Sunday, February 21, 2010

Scotland and York (also known as THE LONGEST BLOG POST EVERRR!)

Phew. Finally got this all done. Y'all better read this...

February 14th

Yesterday mom got here and I whisked her all around Chester. I got up super early, well, as in my alarms didn’t go off and Morgan woke me up, and I rushed off to the train station, then to Manchester Piccadilly, then finally to the airport where I rather impatiently waited for my mum to walk through the baggage claim doors. I haven’t cried here yet, but all the families were waiting with flowers and banners for all the people they loved and I am a total softy so I shed a few tears over how much I missed my family and how nice it was that all these people just cared about the people on the other sides of the doors. ANYWAY. My mom finally walked through the doors, and I was so so so happy. We got back to Chester, (I was chattering the whole way, because that’s how I get when I haven’t seen people in a long time), and my mom was a saint and listened even though she was super jet lagged. We then went on a whirlwind three hour tour of everything in Chester from the walls and museum to the pubs and my campus. It was nice to show everything off.

Today, we started our northern adventure. We took train to Warrington, met two nice ladies who were going our way, then a train to Preston on the super nice Virgin Rail long distance, then to Carlisle on bus. The bus ride was lovely. We passed about a bajillion mountains (okay, large hills) with sheep, rock walls mom thought was cool, the edge of Lake district, met two middle school guys who could only talk about New York, food portions, burger king, our new prime minister. Then we get to the train station at Carlisle, and it’s painted like Willy Wonka’s factory, had sandwich with delicious cheese, and took another train ride to Edinburgh. The ride in was different then I was expecting. It was really foggy, and there were tons of pine trees. By the time we got there, we were pretty tired, but as we emerged from the station, we were greeted by the most incredible sky line and bag pipe music. Life. Is. So. good. And it was freezing, just like Spokane.

The rest of our day went something like this. We went to our hotel that looked like a castle with our amazing room, went walking, reflected how everything there looked like Harry Potter, went to St. Giles, and went to dinner.

St. Giles has Scotland’s Thistle Chapel, was John Knox’s church, and also the birth place of Presbyterianism. It was really meaningful to see his church, go where he went, see the actual 1500’s break contract, and reflect on all the history. The whole time we were there, a very talented boys’ choir was performing, and it just sort of perfected the experience.

On a totally different stream of philosophy, we saw the Hume statue, and Forrest Baird was right, he’s not as fat in marble. We then heard this fabulous boys’ choir who sang Loch Lomond and Hakuna Matata, followed by dinner at pub where I had haggis, (which is DELICOUS) and my mom had steak and ale. This perfect day was ended with the longest, best bath ever.

February 15th

This morning we had a fabulous big breakfast, lovely food, with real bacon and fruit and everything.

We spent the morning on a bus tour learning all about Edinburgh, (including about the guy that RLS based Jekyll and Hyde off of) from a woman that I’m pretty sure was a witch in her spare time. I love the Scots. I can’t wait to come back here. We then went to the castle, through the gate guarded by William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, where we saw the room King James numero uno was born, the Scottish crown jewels, Mons Meg, and just overall cool castleness.

The whole time with the backdrop of Old Edinburgh and The Crags behind us. It is such a spectacular dramatic view, it took my breath away every single time. We learned tons of weird facts, like about how poor people used to put oysters on their roof to scare witches away, things about Sir Walter Scott and so many other authors, like Robert Burns. We had scones and puddings and other yummy things, and I really enjoyed hanging out with my Mom. It’s so nice to have her here.

For you Arizona folks, Scotland looks like Prescott in the winter, tons of brushes and grassland and volcanoes that have been rounded down by time and the Picts and Celts.

I’m so excited for tomorrow. I just go back and forth between being absolutely in love with Scotland and exhausted. It’s stunning. Everything looks like Harry Potter and Brave Heart, and it’s everything that is great about Paris and London, but it is so much better. I adore it here. It’s also really nice being here with my mom, eating well, sleeping well, taking a bath, having clean things, feeling stress free. Back to Edinburgh, I love it; it’s so clean, nice, warm, full of history, people, food, joy, music, faith, and magic. Seriously. I can’t wait for the high lands tomorrow. I want to move here. I also adore haggis and the other food. Still need to try scotch.

Did I mention Scottish guys are really really...good looking. and sounding.

February 16th.

Today was our Highlands trip. Got up had yet another delicious breakfast. Then we waited outside in the cold, I admired a group of Italian guys walking by and then Bill the Scotsman pulled up in our minibus. First we drove to Glasgow. It was very industrial but had pretty parts. We heard a really interesting story about a holy ring swallowing fish . It was foggy. We drove west for a while through fields and sheep to Loch Lomond. I was very excited. Then we got to a very foggy arena, we found out our cruise was cancelled. No matter, Bill the Scot was determined we still have a good time so on we went. We went to the little village decorated with holly and ivy and tried to get to the shores. I kept thinking about the song, but it wasn’t exactly how I pictured it. My mom and I trekked through this bog that had this beautiful Celtic cross with stain glass and a prayer walk to the shores. It looked very witchy. I could totally see Macbeth’s lady friends hanging out here boiling trouble. We got to the shores and it was pretty but not what I was expecting. It looked a lot like the Salt River in Arizona where my family used to have picnics. Afterwards, we were sort of verbally assaulted by this very spirited Scottish shop owner who wanted to tell us all about his pet lynx and imported deer. Then we stopped at about five hundred cheesy tourist shops. There were lots of beautiful wool and cashmere clothes in Edinburgh, but here it all seems to be sheared off the rare acrylic sheep. So naturally, Mom and I bought more shortbread cookies. After that we drove through this gorgeous mountain pass, which supposedly is called the highlands in miniature. Stunning view of Ben Lomond. It was like a combination of Switzerland and Maine and Central Arizona. The deep brown and burgundy of the sleeping heather covered the hills, just waiting to catch on fire into various shades of pink and purple. It was so so so beautiful. Then we passed through town where last Scottish wild boar was killed like 500 years ago. Then we stopped at this little tartan weaving thing where Hamish, the most photographed highland cow/bull lives (he was in the Rob Roy movie). Then we rolled into wooded area where the Edwards (Longshanks and Son) and Wallace and Bruce all fought and lived. The fog thickened. We came through the woods into the town of Sterling with both the castle and the Wallace monument looming in the clouds in front of us. We passed the King’s knot, an old jousting arena thing, and climbed the steep cliffs up to the castle. The city looked like the old Edinburgh, was stunningly beautiful. I know I keep saying “then we….” and “stunning! Beautiful! Gorgeous!” but I just don’t have enough words to describe what it was like there. We did the castle in an hour. From the walls, we saw the whole valley. It has been interesting to see the old architecture. There is so much beauty, but it absolutely reinforced class differences. It’s so easy to understand why Royalty was considered to be given power from God when you compare all these incredible buildings with the shacks the poor serfs got. Anyway, my mom and I finished our time in Sterling with a walk through this super old cemetery. We were about halfway through when the thickest fog I’ve ever seen rolled in and from somewhere downhill, bagpipes began Amazing Grace. Ugh. You can’t make that kind of stuff up. PS, speaking of fog, Scotland is frigid. I mean like Spokane, punch you in the gut, reminds you you’re alive cold. I love it. We then hopped back on the bus and relaxed all the way back. Back at home, went to Italian food and had the best ice cream, followed by a quick stop at the hotel bar to try Scotch. I had The Highlander and Mom’s had Bonner something or another? Mine was better : p We went back to room, and since the BBC sucks, we continued our Olympic marathon. (I LOVE THE OLYMPICS). And enjoyed another bath and poufy bed.

Feb 17th

This morning we had breakfast, went into St. Giles to buy things, picked up some last minute souvenirs (namely a kilt, jewelry, and more post cards and scarves) tracked down North Bridge to train station. I loved loved loved Edinburgh. I already miss it. I fell in love. At the train station I bought the student rail card and paid for immaculate bathroom. See Manchester! See England! It’s not that hard to have a clean train station bathroom. The Scots, well they know how things are done. Ugh, the train ride was just wonderful, and SO BEAUTIFUL. The coast was a fairy tale, tons on light houses and cliffs and sheep and green fields and wooded areas. The most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, our train seats were backwards, which meant very quickly a very ill Sarah. Then we crossed into England and hit Newcastle…interesting. At least the graffiti was lovely. I was really sick at this point, but found some humor in the fact that the toilet, instead of saying “occupied” like it does in the states, said “engaged”. Congratulations toilet! I didn’t even know you were seeing someone! I mean people come visit all the time but…well, send me your address so I can send you and Bidet a nice set of silver.

We got to York, and were a little put off by how huge it was, both Mom and I were expecting a tiny town. I felt less sick and we walked into town, passing the giant racecourse and a place where the highwayman was hung and catholic priests were killed for their faith. This whole continent is drenched with religious history. York is just like Chester, only way bigger. The rest of the day was basically walking by the river, expensive shops, and closed museums. However, we did discover the International food market, and had a dinner of cold quiche, then a Polish cheese and tomato and cabbage dish, Swedish pancakes with Bailey’s and an Italian canolli. So naturally we felt like death. We turned in early and have now spent the rest of the night blogging and watching women’s downhill skiing. It hit me tonight that Mom is leaving soon. I’m kind of frustrated about not going too; I’ve just had such a wonderful time in Scotland and hanging out with her.

Feb 18th

I’m really sad Mom is leaving.

Today we got up early, then went back to sleep. But we finally got up and walked into town and had a great day. We saw cool antiques, found this street that seriously was Diagon alley, tea shop with cookies and chocolate eggs, and then went to Yorkminster. This cathedral has half of the stain glass in England. Think about that for a second. My favorite parts were: the Jesse window, which showed the entire lineage of Jesus, the 5 sisters window, which paid tribute to all the women who had fallen in combat for the country, the funny archbishop tombs, where they all looked like very seductive dead priests, the rose window in honor of the peace and end of the hundred year’s war (yay Tudors!) the embroidery, the St. Nicholas chapel, and the carvings of all the British kings. After some time, my mom and I realized that it was waaay later than we thought, and so we hurriedly ran to the Viking festival. Everything was sold out but the Jorvik Center (the main museum), but that was okay. Oh man it was cool. The first part was a Lucite floor over the actual dig of the Viking camp. THEN! You got on a ride. It was just like the Peter Pan ride at Disneyland, but instead of Neverland, you went through what life-size reproduction of York when it was a Viking town, full of people and buildings and smells and Old Norse. Man it was cool. Then you enter the museum. It was super interesting; there’s been tons of research on Viking DNA (from the bones and the poo they found) as well as normal archaeological stuff. We saw a lot of artifacts, like weapons, shoes, jewelry, bones with battle wounds, and other stuff. It was really neat. Seeing as I am Norwegian, it was cool to find out all the havoc my ancestors wrought upon England. Bomb guys. Then, after delicious Indian food, we started our late night travels back to Manchester. I got really sad and cried for the first time since I’ve been here. Mom and I called home, and it just sort of sucked. I had such a great week, and it felt so much like vacation that it just feels awful to not be leaving for home, either home actually, Phoenix or Spokane, but anyway. Mom leaves tomorrow. I had a great trip. I am excited for Canterbury next week.

February 19th

Mom flew back this morning. I took the train back to Chester through Crewe, which was pretty nice actually. It’s really quiet here on campus because no one comes back for a few days. If you want to see my pictures from the trip go here. I’m not exaggerating, there are about 800. Enjoy!

I also forgot to tell you the kilt jokes I heard.

What’s under a kilt?

The Future of Scotland.

What’s worn under a kilt?

Nothing worn madam, everything in fine and working order.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Quiz Night Blog style

Ugh. Can’t sleep. Waaaaaaay too early to even try, but I have to be at the station tomorrow at like 6:50 am.

My mom comes tomorrow, and then the next day we take trains, planes, and automobiles to Edinburgh. This week has gone really fast, and the sun came out almost every day. Maybe it was the sun, but I also was happy continuously for the first time in several weeks. I feel sort of spoiled whenever I complain about anything here, because I mean, I’m in ENGLAND! which is so fantastic, but it was nice to really have fun and be happy about life. Our new housemate, Suvi, moved in and we hung out a little bit. She’s from Turku, Finland, and I adore her. She’s super sweet and funny, and a total book nerd like me. Morgan and Melissa got pretty excited, because they’re going to London and Dublin this week, and I even got Mexican food. So a good time was had by all.

Since I can’t sleep in anticipation of all of next week’s excitement/in honor of Pub's quiz nights/I never go to bed before 2…) I made y’all a quiz. Whip out those pencils and papers folks…


Circle the one that most applies to you.

1. You’re at the grocery store. What food do you know you’ll eat with every meal?

A) Nutella

B) Hamburgers

C) Tea

2. Your teacher won’t stop talking about the superiority of necessity over absolute truths. You…

A) Think to yourself “now wait a minute, that’s not what Core taught me…”

B) Draw pictures of a cat in a box with poison in it on your notes

C) Sleep

3. It’s about 3 degrees Celsius outside. Perfect for…

A) Going for a run in your shorts

B) Staying in your room

C) Complaining about the weather and then wearing tights without trousers

4. There’s a football match on the tele. Who are you rooting for?

A) The Saints

B) Egypt

C) Man City

5. You’re IMing your friends at home. Do you…

A) Send them a link to a funny youtube thing

B) What’s im?

C) ROflllll abrv & omngzzzz addzzzz tonzz of XTra Letterzz and XXX to evrting….


Mostly A’s: You’re an American.

Mostly B’s: You live under a rock.

Mostly C’s: You are most definitely a British student at Uni.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Fi fie fo fum.

Privacy (pronounced preh-VAH-cee) is different here. Yesterday, I was sleeping quite peacefully, in fact in the middle of a pretty vivid dream when all of a sudden someone bangs on our bedroom door. Now awake and slightly alarmed, Morgan and I both looked at each other. She got up and started to ask who was there and was interrupted by this Miss Trunchbull type woman who had a badge, a clip board, and obviously the key to our apartment and room. She informed us, as she walked around poking at things and lifting up the curtains, that she was here for our room inspection, and we shouldn’t look so startled, we were informed. We weren’t, clearly, the girls upstairs were instead. She said no matter, it was alright because we scored a 16 and so she wouldn’t be back until April.

So many questions. For starters, 16 out of what, followed by what was she inspecting for, what was her badge, and why did she wake me up?? Strange.

Classes are going well, and I am counting the hours until I have a week off in Scotland. Everyone keeps telling me I’m going to be freezing, but I keep thinking to myself, “that’s because you’re British and you think 40 F is frigid.” If I can handle the Spo, I can handle Scotland.

I keep putting off laundry. I suppose it needs to happen soon. Probably should go grocery shopping too.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


February 6th 2010

Well the last week went by fast. Salsa dancing was a tad pricey but super fun, (which basically describes everything here). There were French boys there who couldn’t speak English, which was sort of a plus. The highlight of Thursday was watching the new episodes of LOST, and Friday I slept a lot. Woo!

Today Melissa and I went to Manchester. When we got to the station there was some American rocker type dude at the coffee shop, talking loudly on his cell phone about his various MTV performances. My first thought was “wow this guy is loud” followed by the realization that he was American, followed by a total blank on who the heck he could possibly be. We took the 9:15 train to the main station, which is just like a giant airport where you pay to use the smelly bathroom, and then took another train to Primark. After that we walked forever… to the art museum, but we were starving and stumbled upon Chinatown. We walked around Chinatown a bit comparing businesses and statues and signs, until we came up to an all-you-can-eat buffet. I haven’t had all I could eat anything since December. AND it was only five quid. I was sold. It was this tiny little basement full of friendly Chinese ladies and mirrors and tea and delicious food. I love food. I mean obviously everyone does, but I really love food. I love cooking, trying new things, going to restaurants, bars, cafes, taco stands, and I just love that world. ANYWAY. It was good. Melissa tried to read my tea leaves, but all she could come up with was a smiley face. We then popped into a casino and checked the Everton v. Liverpool score (Liverpool won, 1-0) while I talked to this lady who was in her late seventies who was a proud patron of the establishment. At first I was sort of grossed out, because she kept spitting on my face when she talked, but then she started telling me about her life. When she was a little girl, American soldiers were still bopping around because of the war, and they used to buy her ice cream and she liked their uniforms because they were better than the English ones. She then went on to become a scientist and rocket tester for the British government until the eighties when she moved to Florida and then New Zealand and then back to the UK. Which is either an awesome life or a great story.

We then went to an awesome art museum for like three hours. Here’s a bunch of links of what I saw (they’re going in tomorrow). I think my favourites were the Goya sketches, the pre-Raphael paintings, the Victorian nudes, and the seventeenth century icons. After that we walked…very far… to the Museum of Science and Industry. My family’s rule has always been if you can see it you can walk to it. So there was this GIANT glass Hilton next to the museum that we could see for miles, so we walked. We got to museum at 4, an hour before closing, and like blew through the exhibits. Manchester was the textile capital of the world. It was intricately tied to the slave trade in Liverpool and the States, the cotton growth in the U.S., and a huge wave of immigration similar to what Ellis Island saw. Manchester also has always put tons of money into chemistry and atomic weapon research. Mining was big here too. The railroads basically came about to link Liverpool and Manchester (products) with London and the South (money). It was bombed pretty bad in WWII. It’s also riddled with gangs and racial and class warfare.

Then we stumbled back to the train station where we counted attractive men and women who weren’t wearing leggings or tights. And that was my day.

My mom comes next week : ) : ) : ) HAPPY DAY!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

6 More Weeks of Winter. Thanks Phil.

Aw, shucks, how did you know I wanted a "Lil' Shakespeare" in my life....
I ate this. And I was happy again.

Why ISEP?? Why do I end lower than I start?? Are the numbers months? Why do things go downhill so quickly?? This is not a good graph...

Well I’ve been here one month officially.

The last week has been kind of hard. I’ve gotten sick (and better) and sick (and better). I think on the helpful ISEP chart I’ve begun my descent into “depression and hopelessness”. Only it’s not that grim. I don’t know why that helpful chart is so pessimistic. I mean yes, I miss home, but I’m not to the point of slipping into mental issues, weight gain, and bad poetry. I think it’s because I’m switching out of vacation mode, but I’m not at home or at Whitworth.

Today was fabulous though. I began my morning with Shakespeare, where we discussed the possible gender reversal portrayed in Romeo and Juliet against Petrarchan love, and watched Leonardo DiCaprio prance around the screen being emo. I love that class. Then I set off on a quest to conquer homesickness by means of Mexican food. Oh my gosh, did I strike gold. It’s this little hole in the wall place, owned by a husband and wife, and it’s amazing. He’s a French cook and she’s from Mexico and with their powers combined, they could solve world hunger and create world peace. The green mole sauce and chipotle potatoes and coffee made me want to cry out of happiness…and spiciness… but it was so dang good. AND he’s super nice. We talked about Chester, and he told me about his experience as an ex-pat. He had some interesting thoughts. He said he thinks of France like his family, much fonder with distance and time, but now he thinks it’s the best country in the world, mostly because he’s an ex-pat, which in his words are the best types of patriots because they are more objective. I have to agree with him. I’ve never been really pro or anti America, but even just being gone a month I get weirdly patriotic over like normal things or defensive against people who start bad mouthing Americans for stupid reasons. It’s weird, because over here that’s almost exclusively what I talk about. People hear I sound funny, and then to be polite ask about it. I’m sure there’s an element of this for anyone who moves to a new place, but it’s a little isolating, because I have to work really hard to branch out and have deeper conversations. I think that's maybe one reason why it’s so hard to make friends outside of the international students.

After the Mexican food, I went to the Bus depot to try to navigate my way to Hospice. What a nightmare. I still can’t read a 24 hour clock even though I keep trying to get better. The buses are different from Spokane’s and you sort of have to guess which line to take then ask to be dropped off at a certain town. I was very frazzled. But then I got to my stop, crossed a high way, and walked there. I think I’m going to enjoy volunteering there. The people who work there are really nice. And! working on Dreamweaver is a marketable skill so that’s nice. The drive out there once I stopped fretting about bus things was beautiful. I feel kind of trapped in my room/the school/the city center sometimes, but traveling, even to the suburbs really helps.

Tomorrow will be a good day too. I have Absurdism, then gym time, then gelato with friends, and then SALSA DANCING. I’m so excited. Maybe Manchester this weekend? Hopefully?