Encounters of (Out)Worldly Natures

Hi everyone!  Thanks for stopping by!  It’s 5:07, and I’m just finishing up this post to go out.  If you haven’t checked out my earlier post this week, I highly recommend you do, as it catalogs my first hand experience of going to a political rally.  Though that may have been the most interesting thing to happen to me during the past week, it certainly was not the only thing, and I have plenty of stories to share below.  Enjoy!

Class Update

Classes are going well, but I have to think about starting some of my papers soon as the first deadlines come mid-February.  In any event though, here is just a short update on what is going on with my coursework.

Gaelic:

I have a love/hate relationship with this course so far.  On the one hand, I find it to be very enlightening as it relates to the history of Scotland.  Though the history part of the course we are slowly but surely coming to understand how this language not only unified the land but became a large cultural divide between the highlands and lowlands.  On the other hand, the language is indeed difficult, and going to class 4-5 times a week is not something I’ve done since high school.  Out of all my courses, this one I feel will be the most challenging.  Most rewarding in the end, yes, but definitely a long road to travel.  Rudagh agus togadh mi às na Stàitean.

Introduction to Political Data Analysis (IPDA)

This is the one course where I need to particularly well in, so I am grateful that I am picking it up quickly.  Though I will likely have to do the most research for this course, the material is by far the most straightforward.  Having taken Research Methods back at CU is going to help me immensely (Thanks Rich!).  The course organizer Ugur (oo-er) is also a boss.  He just got his gall bladder removed last week and still showed up for the lecture today, wearing sweats and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shirt.  He ranted about the Greeks since he is a Turk, and basically confirmed my suspicions that everyone outside the States sees my country as a failing democracy.  Awesome.  Still though, he knows his shit, and I feel like I am in good hands learning how to do descriptive/inferential data research and analysis.

Political Thinkers

This is the one course in which I really don’t know how much I have to do.  Of course I will do the essential readings on the philosophers in question, but going beyond that just seems redundant, the reason being that we only need to write our one paper on one philosopher and our final is on two more of our choosing.  Far and away though, this course takes up the most time as far as reading goes.  I have already read the majority of De Cive and Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes, and I just recently finished A letter on Toleration and The Two Treatisies on Government by John Locke.  Having read Augustine last semester, I can see him clearly in the work of Hobbes.  Locke, however, I am more interested in, as his work inspired a great deal of the U.S. Declaration of Independence and our Constitution.  Since I will be exposed to these two for the longest amount of time possible, I think I will write my essay on one of them.  As of now, I am feeling Locke for the simple fact that his words have resonated with me more as an American and that they portray a very interesting set of ideals on rebellion, especially when concerning politics like we see today.

Overall, I am trying to find a balance between wanting to explore/have fun and devoting time to my coursework.  Considering all I want to do is concerned with the former, I probably need to be extra careful about knowing when my essay deadlines are.  That too is a problem, as I am not used to having one or two assignments per class per semester.  While it means that I literally only have to do a few things, it does mean that I need to find more than a few references, make sure my grammar is on point, and that I spit poetic plasma onto the page.  Simple, no?  To be honest, I am a touch concerned about it, but I know someway, somehow, I will get it all done.  In fact, I probably will start this week, if all goes to plan.  In any case, for ten week courses the pace doesn’t stop, and I’ll be damned if I let myself fall behind.  *Cracks knuckles*  Bring it on.

A Close Encounter

Where to even begin with this night … might as well start at the beginning.  My evening began with an API excursion to Mary King’s close.  For those who don’t know a close is just another term for alley or side street, though there is always some shops or homes lining the way.  Before the city of Edinburgh expanded into the old town, the city was essentially just a plethora of closes and alleys on either side of the Royal Mile.  Since the population was so dense, sometimes the homes would be stacked up to ten stories high, and passersby on the bottom tiers could hardly get any natural lighting as the cramped quarters blotted out the sunlight.  Mary King’s close was but one of many of these places, yet when modern development overtook the city builders used this particular close as a foundation for government buildings.  Used as storage space until the powers in charge realized that they could make a profit of off tourism, Mary King’s still exists as a relic of a time long past; a place where one can truly understand what squalor looked like in times long ago.

Sadly, since it is underneath a government building I was not allowed to take any photographs of the close itself, but I will try to attempt to describe it as best as I can.  In the meantime, here are some pictures I took of St. Giles Cathedral while we were waiting for Tara to show up and guide us to the event in question.

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St. Giles monument, our common meeting ground for immersion events.
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The attention to detail of this place truly is awe-some.

As we descended down the 37 steps it took to get us to the base of the close, I could not help but notice just how cold it began to get.  What once was a major causeway was not buried underneath multiple stories of bedrock and foundation, giving the close an eerie feel to it.  The main path of the close sharply dropped to a steep incline, as in days past the commoners, all of them, would empty their sewage into the street at two times during the day where it would flow down into the local loch, their sewer and water supply.  Perhaps it is just coincidence that the area now constitutes the Prince’s Street gardens, or maybe they realized just how rich the soil was with natural fertilizer … In any case, the remants of the close still rose three stories above our heads, and our tour guide brought us into narrow, cramped rooms that would house multiple families.  Truly, this was where the less fortunate of society lived.  With such terrible conditions, it is no surprise that when the plague hit this area was attacked particularly harshly.  The vast amounts of death have given Mary King’s a reputation as being distinctly haunted, and as we leaved in between and under 400 year old walls made of paper and horse hair I couldn’t help but to keep checking my shoulder to make sure there weren’t any shadows that were out of place.  This was particularly true when we visited Annie’s Room, where supposedly a physic had a close encounter with a young girl, Annie, who claimed to have been abandoned when struck by the plague.  What is curious about this is that the girl claimed that she wasn’t sad she was abandoned, she was just said because she lost her dolly.  So, today Annie’s Room is loaded with donated dolls and gifts to honor this young girl, and the Close has a donation box where they donate to children’s hospitals in her name.  We were not able to contact Annie ourselves, but nonetheless the tension was palpable as we were all waiting for something to happen.  Admittedly, I may have been a little too on edge, as in one room their appeared to be just paintings of the residents, but this was not the case.  In fact, three of them were projections, so when one of them started talking I jumped out of my skin and made a scene in front of the whole API group.  I don’t think they were particularly impressed with my raging masculinity, but we all got a good laugh out of it.

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I lied, we did get one photo out of the tour.  Props to Tara for snagging this one.

It is hard to say just how unique the close is unless you actually have a chance to go there.  The crumbling walls and eerie atmosphere will inspire claustrophobia in even the most adjusted person.  History buffs will love the story that the tour guides tell (they do a damn fine job, too), and appreciate that the place is a living relic of what once was.  All in all, it was a neat little excursion and a great way to immerse myself into the city.  There is a reason why it is such a tourist destination, and from my experience I would have to conclude that it is a “must-do” during a trip to Edinburgh.  If you want a visual of the place, Most Haunted (U.K. Ghost Hunters) did an episode here, which I will link below:

Poltergeists and Zip Lines

Despite the fact that we had no luck finding Annie herself at Mary King’s Close, the night was far from over, and before the end of it another adventure into the realm outside my own would unknowingly come to pass.  But first, let’s talk about the events immediately following the trip to MKC.  Lawson, Allison, Sarah, Emily and I decided to go grab a couple drinks to start the evening.  We eventually found this little place out of the way and sat down to discover that the live music for the night was going to be lit.  Kings of Leon, Mumford and Sons, and The Killers all resonated within our eardrums as we grabbed a round of tequila shots and I sipped down a couple Blue Moons.  Life was good, and the company was better.  Despite the fact that the couple next to us were basically performing softcore porn in the corner of the bar we nonetheless had a wonderful time just chatting and letting our worries be drowned under a gentle tide of some fantastic festive spirits.  As our exhaustion set in. our party decided to wander back to HC at around 11 or so.  Along the way Emily stopped for pizza and we attempted to convince her to call us an Uber for the rest of the half mile trek back home.  No dice, we had to walk.  Oh well.  In any event the stroll was nice and I showed off a bit of my urban parkouring skills by hopping about these little guardrail-stone things on the side of the road.  I also tried to claim that I knew my trees, until Allison quizzed me on one that lined the sides of St. Leondard’s Street, of which I had no answer for.  It wasn’t a maple, I can tell you that much.  In any event, upon our return to HC we found the other half of the API squad just heading out.  Not quite ready to go to bed, I quickly dropped off my camera and a little highland glass cow that I bought as a souvenir from MKC, rushing back downstairs where I met up with the rest of the gang.

The destination, Three Sisters.  The route?  Well that’s where our group divided, and how I came into the company of Bridie and her flatmate, Chris.  As the others went down Nicholson, we realized that there was a much more direct route down St. Leonard’s and onto Cowgate.  [side note:  Cowgate is the road for nightlife in Edinburgh.  Home to the Hive, Opium, Espionage, Three Sisters, Brew Dog, Sneaky Pete’s, Bongos, and a plethora of other clubs and establishments, this is the place to be when going on a night out with the squad.]  As we made our way into Three Sisters, our three person party saw no sign of the other group, who we figured must’ve gotten turned around along the way.  Not wanting to wait up for them, we got right down to business, as I grabbed some more tequila and a pint to match.  As we jammed out to the Killers, Evanescence, and old school 90’s music, our small little group had a blast showing the place just how well Americans can dance.

Of course, all things must come to an end, and at 1 o’clock the bar at the Three Sisters began to shut down … so we went to Espionage.  This time around, there were no fish bowls to drink from; my small band of Americans and I free to wander the place as we saw fit.  We scoured each floor, seeing what was up and who was where.  Truthfully, it was dead, so we did the one thing we Americans know how to do … make mischief.

Considering that Bridie and I had not seen any ghosts at MKC (we were actively looking for Annie together) we decided to take it upon ourselves to try and contact some spirits at Greyfriar’s Kirk.  That night, instead of freezing two feet from the doors of George MacKenzie, I walked right up and knocked on them.  I held my breath and waiting for the doors to be pushed back into my chest … but nothing happened.  Bravely, I clasped my fingers around the iron bars, expecting someone to hold them down … but no one did.  Brashly, I challenged George “bluidy” MacKenzie to speak to me … but he did not.  Nothing occurred at the tomb.  So, instead, we walked to the Covenanter’s Prison, where this happened:

 

  • I stuck my arm through the gates to record whatever sounds may come through.
  • Bridie, Chris, and I all heard the same sound of a plastic bottle smacking against a wall.
  • There were no people other than us in the immediate area.
  • I saw the bottle with my own eyes next to the wall on the other side of the gate, though I did not see the event occur.

I know not what truly happened there, but I do know what I heard, and what I saw around me.  Therefore, I firmly believe that I have audio evidence of an unexplainable paranormal phenomena that occurred at the Covenanter’s Prison at Greyfriar’s Kirk in the early morning of 28 January 2017.  Read it and weep, Zac Bagans.

Despite becoming professional paranormal investigators, our night was not quite yet done.  In fact, the most enjoyable part was still to come!  Not wanting to go the direct route home, we decided to travel through the Meadows (large park behind campus, eerie and known as a hotspot for muggings at night) to get back home (albeit with a bathroom break back at Espionage first, where we happened to run into Ian and Jack from API).  Along the way we stopped by a playground, where I got spun on a spinny thing until I fell over into the dirt … it was awesome!  We continued to walk until we found another, larger playground; and Ellie, also from API, happened to be there with her squad as well!  In such a large city we had found three of our comrades in under thirty minutes, which is pretty cool if you ask me.  At this place, we did what young, buzzed Uni students do at 2 a.m. – we played on the playground.  The highlight would have to be either spinning Bridie around on this balance swing, or the zip line.  Yeah, they have zip lines at their playgrounds here, and it’s awesome, especially with a bit of alcohol in your system.  Shaka Brah!  (+20 points to whose house of whomever guesses that reference correctly, + an extra 5 if you get that reference as well)

It was indeed late though, and feeling like a kid again was giving way to exhaustion, so at roughly 2:30 my small band of adventurers and I wandered back home, and I finally collapsed after a fantastic night of historical immersion, pub-crawling, club dancing, ghost whispering, and childish playing.  10/10 would recommend.

Eye of the Dragon

“Hey Cam, do you want to go paintballing today?” Lawson asked me on a fine Sunday morning.  “Sure”, I replied, “But I didn’t RSVP.”  I’ll be ok though, I thought to myself.  I’m sure they will let me in.  Well, they didn’t, and my hopes of shooting freshman in the shins slowly melted away.  Not gonna lie, I was pretty salty.  However, later I found out that the event was in Leith, all the way across town.  For an hour’s worth of PB, nah, that’s not worth it.

As it happened though, right when I got back to HC Noah texted me:  “Hey, there’s this Chinese New Year thing at Three Sisters, wanna go?”  Uh, yes, I would love to go.  Noah and I walked down the classic little bar, which felt strange to be at not being under a buzz or by dark of night.  To our amazement though, it was not the place we knew and loved, as the entire outdoor area was transformed into a neat little pop-up bar.  Five or six food stands lined the halls, and there was advertisements for “Lucky Buddha Beer” all over the place.  Don’t mind if I do!  I got a plate of Yakatori Chicken skewers with leeks and chili rice, a Buddha beer, and a fruit roll for desert.  It was awesome.  The beer tasted a bit like a plant which was interesting, but I didn’t mind because it was shaped like an actual Buddha … classy.

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Put that on Bon Appetit.

The vibe was awesome, and Noah and I were able to kick back and watch the Celtic-Hearts game on the big screen, which some of our API kin just so happened to be at.  Then it happened, out of nowhere these street performers came up and started to rock out.  They had the drums, the cymbals, AND A FREAKING DRAGON!  It was quite spectacular, and a fun little way to celebrate the Chinese New Year on a whim.

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Oh hey there bahd.
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Dope.
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The performers were super chill, so I had to get a photo.
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Noah and I embracing what just occurred in this little area.

So happy year of the Rooster everyone!  Let’s hope we all don’t cock it up somehow.

Calton Hill, At Night!

Following the events of the Chinese New Year extravaganza, I realized just how nice of a day it was.  So nice, I deemed, that a night photoshoot atop Calton Hill sounded like a brilliant idea.  At around sunset Lawson and I met up with Bridie in town and we made the trek up the hill to be the amateur photographers that we have become.  Here are some of my favorite shots:

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The lights of Prince’s Street just coming on for the evening.
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Looking to the North.
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By far and away my favorite photo of the shoot, and I didn’t even take it!
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A wild Lawson in his natural habitat.
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Yep, this city is damn beautiful.
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The professional photographers to the right of me chuckled at my small camera.
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THIS IS MY HOME!

Once it got too dark to see anything good, our little band wandered home.  Lawson went away to catch evening mass, but Bridie and I stuck together and grabbed take-away from Tikka Masala, a local Indian joint.  I have never had Indian food, but the Bodami Gosht (Lamb cubes in an almond sauce) didn’t obliterate my digestive tract like I thought it might have, so I was pleasantly surprised.  After dinner, we chatted for a while, and after a bit I walked home, filled to the brim with good vibes from the day that just occurred.

Being a Political Scientist is Hard

Politics.  Yeah, probably the most fucked up thing in the world right about now.  What a time to be majoring in the field.  For real though, who could have predicted that in under two weeks since taking office the 45th POTUS would remove civil rights and climate change from whitehouse.gov, name an alt-leftist his chief adviser and to the National Security Council, have one of his top advisers promote the spread of corruption and deceit, and elect countless unqualified individuals into seats because of their political affiliation (FUCK YOU BETSY DEVOS, FUUUUUUUCK YOU).  Oh yeah, not to mention the ostracization of an entire sect of people from the Middle East based solely on their locale (Yes, it’s not a “Muslim Ban”, but tell that to the #95 percent of people this halt of travel effects … Muslims.

Well fuck, I just read that the white house has plans to rid the nation of the EPA by 2018 … I am really not fucking proud to be an American right now.  Worldwide, people are either laughing at us or fearing our next move.  The Scots certainly are.  Thousands of people marched against this thing the other night (see my last post) all over the UK.  Even those who voted in this new regime are wanting to repent.

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99% of these people aren’t even American.  So don’t sit there and tell me something isn’t wrong.

Don’t get me started on conflicts of interest either.  Ever heard of the Emolument’s clause?  Yeah, it’s in the constitution, and our president is in deep violation of it.

https://www.brookings.edu/research/the-emoluments-clause-its-text-meaning-and-application-to-donald-j-trump/

Look, I get it, nobody wants to read a lash attack.  As a political scientist it is my duty to observe, report, and discuss in as non-partisan attitudes as I can muster.  But when something is this seriously fucking wrong in our political society, with repressed racism and ostracism becoming untied within society, then I can’t sit back and watch any longer.  I am legitimately frightened for the safety of Muslim’s and non-whites within contemporary society.  I am legitimately frightened that our planet can no longer handle the human footprint that is destroying everything beautiful on this green Earth.  I am legitimately frightened that my children will have to grow up in a society where it is the dollar that gets you gain, not your work ethic or human relationships.  I despise many aspects of what the human race has become, especially a quantifiable sector of the US population.

I know that some people will think I am overreacting.  They will tell me “that cannot happen”, “you’re being ridiculous”, “stop being a little bitch and deal with it, your candidate lost”, or even “fuck yeah! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”.  Naw, fuck all that.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but when the needs of the world outweigh the strength of personal convictions then I quite frankly really don’t give a damn between what is politically correct and what isn’t.  There is progress, and there is regression.  I think it’s a fair bet that in the past few weeks the world has regressed quite a bit socially.

Yet, here I sit, not in a position to do necessarily much of anything about it.  Regardless of who I call, what I write, or how I choose to take action, I am but one solitary person.  My reach is limited.  Powerless though, I am not.  So … I don’t know how, or in what capacity, but I am beyond determined to make sure that my country, and countries around the world seek peace, embrace new and exciting technology, invest in the education of all, work to rid racist ideology and differences that have divided us for so long, and attempt to unify all people on a global scale.  For better or worse, we are all in this together.

Here are some alternative facts for you:

  • The US is not a flawed democracy.
  • Americans are not the laughing stock of the world.
  • Betsy DeVos is great; very great; the greatest; her work will be so great, you won’t believe how great it is.
  • Militant liberalism and unrestrained conservatism are non-factors.
  • Being a political scientist in this day and age is the most boring, unfulfilling pastime.

To conclude this bit, I will not be taking the outro, but leave it to Trevor Noah, who so excellently grasps how fucked we are.

What the Hell is Skittles?

This Thursday, the API group was lucky enough to get a private round or two of skittles in at the Sheep Heid Inn on the other side of Holyrood park.  Essentially bowling with smaller balls (or larger ones without holes), the game is a staple of old-time sport.  The Inn in particular is relatively famous as well, as it was established in 1360, and is Scotland’s oldest surviving public house.  Today, it boasts much more of a modern atmosphere, and the quaint little pub and beer-garden offer a sublime retreat in the middle of the countryside. From the history flyer the patrons handed to us:

“There has been a pub on this spot selling liquor and victuals to weary travelers since around 1360 making it far and away the oldest licensed premises in the capitol if not the country.  The origin of our name is now a matter of conjecture and has led to many a heated debate over the years!  … The Sheep Heid has always been a gathering place for Edinburgh folk, particularly in our skittle alley, built around 1870.  The Royal Company of Archers, the City Sheriffs, the local regiment were all once regulars.  The last of the  old clubs to survive are the Trotters Club, who meet once a month still, and all are invited to join the select band in the country’s oldest surviving skittle alley.  This pub is a unique part of Scotland’s living, breathing social heritage and it has many, many more stories to tell so have a wander around and enjoy the atmosphere in ‘oor ain Sheep Heid!'”

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The sign may be modern, but this place definitely had an older vibe to it.
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The beer-garden was a nice little place to sit and chat while we waited our turn.

Now, for anyone that knows me, they know I am not good at bowling, which was no different in the two lane alley.  Split into two groups, “Team Scotland” (my team) and “Team Dudes” (the winners) we paired off and held a friendly little competition over six rounds or so over the course of two hours.  I was paired with Bridie, and while we both struggled early she rallied to kick my ass on the scoreboard in the final two rounds.  Good game Chicago, I owe you a beer.

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Located in an old stable, the two lane skittle alley made the experience much more intimate.
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Keeping score, old school style.
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I’m still trying to figure out motion capture images, but this one was the least blurry.  Thanks to Noah for the photo cred.

I made an open bet that if I got a spare or a strike during the evening that I would get a tattoo by the end of the semester.  I got one 9.  Perhaps it is not meant to be, but now the wheels are turning in my head.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll go home with some ink.

Overall, the experience was a nice little break from reality.  It was good to compete with my new friends and have a laugh or two.  Moreover, I now know of a nice little pub within walking distance that I can go get a quiet drink at.  Though my team may have lost in the contest, it was still a successful, fun evening.  Another nice little story to add to the list, at the very least.

I Got 99 Problems But Laundry is 92 of Them

You know how you are never, ever supposed to wash your white clothes with red things?  Yeah, about that.  I may or may not need to go out and get a few new articles of clothing as as my blue and white baseball shirt, my brand new Uni Edinburgh shirt, and my white henley all went through the wash with my yet to be washed red sheets.  Really fucking dumb, I know.  I’ve been kicking myself for a week now because of how stupid it was.  I guess it can be looked at as an opportunity to get some new threads, but that costs money that I would rather not spend.  Ugh, this might be one of the hardest lessons I have to learn all semester.

On top of that, I’m just gonna rant about the laundry situation here.  For all of Hermit’s Croft (appx. 120 people) there are but two washers and two dryers.  One of the dryers does naught but steam your clothes as well.  Moreover, it would have been nice to know that you can’t use fabric softener in them, as I bought a whole bottle of it before I did laundry the first time.  Simply put, laundry is by no stretch of the imagination convenient here, but I am quickly learning to wear my pants for as long as I can, so long as they are not dirty or smell funny.  Definitely gonna be a good attribute to have when I do some more traveling and the capacity to do laundry may not be readily available.  I am so glad I brought extra pairs of socks and underwear, seeing as I can push my laundry day out to about two weeks’ maximum should the need arise.  I got this.

Observing Primates in Their Natural Habitat

There isn’t really a whole lot to say about this one sadly.  Last Saturday I went out to Prince’s street to try and find some new clothes and just see what there was to see, hopefully taking some good photos along the way.  Sadly, the day was right shit, and sleeting and wind made taking good photos almost impossible.  I had some wonderful hot chocolate at Hotel Chocolat, where I got an interesting brew, of which I write the next story about.  I also tried on pants all over the city, but found none that I liked for one purpose or another.  What can I say?  Designer clothes just don’t do it for me.  Also, what the hell is it with Brits and skinny jeans?  I swear that is the only style for menswear over here.  Give me a boot-cut, give me some durability, and DON’T GIVE ME THE DAMN BUTTONS WHERE A ZIPPER SHOULD BE!  I don’t think that is too much to ask, but maybe I am stuck in my ways.  Luckily, the day wasn’t ruined, as I did do a bit of souvenir shopping, and grabbed a nice little Adidas duffel bag which I figured I could use as a go-bag, something I can carry onto a plane and story a week’s worth of clothes or so while having room to bring things back with me.  In the coming weeks it should prove to be useful; because let’s be honest, suitcases are the most pain-in-the-ass things to lug about, and they immediately label you as a tourist, which could prove to get you accosted by people of all sorts.

I also stopped by the National Gallery of Scotland, located on the Mound.  I felt it might be good to get an artistic experience in while I was away … I was wrong.  There was nothing there that remotely interested me, and I could only help but chuckle as the posh sophisticants that inhabited the place used their magnified monocles and gave thought to a piece that I could have made just by smearing paint on a placard.  Seriously though, I have great respect for the arts, but all that abstract stuff just doesn’t interest me.  You want to see some real talent?  My relative Lynn back home could run the table against any of the artist’s work that I saw that day.  Check out her work here:

http://lynndpratt.com/index.html

Yeah, you can judge me for plugging my family, but in all seriousness, she is just that damn good at what she does.

Anyway, after the gallery I decided to wander back home, as the wind was finally starting to get to me.  It was a nice little day out on the town though, and people watching was fun.  While everyone is relatively unique, there wasn’t anything of interest worth pointing out I am afraid.  Maybe some other day.

An Ode to Chocolate

Oh you dark, malty ale, coat my throat and make me sail

into a blissful state, where near and far no one can relate;

for you, my date, are not of an ordinary scene,

as even the lagerheads know not your gentle glean

of a dark amber liquid, fresh and warm,

that at this very moment makes this place feel a bit more like home.

For you are made with cocoa, the fabulous bean;

wreathed with a hint of dark chocolate oh so serene.

My nostrils, they tingle, my tongue, it dances,

my legs, they stumble, but my throat, it romances.

So save me this night, and be my guide,

as I look deeper down where my private thoughts do lie.

Make them true, make them honest;

this brilliant feeling – no – nothing can stop this.

So here’s to you, my long necked friend,

for you help keep my sanity, even at my wit’s end.

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Savages

I have been trying not to admit this fact to myself for a while now, but I think it is probably the right time that I do.  Hermit’s Croft is a trap house.  The Ellis Hall of Edinburgh.  Here, where there is no lift, and 120 people share but two washers and two dryers.  Here, where the local cat regularly stops in and sleeps in resident’s rooms (looking at you, Saskia).  Here, where as I write I can hear the flat above my own turning up as well as outside, for they have invented a four story beer funnel that slides liquid goodness down to whomever may be waiting down below.  I can hear them singing (or trying to sing) “Juice” by Chance.  At this point it’s all jumbled up anyway.  Did I mention it is 10 pm on a Wednesday?  Yeah, the weekend never stops here, and every night is a new opportunity to go out.  Now, don’t think I am necessarily upset about this; as long as they leave me to fall asleep in peace by around midnight I’ll be OK … but that might not happen.  I am one to talk though, as I am currently finishing my Bergerac from dinner – straight from the bottle.  You can take the people out of America, but you can’t take the America out of the people.  Simply put, college students in the States are savages.  You can take that however you please, but at the end of the day, college is college, and uni is uni.  To each their own, I suppose.  Rage on, you crazy kids.

Cameron of a’ Ghàidhealtachd

The Ghàidhealtachd (pronounced gayle-taalhk) or the highlands, is the ancestral home of the Gaels and of the Gaelic language.  As far as I know, no Frasers or Grants/Pratts came from here, but that’s not the point, I just thought it was a clever way to introduce the true point of this section – I bought a book.  Yes!  Imagine that, just buying a book for fun while abroad.  “But Cam, you are so busy!  How will you have time to read for fun?”  The truth is, I don’t know really.  I figured that if I was on the train or a plane or something I would at least have something to read.  I have not been this excited about a book in a long while, as the title of this book is Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T. E. Lawrence, otherwise known as Lawrence of Arabia.

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The unsuspecting cover almost made me bypass the book entirely.

I have heard the name countless times over the past twenty years, and for most of it that time it provoked images of a faraway land, rife with heroic acts, ancient cultures, and wars unimaginable.  To an extent, I am not far off from the truth, as the deeds of Lawrence are known to history as extraordinary, especially since they are so well documented.  That being said, he was but one man who happened to be in the right place at the right time.  He was not from Arabia, but nonetheless helped lead the Arabs to countless victories against the Turks during WWI.  If I’m being honest, it was playing through Battlefield 1 that really sparked my interest in this man and his deeds.  The whole concept of leading a nation not your own to victory stimulates my psyche on so many levels.  For months leading up to my trip I dreamt of waving a Scottish flag or wielding a megaphone to inspire a crowd should another referendum come to pass.  I could be the voice of an outsider, nonetheless inspiring the people of one nation to fight for their wellbeing.  Call me a dreamer, but I didn’t feel it outside the realm of possibility.  Lawrence did it for one nation, so why not me for another?

In any event, I am truly enjoying the work so far, even though I am only through the introductory chapter.  Nevertheless, I am finding his words truly do resonate with me.  Therefore, each week, if I have read a bit further, I would like to share a particular phrase or two with you all in hopes that you too may think about far away lands and understand that one person has the capacity to do great things.  I don’t think I will give context unless it is necessary, so that you may decide for yourself how to interpret it.  This week’s passage is from the introductory chapter:

In these pages the history is not of the Arab movement, but of me in it.  It is a narrative of daily life, mean happenings, little people.  Here are no lessons for the world, no disclosures to shock people.  It is filled with trivial things, partly that no one mistake for history the bones from which some day a man may make history, and partly for the pleasure that it gave me to recall the fellowship of the revolt.  We were fond together, because of the sweep of the open places, the taste of wide winds, the sunlight, and the hopes in which we worked.  The morning freshness of the world-to-be intoxicated us.  We were wrought up with ideas inexpressible and vaporous, but to be fought for.  We lived many lives in those whirling campaigns, never sparing ourselves: yet when we achieved and the new world dawned, the old men came out again and took our victory to re-make the likeness of the former world they knew.  Youth could win, but had not learned to keep: and was pitiably weak against age.  We stammered that we had worked for a new heaven and a new earth, and they thanked us kindly and made their peace.

All men dream: but not equally.  Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible.  This I did.  I meant to make a new nation, to restore a lost influence, to give twenty millions of Semites the foundations on which to build an inspired dream-palace of their national thoughts.  So high an aim called out the inherent nobility of their minds, and made them play a generous part in events:  but when we won, it was charged against me that the British petrol royalties in Mesopotamia were become dubious, and French Colonial policy ruined in the Levant.

Final Remarks

Had I included the protest in this post, it would by far be my longest one yet.  But that’s OK, as the protest deserved its own, exclusive section.  This week was a lot of fun, as I got to do a lot of things I haven’t done before or would not do otherwise.  Behind the scenes, plans for future events are being made, and I can guarantee that there will not be a shortage of content to write about in the near future.  This blog, though time consuming, is extremely rewarding to me, and I am proud of my work thus far.  I am getting more excited about it by the day, especially now that I have figuring out how to edit raw bits of film and photo better that I can share with you all!  Sadly though, I have to buckle down and write some papers in the near future, so those may take away some time from doing this.  It’s life though, and why I am abroad in the first place (well, one part of it at least).  In any case, thank you again for stopping by.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any comments, questions, or even ideas for how I could improve this blog!  I’d love to do a Q&A at some point in the future too, if I get enough questions to come in.  But that is for another time, and I should make dinner before going to Modern Dance Society.  As always, thank you for your support.  See you all next week!

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