A Royal Weekend

My friend Izzy from Wooster is studying abroad this semester as well, except he is at the University of Aberdeen, which is north of me. He texted me awhile ago asking if I would be free the weekend of January 26 (a month ago, already?!) as some of his friends were coming down to Edinburgh for a night. So Izzy came to visit! 

I met him at the train station on Saturday morning and the first thing we did was to find a lunch place and catch up a little. then we walked a bit on the Royal Mile before we decided to go to Edinburgh Castle, which I had not yet visited. The castle is the highest point of buildings in the city and even before we stepped foot inside we were treated to a gorgeous view of the surroundings of Edinburgh and the uninhibited sight of the castle. 

I know I keep talking about all of these gorgeous buildings, but everything is quite striking and I just can’t get over it and I doubt I will be able to. I get excited about pretty houses that don’t look like suburban Aurora. 

Well we obviously had to go inside of the castle. Of course we were treated to a lovely buffet of wind and rain, but that did not diminish our moods. Castle Rock has been inhabited since at least 600 B.C.E. which is wild to think about but of course the castle that stands today is not that old. As I was told in my History of Edinburgh class, the archeologists really want to dig into the rock, but the castle is in the way so they can’t have full access. It has buildings that range from the 12th Century to the 16th Century with different renovations as different eras come along. It was incredible to see because while the buildings may not be completely the same as they were in the times of their building, this is the same location that Malcom III and David I and Macbeth of Shakespeare fame frequented, and Robert the Bruce, and many many more important kings and historical figures. 

We were able to see the Scottish Regalia and the Scottish Crown Jewels. We saw the oldest standing building in Edinburgh—St. Margaret’s Chapel—which was built in the 12th Century by David I. After seeing the Crown Jewels, we went on a free tour around the castle which was entertaining, mostly because the tour guide told us about all of the stupid things he had been asked (namely, “Is that land over there America?”). After a few hours, both Izzy and I were ready to quit, and the cold and the rain wasn’t helping anything. 

St. Margaret’s Chapel
From inside St. Margaret’s Chapel

Izzy and I decided to walk to my flat and make some tea, after which we would find Izzy’s friends at his hostel to meet for dinner. That’s when we discovered just how far away my flat was from the hostel, and how hard it is to make plans with people when you aren’t with them in person and ideas are changing every five seconds. An Uber easily solved the distance problem, but when we arrived at the hostel, we discovered that Izzy’s friends were already eating, so we asked the guy at the hostel for a good dinner place and then walked ten minutes to my favorite put I’ve been to yet. I was kind of turned around location-wise, but it looked to me like we were in a more modern and urban part of the city and the pub was full of people but not overly crowded. I really enjoyed the vibe and it felt like the place that people would go to after work that wasn’t annoyingly touristy. After a meal and great conversation and eventually being joined by Izzy’s friends, we called it a day and I headed back to my flat. 

The next morning I met Izzy and his friends for breakfast, and then as a group we decided to go to Holyrood Palace. We all walked along Princes Street and enjoyed the views before crossing over to the end of the Royal Mile and to the Scottish Parliament with Holyrood right next door. Among other things, Holyrood is home to the ruins of an abbey that was originally founded in 1128, one of the current Scottish homes of the Royal family (when they’re in residence the palace is closed to visitors), former residence of Mary Queen of Scots, and the place where Mary Queen of Scots’ secretary and likely lover was stabbed to death. It also houses some fantastic artwork, including an entire hall only of portraits of kings and queens (including a portrait of Mary Queen of Scots with the faint outline of a footprint thanks to the Jacobites). We were given audio guides to lead us through the palace. 

After looking around the palace, we wandered around the ruins of Holyrood Abbey, which was amazing. One one side, you are standing among the ruins of a beautiful stone building and in the distance you can see a landscape of grass and hills meeting the Salisbury Crags and Arthur’s Seat. It was probably the most Scottish view I’ve seen since being here. 

From there, Izzy and I got lunch, after which we headed back up the Royal Mile where we parted ways—Izzy to Waverley Station and me back to my flat. 

Harry’s Wondrous World

A few things before I let you read the post. First, thanks for sticking with me and my weird subscription issues. Second, thanks for commenting! I love reading any responses! Okay, now onto the show. 

A few weeks ago I was wandering around the city after classes with a friend and I saw this amazing building on the other side of the road and both of us were like “wow what on earth is that” because it was a spectacular building. I am in the land of spectacular buildings but I was still struck by this so we went to investigate. The building was surrounded by walls and by every entrance there was a guard restricting people who wanted to enter and there were signs saying “No public access—school in operation” which made me very curious. I asked the guard what the building was and why there were signs everywhere and he looked surprised that I had had to ask. Apparently the building that I accidentally discovered is called George Heriot’s School, a private school at which J.K. Rowling once taught and the building is reputed to be the inspiration for Hogwarts. I almost fell over right there. The guard then said that a close distance away there was a church with a graveyard where J.K. Rowling used some of the names on the gravestones for Harry Potter characters. 

This is around when I was wondering “what is that?”

I was with a friend and we were on our way to find the street that inspired Diagon Alley from Harry Potter, so the graveyard would have to wait. Just as we thanked the guard and went on to find Grassmarket, school let out and I watched in complete delight as students came out dressed in what looked to me to be a Hogwarts uniform with Ravenclaw scarves and ties. All they were missing was the robes. 

As we made our way from Hogwarts to Diagon Alley, I kept looking up to see Edinburgh Castle towering over us on Castle Rock and everything was gorgeous and brilliant. Just a few streets over we found Victoria Street just off of Grassmarket. Even if this street did not have ties to Harry Potter it would be completely worth a visit. It is a beutiful curved street with brightly colored buildings that take the same curve the street does. It is built on levels and you can go up a level and overlook everything, which we did. While there are quite a few Harry Potter shops along the street, there are also the usual tourist shops selling cashmere and tartan themed clothing and I even saw a wedding party on one end of the street. 

When I started thinking about Destination: Scotland! Edinburgh wasn’t even on my first list of choices as I was focusing on the lesser known universities. But then both my mom and my friend Neva told me to think about Edinburgh. My point in saying this is that I did not have a Harry Potter themed ulterior motive in coming to Edinburgh, but now that I’m here it is so much fun to see how the city influenced the world of Harry Potter. 

The next weekend, myself and two friends from my flat (Lena and Lynn) decided to climb Arthur’s Seat which is essentially the extinct and eroding volcano that overlooks the city. This was completely amazing and not a hard hike at all and to top it all off the view was completely incredible on the top. You can see the entire city from the top (even thought it was freezing) and you can see the Firth of Forth and it was fun to be with friends and to feel like we were on top of the entire city. On our way down we went looking for a cafe, and when we were in the age I told my friends about my Harry Potter themed adventure the previous week, so we decided to go find Greyfriars Kirk with its graveyard. 

Just more fun to be had! It was quite hard to find some of the graves (I had to enlist the help of Google) but it was still a nice time walking around and exploring. It was kind of weird that with a few exceptions, the only graves with flowers were the Harry Potter themed graves. I don’t know how I feel about that. After a while we were all tired and cold so we called it a day. 

In further Harry Potter related news, I have joined the Harry Potter Society, to I’m sure absolutely nobody’s surprise. During the first meeting, we had to fill out a quiz so they could sort us into houses. Unlike the easy multiple choice quiz I was expecting, we had to give answers to questions like “If you were lost in the Forbidden Forest and could bring one person with you, who would you bring and how would you escape?” I said I would bring Paige because she has a great sense of direction and that I would take care to befriend a phoenix so if we couldn’t find our way out we could call them for help. 

After we filled out the quizzes we were sent out of the room and when we came back, everything had been rearranged to resemble the Great Hall of Hogwarts. Banners hung on the walls of each table and there was a head table with each of the society leaders in the front. Right by the head table there was a stool and a guy holding a hat and he called us up one by one to place the hat on our heads and to sort of. I was sorted into Ravenclaw. After we were all sorted, we socialized and ate cookies and chips and other junk food for our welcoming “feast.” Harry Potter Society meets every Wednesday and does different activities. So far there have been two different pub quizzes but there have been other activities too.

As for the latest Harry Potter themed adventure, the weekend before last, I signed up to go on an excursion sponsored by the International Exchange Student Society to the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which is a shooting location for some of the Harry Potter movies, specifically the train scene in  Chamber of Secrets and as the Black Lake in a number of the movies but most notably the second task scene in Goblet of Fire. The bus left from the main library at 7:45 and we drove up to these destinations with several scenic stops along the way in the Highlands. 

Nothing was short of gorgeous. Even looking out the windows, the views were amazing. I could almost convince myself that I was in Colorado except for how much wetter it was and that these are the kinds of scenes you see in movies. Every once in a while our tour guide would say, “Look out to the left, you may recognize the view from the James Bond movie Skyfall,” or “Look out front, that’s where Hagrid’s Hut was until they took it down.” 

There was one major drawback which I probably should have seen coming and that was the almost intolerable levels of motion sickness I experienced. I felt very awful both for myself and the lovely girl I was sitting next to as I could not contribute anything to the great conversation we had been having and had to focus on breathing. Luckily I did not puke. Several stops into the trip we stopped at a town called Fort William for lunch were I was able to buy anti-nausea travel medication. I spent the rest of the trip in a somewhat groggy haze but I would take that any day over the nausea I experienced earlier. 

Then we finally made it to our final destination of the viaduct. The views were fantastic. When you look in one direction, you see Loch Shiel, the lake that resembles the Black Lake from the films, minus Hogwarts sitting on its banks and some CGI effects that remove any inconvenient islands. Then in the other direction was the Glenfinnan Viaduct: the bridge upon which the Hogwarts Express travels. This was so very obviously the bridge—no CGI effects (minus a flying car). But even had there been no Harry Potter connotation it was worth the view. 

for reference

We hiked closer to the viaduct and then up a hill to get a different view of it. Everything was so icy that people were sliding around and falling right and left so at some point I gave up and was happy with the view I had. There was a church nearby which was unfortunately closed but it was also on a different side of the lake so we got to see everything from a different angle. Finally, there was a monument for the Bonnie Prince Charlie down by the lake that we examined, as the Glencoe Uprising in the Jacobite Rebellion took place nearby. 

After a few hours, we all got back in the bus to head straight back to Edinburgh. Our tour guide put in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secretsto play on the ride back and luckily because I was drugged I was able to watch it without further nausea. However, because I was drugged, I only stayed awake as far as the train scene (we all cheered when we saw the shots with the viaduct) and then I promptly passed out. I only woke up when we were near the city outskirts and Harry had just defeated a basilisk. 

I have more exciting news expect this post took me a week to write as I keep getting distracted (I’m in Scotland!) so I’ll post again hopefully soon. That is to say, if the choice is between blogging and finding St. Giles Cathedral, I’m going to find the cathedral. 

Classes

When I signed up for classes months before arriving here, I was told to pick eight or so courses and I would then be assigned a sixty credit schedule (twenty credits per class).  I picked all of the creative writing classes offered, all of the Scottish history classes, and all of the Scottish literature classes. I figured that whoever was going to make my schedule would get the idea. I was placed into two Scottish literature courses and one Scottish history course, so I decided that once I got here I would try to change out of one of the history courses and into a literature course. 

My first full day of being in Scotland, when I went wandering around campus, I eventually found the visiting students office, where I asked a lot of questions such as registering for the local health system. But one thing that I also did was ask to switch out of one of the history classes, and I was switched into Scottish Literature. Now I had a great schedule! It looked like this:

The History of Edinburgh, Scottish Literature 2, and Creative Writing 2: Prose.

My first day of school was January 14, which feels like approximately forever ago. That Monday, my first class was Scottish Literature. It took place in a huge lecture hall with at least 300 students. I felt very overwhelmed by the entire thing, as the largest class I’ve ever had at Wooster was with maybe fifty students for an intro geology course. Furthermore, the lecturer had neither a Scottish nor an English accent, and I later discovered she was Russian. I don’t know why I was so put out by that. This culminated in a lecture on a critic and writer who I had never heard of, with barely an introduction to the course. I couldn’t tell if my liberal arts education with small classes and professors who know exactly who you are was coming to haunt me or if I genuinely had no idea what was going on, but the only thing I knew for certain was when she said something important I could hear the clacking of keyboards so I made sure to write it down. 

I spent the last fifteen minutes of the lecture in a highly anxious state because I had a ten minute walk to my next class, which was set to start ten minutes after the first lecture had concluded. I had practiced the walk before but I could not focus my mind on a random critic I had never heard of when confronted with the sprint from one unknown building to the next. The lecture ended (late of course) and I did a very fast walk/run, making it just in time to the History of Edinburgh. 

I felt so much more comfortable there as the lecturer first introduced herself, then the class, and then welcomed all of the visiting international students who were there just for the semester. I am very excited about this class because it is exactly what the title implies, and what better place am I to be taking this class? Also, I love the setup. We hear from a single lecturer at most three times. The Medievalist historian comes in during the medieval times, and the the archeologist for the prehistory, etc. 

After the end of the lecture, I had a meeting with my personal tutor, who is like our advisor and assigned for the duration of the semester. Her name is Dr. Gunderloch from the Celtic Studies Department. I told her that I wanted to switch out of Scottish Literature, and she advised me to go to the visiting students office in order to make the change. She also advised that I take Celtic Literature. So I went from that meeting straight to the visiting students office and signed up for an appointment for the next day.

I honestly can’t remember anything else from that day because so much had happened in one day alone. And yet I feel very content as a fully functioning independent adult human in a different country figuring things out for myself. I’m in a new environment and I am thriving. 

I woke up the day to an email from somebody in Scottish literature saying she had enjoyed the first tutorial and reminding us the all tutorials were mandatory. My stomach dropped. 

Tutorials are new to me because every class at Wooster is like a tutorial — a small session where everyone is expected to have read the material and participate in discussion. However, everyone at the visiting student office and at the orientation meeting told us that tutorials started week two, so I had ignored all mentions of a tutorial on my time table. That is why I was very confused and upset about the email as I had managed to miss a class that I knew nothing about. That just about sealed the deal for me, so I skipped my second Scottish Literature lecture in favor of dropping the class. I made an entire list of classes that looked interesting and less overwhelming because I was worried about availability, but that turned out not to be a problem, so I was able to join a class called “Songs, Swords, Rebels and Revivals: Modern Celtic Literature in Translation.” 

It turns out that not only had my personal tutor recommended that I take that class, she is also one of two professors teaching it. Furthermore, it is much more manageable in my eyes as there are about twenty five students total in the class. Maybe I’m backwards for coming to a giant university and finding small classes that are out of the norm here, but I feel like I have things more under control now. Also, Celtic Lit is so far fascinating. It is divided into two lectures and two tutorials a week, with the first lecture and tutorial focusing on the Irish see of Celtic Lit and the second on the Scottish side. I am feeling very Scotland focused and quite happy with that decision. 

My last class is Creative Writing. This class only meets once a week for the two hours and there are only ten students (again a great comfort to me with my Wooster experience). I love it so far as it matches my other experiences with creative writing classes. We read stories every week and dissect them as well as write exercises in class. Our first assignment was to acquire a notebook to carry around to write random bits of inspiration. My favorite thing I have written down so far is “questionable hauntings.” 

And I will stop there. I have other things to talk about so stay tuned for news about Harry Potter, ballet, and other adventures. 

Choose Your Own Adventure

So many things have happened since last Monday and a lot of it is just business but I feel like I am on top of the world. 

Everything has been spectacular, even the plane rides. On the flight from Denver to Reykjavik, the first good thing that happened was that nobody was in the middle seat and I got the window. The next amazing thing that happened was that about half way through the flight, the pilot came on over the intercom and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, if you look out on the left side of the plane you will see the Northern Lights.” I was on the left side of the plane on the window! What luck! 

The lights were only white this time— not the multi colored ones that you see in pictures, but it was still spectacular. I couldn’t keep my eyes off of them. They rippled and were really fun to watch. 

When we landed in Reykjavik around 4am, the air smelled different than Denver air which made me happy. I had about a 3 hour layover, so I wandered around a little. I enjoyed the airport. I never thought I would say that. 

Then I got on my flight to London, where somebody told me I was in the wrong seat, so I got out like a doofus instead of checking my ticket. Then when I was blocking the aisle, I checked my ticket and found that I was actually in the right seat. I got a flight attendant, and it all turned out okay. Then I fell asleep and slept until the flight attendants started passing out immigration cards to fill out, which was the best time to wake up because when I looked out the window I was greeted with a view of the Thames, Big Ben, The Tower of London, and Buckingham Palace. I was thrilled. I scored out by being on the right side of the plane yet again. And then all I could think about was, “Nope, no infrastructural alien damage here. Big Ben is still standing. I guess Doctor Who is not, in fact, real.”

When I landed, I had the easiest time going through customs that I have ever had. The customs officer was really nice and the line was really short and he admitted my six-month visa without any fuss. I was really nervous about this part but it turned out to not be a big deal at all. 

So then I made my way through the airport and I found an information desk, and I asked for the best way to get to King’s Cross Station. I was told to take the London Underground to King’s Cross, and that’s what I did. The tube ride was one of my favorite parts of the day. Even though I didn’t see anything hugely exciting, I took great pleasure by watching the roofs of houses pass by and admiring the the chimney stacks (and thinking of Mary Poppins) and of watching the people on the train. So many of them were reading newspapers and I found that very satisfying even if it seems like such a minor detail. 

Finally, I got to King’s Cross. I had about 3 hours of time to kill, so I wandered around, found Platform 9 3/4 (of course, I took a picture) and got some food and tried not to fall asleep. Then I got on my train. 

Yer a wizard, Claire.

I had reserved a window seat, so I was very excited about this train ride. Then I was less excited when a woman came up to me and said, “Excuse me, that’s my reservation.” And I was like, “I’m pretty sure I’m here,” but she was insistent so we just swapped seats. And then she proceeded to not even look out the window for the ride so I was even more upset when it didn’t even matter where we were sitting except for the view! And then it got dark about 30 minutes later so after that I was not as upset and started to watch Netflix and work on my second sock. 

The most entertaining part of the train ride was two women who got on a stop or two after me who had brought plastic martini glasses, a whole bottle of gin, and tonic water. They were so funny to watch. First, they poured gin and tonic into their glasses, and then one of the glasses started to leak, so one of the woman just chugged the entire thing right then and there. Then she poured more gin into the remainder of the tonic bottle and started working on that too. And she was very loud and excited for about an hour, after which she fell asleep. I found the entire thing to be very amusing. 

Then I finally made it to Waverly Train Station in Edinburgh. I already had a hostel reserved since I wouldn’t be able to move into my flat until the next day, and my original plan was to find an information desk to figure out the best way to get to the hostel, which looked to be in walking distance from the station. Then I couldn’t find an information desk, so I wandered around until I found some taxis, and took a taxi to my hostel. It was only about a five minute ride, but I’m glad I didn’t have to wander through a dark city I didn’t know. Already I was thrilled by the stonework and the architecture around me even though I had only been in the city for about twenty minutes. 

From the outside, the hostel looked like it was in a gorgeous, really old stone building, but it was completely updated and renovated inside. I was in a 8 bed room for all girls, but only 5 or 6 of the beds were full. So I got there, put down all of my stuff, but I was so full of adrenaline that I asked the girls who were there if anybody wanted to go out and wander around for me. One girl from Denmark said yes, so we just walked a bit around. We found the place where J.K. Rowling supposedly wrote parts of Philosopher’s Stone even though it was closed, and I gushed about all of the incredible architecture and beauty around me. We only were out for maybe half an hour because after a bit I just crashed, so we headed back and I went to bed. 

The next morning, I got up pretty early and left to find some breakfast. Then I headed back to the hostel, zipped my suitcases up, and called an Uber to take me to Pollock Halls, which is an office for student accommodation so I could pick up the keys to my flat. I got the keys, and the man at the desk told me it was about a 20 minute walk to my flat, which is called Ratcliffe Terrace, so I decided to walk. He gave me a map, and I went outside, and at the end of the road there was a guard house, and the man inside came out and asked where I was going, and after I told him he said, “That’s a bit of a wee walk away,” and I said that was fine. He gave me another map and directions, which was a lot more helpful than the first map, and off I went. 

Luckily, I only had to make one turn the entire way there so I was very confident that I was going the right way even though it took me more like 45 minutes to reach the flat instead of the 20 minutes that I had been promised. I got inside the building, and then spent a lot of time wrestling with keys until eventually two extremely nice cleaning ladies swooped in to help me get in to the flat. I have my own bedroom out of six, and we have a kitchen and two bathrooms to share. The kitchen is already not very clean, but I have only so far met one person in the flat, so I don’t know if we will have a meeting to talk about chores or cleaning up. That’s a problem to confront another day. 

After I dropped my things in my room, it was only around 11am, so I decided to go on a bedding adventure. I had already arranged to buy bedding from visiting students from the previous semester, so the only challenging part would be finding the friend’s flat of the person I had bought the bedding from. This is when I discovered something really important: if you look something up on Google Maps while you’re on WiFi, when you leave WiFi, it will still lead you the right way even though I didn’t have cellular service. I was extremely happy to discover this. Even with this important map discovery, when I reached the apartment after about a 30 minute walk, I could not figure out where the entrance to the building was, so I spent a good ten minutes wandering around the outside until I finally found it and was let in. Then I collected the bedding, and carried two giant trash bags full of sheets and a duvet back to my flat. One guy told me I looked like a “wee vagabond.” I had to ask him to tell me what he had said since I didn’t understand him the first time. I was so thrilled the entire time. I was walking outside, in a beautiful city, with interesting and beautiful buildings everywhere I looked. I couldn’t stop grinning. 

When I dropped the bedding back into my room, I decided to go find the library because I had to pick up my student ID card. The part of campus where I will be spending most of my time is about a 25 minute walk away, and part of the walk includes going through an absolutely gorgeous park. And everywhere I look there are these gorgeous buildings and cobblestones and I am just thrilled by the aesthetic of everything. I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy the beauty. 

I picked up my student card from the library, and then I spent a ton of time wandering around campus on a visiting student office adventure. I discovered that not all of the buildings have great labels, so I went to a few different places and asked for directions until I eventually found it. I was then able to meet with a member of the office, and I switched out of one of the history classes I had been given to take a Scottish literature class and asked about registering with a doctor so I can have access to the NHS. After my meeting, I went to the university health services and discovered that they have reached patient capacity, and but was told how I can register with a local GP so I can still have access to healthcare. Then I headed back to my flat to take a break.

Later that night, there was a visiting student event called The Taste of Scotland held in the student union (which is essentially a castle, what world have I fallen into?!). I went with a girl in the bedroom next to mine as well as a group of students from the building as the RA’s had organized for us all to meet and walk over together. I met quite a few visiting students which was really fun. I tried to explain the US political system to a kid from Australia on our walk and failed miserably. 

The Taste of Scotland event was fantastic. I met a ton of other visiting students (the vast majority from the US), tried haggis (fine but not my favorite thing), heard some Scottish folk music, listened to bagpipes (better than the ones from school…sorry Izzy), tried two different kinds of whisky and learned about the history of scotch and whisky, learned some different Scottish line dances (and have since gained a huge appreciation for the highland dancers at Wooster), and heard a Scottish folk story. It was a great night!

The next morning was a required orientation program for all visiting students, so I walked over with Lena from next door and Maddy who lives in the same building. The event was in the prettiest building I have ever seen called McEwan Hall. Apparently all of the graduations and such take place there and it is an important part of Edinburgh’s history overall. We heard a number of important people speak, but I can’t say I heard anything that I didn’t already know. It was still good to get confirmation about a number of things.

McEwan Hall
Some images from inside

From there, I asked one of the staff members from the visiting students office about where the place would be to buy towels, to which her answer was Primark. So then I went on a towel adventure because I was kind of desperate at that point to take a shower. 

The Primark I was headed for was in the opposite direction of my flat, past the Royal Mile. It was an incredible walk—I couldn’t stop smiling the entire way. Every time I turned a corner there was another gorgeous church built hundreds of years ago and then I passed a street full of castles and bagpipers busking. I just kept thinking, “How lucky am I.” I’ve been planning to go to Scotland for so long, but everything just seems so unreal. I just wanted to go on some errands and I found a few castles. 

After bringing the towels back to my flat and taking a bit of a break, I went on a kitchenware adventure, which I had also bought from a visiting student from the last semester. This time the building was much easier to find and easier to get into. So now I have important things like a skillet and a sauce pan. Later that night, Lena and Maddy and I went out in search of a pub because none of us wanted to do nothing that night. We did find a pub, which was very dark and looked like anything you would see in the movies, but it wasn’t that crowded and also seemed to serve a 40+ clientele. You could tell that everyone was looking at us wondering what we were doing there. Still, we had some beer and talked and exchanged ideas about finding our classes and buying mobile service and where to buy forks. It was a fun night. 

The next day I decided to go on a cell service adventure. The store I went to was also on Prince Street past the Royal Mile so again I was treated to a fantastic vista of medieval buildings and fantastic stone castles and churches. Along the way I found a sandwich shop and spent some time in the courtyard of a church listening to a bagpiper busking. And now I have cell service which is a total win mostly because I can use Google Maps! That being said, I have gotten pretty good at figuring out where I am based on landmarks. I am pretty impressed with myself because one of my greatest strengths is getting lost. 

After my cell service adventure and taking a nap, Lena and I went to a ceilidh put on by the school for international students. That was so fantastic. There were three musicians on stage— drum set, accordion, and guitar— and they called out the moves to different dances as they played some fantastic music. I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun at a dance. Also, I met a ton of new people, some of whom I actually am hoping to see again and become friends with. It ended around midnight, and by the time I got back to my room I was so wound up that I couldn’t sleep for a couple of hours. 

I had a pretty lazy Saturday, which in my opinion was well deserved after a very exciting previous few days. I did go find a laundry hamper and buy real groceries for meals. Even leaving the house right now is an adventure. 

On Sunday, I decided to go to the National Museum of Scotland. I had a great time! It was cool wandering around, but about forty five minutes in I realized that there was more to the museum than just nature and science stuff, and I found the history of Scotland wing. I am definitely going to go back to explore that wing more thoroughly. The best part about the museum was that it is free, as are most of the museums in the city. Then I left to go back to my flat because the RA’s were to be meeting the new residents and walking with us to a lecture theatre so we could hear about building policies. When we arrived to the building where the theatre was, the building manager seemed to have made an error in booking the room, so the talk was canceled, so instead we all went to Teviot, the student union, to get some food and hang out in the bar and then to play trivia a few hours later. That was one of my favorite parts of the day. I need to brush up on my arcane knowledge but we all had quite a bit of fun and a lot of laughs. 

Well I am going to cut it off there even though today was my first day of classes at risk of making this the longest blog post ever. 

Mary Queen of Scots
Map of Surnames
I’ll have to go here at some point.

A Great Scottish Adventure

Tomorrow at 3:30pm I will be taking off to Raykjavik, Iceland. After a two hour layover, I will take off to London Heathrow, and from there I will make my way to Kings Cross Station, board a train, and choo choo to Edinburgh.

Hi everyone, it’s me again. I am reviving the blog as I will be spending this coming semester studying at the University of Edinburgh. I am nearly jumping out of my seat in excitement as I sit and write this blog post.

About a year and a half ago, I decided that I wanted to go abroad for at least one semester because even though I love Wooster, sometimes it is very isolating and small and I wanted to do something new. After a frankly quite challenging and sometimes really awful 10 months in Brazil, I decided to go to a country where they speak English (I have gotten enough comments about the accent already, just stop) and where they had a similar system to that of the States so while I will still be going on an adventure, I will also have enough familiarity and confidence to take myself to the University of Edinburgh and thrive. So I talked to my advisor and my friends and my parents and started planning.

Thanks to my mom and dad for supporting me in this new adventure, even though I am partly convinced that my dad just wants to have an excuse to go on a Scotch and Whiskey tour.

The next time I write I will be in the UK! Cheers from across the pond!

The Women’s March on Washington

Three of my friends and I from school decided that it was important to us to attend the Women’s March on Washington on January 21, 2017. So we figured out a way to get ourselves to Washington D.C. and it turned into a fun adventure if a long car ride. I’m really happy I went. The people I went with all live on my floor at Wooster, and I count them among my closest friends at school. Their names are Mary, Chelsea, and Ingrid.

On the Thursday before the march, we took a bus to to Columbus, Ohio. We decided that the march was important enough to us that it was worth missing one to two days of school for. (Incidentally, my professors seemed more interested in telling me to report back on how the march went than telling me that my absence would be excused. My clarinet professor even thanked me for fulfilling my civic duty.)

On the bus!

The bus was a charter bus that took us to Columbus by going via the windiest route it possibly could. We went through tiny towns, picked up a few Mennonite couples along the way, and saw picturesque scenes of rolling hills and farmland. We also met some rather entertaining characters on the way (one guy admonished us because we didn’t know the county that Columbus is in; “You’re white college girls and you don’t know the county of the town you’re going to?” Um.) It was rather fun if a little bit (or a lot) nausea inducing, but we finally made it to our stop at the Columbus airport. At the airport, we were picked up by Ingrid’s father, Geoff, where we drove about an hour or so to Athens, Ohio, which is Ingrid’s hometown.

Ingrid’s house is on the top of a hill, and the only thing you have to do to get to town is climb down about a hundred or more steps of stairs and you end up an an adorable down town area. Athens is the home of Ohio University and her house is also about a ten minute walk away from the campus. We received a lovely tour (thanks, Ingrid!) and watched James Bond and had pizza for dinner and played with the cats and spent the night at Ingrid’s house.

At Ingrid’s house!

On Friday morning, we packed the car up and took a six hour drive to the house of a friend of Ingrid’s dad who lives in Friendship Heights on the Maryland/D.C. border. Geoff drove, since he also wanted to go to the march. Ingrid’s mom and little brothers stayed in Athens. We drove from Ohio to West Virginia and then to Maryland and we passed the time by eating a ton of snacks, listening to music, sleeping, and doing homework. We avoided listening to the news and really anything to do with the inauguration. I think everyone was in deep denial that President Obama is no longer in office.

When we finally made it to the D.C. area, we dropped Mary at a family friend of hers, and then made our way to our hosts: Ali and Mark. We could not have asked for better hosts. Both of them work at Georgetown University and have had such interesting lives. We heard a lot of stories, as well as amazing food and beyond generous hospitality overall.

we were giddy

It was hard to sleep that night we were so excited for what was to come the next day. We were so giddy. The next morning was no different, with us going out of our minds. After eating breakfast, Ingrid’s cousin Claire (surprise, surprise) came over as she was going to march with us, and then Ali, Geoff, Claire, Ingrid, Chelsea, and myself walked over to the nearest metro stop to make our way to the Washington Mall.

pre march photo

And that’s where the crowds really started. The stairs and escalators were already full of people with pink hats and signs to get on the Metro. We squeezed onto a train, and with each stop that we came to, more and more people with pussy hats and signs and bright lipstick squeezed on. The mood was already euphoric. Renditions of This Little Light of Mine and This Land is Your Land broke out. Everyone was smiling and laughing and singing and taking pictures. The energy was so enthusiastic and just fun. We all exited the train en masse, quickly crowding the metro station, along with people from other trains who all were going to the march too. The metro attendants looked so happy as well, and I overheard one of them remark that the crowds were already so much larger then they had been the day before, for Donald Trump’s inauguration. “This is awesome,” she said.

subway selfie!

on the subway

We started making our way to 13th Street and Independence Ave. where the march was said to start. However, a rally was supposed to start at around 10am, with the official march happening at 1:15pm. At about 9:30am we found ourselves in front of the capital surrounded by more people than I’ve ever seen at one place in one time. We decided to try to make our way to a jumbotron to watch the rally, and that is when we really got caught up in the crowd. We were forced to form a kind of conga line with us grabbing onto each other’s hoods and coats so we wouldn’t be separated. We quickly realized that getting to a jumbotron would be near impossible, and our new goal was just to try to get near the periphery of the crowds so we could do some people watching. It probably took us an hour and a half to achieve that goal, and we were nowhere near the center of the masses or even in the center of the Mall.

While we were incrementally inching ourselves towards the periphery, the energy was contagious. There were thousands of people there, with even more still coming in, there were waves of noise and screaming and chants would come from one direction and go to the other, with people clapping and screaming. I have never felt the kind of exhilaration before as I did when thousands upon thousands of people started screaming, “YES WE CAN!” at the same time. I find it hard to put into words how fantastic it was to experience something like that. Other chants swept through the crowd, with the most popular ones (that I heard) being, “Tell me what democracy looks like, this is what democracy looks like!” and “Tell me what a feminist looks like, this is what a feminist looks like!” and “We are the popular vote!” and “We need a leader, not a creepy tweeter!” and “Can’t build a wall, hands are too small!”  More renditions of This Land is Your Land broke out.

Furthermore, I have never seen such a fundamentally nice crowd of people. You would think, with so many people in one place, that there would be at least a little bit of chaos, at least in terms of frustration and anger, but everyone was patient and nice. Friends were made within the span of one second, all you had to do was say hi, tell them where you were from, and there you were, friends. We were all united, all there for the same purpose, and everyone was so happy and kind.

When we finally made it to the periphery, we had lost Ali somewhere in the crowds. At this point, there were so many people there that cellphone service was not working. It was really amazing that we didn’t lose anymore people than we did, but we figured we would meet Ali back at her house later that day, as we could not get in touch with her by phone. We decided to stay where we were, which was slightly less claustrophobic and did a lot of people watching. We saw so many amazing signs, and spent many hours there, hours in which I honestly did not notice the time passing there were so many interesting people to watch and things happening.

And the signs! So many clever and funny signs, everything was worth it just for having seen the signs. I have included some of my favorites.

About forty five minutes before the march was supposed to start, we realized that we were no where near where the march was supposed to start, or, more accurately, we would have to go through masses upon masses of people to get to the start of the march, which would take an unknown amount of time. So we decided to try to make our way to a point where we would meet the march as it passed by, instead of starting the march. While we were making our way to the meet up point, everyone around us seemed to have the same idea because a kind of “unofficial” march had formed, with everyone streaming down the street parallel of Independence Ave. by the Smithsonians: Madison Dr. So many people! Everybody going along the march was asking each other, “Is this the march route?” “No, I don’t think so, but now it is.” And then, after going down Madison for a while, we looked another block over to Constitution Ave. and saw a great throng of people there, too, with pussy hats and signs galore! It was so exciting to see! So we decided to go down to Constitution and join that mass of people. There were police lining the roads and yet, still, everyone seemed to still be in such good cheer and it didn’t seem like the police were doing anything beyond crowd control. It makes me so happy just to go through my photos and write about it a week later. 

So we went down Constitution Ave. until we came to the Washington monument, and then to the White House lawn, and people were taking photos and waving signs and chanting all over again. We decided that we had had our fill of protesting, so we decided to make our way to the subway. In doing so, other impromptu parade routes were formed, with people just trying to leave the march to make their ways to their cars or homes or the subway. At one point the police even had to block out an entire half of a road to let marchers go through, and that was just to leave! 

We walked a few blocks to go to the subway, but every train that went through was full of marchers, so we ended up walking about three and a half miles, getting food along the way and then finally making our way to a less crowded, but still quite full subway stop, where we squeezed onto a train full of satisfied if tired folks wearing pussy hats and carrying signs. We found Ali at her house, and then Mary showed up after having marched with her family, and the mood continued to be euphoric with everyone still so excited with how many people had showed up and how courteously everyone had been. And everyone’s good mood just increased as crowd counts started being released, along with pictures of the marches in sister cities, and people calling it perhaps the biggest mass organized protest in American history. We were all so happy to have gotten the opportunity to have participated.

We got in the car and drove six hours back to Athens, Ohio that same night. By the time we got back, we were all exhausted but everyone agreed that the march was worth going to. The next day, Ingrid’s mom drove us back to Wooster. We’ve estimated that over the course of the weekend, we were in the car for a total of about 23 hours. Worth it.

Like I said, the mood was nothing short of euphoric. And again, I still struggle finding a way to put this into words to explain how exciting it was and how big it was and what the atmosphere was like. I am just so happy I got the opportunity to go and that I had amazing friends to go with. It definitely was an experience that I will never forget.

All photo credit goes to Chelsea. 🙂

What Is Happiness?

 

Today my French professor is dressed up as a medieval French soldier and in the middle of our French class the rest of the professors in the department came running in all dressed up as soldiers and they had a sword fight in the middle of the class. And then another guy dressed up as the Pope came in and then they all fake killed him. And then we went back to learning about adjectives.

I love college. That is all.

Okay, so the real reason I am writing this post is because it is because I was thinking today about how happy I am and have been these past two months, especially in comparison with last year. And then today in one of my classes during a discussion about the book we are reading (The Argonauts, by Maggie Nelson, just in case you were curious) we ended up debating the concept of happiness. What is happiness?

One girl said that she thought the simple asking of the question implied that one wasn’t happy. I said that I would argue in favor of the opposite, because in the time right before the class I had just been recently thinking to myself about how happy I am. A guy brought up the point that feelings such as depression are very valid, and one can be depressed and still have happy days where they laugh and smile. And then another girl brought up the point that there is a difference between happiness and contentment.

Last year I was not happy. Or rather, in the context of my class discussion today, I was not content. It took me a while to realize that, and really by the time I did, I was within my last month of my stay in Brazil, and I felt like it was kind of too late to make a decision to go home, or take any other drastic measures along those lines. And then when I got home I spent the first month being really mad about how my exchange in Brazil had turned out.

Now I have been in school for about two months, and I’ve been home for four. (Only four! It seems like it was so long ago.) I can think back about my year abroad without being so emotionally attached that I’m completely irrational, though to say that I’m completely subjective is not the case at all. Let’s just say that I don’t think about Brazil and want to go around complaining and throttling members of the organization anymore. I do have a lot of thoughts about it though.

A day where I was very happy. Chiara and I went to a soccer game because we needed something to do.
A day where I was very happy. Chiara and I went to a soccer game because we needed something to do.

Like for the fact that I was generally discontent didn’t mean that I didn’t have times where I was overwhelmingly happy. Like the times I hung out with my friends and the trips I went on and the family I gained. I am very proud of the things I achieved while in Brazil, such as becoming conversationally fluent in Portuguese and learning more about the bus system than most of the Brazilians I hung out with regularly and the huge amount of confidence that I gained. I do not regret going there because of the things I ultimately gained. But I’m not sure I would say that I was content while there.

We made structures out of marshmallows and uncooked spaghetti last Thursday.
We made structures out of marshmallows and uncooked spaghetti last Thursday.

But the basic idea is that I am happier now. I am content. I LOVE college. I am taking great classes that make me think and I don’t feel trapped in an apartment and I am making friends and my social group isn’t only compiled of five people that I talk to regularly. I can leave the dorm without being scared that something might happen to me and I have something to do every day, and there are always things that are going on if I don’t have anything planned. I am not bored. There are also the other things about me understanding the language without having to think really hard and I enjoy American food and I can go to the grocery store and know that I will most likely find the ingredients I came for. Let’s just say every so often I look around and say, wow, here are all of the things I missed while I was gone.

Happy Halloween!

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I’m Baaaack!

happy fall
happy fall

Today I deleted the Facebook and Twitter apps off of my phone because those are the two most distracting things in my life at the moment. Sit down to do homework, open Facebook, get up an hour later having done no homework. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time I gave the real world a try.

So what have I been up to? Biggest life change: going to college. The questions I am routinely asked: Where are you going to school? How did you choose said school? How do you like said school? What are you majoring in? What are you going to do with the rest of your life?

Question 1: The College of Wooster.

Question 2: I read a book plus I listened to my super knowledgeable and all around awesome uncle.

Question 3: I love said school.

Question 4: If I had to answer this question today, I would say I’m majoring in English and minoring in Political Science. If you had asked me yesterday I would have said that I’m majoring in Political Science and minoring in English. If you had asked me the day before that, I would have said I’m majoring in Political Science and minoring in Early Year Education. This is the most annoying and yet most persistent question I get asked. Also so many people outside of Wooster think I’m crazy for going to school without having my life figured out. Guess what? I don’t have my life figured out. Whatever. I’m not supposed to. I’m not concerned about it. This is not the thing that keeps me up at night.

Question 5: Ha. Haha. HAHAHAHAHA. Why are you asking me that question; can you hear how annoying you are sounding? (Incidentally, for the rest of my life, I plan on living. How I will live, now, that’s the real question.)

What does keep me up at night? Whether I have tomorrow’s reading done. Global warming and climate change and the environment in general. The United States political system and this year’s presidential election, as well as big business and lobbyists and whether they serve a democratic function to the government or not. (Talk to my parents — I was yelling at my books during fall break and they told me I shouldn’t do anymore homework with them present.)

I hope you enjoyed this short post! I’ll try to keep up with the blogging world on a more consistent basis.