Tuesday, September 30, 2008

William Wallace Town!

This weekend, as I informed you earlier, was my "home stay" with a British family in Stirling. From this experience I would safely say that, if I ever have the choice, I will not do anything of this sort again. Its not that the family was rude or mean. Actually what bugged me the most was their complete indifference! I did not end up staying with the woman I was assigned. Apparently she was sick. So instead, me and three other girls stayed with family (of two - husband and wife). The husband was nice enough but I found the wife a little bit anal and she seemed annoyed most of the time. I mean, she gave us a 10:30 curfew when none of the other home stay kids even had one! 10:30?? I haven't had a curfew that early since the 8th grade. Actually, I think my curfew was even later than 10:30 in the 8th grade! Needless to say, I am relieved its over.

Aside from the less-than-perfect home stay, the girls I stayed with were awesome! We went to the William Wallace monument and climbed all the way to the top (246 steps and I have a certificate to prove it!) for a magnificent view. Here is the monument itself and then one of the many pictures I took from the top.

William Wallace Monument. So grand and glorious... just like MEL! (Mel Gibson, in case you didn't get that).

One of several pictures from the top of the Wallace monument.

We then went to Stirling Castle (after a delicious lunch) where I was told a few times that "actually there's no photography in here." Whoops! It was fabulous and huge and we really enjoyed ourselves despite the rain. The Great Hall was very Harry Potter-esque, so I loved it. I also found my future husband (who wore a disturbing sporran made out of a head)! See below for visual aids.

The Great Hall! "It looks like Harry Potter" were my words upon entering. It was pretty much a dream come true.

Me and my new boyfriend (let's call him James because that seems like a very Scottish name to me for some unknown reason).

My boyfriend's disturbing badger sporran.

On Sunday we went shopping and found a store called Primark that sells stuff for Wal-Mart prices. Seriously, I got a pair of jeans for 6 pounds (which is basically 12 dollars) and several cute shirts for only 1 or 2 pounds! Yay! After that we headed back to Edinburgh. I got a little bit sick on our trip (I've caught the dreaded "fresher's flu") but I've had so much citrus over the past two days that I think I'll be well by the weekend. I leave you with some more pictures from my Stirling excursion.

Statue of Robert the Bruce outside Stirling Castle.

William Wallace's sword (allegedly).

Bagpiper on the street.

Me with one of the famous Unicorn Tapestries. It was a replica. For some reason I look really ticked off but I assure you I was actually really excited.

Stirling Bridge (reconstructed, obviously) where Wallace and his army defeated the English!

Friday, September 26, 2008

So... Mel Gibson Was There

Just to inform you, I'm off to Stirling for the weekend for my home stay. Stirling is very special city to Scotland because of the Stirling Bridge where William Wallace and his army fought for Scottish independence! Of course, you'll all know who William Wallace because of the great Mel Gibson and his movie Braveheart. Because of this short home stay I will probably not have access to the internet; therefore, I will not be updating the blog, checking my facebook or email, or be able to skype with any of you for a few days. I will definitely take LOTS of pictures and update you on everything that's even slightly interesting.

But before I sign off, I'd like to leave you with a few thoughts: Are raisins a fruit? Isn't that kind of like saying banana chips are a fruit? Did you know British people pronounce oregano "ore-GAN-o?" Oh, and apparently our pronunciations are all wrong since the Brits "invented" the language. I have yet to find any type of 24 hour eatery in Britain and I actually am beginning to believe they don't exist here... so why is it called IHOP if its not international? Shouldn't it be AHOPIPS (American House of Pancakes with International Pancake Selections)? And finally, what is with McCain whimping out on the debate??

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Yep, I'm American... I Think

A certain someone told me that she follows my blog quite closely and, therefore, I should update it as often as I can. Well, in all truth, I could update this blog daily because I have that much time on my hands but in reality no one really wants to hear about my day to day boring-ness. But just to humor this friend of mine I will tell you about my life over the past few days (even though I was planning to take some more pictures before I blogged again).

I started classes. Two of them are HUGE lectures with 100 to 200 students (Foundations of Criminology and American History 2). My other class, Identity, War and Revolution in Europe 1789-1918, is much smaller with about 30 students and is discussion based. I'm excited about all of them but I particularly liked the lecture on my second day of American History. During this class our lecturer "quizzed" us with some American trivia. It is with a heavy heart that I tell you that I did not know: the population of the U.S. (I was WAY off), that we had a president who was unmarried, or how many presidents had been assassinated. Our approximate population is 305,200,000 people (I guessed about 150 million above that - whoops) and the only unmarried U.S. president was James Buchanan. Apparently four, not two, U.S. presidents have been assassinated. In chronological order, they are: Abraham Lincoln (1865), James Garfield (1881), William McKinley (1901), and John F. Kennedy (1963). Random fact: November 22 (the day Kennedy was shot) is also the day Margaret Thatcher left office... obviously not the same year. However, I did know: the percentage of the population that is white (72%), the percentage of the population that is African-American (13%), how many time zones are in the U.S. (4), and that the border between U.S. and Canada stretched about 4,000 miles (just FYI the U.S./Mexico border is about 1,900 miles). I'm sure Mr. McCollum would cringe if he knew about my severe lack of knowledge on American history (and can you believe I'm considering it as my focus for my history major?!). Aside from becoming very aware that the British know more about America than most Americans, I think this will be one of my favorite classes even though it covers my least favorite part of U.S. history.

Last night I went to this bar/resturanut called Frankenstein's with a few of the girls I've met here. The cool thing about Frankenstein's is that it was a church and has now been converted into this big bar. Despite being a very cool atmosphere (a plastic Frankenstein makes a showing every two hours or so via slow crane-like bed thing that hangs above the main resturant area), we waited FOREVER for our food. Granted, Tuesday is a very busy night because students eat for free provided they buy a drink; nevertheless, we were told twice that they were out of the food we wanted and proceeded to spend nearly 3 and a half hours there and most of that time was spent waiting. It was funny for a while and then it just got kind of ridiculous. I think we spent about as much money replenishing our drinks as we would have if we'd actually paid for a meal elsewhere but whatever. It made for some good girl bonding time. From now on we plan on going for lunch on Tuesdays instead because it might be less crowded and they won't have run out of our food.

It was a nice day in Edinburgh today meaning it was cold and overcast but not very rainy. Nothing really exciting happened today except that I bought a sweatshirt at a second-hand shop because I was so cold on my walk back to my dorm. That's my update and I hope that someone is somewhat satisfied. :)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Wet is the New Dry

Let's see. The last time I updated you I had had that crazy encounter with the girl from College Heights. Now it is Saturday and I must say that not a whole lot of exciting stuff has happened. I officially registered for classes which was really easy because I don't even DO anything except tell my Director of Studies (the equivalent of an adviser in the UK) what I want to take and then he does all the work! Awesome! Why don't they do it like this in the States? So, I've registered for 3 classes, which is the typical semester load in the UK, and they are: American History 2 (should be interesting), Identity War and Revolution in Europe 1789-1918, and Foundations of Criminology (I'm really excited about this one!).

I also signed up for a few clubs and societies. The first was the Music Society. I joined the choir part of that and the rehearsal was okay but definitely not up to Atteberry or Kamm standards. I'm not sure I'll stick with it (though I did make a friend by joining in the first place - yay!). I also joined the Women of the World group which is kind of self-explanatory in that it is a group of feminists at Edinburgh who are of the world. Their first meeting is this Monday but it conflicts with my class time so I'll have to figure out when the next one is. Finally, I joined the Film Society which doesn't seem very sociable in that most of their activities are just screenings of different movies. The girl at the Film Society kiosk said they were going to try to arrange more events to make it more "group-y" rather than just a bunch of people who come out to watch film screenings.

I think tonight is the official end of this crazy freshers week. Really, this whole week has been very bizarre. I feel so OLD! Seriously, most of the freshers are 18 but I've met a lot who are still 17! I feel like an old fogey. Being 18 here is like being 21 in the States; everyone can finally drink, smoke, get into clubs/pubs/bars, and all the other privileges that come with being a legal adult in the US (obviously excluding drinking). So, being 20 is a little bit weird because now you have nothing exciting to look forward to on your birthday aside from receiving presents. In addition to feeling old, I also feel a bit like a pedophile when I think a guy is cute and then I discover he's 17. Slightly disturbing on my part.

I have to say, one of the things I love about this country is the dancing - the vast majority of people here aren't exactly what one would classify, in the US, as "good" dancers . Actually, I'm pretty sure even the worst dancers I know (mostly family members - I think you know who you are) would look like rock stars on the dance floor. You think I'm kidding but I'm not. I think they're below the American standard of "good" dancing because they mostly use only the shoulders, arms, and occasionally the hands (they're fond of pointing their index fingers then swaying side to side from the waist); therefore, they neglect to use nearly half the body! I don't mean to offend anyone who possibly uses these methods as regular dancing technique but I was just amazed that I, for once, felt like a decent dancer. Now, don't get me wrong, there are people here who can dance but I'm happy to say I feel on par with them. WHOO-HOO!

Okay. I guess since I complained about it so much on my facebook status I should probably inform everyone of my "laundry situation." Let me start by saying that my dorm does not have laundry facilities; therefore, I have to take my stuff to the next closest dorm. I was unaware that instead of using 1 pound coins we had to use tokens that cost 1 pound a piece to do laundry. However, they have placed the token machine up in the Reception Center (which is only close to one dorm really and that dorm doesn't even NEED tokens to do laundry - WHAT??). Anyway, I must have trekked back and forth to the Reception Center at least 4 times for various laundry related reasons. And to top it all off, my stuff wasn't even dry when I took it out of the dryer and I didn't have enough money to do another dry cycle. So now my room is draped with semi-wet clothing which is refusing to dry because my heater never comes on and my room has about 85% humidity. Sorry to go and vent all of my laundry woes and sound like a whiny baby but I had to get it all out at some point. Needless to say, I have to rethink this whole laundry thing. Boo.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

As I was applying for my absentee ballot.... BOOM!

Today I ran into a guy (British) who was attempting to register American students abroad to vote (I should add that his attempts were quite successful). So I began to fill out all my stuff and he had all the additional information specific to the state I'm registered in. He asked me which state and I said, "Missouri." The girl who had just finished registering heard me and asked me what part. I always respond, "the southwest corner" when people ask this question because normally they think I might be from St. Louis - pretty much the only city remotely familiar to non-Missouri residents. Then she asks me what town specifically and I say Joplin. BOOM! BAM! POW! Not only did this girl LIVE in Joplin for 5 years, she graduated from College Heights (College Heights, really?! that's just down the street from TJ - HOLY CRAP!) and knows my sister and half the other people I went to school with!!! WHOA! I mean, what are the odds of running into someone from Joplin who is also studying abroad in Edinburgh??? PRETTY MUCH ZERO! I honestly cannot believe it and I'm still in total shock. Obviously we exchanged phone numbers. Who'da thunk it? I just had to tell you all about this totally random and crazy encounter that I am super stoked about!

NOTE: Her name is Kaitlin and, being the stalkerish facebook fanatic I am, I know she is friends with about 15 of my facebook friends.

Monday, September 15, 2008

University of Edin-buuuurrrraaah

So I've officially moved in and become a student at the University of Edinburgh (which they say Edinburah. Apparently they get really offended if you say it wrong). We don't start classes for another week so this entire week is all the new students - international and incoming (which they call "freshers" not freshman) - and is basically dedicated to partying. Seriously, I'm not kidding. Not only are there about 1,000 activities for freshers to do - about half of which involve drinking - but these people do not get tired of going out and doing stuff! It was so funny because I went to my hall meeting tonight and our only options for refreshments were orange juice, red wine, or white wine. I will say I opted for the red wine though it wasn't very good.

We must pause from the debriefing of freshers week thus far to talk about the outrageous amount of walking we have to do on a daily basis. Firstly, no matter where a student lives, that accommodation is ridiculously far away from any of the events/academic buildings/student-union areas. I have one of the shorter walks and I'm still a good 30 minutes from the "center" of campus. Campus, by the way, is not one general space or even in one general area of the city. No, "campus" is basically the entire city of Edinburgh. What this all sums up to is that I am walking well over 2 miles a day which will be really nice (because that will be my exercise while I'm here) once my feet stop hurting and my blisters have calloused.

I still have yet to make a non-American friend. But I have only lived here for about 2 and a half days and I have met some British people but I just haven't really made a friend... does that even make sense? Oh, and this is random but it is essential that I address this: Britain may have the worst weather of any place in the world aside from Antarctica (and no one lives there - Britain's actually populated!). It rains a lot and is quite cold; I think my room temperature is just above freezing. I asked a British guy who was behind me in the queue (they don't say "line"): doesn't having little/no sun mean everyone's really depressed? He replied, "Why do you think we drink so much?" Clearly, I'm going to have to "get my drink on" quite a lot if I a) want to stay warm and b) want to survive. That's all for now and I'll leave you with a few pictures from the past few days.

Map of "campus." Notice that the place I live isn't even on the map; there's just an arrow pointing off into the corner where the map ends.

Pretty view of New Town Edinburgh at sunset.

The hall where they had the welcome for the international students (that includes me -weird I know). Its actually really huge.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Goodbye USA, Hello UK

Alright. So I actually made it to Scotland despite all the odds being against me and the other group of study abroad students I was with. Since I am approaching the end of my second day in Edinburgh, let me recap what you all have missed.

I woke up at 3am on Tuesday the 9th to go to Tulsa (where my dad so generously drove me at that ungodly hour). My first flight left on time and was all fine and dandy until about 30 minutes before we were supposed to arrive in Newark, NJ. The captain came on the loudspeaker and announced that no flights were entering or leaving Newark because of severe weather conditions so we would have to go ahead and land in Baltimore to refuel because we didn't have enough to sustain us through the delays. We were only in Baltimore for about 30 to 45 minutes and then we continued on our merry way.

We landed in Newark around 1pm and I already knew I had a long wait ahead of me because my flight was scheduled to take off at 9pm. Unfortunately, the flight was delayed, not once but TWICE so that we didn't actually leave Newark until 1am. That means I spent roughly twelve hours in the Newark airport. Gross.

Finally, we got to London where customs was a nightmare (as it always is) and where we encountered even more delays because of our excruciating delay from the flight to London. Though we boarded around 4pm, apparently (I don't really know because I passed out about 5 minutes after boarding) we didn't leave for an HOUR because some guy who wasn't supposed to be on the plane was and they had to remove all his luggage - which happened to be some of the very first pieces of luggage loaded and, therefore, were the last to come off. And of course they had to reload all the luggage they unloaded. Eventually we made it to Edinburgh though I slept almost the entire way. All my bags were there so that was awesome but in total I think I was traveling for about 30 hours. Needless to say, I'm not very eager to get on a plane anytime soon.

Some good did come of the horrendous traveling pains and that was that I actually made some friends! I think we were all so tired and so gross (from serious lack of bathing and clothing change) that we looked past all that initial judgment/self-conscious stuff and just let it all hang out. I'm so relieved and now I feel very relaxed, almost at ease! I know. I'm shocked too.

We are currently in a hotel for a few days of orientation and then we move onto campus or into our flats on Saturday. Right now I am SO thankful for all the things that have gone right and for the fact that I actually feel sane, comfortable, and not depressed.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Oh no.

Well, it is almost time to go (I leave in one day!) and I still don't feel like I'm really going to a foreign country to study for an entire semester with people I don't know. Actually, I'm having a hard time grasping the fact that I won't be back in Claremont! I'm a lot unprepared and have a billion things to do before I go. September 9th is upon me and "oh no" is all I can think.