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.

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