Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Long Awaited Farewell

My mother informed me that I neglected to do a farewell blog. So here it is. I am obviously back in the good ole US of A. The journey home was not what I would call "smooth." It is a long story and I don't wish to re-live it... ever. I had a great birthday (the big 21) and a wonderful Christmas, though both were mostly uneventful. I was boring on New Year's Eve and have remained boring (and slightly bored) since my siblings started school again. Basically, I'm no fun now that I'm not in Scotland anymore!

But since this is my goodbye, I guess I should do the rounds. I would just like to say that my four and a half months in Scotland were some of the best of my entire life. I met some incredible people who I think will be lifelong friends. I can't believe how quickly it all went by! Anyone who is considering going abroad should definitely do it. I feel that my time in Scotland aided in some self discovery - not that it was in any way intentional. I think I grew up... not a lot, but a little bit. I'm so grateful for the entire experience and for the people who made everyday amazing.

So farewell Scotland. Its not farewell forever but for a little while. I will miss you and all the wonderment you have. And farewell to my very few blog readers. Thank you for taking an interest even though I know most of you felt obligated because you are family.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Sardines, Charades and Eurotrash... Wow, I'm Gonna Miss This Place

Today is my final day in this wonderful place called Scotland. I'm terribly sad to be leaving the amazing people and places I've come to love. My room is empty apart from two massively overstuffed suitcases and two equally overstuffed carry-on bags. But before I get too sentimental and start crying allow me to update you on the past few days.

Monday: I turned in the last of my exams and I had lunch with my closest group of friends that night. Kara and I ventured to the Christmas Market to say goodbye to one of the girls who was leaving early on Tuesday morning. After that I went back to Kara's and we talked for a while. I then returned to my room and promptly fell asleep.

Tuesday: We spent the day shopping in Glasgow. Nothing very exciting happened but when we got back we went for a pint at the pub to de-stress about all the money we spent on Christmas presents.

Wednesday: We held our final potluck at Kara's and we actually didn't have a theme, meaning we had an varied assortment of foods (chicken fried rice, spaghetti bolognese, celery and carrots with hummus dip). We all chatted for a while and then decided to play a game of charades. I opted for the position of overseer which is probably more fun than actually playing because you know what people are trying to act out and hilarity surely ensues. I have to say that while the Brits were pretty good at guessing the answer, they were pretty shabby when it came to their silent acting skills. I was slightly disappointed. When the game finally ended we opted for a few games of "spoons." The best part was probably the banter that went on between the remaining players and Sarah's primal screams when she dove to grab a spoon. We sat around chatting for a while and then came up with the brilliant idea of playing a immense game of "sardines" outside. We agreed on the perimeters of the playing grounds (which was quite expansive) and the started the first round. The first guy hid himself so well that we got really frustrated and then almost gave up. Then, miraculously, Maggie found him (and I happened to be with her) and then the game was fun again. After another round, which included some minor injuries and many strange looks from people not participating in our little game, we went to a pub for a round of drinks. We sat and chatted until the pub closed and then it was time to say goodbye to our British friends (and one American). There were tears... lots of tears. I sadly returned to my room a short while later and basically cried myself to sleep.

Thursday: Yesterday I packed up almost all of my stuff during the day. That night we decided to dress up and go out. Our theme: Eurotrash. Yes, we donned the loudest clothes and makeup, teased our hair to new heights and danced like crazy people the whole night long. I honestly don't know how girls dress/look like that on a daily basis. The maintenence is so stressful and time consuming! We went to Vodka Rev and watched some seriously interesting dance moves. Overall, we had a marvelous time.

Friday (today), so far: I finished up the last bit of my packing and now I'm getting ready to go to Kara's flat for our final night together.

Since I haven't left yet I'm not going to get all sentimental and nostalgic about this semester right now. I will do that in the airport or when I finally get home. But for now I will say that my semester in Scotland might have just been some of the best four months of my life.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Twas The Night Of Naughty Knickers

Sunday is here. That means there's less than a week left for me in this fabulous city and country. Today I finished up the last of my final exams and I'll be happily turning them in tomorrow. This guarantees me a few solid days to get all my stuff together and actually do some touristy stuff around this wonderful city that I've lived in for the last four months! I haven't gone to the castle, climbed Arthur's Seat (though I did climb the crags) or even been to any of the monuments! I have to go to the castle at the very least because its iconic... and its all decked out for Christmas.

Allow me to fill you in on recent events. Wednesday was our penultimate potluck. I guess this potluck wasn't technically a "potluck" because we definitely didn't bring food or even cook anything. We met at Stacey's flat and went to the incredible Christmas Festival on Princes Street yet again. We rode the Ferris wheel and I remembered why I don't like them. Firstly, they are rickety and creaky which gives an enhanced feeling of uncertainty and fear for one's life. Secondly, I am terrified heights so I don't know why I willingly got on in the first place. After our short ride we walked around the Christmas Market and bought some dinner (sauerkraut and bratwursts) and looked at the cute little crafts, candies and ornaments. I got an apple strudel for dessert - it was top notch. After our little adventure we all went our separate ways because we all had work to do.

Thursday and Friday I spent most of my time in the library working on my final exams but Saturday was our Christmas Party! We opted for a girls only night. We did Secret Santa, decorated gingerbread cookies, popped crackers and Maggie attempted to make eggnog - a difficult task when no one has a proper mixer or whisk. Our Secret Santa theme was naughty knickers and we all got some pretty amazing new undergarments. Everyone decided we should watch a staple Christmas movie. We settled on "White Christmas," with the dashing Bing Crosby and the magnificent Rosemary Clooney. After the movie we were supposed to make our way down to The Tron to see "White Heath" one last time but it was raining and we didn't feel like going out and about. Instead, we all donned our new panties and attempted to do the Beyonce dance from her music video "Single Ladies." There is an extremely embarrassing video of this and I hope it is never anywhere but on Sarah's camera. It is golden blackmail material so I'm keeping a close eye on Sarah and her camera. We all decided it would be a good idea to watch another movie and so we popped in "The Holiday," a film from about two years ago. We got through half of "Elf" after that before we thought it might be a good idea to get some sleep.

I already filled you in on what happened today (finals = finished!) so that means there's nothing left to say about past events. As for the future... Tomorrow us girls have decided to do dinner and then Wednesday is, sadly, our final potluck. I can't believe how fast time has flown! I'm going to make these last few days really amazing. All I can say is thank God my finals are done so I can enjoy my last week here!

Stacey, Maggie and Kara on the Ferris Wheel ride. You can't really tell in this picture but Maggie was absolutely terrified... but I don't think we'd actually started going yet.

The lovely Christmas decorations Kara made (Stacey's head not included) for our Christmas extravaganza on Saturday. Notice that she also made sure Hanukkah was represented even though none of us are Jewish.

Kara and one of the naughtiest knickers from the evening (I don't understand the purpose the fluffy pink thing). She donned another pair as a headpiece.

Sarah showed off her cute knickers from Maggie. From left to right: Maggie, Stacey and Sarah (with knickers and paper crown from the crackers).

Maggie's knickers had bows on the back!

Popped crackers, shoes, cake box and an empty plate... this kind of sums up our night. All that's missing are the knickers!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Kristi Yamaguchi Ain't Got Nothin' On Me

A week has already gone by which means I have less than two weeks here in Edinburgh! How did this happen?! Really, I do need to get home so I can see my family because I miss them like CRAZY! But I feel like I'm finally finding my little niche here and now its time for me to go. Okay, well moving on to an update of the past week.

Wednesday was our weekly potluck but we mixed things up a little bit. Several of us went ice skating on Princes Street where all the Christmas festivities are set up! I hadn't skated in quite some time but I managed to stay off my butt the whole night! I was extremely proud and briefly considered dropping out of college and re-pursuing my dreams of becoming a professional figure skater. Then I realized how unrealistic this was - by age 20/21 most figure skaters are "old" and on their way out so I really don't have chance. We made our way back to Kara's flat and ate some spaghetti and garlic bread. Thursday was the day of my last official class. That's pretty much all I did.

Friday during the day consisted of me sleeping a lot and Friday night I went to a rugby match! It was Edinburgh v. London Wasps. Sadly, Edinburgh lost but they were leading for about 10 minutes. Rugby is kind of awesome. The rules are similar to football (American football) except you don't have so much stopping and, as my sister pointed out, its ridiculously more MANLY than American football. What I mean is when the clock says there are five minutes left it means there are five minutes left... not 35 minutes left. Here are some basic rugby rules I picked up on: you can only pass the ball behind you, when pile ups/tackles happen the guys simply get the ball out of the pile to another teammate (no stopping), fumbles and missed passes do not end plays, kicking the ball back and forth from one end of the pitch to another is normal, there are no "downs," rugby boys must be really built and preferably tall. Also these guys don't wear padding or warm gear. In fact they ran around in shorts and t-shirts and I'm pretty sure it was about 30 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius). Although I couldn't really see their faces, these rugby boys were pretty fine. We're talking extremely toned, muscular bodies. Now I'm sure once I saw one up close and realized half his teeth were missing and his face had been broken so many times that he looked like a Picasso that I wouldn't feel all that attracted to him. But from a distance they look good. Later that night Kara's friend Drew, who goes to St. Andrews as a regular student, met up with us because he was in Edinburgh. We went out for a bit and then I called it a night.

Saturday during the day we went to the Christmas Market on Princes Street (where the ice skating was). I marveled at the adorable trinkets and gifts and purchased some much needed chocolate. Saturday night we had a little birthday party for my friend Kara who was turning 22 on the 7th. I will just say that it was ridiculously fun. It was supposed to be a tacky Christmas sweater party (because Kara didn't want a party that celebrated her "descent into oblivion" - her words not mine) and for a while there was some pretty tacky attire. I think fun was had by all. Sunday was Kara's actual birthday. Since none of us had fully recovered from the night before by lunchtime (if you were me then you weren't even awake by lunchtime) we had dinner a Chinese restaurant called Jimmy Chung's.

Monday was spent studying because I have a final due tomorrow (Wednesday). We met up with a few of our friends in the student union later that evening and had a few drinks. Then we (the girls) decided we were in dire need of some girl bonding time. So we bought a lot of junk food, put on some sappy music and chatted for a few hours. It was good. Today I finished up my final and that's about it. Tomorrow, as usual, is our little potluck which I think is just going to be us girls (Kara, Maggie, Stacey, Sarah and myself). We're going to go ride the ferris wheel at the Princes Street Christmas Fair and then eat some grub from the Christmas market. So technically its not a potluck but we're going to call it that anyway. And now its time for some pictures!

Christmas on Princes Street!

Our little group went skating! Top row left to right: Sophie, Neil, Maggie, Shay, Alex. Bottom row left to right: me, Jill, Jess, Kara. Stacey and Sarah were, sadly, not present.

This is why I should be a professional figure skater. I could revolutionize the whole institution.

Rugby! That's the Edinburgh team (those people running off in the striped shirts are little kids, probably rugby player for a local team, that walked out onto the pitch with the Edinburgh players).

The guys in the yellow are the London Wasps. The guys in green are the referees. And that guy in orange smack dab in the middle is security.

Tacky Christmas sweater party! I realize I'm not wearing a sweater but I found this Mrs. Gingerbread looking dress and had to get it... I also realize its not incredibly flattering. Not surprisingly, I removed the ugly frock shortly after this picture was taken. From left to right: Maggie, Kara, me, Jill.

Fun times in Kara's flat.

Out to eat at Jimmy Chung's for Kara's birthday. We got these Christmas poppers and they had little mustaches, a creepy yellow fingernail thing and, of course, paper crowns! From left to right: Sarah, me, Maggie.

The birthday girl and Charlie Chaplin! Actually, its just Stacey.

I call this Essence of Maggie.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Where's My (Good) Stuffing?

It's finally the month of December which means my days here are numbered. I'm incredibly torn about how I feel. On the one hand, I miss my family and friends very, very much and I'm pretty sure if I don't see them soon I might go insane. But I also have completely fallen in love with Edinburgh and the people I have met here. These past few months might be some of the best of my entire life - I'm not kidding. But because the prospect of leaving gives me such a strange mix of emotions then I will move on to an update of my past week.

Wednesday night was our attempt at a Thanksgiving celebration. The celebration was good but the food was interesting. Maggie's mashed potatoes were delicious, the turkey bricks we bought were okay, and the stuffing (much to my dismay) was disgusting. Overall it was quite nice but I've decided I never want to have to cook for myself on a big holiday ever again. No one can master the holiday dinner quite like my mom. I mean it. She is spectacular. We had a bunch of Brits over to celebrate with us and we forced them to go around the room and say what they were thankful for because that's how most of us do the Thanksgiving blessing. I was feeling a little bit homesick after dinner but that night when I got back to my room I skyped with my family for a few hours. It made me extremely happy and made me feel much better. Thursday we went to the dinner Butler provided for us. It wasn't Thanksgiving-y at all but I wasn't about to complain because it was free.

I spent a good portion of my week and weekend in the library because I had a very long essay due on Monday (yesterday, Dec. 1). I set a goal of words to write everyday because this weekend was jammed packed with events I wanted to attend in the evening/night.

Friday was the History Society Ball which i bought a new dress for. We - Kara, Maggie and myself - looked quite good, if I do say so myself. We were provided with a 3 course meal, champagne and a few bottles of wine and the event was held at an interactive museum called "Dynamic Earth." After our delicious dinner there was a ceilidh and then "discotheque" (that's what they called it, not me). It was a blast and it was really fun to dress up and look pretty. Saturday I spent most of my day in the library. That night we went to The Tron to see, you guessed it, "White Heath." I think our frequency at their shows is probably reaching borderline creepy but, hey, we're only here for 3 more weeks! I mean, unless they get famous and tour the world these last couple of gigs in December will probably be the last time we'll see them... ever! So I figure if there's any ideal time to be creepy, it's now. After The Tron we met up with Stacey, who had some of her friends from school visiting, at Vodka Revolution. We danced around for a bit and then we went back to Stacey's and talked for a while. When we finally left Stacey's, I ended up at Kara's and didn't leave until 4:30 am. Sunday was St. Andrews Day so there was a big ceilidh that night in the student union. There were a lot of people there and, more importantly, there were a lot of people there in kilts! It was splendid and the splendidness of it all was only enhanced by the fact that I had also finally finished my essay that day.

Yesterday and today were not particularly exciting. The most substantial occurrence was me doing four loads of laundry. I know what you're thinking. Yes it is gross and I was basically out of things to wear. Tomorrow we're having our weekly potluck (Italian themed due to a surplus of noodles from a previous dinner) but we're going ice skating on Princes Street beforehand! Ice rinks always remind me of the days when I mused about becoming a professional figure skater. I don't know why I ever thought I could pursue that career path. I'm not particularly graceful and, honestly, its difficult for me to stay upright when I'm on solid, non-iced ground and in normal shoes. Still, I'm very excited to make a fool of myself and watch all my friends do the same. Classes end this week and all I have left is a few take home exams. The end is quickly approaching... how did this happen?! I leave you with some photo documentation of the past week.

Our Thanksgiving feast in Kara's teeny-tiny oven. The top shelf is the stuffing (really gross - don't worry, I'm not offending anyone because it was store bought), the middle shelf holds our turkey bricks and on the bottom shelf are Maggie's awesome mashed potatoes.

Maggie and I relaxed while the food was cooking (really just Maggie - I wasn't particularly stressed because cranberry salad doesn't have to cook).

Everyone chatting after Thanksgiving dinner (on Wednesday). This is right before everyone felt the effects of the tryptophan.

Kara and me at the History Society Ball. Don't worry, I didn't wear the hat the whole time.

Kara, Maggie and me at the Ball in front of the "iceberg." Yes, it was real ice. The ball was at that interactive museum!

"The Flying Scotsman" at the St. Andrews Day ceilidh!

Brief update: I just left my room for the first time in several hours to grab a bite to eat and, lo and behold, slush is falling from the sky. Not rain, not snow. Slush. Seriously, it looks like the sky dumped a giant dirt-flavored slushie on Edinburgh.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

We Naively Traveled to Europe and Thought Everything Would Be In English

Well, it has been a whole week since the beginning of our trip to mainland Europe and there is quite a bit to fill you in on. We took the bus to the airport on Wednesday to catch our flight to Amsterdam. The flight was fine and only about an hour long (I was asleep but this is what I was told). When we arrived our initial task was to make it to Amsterdam Central Station via the train from the airport. Once we finally figured out the machine to buy tickets (we went to the tourist information desk twice) we caught the train and actually got off at the right stop... despite the fact that we don't read any Dutch. Then we had to find our hostel. Now that was an adventure. After roughly 40 minutes of confusion and map deciphering we found the Amigo Hotel. Once we dropped our stuff off we left to go out on the town. We indulged in the Amsterdam lifestyle (Red Light District NOT included) and it was quite a lovely evening.

The next morning was rough but we grudgingly roused ourselves from the warm beds - the extremely loud construction outside the window helped - and went to our first "official" tourist location: the Anne Frank Museum/House. It was extremely moving. There were tons of original items (including her diary) from her house and the inside had been restored to look like it was when Anne was there except without the furniture, which is the way Otto Frank had wanted it to be. Then it was off the the Amsterdam History Museum which I really don't remember much about which means it probably wasn't that remarkable. I do remember that the number of canals increased as Amsterdam became a huge port city. After some lunch (and an accidental walk through the Red Light District - the women stand in the windows, scantily clad, displaying what they've got to offer and red lights light their rooms), we were off to the Rijksmuseum which houses some of Amsterdam's greatest artistic treasures including Rembrandt's The Night Watch and some Vermeer. They also had the newest piece by Damien Hirst - an skull covered in 8,601 diamonds and it's called "For the Love of God." Maybe I just don't understand modern art but I feel like this might be just a little bit pretentious. Still it was really cool to see especially because the display was in a room that was completely dark with the only light shining on the diamond speckled skull. Next up was the Van Gogh Museum which houses some 200 paintings of Van Gogh's and also has numerous sketches and other works. We saw one of the famous sunflower pictures, two of his self-portraits and many, many more incredible pieces. After this long haul through four museums we decided we'd do a boat tour through the canals because the little pass card we bought got us a free one (it also got us into all the museums for free. We added it up and discovered we saved nearly 20 Euro or about $28). I'll admit, I fell asleep almost immediately after the boat began moving and got in an hour long nap. I'm kind of sad I missed the canal scenery but I got some much needed rest. We had a hearty dinner and then we went back to the hostel and went to bed. The next morning we went to the Jewish History Museum which had some really great contemporary art about Israel and Palestine and Jews in the modern world (Mollie - this would have been GREAT for Jew class last semester). It also had some really amazing artifacts and objects from Amsterdam Jews over the past hundred years or so. We had some lunch and then made our way to the train station to make our way to Brussels, Belgium! Here are some Amsterdam pictures. None of the museums allowed pictures so all I have are scenic pictures of this great city in the Netherlands.

The outside of Anne Frank's house. Obviously, it didn't look like this when she lived there but the inside has been restored to look more like it was when the Franks were hiding there.

One of many, many canals. This is basically Amsterdam scenery in a nutshell.

The Royal Palace in Dam Square.

Extremely phallic looking National Monument in Dam Square.

The Heineken Brewery. We didn't go in but we passed by!

Amsterdam was all dressed up for Christmas!

The train ride from Brussels was only about three hours so we got a little napping in while we traveled. We opted for a cab to our hostel because it was bitterly cold, snowing a bit and we had no idea where we were on the map. Despite the fact that we spoke no French our cabbie attempted to give us advice about the city and kept saying "Bush out! Yay Obama!" Our hostel was trendy and huge. We had a little dinner and then went back to the hostel and hung out in the bar that was on main level and then got some shut eye. The next day we started probably a bit earlier than we needed. We saw the Congress Column also known as the Monument to the Unknown Soldier. Then we happened upon the St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral. It was beautiful and absolutely huge. Then we walked on and found a little square where we bought our first Belgian waffles! They were so delicious and to top off an already great morning it started to snow! We finally found the main square where the Grand Place (not Grand Palace as I kept calling it), which is basically the town hall, and the Brussels Historical Museum, which was not too terribly exciting, are located. Within an hour of being at the square, we saw two weddings take place! We also watched the construction of a massive nativity set and the set up of an enormous tree. We decided we needed to see the icon of Brussels: Manneken Pis. Yes, its a little statue of a boy peeing and its a fountain. The Belgians are obsessed with him - he has over 700 costumes that they actually dress him in! I think the appeal is in the fact that know one knows exactly where he came from or when he arrived. Since we had basically seen everything we wanted we opted for some shopping and Maggie and Kara went a little crazy and got their noses pierced! We turned in very early after dinner because we had to get up really early to catch our flight (that was almost a disaster which I will not recount because it basically consists of us wandering around Brussels at 6 am not knowing what the heck we were doing). We finally got back to Edinburgh and I must say, I can't believe we did it! I mean, we made it and had a great time without killing one another despite the fact that we probably wanted to a few times. But it's excusable because traveling is so stressful. But we're still friends and love one another, so its wonderful. What follows are the Brussels pictures.

Congress Column/the Monument of the Unknown Soldier.

St. Michel and St. Gudula Cathedral.

Inside the Cathedral.

Stacey, Kara and me in the snow in Brussels, Belgium. Did you know it's the UN's capital? Because it is.

Me and my first Belgian waffle. That look is because I was experiencing deliciousness beyond words.

Manneken Pis. Yep, that's it and yes, he is in one of his 700 costumes.

Kara and Maggie's new nose piercings! I don't know if you can really see them but they're there I swear!

I will write some more later but I'm very tired. Overall, the trip was spectacular and I had a blast... What a trip.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

An Impending Invasion

Alright. So for the next few days I will be in mainland Europe. I know - AWESOME! I'm trying to contain my excitement so you should too. The four of us embark on our invasion tomorrow. We are going to Amsterdam, Netherlands first. We're staying there for a few days and then move on to Brussels, Belgium. This trip is going to be incredible. I know this because we are going to make this trip incredible - it has no choice but to succumb to our will. It will be epic and fabulous. Basically, because I'll be gone for nearly five days, I'll be MIA when it comes to my email, facebook, skype and this blog. When I get back I promise to post loads of pictures (perhaps I will devote one post solely to pictures and use the other for the actual entry... sorry that was too much information for you all). Europe better watch out because the Americans are invading very soon. I hope they've braced themselves for what is going to be one crazy adventure.