It seems like forever since I last typed a post especially for my blog. Most of my recent posts, were copies of stuff from TLC that I thought my non-TLC friends might like to see.
All my writing in the last week or so, seems to have been in the form of long forum posts or comments on other people's blogs. So now, just for the sake of it, is something for my own.
It's been a busy week - or rather a busy few weeks. I've got just under two months now before I leave for Oxford and the "organising" never stops. Earlier this week I completed my visa application. I would never have guessed it was such a complicated process to get permission to enter the country where my grandfather and great-grandparents were born. And it seems even harder for my father, who is a generation closer and only staying there for 10 days. On Thursday I went for my appointment at the Visa Application Centre. Besides almost forgetting my passport at home, and making a mistake with my passport number on the online application - everything went smoothly and (assuming I didn't forget to submit some important document) it should be processed in the next 10 days or so.
My favourite part about the visa application was that there was no need to get my hands inky when having my fingerprints taken. Hooray for modern technology!! I've seen a thumb-print scanner before (from when I got my drivers' license) but not one for the whole hand. They are rather nifty. I did discover, however, that I there's something odd about by small finger on my left (i.e. my dominant) hand. It refused to lie flat on the scanner and I had to use my right hand to push it down.
A few weeks ago, I met a lady I know from my church while I was shopping. She said she knew someone whose family was in Oxford and who would be going there herself in the next few months. During this last week, I was given her details and I arranged to meet her yesterday for tea with my mum. She's in South Africa for the moment until she gets their house sold Then she and her adorable black miniature poodle (who seemed confused as to whether he was French or Scottish, wearing a red tartan dog-coat) will be joining her family over there.
A short way into the conversation, we discovered that she and her family are not based in Oxford - but in Cambridge. (Oops :-p) It wasn't as much of a disaster as it could have been, though. She was still very helpful in that she could give a South African's view of living in England, give me tips and answer questions. Though I have been in contact with quite a few people living in Oxford over various text-based internet forms of communication, it was really nice to be able to talk to someone in person. She is also a strong Christian and could give me some advice on the more "spiritual" side of things for when I arrive.
Going back to the earlier part of this week, my old University here in SA has just reopened for the second semester. So I went in for a visit on Monday and Wednesday. They weren't completely leisure-based visits. I needed to get a copy of a letter from the scholarships office and to borrow some of the 32 books on the pre-semester reading list I got from Oxford. Thanks to one of the staff member/lecturers (who conveniently studied in Cambridge and therefore has a number of the books on the list) I have been able to get started on that (just started - I'm still on the first book).
It was rather strange visiting my old Uni. I've been there the past 4 and a half years. But suddenly I feel a little like an outsider. Because it was only the first week back, my student card and LAN logins still work (they will only be reset when late registration for the semester is complete). But already I'm not allowed to borrow books from the library (I can pay a fee as a past student, but I'm hardly willing to pay the annual fee for the two months that I will be here). I also no longer have an office of my own, and have to wait and make sure my friends and former colleagues are around to let me into the offices. They were rather kind about the matter, and even let me have a cup of tea in a borrowed mug! But I still felt very much like a nomad, in what has been my second home for such a long time. I sat in on a tutors meeting for the second years. Because of a swap of first and second year tutors (long story) I was the only one there who had actually taught these students last semester. Which made it really odd, knowing I'd not be part of the second half of their year.
One other exciting thing happened this week. I received an envelope in the post which contained (supposedly) my student contract from Oxford. I love receiving post. Post with Oxford stamps and "Airmail" written on them are even more special (here I reveal my nerdiness ;-) ). When I opened the envelope, I noticed that it had been sealed with sellotape, but didn't think much of it. (I know people will do that if the envelope refuses to seal properly). But then I took out the contents. All it contained was the letter explaining that my contract was enclosed and another empty and addressed envelope for returning the contract. No contract.
And so it would seem that someone in postal services (whether on the British or South African side I can't say) saw fit to confiscate my contract. I think it will be rather funny should that person attempt submitting the contract in the hopes of a free entry to Oxford (:-p) Anyway, I emailed the lady at the linguistics department immediately, and she emailed me another copy of the contract so the crisis has been averted.
I think that covers everything I have to share about this past week, although a discussion of this week would be thoroughly incomplete without a mention of the weather in South Africa. For those who don't live here, or haven't already had me tell them, we've had one of the coldest weeks in the past couple of decades. No snow on the coast of course - but there was enough of it to force closures of major roads. Johannesburg and Durban were completely cut off for a day. I heard later on the news that they were using graders to try clear the snow in some of the mountain passes. I guess it makes sense that we don't have more appropriate equipment. The need for it is so rare that no one would care to maintain such vehicles to be used once in 10 years. I'm still trying to get my mind over rain in July. Yesterday morning it was not only pelting, but I even heard some thunder.
I'm not quite so vain (okay, perhaps I was for a bit, but then realised how silly that was) as to think that God ordains the weather purely for my own benefit, but I am certainly thankful that I should experience one of the coldest winters in South Africa shortly before leaving for an even colder winter in the UK. Even yesterday's rain was seemingly appropriate. I told myself "I need to get used to the rain." In the past I've found rainy days rather miserable, but I'm using these rainy times to change my mentality. If I can convince myself that "it's just water" and find in the patter of the rain soothing comfort rather than dreary depression, I think I can conquer it.
And there it is. A complete rambly post - it involved no plotting or prethough on my part. Hope you my followers (yes those people I like to kid myself that actually read my posts) enjoyed something of it.