Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Bittersweet Farewell

Tomorrow I leave Oxford. It seems unbelievable. Even writing it down doesn't make it feel any more valid in my head. It feels like I just have for some reason moved all my stuff into Jojo's room, but it will only be a matter of time until I move back to Western and everyone else will be there. However, this can never be for everyone has already left (well minus Karen and Maura). So here I am, sitting on the well-worn springy mess that is supposed to be a mattress in an unfamiliar room with my belongings and memories strewn about the floor in suitcases thinking about the adventure that is to come and the life that is coming to an end. I will miss Oxford, quite terribly at points. I love the Briton's fashion sense, all wild and crazy; I love the old buildings and trees, which make it feel like you have connected with history; I love the pound coins and the tax already included into the price that make paying for things so much easier; I love the pub atmospheres, something you cannot find a comparable substitute in the States; I love cheesy chips with salt, vinegar, and ketchup that fulfil your craving at 2am when walking from the Purple Turtle. These things I will miss, along with the friends I have developed through the program. Anna, Deidre, Carl, Charles, Aaron, Josh, Alvin, Chrissy, Tom, Nick, Newman, Francis and Penelope. I will miss working in tutorials with Lesley Brads and John Jackon. I know that these people have made a significant impact on my life and through them I have changed for the better. Oxford will always have a fond place in my heart.

Yet I titled this post 'A Bittersweet Farewell' and therefore I must be not totally unhappy with leaving, which is true. I cannot wait to get back home and drive in my car with the AC blasting and singing until my voice goes hoarse. I can't wait to hug my parents and watch regular TV, pet my cats and dogs, and hang out with my close friends. My mom already has my meals planned out. I will be having a Chipotle burrito when I get off the plane, and within the next few days I will have salmon, steak, Nuway, Yia Yias, breakfast, and a roast. Oh man, I have begun salivating just thinking about it. I cannot wait.

Well here's to you Oxford. You provided me with more experiences and personal growth than I could have ever imagined. You made things tough, but revealed so much beauty in this world. Cheers, Britain.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Beginning of Goodbye

Two weeks and counting - who can believe that?? It feels like ages ago that I stepped off of that Oxford Tube Airline bus from Heathrow with Kyle. I remember feeling so disoriented, wondering where Gloucester Green was and how on earth we were going to find the Warner's house. I was in a dream that day and I suppose I still am, but that dream is coming to an end. Soon it will be time to wake up, drag my two suitcases, duffel bag and backpack to the airport and fly back to America.

It is all very bittersweet, because I cannot wait to get back and see my friends and parent and be able to eat at places like Chipotle and Nuway. Yet, I am going to miss Oxford quite terribly, I feel. Number one, the weather is great - I don't know how I am going to manage in the 90s. Number two, the accents are fab. Number three - the atmosphere here is so wonderful, it's almost indescribable. I am going to miss the lovely roses blooming in the gardens, the ducks in the river, walking everywhere, the odd and quaint British stores, the kebab stands and wonderful cider, and the kids in the program. However, I will not miss the overcrowded streets of Oxford, my dirty house, the cobblestones that I so frequently trip over, or the outrageous prices.

I feel like I have grown so much here. Not only do I feel more self-assured but I feel stronger. I think the running is helping (I ran for 25 minutes straight yesterday!). Although I don't know for sure that I want to become a professor, I know that that would be a good possibility. I have come to grips with being alone, being self-sufficient, and balancing my schoolwork with playtime. I can now manoeuvre around cities by myself, stay in hostels, and travel abroad with only myself to rely upon. I know who I am now, not fully but this time abroad has greatly enhanced my relationship with myself. I don't need anyone to tell me what to think or how to act or what I should be because I have found that out on my own. It has only taken this time of growth to show me that and to become comfortable with myself, contradictions, mistakes and all. I think my time in Oxford has been very good for me, but I cannot wait to be home.

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Fight for Gay Rights

Today I attended a debate at the Oxford Union entitled "This House believes that the Gay Rights Movement has undermined family values." On the side of the Proposition were Stephen Green, a Christian fundamentalist, Michael Lucas, a Moscow born gay porn star and director, and a student. On the side of the Opposition were Peter Tatchell, a high profile human rights activist, Sue Sanders, a lesbian and co-chair of 'Schools Out', and a gay former student. The debate was quite intriguing for the speakers made several points in the debate worth noting, with the exception of any of Stephen Green's statements.

The student on the Proposition surprised me, for I was expecting a clear cut Stephen Green vs. human rights debate, but instead he and later Lucas offered an intriguing perspective on this debate. They said yes, indeed the Gay Rights Movement is undermining family values, but those family values need to be undermined. They discussed the bad family values that have come from a history of oppression. The nuclear family lay at the centre of it all: the father, mother, 2.4 children and that beloved dog where everyone was fulfilling their designated roles as depicted by the Bible. And yes, gay marriage does undermine this small-minded view of a marriage and family. If this is all that a family is then single-parent units, adopted parent units, etc. are not in a true sense families. And I am truly glad that the Gay Rights Movement is undermining this narrow, constricting view of family values.

However, if you are applying a different perspective on family values then the debate is completely different. Let's now think. What is a family? Yes, it contains two or more people, but is that what it really is? Isn't the whole idea of family based upon the spirit of it, the love, the unity, the self-sacrifice, the inclusivity? And that can be found in any family whether it be straight, gay, single-parent, adopted, anything. The tradition of marriage and family values are not corrupted by a collective group, but instead by individuals. Anyone, gay, straight, transgender, whatever can cheat or be abusive to their families and undercut the spirit of family life, just as anyone can strengthen it through love and compassion. So with this newer, more modern definition of a family the Gay Rights Movement definitely does not undermine family values.

This latter view is the one I hold to be true. Sure, I believe that the gay marriage undermines the old family values, but times have changed and so have family values. They have become more subjective and to this the movement only adds a further dimension to the inclusiveness felt in families. In a modern context the Gay Rights Movement only enhances family values rather than detracts from them.

Additionally, Tatchell brought up a good point, what are straight people afraid of anyways? Do those that fight against the rights of gay marriage fear that it will detract from their own marriage? Do they fear that it will make their marriage seem less legitimate? Don't they just realize that these are stupid fears? For as Tatchell said, it's not like there is some giant rights equation where if one group gets more rights then rights will be subtracted from another. All the movement is calling for is equality on all levels. Homophobia does not legitimate civil legislation against a certain group just as negrophobia does not legitimate civil legislation against black people. You cannot allow your own subjective view impose itself on the rights of others. Every man, woman and child was born to have equal rights and it is not within your power to judge who is fit or not. If you believe in god, then leave it to him. This also means that gays should have the rights not to just civil unions but to full fledged marriage in court, just as straight couples do. For remember, separate does not mean equal. Britain has the civil union law in place, but according to the London Times 61% of the populace believe that homosexuals should have full rights to marriage. Furthermore, it is now considered political suicide in Britain to fight against gay rights. I found this information incredibly inspiring and I hope it can spread back to America.

That is my tangent on gay rights. I have much more to say and I feel incredibly passionate about the subject. However, right now I am tired of typing due to writing a 10 page essay on The Chronicles of Narnia, so do forgive my short discussion. If you ever feel the urge to talk with me about this, feel free.