Where to even begin? The past few days have without a doubt been some of the longest in my entire life. Of course, I do not mean that in with any sort of negative connotation but it is fair to say that I am quite simply exhausted. My journey to Edinburgh has quite a few bits and pieces to it, so let’s start at the beginning.
Imagine the single longest amount of time you could sit down and be comfortable. Flying to Heathrow will test you in this regard. Though it was necessary, it was not particularly enjoyable. To be honest, it probably wasn’t as bad as I remember it being, I’m just a little salty that I wasn’t able to get some sleep. As hard as I tried to do so, the light from tv screens in the seats in front and next to me made it too distracting to even attempt to get some shut eye. Luckily, I was seated next to a nice girl, Tess, who was pleasant to talk to. She too was off to study, but only for a week or so in Athens, Greece. Unfortunately for her, London was only the halfway stop on her journey, but her spirits seemed up for it and she was nonetheless a good person to be around. Neither of us were particularly impressed by the in flight meal, though I did find it amusing when they asked if I wanted some wine for dinner. Why yes … yes I would enjoy some. Ahh, my first legal drink. Such a shame it tasted more like something that could treat wounds instead of complimenting my food. But I digress.
Much to my chagrin, it was not a direct flight, and I had to weave my way through Heathrow to get to my connection. I had just under an hour to get to my next flight, and boy if I didn’t use the majority of it. Luckily though, I didn’t board the bus to the wrong terminal (which I almost did), I had all my documents for my visa (thankfully there were no lines), and I managed to strip down and go through security in a timely manner [side note: taking off your belt is probably the single most inconvenient thing when going through airport security]. Long story short, I arrived at my gate with roughly ten minutes to spare, though to onlookers they must’ve assumed I just came from the gym. In any event, it was only an hour from London to Edinburgh, so I got no sleep on my second flight either. There was a gorgeous red full moon in the sky as we took off from London. Sadly, I did not snap a photo of that, nor did I of the Edinburgh city lights as we descended. I had made it. Thankfully, so did my baggage, and as I fist pumped my way out of arrivals, I knew that my journey had truly begun.
A wee bit windy
Once we had met up with my API contacts Tara, Callum, and our bus driver, whose name escapes me, my fellow API kin and I departed Edinburgh Airport and sat in silence taking the whole scene in. This city is incredible. Everything old is matched with something new. The streets are remarkably clean, as well, and you can really feel the energy as you move around. You can also feel the wind too. Aye, it is windy here, though we were told it was abnormally so on our arrival day. Regardless, Tara and Callum took us on a small tour of the city after we dropped off our bags at our residence, which I will talk about shortly. I’ll say it here now, the first thing you notice about the Scottish people is their sense of humor, for it, in a word, is glorious. Not just between Tara, Callum, and our driver, the whole city is this way. Everywhere we went you could hear witty banter between two or more Scots, usually with plenty of “bloody’s”, “fuckin’s” or “wee’s” interlaced throughout. And yes, we went all over. Though I still have to really explore the Royal Mile and Prince’s Street, we got a pretty good tour of the area surrounding the campus and our accommodation. For lunch, we ate at The Elephant House, where supposedly J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter. Considering the place has the Edinburgh Castle in full view outside the window, I could see why it would be a good place to write.
Further touring and orientation presentations followed that day, but it wasn’t over after we were released from our API coordinators. It was just barely 5 pm, and the night was still very young.
5/5 and Haggis
Our accommodation is a fairly nice building. Myself and the other API students live in Hermits Croft, and older dorm about 15 minutes from campus by foot. My apartment 5/5 is shared between two of my API kin, Saskia and Lawson, another study abroad student, Mckenna, and a Frenchman who was here last semester, Fabian (a.k.a. Fabio). We all get along just fine, and I am happy that they are all wonderful people. #fivefiveforlife Our bedding packs, though, were simply shite. I can’t even begin to describe how shite they were. Needless to say yesterday a few of us went to this bargain store that has EVERYTHING and got new sleeping material. Speaking of which, Nicholson St. is going to save my butt so much this semester, it’s right near my apartment and has everything I could need to survive here. Moreover, Lidl is cheap. Like 79 pence for a couple pints of milk cheap. Pounds go a long way towards food here, but I am not adept at cooking, so eating out may be more common than I wish it to be. On the plus side, Haggis is surprisingly good though. On our first night here the API crew went to a welcome dinner-esque thing at Teviot Rowhouse, the student center. It’s a freaking castle. It has two (!) bars. It has a stuffed moose head. It has two study rooms, a game room, and a cafe… Sorry Castleton, UE gets the nod for the better student center. Anyway, at this place they served us haggis for dinner, and I dug in. If you want a description of the taste, think of it as a combination of meat, rice, and spices. Not too shabby. After, a few of us decided it was only fitting to end our day at the pub. So we wandered around and tried to get into one. Then they asked for our passports, and none of us had them on our person, so we got kicked out. Instead, I bought a 4 pack of Guinness extra bold and we drank them down in 5/5 until we couldn’t stay awake any longer. 37 hours without sleep later, I finally went to bed.
Yesterday was all about orientation. Safety talks from Tara and Callum, and presentations by the University. Nothing too special to report there. It was during our midday break that some API kin and I explored and got better bedding. During the evening though was the highlight of the day. We traveled to and ate dinner at the the Old Bell Inn. Oh. My. God. It was delicious. I had some venison something or other and some true fish and chips. Wow.
After the merriment of this meal, someone said, “Let’s go to the pub!” Who am I to refuse such an offer? This person, also API, is here for the whole year, so she directed our party down to Three Sister’s Pub. Built with an outside bar and into the ground itself, this place had the true feel of a bar that I wanted to be at. So I did what anyone would do. I ordered two shots of Disaronno, downed them, and ordered a pint o’ Guinness as a chaser. Did I mention it was also karaoke night? With some peer pressure, I was the first one to go on stage, where I belted Taylor Swift’s “Trouble” for all to hear. Needless to say I downed the rest of my drink after that. The night ended shortly later, as Lawson and I walked home where we could finally get a good night’s rest.
Today, my only obligation was to confirm my attendance at UE with the Visiting Student Offices. I was assigned a meeting at 2 so I decided to wander and do a little shopping. First things first, I found the gym and purchased a semester membership for £75, which I felt was acceptable. Luckily it is on the same road as my accommodation, about 3/4 of a mile away. After that I went to the university store and got myself a sweatshirt and shirt to match, for I did need some more clothes than just the ones I packed. After, I strolled over on a whim to Greyfriars Bobby, which is the featured picture for this post. The story is that this dog, whose breed is not known to live long, waited 16 years for its owner to return. Legend has it you gain good luck if you rub the statue of Greyfriar Bobby’s nose, which I had to do of course. I toured the cemetery behind the pub, and walked back to make my meeting.
VSO was very nice, and all I had to do was confirm that I was indeed taking classes this semester. Moreover, I managed to get into one of the courses that would count for major credit back home that was full when I first applied (hell yeah!). After this, I went truly food shopping, and for about £9 I was able to buy all the vegetables that I could carry plus some ready to eat chicken that I will likely prepare in an hour or so.
The first step
That about leads up to the present moment of time, and Saskia, Mckenna, Lawson and I are about to go out to get some more supplies and probably something to drink for later tonight. I suppose this is where most people would discuss their homesickness, but I’ve simply been too busy to think about it. However, as I am now free from orientation, I may start to feel it in the days to come, but I will keep an eye on it and report back how I am feeling at a later date. I will say this though … for the few days I have been here, I know that I am meant to do this. For every cost that this trip has there are 5 more gains that replace it. I have a lot to learn and frankly not a lot of time to do it in. Classes only last for 10 weeks or so here as well, so much of my learning will probably not be done in Edinburgh as I will have ample time to go and do whatever I wish. Truly, I do not know what I will do during that time, but as of right now, the natural pools of Iceland seem nice. I also hear Barcelona is beautiful in the Spring … But that is for another post. It is just about time to wrap this one up I think. Midway through this paragraph I paused and went with my flatmates to the store. I’m not sure how often the Scots see 6 Americans openly carrying beer and liquor home, but they can watch since I have a 12 pack of Magners sitting next to me. I’ve never had it before but I hear good things. Making dinner is more of a priority right now though. I have some chicken thawing in the kitchen and am going to make a salad with it. Simple, but it should suffice. I’m definitely going to need to figure out how to cook more things though, because I can’t live off of protein shakes (found a store that has protein powder!) and eggs for my time here. It’ll all be O.K. though, and so will I.
A Gaelic saying, it is a toast to your health and mine. I learned it when I was being introduced to haggis the other night. Already, I have spoken it a half dozen times or so, and I presume that before this is all said and done I will say it much more. [Side note: just finished dinner; I’m proud of myself] I am sure there will much more to celebrate as the days come to pass. Hmm, there’s a caleidh happening at Teviot right now. I don’t think I’ll be able to make it tonight, but I’m positive it won’t be my final opportunity. 5/5 is going pub hopping later one, so I’ll definitely be in tow for that adventure. Also, I’ve found myself involuntarily talking in a Scottish accent every now and then. My API friends think it’s awkward and that I’m going to get hit by a Scot for doing it. They don’t say, however, that it’s a bad accent. Silver linings I suppose. Scotland is slowly sinking its claws into me, and I love it.
It has been a long few days. There is no doubt that I am completely out of my element and have a lot to understand about the world. Yet, that’s not to say that I am not up to the task. I’ve made it through 3 days. I’ve made my own dinner. I’ve eaten foreign food and not gotten sick (though I’ve had some tonsillitis since I left and it is rather aggravating). Next week I look to complete my assimilation to society and accomplish these things:
- Go to class. It’s an obvious goal but a steppingstone nonetheless.
- Gather my books. UE does not have a University Bookstore, but I hear that there is a local shop that sells them.
- Do laundry. Self-explanatory.
- Upgrade from travel sized toiletries. Still need paper towels, detergent, tissues, full sized body wash etc.
- Work out. It makes me happy, and since I have a membership I damn well better use it.
- Register with the campus doctor. Apparently you have to pay out of pocket here and then get reimbursed. Not a huge issue since I don’t plan on getting sick but it’s nice to be prepared just in case.
Small goals, yes, but they set the tone for taking action and getting things done. Of course I will explore when I can; I’ll probably head up to Prince’s Street tomorrow and do some serious shopping. But that is tomorrow, and tonight is tonight. For now though, I’m feeling good, and I am certainly going to enjoy this Magners. Till next time.