London and Oxford

Right, it’s been a long time since my last post, and again I’m trying to get caught up with updates on my whereabouts and adventures. I flew out of Vancouver August 13th, direct to London Heathrow. Arriving on the 14th, I left my luggage at an Underground station in central London and went to meet up with my friend Natalie, who was a fellow volunteer last summer in Cameroon. I stayed at her place for a couple nights and did a little more London exploring, even though I’ve explored that city quite a lot over the years. On the 15th I spent a few hours walking along the River Thames, as I like to do. Here are four pics I took during my stroll:

Palace of Westminster with Big Ben clock:

The London Eye:

St. Pancras International train/tube station:

Victoria Tower at Palace of Westminster seen from a very different part of town:

On the 16th, Nat’s sister drove me to the bus station and I caught a bus to Oxford. My landlady/friend Katie picked me up from the bus stop and drove me to my new flat in the Littlemore area of southern Oxford. Here’s a map showing the flat (bottom left) and the route I took every day by bike to Oxfam Great Britain headquarters (top right).

The city centre of Oxford is full of tourists at this time of year, to the point of ridiculousness. I like tourists, but not thousands upon thousands of them, not looking before they cross the street, stopping dead in their tracks when I’m walking right behind them, and generally doing things to irritate me and others. I realise that I, too, am a tourist in a way, but I’m a bit of a perpetual tourist so I don’t count ;-)

Anywho, as a result of the tourists, I didn’t spend much time in the centre of Oxford, where all the pretty buildings are. Still, I didn’t find any part of Oxford to be particularly beautiful or amazing. Interesting, somewhat, but nothing particularly special. Maybe architecture fans would find something special in some of the older buildings, but I didn’t. So, the combination of these factors means that I took very few photos in Oxford, as there wasn’t much that interested me. Here are three pics I took for the sake of having some pics of Oxford. There are more interesting things to shoot, but I wasn’t in the mood.

Buildings in St Giles area:

Random strange church-like steeple with white doves, in random residential neighbourhood somewhere near the canal when I was deliberately getting lost and then getting unlost (one of the ways I learn my way around new cities that aren’t dangerous):

I had a good month-long internship with the Fritz Institute, hosted at Oxfam GB headquarters. I did some stuff, and met some very cool people. I definitely have a very positive opinion of the people at Oxfam GB, as well as my boss from the Fritz Institute, Fraser Stephens. He was a super chill boss, very easy to get along with, but he works a bit too hard. In fact, on September 12th when we had a little going-away gathering for me and my landlady/friend Katie (more for her than me) at a pub, Fraser had his laptop out while the rest of us were holding pint glasses!

The next day, my last full day in Oxford, I wanted to get a haircut but the place I went to, which said it closed at 5, was closed by 430! So Katie kindly drove me around town looking for a place that was still open, and we finally found one. The barber, unfortunately, spoke almost no English. While language barriers have never caused me any serious problems, and growing up in Vancouver I’m very accustomed to understanding very strong accents, this guy was impossible to understand for me. Anyways, apparently he had other ideas than what I asked for, which was a quick No. 2 shave of my head.

After doing that bit, he then proceeded to shave off almost my entire beard, all my sideburns, and then pull out a straight razor and give me a close shave and a gangster-style chinstrap. When I left the shop, not only did I look 16 again, but I was bleeding out of dozens of little cuts on my throat and neck, which are still healing. Oh well, it’s not the end of the world, but next time I get a haircut from a barber who doesn’t speak very clear English I’ll take my UK railcard which shows my desired haircut… which will now take me several months to grow back, since I grow facial hair at the rate of a 16 year old.

Day before the haircut:

Evening after the haircut (the little cuts went away, then became red again the next day…)

And, lastly, the one piece of stencil graffiti I saw and appreciated on a random building in Oxford. I dislike the fact that someone went and “edited” the piece, but I guess that shows the true feelings of many Brits toward a large segment of immigrants. In case you don’t recognise him, the bear is named Paddington.