I am so fortunate to have been given the opportunity to spend my final term as a University of Oregon student overseas in London. It has been an absolute treat for my soul to witness all the many visually striking sights, along with the fantastical performances taken place all over the city. Already I can see that this trip has given me faith that theatre is still very much alive and a greatly appreciated art form; it is a shame that the United States does not share the same level of gratitude. Of course the main focus of this study abroad program was on the theatre culture in London, but I found the excursions out of London to be the most amazing and humbling adventures. The first expedition was to Bath; however on the way to Bath, we made pit stops to Stonehenge and Avebury which, has proven to be one of the most moving experiences thus far on this program.
I fell asleep on the bus watching the tall buildings and skyscrapers zoom past the bus window and awoke to the sight of rolling green hills peppered with sheep. I was jilted awake by shouts of glee and excitement that we were approaching Stonehenge. We began to walk toward the Henge and I was beginning to feel myself fall into denial. It still had not seemed real to me that I was fast approaching a world recognized unsolved mystery. Of course my initial reaction was a mixture of astonishment and delight, but I was surprised to find how humble being there made me feel. I was suddenly aware of how fascinating human beings are and what we have been able to accomplish in such a brief amount of time here. I slowly walked around the stones trying to take in everything I possibly could from every angle. As time was running out, I started to make my way toward the exit. I realized that it was grossly out of place see Stonehenge right next to a busy highway, wait in line to purchase tickets, and visit the gift shop for such an ancient and mythical location. It was such a colossal juxtaposition that I forced myself to run back and take one last look at the stones to ensure that my final memory there was with this legendary structure and not waiting in line with a crowd of pushy tourists eager to pay for an overpriced trinket.
We left Stonehenge and arrived in a small, quaint town that seemed right out of a picture book, with thatched roof houses and an ancient chapel. The main attraction in that town was the Avebury henge, but what I found most interesting was the town itself. It was almost as if I had stepped into a different time period. The town of Avebury was so quiet and pristine that I felt guilty disturbing the atmosphere by shuffling my feet or talking with friends. Although I entered Avebury as a tourist, it was so refreshing to be away from major tourist attractions. I was allowed to experience the town as it was, essentially untouched by time, without brushing shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of people. Everything was still and it was lovely.
I had an amazing experience in Bath. I felt so fortunate to be in such a beautiful town with stunning sandstone buildings and roads. However, I greatly missed the stillness and spiritual atmosphere in Stonehenge and Avebury and longed to return. It was tremendously therapeutic to be in a place almost untouched by the modern era and I hope to come back someday.
-Chelsee Carter, Theatre in London