Day trips to Oxford and Birmingham

With RV people, because there’s no one else you can be equally comfortable with.

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Apparently when tourists get to Oxford this is the first building they get a shot with/of, and well, we are tourists. Just Googled (because I forgot the name- sorry Deqian) to find out that this is Radcliffe Camera, which you’d keep crossing as you walk along the entire city.

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“After an exam, if students do badly they will come here and sigh” which gave it its name: Bridge of Sighs. I’m not even kidding.

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Christchurch College, one of the colleges we managed to sneak into without paying the entrance fee because of these Oxford geniuses. We nearly got stopped until they shoved their student cards in the faces of the college security- and we just sheepishly followed behind.

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The beautiful libraries, with tons of books. A box of free books for you take home at that- many of the books were outdated and thus withdrawn from the college libraries. That is how updated the databases at these world renowned universities are. I wasn’t greedy enough so I took only two- of course I am regretting now.

There were many things I marvelled at throughout the day: how the lawn was so nicely mowed and trimmed such that there was a contrast in the gradient of green colour, how there were people (still) studying in the library past dinner time even though it was already the end of term, how roads were completely pedestrianised and riders stormed the city, how the park (where Deqian walks to for inspiration at night) had no street lights or lamp posts at all and it got really creepy past sunset, or simply how anyone entering and exiting the college at any time probably had a brain capacity as large as the thickest part of my thighs. Come on, they were already hosting two of the biggest brains from RV! The 100 percentile lads, who complained that they were “at most, at most, average” in their school because of their comparatively slow speeds at attempting problem sets and preparing for tutorials.

We were hosted with great hospitality throughout the day, with Deqian being able to voice that this building was “founded in the 16th century”, or how the founder of the college “died in 18xx”. We were brought to eateries they frequented as students, and Asian food together, laughing at inside jokes (for memory keepsake: 情书, morbid, corrupted mind, Deqian’s “he’s saying something very bad” to Xingchen). Even though it was a last-minute arrival because we didn’t clarify our arrival timings clearly, they arrived in good time to pick us up and bring us all around the city.

We weren’t the best of friends in RV, mostly working partners as we chaired 4G. But in UK, RV is really a big and welcoming family, and to find a piece of family in parts of UK was really heartwarming.

Birmingham with Weixuan, to check out the Christmas markets and to retrace our footsteps on our UK trip more than 2 years ago now. I still remember asking my Dad for the cheque that spelt $2960 because I really wanted to go on the trip with Edina- and feeling so bad afterwards because I was such an expensive child. I hope he feels that the trip has paid off now, because that trip probably started fanning the flames for me to work hard and pursue the dream of an overseas education.

Many times we set our steps to familiar places to recreate this “sense of place” that has stuck with us. I never thought much of it when I learnt about “sense of place” being the reason why Earthquake victims still find themselves going back to where disaster struck. But over in this familiar place, I find myself yearning and wanting to go back to where I’ve been before because these areas bring me a sense of familiarity and home in an unfamiliar place- and the pockets of nostalgia I have in between my darker nights merely serve to perpetuate this desire.

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The Cathedral at Bullring Shopping Centre, where I shot a video in the night 2 years ago featuring Jiawen and Edina, with my voice exclaiming how “The Starbucks here is so cool” and how it was too cold for comfort. 2 years on I am here with Weixuan again, to find that the cathedral looks really stunning in the day, too.

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We took this shot specially to re-enact a scene from 2 years ago under the Pizza Express sign holding a cup of hot chocolate and a lemon tart. This year though, it’s not worth buying the food because they probably cost more than our return train tickets- so it’s just us 🙂

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Weixuan purchased a 0.5m hotdog, which I ate too, 2 years ago. I complained about this hotdog costing £5.50, but unsurprisingly it is now £6. Nevertheless I would think it was pretty worth the price because it was so long and filling- although clearly a long piece of meat full of unwanted or junk meat.

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Soaking in the Christmas atmosphere offered by the Frankfurt Christmas markets. It stretched endlessly, with arrows and huge banners pointing to more food stalls, craft stalls as we walked through more streets. I was unaware of this 2 years ago- we limited ourselves to where the carousel was and we stopped going ahead from there. Probably because then it was night time and it was really dangerous. We also ate quite a bit of street food this time- chewing on garlic mushrooms with (probably) ranch sauce, really oily potatoes, and treated ourselves to churros and chocolate marshmallows. We walked through the library where we found really good books available- books that you’d find on the Top 10 Bestsellers shelves in Popular, that you’ll never find easily available in any public library in Singapore. We walked, walked and walked through the entire day.

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Where we ate handmade burgers 2 years ago, I would have forgotten if not for Weixuan’s reminder. I remember being amazed by the picturesque landscape, and taking countless photos for one another. I think it’s wistful how I no longer am amazed by the architecture of many buildings around me, because what I once thought of to be a beautiful view is becoming nothing more than an everyday sight.

I enjoyed Birmingham with Weixuan as a travel partner, because we hop into similar shops (eg. Poundland, really) or probably because she eats less vegetables with me around. Thank you for initiating the day trips thus far.

It’s really apt how 手掌心 by 叮当 is now playing in the background as I’m typing this because I remember the 18 episodes I enjoyed on the long plane ride, crying and realising that no one around me had tissue paper to offer. I love watching dramas for their plot development and how they hit me emotionally at many points, but honestly I love them most because they belong to various parts of my life that I constantly leave behind. I remember this song and this drama as what it was when I went to UK 2 years ago, and as of late I remember Master’s Sun as the drama I watched when my sister stayed with me in my dorm because I knew I wouldn’t dare to watch it alone in my quiet and dark room. And soon in the future, Master’s Sun will be the drama I watched a few years ago, when I first moved into Schafer House. Honestly, I am not sure if I yearn for that day to arrive, or dread the reality of having truly grown up by then.

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