Before I arrived at Oxford University, because of the short period of time I would be here, I decided not to update my phone plan and to only use it when WiFi was available. This decision is something that in so many ways added to my experience and made it so much richer. An inability to be ‘connected’ to the world constantly like I am in the states forced me to instead be ‘connected’ to my situation and surroundings. However, sometimes this inability to connect made my travels much more difficult.
My third week there, a few of my friends and I decided that we wanted to go see the Uffington White Horse Hill. White Horse Hill is a chalk horse that was carved into the side of a large hill in the Iron Age. So, we’re talking prehistoric here. The horse is a monument in English history, and is only fully visible from the sky or afar because of its size. However, the only tricky part to this is that White Horse Hill is in a village (and I mean village) called Uffington. Uffington is about a 40 minute drive from Oxford, but none of us had access to cars, so we decided to take the public bus. First we took a 50 minute bus ride to a reasonably sized town, and then another 45 minute bus ride to Uffington.
When we arrived in Uffington, we were dropped in the ‘village center’ which meant nothing. There was one house, two roads, and a church. That was it. We saw a man and his child on their bikes and asked him which way to the white horse, his only response was to point to the right. So, we began our 35 minute walk along a practically abandoned road until we could finally see the hill (along the way I got nettles all over my legs from walking through the grass… thank you England). When we had completed our two and a half hour journey to White Horse Hill, I realized how worth it this journey had been. It was one of the most stunning scenes I had encountered. We could see for miles and the Iron Age Horse was breathtaking; especially when I was able to reflect on its history and meaning. After spending a few hours atop the hill relaxing, hiking, looking at the sheep and exploring, we began our descent back. We stopped at a pub for water, and quickly realized that no more buses would be coming to the town that evening. We were stranded.
I asked the men sitting outside the pub for help, and they suggested we go to a local fish fry outside of the church down the road to ask for help. When we got there, the people working at the fish fry lent us their phone, and then we went to the center next store and asked someone to give us the number for a taxi company. This process was very long and drawn out, but the kindness of the people we met was really stunning to us. Thankfully, a taxi came (almost a full hour later) and took us back to the mid-sized town so we could then take the bus to Oxford. This story is long, but taught me about the ways a community will come together to help you when you’re in need. And how exciting things can be when you don’t have access to your phone and have to live in the moment. This was one of the absolute highlights of my five weeks in Oxford.