19 May 2011

Home again, home again, jiggity jig

Well, this post has been a long time coming - I've been home for nearly three weeks now, and all at once, it feels as if I've just left Edinburgh and as if I went ages ago. I've gotten over my jetlag once and for all (thank goodness - I thought I was going to be on a 7 a.m.-10 p.m. schedule forever! And don't try to tell me that that is "normal"...I eschew typical waking hours; I'm in college!), and I've gotten used to the sad reality of being back in a small, rural town in the middle of nowhere: the lack of events, having to drive to get places rather than walk, etc. Not that it's all bad - I really like being home, aside from this unreal amount of rain we've had lately, because not only is it comfortable and familiar, but I get to spend time with people I love and catch up on me. I've been going through some old things in my room, visiting family and friends, reading a lot, and, as always, practicing my ukulele and singing, probably to the point of insanity of my parents at times. It's nice being back - I've had a lot of time to relax; and while I'm sure I'll be bored and ready to leave again soon, especially after my whirlwind last month abroad (see lack of blog entries as evidence), it feels good to be done with schoolwork and my internship and just chill for a while.

 Per usual, there are lots of thoughts in my head; so, in case anyone is wondering, I do intend to do at least a few make-up journals from my final travels. I go back down South in about three more weeks to start my intense and time-consuming summer job, so I can't guarantee much throughout the summer...but these next few weeks are pretty clear! Be on the lookout!

04 April 2011

Recent Goings-on

I have been neglecting my reflection time in the past few weeks! Not only am I obviously behind on blog entries, but I am waaay behind in my daily work journals, as well. It seems as if these past few weeks have jumped into hyper-speed, and the end of my time here in Edinburgh looms closer and closer...and is coming at me faster by the minute! I only have four more days left at my internship; one of my classes is completely finished, and another has just one more meeting before I'm through. I've already had to start thinking about packing up and moving out.

The weather has been BEAUTIFUL lately - unfortunately, all of this extended sunlight and increased heat is coming just as I'm shipping out, it seems. However, the nicer temperatures and skies have allowed for quite a few nice walks lately. (And, of course, as a result, less time on my computer, and therefore, less blogs.)

SO, I have been very busy writing final papers and evaluations and such lately - and I have an oral presentation on my internship to do in class tomorrow night! I apologize once again for not blogging more often. Rest assured, though, that I have lots and lots of notes and ideas in my head; I will be working diligently to chronicle all of my adventures. :)

29 March 2011

A Transcript of Today's 8:38 a.m. Conversation with One Half of a Foreign Couple on the Street

Woman: Excuse me, do you live here?
Me: Ehh, I've been here for a few months.
W: Could you tell us - is this the Mound?
M: Yep, this is it! (gesture)
W: Ok. Thank you very much.

...and then, I took the wrong street to Starbucks.

22 March 2011

Glossary, Vol. IV

Again, I've only recently discovered some of these terms, but a lot of them are words that I've gotten used to hearing and just forgotten to post. Still, it amazes me that, nearly three months in to my trip, I can still be learning new words IN THE (SUPPOSEDLY) SAME LANGUAGE. What's that saying? "The UK and US: two countries separated by a common language," or something like that - SO TRUE.

Foreign Words
lolly - sucker or lollipop
jumper - sweater
dreich - dreary
peckish - hunger

Slightly Different Usage
hamper - gift basket
motorway - highway
carriageway, as in "dual carriageway" - road ("two-lane road")

Increased Usage
dodgy - sketchy
fiver - five pounds (or dollars)
tenner - ten pounds (or dollars)
zed - the letter Z

13 March 2011

10 pounds well spent

Last night, I went to see the Vagina Monologues. I asked around to see if anyone else that I knew was interested, but they all had some excuse or another for not going, so I went anyway, and I am so glad that I did.

For those of you who don't know, I actually acted in my school's performance last year. In last night's show, they performed the same monologues that we had in our show, so it was very interesting to see the contrast - I DID hear not only Edinburgh but Loch Lomond mixed into the script! Besides, it was fun to hear everything in Scottish accents.

Some of the main differences (aside from the above speech-related ones) were the set and the staging: the entire cast was made up of about 8 women only, and they stayed onstage the whole time but just rearranged themselves, with the speaker always in front, in a pink chair as opposed to other black ones. A neat thing that I liked about the backdrop was that, as center was a corner of black curtains, they had draped pink cloth over the bars and to the floor to form a V.

Also, afterward, we were treated to a drum and dance number by performers representing Orishas, 3 important goddesses of Haiti, because this year's V-Day Spotlight was on the women of Haiti and the increased sexual violence after last year's earthquake. It was a very cool dance number that simply reinforced my desire to learn African dance. (Yes, I realize that Haiti is not in Africa, but the dances were influenced by their ancestry.) Some of the proceeds went toward relief efforts there, while the rest of the money raised went to the Edinburgh Women's Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre.

Then, I had a dream that I was nominated to win a cool trip with Eve Ensler.

12 March 2011

Myth Busters, Episode I: Scotland Weather

I've decided to start another periodic theme post: Myth Busters. Some of the things that we discussed in our program orientation when we first got to Scotland were the preconceived notions that we had had before arriving, but as I learned from that discussion and continue to discover day by day, rumored reputations are not always correct. Of course, this is all just my opinion, but as an educated resident here, I feel that I am beginning to get a handle on how things work. For our first edition:

MYTH: Scotland is FREEZING!/It rains constantly in the British Isles!

Well, in simple terms, this is just untrue. Actually, the temperature, at least for the months that I've been here, has stayed at a pretty steady 40ºF, with variances of only a few degrees, usually staying above freezing even at night. The thing is that it doesn't get much warmer, either - 50º a couple of weeks ago felt like a heat wave! - so many of my fellow classmates, who are from the South, are constantly cold. (You'd think that they would get used to it by now...?)

It definitely doesn't rain all of the time, either. Edinburgh's location on a river rather than sea and on the West as opposed to East coast of Scotland actually keeps it drier than many cities in the Isles. That said, there is apparently a saying in Scotland that, "You can experience all four seasons in one day," and especially these past few days, I have found that to be true!

For instance, when I woke up to get ready for work Thursday, I saw horizontal rain outside my window (because the wind was blowing that hard.) By the time I'd gotten ready to make my then-dreaded walk, though, it was sunny outside - to the point that, as I left the house, I considered turning around and getting my sunglasses. I'm glad that I decided against it, though, as on my less-than-20-minute journey, I experienced both crippling wind and pouring rain. Luckily, I was getting inside just as the drizzle was turning to heavy rain - and when I looked out the window a few hours later, it was literally HAILING! I then hustled to the bus stop to go to class in fair weather, but when I got to class, there was a whole new palette of weather patterns on the plate: not only rain but snow, sleet, and sunshine. Phew.

In conclusion, Edinburgh weather is generally pretty calm and steady - but when it rains, it pours. HAHA - that is to say, when it gets crazy, it gets CRAZY! Anyway, I have learned whilst living here that there is no such thing as "bad weather" - only poor clothing choices or ill-preparedness!


Saturday in the Park

Today has been a rather "dreich" day, as they say in the UK. (Look out for that in my next Glossary entry!) I woke up around 10:00 to falling snow (what happened to the hopeful spring-y weather of last week?!), decided that my planned outings for today weren't worth braving it, and promptly fell back asleep. I woke up again about an hour and a half later and found that not much snow had stuck, after all, and the precipitation had been reduced to a dull drizzle. I jumped out of bed, pulled on one of Mom's old sweaters that I brought with me so as to be nice and cozy, and headed out to the nearest postbox to ensure that my postcards would go out at noon today. (I made it with two minutes to spare!)

I had originally planned to come back to the flat after that and properly get ready for the day (maybe - now, I realize that this is crazy - take a shower?! or something), but I realized that I was already on the way to another of my original goals for the day: the Edinburgh Farmers' Market. I decided to just continue on, and I'm glad that I did. I had originally planned to spend the meager remains of my weekly budget stipend on some street art that I eyed last weekend, but I talked with the stand supervisor last Saturday, and she said that they're out on the weekends, weather permitting. I was pretty sure that that was not today, so I figured that I may as well buy some good food!

Truthfully, the FM was pretty small, especially compared to some that I've been to (like this one that I went to on this day, for instance), and a lot of what was for sale was meat and cheese - not exactly my cup of tea. However, I did find some gems in bakery and sweets stands, not to mention a few organic vegetable stalls. I came home less than 10 pounds poorer and very excited about my prospects in the next few days: I purchased 120g of organic spinach, which I've been meaning to buy lately, anyway; a cup of hot chocolate, which was great - not too sweet, heavy on the cocoa, a good mix of different chocolate flavors plus added cardamom on top, at the vendor's recommendation; two truffles, my preferred method of chocolate consumption; and a contained of tablet crumbles.
Speaking of tablet - it's a traditional Scottish dessert that's basically all butter and sugar. YUM.

Anyway, you might be wondering by now from whence the title of this blog came. Well, after I wandered through the market and made my purchases, instead of making the perilous climb through the slush back home, I decided to continue downwards, and I found myself in a park. At first, I didn't realize exactly where I was, but I soon recognized it to be West Princes St. Gardens. (I felt very cool and accomplished and Edinburgh-y for this recognition, by the way.)

I walked around the park area a bit, climbed back up to find this flooding mess on Princes Street, and decided to go back into the gardens and walk around a bit, as the rain had let up. So, I found myself faced with the following juxtaposition, a vista that I see quite often, actually, on my walk home:

the modern rail system and the ancient castle.

I hadn't realized before how many paths the gardens had zigzagging through them! I explored just about all of them today, though. It was nice - even though the ground was a slushy mess, my trusty galoshes got me through.

...and this tree just reminded me of a Lorax.

Dear old Glasgow town

Two weekends ago (time FLIES by here!), I went to Glasgow for about a day and a half. Four of us had tickets to see Ben Folds and Kate Miller-Heidke Friday night, and that outing turned into a large group overnight trip. You know us college kids!

Emily, Lindsay, and I caught the CityLink bus mid-morning and got into Glasgow about an hour and 15 minutes later. Lindsay was staying for the weekend, so the first thing that we did was go to drop off her bag in her friend's office in The Lighthouse - so cool! After that, the three of us walked around Buchanan Street, where the main hustle and bustle of city center is concentrated, as we waited for our friends to arrive via train.

We ended up spending the afternoon browsing around all of the great shopping that the area is known for. Though anyone who knows me will know that I would usually be totally averse to this idea (and, truthfully, I still was), I didn't know the city well enough to venture off on my own to see what I wanted to (art museums, historical sites, cafés, etc.), and I was with an all-female company, so I sucked it up and actually found some good bargains - especially my leopard-print, footed onesie pajamas! (Don't be deceived by the below photo - I actually found them at Primark, not T.k.Maxx.)

After an exhausting afternoon, we spent a bit of time relaxing in the hotel before heading out for a quick bite to eat and a WONDERFUL concert. We met up with some friends of friends downtown afterward.
The next morning, everyone who had stayed overnight was catching an early train - except for Emily and me, who had open return tickets. We slept in and took our time getting out of the city, stopping at a flea market along the way where I found some nice gifts for people.

I definitely want to go back to Glasgow and see more than the commercial center. The limited time that I spent there, though, was great! It has a very different feeling than Edinburgh: it's bigger, so it's less international but busier. Whereas Edinburgh is the proper and historic city, Glasgow is its raw, fascinating sibling. I'm looking forward to going back and exploring the West End/uni area, where I WILL eat at Mother India (a goal of mine for this previous trip that was left unfulfilled).

08 March 2011

Recent happenings and what's on next

Despite what my blog entries might have you believe, I do spend a fair amount of time simply working, exploring Edinburgh, eating, and sleeping - I'm not constantly running from place to place (though I have gotten quite good at that). I tend to only blog about these significant trips and events, though, because they are more interesting...or at least, in my judgment, they are. For those of you just dying to know how I spend the rest of my time: this blog entry is for you.

A typical weekday for me is as follows:
-Wake up in a whirlwind and get ready leaving just enough time to walk briskly to work.
-Go to class.
-Commute home.
-Make dinner.
-Eat dinner.
-Do some homework.

Boring? Maybe. But it is comforting to have a sort of routine. Obviously, it's not exactly the same any one day - my class and internship schedules vary, and if I don't have any commitments for the day, it's spent entirely differently. Of course, I don't use Skype every night, and sometimes, I break things up by going back to work after class or going somewhere after dinner. And there are always fellow American transplants around - so, really, it's not THAT boring, I promise!

However, recently, I've had a bit of a cold, so I've been doing even less than usual. I'm hoping to get over it soon and get caught up on all of the blog entries that I want to write, which may include (get excited!):
-Loch Ness & the Highlands tour
-my impression of vegetarianism in Scotland
-another volume of the dictionary
-Arthur's Seat
-Scottish music and my project for Scottish Culture & Society class
-cars & driving in the UK
-more things that I miss

Let's see how long it takes me to get through that list, eh?

One of the main reasons that I do often take a few days to blog about things I've done is that I take SO. MANY. PICTURES! Like I mentioned, I spent hours going through my three days' worth of Amsterdam pictures to caption and arrange about 10% of them. Don't get me wrong - obviously, I love taking pictures, and I do enjoy recording the events of my travel study - it just takes time. Thanks for being patient :)

I found Nessie!

More on this after work.

03 March 2011

Amsterdam pics!

I went through 568 pictures tonight and chose my favorite 58. That's blogger dedication.

So please, PLEASE, check out the below slideshow - and feel free to leave me some feedback! Anyone can comment on these posts by clicking the "Comment" button below. Do you prefer this slideshow format, or the program that I used for the Calton Hill pictures? Do you want to know more about anything? (Don't forget about my earlier Amsterdam post.)

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow
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Annnd here are a few nighttime pictures that I felt warranted a larger size and clickability. (And on that note - let me know if you want any files from the above show!)

02 March 2011

Glossary, Vol. III

In the words of O.A.R. (that kind of apply), "Who's up for Game 3?!"

NOTE: Some of these are recent discoveries, while others are words that I have actually incorporated into my vocabulary and have only realized in a recent spree of postcard writing and Skype chatting are not quite "American." (Sorry for the awkward grammar in that last sentence, by the way...)

Foreign Words
bollocked - reprimanded, e.g. "He just got bollocked for coming in so late."
fag - smoke
lift - elevator
chips - French fries
crisps - potato chips
pence - equivalent to our "cents"
courgette - zucchini
rocket - arugula

Slightly Different Usage
stroke - "slash," e.g. "and/or" might be said, "and stroke or"
mate - friend

Increased Usage
-monger - someone dedicated to something, i.e. "cheesemonger," "salesmonger," etc.
chap - guy
aubergine - eggplant
bonkers - crazy

23 February 2011

Almost Heaven

I interrupt this normal, average Wednesday to tell you a REALLY COOL STORY.

I usually stay at my internship fairly late on Wednesdays - I tend to get home between 7 and 8 p.m. Tonight, I was heading back in the dark, when most people are eating dinner, and as I asked for Oli's ukulele tonight but have no carrying case, I was swinging it around a bit, eager to get home and play. I decided to go a bit out of my way and take the steps instead of climbing the more direct hill to my flat. As I approached the bottom of the stairs, I heard a most delightful sound that I soon found was a man sitting on the ground, huddled under a blanket and playing an Irish whistle. Thus, our story begins.

My usual policy toward street musicians/buskers and giving money is as such: if I...
a.) especially like their music,
b.) stop to watch at all,
c.) have money in my pocket or hand already, or
d.) can get money out in the time (between spotting/hearing them and passing them),
I give a few pence/cents. I know that that sounds like I throw a lot of money at people in the street, but quite honestly, none of the above circumstances fall into place very often. Tonight, however, the sounds of the flute carried down to my ears all the way back in the big open square at the foot of the steps, cheering me from the inside out. Despite the fact that I was carrying my bag and a ukulele, I fumbled around for some change deep in my pockets. By the time I got within a few feet of the man, I was ready with about 75p.

As I tossed it into the hat he had lain in front of him, he said, "Cheers!" and then, as he spotted the ukulele, asked, "Do you play that?" This led to a conversation about ukuleles, Irish whistles, our heritages, West Virginia, music, and homelessness that eventually wound its way back to John Denver. I turned to go up the steep stairs to my flat, filled with a warm, fuzzy feeling on the inside that had its roots in my connecting with a complete stranger, and the sounds of "Country Roads" led me home.

(I am so glad that I tossed those coins into that tiny knit hat.)

21 February 2011

Are you getting somewhere, or did you get lost in AMSTERDAM?

I've taken a line from one of my favorite bands, Guster, to title this post about my excursion last weekend. And, if you must know: yes, I did get lost in Amsterdam. (I found my way back, of course!)

I went with three other girls in my group - Annie, Diane, and Ellie - to Amsterdam for two and a half days. It was my first trip out of Scotland since I've been here, so it was very exciting. We flew on EasyJet, a budget airline that allows one piece of total baggage, so I took my camera bag and stuffed as much as I could around the camera, lenses, and batteries. We left EARLY Friday morning (and I mean early - I believe I got up in the vicinity of 4:30 to catch a 5:05 bus to the airport!) and arrived back in town around 6:00 Sunday evening. Though this was truly not very long and we really didn't spend a lot of time away, we packed as much in as possible, and I was tired into midweek.

We got into the city around 10 Friday morning and spent an hour or two navigating to city center and trying to figure out exactly where that was. Throughout the weekend, as I alluded to, navigation did prove to be somewhat difficult - and it's not just us! Downtown Amsterdam is basically arranged in a U-shape, and it has more canals than Venice (and the streets tend to follow the canals) - so, walking in a straight line would take you through numerous streets, but following a street, you were never exactly sure which direction you were headed - and you were constantly faced with bridges and canal houses! Landmarks exist but are elusive.

We spent most of Friday just walking around and getting a feel for the city. We had a great lunch in a cute little café, checked into our hotel (we definitely got what we paid for - and we didn't pay much - but it was clean!), and then headed to the Anne Frank House and museum in the afternoon. That was a better visit than I had expected - I knew that it was a "must-do" for a visit to the city, so I had always been set on going, but I didn't realize how realistic, informative, and poignant it would be. There's also a section of the museum that connects all of the experiences during WWII to today's infringements on human rights. I highly recommend a visit!

Saturday, we all woke up and a very satisfying complimentary buffet breakfast provided by the hotel. Annie and I then took a free walking tour led by the same company, NewEurope, that led the one that we took a week or so after we got to Edinburgh. I liked it even better than the one we took here, though! It was a bit rainy and cold that day, but Annie and I made sure that we dressed to stay warm and dry. We got to see a good portion of the city and visited many neighborhoods and historic sites over the 3+ hour tour. Again - highly recommended. And, um, did I mention that it's FREE?!

Annie and I promptly got lost after our tour. We knew where we were and where we were going (the Van Gogh museum!), but we started off in the wrong direction - and thus began our downfall. Finally, after about an hour of walking the wrong way, turning around, and going in a different wrong direction, I walked into a random store and asked a nice-looking man for directions. As it turns out, he's originally from San Francisco, and he is so nice that he printed out a color map for us and diagrammed our needed route! So, we were about an hour and a half late to meet Ellie, Diane, Nathan, and Caleb (the latter two are some of our other friends here - Nathan is in our, too, and we met Caleb at school) at the museum, but we did make it there safe and sound - sadly, with only about an hour to look around by the time we got through the admission line! The museum was great, nonetheless. We all went out to eat at the Hard Rock Café Amsterdam (I know...very Dutch) afterward.

Sunday, we woke up, had breakfast and then headed out for our last mad dash at souvenir-buying before taking a canal cruise that Annie had been pining for all weekend. Like so many things on this trip, this supposed tourist trap actually provided more educational experience than I had been expecting. After the 1+-hour cruise, we went to eat pancakes (this actually IS pretty Dutch.) Then, it was pretty much time to head to the train station and then onward to the airport...BUT I had been dying to go to the Houseboat Museum all weekend, so for about 30 minutes (it really is on a houseboat...so that was actually enough time), as the other three girls waited outside, I learned all about the history, design, maintenance, layout, and current state of houseboats, particularly those in Amsterdam. So cool!!

Overall, the trip was a great success, in my opinion. Some general observations that I made over the course of the trip:
-Bikes, bikes, everywhere! Namely because of the cost of parking, but also due to countless other benefits, this is the main mode of transportation for countless Amsterdam residents. I think it's really cool! People have devised great ways to also carry objects, kids, etc. - ingenious.
-There seem to be a lot of toy stores here. Maybe it's because Edinburgh has a supposedly low number of children, or maybe it's because I'm used to toy stores being either huge and standalone (like Toys R Us) or concentrated in one area (like malls), or maybe I'm just crazy...but I noticed three or four on Day 1.
-Maybe it's just the neighborhoods we walked in, but I also noticed an uncommonly high number of art galleries on the streets of Amsterdam. Neat! (And, on this same vein, there is some REALLY COOL graffiti all over the city, especially in the squatters' neighborhood - "Rent," much?!)
-I met a PITTSBURGHIAN guy outside the Anne Frank museum - he had a Penguins hat on, so I asked him where he was from - and it was, in fact, Pittsburgh! We were both on the move in opposite directions, so this was about the extent of our conversation. Still, I was very excited.
-As you might have guessed from the amount of canals and the fact that there is a museum dedicated to the subject: there are a LOT of houseboats in Amsterdam. I think the current count (and, sadly, this will never rise, as the city has put a freeze on plots) of families living in them is about 2,400 - though I seem to remember hearing 30,000 somewhere - maybe that's the number of people? Must be big families...or maybe I just wasn't listening...ANYWAY, I have always been intrigued by houseboats, and this city is simply a mecca for anyone even slightly interested - you will see them in all shapes, sizes, and decorating schemes up and down the many canals. Fascinating.

I'm working on either putting together a slideshow (kind of like the one that I made for Calton Hill...but probably much longer) or uploading all of my photos of this trip to a site that everyone can access, because I am finding it impossible to condense such a great weekend into a few uploaded photos. Be on the lookout!

Calton Hill

I took a few hours out of a fairly nice day a few weeks ago to visit Calton Hill, and I've delayed putting up this post because I've been trying to choose which pictures to include - there are so many great ones! Calton Hill is an especially beautiful and historic hill in Edinburgh that lends itself toward getting the city its nickname, "Athens of the North." There are a lot of monuments and great views up there. If it weren't for the near-constant, chilly wind, I would probably be making weekly visits - I would like to try to study up there sometime!

It's really not too far from here - it took me maybe ten or fifteen minutes to walk to the base. There are different paths one can take to climb up the hill, and the surface of the hill itself has different snaking paths and, of course, plenty of grassy space. You can see all of Edinburgh up there, depending on which way you turn. It's so peaceful!

I ended up deciding on no less than 31 pictures to include, so I made a slideshow. I hope it works!

Your pictures and fotos in a slideshow on MySpace, eBay, Facebook or your website!view all pictures of this slideshow

15 February 2011

Glossary, Vol. II

I think that I've collected enough foreign (or, well, they might as well be) words and phrases to warrant a second edition! Of course, I've probably forgotten to include some now that I am getting used to saying them...

Foreign Words
quid - slang for pounds, the currency used in the UK
chuffed - pleased
sultana - Alright, well, we technically do have these in the U.S...they're really just grapes, but they're a special kind of grape. The raisin form of the same name (confusing!) is used in SO MANY dishes here!

Slightly Different Usage
diary - agenda/planner
"Alright?" - "How are you?"
"Is that you?" - "Are you leaving?"
caster sugar - superfine sugar
icing sugar - powdered sugar
"Cheers!"* - "Thanks!"

Increased Usage
phone - (v.)

*=personal favorite

Check it out

I've been spending lots of time at work lately updating the Foodies magazine website (to which the title is a link.) On it, you'll find a link to Living Abroad magazine, which I also work on. I'll put this website in the Links sidebar, too! Enjoy!


January 28 - which reminds me that, WOW, time is absolutely flying by! It feels like last weekend! but, actually 3+ weeks have passed - I went to Stirling! You may have heard of it in reference to one of the following:

1. Stirling Castle - a free tour was included with the entrance fee; we also walked around to some places not on the tour. This was my first Scottish castle experience - how neat! The "castle" is more than just a building - it's really more like a village. Inside are residences, a church, giant halls, storage areas, dining facilities, you name it. I'm still getting used to just how OLD everything in Scotland is!

2. Battle of Stirling Bridge - we actually just rode by the real Stirling Bridge (no pictures, as I didn't have a decent view from the bus), but it's a pretty well-known piece of history.

3. William Wallace monument - this monument is actually outside Stirling proper. It can be seen from all over the city, though, because not only is it tall, but it's on top of a hill! We hiked all the way up this hill (very steep - lots of switchbacks) only to find that the tower part charged admission AND was only open for about 30 more minutes. Instead of going up, we took advantage of the views from the top of the hill.

These views were my favorite part of Stirling - like Edinburgh, the city is built on so many hills that it seems that wherever you turn, you're faced with a gorgeous vista. Whether we were at the castle, the monument, or just walking along, it was beautiful.

I went with a group of five other Furman girls. We left early in the morning and stayed until it got dark (about 4 or 5, haha). We saw all of the above things and just walked around a bit to get a feel for the city - it's much bigger than the location of my previous day trip, St. Andrews. There are quite a few similarities between the two, though: distance to Edinburgh, both have a university, small towns, etc.

We had a mediocre lunch at a cheap bar followed by delicious dessert next door. Another really enjoyable part for me was the actual train ride there and back - I stayed awake (unlike pretty much every other trip I take) and got to see some beautiful scenes of Scottish countryside.
(Had I actually fallen asleep, I might have been tricked into thinking our train had been re-routed to West Virginia!)

P. S. - This is how the sun was setting. That's Stirling Castle in the...erm...spotlight.

10 February 2011

Heads up

I'm leaving for a weekend in AMSTERDAM in a few hours! No time to write - but I'll definitely be updating on that and much more as soon as I can! Wish me luck!

07 February 2011

Where am I?

Here's the reason for my latest lack of blogging:


We've been assigned lots of reading and a short essay for our Scottish Enlightenment class - so, piling that on top of everything else (work, other classes, etc.), I've been spending just about all of my free time studying! Oh, and I went grocery shopping on Friday...I had no food.

Anyway, rest assured that many belated blogs are in the works! Don't fret...the paper's due tomorrow, so I'll be back soon. :)

31 January 2011

HOME & updates

I realized that I hadn't posted a blog in a few days, so I figured that, in attempts at putting off my reading for class tomorrow, I would update everyone and let you know what's been going on in my life.

1. Work. I have an internship at The Media Company, which publishes three monthly glossy magazines. I really enjoy being there and am getting a lot of experience, but for confidentiality reasons, I can't really tell you much more than that. Ask me about it in person sometime!

2. I went to Stirling Saturday! It was a very spur-of-the-moment trip, but I'm glad that I made it. Once I get my pictures uploaded and organized, I will give the trip a blog entry all its own.

3. This afternoon, I took a walk that led me to Calton Hill. If you do an image search for Edinburgh, you will definitely see pictures either of the area, from that vantage point, or both. Again, when I upload pictures, I'll be sure to post them! It was absolutely beautiful there, and if it weren't for the high winds, I would probably go back every single day.

4. As Karen put it, the "Honeymoon" period is over between us and Edinburgh. We're totally moved in now; I don't really feel like a "tourist" anymore. Here are just a few things that I miss from home (aside from all the amazing people!!) - so don't take them for granted!
-my moccasins
-the smell of our detergent (I know it's weird...but I have a thing for clean laundry smells, and it's just not the same here.)
-Blue Smoke salsa
-flannel sheets
-heck, a top sheet (They don't use them here!)
-warm weather and all that comes with it - walking barefoot, different clothing, spending more time outside, etc.

And here are some differences that I am finding quite to my liking:
-better chocolate
-Edinburgh is a pedestrian city...you really can get anywhere without a car! (Though, sometimes, it would definitely be convenient to have one...)
-SO MANY vegetarian options - including vegetarian Doritos!

Annnnnd there are some similarities between here and where I'm from that make me feel at home anytime!
-train tracks by my house
-a river in plain sight
-friendly people

26 January 2011

Linguistics of Scots

I'm sitting in lecture right now, so I'll keep this short, but I just had to blog about this huge revelation that I had to share:

Back story: In Linguistics last semester (one of the most interesting classes I've had at Furman), Dr. Cox touched briefly on dialect/regional differences. I found that my West Virginian "accent" was ever-so-slightly different than many others' accents. Our professor accepted all phonetic spellings, as long as we could back them up, and was not nearly so interested in the "proper" pronunciation as he was in our ability to diagram what we were saying. Some of the differences included my identical pronunciation of the words "cot" and "caught" and my minute difference in the pronunciation of wh- question words like "which" and "why" and their counterparts without h's, "witch" and the letter y.

Now: Our lecture today is on Language in Scotland, and so far, we've covered everything from the origins of Scots and Gaelic to their usage today. Just now, we discussed the difference between Scottish English and the "Queen's English," and just a wee bit more of the world makes sense to me now: Scottish English influence includes pronouncing "caught" like "cot" rather than [cat] (phonetic) and pronouncing the slight h in wh- question words.

I have Scottish ancestors, and I live in West Virginia, where many Scots have settled in the mountains.


Burns Night

Tonight is Burns Night in Edinburgh; festive celebrations abound! What are we celebrating? Why, the life of Robert Burns, of course!

Robert Burns was a poet who lived in Edinburgh from 1759 to 1796. He wrote many famous poems, notably Auld Lang Syne. Speaking of which, that's partially why he's so famous: he wrote in and celebrated the native Scottish tongue, opposing the preferred King's English of the time and instead embracing his heritage.

Today, his life is celebrated with speeches and recitations of his poetry, dances, eating, and drinking. Our group decided to keep it pretty low-key tonight: we met up for haggis at Deacon Brodie's, a favorite restaurant of ours right on the Royal Mile, and then hung out at the downstairs pub for a bit afterward. (Other restaurants and pubs go all out, having someone read all of his odes before each new course. And of course, whisky is quite common.) Here is his satire about haggis:

Address to A Haggis

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face
Great Chieftan o' the Puddin-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place
Painch, tripe, or thairm
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang's my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill
Your hurdies like a distant hill
Your pin wad help to mend a mill

In time o' need
While thro' your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead

His knife see rustic-labour dight
An' cut you up wi' ready slight
Trenching your gushing entrails bright

Like onie ditch
And then, O what a glorious sight
Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn they stretch an' strive
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve
Are bent like drums
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive

Bethankit hums

Is there that owre his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi' perfect sconner
Looks down wi' sneering, scornfu' view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash
As feckless as a wither'd rash
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash
His nieve a nit

Thro' bluidy flood or field to dash
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed
The trembling earth resounds his tread
Clap in his walie nieve a blade
He'll mak it whissle
An' legs, an' arms, an' heads will sned
Like taps o' thrissle

Ye Pow'rs wha mak mankind your care
And dish them out their bill o' fare
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware

That jaups in luggies
But, if you wish her gratefu' pray'r
Gie her a Haggis!

That roughly translates to,

"Greetings, you are a superior food and are worthy of a grace as long as my arm.
You fill the plate so well and look so sturdy. Your juices are as inviting as whisky.
See the knife cut you, allowing your insides to flow. A glorious sight and aroma.
Then spoon after spoon they stretch and strain.
It is every man for himself because there will be none left for the slow ones, until all their stomachs are full and fit to burst.

Is there anybody who eats foreign food who would look down disdainfully at this dinner.
Poor souls, if they do. They will be poor thin creatures, not fit for anything.
But if you eat Haggis, you will be strong, robust and fit for battle.
God, who looks after us and feeds us, Scotland does not want food with sauce that splashes in dishes. But if you want a grateful prayer then give her a Haggis," according to robertburns.plus.com

Linked to the title of this blog is a nice explanation (or lack thereof) of Burns Night from The Guardian a few days ago.

My (vegetarian, of course) haggis was DELICIOUS! I will definitely be ordering it again. (And for those of you who are curious, I have yet to meet someone who hasn't enjoyed the traditional, meaty version.) Haggis is traditionally, yes, sheep intestine filled with meat and chopped onions and spices. Sounds gross, but apparently, it's tasty. It's served with "tatties and neeps," or mashed potatoes and turnips/swedes. They are to be eaten all together, i.e. a bit of each on the fork for each bite.

Here I am gathering the three, picking them up, and then biting into them. I cleaned my plate!!

24 January 2011

St. Andrews

Eight of us went to St. Andrews, a small town just north of Edinburgh, for a day trip Saturday. It was a really nice place to visit, but there was even less to do there than we thought, and we ended up catching an early-evening rather than late-even train home.

While we were there, though, we really enjoyed ourselves. We spent a long time near the harbour and cathedral ruins, and we walked the three main streets of the city. It was incredible to walk into the cathedral ruins, for example, and think that, hundreds of years ago, people worshipped and processed and prayed in the spot where we were standing. (You can read a lot about St. Andrews online - it's a very historic city.) We were going to go to the castle ruins, too, but that cost money, so we decided against it. What we DID spend money on was food: lunch, handmade chocolates, tea and pastries at a café...typical. haha We then went to lunch, and after lunch, we headed to the Old Course (the world's first golf course) and walked around there for a bit before catching a bit of a rugby match by chance - so cool!

I got a LOT of pictures, especially when I walked out onto the stone pier in the harbour. I'm toying with the idea of uploading ALL of my pictures (seriously...hundreds) to a site like Flickr, but I haven't set that up yet, so for now, I'll post a few of my favorites here.

Me with my Kappa sister and flatmate, Annie

It's all in the family!
18th hole