Wednesday, June 15, 2011

eat the haggis.

home again home again jiggity jig.

yes, i know i waited wayyyy too long to post again after the tragic squirrel incident. we ended up getting the window fixed and they kind of stayed away after we left chocolate donuts for them to eat. im guessing they weren't fans...

so. i'm home. missing scotland like whoa. but i thought i'd leave all of you fabby readers with some advice for studying abroad yo-selves. some of it is thanks to the lovely and fabulous Beth Dallas, who gave me this advice before i left and it totes saved my life. some of it i came up with all on my owney.

1. before you go, print off bunches and bunches of your favorite pictures of your friends and family and house and dog. even if you think, hey, i'll just look on facebook. because a) you probs wont, and b) you will most definitely want stuff to decorate your walls. you will be living in this place for the next 4-odd months, and trust me, you really don't want it to look like a jail cell. you could also go to the obligatory poster sale that most universities have at the beginning of the year and pick up some stuff, but having pictures from home is a great way to start conversations with new friends and also to make you feel less homesick. i covered my walls with pics from home. (thank you beth dallas)

2. beth also suggested bringing little trinkets from home as well. i will admit it. i brought my blankie and my stuffed bear McGus that dad gave me when i was in a car accident 2 years ago. and my heavy special pillow. you may think this is a waste of space but i assure you it is not. if you sleep with it every night and it gives you some comfort, do it. you won't regret it. just put the heavy stuff in your carry-on! they don't have a weight limit for that.

3. TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. i can't say this enough. if you don't feel totally 100% sure you want to do something (like go on a trip with some people) because of some weird feeling in your gut, don't go. even if you really wanna go to the places that you would be going. if you don't like the people, it won't be fun for you. and there will almost always be some other opportunity that is better that will come along.

4. don't try and make all of your plans for the semester in the first 2 weeks of school. there are somethings that are important to make early, like going to dublin (which was so awesome and i'll never regret that, ever) but like, spring break, wait until you have some solid friends set up, then go with them. not that i didn't have fun on spring break, but it was stressful and i could have had more fun i think had i waited.

5. don't skimp on research for your trips. find out how far away your hostel is from the train station/bus station/ airport. print off maps. figure out where your hostel is in relation to the city center, and shell out more cash to stay closer in town b/c time is money. plus those places are generally less sketchy. make sure you have enough cash, or that the places you will be going have atm's that work with your card.

6. start a bank account when you get there. i just had an atm card all semester b/c i took all my money in traveller's checks and started an account right away. i got an atm card and just did everything in cash, and it was a great way to keep track of my money.

7. also, remember that reserving hostels online costs money and they almost always want a deposit from a debit card. keep in mind that if you use your american card (i use suntrust) then it charges you each time you use it, sometimes up to 10 or 15 bucks per use. so that 3 dollar deposit is like a 20 dollar deposit and that really sucks. you can often e-mail them personally and say you'll pay in cash in full upon arrival. aidan and i did that when we went to the highlands for a few days.

8. don't be too scared to cook in your kitchen. i was and i barely ate the first couple of weeks (but i certainly drank enough to make up for the calories... ah, scotland.) seriously, most people who have a studying abroad roommate don't mind sharing their cooking utensils. just be kind and clean up after yourself. common courtesies.

9. don't forget to do the touristy stuff in your place of residence. i didn't go to the wallace monument until the thursday before i left when we all left the club and climbed up to the top to see the sunrise. it was one of my favorite memories from stirling. also don't skip something b/c youre tired or your feet hurt. power through if you have an opportunity that is once in a lifetime. you won't regret it.

10. make a list of things you would really regret if you didn't do. then do those things. seriously. it sounds kind of obvious, but if you keep putting them off (like we never got around to karaoke) then you will really be sorry when you have a week left and you never went to that concert or st. andrews or whatever.

11. remember the seasons are going to change. even in scotland, it still got warmer. bring stuff to accommodate for this. seriously.

12. and if you have to pay for extra luggage, its totally worth the extra money. you seriously won't regret having too many clothes/extra room for souvies!

13. buy stuff. lots of stuff. if you want it, buy it. because you really won't regret bringing things home from your magical experience in a really cool country. you chose to go there for a reason, get stuff to remember it by.

14. eat the local foods. yes, i tried haggis, and it was tasty. a bit spicy and kind of weird to think about, but not bad. same with black pudding. do it!! even if its nasty, you should try it for the sole sake of saying you did.

15. GO ABROAD. SERIOUSLY. DO IT. it was the best experience of my life, and i met the love of my life, and i wouldn't change any second of it ever. for anything. i'd give up my toes to go again. so GO ABROAD!!!!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Thursday, April 28, 2011

squirrels and duckies and ants, ohmy!

so, lately i've been noticing a strange animal trend around stirling. and by strange, i mean critters of all sizes seem to have taken a strong liking to our flat.

for instance, yesterday i chased 2 SQUIRRELS out of our kitchen. TWO. is that not insane? they keep coming in the broken window, the buggers. a few weeks back, they ate aidan and my strawberry tarts. no, i take that back, they didn't simply eat them. no, that would be too nice. they came in, ate one tart, then took a bite out of the strawberry on top and placed it upright on the counter. they tore apart the other tart and ate it's strawberry. then dumped that on the floor. i mean really?!? evil, evil creatures. they ate through an entire loaf of hollie's bread. just down the side. contaminating it. filthy creatures. i'm terrified for the day they learn to open cabinets and the fridge...

this evil is balanced out though by my favorite part of every day. sad as it is, i get immense joy from a gaggle of ducks that come to our window on the daily to be fed. there is the brown, mean one we named Wooly Bully, because she often will snatch bread out of the other three mallard's mouths. The other three I named Quack, Mack and Lack. Lack has a limp and usually just hangs out in the back of the group, and Quack and Mack generally flank Wooly Bully's sides, competing for the bread (which she often wins. she's a speedy one). they are so precious, and they always stop by. occasionally Billy, the white duck, will come along, but i think he's slightly retarted b/c the bread more often than not will hit him in the head and he'll just kind of blankly stare out in to the distance. bless his heart.

our other strange (but not really) infestation of critters is our ant problem. they come and go in waves, but i think they are planning a bigger, more bold attack for the near future. it makes me nervous to think about.

not much else is going on over here right now. the weather is to die for gorgeous, most people are outside in the sun most of the time. its definitely hard to stay inside with it being so sunny and nice, but when you got work to do you got work to do ya know? the royal wedding is tomorrow, and i'm hoping to celebrate in one of three ways. a) drinking tea with the americans b) royal wedding drinking game with the flat or c) going to edinburgh to party in the streets. i'll be happy with all of the above. yeahhh bank holidays! and weddings. so fun.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

parental visit and comic con!

hey y'all, sorry its been so long! i'm going to compress these 2 blog posts into one longish one for your reading ease and pleasure.

sooo my parents and conradical came to visit right after spring break. aidan and i made a lovely sign for Special Agent Heath on the lid of a pizza box and went to meet them at edinburgh airport when they arrived. it was seriously great seeing them, and they all got along well with aidan so thats a plus too! :) on wednesday they were obviously jetlagged/exhausted so we kept it simple stupid and didn't do too much. they rented a car and dad immediately mastered not only driving on the wrong side of the road, but driving stick with the left hand and doing it with style. oh yeahhh. we went to dinner at the Allan Water Cafe where most of us got fish and chips (all but conrad, who really missed out b/c its the best fish and chips i've ever had. seriously fantastic) and ice cream, which is sooo good over here. om nom nom. after our delightful meal we gave them a quick tour of campus and then they went to crash so they'd be fresh and hoppin for the busy day the next day. thursday we woke up bright and early and toured Stirling Castle, which was pretty cool but it was really windy and i wasn't wearing appropriate attire.. i.e. i wore a dress. poor life decision there. howevz, i would totally advise going if you are in the area, its pretty awesome. we got lunch at a tasty irish pub whose name i cannot recall, and then i had bio lab (in which i dissected a fish by myself!) so i had to leave them. we met back up for a tasty dinner at Gabe's diner which literally does have the best burger in town. they are huge, handmade burgers that are oh so delicious, and the chips (i mean that in the british sense of the word) are huge potato wedges that were likely actually cut from a potato and oh man the dessert... well you get the picture. so so good. aidan left for glasgow to go to london after supper, and then we all went our separate ways after that. the next morning we arose bright and early to go travel the highlands. we didn't make it too far, but instead went on a search for a highland cow to take a picture with. we encountered several misleading directions, and after stopping numerous times we found some and got our pictures taken! holla bolla. we also stumbled across an actual standing stone (all you outlander fans know what i'm talkin about!!!) and a pictish cross i believe. exceedingly successful day adventuring. we drove to edinburgh that night and had dinner at a lovely wee italian place, and then went to bed early b/c i had to leave at 4:30 am for london for comic con!!

so i successfully navigated london's airport and underground and met up with aidan and his friends at comic con the next morning. aidan and i dressed as chuck and sarah (from Chuck) and one of his friends was morgan. the rest of his friends dressed as the reservoir dogs, which was very fun. so comic con in london was no where near on par with even dragon con in the states, but was still a trip. there weren't nearly as many costumed people, and its all in one small place, and there were really only panels about comic books, which i'm not that in to. i like the movie/tv program panels, but whatever. im still glad i went. we pretty much just goofed off all weekend, going to panels on occasion. mark (aka morgan) made us miss the costume contest b/c he wanted us to go to a spiderman panel with him--and the spiderman producers/writers didn't even know who chuck was. BOYCOTT SPIDERMAN. thank you. aidan and i went sightseeing in london as well and did microtourism, i.e. seeing the sights in 1.5 hours, not going in anywhere just walking about. i had a blast. we barely made it to the bus that was taking us back to glasgow that night (8 hour overnight bus ride, oh so nice), but i managed to sleep the whole time b/c i don't stay awake in moving vehicles for very long if i'm not driving.

so all in all, exceedingly great time, both with mom, dad and conrad, and in london with aidan and co. sorry this is so short and late on the time scale, its getting to the end of the semester and i've got papers up the wazoo! :/

i love you all very much.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

sprang break, study abroad style

whaddup y'all!

last week was mid-semester break, also known as spring break to all of us american type folks. i journeyed to nice, monaco, florence, and venice (and was planning on going to paris as well) for my week off with heather and holly edwards, (aka the twins for the purpose of this blog post), and it was just as groovy as you would expect!! i know, i know, you wish you were me. who wouldn't? just kidding. but seriously...

so anyways. we left stirling at the butt crack of dawn to get to glasgow-prestwick airport, which btw isn't really in glasgow at all. effin ryan air... luckily the twins had a friend with a car who took us to the airport. holla bolla. soooo we fly into paris beauvais airport, which is even less in paris than glasgow prestwick was in glasgow. when you land in paris beauvais, it takes a 2 hour bus ride to get into paris. yes, i said two hours. we were told it was either 10 minutes or 45, so the 2 hour thing was a big old shock. not to worry, we made our train to nice in the nick of time thanks to a very nice taxi driver. we then took a 6 hour train ride from paris to nice on the TGV which was pretty cool but very long. daddy was able to provide us with directions to the hostel in nice, so once we arrived it was easy peasy lemon squeezie. the hostel at first appeared extremely sketchy. we didn't realize that the lights are on a timer, so you have to hit the light switch when you walk in in the dark, so we climb stairs in a very old building in the dark to get to the second floor which is where the hostel itself was. scary potatoes. not to worry though, the hostel pastoral in nice was certainly my favorite hostel of the whole trip. it was awesome. we made friends with a girl from south africa and two canadians on our last night, so that was awesome enough, but it was also very nice, friendly and perfectly situated in nice. love times infinity, i'd recommend it to anyone going to nice. our first day in nice was awful. it poured rain and was absolutely freezing. we also didn't realize that you could take the tram for a euro (or just hop on b/c they don't check) and get anywhere in nice without having to walk forever. so we walked forever in the pouring rain and got thoroughly drenched and downhearted, but went to a really groovy modern art museum fo free, so that was nice. we went to bed early that night, and it was really good that we did b/c the next day was jam packed with awesome. we woke up, walked around a bit, got the bus to monaco, and hung out in monaco for a few hours. monaco is gorgeous (and i would share pictures at this point but i unfortunately accidentally deleted all of my pictures of nice and monaco. oops. dad said he could recover them though, so i'll put them up soon if it works). we saw the palace and just walked around staring at its gorgeousness and taking sweet pics. then that afternoon we went back to nice, went shopping and i bought a super cute dress, and then went to the beach. it was absolutely lovely, and the weather was like 60s all day so that was fabby.

in order to get to florence, we had to catch a bus at 4 a.m. from the outside of a closed bus stop in nice. that was sketchy as hell, but that part of nice was dead at that hour so it wasn't as bad as i feared. i still held my giant water bottle poised as a weapon though, just in case. better safe than sorry right? the bus ride to florence was stunning. i was too excited to sleep when it was still dark, but for some reason my body shut down as soon as the sun rose so i slept through most of the beauty, but the night time views were still gorgeous. the theme for this spring break was that everything looked like a postcard, and it was so valid. the theme song on the other hand was lady gaga's "born this way" which apparently europe is obsessed with, but that's another story. when we got to florence, we had a wee bit of trouble finding our hostel, and we kind of wandered around with our suitcases slightly lost for like 2.5 hours. we were misinformed directionally though, and had to walk forever to find the bus that we were told would take us to our hostel... though apparently if we had taken the 17 we would have been able to get there directly from where we were. oh well, lessons learned. when we got to the hostel, we weren't allowed to check in b/c it was noon and for some reason hostel 7 santi is sketchy and won't let you stay in the hostel at all from 12-3... weird. but we were meeting the other 3 girls (american) that we are friends with over here at the museum where The David is at 1, so we pretty much ran there once we figured out what bus to take. solid. we met up with them, then ate pizza at a cute little bar type place, and then went on to Il Duomo, where we made the trek all the way up to the top. oh yeah, it was scary as balls, since i absolutely abhor heights and i'm fairly claustrophobic, but it was so worth it. the stairs up were really narrow and steep, and you have to take the same staircase down from the top so you are running into a bunch of people going both ways (just a heads up for anyone going to florence...) but the view is so fantastic that i'd advise it to anyone, even scairdy-cats like me. you can see for miles and miles and miles and miles... into more tuscan countryside etc. seriously fantastic. i didn't have a memory card yet for this, so i have no pictures, but the other girls took loads for me so if y'all get on facebook i should be tagged fairly soon. :) (plus i was kind of hugging the wall trying not to freak out, but the view was just as nice from the wall as it was when i ventured forwards to the edge, worry not). we found a mexican restaurant that night for dinner, and enjoyed wandering around the city for awhile that afternoon. the mexican restaurant was dank!! i got a chicken quesadilla and it was marvelous. om nom nom. we ended up going back the next night for happy hour, so that was awesome too. i got my guacamole fix that night. :) the next day we saw THE DAVID, and yes, it was just as amazing as you would think. it is HUGE, and gorgeous. i've never seen a more magnificent statue. i mean, i'm still in awe. you aren't allowed to take pictures of it, and if you do then you get screamed at in italian by multiple workers (as we learned the hard way) so don't try it. they have supersonic hearing when it comes to camera clicks. like hawks. its insane. the rest of the museum was cool, but david stole the show by a lot. the old instruments were my second favorite though. we tried to go to see the medici residence, but it was closed on wednesdays so we couldn't get in, and then the uffizi is really expensive to get in so we skipped that too. i bought a lot of art and an awesome vintage purse at this tiny italian vintage shop, and a skirt and these awesome purple feather earrings at this other cool store. i also got sarah beth's birthday present in florence, so florence was a great success in the shopping department as well as the gorgeous department. florence was my favorite of the trip, apart from the hostel that reminded me of a mental hospital combined with a jail. it was so scary, and we had a middle aged columbian man staying in our room the last night, so that was sketchy as well. he was very weird, and kept moving around all night... creepy. but other than that, florence rocked!!

we left the next day for venice. i had some struggles on the train with an italian lady b/c we were assigned the same seat number on our tickets, but luckily i was able to sit elsewhere. it was very scary though when the ticket checker man came around, though he didn't speak any english so i was in luck, as i had printed mine before hand in english. hooray!! the other passengers found my face hilarious when he came around to check, as apparently i looked pure terrified. but no worries, it ended fine! venice was stunning. it seriously all looked like a postcard, but is kind of boring if you are on a budget since the gondola and water ferries are kind of expensive. well, the gondola rides are really expensive and the ferry is just a wee bit less so, depending on where you catch it from. venice is also a place for tourists and lovers, so it was really crowded with tourists. however, the glass was mind blowing. i bought myself a gorgeous hand blown ornament, and if i hadn't had a weight restriction i would have bought so much more. the glass working seriously blew my mind. when i get a house of my own, i want to go back and stock up on awesome stuff. no kidding. we got lost in venice, which is apparently the thing to do, and it was such a beautiful day that i got sunburnt even with SPF 30 on!! totally worth it though. the second night in venice provided us with a strange french woman who was also middle aged and spoke very poor english, about as poor as my french is, but i was determined to communicate with her and she was much nicer once i tried. she was kind of sketchy though and kept locking up her stuff whenever she left the room, even if it was just for like 5 minute stretches. weird. but no matter, she was very nice when we had to get up at like 4:30 again to catch a shuttle to get to the airport to fly back into paris beauvais. now, this whole trip i was sick. like couldn't lay down without coughing, had a stuffy yet runny nose the whole time and mad headaches. i would also get hot flashes and light headed on random occasions. it was weird. and italy doesn't sell sudafed in their pharmacies! the only drug i recognized was paracetamol, but that is tylenol so that wasn't gonna do it. so that being said, i flew home a day early and it was totally worth it. i figured, i've already seen paris and i feel like dog mess so a good night sleep in my own bed where i don't have to share a room with anyone is going to be worth it. and it was--i feel better today, but still ill. i'm going to the pharmacy tomorrow for more sudafed--they weren't open today.   so i managed to navigate from paris beauvais to charles de gaulle airport (two 15 euro shuttles, btw), and then through the airport, even though effin easy jet made me check my baggage b/c they are wayyy stricter than ryan air about baggage sizes. heads up--they want it to just slide into the checker thing. no pushing. garbage. i caused a scene and cried and yelled a bit, but it did no good. oh well. i then managed to navigate from the glasgow international airport back to stirling all on my own! yay me! and nothing broke in the flight so that was a positive as well.

here is are two pictures of venice, though my pics aren't nearly as good as holly's--she has a gnarly camera. i tried though!

so all in all, a very successful and awesome spring break. it's good to be back in scotland though, i really do love it here. i felt like i was coming home, and it was great. :) mom, dad and conrad are coming to visit on wednesday!! yay!! so i'll update again after they leave. i've also got comic con in london next weekend with aidan and his friends, so i'm pumped for that too. wahoo!!!

i love you all my dear readers, i hope you enjoyed yet another long and silly blog post by me.


Friday, March 25, 2011

St. Patrick's Day in Dublin

sorry it's been so long folks! i've been super slack, but in my defense, i got a gnarly cold which rendered me incapacitated.

so the american group went to Dublin for st. patricks day. we left that afternoon, started drinking on the train (another reason scotland is awesome) and continued all through the night. now st. patrick's day in ireland is possibly some of the most fun i've had of ever. it was nuts. and people loved me! this guy on the train told me to stop being so irish. i was told more times that night that i look irish than i ever had been in my life. it was so great. people basically threw drinks at us. i found a really sick hat in mcdonalds that these angry german guys (i think they were angry, they looked angry and they sounded angry, but they may have just been drunk germans) left on the table.

Here i am wearing my new hat in the mcdonalds! 

i also met a girl who is a KD at clemson and knows lindsey echols, which was so cool. however, i couldn't tell you her name for the life of me. we took a picture together though. i met an ADPi from North Carolina i think (?) and she was nice as well. we took a greek unity picture. we pretty much bar hopped all night, drinking guinness and dancing, and i found a groovy green scarf as well. i don't have a good picture of it, so you'll have to trust me on that one. we didn't have anywhere to stay that night so we stayed up until like 5 then got the shuttle to the airport where we slept for like an hour before the airport people woke us up. how rude. so we puttered around the airport friday morning until the hotel called us and said we could come to our rooms at like 10 ish and we all showered and passed out for awhile. that was lovely. all of us died over the bathrobes. so nice! 

that night we went to this really excellent italian restaurant where a 3 course meal was 20 euros, so all the girls split in to groups of 2 and split a 3 course meal. alyssa and i split the garlic fried mushrooms stuffed with a trio of cheeses for an appetizer, the smoked salmon and mashed potatoes for the main course and a delightful chocolate brownie for dessert. it was to die for--seriously one of the best meals i've ever had. om nom nom... after that though, the sketchy started. it took us like 2 hours to find our effing bus stop, which was in the hood. while we were there, this crackhead and her 2 male cronies came up and tried to take the boy's shopping bags which had beer in them. when they said no, she grabbed one and ran, and one of the guys turned and grabbed it back from her, only to get decked in the face by the dude. the chick kicked one of the girls in the legs several times, and the other guy fell on the majority of the girls so they couldn't get up. hana and i were on the end and we jumped up and ran to the side. fight or flight at its finest y'all. so the boys are fighting and finally give the girl a beer since thats what she wanted and they left, but not after coming over to hana and myself and trying to apologize i guess? its all hazy. then sean came over to tell them to back off us and the guy threatened to pull a knife on sean's neck. scary potatoes. BUT we got out fine and mostly unscathed. thank god for that. 

then the next day we decided to do touristy things. we got a bus tour of dublin and saw trinity college, the natural history museum and stopped at st. patrick's cathedral and dublin castle. i didn't go in the latter two--they were too expensive and not appealing enough. and my boyfriend, aidan (yes, i have a scottish boyfriend, he's fantastic) told me that i wouldn't like the castle so i didn't waste the money. we ended the tour at the guinness factory. the guinness factory is possibly one of the coolest places ever. you pay 11 euros to get in, but its so worth it. you get a pint at the top in the gravity bar which gives you the most groovy view of dublin EVER. and the whole tour is super awesome as well. sadly, my camera died this morning so i am unable to provide pictures for you here. so trust me. if you ever go to dublin, do not skip out on the guinness tour. even if you think you don't like guinness. a) its better in the factory b/c its made there and b) its just a cool tour. do it. trust me. :) 

so thats really it. i'm leaving in the morning for mid-semester break (though i cannot comprehend how on earth the semester is half over already!) and i'm going with 2 other girls to nice, florence, venice and paris. it's going to rock!!! i packed my charger and adaptor so there will be no mishaps this time camera wise. :) 

love you all, give me suggestions for posts please!!!


Sunday, March 13, 2011

wamboozie and haggis

so last monday i introduced my flat to the delights of wamboozie. for all who are curious/concerned/perhaps want to make some of their own while abroad, we made it with glenn's vodka, a 12 pack of stella artois, 2 liter bottles of lemonade and limeade, and threw in some lemon juice and apple soda to taste. since we lacked a cooler, we made it in pots and a casserole dish, but it worked out just as well.
don't be fooled by the unappealing color, (or should i say colour?) for it tastes delayshus. everyone was a wee bit skeptical at first, i mean it really doesn't sound very good and it looks right nursty, but hollie and i were adamant that it would happen and be awesome, so we made it and tasted it first. once we gave the stamp of approval, we got everyone else going, and let me tell you, it was a hit. we made two batches of the stuff and everyone still wanted more! it was flat bonding at it's best, as the whole flat got in on the crazy! that night we had originally planned to have haggis then wamboozie, but we forgot about the haggis and just made the boozie, which was fine. hollie made me haggis a few nights later and i loved it. its kind of spicy, but not too much, and really hard to describe but i'm definitely a fan. i'd advise it to anyone coming to scotland. vegetarian haggis tastes almost the same, and is just as good, so for all you veggies out there, rule number 76, no excuses, play like a champion. 

sorry this blog is so short, i have a 1000 word biology essay on carnivorous plants due next week, and while i have about 750 words written right now, i still need to work on it. and i have a 2500 word essay due at the end of next week for english (though it is a creative writing piece so it should be fun to write at least). this coming weekend i'm going to dublin for st. patrick's day so worry not, a long fabulous blog post is soon to come. :)