Tuesday, November 16, 2010

More from Huntington

This is a big week. Saturday I'll be on my way back to Edinburgh for Graduation. The ten days I'll be there will be all the fun of grad school with none of the work, and as if that wasn't great enough, the day after Graduation the Christmas Market opens. I'm obsessed with the Christmas Market.

Still, as I pointed out in my last post, I'm a New England girl at heart. I think it's telling that as a general rule, I refuse to "like" things on facebook, and yet of the eight I have made an exception for, three have to do with Edinburgh, two with my hometown, and two with Northeastern, where I spent my five (and a bit) years of undergrad. For the record, the eighth is Jimmy Buffett, which I suppose speaks to my perpetual island state of mind, margarita induced or otherwise...but that's beside the point.

Anyway, before I switch back to my Edinburgh state of being, I wanted to share a recent discovery that is making the facebook rounds:


While my last post focused on the infamy Northeastern has established as perceived by Boston as a whole, this video captures Northeastern from an insiders perspective and it's really well done. I never would have guessed that five years could be represented in a little over four minutes, but I've been proven wrong. Happily.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Huntington Huns

In 2004 Northeastern University was made infamous by the Weekly Dig, a bi-monthly Boston entertainment magazine that is known for its humorously candid portrayal of Boston goings on (digboston.com). Northeastern, to be fair, did not need much help with infamy. The previous superbowl, when the Patriots won, the city erupted into chaos with rioting so severe that for years after, any playoff games for the Patriots, Red Sox, or Celtics (…sorry Bruins…) were preceded by the clearing of all on street parking around Campus and the presence of Riot Police Officers on every corner. The clip, from the Dig Awards ran:

"If anyone had thought to give out an award for barbarism before, there’s no doubt that the Northeastern kids would be working on a dynasty by now. Their behavior is legendary, as evidenced by their dominating performance in this year’s poll. The Huntington Huns roll kegs, flip cars, set fires, crowd porches and basements, manhandle pedestrians, and urinate publicly with the reckless abandon of a population unencumbered by trivial notions of decorum. They’ve vexed elected officials, been denounced as “knuckleheads” by the mayor, been the target of draconian legislation and utterly destroyed their Mission Hill neighbors’ will to live. Here’s to whatever they have planned for next year."

2004, of course, was the year we ‘Cowboy’d Up’ and ‘reversed the curse’ with the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series for the first time in eighty-six years. It was also my freshman year of college. My friends and I were thrown into Boston sports culture head first, learning very quickly that when spirits are high, it only takes three minutes to sprint through the empty streets to Fenway Park. The clip from the Dig Awards was instantly embraced as a badge of honor, a mark of who we were. Sure, every college at one time or other is rated the best party school. But the Huntington Huns? That was all us. I should mention that Northeastern is actually a legitimately good school, and under normal circumstances, I speak highly of the academic quality of my education. Still, at eighteen, it’s just more fun to be known for city recognized rebellion. My mom, who does not text, somehow magically figured it out for one night to say “No rioting tonight if the Sox win please.” Awesome.

I thought of this while wandering around Edinburgh this summer. Walking down the street one early early morning (For the record, I was up for a conference, not returning from bars. It was June, not August…), I saw a car that had been lifted from the street, and dropped into the apparently car sized gap between the street and the building next to it, perfectly filling the space. I have been trying for months but can’t do this justice in words so I’ll be reverting to pictures to truly capture this.

I never found out why the car was there, but it stayed for months before suddenly disappearing as quickly as it had shown up. At this point I’m not even sure I want to know the truth since it can’t possibly be as exciting as not knowing where and how the little red car got there.

The point of all this being, that no matter where you go and how obliviously you travel, there’s no place like home. A natural first thought upon seeing this would have been utter speechless confusion. My first thought was, “I don’t understand. The Red Sox didn’t win last night….” Truly a testament to how shaped I was by college.

You can take the girl out of Boston…

Monday, October 25, 2010

What Comes Next?

I’m back, in more than one sense. I’m back to the blog after an absence of far too long and back home, having finished my dissertation, packed up my life, and boarded the plane back to the States. Hard to believe my Masters year is over, and even harder to believe, to some, that I have no plans regarding the big What Next. Still, the last few major life decisions I’ve made have been on a whim, and have worked out better than anything I could have planned. I applied to the Cuba study abroad program when I was bored at an internship one day. My decision to apply to Edinburgh came one night in Cuba when I couldn’t sleep. Point being, I’m not too worried about what comes next. Dissertation grades are back and I will officially be graduating at the end of November, meaning I will be back in Edinburgh for a week. Maybe life inspiration will strike after I have the diploma in hand. And until then? I’ll be catching you up on some of the adventures, insights, and aimless wanderings that made the second half of my year so amazing. So stay tuned. I may no longer be abroad, but I’m still as oblivious as ever…except now with 'MSc' after my name.

Aheli and Me: Masters of packing light (that's only partially sarcastic. We were gone a whole year !). Thanks to Mom who stopped laughing long enough to take the picture...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cornelia, Emily, and Me

When I was much younger (but undoubtedly looked exactly the same as I do now) my grandmother bought me the book “Our Hearts were Young and Gay” by Cornelia Otis Skinner. The book, subtitled, “An Unforgettable Comic Chronicle of Innocents Abroad in the 1920s” is an account of the misadventures of the author and her accident prone friend Emily as they strike out alone to cross the Atlantic and discover Europe. Ever trying to prove their sophistication and experience they rather prove they are anything but sophisticated and experienced. However they unquestionably return with much better stories than any sophisticated traveller could ever possibly acquire.

My Grandma sensed that in Emily and Cornelia I would find kindred spirits, and she was quite right. Soon after reading the book I moved with my family to London, was bitten by the travel bug and have not stayed in the same place for any significant amount of time since. And with every trip, I unfailingly think of Cornelia and Emily as I stumble into absurd situations with my various partners in crime. The adventures in the book are timeless. Over sixty years after their epic trip I can still see myself doing any number of the things they did - whether they meant to or not. The setting and year may change but the adventures and the spirit behind them do not. To me, they were the original 'oblivious and abroad' and I am more than happy to wander aimlessly through Europe, knowing they wandered aimlessly before me.

While in Paris, one morning Cornelia wakes to find her lip has swollen quite fantastically the day she is to meet a gentleman. She and Emily rush to a pharmacy trying to fix the swelling while not owning up to the embarrassment of having bed bugs. I cannot do the episode justice so I won’t try but this episode has been particularly relevant to my life this week...

The Pest Control Debacle of ’10: Bed Bugs BITE.

Apparently I have bed bugs, which my cleaning woman is baffled by because my room is one of the cleaner ones she’s seen…just for the record. So after over a week of waking up covered in welts (“bites” does not do them justice), and sleeping on my floor, the school sent over a pest control man to see what was going on and if there was anything he could do. OK. I love Edinburgh, but as a general rule the school is crazy.

Bug Man looked around, and tried to bond by commenting on my running numbers. Apparently he has run one of the same races I have. Fantastic, we are now bffs. He looked at the bed, through the bed, under the bed…

“Good news!” he cried, “There are no bugs here!”
“OK but please look at my arms. There are bugs here. Can you please just spray so I can stop being scared of my bed?”
“Well if I can’t see bugs I’m not legally allowed to spray”
“OK, but I am COVERED in bites”
“But there aren’t any bugs”

He started packing up, inching his way towards the door. This was not good.

“So, can I see these bites?” I showed my quarter sized welts. “No I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do. There are no bugs”
Bug Man and I were NOT bff. I glared.

“Tell you what, if you see a bug, put it in a jar, call me up, and I’ll come back”
“I have upwards of ten bites and I haven’t seen one bug. Because I am ASLEEP when they bite me.”
“I didn’t see any bugs.”
“You can see my arms!”
“Yes well. Just find one. Put it in a j-….” I couldn’t hear the rest because he had already scurried down the hall and was yelling this back at me as he rounded the corner.

Again. I love Edinburgh. But this would definitely go in the “WTF Edinburgh?!” category. I basically told the housing office they will be getting me a new bed. The guard commented that if the bug man didn’t see any bugs….I thrust my arms at him. “THERE ARE BUGS.” This guard, by the way thinks I am insane, but luckily that would be endearingly (or at least tolerably) insane. So he said he’d look into it. I’ll consider that a win.

Cornelia and Emily would be so proud.

Friday, May 07, 2010

We're Back!

Well y’all it’s been awhile! March saw the beginning of the end for my essays meaning that if I was writing anything while at my computer it had to be long intelligent analyses of evolutionary principles and their implications – or else emails to my family to let them know I was alive and well and not going (too) crazy! Meaning that while I am still very much abroad, and ever oblivious I didn’t quite get the chance to write about it! But I’m back. Essays are in, and dissertation things are just getting started, but really no need to worry about that yet!

In fact I spent last week not worrying at all. Allie just finished her semester and so we decided that as a celebration we should go travelling. Somewhere with a beach and sunshine seemed the best option. Then my roommate Aheli informed us that under no circumstances were we going anywhere without her so with the Travelling Trifecta established we finally settled on a cruise starting in Venice and stopping in Croatia and the Greek Isles. Anyone who has known me for more than five minutes will be aware of my love of cruises and while I will be the first to admit that one day in every port is not nearly enough, they do offer a chance to see a lot of places in a short amount of time, and with only a spare week in between work, this was perfect.

Aheli and I flew into Venice where we met Allie and then boarded the Norwegian Gem, the biggest ship I have ever been on. It’s of the rock wall, waterslide, bowling alley, thirteen restaurant, private villas variety of big. Our room was right below the buffet, perfect for bonding with a large number of servers, and the perfect location for afternoon cookie runs. It did not take long at all for the three of us to achieve a sort of celeb status on board. Sure this could have been due to the fact that because it was between Spring break and Summer vacation that we were three of approximately 6 people on board below the age of 40, but who am I to complain when the entertainment staff is calling us the “Magic Girls from Near Boston”, the managers ALWAYS come to say hello at dinner, people stop us in the elevators asking what we’ll be singing or where we’ll be dancing next and the photography staff is volunteering to hide us in their cabins so we don’t have to get off the boat? OK that last one was a little creepy, but still.

Actually I think the crowning moment of the trip was when at the nightclub we moved onto the dance floor and were followed by the entire club. Then a song we did not love came on so we left and the dance floor cleared. This happened at least 3 times. Then there was the time we started a conga line and got the entire club to join. Or I guess the time we danced Cotton Eyed Joe on the pool deck and got a shout out from the band was pretty cool too…

This sounds like we just ran wild, 3 girls on spring break around Europe, but don’t be fooled. This is the magic of cruises. We had a place where we could just relax, dance, and eat while sitting in the sun, but then the boat would dock and we could explore the canals of Venice, ruins of Croatian Palaces, see sunset from the top of Santorini, and explore the labyrinth of streets in Mykonos, designed to confuse pirates, and now it seems tourists as well. This trip offered a mix of culture and pure relaxation with plenty of chances to act like absolute children, which for anyone who has followed our previous adventures or heard any of the stories from The Semester Abroad, is how we tend to operate.

Of course there is plenty more to say about the week, and now that I’ve got a little more time on my hands I’ll try to post some of the key stories soon, but for now, this is where we’ve been. And I would go back in a heartbeat.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Cheeky Monkey

I have so much I’d love to write about, but this is just a quick break between my LAST presentation (woot!) and my second to last article review. The end of the semester is in sight!

For my last presentation which was, of course, on monkeys (vervets to be exact) I was on youtube looking for videos because a) vervets are adorable and b) the most important part of any presentation is those three or four minutes when you make everyone watch a video instead of having to actually talk.

Of course I couldn’t find anything relevant (which was not a problem anyway because the projector was broken and a grand total of four people were in class) but I DID find this amazing video of Vervets in St. Kitts. Yes I am the monkey girl. Yes I am owning it. But seriously…

Alcoholic Vervet Monkeys - BBC Weird Nature

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Have I become that crazy monkey girl?

So it’s been awhile since I’ve had time to write. Why you ask? Fabulous adventures? Wild nights out? Crazy experiences in the untamed North? Well sure, but there’s also this pesky thing called school. It is suddenly that time of the semester where I become locked away in my room reading for hours on end, hundreds (or at least tens) of sources to be analysed, written up, and graded to determine my future. I SO did not sign up for this. Oh wait, I did? Ah well, I suppose if I can manage only a few weeks of work at a time in grad school I can’t complain too much.

Except I’ve noticed something. Something distressing. As Allie pointed out in her last post, I am a complete literary dork. I spent five years of undergrad fully embracing my English major status and loving the fact that, as one of my professors once pointed out, I would never have to worry about running out of fun, but relatively useless, bits of trivia at dinner parties, or while watching Jeopardy. Eve notice how many Jeopardy contestants are writes or editors? Yeah. And of course this isn’t to knock my subject. I do truly love it and while not everyone might appreciate my literary obsession (See the Frankenstein incident of 07) at least as an English major my fun facts were somewhat cultured. Who doesn’t love a metaphysical digression once in awhile?

But here’s where the distressing part comes in. Destined as I am to study those areas that lead everyone to ask, “But really, what DO you do with that?” and me to shrug my shoulders pretend I see something shiny and wander off, I decided that I would give literature a break for a bit and study the more technical aspects of language. So doing my 13 years of plaid skirt wearing, Catholic education proud I decided to study Evolution. The Evolution of Language and Cognition to be specific. This involves studying the emergence of language, which given its six million year old history and a fossil record leading to all sorts of contrasting interpretations, is no easy task. Thus given the inability to go back and see exactly what happened, my course involves computational models and studies of other communication systems, from animals to children in order to try and figure out the path language evolution has taken.

Sounds exciting right? Ok humour me here I thought literature was exciting too. But anyway, you’d think that with such an extensive and interesting, not to mention controversial subject my new store of useless Jeopardy worthy facts would echo that. Except I fear that my new store of knowledge is a) not dinner party appropriate and b) does not really reflect well on me, or at least does not project an image of me I want circulated in the dinner party circuit. One of my classes, Animal Communication and Sociobiology with a side of Evolutionary Psychology (I’ll give Edinburgh this, the course names sound really impressive) has thus far involved a detailed look at…..animal mating. And the best part? This course is taught by a little, old, tweed wearing man who sports glasses that cover almost half his face. Adorable. And yet at 9am on Friday mornings, I am jolted awake by his saying things like “So when the subordinate monkeys cannot find mates, they utilize the ‘sneak and rape’ approach…” And yes, that is what it’s really called.

But we don’t just talk about monkeys. Oh no. Some recent gems, this time about humans, include:
-In regards to choosing a mate, the men with greater levels of testosterone are found to be more attractive in the short term and may have more evolutionarily desirable traits, but less testosterone indicates better long term mates. So the trick becomes how to get the better genetics with the better nurturing later. “Might be worth the illicit sex with that first person.”….Thanks Professor.
-In cases where females have more than one mate, the ideal number has been found to be three husbands, particularly in farming communities where you then have one to cultivate, one to herd, and one to trade. I’m pretty sure they meant trade the farm produced goods, not to be traded in case of a rough year but who really knows.
-There are different ways to determine the attractiveness of porn stars depending on whether they are on film or in a photographic pin up. In the pin up it’s all about the Hourglass Figure, whereas on film you want porn stars with an aesthetic BMI.

Gone are the days of Shakespeare. And dinner parties. But at least I’m a big hit with the pub crowd…

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Oh! The Places You'll Go

Life outside of London, Part I:

Ok so I’ve become a little obsessed with London. I mean who wouldn’t be when you have the V&A, natural museum of history, Kensington park and Hyde park right outside your door steps? Oh and food lots of food. For those who have never experienced Snog I pity you, you poor underfeed souls lost in the world without the magic of Snog. Oh right on to non-food topics.

So as any good traveling student would do I decided the time was right to break free of the city for other realms and other places! Where to first? Prague, Italy, Amsterdam, Greece? Well not yet, at least not till spring break rolls around (very soon actually). So instead I set my sights inside the UK to start with, actually inside England to be specific. (It also helped that this trip was already organized by those lovely people at FIE and FREE who could ask for more). So where is this surprise location? Wait for it…wait for it…STONEHENGE! And the absolutely awesome city of Bath after that, yay.

Well, 4 hours of busing it later as well as a few snacks (Colleen must be fed every 3-4 hours or else she gets cranky) we were out in the countryside admiring the rolling hills and quant villages. Our tour guide was actually pretty awesome for the ride. You know when you get those guides who sound like the teacher from Ferris Bullier? They just prattle on about “And so the Duke of Shirehill married his third wife…” blah blah blah. Ours was surprisingly refreshing and PACKED with information about everything, like literally everything. She was really funny too which when you’re stuck in a bus with someone at the mic for 4 hours at 8 am it a really important quality. Also, the most important part, she knew when to stop talking for an hour so everyone could take a nap. (Yes mom and dad I know you’re rolling your eyes but come on its college and were in a city of course we’ve been up all night!)

Ok so for starters, those are some REALLY REALLY BIG STONES. Like I mean absolutely massive! And they are just sitting in a field like someone just dropped them there and went “oh look lets make a pretty circle out of massive stones.” So we got the whole history of how they think the stones got there and what they were used for which was pretty cool. Apparently it took about 600 people to move the stone 2 cm in one day, yeah I’m so not surprised that it took forever to build this thing. So anyhow, sadly were weren’t able to touch the stones because people use to chip off bits of the rock to bring home and apparently that’s frowned upon, go figure. But I did find out that if you practice Druidism you can actually use the stones to worship on during the midsummer equinox, sorry Sister Ann Marie I think I’m changing religions… But it was really cool to be there and just experience the history behind the site as well as to get out in the fresh air.

Flat 16 plus a few ;)

So the group spent about an hour at Stonehenge just meandering around and taking lots of pics (see above). Then we jumped on the bus and headed to the city of Bath. Now bath is actually one of two cities in the world where the entire thing is a world heritage site, the other being Venice. This is because every building there is built in the Georgian style and all of the same stone which is like a yellow sandstone looking rock. It was cool to see in panorama because it was just like massive yellow throughout the entire city. Very pretty. Yeah, so we went to the Roman baths a la why Bath is called bath and no I don’t think they were being ironic. Oh for all you lit buffs ie: Steph, this is where Jane Austin lived for the majority of her life. Apparently she hated it and that’s why er books are all about the social season and women who hated it. Art imitates life huh.
Bath is also where the best hot chocolate in the world is. I am so not kidding. There is a little chocolate shop next to the church (made up of 60% stained glass, see culture ha) where if you are ever in Bath is a MUST to go and order the dark hot chocolate. Best. Thing. Ever. So good, so so good. I wish I could only drink that chocolate for the rest of my life, amazing. Ok so I guess enough about food….shopping! The city had some great little shops where I sadly didn’t buy anything, though there was a pair of heels calling my name sadly. Bussed back to London after that. Overall the city was so cute and pretty and full of fun things to do, see and buy. Great success!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Wait, who am I not allowed to marry?!

Last Sunday I went for my first bike ride around Edinburgh, and it was everything you would expect out of a ride through Scotland. The morning was overcast and misty, but not fully raining and the roads were relatively quiet. I bundled up and off I rode through country roads, past fields and into the mist, even passing a castle.

Melville Castle to be exact. Of course I had to look it up when I got back! According to the website (http://www.melvillecastlehotel.com/the-melville-experience/history.htm), while the grounds have been of importance since 1155, the current castle was built in 1786. Like all good castles, various royals have visited and ghosts still linger, but today after years of being vacant, it has been restored and is now a hotel. It seems the big draw is its use for special functions such as meeting and proms…and especially weddings. In fact, a good portion of the website is devoted to “Wow Weddings.”

I had a look about and discovered a page entitled “Getting married in Scotland” which outlines all the regulations and paperwork needed in order to come to Scotland and realize the little girl fantasy of getting married in a castle. Important information to be sure, although it seemed that most of it could have been sent to people who had already booked their wedding, not information the general public needed to see on a hotel website. Especially when I got to the section at the bottom labelled “Forbidden Marriages.” Oh yeah. This had to be good…

The section consists of six tables, three for men and three for women, outlining who they may not marry in categories of sanguinity, affinity, and adoption. Words can’t really do them justice so I've included them below, or alternately they can be found here: http://www.melvillecastlehotel.com/wow-weddings/getting-married-in-scotland.htm. I especially enjoy the clauses at the end regarding age and gender change.
And ok, I get that this is crucial information when getting married. But again, is this necessary on a website for the general public, must of whom will just be looking to book a hotel room, or like me, figure out what castles are nearby? Also, to some degree shouldn’t this be common knowledge? Or is this a case of having to publish the rules up front because at one time someone didn’t follow them? I suppose that would be awkward to show up with your nephew, ready to commit only to find out that it is in fact illegal! So many questions…

So anyway, Melville Castle: A beautiful castle, in a beautiful area, with royals, and ghosts, and strict rules against incest. Another magical discovery in Scotland.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Return of the Kilt Man

Earlier this week I had to go to the bank and while waiting in line, I spotted, in the line next to me, the Kilt Man. Yes, that Kilt Man, the one I spotted on the street corner a few weeks ago exposing me (although thankfully not literally) to the benefit of wearing a kilt when nature calls. Being in a bank, his red kilt was hanging modestly where it should, but the fascinating part about his ensemble this time was really his hat.

Now, he was sporting the hat on our last encounter, but it was not the most noteworthy thing, given his activity at the time. This time however, with kilt firmly in place it did draw my attention. His hat is one of the fuzzy ones with earflaps, and it is darkly coloured giving the appearance, when the flaps are up, of the hats the Buckingham palace guards wear. Which is fun in itself, but attached at the front was a pair of crossed knitting needles. I really cannot think of anything else they could be, and having grown up with my mother and her arts and crafts, I feel pretty confident in my ability to identify a knitting needle when I see one! Why knitting needles? Who knows. But oh the possibilities…

Since he continues to make appearances here, I think my goal this year will be to eventually capture him on film. For now, Kilt Man continues to be as elusive as he is intriguing, only popping up when I don’t have a camera and/or when I can’t really take a picture (I feel that’s frowned upon in banks), but now that I’ve seen him twice I know he’s local. I’m closing in! Let’s just hope wind is minimal when I finally do…

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Thoughts on Cobblestones

As per Mommy's request...

Don’t get me wrong, I like cobblestones. I think they’re pretty and I love cities like London, Edinburgh, and even Boston that tend to have them. That said, they definitely make walking around an interesting experience.

We’ve all seen that girl: The one who insists on wearing heels in cobbled areas and inevitably ends up on the ground. Thankfully (knock on wood) I’ve never been the one who actually gets her heel stuck in between the stones and has to be pulled out, or walks out of her shoe and then has to run back to retrieve it…usually with oncoming traffic rapidly approaching. I have been that other girl however, the one who wears the heels but then has to stare intently at the ground trying to perfectly time her steps so as to land with heel and toe centred on separate stones, bridging the chasm in between. For those of you who have ridden the London Underground it gives a whole new meaning to “Mind the Gap.” Still, even this approach, while not as awkward as the former, does take something away from the purpose of wearing heels in the first place. The whole process of looking down and carefully planning each step tends to look rather more like a hunchbacked duck than a leggy supermodel.

In Edinburgh, I take comfort from the fact that cobblestones, while significantly harder on those in heels, are not exactly easy for anyone. Yesterday it snowed. Not really enough to be considered snow, and especially not by New England standards, but it was enough to lay a thin sheet of black ice on the already treacherous cobblestones. Now, any footwear short of hiking boots is no help on the many cobbled streets. People are sliding off individual cobbles, getting stuck in that ever present gap and tipping over, while I’m convinced someone must film, and show all the people in charge of road maintenance for a good laugh. I’m pretty sure they gather around, take bets, and eat biscuits, but I couldn’t swear to it. Still, despite the frequency with which I am that person clutching at lampposts, cars, and random passersby as I slide and wobble along, I embrace the fact that it’s entertaining. I may be on the ground now, but inevitably someone else will fall and the circle of cobblestone entertainment will continue.

One approach to the cobblestone problem: The Barefoot Cartwheel
Location: Top of the Royal Mile, in front of the Castle
Starring: My roommate (aka partner in crime), Aheli, and me

Sunday, January 24, 2010

An Interesting Trend in Scottish Hair Care

Mostly I just wonder if the stylists partake as well....

Friday, January 22, 2010

Better Late Than Never

Some of you may be wondering why I have been (eh hem) a bit behind on my posts these days. It is because she has been wandering the streets of London? Has she been too busy being pulled by boys? Has she spent one too many nights in the pub recently?
Well, no. Actually I've been too exhausted (lazy) to even record events in my journal and the internet keeps futzing out. :(

So here's to play a little catch up:


Late start to the day (I swear mom its jetlag!). Colleen and Christi decided to show me the neighborhood if you will, just to make sure if I do start wandering (and you know I will) that I can at least manage to find my way back home without that pesky trail of breadcrumbs. So we started our mini adventure by going north (south? east?!) over to Kensington Park and Gardens. On the way I also discovered the we live like literally a block from the Natural History Museum, yay! Once at the park though, it resembled a bit of a winter wonderland with everything dusted in snow and all sparkly. There were all these adorable families wandering about and playing in the "blizzard" (insert eye roll here) of 1" or so of snow. It was weird to see like dozens of dogs just running around without leashes in the park, and they were so well behaved! God knows if Roxy was there she would have been off like a shot, never to be seen till dinner time.
I, being the awesome person I am, saw something sparkly off in the distance and convinced Col and Christi to investigate. Turns out it was the Albert memorial in all of its slightly gaudy gold cover glory (I want one!). So we got all touristy and took like a dozen pics in front of it. Also side note: thank you mom for the rain boots, it was super slushy in the park and I'm wicked glad I brought them.
Next we took a run to the grocery store and went by the building where classes are going to be. It doesn’t seem that far, like prob a 10 min walk from my flat. Anyways...food is soooooo expensive! I just spent like 20 pounds on like cornflakes and rice...oh yum. I swear this marks the beginning of my London anorexia, yay! (not)

Sooo classes started this morning, which in my opinion is never a valid reason to wake up early (I'm sure the parents would disagree though). In my defense, 9 am still feels like 4 am US time, ouch! My British Life and Culture professor seems really cool though. His name is David and he’s really laid back and funny. He even said that throughout the semester he’s gonna be asking us questions and if we get those certain ones right he'll buy that person a coffee form across the street. Thats what I call motivating! The class its self seems like its going to be pretty interesting too, so far its been a little about who the English are as people and their national identity as English and British. Even though the classes here are 3 hours long (eek) it doesn’t feel like it at all. We took a 15-20 min break about an hour and a half in but the rest of the time just seemed to fly by which is good.
Fun fact: the Union Jack is comprised of 3 different flags including the St. George's flag which is England's flag.
After class I had like 5 hours to kill before my next one. Christina (flat mate) and I decided to wander and explore the neighborhood. Apparently we live in a really nice area because all the houses are GEORGOUS. Like wicked nice. They even have private gardens and parks for yards that are filled with all sorts of flowers and bushes and trees. Now how come if everything is so nice around me and my neighbors across the street have hardwood floors (yes I creep) I have to live in a flat where there's divots in the floor and a lack of hot water? So not fair. Boo.
So get to my 5:00 Shakespeare class and just hanging out in the stairwell chatting with Marist kids when guess who I see. ... Really, try to guess. ... PAUL MARSHAL FROM ST PHILS!!!!!! WHAT?!?!?! Yeah that was pretty much my reaction in a nutshell. Weeeeeellll it turns out that he goes to Hobart (where Ricky Lyman goes) which is also in NY and is staying at one of the other residence halls here in London within the FIE program. What a freaking small world. It was like "OMG HI" "Hi" "So, how have the past 7 years of your life been?" So weird.
Anyways, my Lit class is awesome! First of all my prof is wicked cool and ended class early (hehe) but to make up for it he is going to take us on a walking tour of Shakespearian London Wed night. I'm sooo excited! How many students can say that their prof is going to take them to an unmarked grave yard, the Globe Theater, some Bear Gardens and end the night at a pub? I think I really love London lol.
Also I have discovered Ben's Cookies. They will be the death of me. And later my flat went to Imperial College where they have both a bar and club downstairs? Weird but cool.

No classes! No classes! YAY
Woke up and dragged myself to the Natural History Museum. First of all let me ask what is it about dinosaurs that turn 20 year old boys in to 7 year olds? It was kinda cute how excited they got over the t-rex and other dinos. The museum was fun though I didn't get to see anywhere near all of it sadly. Oh well will just have to go back soon!
Let’s see, after that went to lunch with a French guy that Megan met the other night. He was very nice and sweet and took her, me and Christina to this cute little Italian place down the road. Yummy lunch but I still don't understand why they give so many kisses? xxxxxxxxxxx
So another day of exploration with Christi and Christina. Found a little bookstore by the tube station as well as a place that sells coffee for 80 pence! 80 pence! Fantastic :) So somehow we found our way in front of Harrods? Who knew we were so close. I guess every day around 6 or 7 the food there goes to half price or 2 for 1 which was cool. Christina and I ended up eating the most amazing cupcakes that melted in your mouth. Can you say sugar rush? It’s a little sad how much my life revolves around food, well at least its good food! Oh also discovered the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) is just around the corner form me too. It looks so huge and I can’t wait to go inside! :) One more for the to-do list.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Observed in the Streets of Scotland

The age old question: What DO they wear under their kilts? Rumour has it that the answer is nothing. Some confirm some deny. I tend to agree with the former group (don’t worry Mom I haven’t actually checked!). Last semester I went to a rugby game for which a kilt is basically required attire. All of a sudden there was a gust of wind, and every guy groped for his kilt, walking on with his hands firmly at his sides until the wind had died down. Then as we were sitting down I was treated to commentary from the guy next to me as to how crucial kilt placement is when sitting. He sort of started to sit, adjusted his kilt and very slowly lowered himself, checking along the way to make sure the kilt hadn’t moved. “The seats are REALLY cold,” he explained.

The latest in my super serious Kilt Watch 2010 happened today as I was walking to class. Crossing a street I heard running water to my right, which was unusual, so I turned to look. It was not running water. Rather, a man was relieving himself against the wall of the building I had just passed. I very quickly looked away, but not before realizing that he had strategically arranged his kilt so that he was not exposing himself. Which I thought was rather decent of him. I mean, as decent as possible while urinating in the street in broad daylight. But every little bit helps.

This being called “Observed in Scotland” it seemed like I should have a picture, which of course I don’t for obvious reasons, namely that it would be totally inappropriate. But also, I didn’t have my camera on me…

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Art of Pulling

Pulling, or the act of being ‘on the pull’, is the process of trying to attract someone, usually while out at a bar or club, with the intent of getting them to accompany you home. Just a British phrase for something that anyone who’s ever been out clubbing or bar hopping knows about right? Well sure, but what makes the phrase “on the pull” or “pulling” so amazing is how accurately it describes what is actually happening.

In 2007 I was here in Edinburgh and one of the first nights my roommate Aheli and I were at a flat party. We had found two seats and were taking a break from standing in our oh so cute but hardly practical shoes. All of a sudden a shadow fell across us as two guys that we knew, but not well, approached. Awkwardly, they were standing close enough that we had to lean way back to speak with them, but also way too close for us to stand up without bumping into them. Aheli subtly linked arms with me. Safety in numbers. They suggested that perhaps we would like to separate and spend time with them individually. We politely declined. They looked at each other baffled. This wasn’t supposed to happen. We then watched from our awkward seated position, necks craned way back as they negotiated. Right in front of us.

“They’re not letting go of each other.”
“Well maybe we could convince them?”

They looked down, saw our determined faces and linked arms, and decided they could not.

“Well, how about I take them for five minutes, then you take them for five minutes?”
“How do I know you won’t keep them?”

Were we actually being bargained for? This was too much. We decided to try and slip away while negotiations continued. Unfortunately we were spotted, and since we were now standing, our free arms had been grabbed, and were literally being pulled to try and separate us. On the pull indeed. Luckily on the pull is no match for on the run and we scurried away.

Why do I bring this up now? Two years later? Well having been enlightened to the art of pulling, I felt I was a little less oblivious and in a good place to prevent future sneak attack pullings. However, this week I was subjected to the most awkward of pick up lines showing that even identifying the attempted pull does not prevent it from happening.

Tuesday night is karaoke night at one of my favourite local bars so in celebration of being back in the Burgh, a group of us ventured out to show off our beautiful singing voices. And make sure that the Strongbow is as good as when we left.

After wowing the crowd with our rendition of “Brown Eyed Girl” I was standing against a wall, when I heard a slurring near me. “Huh?” I so eloquently enquired at which the speaker jumped back with his hand to his mouth in happy surprise. “You have teeth!” he shouted excitedly and then left. I have teeth? I quickly checked with my roommate to make sure I did not have something horrible in my teeth. Nope good to go. I have teeth. I have teeth? Well of course I have teeth!

Later, the Slurring Simon found me again and once more told me I have teeth, except this time, since he was no longer as surprised, he clarified that we both have similar gaps in our teeth. And thus we should be friends. Well sure, how did I not guess that earlier? After being cornered by him and his friend for 30 minutes, of which the highlight was him telling my roommate and I “I’m so glad you are older than you look. I thought you were 19 so being 32 I felt really creepy coming to talk to you.” Oh. Not sure it’s any less creepy now, but cool. Soon they had to go and we assured them that no, we would not be leaving with them. I returned to the rest of my group and was greeted with a chorus of “YOU HAVE TEETH!!!!” Thank you Simon.

And so ended another pulling. Never the same…and never boring…

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Meanwhile, Further North...

I am back in Edinburgh for Semester two of very serious and important Postgrad work. OK maybe not all serious and important, especially now that I am only a four hour train ride from Allie! But I’m trying to work on that whole balance thing. So don’t worry Dad!

The trip back was fairly uneventful aside from a minor incident where the friendly people at Heathrow allowed me to wander through the wrong gate and only informed me that I needed a stamp from the other gate when I was trying to get on the plane. But minor hiccup, tiny detail. I managed to circle back, go through the correct gate, and make it to my flight just in time.

Anyway the real adventure of the day involved the transport of my bicycle. For those of you who don’t know, Edinburgh is big on societies: Sports societies, dance societies, chocolate societies, if you like it, chances are there is a society for it. I decided to join the Triathlon club. I swim, I run, I have a bike, so it works right? Well in semester one my cycle was conveniently at home in the States so I could be a multi-sport athlete without actually having to work on that third sport. But not this semester! No, this semester I wanted to have a bike so that I could finally live up to the Tri club sweatshirt I’ve already been wearing around.

But how to transport a bike? Well I managed to find a very nice cycle shop to pack it up for me in a large box, to be assembled at this end by whatever friendly cycling shop will take pity on me first.

At the airport, as I hauled the box to the counter, the agent shuffled back slightly and his eyes widened. Who was this little girl and why did she have such a big box? Upon answering that I was the only person travelling, he responded with “You and your bike!” as if to assure himself that he was actually seeing what he thought he was seeing. I checked in and he was even kind enough to ignore my grossly overweight rolly bag, mostly because he was still shooting glances at my bike box to make sure it was really there. And it was, until it was checked like any other bag, through to Edinburgh and life was easy.

That is of course, until baggage claim on the other end. It came around the luggage belt, people following it to see who the serious athlete was, and tilting their heads in confusion as the short girl in sparkly rain boots pulled it off the belt. With the help of a very nice girl I loaded it and my other bag onto a cart and off I went, people giving stepping aside to clear a path for me. Clearly because they were in awe of he ease with which I handled the cart, assuring them of my equal athletic skill when actually on the bicycle. Right? Sure…

Outside after the all too familiar stepping back and rapid intake of breath on the part of all the taxi drivers, I was loaded in and on my way to my flat. Upon reaching the door, two painters asked if I needed help. By this point I felt I was an old pro at manoeuvring the box and suitcase but they nodded at each other over my head and swept the box up to my apartment door.

So maybe I don’t look quite like the cyclist I hope to be by the end of the year, although I’m sure once I’m not wearing sparkly rain boots my image will improve slightly. Still, I’m here, my bike is here, and I’ve already experienced the friendliness of the people here, in thanks of which I can only hope I provided them with a story to bring home at the end of the day.

“Hunny you’ll never believe what I saw today. A little girl, 13, maybe 16 at the MOST dragging a huge bike box through the streets of Edinburgh. No I’m not lying it was twice her size! I agree I wonder that her parents let her out all alone like that…And she had on these rain boots….”

Busy and important Postgrad work aside, it promises to be another interesting semester. And I can’t wait!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Allie's First Days in London


Finally I'm here!

The flight form Boston to Amsterdam was mostly uneventful. Yummy pasta (surprising right?). Personal TVs. Not so bad blankets.
The only downside was the twitchy guy who sat next to me. Seriousally everytime I tried to go to sleep or was just nodding off he would bump the armrest, or my sholder. Arg so fusturating! There was also a guy a few rows back who was just whiney. Seriousally if your over 40 stop complaining about the airline food, its on a airplane- expect the worst and be happy if its edible.

My list of things that shouldn't be allowed near airports:
shreaking children
squeeky rolling bags
twitchy people

1/8/10....not really sure what day it is?
Next plane ride from Amsterdam to London was pretty plesent. Bonded with the girl sitting next to me, she was from Holland and goes to university in London. It was cool, she told me about different things to do in the city including shopping and which neighborhoods are fun to visit.

mailing address for next 4 months

Allie Karzenski
Metrogate House
3-7 Queen's Gate Terrace

Mail to this address even though in living at flat 16A on a flat in Manson Place.

Finding the flat was a bit of an adventure, you would think that 16A would be the street address. Wellllll apparently not. In fact I live in building 13, which is just plain confusing. Luckly enough as I was wandering up and down my street my neighbor showed me which house and which flat as well as helping me to carry my 1000000000 lb bag up four flights of stairs. Thank you sir who I don't remember the name of.
So the flat:
I would draw a little sketch but I dont think I can on the blog thingy. So walkin in, its a small hall that has 5 bedrooms and 3 bathroom leading off of it with a common room and kitchen. Sadly, no dishwasher but so far its been ok. Theres 12 people in my flat, two of which are boys and the rooms are made up of 2-3 people each. I'm rooming w/ Coleen and Christi in what I'm convinced is the biggest room in the flat. (YAY). Its not too bad, sparce w/ a bunk bed and a single as well as 3 armouirs (sp?) so it works.

1/9/10 cont...
The neighborhood is very pretty made up of white, well brownstones I guess. Row houses? Flats? Whatever. Its pretty. I guess they are all pretty expensive around here, or at least they look it and around the corner are some reallllllly nice hotels. Down the block a bit theres a lot of different resturants and shops, mostly small family owned ones. So far the prices don't look too bad for things- around $2 to $3 for a cup of coffee (more than Costal eek!) but its a cute area.
Col, Christi and I went for dinner with Alex Vas at a little homie Italian place arround the corner which was nice and had really good food with super fresh ingredents. On the way there I noticed that the street were painted at cross section to say "look left" or "look right," adorable how they dont want their tourist to get killed (cough mom cough).
So after dinner we adventured to "The Sports Bar" to do the quinticental Engligh thing of....watching the Jets game! Eh whatever dont judge. It was still fun to hang out with people in my program and we met a few local American Football fans.
Jetlag, its the only thing keeping me back!.........sleep......zzzzzzzzz