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Claudia: Safety, hill-walking, working hard or hardly working

October 10, 2010

I’m going to start this post out on a serious note, and then move on to the goings on in my life.

This week, with all of the terrorist threats, Butler sent us a ton of emails and urged us to register with the American Consulate. Normally, I tend not to take things too seriously, but I decided to register right away, because I plan on traveling a lot. I’m pretty sure that most of the places I want to go are not really huge spots. Some of the other Butler kids and I have talked about whether we think there is really any sort of threat or not, and it seems like most people are kind of worried, but still proceeding with plans anyway (my friend Liz is going to Paris this weekend, and other people had already purchased tickets for upcoming weekends to various places). While I don’t feel really personally threatened or anything, the volume of information we’ve been receiving about safety and traveling is really making me consider safety in my travel plans a lot more. I feel like there’s not so much we can do differently, and I’m not going to lie, I am very American. I open my mouth, and people know I am American as soon as I say one word. If I travel, I’ll be traveling with a group of American students, and there’s really very little I can do about that. I try not to draw attention to myself, but I feel like I’m very bad at sinking into a crowd, especially because of my tendency towards brightly colored hats…

I have been spending a lot of time doing school work (that’s a surprise!), so things have been pretty low-key. So, the highlights of the last week and a half:

Wednesday: Getting lost, chilling out, emerging victorious!
Wednesday provided me with much excitement. I had my first tutorial, for Scotland and Orality, and I was a little nervous because I wasn’t sure if we were going to be quizzed on the reading or what, but it turned out to be a lot of fun. Our tutor is very warm, friendly, and laid-back, so I think it is going to be a good experience. After that, my friend and I decided that we should go to the travel “fayre” that Butler was having at their offices, which are located in the New Town (relatively new… it’s Georgian. I will write an entry just talking about Edinburgh itself sometime in the very near future), which is a good distance from where our classes are. Having only a vague notion that Rutland Square was on the west side of New Town, we set off, and walked for a long time, eventually (after a call to my roommate for help, and randomly deciding to walk down an alley that fortuitously led into the square) made it to the Butler office. The travel fayre turned out not to be so helpful, as I am pretty savvy at researching destinations and travel options on the Internet, but there were sweets, and a guy to tell us about travel within Scotland, which was actually helpful.

I hustled back to Old Town, to leave my books and stuff in my flat before I went back to the campus area for the Classics Society Pub Crawl, starting at our patron pub, the Greenmantle, where we are always presented with free food and very low-cost beverages. I spent a delightful hour or so with the few people who had shown up at the beginning, before I had to go to a different pub to meet up with my flatmates for the Hermit’s Croft charity pub quiz. I got there before the rest of the team, so I tried to stake out an area, which was hard, since the pub was terrible and had no more than five tables. We ended up sitting on the floor, which was not particularly comfortable, but oh well. We were presented with a sheet of aluminum foil and the paper for our answers, and the pub quiz began. Our team consisted of me, flatmate Katherine, flatmate Caroline, her boyfriend Liam, and two other girls, Jess and Becky. They told us to use the aluminum foil to make a sculpture incorporating sport and veg(etable), so Becky suggested we make a man benchpressing a carrot or courgette or cucumber. Somehow, I became in charge of making the guy, and we ended up with a lovely little sculpture. The team was an excellent combination of talents, because we ended up coming in second (1st place in the sculpture category with 9.5/10!!!) and we won a box of variety chocolates. We went back to our flat to celebrate (by eating the chocolate, yum!)

Friday: Harvest Festival and a Lovely Dinner
On Tuesday, Ying, Sarah, and I had decided that we would have dinner together at my place and class things up a little bit. I decided I would make a roast pork loin with rosemary, accompanied by a spinach salad and roasted sweet potatoes with sage and rosemary. But, I have gotten ahead of myself. In the afternoon, I went to the Harvest Festival and learned about various environmental programmes in Scotland, as well as some of the different groups on campus. I wanted to go to a talk about sustainable food, but it didn’t happen at the time it was supposed to happen, so I settled for my piece of free pie and then left to go shopping to buy some plates and a roasting pan. All of this was achieved at Poundland. At Poundland, we had our first real unintelligible Scottish experience. A lady kept talking to us, and we were trying to hold up the conversation, but we really, really couldn’t understand most of what she was saying. Something about being a bookbinder, but then they moved it to Harvard. I was trying to ask questions, but I’m not sure she understood me either. It’s amazing how much difficulty there can be between people speaking the same language…

I started cooking and dinner was ready a little late, but it was okay, because it was DELICIOUS. I am an amazing chef, and modest too. It was a very nice evening, and then Sarah and I decided we would go out to the Hive, which is a club on the Cowgate. However, we couldn’t find it, and in the end, we decided that we’re boring, so we went back to her room at Pollock Halls and watched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It was an entirely worthwhile choice, and I was so tired by the end of the movie that I got home and fell asleep right away.

Sunday: Muddy Sunday
I woke up later than I meant to, and woke Katherine up to go up Arthur’s Seat. She had not realized that I actually wanted to do it. So, we got our act together and went outside. No sooner had we walked out the door than the sky opened and burst forth with torrential rain. No, I’m exaggerating. It was just a cold drizzle, so it was pretty unpleasant, but we were committed to doing some hill-walking. We couldn’t figure out where the easy path was, so we started walking up some stairs on the side of the hill. These stairs just so happened to terminate at a random point, leaving no path to follow. However, there was a lovely view of the Salisbury Crags and of the city as a whole.

So, naturally, we decided it would be a great idea to climb up the rock face and see if there was another path at the level ground that we could see probably 30 feet above us. That is the view looking down from when we found the path at the top that actually did exist. So, we walked until we saw more people walking, and then followed them to what we thought was the top, but was not actually the top. There’s a little grassy area between the three peaks, and so we had to walk across it to get to the highest peak on Arthur’s Seat. While we were doing that, we saw all the messages that people had written with rocks they found, and we decided to add our own.

We went up to the summit and had a grand old time looking all around the city and the surrounding areas, and trying to point out the buildings we knew. There’s a map sort of thing that tells you what the big things in the distance are, and how far away they are. We were trying to figure out if we could actually see some of the things in the longer distances, but we still aren’t sure.

On the way back down, we tried to go the “easy way” and failed miserably, facing the choice of sliding down a bunch of rocks or going back up and trying again. We ended up walking down the really steep stairs that go straight down the face of the mountain, and we were puzzled by the people who kept passing us at faster speeds, because we were afraid of falling and dying. It was SO slippery, because it was raining, and the steps are really uneven, and there’s nothing to hold on to. It was pretty much my nightmare, but we made it down okay.

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