Walking in circles

Princes Garden looking toward North Bridge (9/16)

Looking toward Edinburgh Castle (9/17)

Miscommunication has been the keyword for today. Our landlady thought that we had misunderstood the menu when we only ordered eggs and toast for breakfast. I misunderstood the map and turned right instead of left when we got off the bus, and while we saw the castle up on Castle Rock, we definitely did not make it to the Royal Mile. We instead enjoyed the lovely Princes Street Gardens, explored St Cuthbert’s Church cemeteries, and ate lunch at Waverly Bridge. Maybe tomorrow. We misunderstood the map again on our way to dinner; when we found the restaurant my mom had chosen, we discovered she had misunderstood the menu. I took us to a pub we had passed along the way. There the miscommunication continued and my mom ordered ginger ale for me instead of J2O.

The problem with the map is that the streets here change names every couple of blocks, and the map reflects some of these changes but not all of them! And, because it is a hilly, dense city, you have bridges of streets crossing over other streets. Thirdly, related to these bridges, there are other passageways called “such-and-such stairs” or “steps” which are also not included on our otherwise detailed map. At least we found a nearby entrance to Holyrood Park on our misadventure to dinner. Or, to some park of sorts. If I can find it again, I’d like to check it out and maybe even climb up to Arthur’s Seat! In other news, all the bus exhaust is making me develop a cough. Fortunately, the air isn’t as bad as London, where the tissue turns black when you blow your nose (!). I’m hoping the University will be cleaner and quieter.

Edited 18/9:
I forgot to mention another misunderstanding, this time observed. Last night at the pub a family came in, sat down, and then left some time later with annoyed looks on their faces. They hadn’t ordered anything. It was easy to deduce that they weren’t from around here, had expected a server to come take their order, despite that the menu says to order at the bar. For future reference, when at a pub, you almost always place your order at the bar.

First impressions

I’m trying to stay awake for another 45 minutes or so and then I can finally go to sleep. I only got about an hour of real sleep on the plane, and two hours of in-and-out semi-consciousness, so bear with me.

  • So, I made it. I woke up Monday morning in mild-panic from a dream in which I had left my cooler of medicine behind. So I made especial care to have it all ready to go. And then I left it. Fortunately my dad got us to the airport early enough that we could check our bags while he went to fetch it.
  • I watched Prince Caspian 1.5 times (the .5 being in-and-out of awareness). I was fully convinced that my movie was more exciting that my mom’s, which was some political movie, because mine had swords and trebuchets and chivalry and centaurs. It’s easy to see how Lewis’s medieval background influenced Narnia. And, well, the Middle Ages are just darn cool.
  • Then we almost got stranded in Manchester, my mom and I and a few other Americans (who were also students this year, and we were all on the same flight to Edinburgh), because United didn’t give us boarding tickets for the third leg of our journey.
  • My bags almost got stranded in Manchester and I had to identify them planeside because they weren’t “in the system.”
  • My first sight of Scotland from the air was a pond shaped like a heart. Then as we landed in Edinburgh, the great wisps of cloud bowed down low to the ground, as if heaven were attempting to touch the earth. In some places it did with long fingers of featherlike fog.
  • It’s weird to be in the UK without Sarah or our other housemates from the Vines. In some ways it doesn’t feel quite real yet because of that.
  • Edinburgh, from what I’ve seen, reminds me a bit of North Oxford, a bit of Cardiff, and a bit of Dublin. Weird, huh? Definitely not London-feeling. It’s the architecture and hilliness.
  • We took a taxi from the airport to the B&B. What I like about taxis is that it’s a simple way of transport and you get to see the above-ground world. That’s when it started to sink in a little that I’m actually here. Seeing people living their lives: a man stepping out a door talking on his mobile phone, a woman sitting at a desk in her flat, an artist setting up his easel. Real life happens here. There is a story behind every door.
  • Glenalmond is no St Margaret’s Hotel, but it’s got its own quirks. The lampshades look like Hagrid would own them, and the shadow cast by the overhead light onto the wall looks like a Dr Seuss character.
  • I insisted that we walk the 1.8 miles to the National Gallery, where we spent most of the afternoon. Doing so brought some normalcy. It was very refreshing to be in an art museum, especially one with red walls.
  • Today I have been reminded of the UK’s fondness for stairs and small spaces. And odd shaped hallways. (Unfortunately, my knees are feeling it now. We’ll be utilizing the bus more tomorrow.)
  • This afternoon I had a cup of tea at the B&B and realized that I hadn’t had a decent cup of tea in two years. It was wonderful.

I had hoped for all these to be compiled in wonderfully written prose but you will have to make do with ineloquent bullets. I am exhausted but hopefully after a good night’s sleep I won’t be as jet-lagged tomorrow.

Ready or not

All I need to do is put Caspian in my bag and the ice packs in my cooler and I’m ready to go. My room is the cleanest and most organized it has ever been. When I look around I think, “Wow! I’d like it in here!” 😉 Yes Danielle, I’ve taken photographic documentation to prove this.

I am leaving my cell phone, Pippin, behind. Do not attempt to reach me by that number anymore. Instead of my pleasant alto voice you will get Alex’s bored and bemused baritone.

It will seem like an eternity to me, but I will most likely post as soon as tomorrow when we arrive at Glenalmond B&B in Edinburgh. Pray for safe and non-exciting traveling! Thanks! Love and <3s to all.

Let’s just be pretty

Today I:

  • Renewed my drivers’ license;
  • Sold DVDs to Half Price;
  • Mailed packages to Kelly and Laura (good-bye yarn!) and Ancilla: The Musical1 to Karen;
  • Argued with Explained to CVS the need for a 90-day supply of my medications, when they had only given me a 30-day;
  • Made a list of places to visit while in Edinburgh, noting hours of operation and cost;
  • Began reducing the chaos;
  • Nearly finished packing. Sort of.

I’m frustrated with myself because I am going to have to use part of my mother’s suitcase after all. I keep running through my head everything that I’ve packed and wondering how it is that it won’t all fit into two suitcases when the last time I went to Europe I was able to. The Minimalist has been arguing with the Rationalist: “Ugh, I have so much stuff!” Last time you were only going to the UK for 3.5 months. “But I also went to Spain!” Your mother came at Easter to take your woolens. You didn’t take any nesty things last time. You sent a suitcase back with your parents in mid-July. You didn’t have to use one of your carry-ons as a cooler.2 You’re moving. The fact that I’ve doubled or tripled the amount that I took last time and still can fit 95% of it into two suitcases is a feat in itself. I can console the Minimalist by that I’m leaving only my kitchen things and books behind—I’ve pretty much given or thrown everything else away. If I find that I have brought too much stuff, I have the opportunity to send things back with my mom, and again at Christmas.

1 The Ancilla, for the uninitiated, is the handbook for OBU’s two-semester-long Western Civilization course. The link is to a playlist.
2 One of my medications requires refrigeration.

Favorite mugs

All summer my boxes of kitchen things have been left unopened in a corner of the kitchen. There was no need to unpack them because my parents have their own kitchen things. But inside them were my mugs, and I was determined to find my favorite two.

Going through them, I felt like Mary Kate from The Quiet Man. My things! “Oh, my plates! My mugs! My wooden bowls! My teapots!” I had a whole life in kitchenware that has lain dormant the past few months. They are full of memories: so many of them are inherited from Megan, they remind me of life in West U 33 and in the Little Red House. Kelly, Kali: how much of our lives was lived in the kitchen? They’re going to be sealed up again and put in my closet, to be re-opened who-knows-when. While it’s good to know that I won’t be in want of kitchen things when I move back, whenever that is, it’s still a little sad to leave them behind.

Making lists

When she had any free time, she made lists, millions of lists. I’d find them all over the house—stuff to pick up, stuff to get rid of, people to call, people to make sure to say good-bye to, questions about cleaning the apartment, about which way to ship stuff, questions to ask Evan about London schools—even a list just of things she knew about Evan’s boys, Tony and Julian. That’s my main memory of her in that time, sitting at the kitchen table, entirely surrounded by little poxes of Chinese food, leaning on her elbows with one hand in her hair. Making lists.

Tamsin, by Peter S. Beagle

While I found this amusing when I read Tamsin a couple months ago, it’s true. I have so many lists now that they’re confused, and I’m not sure which is which. I keep second-guessing myself. My major packing day has coincided with my off day, and the little things are getting me all Wrong. My favorite knit hat from Laura has unraveled. I found a dead gnat on my popsicle–now Contaminated, and I had already eaten most of it. I have yet to come up with a cure for feeling contaminated. Ugh. And the day had started so well.

Peace I leave you, my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid. So much to do, so much stress, so much need for grace and patience.

I’m too efficient a packer. I’ve managed to fit 95% of my clothing into one suitcase and it’s 9 lbs overweight. Argh. I even still had room left! Now I have to rethink this.

Some campaignin’

So last night and the night before, the Williams and I watched/listened to the Republican National Convention, paying the most attention to Palin and McCain. During Palin’s, David and I both had wretched headaches, so I admit we were rather snarky. As a presenter, however, she did fairly well for being unfamiliar with such a large audience and important occasion. I will have to say, though, that all of the Republican speakers I heard were rather bland—even the audience was subdued compared to the DNC. The Democrats are much more dynamic and fun to watch. The most exciting thing during the RNC was that not one, but two protesters made it in during Palin’s and McCain’s speeches.

During McCain’s speech, I said to Sarah, “Well, if he becomes president, I’ll do what I’ve done with Bush: I’ll read his speeches instead of listen to them, because I keep tuning him out.” As I’ve read through the transcript of his speech, I like his rhetoric. It is straightforward and is personable (in writing, at least). I appreciate his sentiment even if I don’t agree with all that he’s saying. But I don’t agree with all of Obama’s words either. It really is a struggle for me, as I’ve developed an increasingly “moderation in all things” mindset, to choose a candidate to support. And it is especially awkward because in ten days I’m going to be an ex-pat. In some ways, I feel as if my opinion doesn’t really matter, since I won’t be living here, but at the same time, because I am an educated thoughtful citizen, I know it is my duty to vote.

At one point McCain said, “I will ask Democrats and Independents to serve with me.” Will he really? I asked this aloud to Sarah and David, and none of us can be sure. McCain spoke of how the American people have lost faith in their government and in both parties. He’s right. I don’t know whether I’d trust either candidate to do what they say they will do, or to be willing to put the nation’s interests above their party’s. “Why can’t they both be president?” I asked only half-jokingly. “Yeah!” Sarah replied. “Then they’d be a whole, complete person.”

I admit that I’m not a gung-ho supporter of democracy. It is an ideal, a wonderful ideal that I wish I could support wholeheartedly, but one that I am also dreadfully cynical of because it will only work if everyone participated, and if everyone who participated was educated. I recognize my obligation and my privilege to participate, and so I will. Yet it still seems that the more widespread public education becomes the more apathetic our citizens are. I’m pretty sure everyone who’s made it through high school has taken Government and American History. We should be having much higher voter turnouts than we have over the past few elections (when I’ve been alive/aware enough to notice). I’m curious to see if this year, because of the Obama appeal and the fact that no incumbents are running, it will be higher. We shall see.

A lazy morning

I am sitting in a pleasant living room, with morning light streaming in two large doors from the clear blue sky beyond. A bundle of purrs is grooming herself at my feet while her sister prowls beneath the coffee table. Inevitably cat hair is getting onto my keyboard. A mild sinus headache is pinching the bridge of my nose and drumming at my temples, but otherwise, the overarching word is pleasant. Across from me on the couch sits Sarah, reading Oliver Twist. I’m in Albuquerque for a last few days of vacation.

It was a little weird going with Sarah to UNM yesterday, the university I almost went to for graduate school. I realized this when we got off the bus in the morning, my Timbuk2 bag heavy with Caspian and books I would amuse myself with while she was in class. I met people I might have been friends with, we sat beneath a tree by the duck pond while we ate lunch, listening to conversations I might have had if I had heard the same lecture, seen the same classmates. But it wasn’t with nostalgia or regret that I thought these things: instead, a mild and detached curiosity. I did quite a bit of woolgathering for Bede and read half of VSI: The Anglo-Saxon Age. This morning I got emails from Sandra, the PG English secretary. The days are tumbling forward and soon I will be seeing and knowing the things I have waited so long to see and know about Scotland.

Yesterday, as we were leaving UNM, I saw a sign in the English dept for a Masters of English in Madrid… it was for the program at SLU. I have become so caught up in planning for Scotland that I have been neglecting SLU. “One year at a time,” but also, I needed the reminder.

Today we’re going to lunch with Sarah’s friends from UNM, and go to the UNM Museum of Anthropology, at Taco Cabana and go to Page One, Too bookstore, and will watch Dear Frankie, because it’s set in Scotland. [Thoughts on the RNC later.]

The Books Will Fit

My room exploded.

Less than two weeks from my departure and I realize I’ve been silent on the subject of Moving. Even though my wardrobe has regurgitated itself, it still hasn’t quite sunk in that I’m actually leaving. I said to Megan today (she called me! from the other side of the world!) that I’m in “suspended disbelief.” I have no end-date in mind: I bought a one-way ticket to Scotland, with half-formed plans to go to Spain afterward, and a tangle of options for after that. It is hard to work into my head that I am going to be in school again, now that August has come and gone and I have yet to step into a classroom. Term doesn’t start until September 29th.

As I told Andrew, I doubt I’ll really realize that I’m in Scotland until I’ve turned in my first paper. Half the time it seems I’m unaware of where I am, as my mind is mostly preoccupied with people who aren’t present or who don’t exist. Location is irrelevant; the mind is everywhere. The past few days I’ve been ultra-aware of my surroundings, as if trying to etch each image into my memory: scrubby trees competing with the cluttered horizon of streetlights and signs, by-products of urban sprawl, or the fields and pastures that have hitherto been untouched, but will indubitably be “developed” upon my return. As we drove up to Canyon Lake yesterday, I was awash with memories of what had once been a familiar drive up to Spring Branch. Back when the Kissingers still lived with their parents, when we still had Fun Days, when we all still orbited San Antonio; but now I am adrift, speeding into the unknown. I remember the nighttime drives back to San Antonio, and Drew and I would end up playing leapfrog. I always let him win, because I was more afraid. More responsible, you might say.

We went sailing. It was good. If we can, we might go again next week. The Sunfish: