Let’s Talk

Howdy errybody,

This week’s post is going to be a little different.  I hate to say that there wasn’t much to talk about this week.  There weren’t any API trips, nor eventful nights out, nor any spontaneous journeys (sort of).  As it stands, my coursework is catching up to me, and I have devoted a lot of my efforts towards doubling down on it.  Nonetheless, I did find time to do a few things.  But, seeing as they are not particularly enthralling I think I’ll omit them.  In their stead I’m going to jot down some of my thoughts about being abroad.  Call it a reflection – I think it’s about time I had one after all.  There will be some staples of course, such as Arabian Revelations.  At the end of the day though it just wasn’t that exciting of a week.  Still, I hope you enjoy what I have to say.

Class Update

Gaelic:  Gaelic is … challenging.  I have my second in-class test next Wednesday, and I’ll be remiss if I don’t admit that I am less than prepared.  I did O.K. on the practice test we took this past week, but not nearly well enough.  It looks like I’ll be grinding out some studying over the next few days.  Ugh, oh well.  I will lye in the bed I make for myself.  However, I tend to be good in the clutch, so I’m hoping I can pull this one out.  Jeez I make it sound like I’m on a tight rope … Don’t worry folks, I’ll be fine.  I will put in the work and give it my all like I always do.  But should I not do as well as I hope I did learn that the final will not be based just on the language portion of the course – it will be a 50/50 split between the language and culture portions.  Now that I can get behind!

IPDA:  I am trying in earnest to begin my research paper.  All this week I have been gathering the necessary data for my hypothesis.  Basically I am trying to see if there is a relationship between “freedom” and GDP growth.  The data I need for that I think I have found in Freedom House scores (conglomeration of data that gives every nation a “freedom” score based on a number of factors), Polity IV scores (score from -10 to 10 measuring the type of government a country has; -10 being a complete autocracy and 10 being a total democracy), and GDP growth (readily accessible through the world bank).  While it seems relatively straightforward the process did not prove being so simple.  See I wanted to get averages for these data figures to really look for a trend.  To do this I had to pull each figure for each country from 2011-2015.  This essentially amounted to a lot of switching and copy/pasting from one Excel tab to another.  In the end, and at around 7-9 hours of data transferring later, I now have a table of 199 countries with various bits of info about them from 2011-2015.  Now I just to run the tests on said data in SPSS and write my research paper.  At least the hard part is over, right?

Poli Thinkers:  This week was all about Gandhi.  I found it interesting to learn that he wasn’t really as much of a pacifist as I had first thought he was.  Then again I really haven’t studied the man in much detail throughout my life anyway.  It is interesting to see just how involved in politics he became when his movement of satyagraha was mainly of a spiritual nature.  That, and the fact that he has as much to say about capitalism and colonialism based off of works by Marx.  Over the course of reading from multiple thinkers I can see a trend where they all build off of one another while creating new ideas of their own.  In truth it is kind of refreshing to see this metalevel of connection.  As Newton would say: “I stand on the shoulders of giants”.  All work is based on work that came before.  Who knows?  Perhaps maybe one day I’ll add my name to the chain.  For now though I must continue to study, and for this course I must commit to two or three thinkers to write on for the final exam.  As it stands I am leaning towards Simone de Beauvoir, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr./Malcolm X.  However, I have more pressing matters at hand in my other two courses, so for now this class is a bit on the backburner.  When the time comes I’ll pick up my readings in earnest, but not right now.

BIG Plans

April break is quickly coming, and with that the prospect of going all out on traveling.  As with Rome, I will likely not give too much away until the time of travel comes.  But, I will say this: it will not be a mere two day journey.  Two days per city perhaps, but not overall.  That, and I think my travels will be confined to but one country.  Planning for one nation is tough enough, and since I am still relatively inexperienced at this whole planning thing, I figured it would be in my best interest to not go too far overboard in my ambitions (my wallet will thank me later I’m sure).  That being said, I’m not really going to hold back either.  Tentatively, the trip is for 10 days.  Jes wants to accompany for the first 2/3rds of it all, but for the last bit I think I may be on my own, which is alright.  It’ll give me a chance to really fend for myself, and travel solo, at least for a few days.  The places I’m planning on going during that time are mainly in my own interests anyways.

I think I will bring my laptop along with me on this trip.  It took a ridiculous amount of effort to write up the post for Rome in but only a couple days when I got back.  That, added to the fact that I had no place to store my footage/photos (I only have a 16 gig memory card for my camera – I’d like to film, shoot, and edit during my down/travel time) made it abundantly clear that for longer trips a storage place was necessary.  Would I be concerned about the safety of my stuff?  Yeah, a little I suppose, but my lock is pretty decent and I have a bit of faith in humanity not to go rumaging though my things.  I can’t be scared of the people of the world, lest I turn into a xenophobe.

So yeah, like I said I don’t really think I should reveal too much in advance, but when the time comes you’ll hear and see me loud and clear.  In the meantime, I still have to book my flights, sort out my hostels, and get my final essay done (All this as of Monday, March 13th.  I’m hoping to have almost everything booked by Wednesday!).  There’s a lot to do, but I am up for the task.

[UPDATE:  It’s Wednesday.  I met up with Jes earlier and we booked every flight and hostel that we are sharing.  With that, all my flights and stays are set.  Aside from a train ride and a bus or two, all my travel expenses are accounted for.  Hell yeah.  April 6-16 is going to be one heck of a ride.]

It’s gon’ be lit.

Let’s Talk

Study Abroad … what’s it like?  Well, there’s a few layers to this question, so let’s me try to answer all of the bits I can think of.

How was adjusting? 

Fairly easy actually.  The beds at HC kinda suck but other than that getting into the groove of being back at uni came to me rather quickly.  I am a 3rd year after all.  Being away from home is an old hat at this point.  I’m just further away than I normally am.  No biggie.  I made my friends quickly through API, and the guidance from Tara as to where to buy food and supplies was incredibly helpful.  That, and Edinburgh is not hard to get around at all, so I quickly oriented myself to the layout of the place.

Do you miss home? 

Sure, who wouldn’t?  But as a political scientist I tend to pay close attention to the politics back in the States – I’m not impressed by what I’ve seen.  It’s hard to say I miss home when everyone around me here in Scotland despises a lot about the country where home is.  Politics aside, I never felt homesick.  As I said above I am used to being away from home by now; I’m just further away than usual.  I talk to my folks every week now (which I never did before), so it’s easy to keep up with what the happenings are back in the 802.  If anything, the parts I miss most have to do with sports.  As an avid Browns fan I follow their Bleacher Report feed constantly, and with the draft coming up I am beyond on edge to see what they will do.  March Madness is also on, and I miss watching all the games.  Of course, I can catch them on the NCAA app, but the times are weird and I normally have to stay up really late to see them live.  The time change is not helpful when I want to watch live American television.  Oh well.  But, if sports are the main thing I’m missing then I think I’m doing O.K.

What don’t you like about being abroad?

  • It’s windy … REALLY windy.  I knew the weather in the U.K. was shite, but damn it takes its toll on you.
  • The pound – as the exchange rate is roughly 1 dollar per .82 pounds I lose money every time I extract cash.  That being said the pound goes a little further on supplies, but drinks still run me quite a bit.  It’s not finacially agreeable.
  • Studying – Isn’t that why I’m here?  Yeah … it’s hard to do work when all you want to do is travel.  Oh well, a necessary evil, that.
  • Hermit’s Croft – Ugh, this place.  It’s O.K., but there are a lot of parts that irk me.  There is two washers and two dryers for 120 people, and half of the time one of each is broken.  The walls are also thin.  Moreover our shower runs out of hot water at roughly 1 in the afternoon.  Yay.
  • Driver’s:  U.K. drivers will not slow down if you are crossing the street.  I’ve almost been hit many a time but folks who won’t look for pedestrians.  People here got to get to where they got to go I guess.  That, and they drive on the wrong side of the road, which I will never get used to or understand.
  • Scaffolding: Everything seems to be under construction in Edinburgh, including a good chunk of uni.  It’s not a bad thing, it just takes away from the ambiance.  Also, my side is still bruised from eating shit on scaffolding four weeks ago.  I don’t feel any pain, but there’s still a small contusion and marking.  I guess I hit even harder than I thought!

What do you like?

  • The food.  Holy crap is the food good here.  Not only am I learning how to cook for myself, but if I want to eat out I can choose almost any cuisine from any country.  It rocks, and on average it’s extremely healthy too!
  • Working out – Pleasance gym is incredible.  I have access to top notch equipment as well as any fitness class I can think of.  While it’s always packed it doesn’t matter for the quality of muscle work I can put in.
  • The views – self explanatory: Scotland is b-e-a-utiful!
  • Traveling:  It’s so easy to book a flight and go anywhere I wish.  Having the freedom to just get up and leave is as exciting as it is refreshing.
  • Clubbing:  I LOVE DANCING AND DRINKING AND MEETING NEW PEOPLE!  Seriously, you can’t just stay out ’till 3 a.m. back in VT.  I am really going to miss this when the weekends hit back home.  At least I’ll be legal to drink when I get back (also, being able to buy drinks is so much fun).
  • The people:  Quite simply, the Scots, while they have an edge to them, are incredibly friendly.  You can’t get this level of hospitality back in the States (maybe in Georgia).  It’s awesome to strike up a conversation with a shopkeep or restaurateur on a whim.
  • Uni Edinburgh:  While I don’t like the studying, there’s no denying I’m getting a top-notch education at one of the best schools in the world.  Definitely going to add that to my resume.
  • The music:  Live music dominates almost every pub and every major street.  You just can’t beat the sound of bagpipes echoing down the Royal Mile; you just can’t.

Is it true?  Do you see the world differently?

You better believe it.  Studying abroad opens your eyes to the reality that is the rest of the world.  Taking a major step outside my comfort zone has exposed me to cultures and traditions that I have only read about or seen on a program.  To truly know the world you have to see it for yourself – not just vicariously through Instagram or YouTube.  Once the travel bug hits you there’s no removing it: you’re dominated by this urge to seek and discover the good AND the bad in this world.  I told my folks that I know the world can be a dangerous place, but if I live in fear from that reality then I miss out on seeing all the good that it also has to offer.  I think a lot of Americans are blinded by the veil of perceived danger that is portrayed by the mainstream media.  Sure, you should be careful anywhere you go, but you can’t deny yourself the experience of discovery just because the government says a place is dangerous … to an extent.  I wouldn’t go to Syria right now.  But Istanbul?  Egypt?  Israel?  Yeah, I’d go there (not that I’m planning on it).  Here’s my point.  By going abroad I have gained an understanding that Americans sort of live in a “bubble” from the outside world.  We see and hear what we want to see and hear – not the true reality of a given situation.  Part of that is motivated by personal conviction which is O.K., but if it stops someone from seeing all there is to see and immersing themselves in a new culture, then I feel that it just produces xenophobia.  I’m not trying to say that my being abroad has given me a higher status of interpretation than others, but it definitely has given me a new perspective on what the rest of the world actually is, which I think is particularly invaluable to my growth as a human being.  I dunno, maybe I’m full of shit, maybe I’m not.  You decide.

Bucket List for being abroad?

  1. Travel: here, there, everywhere.  I WANT TO GO PLACES!
  2. Dance as much as I can: I still have plenty of clubs I have yet to visit; thankfully I have plenty more weekends to utilize.
  3. Hit up my family’s homeland in the Ghàidhealtachd (Fraser).
  4. See some glaciers (Iceland?).
  5. See some canals (Amsterdam/Copenhagen?)
  6. Get lost in the woods (Finland?)
  7. Get some sun down south [;)].
  8. Attend a ceilidh.
  9. Talk in Gaelic to a native speaker.
  10. Make a kickass photo montage.
  11. Pet a highland coo.
  12. Go ghost hunting in Edinburgh.
  13. Go to the train station and buy a ticket to the first location out and just go.
  14. See some of the U.K. landmarks (i.e. Stonehenge, London, the “King’s Road”, Giant’s Causeway etc.)
  15. Get knighted (More of a stretch goal but I think I can pull it off!).

When you go home, what do you want to say about your experience?

That I effectively decided what to do with the time that was given to me, and that I grew exponentially as not only an individual, but a citizen of the world.

Gettin’ Good

I’ve mentioned it a few times before in previous blogs, but I am REALLY enjoying filming/taking photos.  There is just something so satisfying about seeing a new photo go up on Instagram or posting a new video to YouTube.  Social media is a powerful tool, and I really find it pleasurable to express however much or little creativity that I have.  That, and it will be nice to have a visual record to go along with my written one that I am trying to make here.

I wasn’t sure what to make of the camera my parents got me for Christmas.  After all I had never been much of a photographer.  I knew not and still know not what an aperture or an ISO is.  I don’t know how to remove motion blur or how to get crisper shots.  Yet, I am learning how to and I am loving every second of it.  The same goes for film editing.  In the past I played around with vlogging but not in any serious capacity.  Now that I have rediscovered in on YouTube through Ben Brown and his comrades I have never felt more inspired to share bits and pieces of my life with others.  With each new video I am learning new tips and tricks (mainly just by playing around with the editing software) to make my videos better.  I think my last vlog was particularly impressive, as I managed to incorporate music, lettering, and some neat cinema magic that I think was pretty cool.  Compared to my first vlog when I first got here the quality has improved by leaps and bounds.  If that trend continues I cannot wait to see what future episodes will look like.  I guess we will find out!  I’ll link both vids below if you want to see the disparity between them.

As for software, I’ve made a realization that if I want to produce better content I need to have better tools to edit it with.  Thus, I upgraded from “Easy Movie Maker” to “Videopad” to cut my videos with.  Having a storyboard and audiobar is doing wonders for the process as a whole.  For a free program I could not be happier!  The same goes for Fhotoroom, the image editor that I am screening my Instagrams through.  While it is free I did spend a couple bucks on the HDR filter to buff the quality of my images.  Not to toot my own horn but I think they look pretty damn good if I do say so myself:

Beachway
Even though its pretty doctored the amount of detail I can get out of my Canon is staggering.

Instagram Beach 

Calton
Playing with the fader.

Instagram Calton

Lobster Traps
I shaded every portion myself.

Instagram Lobster Traps

Meadows
You can really see the HDR buff here.

Instagram Meadows

Victoria Street
Gotta love light.

Instagram Victoria Street

So yeah, I’m not a professional but I really do enjoy the process of creating.  These are my videos; my photos; my words.  Now, they are for the record.  When people look back on them, I hope they are as impressed and proud of my ventures as I am of myself.  It’s exciting to think that I’m only starting to do this as well.  I can only get better, and that’s pretty damn cool.

Chasing Leprechauns

Ah you thought this was going to be about St. Patty’s or a story about me going on a drug-infused quest.  Sorry, St. Patty’s is on Friday (today) this year, and I don’t do drugs … other than alcohol that is.  In any event, I thought I’d just hype up a story for next week and let you know why there aren’t any pictures of me popping Guinness just yet.  That’ll come next week, I promise.

Arabian Revelations

As I continue to read Lawrence I am starting to see just how resourceful he was in his efforts to bring Arabia freedom.  Particularly through his invigoration of the Arab people.  While they may have been a rag-tag group of individuals bound by conviction, with Lawrence’s help they nonetheless became a force to be reckoned with regardless of their stature or capability.  Here are some passages detailing that discrepancy:

“They were quiet but confident.  Some, who had been serving Feisal for six months or more, had lost that pristine heat of eagerness which had so thrilled me in Hamra; but they had gained experience in compensation; and staying-power in the ideal was fatter and more important for us than an early fierceness.  Their patriotism was not conscious; and their attendance grew more regular as the distance from their homes increased.  Tribal independence of orders was still maintained; but they had achieved a mild routine in camp life and on the march.  When the Sherif came near they fell into a ragged line, and together made the bow and sweep of the arm to the lips, which was the official salute.  They did not oil their guns: they said lest the said clog them; also they had no oil, and it was better rubbed in to soften the wind-chaps on their skin; but the guns were decently kept, and some of the owners could shoot at long range.

In mass they were not formidable, since they had no formal corporate spirit, nor discipline nor mutual confidence.  The smaller the unit the better its performance.  A thousand were a mob, ineffective against a company of trained Turks: but three or four Arabs in their hills would stop a dozen Turks.  Napoleon remarked this of the Mamelukes.  We were too breathless to turn our hasty practice into principle: our tactics were imperial snatchings of the first means to escape difficulty.  But we were learning like our men.”  (pp. 140-141)

Closing Remarks

Alrighty folks, that’s all I got.  Told ya it would be a shorter post than usual.  Fret not though.  It is St. Patty’s day and I have been drinking all day so far (I’ve had two drinks – it’s 12:20), so there should be plenty of stories next week.  I’m also going up to North Berwick on Wednesday for an API excursion, so that should be a good story as well.  For now though my week is over, and I am going to go celebrate with the masses on this glorious day of the Irish!

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.

Cheers everyone, thanks for stopping by!  See you soon.

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