Friday, September 27, 2013

Day 25: Escape from the Bubble

This post may be titled Day 25, but I’m actually going to talk about days 18 through 21, when I escaped from the Bubble of St. Andrew's and traveled across Scotland to visit my wonderfully crazy friend Hannah, who’s from Canada but has been working in the south of Scotland since February.

I shouldn’t really complain about the trip, since it only took five hours to cross from the north(ish) east side of Scotland to the south west side, but still… five hours is a long time to be sitting on busses. I also had to transfer twice, in Glasgow and Dumfries, meaning that the whole trip actually took closer to seven hours (from 7am to 2pm). I did manage to buy a lovely pair of slippers in Glasgow, though, so I didn’t mind that stopover.

One lovely thing about bus travel is that I got the opportunity to see more of the country. It’s not like a plane, where I just see the tops of clouds, or driving, where I spend most of my time staring at the road. On a bus I can sit back and do whatever I jolly well please, which usually involves taking pictures of the countryside. Thankfully, my camera takes pictures really quickly, so I actually got some decent shots while barrelling down the motorway.

Another thing I like about travelling solo is how it gives me the opportunity to meet new people. When I first arrived in Scotland, somewhat overwhelmed and with nearly a hundred pounds of luggage to carry, I had so many people willing to lend a helping hand. This past weekend luggage wasn’t an issue, but since Hannah lives in the middle of nowhere I was literally dropped by the side of the road in the middle of a field. A wonderful older lady I met on the bus made sure I got off at the right stop and a girl around my age actually walked with me all the way up to the camp where Hannah works. Without those people I would have been so lost, and I’m so thankful they took time out of their days to help me out.

Anyways, my weekend with Hannah was lovely. While I haven’t been homesick yet, it still was really nice to see an old friend, someone I have a bit of history with. It was weird to realize that since I arrived in St. Andrew’s I’ve been hanging out almost exclusively with people I’ve met in the past three weeks. So, I really enjoyed seeing Hannah again, going for walks, watching films, and meeting her co-workers. I definitely plan to go visit her again, and have more crazy shenanigans.

It was also a lot of fun to visit somewhere that’s really the middle of nowhere. St. Andrew’s might be small, but it’s still quite a bustling town. Down where Hannah lives, the nearest town has maybe fifty houses. It’s much more stereotypically Scotland, with the rugged hills and winding roads and sheep in pasture. Also, this was the first time I had ever properly visited the Scottish countryside, since when I’m here I tend to stay in the actual town of St. Andrew’s. Hannah and I went for a couple semi-successful rambles, once in the mist/rain and once right after sunset, and I really enjoyed being out in the open air again.

To sign off, here are a number of photos from my trip. 
CAUTION: May contain excessive amounts of Scottish grass. Also sheep.

Sunrise over the fields (as viewed from the bus)

Slightly farther along on the trip-- not quite sure what town that is, but it's close to St. Andrew's

Glasgow is known for its architecture. This art display is right inside the Enoch mall

Typical Glasgow

This is what a Glasgow street looks like

Gallery of Modern Art. Apparently it's free, so I'm definitely planning a trip here at some point.

I feel like this photo accurately captures the spirit of Glasgow

Imposing facade of the art museum

Random art on a building near the bus station

Rolling hills between Glasgow and Dumfries


A river. Cattle. Hills. Trees. SCOTLAND.

There're actually quite a few windmills around the countryside. And clouds. There are quite a few of those.

They say a man's home is his castle... Or, in this case, his B&B.
(BTW, for all you nerds, this 'castle' was in a lovely little town known as Moffat...)

This is what a Scottish bus stop looks like...

I admit this pic is more heavily edited than usual, but THE CLOUDS.

Bridge in Dumfries

The whole bridge. There are several bridges, and the river is quite peaceful.

Had to walk along this narrow road to get to the camp where Hannah works

And over the adorable little bridge...

Along the narrow laneway...

Until we find Hannah! <3

The view from Hannah's work at sunset

Evil Scottish cows

Going for a ramble

More sunset....

A stream (that runs under the little bridge previously shown)

Sheep at sunset. (which are way cooler than sheep at any other time of day, because they're now pink)

Cows on the road. NBD. 

So, we were trying to reach that monument thing, but Hannah forgot where the path was....

Hills at dusk

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Day 24: It's Been Three Weeks...

It’s day 24. I’ve been here for over three weeks.

I’ve gone to four lectures, and a tutorial in my prof’s office. I’ve ordered books online and signed up for a library card at the public library. I’ve been cast as Fleta (a principal fairy) in the Gilbert and Sullivan Society’s Iolanthe, and have been trained for tech at the Barron theatre. I’ve made tons of new friends and gained an academic family. I’ve experienced gorgeous St. Andrew’s, and travelled across Scotland. All in all, it’s been a fantastic three weeks.

To be cliché: it feels weird that it’s only been three weeks. While sometimes it seems like I just got here, more often I feel like I’ve been here for much longer. My life is so bound up with this town—it’s hard to imagine not taking just ten minutes to walk everywhere, not mentally converting pounds to dollars, not constantly explaining how I’m a fourth-year-abroad-from-Canada.

Life hasn’t quite settled into a routine yet, but I expect it will soon. It’s funny to look back (wow, looking back already, and it’s only three weeks!) to Fresher’s week, when I thought that life would quiet down once term started. Yeah, right. This past week has still been busy, with no sign of stopping.

Monday- Travel back from the other side of Scotland, callback audition for Iolanthe, attend Christian Music and Drama meeting, hang out with friends and sing along to YouTube vids
Tuesday- Class, call mum, Christian Union main meeting, worship night at a friend’s house
Wednesday- Class, skyping Alex, Fresher’s Plays meeting, Tech training, dinner with my academic family, Iolanthe rehearsal, pub night with Gilbert and Sullivan society
Thursday- Christian Union prayer meeting, study at the library, groceries/laundry, Jazz dance class, Bible study
Friday- Fresher’s plays meeting, Exchange student potluck, Toastie bar helping
Saturday- Iolanthe rehearsal, birthday party, dinner with the other side of my academic family, party at a friend’s flat

I don’t expect many of you actually read through that super carefully, and that’s okay, since it’s just a rather random sample of things that may happen in my life. (Frankly, that was mainly for my mom). All those things are also the reason why I really haven’t done a lot of reading for my classes yet… My lack of studying hasn’t been a problem so far, but I really do need to start working on some essays due in a few weeks. It’s just so much more fun to walk around singing from Iolanthe….

And now: Pictures!
The path down to Castle Sands (this happens to be right across from the English building)

Castle Sands (well, the rocks... the sand's kinda off to the side...)

Seaglass! And rocks! And shells! Oh my!

That tidepool ain't gonna get any bluer.

The castle, from the attacker's point of view

The shoreline was completely covered with small pebbles-- when the waves lapped in the sound of the stones rolling
over each other was like music.

Castle-- and clouds. Because if there's one thing Scotland does well, it's clouds

Gate leading out of St. Mary's Quad 

Holy Trinity church-- I'm pretty sure this is where John Knox preached

Random arch I need to walk through on my way to pretty much everywhere.
You know you're from North America when you wonder why the arch isn't bigger so they
could have two lanes of traffic underneath... *facepalm*

My new favourite seaglass find!

Some of the seaglass I've collected. There's just so much green, and even blue!

St. Salvador's Quad (affectionately known as "Sally's")

Nothing looks imposing like a row of arches

Or a tower.

Gardens. :)

Pointy turrets 

And a gate!

Other side of the tower

Apparently Patrick Hamilton (one of the first reformation martyrs) was burned at the stake one this spot.
Now, it's student legend that anyone who steps on this inscription in the pavement will fail their final exams.

To end my slideshow: St. Andrew's most entertaining street sign.