The Bear Inn

So it’s about 10:30 PM here in Oxford, and I was feeling a bit down about today because I got into town a little late. A lot of the things I wanted to go to had closed already, so I went for a walk and tour around Magdalen College, which was absolutely beautiful. However, what’s important for this short post (are blogs allowed to have these?) is what happened after leaving Magdalen.

I first had to find a place that had wifi ~and~ a good dinner, which oddly isn’t that hard to find in Oxford. I went to this place called All-In-One, an interestingly hip food and cocktail joint that had its fair share of young folk countered with a few very elderly couples. Surely these are the signs of a good restaurant. I had a little video meeting to set up for a video call next week, then after closing my computer, I thoroughly enjoyed a pad Thai with this incredible rice cake.

After this, though, I was looking for things to do and one of my friends (she goes by Snow White (we’ll talk about that later)) suggested a few bars. I ended up (innocently) taking none of her suggestions and instead ventured over to this place called Bear Inn. I did what I normally do at restaurants when I travel alone, and read. However, doing what’s commonplace here in the UK and Europe, but surely not in the U.S., I sat down at the same table as this man reading a newspaper. (I did the American thing and asked if I could sit there, albeit completely unnecessary. (Four-day)-old habits die hard.)

The book I was reading was the only book I brought overseas, solely because I believed it to be worth the weight (it’s a pretty big book). The book is called Death Without Weeping: The Violence of Everyday Life in Brazil. I see it almost as this mecca of my mind that I need to make before or while I start my program. Nancy Scheper-Hughes speaks volumes to the intersection of health and politics, health and the human condition, and to be able to learn some of these mindsets via the culture of Northeastern Brazil is all the better. I’ll save a post for that later, though.

What’s important was the page I ended up turning mid-read (this isn’t meant to be offensive, rather informational, explaining where Brazilians feel the “nervousness” of hunger):

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To have this open in a bar was merely peculiar, and the man sitting across from me commented, “What’s that you’re reading?” Keep in mind that we had been sitting at the same table for a little while already, about an hour or so. He had already asked me once to keep an eye on his jacket while he went outside for a smoke.

Well, this short little question sparked a conversation, and we started talking about why I was there, why he was there, his family, and other topics. This man, Martin, lives in Paris (but he’s an Englishman), and his daughter had a fellowship to go study policy and women’s studies at a London university (I cannot remember where). Martin himself is a sculptor, where he “misuses materials to create new ideas” (paraphrased) – I thought this was a beautiful way of looking at art, and truly is a mindset that inspires amazing art. You might come to learn that I’m an incredible fan of modern art.

Some world politics and geopolitical concepts/philosophy (mostly him speaking) made its way into the conversation, as well as the interesting tidbit that the pub we were at is the oldest pub in Oxford and originally they had bears from the nearby fight at that site. He said, perhaps, that if you dig far enough, you could find remains of the old ring where the bears fought, and maybe even some bear remains… Also adorning the walls of the pub were cases upon cases of ties from old Oxford club members within each college – I’ll have to do some more research on this one for sure.

Martin and I exchanged contact info and I now might have a place to stay in Paris if I decide to go soon! I will be going to Paris, I just have to decide when. Perhaps when I have a little French under my belt, as I’ll be dabbling in beginner French from UCL soon! With that, I need to go to sleep to get up early and seize the rest of my short time at Oxford. Stay tuned for some more updates on my travels in southern England!

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