Wednesday, October 17, 2012

basketball jerseys/uniforms are called strips. 

that is all. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Doing something. Going somewhere. Anything can happen.

Getting out of the country, out of the places in which I feel the most comfortable, could not have been a better decision for me this semester.
To a certain extent, life at home, at Hampshire was beginning to feel somewhat like a rut in which I couldn't get out of; what was I doing? Where was I going? What was my purpose? What is there to do?
While I still do not know the answers to those questions per se, I have found that this new environment and array of new experiences has provided a fresher, larger outlook on life, larger than what I have acquired while at Hampshire.

Although my courses are not small, discussion-based courses, their subject matters are engaging and thought-provoking. The people whom I have met here have also offered new thoughts and ways of viewing life processes and being. The beautiful setting of a city with cobblestone and old architecture combined with open, fresh green spaces provides a sense of reassurance that new places around the world can be places of comfort in their own special ways. There are different ways of finding well-being, inner-stability, and happiness in a variety of situations, and the exploration of such processes has been something immensely enjoyable and eye-opening in this different setting.

Missing home is, of course, somewhat frequent, although I have found a variety of comforts here to fill the voids and explore new possibilities. One of the hardest parts has been being away from the Women's soccer team at Hampshire, and missing out on a seemingly wonderful season they are having. I miss my ladies, I miss putting on cleats, and, of course, terribly long bus rides within which to do homework. It is true that I do miss all of my family, as well; both at home and at Hampshire, and keeping in contact with everyone through short e-mails or exchanges has been a good thing. Luckily, between searching for the best coffeeshop, cheapest good food, most expansive charity shop, best view of the city, or the most beautiful place to catch direct sun, there is always something to do here (of course).

The people, also, have been a great part of the new experience here. My basketball team (the 1st team for the university) is comprised of nearly all Scots and I'm sure they laugh constantly on the inside at my ridiculous attempts to understand them most of the time. The coach and I already have a mutual understanding of the fact that he will have to repeat much of what he says as his accent is by far the thickest I have encountered thus far. Many of the women are on the Scottish National team, so they have a nice community among themselves, but are all very friendly and welcoming. The team is quite fun and it's exhilarating to be playing with others at a high level; it reminds me of the reasons why I love the sport.

I have also joined the Ultimate Frisbee team (Ro Sham Bo).While I still cannot put on a pair of cleats and be on the grass (basketball shoes have more support, as does a flat surface), they have been wonderfully welcoming of my wanting to come learn more about the sport and work on my handling (throwing the disc). I can now officially throw a backhand decently well, and I'm working on my IOs, which is a term I didn't even know until coming here. And strategy! A set up for indoor playing (3-2 or 2-2-1, getting intense)! Craziness. It has been amusing and interesting to learn so much more about the sport (which, here, is much more organized, interestingly enough. They have a very large amount of participation, so it does make sense). Everyone on the team is impressively friendly and welcoming and the group has provided a great way to meet people. Although there are many Americans (both full course students and many exchange), there is a good mix of nationalities. The funniest part has been meeting some people with mutual friends back home; it has reinforced how small of a world we do, in fact, live in. (Best one yet: I now have a friend here who visited a friend of theirs at Hamp during my first year who lived a door away from me in our hall. And they, of course, also know someone on Red Scare. Doesn't get much smaller than that sometimes).

The Jewish Society (J-soc) has been a great place to meet Americans....but also some wonderfully friendly Brits! The Scottish Jewish population has an interesting (read: small) amount of people in it, but has been a very welcoming community thus far. As I try to stray from the other visiting American students at J-soc events, I've made some good connections with a core group of regular Edinburgh students, and have learned a fair amount about Judaism in GB. They're also very cool and chill people, somewhat reminiscent of Kolot (Jewish A cappella group) back home. Great times to be had yet!

Sightseeing has happened, although to a lesser extent than I maybe would have liked. However, I am not in the least upset about this; I have realized that I am really immersing myself in the life of a University of Edinburgh student and less so the life of being a tourist/visitor. Though this has its benefits and drawbacks, I am very thankful I have been able to start to live the university life here and feel the experience of this new place to it's fullest. I do hope to be able to take a highlands trip at some point in time, and maybe visit a loch or an island or two. I am going to try my hardest, but it is definitely difficult between wanting to hang out with new friends or simply having too much schoolwork to do. Unlike many visiting students, I do not believe my courses are pass/fail, so the effort to be put into them is somewhat different than many others. But, that is quite alright, and I'm excited to live up to the challenge! Whether or not I will yet to be determined. Trusting the process, trusting the process.

I know I have been away from this blog for quite some time. I do apologize to those who had been reading it as I was posting rather frequently. The daily life as a university student here in Edinburgh definitely took a toll on me within the first month. Between an over-packed freshers week, new societies and socials, and finishing readings, it has been slightly difficult to find time to report back on my findings in this city.
Currently, I'm in the middle of reading a book for my class on East Central Africa. As I am trying to finish it today (with 120 pages left to read), I am sitting in a coffeeshop which has become a second home over the course of the weekend; phenomenal music choices, a gritty atmosphere, and the best (and most expensive) coffee I have ever tasted. I am not much of a coffee connoisseur, but their coffee is by far the most intricate and tasty coffee around. Fantastic place:
As I have now squandered away precious time in which I was supposed to be getting through a good chunk of my book, I should probably sign off.

I will hopefully take a much-needed break sometime in the near future and upload pictures, give another thoughtful update, or just say hi. It's still hard for me to believe that people actually want to read this blog, so I tend to not prioritize writing in it. Today, the epiphany of the beauty and goodness of life as whole and all of its possibilities warranted the documentation of those thoughts as I find them essential to lived experiences and the search for personal truth and wellness.

Smiles to all back home!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Fireworks, The Hollies and Other Happenings

It has officially been four days of wonderful craziness. Between changing in a random B and B's garden to feeling like we're falling into the sky, we have surely adventured.

Leith, Calton Hill, Fireworks
Five days ago, my parents and I ventured into Leith, the seaside, port town part of Edinburgh. It used to be its own city, but is currently a part of Edinburgh proper. We walked around the town some, and ended up at Teuchter's Landing for a bite to eat. It was a cozy little place that was an original docking site for traders back in the day. I decided after that meal that I have definitely had my fair share of fish 'n chips and that I have no future desires to bombard my intestines with that much grease. As much of a grease lover that I am, the fish 'n chips may have been over the limit (in such a good way, of course!).

Later in the day, we climbed up Calton Hill (somewhat equivalent to Roman Ruins in a way) in order to watch the fireworks that marked the end of the Edinburgh Festival. The fireworks came from where the castle was (in the middle of the city), and practically half the city was atop Calton in order to watch 'em! It was quite the event; most people had come prepared, blankets to sit on, wine and scotch to drink, hats to wear. We, us odd Americans in the crowd, froze our little tuchuses off without any booze or blankets to keep us warm. The fireworks did provide ample distraction, thankfully.

I must say, by the way, the fireworks over here are much more elaborate and coordinated than ours back home. It was also very interesting-- the locals knew to bring along with them a radio so that they could listen to the music that was being played at the Castle that went in accordance with the fireworks. Luckily we had a friendly local nearby us who was friendly enough to share their bit of home with us.

Arthur's Seat, Spoon, Centotre
The next day, we decided to do the intense hike up Arthur's Seat. Probably equivalent to one of our hikes in Sedona, AZ, we were more or less prepared for the intensity. Of course, somehow, there were plenty of people hiking up in flats, sandals, and whothehellknowswhatelse that does not usually make sense for hiking a huge hill (made by volcanoes). At any rate, the views atop Arthur's Seat were simply stunning; I love being in this city that is literally teeming with beauty all over the place.

Upon first arriving here, I was somewhat concerned I'd have the reaction I had when I visited Iceland earlier this summer; the bleakness, cold, and cloudiness would kind of overtake my ability to notice the rest of what's around me. Luckily, Edinburgh is full of parks, it's not actually THAT cold all the time (just a lot of the time), and the buildings, monuments, churches, everything has beauty in so many different ways.

After Arthur's Seat, we sat down to a wonderful late lunch at the Spoon Cafe. This is a place I will definitely be returning to once the semester starts. The chairs, tables, plates, jugs, cups, lamps, everything seems to have been purchased from an antique or estate sale; none of it quite matches but it all looks quaint and fits very nicely in this cafe. They also serve fantastic food that will be hard to avoid. ALSO, it's apparently the place where J.K. Rowling wrote much of Harry Potter when she lived in Edinburgh. It had a different name back then, but still. I like the thought of that.

More crazy running around the city ensued after lunch, and we ended the day with a late dinner at Centotre  (pronounced Chen-to-trey, as in the number 103 in Italian). This place had phenomenal chefs and sourced all of their food locally, except for some of their food which they sourced from independent places in Italy (which they had a map of on their menu--where all the food came from). It was a very warm, welcoming place where we had a very tasty Italian dinner and dessert; fancy and delicious.

England Driving: Hawick, Oxford
After all of this Edinburgh craziness, of course we had to push our limits even more by getting in a car, driving on the wrong side of the road, for a full 8 hours on our way down to Oxford. The original plan of taking a bike ride in the middle of this long day got scrapped after a tad bit of an accident getting out of Edinburgh. Once everything was settled with that, we wanted to stop in Hawick, which is one of the original producers of wool goods in Scotland. Sure enough, it was full of factories and mills for wool goods. We were able to pop into an active one and bought some of their goods straight above where they were made! That was very exciting and was a successful stop.
We didn't get into Oxford until about 9PM that night, but luckily were able to find a fantastic Bengladeshi place to eat and fill our stomachs.

The next morning we explored all around Oxford; it is a beautifully old city full of college students and plenty of spots where we felt like we were in an episode of Masterpiece Mystery (the Inspector Lewis and Inspector Morse series, of course). Many beautiful pictures of old churches, libraries, quadrangles. Definitely a place where I could see myself doing a Rhodes scholarship or simply pursuing a graduate degree. Although I do wonder about the stereotype of the preppiness that exists amongst the students...

England Driving: Bristol, Bath, Pentsford
After Oxford, we went to our next stop: Bristol and Bath. We have come away from this crazy trip with quite the anecdote.
Arriving in Bath, we set out to find our Bed and Breakfast called The Hollies. Following an "address" (it was just a name and a street) from something printed out from the internet, and after much turning around and turning around again, we finally pulled into The Hollies. It was marked simply by a sign on a gate in the driveway that said "The Hollies" and "AA 4 star rating". We pulled in, went around the garage, through the garden to the house (it was offset from the road). Their garden, was one of the most beautiful gardens; overflowing with roses, tiger lilies, and many other rich smelling flowers and plants. The house, Georgian architecture, looked exactly like the pictures on the internet. It had a nice little area by the garage with a birdbath and bench, as well. We knocked on the front door, hoping someone would be home. Nobody answered. Nor did they answer our fifth phone call to them.

After going in to the local pub at the corner to use the restroom and get my Dad a drink, my Mom and I ventured around the area to the other Bed and Breakfast across the street, and another one across the other street, knocking on doors. Once we came to see that nobody had any idea where the owners were or where they could be, we had a decision to make: either drive to Bristol to meet Mom's colleague in our travelling clothes, or, to change in the garden of The Hollies. So, why wouldn't we change in a Bed and Breakfasts' garden? Personally, I thought it smelled very nice, and it was a very pleasant experience.

Having changed and smelled all of the flowers in the garden, we officially realized that the owners were not going to be there any time soon, and that we had a problem. We had luggage packed into the backseat of the car, and, of course, we were about to have to fit 2 more people back there upon picking up my Mom's colleague and her boyfriend. So, off we go, dragging our luggage (including my Dad's computer bag, with the computer) behind the garage, through the garden, and next to the front porch of the house, praying that it won't rain. We call the house again, leave another message letting them know that we left our luggage for them to bring in once they got there, and for them to call us.

We make our way to Bristol and pick up our dinner buddies. They show us a few beautiful sights in Bristol (including a majestic suspension bridge over a gorge) and then we head off to an extremely tasty (and very fancy) dinner at The Muset. About halfway through our starter (cornish fish soup with samphire), Mother gets a phone call. She answers it, and attempts to understand a British accent. So, essentially, she is listening to a bunch of mumble jumble on the other end and simply nods her head. However, she does pick something up from the other end; upon ending the conversation, she informs us that she just spoke to the owner of The Hollies. In Pentsford. Not Bath. Pentsford, 10 miles south of Bath. Totally different town. We had left our luggage at the wrong Hollies.

Amid our sheer bewilderment, we all put on smiles and laughed some at our slightly odd and ridiculous situation. I needed to hear this for myself; that the Hollies we left our luggage at is in no way connected to The Hollies at which we were booked for the night. It seemed inconceivable that this could be the case; how could there be two places within such short distance of each other with the same offthebeatenpath name? I called back the person who informed us that they were not the owners with whom we left our luggage, and found that, in fact, they had no idea another Hollies B & B existed! She found it inconceivable that we would make that mistake, like we were the dumbest Americans she's ever dealt with. Hah. She was also somewhat unthrilled at the idea that we would be coming in around 11/1130 it was "much past her bedtime".

Somehow we made it through dinner without too much worry or bother over the fact that our luggage was in a random B &B's yard, and we made our way back to The Hollies in Bath. There, we thankfully found all of our luggage untouched, unscathed, and just where we left it. Of course, finding the new Hollies was a trip in and of itself (we drove past it about 5 times before calling them for the third time trying to understand what they were saying). We learned at this new Hollies that their name was not as uncommon as we had thought; there were two "The Hollies" within Pentsford alone! (but only theirs the B &B)

All in all, we made it to The Hollies in Pentsford (which had an amazingly beautiful garden and yard leading down to a creek and rolling hills), stayed the night, and in the morning, we made off for Glastonbury!

England Driving: Glastonbury
Glastonbury was a perfect little town; quite the hippie (and, when I say hippie, I mean hippie. Straight from the 60s/70s) town full of magic shops, fair trade shops, incense, spiritual healing centers, and coffeeshops. It was quite the eclectic bunch of people and places within this town, and it felt somewhat like we were in a movie about a quaint, offkilter place in England. That's Glastonbury.

We climbed the Tor (pronounced tour to us Americans) which gave a beautiful look-out onto Glastonbury and beyond. From there we could see the hundreds of farms, fields, forests, sheep, and horses residing among Southern England. An interesting thing happened when I was standing up after finishing the picnic; my feet were on the downward slope of the hill, and I pushed up onto my hands and then looked through my legs-- down the hill, down into the town, and down to the horizon. Once my vision hit the horizon, it legitimately felt like I could fall into the sky. Everything was completely upside down and I was going to fall into the sky. Mother tried this with me for a while, as well. We continued to laugh hysterically for a good 5 minutes while doing it. I'm positive most of the people on the Tor must've thought we did drugs with some people in Glastonbury (based on the looks and feel of the town, it would be totally understandable). But, hopped up on ridiculous happiness, we were doing alright.

While it wasn't quite as tall as Arthur's Seat, an old man with a Jeopardy-like mind stopped us on our way down, letting us know that he was pondering the fact that if we had started at sea-level (600 meters lower), climbing the Tor would be equivalent to climbing the Great Pyramid in Egypt. We proceeded to have a 20 minute discussion with him about the history of the finding of America, where rock comes from to build the fences in the UK, the history of the Midwest. It was quite informative and was a pleasant addition to our already pleasant day.

Sadly, the pleasant day had to get shoved into our little car and make its way back up to Edinburgh. 8 hours. On the wrong side of the road.

Back in Edinburgh
Doing all of this on the wrong side of the road, listening to an array of accents from Scottish, to Northern to Southern, I will say that it was a learning experience for living within a different culture and society. Going with the flow of the place makes for much less stress and many more things can be learned along the way than trying to force anything or impede on the being of a place and people.

Oh! Before I forget, I want to definitely give a shout-out to the Hampshire College Women's Soccer team (and Men's team); the Black Sheep are going to dominate against Paul Smiths College and have a ton of fun doing it. Yeahhh Black Sheep!

Today it was nice to be back in Edinburgh, explore the variety of shops near where I'll be living, see the Castle up close and in person, wander through the Kandinsky to Van Gogh exhibit at the National Gallery, and listen to some fantastic bagpipe playing. I have set my sights on a variety of places I need to visit, but, for now, I need to probably get some sleep to prepare for moving in tomorrow! (although, I may be more excited about going to the farmer's market at this point...oops). No, definitely excited for moving in, setting up my room, putting up the sunny pictures of the Valley I took while I was there, and meeting my flat mates! The journey might actually really begin tomorrow...

Till next time,


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Musings So Far

- Accents are funny. Especially Scottish accents.
- going pee for a child = wee wee
- something small = wee
- right hand turns in a car = left hand turn equivalent.
- when crossing the street, always. look. right. or, just look both ways like you're supposed to anyway.
- ridiculousness: having to signal with my right hand on my bike. As well as having to have them make my bike with the brakes on the proper sides (right hand, rear brake, left hand, front brake--not the opposite British way) so as to not flip head over heels when having to stop suddenly for the first time. Because that definitely would happen to me.
- fish & chips is one of the greasiest things I've ever eaten. Which is saying something, I think. The deep-fried Mars bar will be an experience. Likely to be a wonderful one.
- They sound kinda Canadian. (practicing a Scottish accent with that phrase in my head is strangely satisfying).
- Not everybody has red hair. Thank goodness?
- lots of dreadlocks?
- Too many adorable dogs to handle.
- Definitely lots of kilts.
- teuchter = Scottish hillbilly (from the highlands). Best word of the day.

I really enjoy writing these types of posts. They seem to most accurately describe the more interesting parts of the day, I think. So, they'll likely be a large load of what I put up. Just fyi. Apologies if they're simply obnoxious.

Also, please, someone, do let me know if I sound stupid beyond measure. Or even just a little bit stupid. Any and all feedback is greatly appreciated!

Markets and Cycles

Well, if I thought having enthusiasm and excitement about this semester might have been a problem, I have already proven myself wrong. Waking up easily at 8:45 (still 3:45 back home) in the morning and not being able to fall back asleep is not quite common for me...plain excitement probably doesn't even amount to what describes this.

Much has happened within our first day here. After being relatively awake for two whole days, exhaustion was inevitable. However, after a quick nap, we were up and at it riding on the top decker of a double decker bus on our way to the farmer's market. Deciding to guess at when we had to get off, we also included a nice walk around the castle (which is in the middle of the city), and finally made it to the farmer's market. That was definitely excitement point number one. All of the vendors were very friendly and helpful and had wonderful goods (everything from minced lamb to 1 pound(dollar) cupcakes!). Apparently, we flew however many thousand miles in order to eat good raspberries. I'd say that makes it a success right there.

We then made a fantastic decision to walk across town to go see where I'll be living. On the way, Mom bought herself a beautiful woolen hat that will definitely serve her well over here and in the winter back home.  Pictures will follow eventually, btw. Although I haven't been able to fall back asleep because I've been too excited, I'm still too tired to get up and find my camera.

Continuing on our trek we decided to walk through the Meadows, which is practically the central park of Edinburgh, just with fewer trees and people, but, of course, more soccer games.
I found the cafe that I will be frequenting almost daily until it closes for the season. It is on the edge of the Meadows and looks out onto the Meadows, and it has a great variety of foods and drinks served in dishes from charity shops, I believe. The whole place seemed very Hampshire-like in it's character, which is neat.

Eventually we made it to my University housing complex (like an apartment complex) and creeped in windows to see what the flats would look like. the kitchens have been mostly refurbished, so that's nice. The accommodations in general are relatively similar to Hampshire's so I'm fine with whatever I get at this point. It's in a residential area which is pretty quiet, making it something nice to come home to. The city is a quick bike ride away and easily accessible.

After coming to terms with the housing and getting excited about it, we decided to find the bicycle co-op to get info about getting a used bike for me for the semester. What we found was a cornucopia of bicycles (cycles, as they call them), many at prices much less expensive than a comparable bike in the U.S. So, of course one had to be purchased, seeing as though the effects of bunion surgery are being felt more persistently than had been expected, as well as the fact that the city is quite large, and I enjoy using a bike as a method of exercise. We wouldn't have been able to find a used one for half as good of a price, that's for sure. Definitely one of the better Chanukah presents to date.

Edinburgh is shaping up to be a wonderful place to spend a semester (as everyone has encouraged me so far, of course). I'm indubitably excited to have this bicycle, access to a lovely farmer's market, and, of course, this city which is overflowing with interesting things to see and do. I will definitely post pictures soon, and update the adventure!

(Written Sept 2, 9AM)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Trust the Process

All-nighters are clearly the way to start any trip. They make you make blogs. At least Fleet Foxes have provided good company.

Much ice cream, soccer field lounging, and many Atkins' Gravenstein apples later, the send-off week at Hampshire has finished. Goodbyes have been said, promises to keep in touch have been made, and life goes on. To Scotland.

Typically, I would stay away from anything close to the resemblance of a blog. I've never been a blogger, nor have I always understood their purposes. It wasn't until I started researching this trip that I found blogs to actually be very interesting sources of first-person information. I hope to include as much information that is useful to the future traveler as possible in these posts. Also included will be general thoughts and musings while living and travelling across the pond.

I suppose I'm going to attempt to keep this blog going throughout the semester. I'll also try to not make it too terribly boring. While this is not an excuse to not talk to anyone while abroad, it is a way in which I hope a connection can help be maintained. To all whom I missed seeing before leaving, I sincerely apologize. It was extremely difficult to have quality time with everyone, so I hope it is not taken personally; everyone will really be missed dearly. I cannot stress enough how much it kills me to not have had enough time, but connections that are meant to be maintained will be as they are supposed to. Trust the process.

Upfront, I will apologize for rambling sentences, occasional incorrect grammar, and generally bad writing that will likely pop out all over the place. I will try my hardest to make this an easy reading experience for all, however, I will make no such promises to that effect. At a certain point you may even wonder if I have ever learned the English language. Ignoring it may be your best bet as opposed to physically tearing your hair out.

Pictures will likely be some of the main posts that happen. I've been having fun figuring out the settings on my camera, so watch out for the skills I will have with this camera. Too much fun.

To those who read this, I would like it to be known that along with family and friend visits prior to my week at Hampshire, the people with whom I interacted at Hampshire over this past week have been the greatest trip-preppers anyone could ever ask for. The Hampshire Women's soccer team has provided an immense amount of support and smiles that have made me feel much better and positive about leaving a home and a people behind for a few months. Also wonderful was that Josiah was nice enough to allow some of us to help move new students into their rooms; there's something about orientation that get's to ya. I am now especially more excited to move in to a new place for a while. In this time of new-ness and fresh starts, I've been getting increasingly excited to take this trip. Again, thank you to all of the buddies who have been around Hamp this week; I owe a lot of my future smiles to you all.

Here are some of the favorites from this week.
Rt. 116 sanctuary

The necessities

Cookie Monster and Sally's Coffee Grounds with the cows

Ailey's Rocky Mountain substitutes

Maple Walnut at sunset

Gotta love 'em