Well, actually, it's quite past the season to be giving you that greeting, but it about sums up a good part of the way I spent my break in Oxford. While some of it was devoted to recovery time from the previous semester, as well as working on - le gasp - a thesis and other break projects, I finally got a chance to see some of the continent. I might not have, but a family invitation to spend Christmas in Poland gave me the perfect opportunity. Just so you know that we Oxfordites do a *few* other things besides study our fannies off.
Unfortunately, my grasp of Polish isn't as good as I'd like it to be, but my cousin had studied English for years and she was eager to practice with me (giving me plenty of time to reflect on the hegemony of my native language). I stayed with her for a few days while she finished up her last classes - she even sneaked me into one of her lectures - and then we headed to her home in Tarnow, near Krakow in the south of Poland, to stay with the family.
Christmas in Poland follows a great deal of tradition. The Wigilia, or Christmas Eve, is the time for the most intimate family. You eat very little all day, for most of the preceding two days are spent preparing the Wigilia feast, consisting of twelve meatless courses (except for fish). At sundown, or when the first star appears, the supper begins. Beforehand, my cousin, her parents, and my great-aunt gathered together to wish each other good in the coming year by breaking opłatki, and then we began the feast. After this enormous dinner, gifts are exchanged, and perhaps a few other close relatives are visited. Christmas Day, and the days following, are spent visiting all friends and family. I met a great many people whom I'd never met before, including two sets of aunts and uncles who own farms, and a cousin who worked in Spain and happily chattered away with me in Spanish (a certain step above my Polish).
I hope to have a chance to return to Poland before I return to the US. To be family in Poland is to be welcome to all, even if the language and cultures are different. Barriers are overcome.
My last long journey before classes began was to Middlesbrough, far in the north of England. I was journeying to help the Young Friends General Meeting (Quakers to you, bub) plan its next large group event, which happens to be in Oxford in February. As a result, I got to see a great deal of English countryside as the train sped up north:
And, of course, the meetinghouse itself.
Classes have started now, and I doubt I will have much more time now than for occasional gasps of air at the surface before I plunge back down. But I will leave you with the image of my FAVORITE TABLE IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD, which is where we meet to have classes, and is found in the incomparable Albion Beatnik Cafe: