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Published: October 2nd 2019
So, now was the time to earn my paycheck. I was in England for a training session for a new program, near one of our main offices in Wallingford. The session was held at Jesus College at Oxford University, one of 38 colleges that make up the University. It was very nice and in a way, I think it helped our focus. At the time, students were still on break, so I think there were a few other companies holding sessions at the college and we were all accommodated in individual dorm rooms. I wish I had this room in college! I had a nice comfy double bed, my own small bathroom, and plenty of desk and storage space, as well as a mini fridge where I kept a few snacks and drinks. I patted myself on the back for having parked at the Peartree park and ride; it was to the north of town and so easy - just 16 pounds for the whole 4 days and minimal cost for the bus to and from. Very easy and I didn't have to worry about driving or parking in town, which is discouraged anyway. The bus drivers were also super nice!
So, I arrived on Sunday night and really my only complaint is that practically everything was closed by 7pm. I had to go into a very small side shop that sold very basic snacks and cheap souvenirs just to get a drink and a granola bar for a healthy dinner. The next morning, I joined my colleagues in the great hall of our college for a very filling breakfast of (for me) eggs, bacon, and pain-au-chocolat as well as tea, of course. I knew one guy from a previous training last year in the Netherlands and another from our Abu Dhabi office, everyone else was a complete stranger.
Our first session was held in a conference room on campus and was a general overview. We had a nice lunch in the great hall and a decent break where I was able to take a brief nap. One of the big guys, the consulting manager of our company, RW, came for the afternoon session and presented. After the later session, we had a team building exercise where we all walked to the river to do punting. RW apparently was on the punting team at Cambridge so I happily sat
in his boat. The two other guys in our boat both took turns with his guidance, while the other lady was too scared and squeaked every time the boat tilted. I was tempted to try, but it was less stable than I thought it would be so I just enjoyed the ride!
After punting, we returned to the college where we had a prepared dinner. O.M.G. It was simply amazing. The college had their own delicious wines and kept our glasses full all night (sparkling, white, red, and dessert) - not complaining at all. There was an appetizer, and the main was a roasted chicken with delicious sauce, and a cheesecake slice for dessert. Seriously, one of the best meals I've ever had. I was able to catch up with my Abu Dhabi co-worker - we closed the place down. It was awesome.
The next day was back to work! We were then split into focused sections as the overview of the main components of our new platform, with some practical applications. Again, delicious breakfast and lunch in the great hall. After lunch, we were able to enjoy a tour of the college by one of the super
friendly staff with some helpful information. Jesus College is one of the 38 colleges in Oxford University, which each have their own governance; you get accepted to the college, but the degrees are the same from Oxford. There are about 500 students at Jesus College, while Christchurch College is about 5 times bigger with a large cathedral while there was a small chapel here. The chapel is used each Sunday, as well as for meetings and weddings; the organ was built in the quad in pieces in the 1980's. The college has to replace the stone facing of the buildings every 70 years due to the soft sandstone and acid rains; most buildings are 200-300 years, except for the north side which are newer. The Queen Elizabeth I portrait in the dining hall is original and yes it is alarmed. Other colleges take the crown of the bust in the hall as a prank and ransom it. Jesus College was originally set up for the Welsh, apparently.
For dinner that night, we were on our own, so my Abu Dhabi colleague and I decided to get something together. We walked around, something light and local; I was hoping for
noodles, but we decided on a little Indian restaurant upstairs. It was cozy, but it looked like it was just a young woman and her father. We waited. And waited. And waited some more. After about an hour and with our drink glasses empty for a long time, I was ready to leave, when she came over to apologize and our food soon came out. I had ordered a chicken korma, which was very good, but he ordered a dish which just blew me away. Thankfully, that dish alone was totally worth the wait and we told her so. She thanked us and apologized again, saying that yes, it was just the two of them and they were not expecting it to be so busy!
The next day was the last formal session where we were in selected groups to focus on our works. So, today was pure work, though the lunch in the dining hall was also delicious (a spicy green Thai curry - so good!). After we finished up for the day, we all headed to a nearby pub, Turf Tavern, which was popular. It was busy, but large, and even though it was large, there were
multiple rooms so you didn't feel overwhelmed. We were able to get a whole room for ourselves; another pub where you order your food from the bar and they bring to you. I kept it simple with fish and chips. The servers were fantastic, all guys, with the snarky British humor. It was nice to wrap up a great week - seriously, this was one of the best training sessions I've been too and I was very happy.
Afterwards, about half of us continued to the next bar, the King's Arms. I got a beer for myself and two colleagues, including my previous training buddy from Texas; we were able to catch up and chatted the whole time at this venue. Then the group moved on to the next location, but I and a few others decided to call it a night, so headed back. I was actually quite sad to leave this town.
The next morning, I woke up early; it was a bit crisp, but the sky was lovely. I went for an early walk around town, heading towards the castle area. The main castle is gone, and much of the remains were used as a
prison and it is now a prison museum, but it is a place I wanted to see (the outside anyway). One of my most favorite historical stories is that of the Empress Matilda, who was under siege at the castle by her cousin, King Stephen, during the Anarchy (a civil war in the mid-12th century when the two of them were fighting for the crown). It was the middle of winter and it seemed like they would need to soon surrender. Instead, she and a few guards were lowered from the tower to outside the walls, wearing white capes, and were able to walk across the river and through enemy lines in the middle of a snowstorm, eventually making their way to Wallingford Castle about 12 miles away. So, when the castle surrendered the next day, she was not there. You know me - there is always a history lesson! 😊
After our last breakfast together in the dining hall, we checked out. While everyone else waited for the coach to take them to our main office in Wallingford, I took the bus to get my car and drive down myself. It was actually a fairly easy drive, even
though my gps crapped out on me in the middle. Again. We got a tour of the office, particularly the lab areas, and had lunch in their cafeteria (I needed to eat something light, so just had a tuna sandwich). We had a final meeting with one of the guys who works on our new platform all the time, and then it was time to go. I drove a few people to the local train station in Didcot, wishing I could take more but there was a lot of luggage! They were on their way to London, but I have been there enough times I really did not want to go again, so I made my own plans for something a bit more peaceful.
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