17 October 2009

Pomp and Circumstance: Matriculation

7:45--The time we were supposed to be gathered on the quad

7:50--The time the group of freshers from my building decided to head over (and in an effort to make friends by being a friend, I hung around and was late with the group. Don't worry, I draw the line somewhere before jumping off a bridge.)

7:52--We arrive and we are not late. This has been a great adjustment for me. I have been conditioned that if you are on time you're late, and if you're 15 minutes early, you are on time. Here the reality is that if you are on time you are early; if you are late, you are early; and if you are early, you might give someone a heart attack (and you will begin to wonder if you are in the wrong place). The only time this does not hold true is for formal hall, where if you are late, you have to apologize to the senior staff member.

7:53--We are told to cue alphabetically (and then it is explained that we will re-cue, on the other side of the quad, tallest to shortest)

7:55--Someone has a seizure. (We un-cue).

8:15--I have an individual photo taken. Now I have to cue by height...my favorite because everyone else is basically cued by gender. So, now it is the boys and me and one side and the girls on the other.

8:16--I am absolutely freezing.

8:20--The person standing next to me tells me that she is afraid of heights (and the bleachers were legitimately steep and legitimately scary--I am not afraid of heights and spent about a third of the time thinking about what I would do if the bleachers began to broke. I mean, do you protect yourself by falling on others, or take your lumps? I guess I was more afraid of the moral fiber that would be tested, and revealed in such a situation...). I explained that as long as no one behind us lost his or her balance, we should be safe.
8:22--The guy directly behind the girl who is afraid of heights FAINTED. I am not making this up. Why didn't we have the speech about not locking your knees?! (Although, I suspect that any economist worth his--or her--salt would discover that the "don't lock your knees" speech increases the incidence of fainting...Am I right, or am I right?)

8:30--We finally take the whole group photo. We still have an hour break until we meet to get the run-down and head to the ceremony. Good thing we got up early and started at 7:45.

9:30--We meet in the hall. Attendance must be taken because this is a compulsory ceremony. (if you don't go, you are not a member of Oxford. Here is the part where you extend all logic, because yes, I have been attending classes for a week, yes, I have already returned multiple contracts that are basically signed in blood, and yes, I have already been formally recognized by my college AND already paid my first bill--which was substantial. But, if I don't prance around in a white shirt and ribbon tie in the cold, I am not actually a student.) So, back to attendance, we decided the most efficient way to verify attendance is to pass around a sheet with everyone's name so that those in attendance can highlight their name. We don't do this in any methodical way. It takes half an hour. I have to actively and passionately supress any desire to offer useful tips on how this process could be more efficient. There are such things as cultural values; efficiency is not one that is shared in this particular culture.

10:05--The meeting (description of the rules) finally begins.

10:07--Some guy with a hood tells us to meet him in the first quad (100 steps away) at five after ten sharp. He also explains that we should use the clock in the first quad, not the clock in the second quad as they sometimes(?) don't show the same time. Notice the time at which he makes this request. This is my life.

10:15--Tourists take pictures of us as we walk towards the Sheldonian. I feel like I am in the zoo. (And I am a zebra, naturally).

10:30--After 15 minutes of standing in the cold, the ceremony begins. I am sitting in the back corner and my knees poke through the gap in the seatback in front of me. Yet another thing that is not made for tall people here.

10:32--The Vice-Rector or something, enters, kind of like what I have seen on TV with the pope. Someone comes in before him with a sceptor that looks like it should be burning incense. He takes off his hat and bows alot to the various senior officials from the representated colleges (not all of the colleges matriculate at once).

10:34--The head guy from Queens (I know this because a friend from Queen's told me that's who it was) talks to the "vice-guy" in latin. I feel smart because some of the words sound kind of like English. He says something about presenting these students for matriculation. I am assuming the "vice-guy" said something along the lines of, "Well, we already have their money right? Sounds good to me." Then he told us we could be seated (in English).

10:36--The vice-guy told us how this is a shortened version of an old ceremony. Apparently, the old ceremony was actually an exam that verified that you are, in fact, smart enough to be at Oxford. That test was all in latin. Now, they feel like they can determine your academic qualifications through other means. At this point, I am having what has become a common experience for me here, where I feel very sneaky and imposterish. (Go ahead and try to translate "imposterish" into latin.)

10:40--There is lots more bowing and hats being taken off, and then the incenseless sceptor holder leads the vice-guy out of the Sheldonian. We are rushed (unceremoniously) out so that the next ceremony can begin

10:42--We wonder if we can wear our hats now. (There are (very serious) rules about these things). The better question may be why my British peers wanted to wear their hats. We are talking about a dorky mortar board after all.

10:50--It is confirmed. We can now wear our hats (without receiving some sort of unknown but certainly severe consequence). Yipee matriculation.

No comments:

Post a Comment