Watching the London Olympics made me feel nostalgic for the two trips I was lucky enough to take to England as a student. The first was a month-long study abroad session in Oxford during high school and the other was a shorter one I took freshman year of college. Both were before digital cameras were commonplace and sometimes I’m sad that I don’t have more photos to remember all the things I saw. If I went to the UK now, my lens would be clicking constantly. But I can also appreciate how only having a little 35mm film point-and-shoot benefited me. During my weeks in Oxford, I spent a lot of time exploring the city and university by myself. I ate many cream teas, went on a self-directed walking tour of all the places Charles Dodgson incorporated into “Alice in Wonderland” and just generally tried not to freak out that I was IN OXFORD. I loved it.
Though it’s been 15 years, everything is still very vivid in my mind: the way Magdalen College’s dining hall smelled constantly of curry (though I never actually saw any curry served there); the dust that blew in my eyes when I stood in front of Christ Church College trying to figure out which set of windows had once been Dodgson’s rooms; my first sip of dandelion and burdock soda; the taste of the barley sugar candy I bought from Alice’s Shop; feeling both awed and unsettled by Sir Jacob Epstein’s sculpture of Lazarus in New College Chapel; exploring the aisles of Boot’s, where even hand soap seemed special and exotic to my American eyes. I have to admit that none of these memories would be as clear if I had been focused on taking photos and posting them to Instagram. In fact, I didn’t even remember to snap pictures until the last few days of my trip (admittedly, I then ran around in a panic with my camera).
My birthday was last week and Ron treated me to dinner at Just In Bistro. I managed to forget my camera and smartphone. Of course I was annoyed that I didn’t take more photos for scrapbooking (the one above was snapped with Ron’s phone), but I did enjoy making a giant mess out of my Singaporean chili crab. If I had had pricey electronic gadgets with me, I would have been more careful, but I actually really enjoyed just being able to tuck into my meal, picking for bits of crab meat with my fingers.