seems to come out of nowhere, like one of the big cabs flying at you from the left side of the road. It's overwhelming and unrelenting--the city, like its drivers, has the right of way.

So, yeah, here we are then. For three months, which I think is the kind of timeframe where you'll be aware of how impermanent everything is until suddenly it feels like you'll be there forever, which is exactly when the impermanence becomes undeniable and you realize only five days are left. So maybe the moral is surrender, which kinda seems to be the answer to most strange situations. It's hard to decide what exactly to surrender to here, what to throw yourself into. It feels like a haven for everything: history and music and theater and food, even travel--you could buy every last-minute ticket on EasyJet and spend each weekend in another country if you wanted to. Even right now I'm not sure what to talk about. Since arriving last week we've seen neighborhoods, museums, performances, parks with flowers (!!), markets, Indian restaurant upon Indian restaurant, and more Gothic Revival architecture than I ever would have known enough to notice before. I read the Aeneid in a pub and discussed it over tea. My flatmates and I are considering a weekend trip to Stonehenge. Tomorrow, like yesterday, class is being held at the Victoria & Albert Museum, whose ridiculously beautiful cafe makes any stateside one look like a KFC.

But that doesn't cover it. Really, what's defined London so far is the tumultuousness of being in a new place with people you know at best vaguely, surrounded by people you don't know at all. It's freshman year all over again, but faster, surrounded by funny accents, and without the ease of a dining hall. You're lonely and excited and gaze achingly at the cool kids on the tube who somehow know what they're doing, and you realize the perpetual search for the best coffee shop or bookstore or music venue is actually a search for community and a place you understand. Of course, that place doesn't really exist yet here. With some luck, by May it will--Oberlin got easier, now I'm homesick for there as much as for Michigan. Until then, London will stay inescapably everywhere, which even if you feel kinda lost is still pretty great. I think we can trust it.

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