Multicultural Kitchen

The kitchen is the common room on our floor. In it I have met my Chinese neighbors (Jessica and Jinjing), their friend Marvin (also Chinese), Eric (from Cameroon), Akil (from India), Justin (another American). I got to talk with Jessica a lot during dinner, and Akil and Marvin came in while I was making tea. It was fun just hanging out, mostly playing with English words and their equivalents in other languages. We went around saying “thank you” in as many different languages as we could, and then Jessica said, “In Chinese, it’s very easy” and she said it. Akil and I looked at her in dead silence. To our tone-deaf ears, it wasn’t easy at all! We tried it anyway and it was quite funny.

I finally met Felicity today—from Oklahoma, also a medievalist, though a historian—and I’ve got to run or I’ll be late meeting her for the Christian Union’s “After Dark Jazz Cafe.” Ciao!


A busy weekend and I’m not sure where to start. I’m still in a mild sickly fog, so I’ll try to be coherent. We left Edinburgh yesterday morning and caught the train from Waverly Station. We crossed the Firth of Forth on the train, it was cool to have the water beneath us.

After checking in and meeting Megan, the Assistant Warden, by happenstance, I mentioned my refrigerated medication. Apparently people with that need tend to live in flats, but she said she would find out what she could do for me—reassigning or something else. Unable to unpack until I heard back, my mom and I went out to explore the town. I wanted to find the English building. So we took a left at the corner of my building and saw the sea. To the left, across from the castle ruins, is the English building. So unless there’s some shortcut between Gannochy House (Gann-oh-kee), this will be the route I take, hm, every day? 😀

We ate lunch—meal deal from Boots (egg salad sandwich + sweet grapes + juice smoothie)—on a bench overlooking the sea. Feeling overwhelmed and confused and just plain tired, I was glad to just sit. Somewhere, just over the sound of the wind and the grasses and the gulls, were bagpipes, their notes both mournful and majestic, unassuming, as present as the wind or the sea. Yes, this is where I’m supposed to be, where I want to be.

So far my floor is 1/2 Chinese, at least six. I’ve met one other American, Justin, who is also an English PG (postgrad). I saw two other guys in the kitchen when I went in to get tea, but they were all in conversation so I didn’t get to introduce myself. I’ll see them around. I haven’t really used the kitchen yet as I just bought groceries today, and my mom has been here so we’ve been eating out. Tomorrow will initiate my exploration of the kitchen. The common area for our floor—eee! 🙂

(Oh, I ended up getting a mini-fridge for my room. It’s tiny. But it holds my meds and has room for a few other things if I ever need to hole up in my room to work.)

This morning explains the name for this post. I read on the Christian Union website that a group of them were going to meet at the Chaplaincy building and would walk to church together. I, as I have begun a habit of doing, got lost along the way (I was one street over) and decided to go to the Baptist Church instead, since I knew where that was. I went, and saw that for their morning services they met somewhere else… far away. I stood staring at the sign for a while and heard a girl ask, “Excuse me, are you lost?”

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Drink lots of fluids

Yesterday we were successful and finally made it up to Edinburgh Castle. On our way up to the castle, we stopped at St Giles Church (Presbyterian, of course) where you had to pay £2 to take pictures. So I didn’t. The stained glass work was lovely, though, dating mostly from the 1800s, depicting various parables, the Passion, and the first few chapters of Acts–which I am currently reading, so that was cool. Made realize, again, how I’m glad for a Christian upbringing because I couldn’t imagine how baffling (or boring) visiting famous cathedrals would be (or looking at any major art work from the medieval and Renaissance periods) without having the background to say, “Oh, that one is of the Ten Virgins,” or “That’s Judas buying a field.” A working knowledge of the Gospels and Acts is pretty much essential for studying Art History.

In case you were worried, no, I did not forget Seamus. (For the reasoning behind Seamus the Traveling Duck, watch Amelie.)

On our way down the Royal Mile, we stopped for lunch and the Writer’s Museum. I got to see Sir Waverly Scott’s manuscripts and proofs and sympathized with his editors for he did not cross his t’s, dot his i’s, or close his vowels. I also learned that R. L. Stevenson wrote The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in less than a week, but that he had also spent “many years” thinking about it.

Alas, as the afternoon was waning, we decided to put off the rest of the Royal Mile for today. We instead went to the Royal Scottish Museum, where I spent an anxious hour looking at the exhibits in distraction as my mom hastened back to retrace our steps to find her purse. Fortunately, a woman who had seen her leave it on a bench took it to the police station where my mom recovered it. We ate dinner at The Elephant House, where J. K. Rowling wrote much of the first Harry Potter. Then we came back to the B&B and discovered that I was indeed getting sick.

So, instead of going into town today to see the rest of the Royal Mile… I slept. With my immune system the way that it is, I can’t afford to get really sick at the start of term, especially when I’m not registered with a GP yet! We think it’s the amount of exhaust I’ve been breathing in and that it has irritated my throat and lungs–I remember the feeling from the last time I came over. Last time I didn’t get sick but I also wasn’t 1) Taking immuno-suppressants, 2) Already recovering from a sinus infection. So I’m resting and drinking copious amounts of water and taking pills every 4-6 hours. I’m disappointed about not seeing Holyrood, but I have the chance to see it again. Resting, however, has been good. My chest is still tight but not as tight, and I’m still coughing but not with the same intensity. I’m going to brew some tea and continue reading Life of Pi.

I can’t believe that I’m going up to University tomorrow. Eep!

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.