In the midst of an absolutely crazy academic week and a half, I'm ready to update everyone on the latest events abroad! I think I mentioned before that we were having a Jersey Shore (show on MTV) themed party, which we did, and it was an absolute success. We all dressed up like "guidos" and went down to the Bistro. We danced with some Irish cloggers, took lots of pictures, and had a fun experience when the fire alarm went off in the midst of the festivities. It was absolutely freezing outside but we had a blast pretending to be trashy Italians.
We had our first basketball game last Wednesday against a team called the Outlaws. It is unnecessary for me to describe each player individually because this is what they all looked like: at least six feet tall males, potential candidates for a body-building contest, wearing sponsored red uniforms. It was extremely intimidating for the Harlaxton Lions considering we had had three practices ever and not everyone was a seasoned player. The Outlaws were kind enough to give us a 35 point head start (charming) and we still lost by about 20. It was a bit like Reidland playing Paducah Tilghman in basketball, except worse. I had fun with the game though; I had missed playing! Hopefully our next game won't be against a team with quite so much experience.
Thursday night we (Sarah, Kyle, Alex, Molly, Eric, Susan and I) caught the 5:10 shuttle from Harlaxton to the Grantham train station and hung out until our train left around 7. I sat with Eric (also known as E-Ho) on the train and we had a good time talking and trying to keep warm on the ice cold train. We switched trains at Doncaster and were finally on our way to Edinburgh (said like Edin-boro), Scotland. We got to the city around 11:30 and searched for our hostel, called the Princes Street East Backpackers Hostel, which was luckily hardly a block from the train station! It was located high above the streets, meaning I had a wonderful time carrying my little suitcase up a tight, spiral staircase with at least 60 stairs. The inside of the hostel was so neat! The walls were covered with different paintings and pictures of all types and styles, the carpet was psychedelic, and the kitchen (with free tea and coffee) was really homey and cute.
That night, using the expertise I learned from my lovely sister Paige, I cut Kyle's hair in the bathroom. It was a hilarious experience because he didn't want to get hair all over his clothes, so he just wore his boxers and sat on the toilet while I cut his hair. We got a few funny looks. It turned out well though! I'm thinking about charging some money for haircuts because everyone is in desperate need of them over here! I think my shop would be called Katie's Kuts. After Kyle and I returned to the room, we played getting-to-know-each-other games which was so much fun. It was so strange to realize I didn't know any of the people I was with a mere three weeks beforehand, but I felt like I had known them forever. It was great to learn more about each other and become closer. We stayed up talking until almost 4 in the morning! This is not the place to come if you want to catch up on sleep, I'll tell you that...
The next morning we grabbed some lunch (Sarah and I bought food at the grocery to save money so we just snacked all day) and headed to what was to be my first viewing of a Squash match! Susan and Molly met a couple on the train who told them about a Squash tournament going on in the city and they wanted to check it out, so we thought it would be a cool cultural experience. The walk ended up taking about 45 minutes, but we got to see a lot of the less populated areas which was nice. We didn't actually get to see the guy they met on the train play, but we stayed to watch a game between the #2 seed in all of Ireland and his opponent. It was very similar to racquetball, except the ball is smaller and quicker. I really enjoyed watching it and trying to learn the rules!
We spent the rest of the day checking out shops, stores, and taking in all the scenery around us. We decided to splurge for one night and ate at an Italian restaurant called the Patio Restaurant. It was one of the most delicious things I have tasted since arriving here. I got pasta fagioli which was delectable (everyone tried it and loved it too) and I ate every last bit, even finished the sauce with my tasty bread. E-Ho and I split a cheese pizza for our meal. It was so wonderfully delicious. I wish I could have that meal every night!
We went back to the hostel and freshened up, then headed out to go on a ghost tour of the city. We walked over the "haunted North Bridge" and went to the cemetery, where we saw lots of supposedly haunted things, including George Mackenzie's mausoleum. He was responsible for thousands of deaths in Scotland. It was very interesting, but unfortunately it was below freezing and our tour guide was somewhat annoying, so we headed back to the hostel before the tour was over. It was just unbearably cold! We then checked out a gay bar, but personally I didn't find much gay about it, then headed to a club called Mood. It was a blast! Sarah and I danced together all night. Dancing here is so much different than in America--you just get to have your own personal space and do whatever you want. I loved it! Once we got back to the hostel, Sarah and I made some tea and split an hour of internet for a pound and checked up on all the necessities.
The next morning we went to a few shops and checked out an interesting art museum before going to a quaint Mexican restaurant, where Sarah and I split an appetizer of chips and chicken (very tasty) and snacked the rest of the time. We went to the meeting spot of the free three hour bus tour we had read about only to discover...it was a free three hour WALKING tour. This was very unfortunate news because it was so ridiculously cold. I was pretty bummed and was not looking forward to being outside for so long, but fate stepped in and gave us the most awesome tour guide ever, Alan! We walked all over the city and he kept us entertained with so many neat, interesting stories that he was very passionate about sharing. I learned so much history which is something I find so much joy in doing. We learned about Charles I, who was the King of England, and his attempts to get the Scottish people to love him; we spit on the Heart of Midlothian, which used to be the front door of a building, which shows disdain toward the government; we learned how people used to catch burglars with trip steps; we checked out the graveyard in the daylight and learned more neat stories (I even got to correct our tour guide when he said Jamestown was founded in 1620...silly Alan, it was 1607!); we got to see the cafe where JK Rowling wrote the first two Harry Potters from and the graveyard and private school which inspired many aspects of her books; ending with an awesome view of Edinbugh Castle and an epic story from Alan about the Stone of Destiny. Although it was cold, it was 100% worth it!
Sarah, Kyle and I headed back to the hostel for a quick nap and got ready to go out for the night on my first "pub crawl." I know it sounds incredibly sketchy, but it was actual a formal event that you had to sign up for and even have a classy neon orange wristband for. We ate dinner at the first pub we went to, then checked out four pubs (for 40 minutes each) after that. They were all very different from one another and gave a good taste of Edinburgh's nightlife. The tour was done by the same company Alan worked for, and on our tour with Alan we met a couple from Canada who were a couple years older than us and studying abroad in England also. We spent the evening with them and it was so much fun getting to know them--they were very nice people! Canada, eh! A crazy part of the evening was when I was buying my wristband and had my ID out, a girl next to me said, "You're from Kentucky? Me too!" She and another girl from Kentucky were studying abroad in Scotland. They were from Florence, KY and went to UK--we had five or six mutual friends! What are the odds that I meet someone who knows someone I do in the middle of Scotland? Insane! The tour ended at a club called the Hive, which was ironic because I was beginning to get hives (as I have been doing this entire month, unfortunately), so Sarah and I went back to Princes Street, changed clothes, and went to Burger King for some fries and free Wifi.
The next day was probably my favorite of all days yet. We had been highly recommended to climb something called Arthur's Seat, which is a mountainish type of hill that rises 820 feet above the city. It took about 45 minutes to climb (Alex did it in heeled boots--impressive!) and the climb itself was gorgeous. Every step took me higher and higher above the city and I was able to see more and more. We finally reached the top, where we hung out for a good half hour or more. I hesitate to even try and describe it, because words will absolutely not do it justice, nor do the pictures. I could see for miles and miles in every direction; the city was completely in view, with the castle about a mile away, and the ocean expanding all around the island. The cold wind was blowing so hard but it was one of the most refreshing things I've ever felt. It was just something I could have looked at for ages and still not been able to soak it in. After taking many pictures, we headed back down the hill (which was almost as difficult as walking up). Many people had their dogs with them so the walk back toward the city turned into a discussion of how we all missed our animals back home and I joined right in--I sure miss Baxter and Diamond!
Next on the list for the day was a closer inspection of Edinburgh Castle. We didn't pay to go inside (it was pretty costly) but we checked out the outer area and took pictures. We returned to the graveyard for the third time for one specific purpose: to find a particular person's grave. We searched for about 20 minutes (while getting told to "get a life" by a clearly high-achieving 13-year-old girl) and finally I epically found the grave marker we were looking for and jumped up and down for a solid ten seconds. It read: "Sacred. To the memory of Thomas Riddell Esq. of Befsborough." Tom Riddell is the name of the villain in Harry Potter--for all HP fans, this was an epic moment! We unashamedly all picked up sticks and used them as wands and took magical pictures around the grave. It was seriously awesome and I loved it!
We then headed to the National Museum of Scotland, where we had heard the first cloned sheep, Dolly, was located. It was neat to read all about the experiment and see her in person! We returned to the Elephant Cafe (JK Rowling's hotspot) and bought a cup of coffee hoping to be inspired to write a fantastic book. I sat at the table where Rowling sat, signed my name on a napkin (she began writing HP on napkins because she was so poor!) and stashed the napkin in a hiding spot in the cafe. I hope I left my mark! Finally we headed back to the city and did some last-minute shopping where I bought a couple new dresses and an Edinburgh sweatshirt. We grabbed our luggage from the hostel and waited in the train station with other Harlaxtonees. We arrived back at Harlaxton (I was so happy to see home!) around 11. I showered and Clay and I traded stories on the weekend (he and Chelsea went on the school trip) and I welcomed my warm bed as I froze nearly all night every night in the hostel!
The trip to Edinburgh was so amazing. It was great to have almost three full days to do all the awesome things we got to do. How lucky am I to be having this experience? I still can't even wrap my mind around it. I'm already a fourth of the way through my time here! I miss so many things about home (mostly food, people too, but mostly food--haha) but I know I won't be ready to leave when the time comes. This is seriously just my perfect world. I love it so much.
Monday began the week of epic academicness as I had two tests on Tuesday (psychology and theatre); I had to read an entire play (Henry IV--thank you Sparknotes) Tuesday night but I also got to play soccer which was so amazing--I forget how much I love it until I play!; I went to London on Wednesday night with my theatre class to see the Pitmen Painters--a very enjoyable play and I got to spend time with Cassie, who is really cool and chill and we had some great talks in the ONE coffee shop that was open in London; Thursday night I had to read another play for my theatre class and I finally added pictures to Facebook--be sure to check them out! This weekend I'm staying at Harlaxton which I am thoroughly looking forward to. I had a meeting with my term paper advisor this morning, so I'm going to get started on research for that, catch up on other homework, and study for the British Studies quiz we have on Monday, followed by the British Studies test on Wednesday. Lucky for me, almost all the material we've covered since the last quiz surrounds Henry VIII--perfect! I'm sure we'll check out the nightlife in Grantham tomorrow night and as for tonight, a game of Catch Phrase is planned and I can't wait! On Sunday Clay and I are planning on spending the afternoon with our "family" which should be awesome. Next weekend we have a five day weekend (we have class today, Friday, to make up for it) and we'll be heading to Ireland. Another amazing trip is just around the corner. I hope all is well at home! Much love from England.