Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Today was the coolest day of my LIFE. Perhaps that's an exaggeration, but it was definitely up there.

It all started with THIS:
video
Okay, call me lame, but riding in the front seat at the top of a double-decker bus was beyond amazing. It's sort of like a roller coaster, except with more traffic and no 300 foot drops. So basically the best of both worlds. Also, this gives you a view of the street we walk pretty much every day! Isn't it charming? Video Bonus: You get a view of the ever-classy Potatoland, which is probably my favorite restaurant in all of Edinburgh. They really like their potatoes here, it is marvelous. Just disregard the silly dialogue in the background! We started talking about Pizza Hut. Ew. And then Kristine crashed into the windshield at the end. Oh, my dear friend.

Where were we heading on this bus adventure, you ask? Why, none other than the Craigmillar Castle! Basically, this historic gem was built in the 1400s and remains one of the best-preserved castles in Scotland. It was spectacular. Apparently it was also the home of Mary Queen of Scots for a while. Hannah and I are both history majors, so we pretty much just stood in awe the entire time. The place was pretty much deserted (we got there around 1pm on a Wednesday...) so we got to climb and explore without anyone bothering us. Kristine, Hannah and I took a good 2 hours to take it all in. And even though the place is only 20 minutes outside of the city, you can still see farmland and mountains all around. I'm not sure if the video captures this, but one side of the castle faces Arthur's Seat, one side faces the city skyline, one faces the Sea, and the rest overlook mountains and farmland. It was almost painfully gorgeous. I took over 400 photos (Mommy, aren't you proud??) and uploaded a bunch onto Flickr. The link is here: Click This! Obviously the images don't do it any justice, but at least they give you a general idea. The pictures also prove that it isn't always raining. In fact, today was 45 degrees and sunny! There's also a video below. I recorded it while we were walking along some sketchy mossed-over walkway along the very top of the castle. I hope you enjoy!!


video

After the grand castle adventure, we headed back into town and ate at a restaurant over by Grass Market. I ate vegetarian haggis for four pounds, and I've come to the conclusion that vegetarian haggis is among my top 5 favorite foods. It is ridiculously good. And yes, I apologize Scotland, but I prefer it over sheep gut haggis. But to each their own. Later we hung out at a friend's flat, and then I headed back to do some "reading." But really, I just wrote this post to procrastinate. Of course.

All in all, today was amazing. Scotland is the most beautiful country in the world. Kristine and I couldn't have picked a more perfect location. It's almost too good.

Also P.S.: To all my family and friends leaving comments, I appreciate it!!! I am happy to know that you read along, and I hope you enjoy it!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Observations

Hi! So I've been really busy lately, but I don't really think it would make for a good read. To sum up, though, we've basically been hanging around a lot, stopping by pubs, and I finally visited the Scottish History Museum! We spent about 2 hours on the first floor but never got further because there was so much to look at. Working at the Commonwealth Museum really gave me a new appreciation for all the work that goes into making exhibits! I can't wait to see the Museum finished and open when I get back home, and if anyone from there is reading this- Hello! :) Also! I went to "The Elephant House" cafe, which claims to be the Birthplace of Harry Potter. They say that JK Rowling used to sit in the back of the cafe, stare out the window for inspiration, and then wrote the first Harry Potter. It was the cutest little place, and even though I'm not a fanatical HP fan it was still pretty awesome. (That picture is a view from one of their windows: the building far back is the Edinburgh Castle!)

Rather than go into boring details about my days, I figured I'd change it up and talk about some of the different things I've been noticing.

1) Fashion-wise....Everyone, literally everyone, is a fan of the tattered mini jean skirt. I'd say a good 30% of the female population wears jean skirts at any given moment. It is very strange. Either they are way behind the fashion styles of America, or we will see a whole new jean skirt movement this summer. I'm hoping it's not the latter.

2) Almost NO ONE is a Scottish native. I don't understand! All of my friends are American, my flatmates are from Finland/Montreal/France, and most people in my classes are from England. Where do all the Scots live? I am taking a trip to Stirling this weekend, so hopefully it's a little bit more Scot-ish up there. I have met a few natives and they've all been quite lovely, I guess I was just expecting there to bit a wee bit more.

3) All of the foreigners that I have met, regardless of where they originate, are ecstatic over Barack Obama. As soon as they hear our American accents, they want to chat us up over how happy they are that Bush is gone and how wonderful Obama is. It seems to happen in every pub or wherever else we happen to be. It is really heartwarming, in a way. Maybe he actually can bring this world a little bit closer and raise our standing in the world. At least it seems that way so far.

4) Okay, well, this is a given, but they really like their alcohol here. Back in Boston, it seems like Friday and Saturday are the main "Going Out" nights. Unless there is a big sports game or something of the like, people don't tend to go out partying on weekdays. At least as far as I can tell, though I'm not yet 21. Either way, it seems completely different here. As one guy said last night, "Wednesday is the new Saturday! Tuesday is the new Friday! And we drink on Mondays and Thursdays to get us to the weekend!" I like beer and such as much as the next person, but there is no possible way I could drink every night of the week for years on end. How do they do it? How can a whole country have magical livers? Don't they have stuff to do? It is quite astonishing. Speaking of alcohol, we stopped by this Russian-themed club called "Vodka Revolution" which specializes in cool flavors of vodka. A bunch of us ordered that paddle in the picture and we sampled Birthday Cake vodka and Chocolate Orange vodka. I'm not the biggest vodka fan, but anything chocolate orange is delicious in my book.

5) No one here watches television. It is so refreshing. Instead of sitting on the couch and watching Law and Order SVU Marathons (of which I am extremely guilty) they actually go out and do things! It seems a big factor contributing to the lack of TVs is the "Television License" tax imposed by the Scottish government, which costs like 250 pounds a year or something. Crazy. Oddly enough though I am really enjoying being away from the television's constant grasp. I can still get my fix of The Office and the new season of Flight of the Conchords from online, so I don't have any complaints. (Though I do miss Law and Order marathons. Ugh.)

6) THEY ALL LISTEN TO AMERICAN MUSIC. I don't think there is anything popular here that isn't played back home. Does American music/film/culture really infiltrate everything? It seems that way so far. I was kind of looking forward to getting away from Nickelback, Creed, and maybe even Britney Spears for a while...but no luck. Looks like we'll have to suffer through Womanizahwomanizahwomanizahoh for a little bit longer! On the bright side: I saw a live bagpipe-er last night! It was marvelous!

7) Frying is the preferred method of cooking just about everything here. They have fried pizza, fried mars bars, fried haggis, fried burgers (???), fried vegetables, and just about anything else you can think of. Eating healthy here is ridiculously hard but it seems like it can be done. Not that I'm complaining, of course, fried anything is likely to be good. Last night, in honor of Robert Burns Night, I tried a fried mars bar and fell in love. So bad, yet so delicious. I also tried haggis, the real kind, and I have to admit that I actually liked it! Scotland is converting me and it's only been 2 1/2 weeks.


8) I have the simplest, smallest, most low-tech phone in the whole world and I love it. They seem to be a lot less interested in the lastest technology and fads here, which is also really nice. All I can say is that people here appear to really enjoy themselves and the city around them...which, I hate to say, is often different from a lot of Americans. Their happiness comes from things other than gadgets. I guess this is going back to the TV observation, but it's good to unplug yourself every once in a while. There's no need to watch hours of television a day while spending the rest of your time browsing the internet on your cell phone. Stay un-connected for a little while, you know?I know I'm guilty of it and will probably continue to be guilty of it once I return, but it's one of the lessons I'm learning here it seems.

9) It doesn't rain here nearly as much as I expected. I don't wish to jinx it so....I'll stop there.

10) Cliche, mushy realization: Edinburgh is fantastic for so many reasons and I am falling in love. It is simply gorgeous and its antiquity is really quite amazing. I cannot wait to travel and take as much of this country in as possible.

Okay so that's all for now. If you'd like, leave a comment, I really enjoy reading them.

OH P.S. If anyone has a Skype account and would like to talk, my username is lindsaybaer. Get at me!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

WE HAVE A NEW PRESIDENT!



Wow. Yesterday, 20 January 2009, Barack Hussein Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. Although, of course, I would have loved nothing more than to be standing on the Mall with the millions of other proud Americans...Edinburgh was not such a bad alternative. For a few hours, the city was swept by Obamafever as all eyes were fixated on BBC News.

Some friends and I headed over to a pub called Native State around 4 pm (11 am your time) and it was already pretty packed. People with all sorts of different accents were crowding around the tables and televisions to witness history in the making. Luckily, we were able to snag the last table available and the group of us settled in and prepared ourselves. Everything was beautiful. Everyone was smiling. By the time the procedure began, I'd say somewhere between 100-200 people had packed themselves in to the tiny pub. The excitement in the room was palpable (as was the relief). As we watched the parade of politicians and former presidents arrive, the natives made their feelings towards FORMER! President George W. Bush known through a mishmash of boos and loud snickers. People continued to chitchat through Aretha and somewhat through bigot Rick Warren, but all came to a hush as soon as Joe Biden took his oath. When it was Obama's turn, you could hear a pin drop. There was obviously some laughter during the Roberts/Obama flub (honestly though, if you're going to have the President of the United States repeat his oath of office following after you, at the very LEAST get the wording correct!!) but it quickly subsided. And then it was over. I am still shocked by how short is passed by- 35 words is nothing! There was cheering, crying, clapping, and an overall happiness to usher in the new president. Even moreso, perhaps, was the general relief that the past 8 years has finally, finally come to an end, and that the dreadful chapter in our history is over.

Obama's speech was realistic, forceful, yet hopeful. I particularly enjoyed his inclusion of non-believers (yeah!) and his vow to restore the importance of science. My favorite quote, though, was "We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals." A huge and necessary slap to Bush's face. Beautiful! As he finished, there was more clapping, cheering, and overall I realized that it was a bad day for me to wear eye make-up.

America under George Bush is really all I've ever known, and I really couldn't be any more excited for that to all change.

Here's a video I recorded during Obama's oath. Sorry for the poor quality but the lighting was pretty bad. I tried to do a pan-shot of the crowd at the end, but it's sort of hard to see, so use your imagination! Enjoy.

video

It's truly something I will remember forever, and I'm glad I was able to experience in a foreign country.

And as a final farewell to Mr. Bush, here is this ridiculously amusing yet depressing video:
Watch this!
Bright side: It honestly can't get any worse than that!


(P.S. The first image at the top of the post was taken on August 28th, 1963, at the March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. The second image was taken yesterday during the inauguration. Moving.)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

First Real Post!

HI!

I know I haven't posted...at all, but I'm going to try and rectify that right about now. It's almost 3 a.m. so I'll stick to a regular written post, but I promise a fun video will pop up soon.

In a nutshell, everything here is absolutely fantastic. The city is gorgeous, there is wonderful nature, and the people are extremely friendly. Class on the other hand will be the bane of my existence while here, but I have a library buddy so it won't be all bad. Where to begin!

The first day here, I had no way to contact Kristine, so I decided to outsmart my jetlag and sleep the entire afternoon, evening and night. Thankfully it worked. The next day I had orientation, and randomly ran into Kristine on the way over! We skipped out of the presentation early and did some necessary shopping. Later that night, we searched for a nice looking pub and finally stumbled on one called The Abbey. It turned out to be a good choice, because we ended up talking to this Edinburgh native for over an hour and it was TERRIFIC. At first he accosted me while I was ordering a drink because I was wearing a hat indoors (apparently that's awful?) and didn't understand that A) I forgot to buy shampoo C) It was raining B) My hair was just plain gross. I was a little creeped out, so we headed back to our table to be left alone. About 10 minutes later he headed over to us and pulled up a chair...and none of us were too receptive. Unfortunately, America has taught us that this is creepy, so we were a little cold at first. Turns out, he was just a super friendly, really funny and of course, really drunk man. We talked about the differences between Scotland and America, Barack Obama, and he told us to be weary of machete-yielding men. In the end, it was a success, and will probably remain one of the trip's highlights.

The next few days were just a smattering of different pubs, classes, random walks and lots of new people. The classes here are really intense...I can sense that I'll be spending many many hours in the library, but it won't be too out of the ordinary. Hopefully I'll learn a lot! I'm taking: Energy, Environment and Security: Energy Policy in Britain, France and the US since 1974, The First New Nation: Nationalism and Regionalism in America, and U.S. Foreign Policy: 1880-1917. Foreign Policy is going to be RIDICULOUSLY hard, or so it seems, but whatever! We shall see.

And although I don't have a video in this post, I do have some cool pictures! Today we climbed Arthur's Seat...then rewarded ourselves with giant baked potatoes. Here's the view (and some other choice photos!)














http://www.flickr.com/photos/34437706@N05/3204605055/
(Many more photos at the link above!)

Well, I don't have too much to say for now, not to mention it's 3:30 in the morning. I promise it will get more interesting, so keep checking back for more!!! And feel free to leave me some comments :)