Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Edinburgh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"I always feel that when I come to Edinburgh, in many ways I am coming home." - Alan Rickman

So, normally the bus distinctly does not go to Hogwarts, you've gots to take the train*, but that might just be because the bus trip could potentially take 14 hours.


After 14 hours of busing from Wales to Scotland, I have never been happier than when we finally arrived. The bus-ride-that-never-ended was frustrating, the hour and a half it took to get checked into the hostel was unbearable, but it was all made right again with dinner at El Toro Loco -- my first burrito in MONTHS. We stayed at the Cowgate Hostel, by FAR the WORST hostel I've stayed at so far unfortunately, with only its location going for it; it is a perfectly central starting-off location.

Initial introduction to the neighborhood was the pub across the street, The Three Sisters, boasting their Harry Potter week of events, re-dubbing themselves The Leaky Cauldron. Anything Harry Potter is a good omen. The bar hosted football and rugby watch parties on its outdoor patio, serving Butterbeer out of kegs, where large groups drank and sang at the top of their lungs all day and night.

After finally figuring out the room situation, we bee-lined for the square and I burst into the mexican restaurant arms-flailing, on the verge of tears, "I'm just so happy you exist! I'm so happy you're here!" I called across the glass barrier to the servers. Barbacoa, jalapeƱos, hot sauce...it was the best goddamn burrito of my life. It was after 10pm at this point and we were past due to start drinking, so we went directly to the club that Viva Trips** was hosting for us, stone cold sober. One of the only things Viva did right the whole weekend was this club, Silk. It was a multi-layer dance club and it was PACKED with international exchange students, all displaying stickers of their home country's flag across their chest; it was incredible to share the dance floor all night with people from all over the world, flags waving proudly from everywhere. Plus, the music was PERFECT and they had real fishbowls. The entire last half an hour or so, from 2:30 - 3ish, they played nothing but Latin music and a girl from Brazil enthusiastically pulled me into her squad's dance circle. It was the most fun I've had out in Europe.

Isabelle and I tried to venture out further to smaller clubs -- having gotten insider info from my lovely friend Brighid who's studying at the University of Edinburgh for the semester -- but unfortunately inner city scenes mean inner city prices and it was the weekend...we weren't about to pay four pounds entry at 1am. The girls we met in line were absolutely smashed and total sweethearts, though, so still an altogether successful detour. We made our way home around 3:30 and, after the worst shower of my life, slept for exactly four hours before it was time to go, go, go again on our walking tour of the city.

It turned out to be not so much of a walking tour as just a directed walk around town, absolutely no tour was given whatsoever, but we still hit most spots on my list: started at Calton Hill for those early morning views over the city and a climb on the monuments, stroll across North Bridge to The Elephant House (PERFECTIONNNNNNN; got a latte and a breakfast roll), Greyfriar's Bobby (sorry I definitely rubbed that lil dog's nose for good luck even though I know I read locals hate that particular tourist trend...), saw Tom Riddell's grave, Prince's Street and Gardens, Holyrood House, the base of Arthur's Seat, and just outside Edinburgh Castle. Our hostel's just around the corner from Victoria St. (speculated inspiration for Diagon Alley) so we stumbled up and down that road a few times, as well. (Fun fact: Sunday morning I burst through the doors of what looked to be the only not-full cafe on this block and was actually, physically thrown out the restaurant? If that's what it was? I still don't even know because I asked if I could order coffee there and the guy replied, "We're closed," shoving me out as he shut the door in my face. Lol what????)


We roamed a farmer's market set up in the square, ate at The Three Sisters, and then wandered Edinburgh's Christmas Market for HOURS. I bought so many gifts!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It was my first UK Christmas Market and the most spectacular display of Christmas spirit I've yet to experience. The sun was just setting on the horizon as we got to the top of the ferris wheel; Edinburgh constantly re-defined magic for me over and over again. Everywhere you look is astounding architecture, breathtaking views, cute shops and cafes, bagpipes fill the air. I'm obsessed.

Saturday evening we explored the bar's upstairs The Three Sisters, home to the Edinburgh Napier University student union: a bar completely transformed into The Leaky Cauldron. I'm not sure if it looks like that all the time, but they went ALL OUT. The walls were painted with cauldrons, burning candles on every table, stacks on dusty books and brooms lined the walls, every TV playing the HP soundtrack over video of a Leaky Cauldron set. This was magical, the 2 pound pints for students were the cherry on top. The video of the Leaky set was extra fun when they started playing Fetty Wap and Wiz Khalifa. I went to the same restaurant and had the same dinner from the first night because I'm the worst kind of burrito-fiend American tourist; sorry, Haggis, maybe later.

Saturday's club was ok, the music wasn't as good and the drinks were more expensive, but the bathrooms were funky as hell and we all got glow sticks and our faces painted. It was exactly how 16-year-old me imagined a British clubbing experience would be, honestly. It was super great to be surrounded by international kids the whole time (EVERYONE knew the actual words to Numa Numa, it was an incredible thing to be a part of) but it would have been cool to hang with some actually Scottish peeps, too. I'll have to work harder to seek out the locals next time.

This was when my ankle started to rebel against the rest of my body, that's not entirely unexpected after a full day of walking followed by a night of dancing, so I limped home early through the quieter neighborhoods with my lovely friends. The men singing in The Three Sisters courtyard lulled me to sleep.

The next morning was rough; my ankle had only gotten worse throughout the night rather than better and we were out on the town with all our luggage at 10 am with nothing but time to kill until our bus left at 2. Coffee and breakfast killed an hour, but the cafes are so small that hanging around really isn't an option with people fighting for tables. So we wandered, limping, aimlessly. (This was when I was thrown out of that restaurant...Never forgive, never forget.) We finally settled into a bar and ordered exactly one cup of tea to sit for two and a half hours.

As usual, I wasn't ready to say goodbye to this gorgeous city, but I was looking forward to my tiny Swansea dorm room home. The trip was only 10 hours this time...Bless. The bus driver entertained us with a Scottish comedian's special followed by the classic, Old School. Both were honestly more offensive than they were funny, so. He tried.


Regardless of all the mishaps and frustrations, the fact that my ankle has caused me intense pain since Saturday, the buses, the motion sickness, the hostel, the bitter cold...Edinburgh is a top contender for my favorite city in the world. The whole weekend I was overwhelmed with the desire to live there, I would move in a second. I can't wait to go back to Scotland.



*#tbt
**The worst trip company, would definitely not recommend.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Back at it.

"Let's get off the floor and get busy, especially you, white women. We've got some karma to work off." - Samantha Bee

I've never bought any Lush products before this week but in the wake of the post-election slump, I knew it was time. I deserved this bath bomb shaped like an ACTUAL CHRISTMAS PRESENT. My house has two bathrooms, one with a shower and one with a tub; this means, obviously, everyone uses the shower because we're grown ass adult women, but also…there's nothing like a fancy grown ass adult lady bath with wine, candles, and sparkling blue-green water swirling in gold glitter...and re-reading the first Harry Potter for the 800th time. It was the definition of cwtch and hygge all rolled together into one night. 

From Kimberly's Beauty Blog because I was too eager.

I've been exploiting the system and getting free samples of each different face mask and ultimately decided to invest in the Love Lettuce. As a Made-In-Britain product, it is a lot cheaper here, so I figure it's worth the little bit of added weight to my bags on the trip home. Plus, there's just something about being here that has made me break out LIKE CRAZY. Probably the fact that I'm cheap as fuck and bought Tesco brand face wash -- I really should have bought a real brand but I'm half way through the bottle now, no going back.

I want to say I didn't blog because I haven't had wifi at my house for the last two days (can you imagine the TORTURE?! All I could do was read BOOKS and listen to pre-downloaded PODCASTS. [It was hard being cut off, no joke, but honestly was also kind of a relief. I suddenly had a perfectly good excuse to take a break. My hands were totally tied.]) but it's also because I haven't known what to say, honestly. I still don't. The world feels so very different now, but it really isn't that different: we just have to face the truth now. I have so much to say; I've spent a lot of time scribbling away on scrap paper, journaling, making notes on my laptop. I've spent a lot of time working through refuting made up opposition in my mind, going over point after point of potential debates. It's definitely not the best way to spend my time and it's really just making me even more anxious, but it's how I've been processing.

I've also deleted Facebook from my phone and avoided it entirely all last weekend. Other than the bath bomb, that was the best decision I made this week.

But, of course, I can't ignore what's going on around me, and neither can you. (It would, of course, be all too easy…but that's our white privilege. Accept this, embrace the discomfort, and work against it.) Listen to the people who are afraid, understand where they're coming from, know what's happening in the world. 

We fucked up. We have to do better.

Donate to charities and organizations fighting for good in the world. (Check out this great comprehensive list covering a range of issues.)

Speak up and out with your friends, family, strangers. Call your representatives. 

Read as much as you can, as widely as you can. (Like lists on actually productive things white people need to do, like this and the one I've linked below by Packnett.)

Monday, November 7, 2016

VOTE!

"On November 9, we will have to become a unified country again," - Dana Schwartz.

The election is tomorrow but the ordeal is far from over.

It's the only thing we've been hearing about for two years now, it felt so far off when once upon a time it was announced that an actual personified joke would be running for President of the United States. But no one's laughing on Election Eve.

It's the first thing anyone mentions at the sound of my accent, right after they ask if I own any guns: "Who're you voting for?"

It's on BBC daily in the student center. It's mentioned in every lecture. It's on everyone's minds.

The world is watching and I'm afraid.

"It's a big one..." the postal employee says, her eyes wide when I request an envelope to send home my US ballot. She's shaking her head, generally astonished.

"I know, it's been CRAZY. Definitely more dramatic than any election I've seen so far." She says she's never seen anything like it...I hope out loud we never see one this awful again. (Although, with our parameter for awful-ness now set so high, I shudder to imagine how it could get worse.)

Either way the results come in, whoever wins in the end, can anyone predict what happens next? I haven't the faintest idea. I can't picture the next move; it's all just a black intimidating abyss. I remember the relative easing in of the Obama administration, nothing changed at first -- it was a slow two months until he was sworn in, from what I remember (I wasn't paying as much attention the first Obama term, because I was young [I couldn't vote until his second]). It honestly felt a little anti-climactic, even with crossing the milestone of electing the first black president.

The whole world knows this election with be anything but anticlimactic. No matter who wins, the aftermath is still so up in the air, unclear, ready to explode. I'm nervous about watching it unfold from afar. I'm scared that this Presidency could do a lot of damage, both foreign and domestic.

It has been the global sentiment I've encountered so far: US politics affects everyone, everywhere. This is baffling to think about considering the small number of people that actually have a say in who wins US elections -- The US voter population is so vastly dwarfed by the reach of our political impact. Further more, we have the most ridiculous thing in the world called the Electoral College and they get to decide who wins the presidency, anyway, potentially regardless of the popular vote.

All that matters is you vote, regardless of the system. We have to work with what we've got and make our voices heard -- especially women and people of color. Countless people have given their lives to make sure that people who aren't white males have access to this system in the first place. Disenfranchised voices are the ones that need to be heard the most! There are powerful people working all over the country in a myriad of ways to make voting harder for people whose voices they don't want to hear, even still in 2016. If that doesn't make you pissed enough to vote, then I hope you can find something that does motivate you to vote, anyway.

The election ends tomorrow night but this is just the beginning of the next four years. And also the rest of forever. But no pressure.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Home

It's essentially midterm week and I have two major assignments due on Monday, including what is turning out to be one of the hardest papers of my college career, so it's a short, quick list tonight.

Things I Miss From Home:

  • My mom and grandparents
  • MY DOG, MARGO!!!!!!!!!!!!! 
  • Chipotle
  • Taco Bell
  • Anything even remotely mexican
  • Athens, OH
  • my friends
  • phone calls that don't get dropped 
  • Wings Over Athens
  • O'Betty's
  • squirrels
  • my bed and allllll my pillows
I'm really not homesick, I mainly just miss my people and my food. I'll be excited to be home again once I'm there, but I'm really looking forward to the next two months. Time's flying by too quickly, I want to enjoy being here while I'm here.