For a few weeks now, I’ve been delaying my next post for a variety of reasons. First, I thought, I’m going to a ball and London next weekend, I’ll write about that. Having been distracted by my stolen wallet (more on that), I then thought, I’ll wait until the election is over and I’ll write about that. Now, here I am, with far too much to say for one post, yet I don’t have much choice. So here’s a monster post with, predictably, my reaction to the election, and a big catch-up on Oxford life. I’ve written the parts separately, so feel free to skip around depending on what you’re actually interested in hearing me talk about (reading me write about?).
There’s nothing a cup of tea can’t fix.
True to stereotype, I’ve been drinking a lot of tea here in England. Whether it’s in a cafe in town, a bookshop, or just my room, afternoon tea (frankly, all the time tea) has become a staple of my daily schedule. It’s a nice pick me up in the middle of the day, and it can do a good deal to improve my mood–it’s the little things, after all.
But on Wednesday, no cup of tea could fix the profound, painful, and surprising loss that I felt upon opening Apple News and seeing the unmistakeable, unapologetic headline: “President Trump.” Perhaps the single best word to describe my initial reaction is gutted. I felt absolutely gutted.
The night before, I’d been in the college bar with many others, American or otherwise, watching the electoral votes tally that became more and more unbelievable and disheartening by the minute. Before that, I had heard people say, with less and less humor as the night went on, that they might as well not do their work since the Apocalypse was coming. (These remarks, might I add, came entirely from Brits, Germans, other people who are not American.) I didn’t leave the bar until 5:30 a.m. (GMT), and though the outlook for Clinton was pretty grim by that point, I thought–I hoped–maybe things would still take a turn. Stranger things have happened, right?
Well, yes. But I obviously didn’t get the strange thing I was hoping for.
Half a week after the fact, it is still difficult for me to describe what I’ve been feeling since the election. Sitting in bed, staring at the confirmation of the outcome that seemed so completely unlikely months before, I felt confusion, dread, incredulity, disgust, disappointment. In this chaos of emotions, each fighting for prominence, I began to cry, but I quickly stopped myself because I thought I was being dramatic. After all, what right did I have to tears? I supported Clinton, but at the end of the day I wasn’t nearly as knowledgeable as some people were about her policies, her work, or the consequences of mistakes she’s made in the past. On that deeper level, I didn’t appear nearly as invested as so many others that were proudly proclaiming, “I’m With Her.”
Yet that morning, I realized how invested I was in Hillary Clinton. All day, I couldn’t stop thinking about the nightmarish outcome and what it says about our country, especially being in another one. In short, it says pretty terrible things.
All day, I kept going back to a few thoughts, all of which came down to a single question: How could this man, who ran his campaign on hate and can hardly compose coherent answers to straightforward questions (or even sentences in general) be our next president?
No, Hillary wasn’t popular, but she had the qualifications, she had the experience, she even had a clearing from the FBI over those stupid emails. She, if you count each vote equally, should have been our 45th president, and by a pretty notable margin. Our first woman president. Instead, our first black president will pass the torch onto a man the KKK recently celebrated. That, among plenty of other things, is truly sickening to me.
I read that Hillary planned to give her acceptance speech under a symbolic glass ceiling, but ultimately sent what should’ve been her victory party home. That image, an empty auditorium with an unbroken glass ceiling, hurt the most. Later, I watched the live stream of her concession speech–then I was really crying. Thinking about how hard she’s been working, how prepared she was, how capable, and how it still wasn’t enough, I cried because it felt like the nation was saying that we, as women, are still not enough. And even more, I cried because Trump’s victory means that people who would tell me that I’m being ridiculous, who would invalidate my insecurities as being rooted in sexism, just received the biggest possible validation. I realize that Hillary Clinton’s loss is not solely because of her gender, but I think it’s impossible not to acknowledge that it was a significant factor. It’s irrefutable that blatant racism and sexism has been validated by the people who voted for Trump, either by direct support of his prejudices or by support despite of them. Either way, it’s disturbing.
To think that our nation will now be represented by Donald Trump makes me ashamed, and that’s the bottom line.
Since writing my last post, I’ve been doing a lot of reading and other occasional things that actually involve putting on “real clothes” and leaving my room.
First up was the Oxford Union Northern Lights Ball on November 4th. For anyone who is probably wondering what a ball entails, let me tell you: it’s a black tie (or sometimes the even fancier white tie) event where everybody gets all dolled up, drinks champagne and special cocktails set out by the huge batch, eats food (depending on the ball), and dances the night away. The best American comparison I can make is prom, except usually more lavish.
The Union Ball took place at the Union, in the city centre. As pretty much everyone there was a member (or a guest of a member) and had already given a large amount of money to the Union, it was the cheapest ball to attend this term. Most of the action was happening in a big tent decked out with Aurora Borealis-colored lights, and a student orchestra supplied the jazzy music. Outside there was a tent for food, and inside the actual Union building there was a room with neon ping pong tables and a room with wine and cheese. Altogether, it was very well run, and a nice atmosphere. And, of course, an excuse to wear the really nice dress I bought in Cowley!
The next morning, I got on a bus to London with a friend. We spent the day eating great food (Thai and high tea), shopping, popping into random souvenir stores. We also spent an inordinate amount of time in the Disney store on Oxford Street and the massive toy store, Hamleys, though really those were the highlights. My dad’s high school friend offered to let us stay with her in Marylebone, which was an absolute blessing. The next day, we did some more shopping, went to see the Wallace Collection, and then stuck around to watch the lighting of Oxford Street’s Christmas lights.
Unfortunately, while we were waiting at a Pret A Manger, someone stole my wallet and quickly started charging my cards in shops around the area. I didn’t even notice until I happened to check my email and saw alerts for charges over $125, which I, thankfully, set up as a precaution. When I started trying to call banks, I ran into a number of road blocks: none of the numbers were working because it turns out you have to add a country code that’s separate from +1 (USA) or +44 (UK), my dad couldn’t answer his phone to tell me how to adult, I didn’t know what bank was behind one of my cards, and my Pay As You Go phone plan ran out in the middle of one of my calls.
It was stressful and overwhelming, but luckily, my friend was a huge help and calming presence. After everything was taken care of, she bought me a hot, sugary Belgian waffle and we walked around under the newly lit Christmas lights. Back at my dad’s friend’s, she helped me print my new bus ticket (the first was in the stolen wallet) and very generously gave me some cash to make it through the week until my new debit card arrived. Everything would’ve been infinitely more difficult, and I probably would’ve cried a whole lot, if I didn’t have such great people looking out for me.
The rest of the week was full of down time that was far less productive than I would have liked.
Friday I woke up at 6:00 a.m. and left the college around 6:30 to queue outside the Union–Stephen Hawking is coming to give a talk on Monday, and though the tickets weren’t being distributed until 10:30 a.m., we knew people would get there crazy early. So my friend and I waited about four hours in the cold, but alas, not in vain! Monday, I’ll get to see Stephen Hawking, and I’m super excited about it. I won’t understand anything he talks about, I’m sure, yet I couldn’t miss the chance to see him.
Later that day, I went to another ball–the RAG (Raise and Give) Mad Hatter Ball. As anyone who is reading this blog knows, I love Alice in Wonderland, so you can imagine my enthusiasm for the theme. The venue was Lains Barn, about a thirty minute drive from Oxford. All of the proceeds went to charity, and there was a lot included in the ticket price; it was definitely the best deal by far. Like the Union ball, there were cocktails set out by the batch and also bars serving normal drinks. On top of that, there was a casino set up, a tent with DJs and bands, an impossibly long queue for dinner, huge outdoor chess, a “tea room” with another band (and also tea served later in the night), Wonderland themed cupcakes, freshly made doughnuts, and a shisha (see the Bonus British Bit at the bottom) tent. Around 11:00, they set off some pretty impressive fireworks. Altogether, it was an amazing party, and I had a great time eating, dancing, and eating some more. Oh, and the tea was nice, too.
Now, at the beginning of week six (technically the seventh week because of 0th week), I’m looking at my calendar and I can’t believe there are only three more weeks of the term left. I feel both that I’ve been here forever and that I’ve just arrived. Time works in funny ways, but that’s no new lesson. While I love living in Oxford, I’m also ready for a break. The work is incessant, and it’s challenging. My brain needs some time to just watch some mediocre TV and read some mediocre, guilty pleasure novels. Even more, I’m ready for the holidays–seeing friends, family, going to Disneyland, turning twenty-fun. Christmas is upon us! The holiday spirit is setting in! It’ll be nice to get some time off, but in the meantime, I will definitely enjoy the last three weeks of my first (Michaelmas) term abroad.
(Scroll down for the bonus British bit)
Bonus British Bit: In keeping with the Wonderland theme, it would be appropriate to mention that “hookah” is called “shisha” here. Due to the accent discrepancy, if you talk to British people about “hookahs,” they translate it as “hookers.” Confusion might ensue.