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
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Make your own slideshow

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