I'm here for a work-related meeting. It's been a while since I visited England, but wasn't in the city of London. It's quite refreshing really. London feels like a second home - probably because I know it so well - but I don't feel a sense of excitement visiting London anymore.
I have visited Cambridge 'properly' once many years ago in my first year at university. I passed through again a year later on way to visiting a family friend in Saffron Walden.
Cambridge is a fairly small city and if you have seen films set in Cambridge, it will probably look a lot like it does on the screen. The college buildings are certainly very impressive and olde worlde. After today's meeting ended I spent the evening with my friend L who I met in India many years ago when we were both undergraduates and spending the summer teaching in Delhi secondary schools. Although we stayed and taught in different schools, L and I hit it off right away initially because we were the only two (among our contingent of mostly British students) who didn't drink and who loved clubbing. Over the summer we discovered many other shared interests and became firm friends. We hadn't seen each other in about 9 years, but kept in touch throughout our many moves. Now L is a doctoral student of Middle Eastern politics in Cambridge University and I was excited to see her again. I wondered if we would still have a lot in common or if it would an akward reunion. It wasn't. We are still able to talk and laugh so easily. We caught up on what we've been doing in these past 9 years.
We had dinner at Nando's near the city centre. I had stopped by yesterday to check out the menu. I wanted to see if it was different from what was served at the Lagos restaurants. Of course, it's mostly the same, though the heat gradings are radically different from Lagos. I had the Extra Hot (the hottest you can have your chicken and labelled as being for daredevils). Hmmm, not so much. The rice portion was unforgivably small. There would a riot if they served that small a helping in a Nigerian restaurant.
L took me around some of the colleges. It was incredibly cold, so we hurried through many of the colleges. Since it was also dark, I couldn't fully appreciate the majesty of the buildings. It must be wonderful to study in such a place steeped in so much tradition, though I can imagine that at times it must get incredibly stifling. It's probably slighter better as a graduate student, I would imagine. L said that she was glad that she had her under-grad degree at a more modern and liberal university, where she had a great social life and also enjoyed her degree. As a Ph.D student she works mostly on her own and isn't in so much 'direct competition' with other students. While this could be a good thing (can you imagine continually feeling like you have to prove yourself among a class of people who are, at the very best, as just as smart as you and who, at the very worst, make you feel totally incompetent and unqualified to be there?), I think it could also be isolating.
We went by Trinity, Kings and Jesus Colleges. Kings College has a quaint bridge that goes over a river (complete with weeping willow trees) that runs behind the college grounds. I kept thinking how cold the water looked and hoped that I wouldn't stumble and tumble into the river. L took me into her college, St. Catherines, and we went into the post-grad common room. It was warm and cosy and reminded me of London House, the residence hall I lived in during my masters program. That was a really old building from another time and place.
Hopefully tomorrow I will see some more of the city.