Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Oban and Isle of Seil

September 20, or 20-09-14

Started off early for our trip with Isuk Tours and left at 8 am. First we went to Loch Lomond, the biggest loch in Scotland, and took a stop at the village of Luss. The tiny town itself was very picturesque, and the view of the lake -loch- took me back to reading that monster of a book, The Mists of Avalon. Fun fact: there's only one lake in Scotland, which was named by an Englishman. The rest are lochs, not pronounced 'lock', but more with a rougher 'g' sound.

Cloudy in the morning, but it made for some really cool pictures
There were flowers everywhere

I fell asleep a little on the drive to our next stop, but woke up for a little to see the start of the Highlands, and I'm really glad I did. The mountains here are a result of glacial carving, so they look a lot different than the mountains at home. I didn't do that much research about the Highlands before I came to Scotland, so I was expecting rolling hills for some reason. Nope!

Oban, the seafood capital of Scotland was next. The weather cleared up and it was a gorgeous day; seriously, we've been so lucky. We went to McCaig's Tower, saw the ruins of Dunollie Castle from afar, some great views, and tried to catch a parade, except that the parade went the opposite way of where we were sitting. We had fish and chips with our hands, and I really enjoyed it! Super greasy though. 

At the Atlantic Bridge, or the Clachan Bridge, stopped to take pictures of the Atlantic Ocean, which was around 20 feet wide at this point! It connects the Isle of Seil to the mainland, and although it is so close to the mainland, it is an actual island completely surrounded by water. It was interesting getting around on our bus; some of these roads barely pass as two lanes. The bridge itself is very pointed; we had to go really slowly to avoid scrapping the bottom. 

*not currently letting me add captions, but the first is the view of the Atlantic Ocean, and this is the Atlantic Bridge-pretty tiny

And our last stop was my favorite, a town on the Isle of Seil. Our tour guide, who is very enthusiastic, told us he knew a way up the hill/mountain that was very easy and took 10 minutes. We just had to jump a fence and follow him, because it other ways would be dangerous. As it turned out, it was still slightly dangerous, and it was probably a 20 minute walk up that sheep-poop covered hill. It was completely worth it, so I'll just let the photos speak for themselves. 

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Post indy ref

Quick update about indy ref:

That night wasn't as exciting as we thought it would be. We were also told a lot of the bars would stay open until the results were in, as in 6 am. When we actually got out, most West End bars were closing, and no one was out on the street. There were a lot of people in George's Square in city center, but that's an hour walk and the subways were closed. Kaitlyn and I ended up snacking and watching the referendum screening at uni. When we ran out of snacks at 2:30, and there were only a couple results in, we headed back for the night. I wasn't that surprised when the No's won; as they keep on saying, it did seem like they were the silent majority.

So not as exciting as I hoped, but there was a huge turnout, and everyone participating in democracy was cool. But it will be interesting to see how even more power will be devolved to Scotland in the coming months, as Westminster promised. Then it has implications for UK as a whole, as Northern Ireland and Wales will probably get power too! So from that standpoint, there is a lot of action still yet to take place.

Here's a gratuitous pic of me with the Scottish flag, or Saltire

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Indy Ref! Just some thoughts

First of all, can we talk about how the hashtag on social media for the independence referendum is #indyref?? How cute is that. I'm pretty sure no secessionist movement has had a more adorable hashtag to call their own.

Being here while this is going is just so cool. That being said, here's my prediction: if the energy in the air counted for anything, the yes campaign has already won. But in actual votes I do think the no campaign will win this one. The yes campaign goes for the heart, and it is easy to stir national pride for them. But the no campaign goes for the head, and cautions people that the future is very uncertain if they do break away. Head over heart I guess!

Some interesting things I've read in the many articles I've seen, and possibly what the average American wouldn't know:

  • There's a law in the UK that the news cannot publish what individual voters have voted.
  • If you're undecided, you're more likely to vote no- you're not suddenly going to jump to this big (huge) decision that you want everything to change.
  • The queen has not come out and said what she thinks of the whole thing- the only thing she has said is that everyone should think very very carefully before voting. 
  • Buckingham Palace issued a statement which read: "The sovereign's constitutional impartiality is an established principle of our democracy and one which the Queen has demonstrated throughout her reign."As such, the monarch is above politics and those in political office have a duty to ensure this remains the case."Any suggestion that the Queen would wish to influence the outcome of the current referendum campaign is categorically wrong. Her Majesty is simply of the view this is a matter for the people of Scotland." -BBC News
  • There are funny tweets about how J.K. Rowling would become the next queen of Scotland.
  • Some businesses who have openly signed a letter backing the no campaign and staying with the Union have been supposedly threatened and harassed for it. 
  • They let 16 year olds vote for the referendum! (They got special permission just for this referendum) I think many will vote yes.

Polls don't close until 10pm; results will start trickling in at 1am. The final count is expected at 6am our time-not sure if I can stay up all the way, but I will wake up to see what it is! I'm not sure what to expect, either way, but here's to #indyref!!

Love having the posters and badges!

All the front pages are pretty cool today- my souvenir! 

Monday, 15 September 2014

City Centre

On Sunday I went into the city centre alone to check out the sights. I thought I wanted to shop (Glasgow has the best shopping in the UK outside of London) but I ended up enjoying the atmosphere the most!

I took the subway to the city centre; there's only one route, which goes in a circle both ways, so it's really easy. I got off on Buchanan, where there's a large pedestrian only street lined with shops, from huge department stores to a tiny tourist shop. I walked around a bit, but actually didn't feel like shopping, so I went down further to find George's Square which is filled with statues and is where the City Chambers are located. On the way, there were people campaigning on the upcoming (3 more days!) referendum on Scottish independence, giving out fliers and stickers and making themselves heard. I got to the square, took some pictures....

World War I monument

The Yes campaign emphasizes how Scottish are generally more liberal than the rest of the UK, and how they could control their own global politics with a yes vote

City Chambers plus Sir Walter Scott memorial

...When everyone started to hear horns beeping. Then we heard the beep of police sirens, and suddenly a long line of cars and trucks, all with yes stickers and posters and the Scottish flag, drove by the corner of the square. You could feel the energy in the air; the yes campaigners (yes they want Scotland to be an independent country) all came out and were whooping and showing their flags, police had to redirect the traffic, and there was a news helicopter overhead, adding to all the noise.

None of what I filmed capture that of course, plus the shakiness doesn't help so feel free to use your imagination!

I also stopped by the Duke of Wellington statue, who is crowned with a traffic cone on his head. The city drew up a plan to raise the statue so people would stop putting cones on his head, but withdrew after online petitions and plans for protests against it. I got lucky and when I visited, his horse had a cone too :)

I walked back over to the subway station, and stopped to listen to a band playing on the street, busking for money. I originally stopped because they were playing "Wagon Wheel" and man I'm glad I stopped! It was a band of 5 guys, with one main singer, and I think 2 banjos. I'm not usually into that kind of stuff, but they were really good! They covered "Hit the Road Jack" and newer stuff like "Wake Me Up" and "Get Lucky". They got a lot of money, and it turned out that day they were donating all of it to a local foodbank! I sat on a stone seat to listen to them, and every so often I could feel the subway underneath, rumbling. It was such a cool experience to listen to them with a big group of strangers, even singing along at some point. This is going to sound so cheesy, but it could only be described as electrifying and invigorating.

A big puppet for the Yes campaign also walked by while they were playing. The last song the band (Papa Shandy and the Drams) played was "Caledonia" which was very pretty, but also relevant. Caledonia is a Latin name for Scotland, and it has become somewhat of an anthem for Scotland. When they finished, people cheered really loudly, and the lead singer finished with "Vote yes!"

It was such a cool experience, and I'm so glad that I'm here to live it up more!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

First Week in Glasgow

This first week in Glasgow has been a much slower one, which means more sleeping in and a lot less walking!

We have so much time here in Glasgow that we've been exploring slowly but surely. There's another big park called Kelvingrove, and I explored that a little. With all the nice weather the parks have been full of people, many just lying on the grass enjoying the sun. (I think it's supposed to rain tomorrow! We'll see how it goes).
Kelvingrove Park-the grass is so green here

I met a fellow Ed Sheeran lover and we got tickets to his show on October 31!!!! I've been listening to only Ed Sheeran songs after that. Edward Christopher Sheeran we're coming for you!!! As you can tell, I'm very very very excited. Halloween isn't crazy like it is in the U.S. anyway.

We've mostly been doing housekeeping kind of things with the University so far. I've used their printer system in the library, got my gym pass, went to a couple orientation events, and seen both of their unions, Glasgow University Union and Queen Margaret Union. They each have their own building with bars, cafes, places to study, and associated clubs. Membership is free and they're still pretty open to the public too, so I'll probably be there a lot!
It looks like a castle in the distance, but it's actually just the University of Glasgow

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Some differences (out of many)

"Not better or worse, just different" -from study abroad handbooks on cultural differences
  • Obviously driving on the other side of the road- think I'm getting more used to it, but I wouldn't want to drive!
  • Most places you have to turn on a switch to turn on the shower, and then you just jump in and press a button to start the shower
  • The keyboard is different!! Not only do they have the pound, as in GBP, (and I think the euro) sign, they moved the hashtag to the side, and made the shift buttons smaller. Whatt
  • No elevators in many buildings, which means us lugging our suitcases up 3 flights of stairs to get to the 3rd floor, which brings me to my next point...
  • What we would call the first floor is 0 or ground floor to people in the UK, so our second floor is their first, our third is their second, etc. 
  • OH their fire doors. A lot of doors have to be kept closed to prevent fires from spreading I guess, but this also means they slam, very loudly, shut, all the time. Like during my nap today, I could hear them throughout my entire building. (Mmm, have to classify that as worse...I know there's something you can put on the hinge or the top that would let it close more gently!)

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Packing note:

All the study abroad packing lists said to pack light, so I did... But too light. When we got to the airport my bag was 43 pounds, which means I should have brought:

at least 2 more tops
hangers for my room
AND A SWEATSHIRT why did I not

But otherwise, I'm very happy with my choice of shoes, 3 is a good amount and they have all held up for days of lots of walking!

Monday, 8 September 2014

Days 5-8

Day 5 North Berwick:

Sophie and I went with our host family to North Berwick, a quaint seaside town. It was only a couple stops away from the train, and it was nice to see the countryside, the cows, the horses, and the hay. No Highland cows though. It's so funny because this version of a beach town and California's version of a beach town are so different. North Berwick is still very old, and styled in the same way as Edinburgh, not the modern beach style I'm used to seeing! We walked along the beach, and Max wanted to so badly to play in the sand, but we were heading up to the Seabird Center first. The wind picked up and I was glad for my jacket and the continuous walking. There were a couple rocky islands off the coast and looking back at the houses on the shore made for good pictures! We stopped for lunch, and finally Max could play in the sand, which he loved. Someone was actually swimming in the water- she said it wasn't that cold, which I highly, highly doubt. Especially because I'm used to Hawaiian temperature water. Then we walked the high street, which is what we would call the main street, and stopped in the cute shops, especially as it started to drizzle. Thank god it didn't start to rain until we were under the train shelter. I was still a little damp when we got back to their house, but it didn't matter because we warmed up with tea, my new favorite. :)

North Berwick

Beach houses-not like those Californian ones!

Day 6, 7, 8: Finally Glasgow!

I was honestly really sad to leave our host family but I'm sure we'll see them whether we visit again or they come to Glasgow. Sophie and I were dropped back off at our meeting point and from there all of us hauled our luggage to the train station. Once someone helped us arrange our luggage, it was a smooth 45 minute ride to Glasgow. Another staff member met us there and helped us get to our assigned dorms, or our flat. It's not bad, we each get our own rooms, furnished, with a kitchen and a common room for 4 (or maybe 5 if we have another roommate) girls. We just had to get a couple plates, mugs and utensils. None of us really cook, so we'll see how many pots and pans we really need.

So far we've had a bus tour of Glasgow for 2 hours, so we saw most of the big sites from the bus, and we registered our visas for orientation. Some of my roommates and I also walked 25 minutes to get groceries, and then walked those 25 minutes back with them! That's something I haven't done before, and it was an experience. My arms are still a little sore from it....
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Forgot what this was but how cute is it??
We walked around the campus a little too, and it's gorgeous. It's crazy old; it was founded in 1451 and is the fourth oldest university in the English speaking world! Thankfully the weather has been amazing- nice and warm and no rain so far.
My university, University of Glasgow
We've been spoiled by the great weather

There's been a request for more pictures of me, so I'll try... but doesn't this look like it's straight out of Hogwarts?!

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Days 3 & 4

Updating because it's fun except that I have to do it on my phone that is impossible to type on.

Day 3 Edinburgh 
More orientation blah blah blah but we did finally get to talk to someone from Glasgow University that had been emailing us and helping to set us up. We got our class schedules and found that a lot of us got the intro to Scottish culture class! Super excited because I've heard it's so popular that it's hard to get into! It was also reassuring to talk to her. She also explained where our apartments are-or flats.  They're all really spread out so a walk from one to the other can be 40 minutes away!!!

Next we had lunch which was nice because it was the first time all the Glasgow girls had lunch together! We'll be a good group. Then we had a tour of the National Museum of Scotland by this old adorable grandpa. He had a tweed coat, maroon pants, and a bowtie! He was actually a very fit one-he got up those stairs just as fast as we did! 
Then we went on to our homestay. Sophie and I were paired with a family together. All we knew was basic info and that they had kids! Steven, the dad, picked us up and we chatted on the way to their house which is in Wallyford, a suburb only 20 minutes outside of Edinburgh.

Wallyford is a very small town; mostly families living there that commute to Edinburgh. It's filled with small houses, and we stopped at one. When we got out a little boy was playing in the backyard, that was Max. He's a little shy and sometimes puts his face into the chair when he doesn't want to talk. But when he does want to talk, he will go on and on. The mom Pauline was really really nice (lovely as people would say here). We had dinner (also called tea) and talked a ton with the parents! They wanted to know all about us and what we did and helped us plan out the next day. Ellie their daughter came home later; she's hilarious because she's definitely in that teenager phase. Both Sophie and I have sisters that age too so we feel that pain. (Hi Julia). Basically we felt so welcomed and at home, and they're amazing!

Day 4 Edinburgh
The next morning we took a train to meet the rest of the Glasgow girls and the coordinator to take a tour of the Parliament at 11. After more walking and a wrong turn, we got to the building which apparently not very many people in Edinburgh like. It's extremely modern so it does stick out in skyline. It was finished in 2005 ish kinda don't quote me. It's right across from Holyrood Palace where the Queen stays for about a month in the summer! It was pretty cool to be in their debating chamber and learn how it worked again, but the hour went pretty slowly.

Afterwards, the coordinator took us up Carlton Hill where there were views of the entire city as well as the Acropolis of the North, aka the disgrace of Edinburgh and another tower. It was a small hike up so we were a bit tired coming down. Then we decided we wanted to see the Edinburgh Castle with our free entry, so we hiked up the Royal Mile, past all the gift shops and bagpipers. I also withdrew money for the first time, successfully, although my bank charged me $5 for the withdrawal.
Edinburgh Castle was pretty cool. There were basically mini museums all over plus views of the city from the opposite side. We went in the room Mary Queen of Scots gave birth, prisons, a chapel, a memorial, and got to see the crown jewels of Scotland which was pretty cool.

By that time we were pretty exhausted and wanted to find somewhere to eat. (And of course I was starving). Six of us ducked into a tea room and proceeded to have the worst time, although it was slightly comical. They had to give us two things for free because they forgot about them and took forever, were rude, and didn't know what we were talking about. The manager wasn't bad though, she was clearly upset we got bad service. 

After that we split up more and Sophie and I headed to Jenner's, the Scottish department store. It was huge and had so many different areas. Little beyond our price range though. Especially with the conversion. You constantly have to remind yourself that isn't its full price. By then it was time to meet Pauline after she finished work to take the train back home. We talked to her friend on the way back who happened to be the community/charity organizer for their department store, John Lewis, which is something I'm interested in. That was good to hear, and sounded really interesting, especially because John Lewis is very involved with charities and the like. 

In 20 minutes we were back at their house. Pauline prepared haggis, neeps and tatties, traditional Scottish food. Oh and black pudding. We didn't talk about what was in it until after. It really didn't taste bad! Haggis was okayyy, didn't really care for the texture, but black pudding wasn't bad! They're made from sheep intestine and blood and oatmeal, respectively. But neither is what I expected, especially because black pudding is like a beef patty toasted. No bloody taste at all. Neeps is like mashed turnips and tatties are roasted potatoes. I ate it all with ketchup on the side. Yay for trying new things!
Acropolis of the North, or Edinburgh's Disgrace (pretend that's me up there)
Edinburgh Castle!
It's hard to get a picture of all the castle because it's so big, but here's a group picture!

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Days 1 & 2

Hello all, from across the pond!

I wasn't originally planning to keep a blog while I was here, but once I got here, it was too hard to resist. There are so many things I want to tell people back home, and it will be nice to have something I can always look back on. (Assuming I get used to this blog writing business). Quick overview: I'll be studying at the University of Glasgow for 4 months this fall semester! I'm planning to travel in the UK and in Europe. I start at orientation in Edinburgh, go on to a short homestay, then onto Glasgow for 2! weeks of orientation, until I start school there!

Day 1 LA to Edinburgh: 

Good-bye's were hard; let's not talk about that. But I breezed through security, and was super early for my flight. My first flight was delayed upon landing for probably 30 minutes; Newark had experienced some thunderstorms, so other flights needed to come out before we could get to our gate. Once we finally got out, I tried to find the two other girls from my program on my flight, but didn't find them before we flew out. This flight was also uneventful, but I did sleep for the majority of it. I think all those different naps on my flights were what helped me defeat jetlag over here! 

I finally found someone in my program after we got off the plane, Kaitlyn! It was really nice to have someone else to go through the border with, find the bus, and get to the hotel with. It probably would've taken me twice as long to do it by myself, and it was nice to finally have company as well! We lugged our suitcases up a hill before we figured out it was the other way, down the hill. And these sidewalks aren't made for pulling suitcases behind you. We met some other girls in our program on the way over, and got lunch with them after! I was able to figure out my phone situation really quickly as well. We also explored a main street a little. By that time, we were exhausted and headed back to the hotel to finally check in and shower. Next was orientation- boring ish but useful. We walked from the inn to the Arcadia Edinburgh Study Center, which was a long walk, but by now I'm used to it. Then we walked back to the inn for dinner, and some people went out to the pubs but I just headed back to my room to relax and talk to the bf (Hi Jon). I'm pretty proud of myself for actually going to sleep at 10 and waking up at 5 ish, then falling back asleep until it was time to wake up for breakfast! Hopefully that fixes any time difference problems. 

Three funny things that happened in the hotel room: 
Figuring out that you had to keep your card key inside a slot near the door for the electricity to work- this took me awhile to figure out.
Figuring out that the shower water and the bath water worked on two separate systems-I kept on turning the bath water on and looking for some kind of knob to turn.
Showering in the NARROW bathtub- Not only do the sides slope really early, but of course the curtain is on the inside of the bathtub, so it makes it even narrower. To top it off, the bathtub sides are really high, so when I slipped on the side, I almost fell out of the bathtub.

Day 2 Edinburgh:

We had a pretty nice free breakfast at the inn, and walked back to the Arcadia center for more orientation. A University of Edinburgh professor came to talk about Scotland in cinema which was really interesting. We also got travel packs that showed where our homestay was going to be, a membership card, and other useful information. We, as in the group of students from Aberdeen, St. Andrews, and Glasgow, signed up for events that Arcadia puts on for us, and talked a little about the referendum.

We had a long break for lunch, and myself and 4 other of the Glasgow girls did the Harry Potter Scavenger Hunt, including having lunch at the cafe that J.K. Rowling wrote the first book at, Elephant House! We walked everywhere, and I actually got to know the city more. It looks so big on the maps, but is actually really manageable. I also figured out my phone data situation again, so I'm perfect with that. (Contact info below). We all went to an arranged dinner at a pub, where I had my first drink! Passionfruit and apple cider, for £4.30, which was perfect-not too strong, and nice and sweet. The food was okay- not that impressive but I got to know a couple of other people in my group. Again, people went out to the pubs, and I was going to go also, but once I flopped on my bed, and was on my phone for 5 minutes, I fell asleep for the next hour. I figure I have plenty of time later to go out to the pubs. And here I am now, showered and finishing my first blog post. I still have to pack my stuff up for check out tomorrow, and by 4, we'll be moving on to our homestay. Tomorrow is a little more orientation, and a visit to the National Museum before our homestay families pick us up. 

Pictures to come soon & here's contact info:

Emails for longer convos
UK number for emergency calls and texts (or it's up to you, you pay for it, not me!) 44-075-189-25098
Regular cell number for imessage ONLY! My plan is suspended so I can only reply on that when I'm on wifi, and I won't get normal texts at all
Whatsapp: I have a data plan with my UK phone, but to talk to me you have to put in: +4407518925098 to add me to your contact list. This is the best, fastest way to get to me for normal conversations. 

Greyfriar's Kirkyard, an old cemetery where JK Rowling found inspiration for some of the names in HP!
She supposedly left a clue to the ending of the books in the bathroom here!
In Edinburgh on the Royal Mile but can't remember the name