Well, I'm safely settled into my new home in the UK! I'm in the conspicuously beautiful and historic city of Oxford, and am getting ready for the start of the winter term. I'm living in a nice big (though incredibly warren-like) house with about 40 other students from my university's overseas program. So far, since Oxford term hasn't officially started yet, I've been spending my time trying to find my way around my house (harder than it sounds), getting shockingly cold every time I step outside (seriously, it doesn't look like it should be that bad! What is this weather??), experimenting with British food (not as bad as I'd feared so far), and getting an IMMENSE kick out of a lot of new British phrases. My favorite so far: Bums being referred to as "members of the homeless community." What a delightfully proper society this is.
All that, of course, and getting used to the fact that the next 8+ months of my life will be largely without horses. I've gotten in contact with some people about possibly going fox hunting (how awesome would that be? Though upon looking at English hedgerows on the drive in from the airport, I think I'm going to have to dig into some previously untapped reserves of courage to actually do it!!) and have heard back positive news from the folks at the Oxford Polo Club, so those are pretty good consolations-- I mean, if I get to ride at all I'll be doing better than your average study-abroad student-- but it's still very strange to not have horses make up a significant part of every day. Especially in these first few days where class work hasn't totally started yet so there's a lot of free time, I've been feeling a bit at a loose end: I'm used to cramming every spare second of daylight I have into going to the barn and fitting schoolwork and other activities around that.
(A year and five days ago - my very first real jump school on Kiki! What a star)
Still, I have two serious shining lights:
1) I'm coming home for spring break!! We have a one-month spring break where we can't stay in the Program house; most people spend this time either traveling (in Britain or on the continent) or returning to Stanford for Spring quarter. Given that I have to go somewhere, the cheapest option would be for me to fly home during this time (and, given my horse-starved state, this will probably be the most appealing option as well!!). My dad has spring break for part of that time as well, so we're planning a road trip to go down and visit the ponies. Ahh what could be better: springtime in the South, my favorite animals, the company of my dad, and 20 hours each way of can't-find-it-anywhere-else Americana. (And Waffle Houses!!). Ooh man, I'm excited already =)
(To this day, spring strawberries in Aiken are some of my fondest memories - and I mean really, how could they not be? Have you ever seen a more perfect strawberry?? And yes, it tasted just as good as it looked!)
2) Squash, and not the gourdy-kind. Squash is a pretty obscure racket sport not unlike racketball (though man, I would cringe to say that in front of die hard fans of either sport) that I happened to play in high school and would still regard as my favorite non-horsey sport of all time. I was never super awesome at it but reached a decent level of proficiency in high school, so that I could hit the ball pretty well and play long enough points to make the game feel worth it, but unfortunately haven't found the time to play since graduating. Well, it turns out that squash is an extremely popular sport at Oxford (I should have guessed, I suppose, since other popular sports include Cricket, Punting (like rowing a row boat but instead of oars you get one big stick to push off the riverbed with), and Croquet. Really.), and so I'm dying to start playing again. And the best upshot? It's an indoor sport, so the only braving of the elements I'd have to do would be to physically get to the court and back - I'm sold!!
(I don't have any pictures of me playing squash, but here's at least what the game looks like - it's basically like racketball but with different boundary lines a much smaller and less bouncy ball - it's super fast-paced and super addictive)
Anyway, if you're near your horse today, give him or her a big hug, the kind where you bury your head in their neck and breathe in that wonderful, totally unique and incomparable, horsey smell, on my behalf =)
(Kiki and I at her first trip to Rainbow, and our first venture off property together - she was so perfect!! As always =D)