Archive for the ‘Claudia in Scotland’ Category


Claudia: Scotland Snow

November 29, 2010

Hey, wait a second… I thought it wasn’t supposed to snow in Scotland! Apparently, this is the first time in 17 years that there has been snow in December… So, while Minneapolis experienced its first snowfall-free March on records, Edinburgh gets a massive snowfall. The prediction is snow every day for the next week. WOOOO! I hope everything gets cleared out by the time Chelsea and I are meant to fly to London.

After a morning of steel-grey skies, the sun is beginning to peek out, and the sky has become powder blue. It may just be the fact that I’ve spent the better part of the last three days reading Märchen (international folktales), but I feel like we’ve been dropped into fairy-world. The library looks out over the Meadows, and all of the trees are covered in snow and birds and squirrels are running around inside. The way the light is coming through the trees is just lovely. I’m sure all of this sentimental blithering is brought on by the fact that I’m in an essay crunch (okay, I have to write a conclusion, but I have 4 hours til I need to turn it in, so not that bad… but begs the question, “why are you blogging when you need to finish an essay?”), and I just want to go play in the snow.

My archaeology lecturer didn’t show this morning, so we all decided to leave after waiting around for 10 minutes. Good times. I think as soon as I finish this essay, I’m going to take a break before I start on the archaeology papers. Ahhhh procrastination, why do I constantly fall prey to your wiles?


Claudia: Do you realize?

November 22, 2010

This entry will be another interruption of the regularly scheduled programming. This has been the hardest month and a half of my young life. It is not that I do not love Edinburgh with all my heart, because I love it here, and I love being here, and I love my friends here, and the way the sun shines in the late afternoon, and how the leaves are still golden, and how the crags and Arthur’s Seat stand over the city, but the distance from my home is quickly becoming unbearable.

Skype, while it solves some of the problems caused by a lack of physical closeness, cannot make up for the fact that my mom cannot give me a hug. My grandpa Richard died a few days ago, and the last month has been a roller coaster of emotion. After the first week of uncertainty and anxiety, I could breathe when he went home and he was okay. Last week, with the numbers (I hate that expression. A kidney is not made up of numbers. We are not made up of numbers. People talk about “the numbers” like they know what it means, but I am sure that we have no idea) headed in the wrong direction, he was given a very negative prognosis, and now he is gone.

It is incredibly hard for me to grasp this. When I left home, he was fine. We chatted away about the adventures on which I was about to embark, and I was certain that I would be back to see him again and share my adventures with him like he shared so many of his with me. As a matter of fact, I am taking a course called Scotland and Orality because I thought that learning about the oral tradition would help me in my recently discovered quest to piece together all of the parts of my grandfather’s life. Only a few years ago did I begin to appreciate all of his stories: from growing up, from college, from his days in the merchant marine, from raising my mother and aunts, from seeing me grow up. He saw so much, and for a very brief period, I had the sense to take advantage of his experiences and learn from him. I only wish that I could go back in time, and learn to listen at an earlier age. At least I still have our correspondence. There is not much, but it is precious to me. I have a postcard on my desk that I bought this weekend in Saint Andrews. The thought is simple, the stamp is affixed, but when I was at the post office, I didn’t know his ZIP code, so here it sits. I don’t know what to do with it. I can’t throw it away, but I don’t want it here.

My dad set up a Skype account for him so that he could talk to me. We never had the chance to use it, but somebody is still signing in on the account. That unholy notification “Richard Marcus has signed in,” is haunting me.

Jeff said that last weekend, with everybody together, was fun, and that it helped him realize how amazing Grandpa was, and how he should strive to be more like him. Yeah, that would have been helpful. The entire family was gathered together, but I was alone, and being alone, thousands of miles away, makes this so much harder. I had no idea of the situation at any given point. The last I had heard, he had one to three months to live, but here I am two weeks later, and here he is not. I can’t adjust to this idea that I will never see him again, never speak to him again, never write to him again. I take comfort in the thought that he was still lucid in our last conversation, and our last words to each other were to send love. I am reminded of the wise words of Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips:

Do You Realize – that everyone you know someday will die?
And instead of saying all of your goodbyes – let them know
You realize that life goes fast
It’s hard to make the good things last
You realize the sun doesn’t go down
It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round

His atoms will be somewhere in the universe, perhaps mingling with those previously belonging to my grandma. They are the world, and we walk amongst them.

In the memory of my Grandpa, the caper must continue, and for the memory of my Grandpa, I will continue to make it extraordinary.


Claudia: Remember, remember the 5th of November

November 5, 2010

Today, Chelsea and I decided to go to Glasgow to go shopping because we felt like we didn’t really have any clothes. It was a lovely trip, and we had a fantastic time and went to a delightful restaurant. It was also really fun to spend all day with Chelsea. It’s been nice getting to know people… especially when we have a lot in common. We stopped each other from spending way too much money, but I probably spent more than I should have.

I looked at my finances today, and it seems that I have spent way more than I budgeted myself for. I knew that would happen, which is why I put myself on a tiny budget, but I totally surpassed it. I shouldn’t worry because I anticipated it, but I can’t stop. And I guess, that would be the general anxiety disorder. Now that I have my schedule for next semester pretty much taken care of, I have to move on to the next issue, and money is a natural choice. Someday, I’ll grow out of this problem. For now, I’m going to try not to think about it.

Back to a lighter subject, and the post title: I was really excited to be in the UK for Guy Fawkes’ Day/Bonfire Night. We had decided early on in the semester that we’d climb Arthur’s Seat to watch fireworks. Well, at around 5:30, it started pouring, so Liz, Katherine, and I considered just renting V For Vendetta and calling it a night. However, a bunch of my friends were going to go for it, so we hustled to put on more suitable clothing, but we were sort of too late. So, the three of us set off, but then Liz decided she did not have any practical clothing, so she’d sit it out. This was sad 😦 So, we attached to a group that was getting very drunk, decided that being around drunk people while climbing a mountain in the dark was not the best idea, and kept going ahead of them. Katherine, unfortunately, did not have the best shoes for this endeavor, and I ended up losing her when she said to go ahead. Ladies and gentlemen, when in the dark, do not separate from the group. I ended up at the far end of the crags, where I had a pretty decent view of the official big fireworks. I could also see all of the fireworks going off around the city, and across the Firth of Forth in Fife. It was really incredible, and even though it was freezing, and wet, and gross, I’m glad I did it. I managed to get safely down, of course, I slipped and fell AFTER managing to climb down the crags, and I ended up covered in mud. Oh well. I found Katherine already back at the flat, and we had grilled cheese, hot chocolate, and I watched 30 Rock.

I don’t really have any pictures from up on the crags, but it was beautiful, and now it is pretty firmly embedded in my memory, and it will be a story I can tell for a long time. I think sometimes it is better not to have a camera. I can say with confidence that I will remember the fifth of November, 2010.

Tomorrow, Katherine and I are leaving on a 7 am train to Ardrossan Harbour, whence we shall take a ferry to the Isle of Arran, which I have heard is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Here’s hoping the weather improves.


Claudia: improvements, spontaneity, suggesting coconuts migrate, the best day of my life thus far, and Halloween

November 4, 2010

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the library lately, because I have two 3000 word essays due in the 3 weeks, a 2000 word essay due next week (but half of it is a transcription that I’ve got mostly done already), and a rather large portfolio for Archaeology due on 3 December. Heavy stuff, my friends. Surprised that I’ve already started working? Yeah, I am too. But let’s consider how in the Scottish uni system, my finals are worth 50-60% of my grade, and these essays are worth the rest. Can’t afford to have a bad day.

Now, on to the subject of this post: as my parents reminded me while I was having a Skype conversation with them last week, time is moving quickly. I haven’t done a lot of the things I planned to do (the question of whether I actually end up making it to Dublin is very much up in the air), and I don’t have that much time left in which to do them.

This brings me to a little bit of a sidebar: while I haven’t crossed a lot of things off of my list of things to do in Scotland, I think I’m becoming a much better and more interesting person while I am here. My life has lacked a lot of balance up until this point; I will simply waste days, scramble to do work, and rarely get out and do things, or if I do, I go crazy doing them. For the first several weeks I was here, I didn’t go out that much or make a lot of new friends, or really do much of anything (aside from my homestay and the Highlands) except go to my classes and hang out with some friends once in a while. While people were getting out around Scotland, and living it up in Edinburgh, I was just sort of adjusting and existing (not that I wasn’t having a good time). My thought process was that I had all the time in the world later in the semester to do things, but I didn’t really account for my essays or the sheer number of things I wanted to do.

Now, I’m learning to get my work done during the day (I pretty much live in the library), so I can go out with my friends at night. A bunch of kids from Hermit’s Croft have pretty much become regulars at the Montague, the pub across the street from our flat. It’s very cozy and friendly. We’re actually going to their pub quiz tonight, hooray! But I have also developed a really amazing close circle of friends from ClassicsSoc, and we go dancing sometimes, or just hang out around campus.

So, back to the point. Last week, my friends and I had tried to get these tickets from the International Student Center to go to Stirling, including entry to the castle, for £7 (such a good deal), but they sold out after only one of us had managed to get to the ticket counter and buy two tickets. So, we could either pay our own way to Stirling or not go. I considered not going, but then we were going to go to Perth and go to Scone Palace because it closes for the season on 31 October, and it’s supposed to be nice. However, one of our friends informed us that the ISC said that if we showed our student IDs at Stirling Castle while the ISC was there, we’d get in free, so Katherine (flatmate) and I decided to go to Stirling and meet up with some of our friends there. On Friday night, while we were looking at the guidebook for Scotland that my grandparents so kindly left behind for me, we discovered that there is a castle about 20 minutes by bus away from Stirling, in a village called Doune, that happens to be the castle used for filming nearly every castle scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail!!! Naturally, we just had to go, so we made plans to hit up Sterling, and then leave to go to Doune.

Again: I have been having trouble uploading photos to my blog, so here are links to photo albums:

We got to Stirling, split a tasty Cornish pasty, and then walked up to the castle, where it turned out that they would NOT let me in free with my ID, so I bought a Historic Scotland card at a steeply discounted rate (£25 woo!!) that I assume will pay for itself with visits to maybe 2 more sites, which is good because we’re going to Craigmillar Castle at some point in the near future. It turned out that our timing was not synchronous with my friends, so we went on a tour of the Earl of Argyll’s lodgings, which I expected would take about half an hour, but was incredibly wrong concerning this assumption.

You probably know how antsy I get about time (this was at 11:30, and we had to be on a bus by 1:55 or else our day would be entirely thrown off), and how much I have trouble paying attention to people for long periods of time, so I was pretty much freaking out when by noon, we had not even entered the lodgings, but had listened to the guy talking about every aspect of the outside of the building, up to the molding on the windows. But, there was no way out of the tour because there were security people by the courtyard gate and stuff. So, finally inside, the house was pretty cool, but the tour guide would NOT shut up. I had a frantic texting conversation with my friend Liz, who was at this point inside the castle, expressing my doubts that we’d find them in time to meet up, and also my fear that we would never get out of the townhome tour. Finally, it was over and Katherine and I ran up to the castle and found Liz in the Chapel Royal, which was beautiful. The building, which you can see in my album, didn’t really fit in… it was all fairytale building-y, as opposed to the imposing stone of the other buildings. It turned out that the palace itself is closed as they restore it to its original splendor, so I was pretty upset, but anyway, the castle was cool. There were really creepy fake people in the kitchens, but I got over it. The views of the surrounding countryside from the battlements and the outer courtyards were beautiful… stunningly so. Autumn here is just gorgeous, but this was nothing compared to the loveliness of Doune. Read the rest of this entry ?


Claudia: down with this sort of thing

November 2, 2010

The subject of this post is from a graffito on our campus, which I particularly enjoy. I’m not going to do multiple back entries. I’m just going to condense everything right here right now.

The week after the highlands, as you can imagine from my last post, was a scary blur. I went out with my friends most nights, and tried to focus as much as possible on work the rest of the time. That Saturday, I was incredibly excited because we were taking a field trip, and I haven’t been on one of those in ages. Unfortunately, this field trip did not turn out so well. It was 12 pounds, which is quite a chunk of change, and we got on the bus, drove to the Scottish Crannog Centre along the same route we’d taken up to the Highlands the week before, got there, and when we saw what the Centre was, I think we were all a little disappointed. It was a tiny little building, and a re-creation of a neolithic lake-dwelling. We watched a dude show us how some prehistoric tools worked, and waited for him to finally get some fire made (the most exciting part of the day, by far), and then got taken into the Crannog, where we sat in the dark while a guy talked to us for a while. After this, we were left on our own to explore. I whittled a stick down, we looked at the exhibit 3 times, and had hot chocolate, and we still had an hour and 45 minutes until the bus was coming. There was really no path to hike around anywhere, and the centre didn’t really have an indoors area, so we were all sitting around outside, freezing our butts off and trying to figure out how to fill up the time til the bus left. We mostly ended up meandering around the gift shop (the only heated area) until it was time to go.

On Tuesday, my grandparents came to visit. I was really excited to see them! We decided to eat at an Indian restaurant, Kismot, that I had been dying to try. We waited forever and a day to get our food but filled the time talking about plays and Mad Men (I could talk about Mad Men for just about forever!). When the food finally came, we were so hungry, I could have eaten anything. But this was amazing stuff… Kismot is family owned and all of the food is made up from scratch, and let me tell you, the difference is notable. My lamb was so tender and delicately flavored.

Wednesday, we went to the National Gallery. Art is interesting, but blogging about viewing art is not interesting. Dinner at the Hotel Bonham was amazing, and accompanied by more family tales. Thursday brought us to the National Gallery and a sushi dinner (yum). On Friday, we went to Glasgow. I’d never been there before, so we got on the train and headed there with the intention of going to the Kelvingrove Gallery. When we got there, we weren’t entirely sure how to get to where we were going. I was so proud of myself that on my way to the visitors’ center, a man actually came up to me and asked for directions! I pride myself on blending in, and usually I can give simple directions, but knowing nothing about Glasgow, I sadly had to admit that I wasn’t from there.

We finally got to Kelvingrove and looked at French and Italian art, had some coffee, and then checked out the other side of the museum, where they have natural history exhibitions. When the museum closed, we went back to the train station and waited until we could get an off-peak train back to Edinburgh.

Safely back on familiar ground, we went to New Town to eat seafood at the Mussel Inn, which was delicious. Saturday, G&G went on a highlands tour, so I tried to get some work done, and then went out with my friends Chelsea, Sam, and Lindsey. It was good to be out and about, and do some dancing! I came back, and went to sleep so I could meet up with G&G for the last time on Sunday. We went to look at the outside of the Scottish National Parliament Building, which is rather controversial because it was 1)not designed by a Scot, 2) went hugely over budget, and 3) does not fit in with the atmosphere of Old Town at all (see photo).

The inside was closed since it was Sunday, so we went on a bus to Leith, which is right on the ocean. We had another delicious seafood meal, and we said a sad goodbye as we went our separate ways.

I finally feel like I’ve really integrated into something here, and it’s killing me that I have to leave so soon. I wish I could extend to a full year, but I know that I have to be in Minnesota for the spring if I EVER want to finish my degree. Edinburgh is amazing, but I think at the end of this, it will be time to go back home and focus on determining my area of concentration, etc. I am thinking a lot about the future and things I would like to do, and feeling more and more like I’m meant to be in the education/communication side of things than the actual science-y bit. I’m still up for learning about the science, because that’s hugely important (duh), but in the long run, I don’t think that’s where I’ll end up. I’ve been working on internship applications (I know, already, can you believe it? A lot are due 17 Dec, which seems ludicrously early).


Claudia: Scottish Highlands adventure

October 29, 2010

Now, when I last left you, dear readers, I was about to embark on a journey to the Scottish Highlands. We left on a Friday morning at 7:45 am from campus, so all most of us wanted to do on the bus was sleep. However, our very enthusiastic tour guide only left us in quiet for a few minutes before we started hearing all about the landscape around us. I was so conflicted because on one hand, I was so sleepy, but on the other, I did not want to miss anything. We stopped at a Wal-Mart affiliate, ASDA, in Perth to allow people to get some food, and to meet up with the buses carrying Butler students from other universities. I thought I saw a girl I knew from high school, and as it turned out, it was a girl I knew from high school. So we had a little “It’s a Small World, After All” moment, as we marveled at how random it was that we happened to both be in Scotland without knowing it.

Second, we stopped at a place called the Hermitage. The story goes that an ancient Scottish bard by the name of Ossian (who was blind) lived in a hut/cave in the woods here by a waterfall, and he wrote this beautiful poetry that went undiscovered til the 1700s, when a man called James MacPherson “found” the manuscripts and translated it from Gaelic. As it would seem, this is all a bunch of crap, and MacPherson himself wrote the poetry. Not that it’s bad poetry, but it would appear that it is not actually ancient, and this Ossian fellow was made up. The area was just beautiful… there was another waterfall, and an old stone bridge, and many trees. We were being hustled through, though, so I was sad that I couldn’t just walk around for hours. I should figure out how to go back, maybe.

Anyhoo, following this, we stopped in an adorable town, Pitlochry, where my friend Sarah and I ate in a cute little restaurant, and then had a wander about through some of the shops before getting back to the bus. Following Pitlochry, we drove to Glenfinnan, where the Hogwarts Express from the Harry Potter movies is filmed. We climbed up a big hill that was very muddy, so I carried Sarah over a bit of it, as she wasn’t wearing appropriate footwear. The train coming was actually supremely anti-climactic, but my friend Lauren and I insisted upon humming the Harry Potter theme while taking video of the train passing.

Glenfinnan was the last stop of the day until we came to Inverness, our stopping point for the night. Inverness means “Mouth of the Ness,” which I didn’t know until I went there, so hooray for learning stuff.
In the morning, we got up nice and early to go to Culloden Battlefield, the site of the last battle fought on British soil (16 April, 1746). Background knowledge: in 1745, the Jacobites started a rebellion against William of Orange, the Protestant and(duh)non-English king of England. Bonnie Prince Charlie (aka Charles Edward Stuart) led them in the name of his father, James, who believed himself to be king of England, but was chilling in France until further notice. So, Bonnie Prince Charlie rounded up a motley crew of Highland warriors, and had a really bad idea to try to march all night and surprise the government troops (incidentally, most of these troops were Highlanders as well. A lot of mothers would send one son to each side, because everybody wanted to be on the winning side. Hence, it was a battle of brothers against brothers), whom he thought would be ragingly hungover from celebrating the birthday of their commander the night before. Now, the British were not so stupid as to get trashed the night before there was going to be a huge battle. So, in short, the Jacobites didn’t make it all the way to the government camp, the government soldiers heard them coming and started chasing the Jacobites, who were forced to retreat. They caught up at Culloden, and the battle was over in about half an hour. It was entirely a massacre, which led to the Duke of Cumberland, head of government forces, to be known as “The Butcher.” Culloden spelled doom for the clan system in the Highlands, as the Highland clearances went into effect, and it became illegal for clan members to wear their tartans or carry their daggers with them. This is the end of my history digression.

Anyway, Culloden was spooky. In the morning, the fog was intense, and it felt really… Scottish. The markers for where each clan fell, and the larger cairn commemorating the battle stood out, and with all of the different groups of us walking around and emerging from the mist, it was a pretty shadowy atmosphere. It kind of reminded me of Antietam in that you could sort of feel the presence of death looming around.

After this mess, we naturally needed a pick-me-up, so our tour guide popped in a Proclaimer’s CD, and a number of passengers on the bus had a little bit of a sing-a-long. Happier, we disembarked at a working sheepdog farm, where we got to see some awesome border collies in action. The highlight of this was absolutely playing with the puppies. Also a highlight: the shepherd picked up a ram by its horns (one-handedly) to get it out of the herd to let people try their hand at shearing a sheep. I was pretty awesome at it. Interesting story concerning the shepherd’s wife: she was an American girl who had been on a tour of the farm, loved the demonstration and found a way to work there over the summer, and by autumn, she was married to the shepherd. Now she has a Scottish accent! This whole thing prompted one of my friends to have something of a huge crisis on the off chance that a Scottish man proposed, whether she’d say yes and move to Scotland, leaving everything in America behind, or not. I was highly amused.

We had lunch in a cute little town called Aviemore, then the buses went their separate ways to different distilleries. We went to Glenfiddich. The entire place reeked of alcohol (oh gee, I wonder why?). Fermenting stuff looks pretty gross. The distilling area looks like it belongs in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. You can’t take pictures except from a raised platform above it, because as a sign notified us, it was an “explosive atmosphere.” The bathrooms are supposedly the nicest in Scotland… there was a chandelier and a fireplace, with a bunch of big leather armchairs. So classy.

We stopped in Elgin on the way back (I felt like I was at home… Elgin, Inverness..)and saw the ruins of an abbey, but it was just long enough of a stop to take a few pictures and then continue on our merry way. Back in Inverness, we took naps and then got back on the bus for dinner.

In the morning, we said good bye to Inverness and hello to Loch Ness. We took a cruise (soo cold) down the loch (no, sadly, I did not see Nessie), and stopped at Urquhart Castle, which, according to the brochure was “Raided. Attacked. And Blown Up!” or something to that effect. There was a trebuchet type thing that had been used in the movie Highlander, so naturally, my friend and I had to have an epic battle while screaming “THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!!!!!” It was really beautiful, and we climbed about for a bit until it was time to get back on the bus. We stopped in Fort Augustus for lunch, which was rather charming, and then our last stop was at Glen Coe, the scenic location in which HIGHLANDER!!!!! amongst other films, was … filmed. It was really beautiful, but camera was very nearly dead, and we were only there to take pictures (Literally, we had 10 minutes). I absorbed the scenery, took as many photos as possible before the death of my camera, and participated in a group picture. We drove by the place where they film Hagrid’s hut for the HP movies, and set off for Stirling to drop off the students from that uni. We started watching Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, and it was pretty sweet timing, because as we pulled into Pollock Halls in Edinburgh, the movie ended. We all clapped at Scott’s (our driver) impeccable timing, and went home to be exhausted until class the next day.


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…
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Claudia: class, flatmates & the weather

October 5, 2010

Here’s the skinny on my classes for the rest of the semester:

1) Archaeology of Scotland: Sounds really interesting. Includes a field trip. However, I was a little disappointed to find out that all of the cool Roman stuff happens second semester, when I shall, sadly, be back in the US of A. Nevertheless, our course organizer was pretty cool, and today’s lecturer showed up and taught class in a leather motorcycle jacket. We’re starting off with a study of Scotland’s post-glacial environment, so I zoned out a little as I am quite familiar with the basic information our lecturer was giving us on the retreat of glaciers after the last ice age, techniques for learning about past environments (ice cores, pollen analysis), and the Gulf Stream’s influence on the climate of Great Britain. Hooray, geology, issues in the environment, and meteorology for teaching me things I can feel smart knowing in my life now! The only bother about this class is going to be the large number of essays (okay, mini-essays) that we have to write after each tutorial, plus a museum project, plus a final. At least I know that it’s going to be interesting, so the writing should not be too much of a pain.

2) Scotland and Orality: I think this is going to be my favorite class. Our course organizer (almost nobody is called a professor in these parts) is delightfully Scottish, and the material is extremely interesting. In just two classes we listened to clips of “diddling,” rap from the late 80’s, and a passionate Southern preacher. Diddling is a sort of singing where, well, you diddle. Instead of singing words, you sing a melody using syllables generally similar to “diddley do.” I thought it was pretty sweet. Maybe I should take it up as a hobby for myself, though I guess you still need to be able to carry a tune to diddle. I need to make time to peruse as background reading (Oh no, I am voluntarily doing unnecessary reading? Is the world coming to an end?!). I’m so excited for the opportunity to learn about and actually do some fieldwork later in the semester. Interesting tidbit about this class: only six people of the 40 or so in the lecture are not visiting students. Weird, right?

3) The City of Rome: This is my token actual-progress-towards-a-degree class. I had been hoping to take Early Vergil and get some Latin language out of the way, but it was not in the cards. I couldn’t take Cicero the Advocate and Scotland and Orality, so naturally, I picked Scotland and Orality. If you know me in a Latin-related context, you probably know my contempt for our dear friend Cicero. So, the normal organizer of this class, Lucy Grig, is on maternity leave, which is too bad, because I guess that Dr. Nicholson knows her in some capacity. I am sort of worried that the class is maybe a little too archaeologically focused for somebody who lacks any archaeological experience, such as myself, to be able to enjoy it. In any case, I will make the best of this class since the material is so interesting. I am sort of nervous for when it will be my turn to lead a seminar. I haven’t had to do anything like that at Minnesota, and I am quite worried that I will come up short. I do not even know what my assigned topic will be yet, so I will cross that bridge when I come to it.

So, there you have it, my schedule in all its glory (and no class on Fridays!). I also have no class Wednesdays and a lot of free time every other day, but I am pretty much spending it in the way most students here seem to spend their time: in the library. There is so much reading that needs to be done for all of my classes. I had to take a break before I fell asleep in a textbook about Roman archaeology, so naturally I decided to blog. Read the rest of this entry ?


Claudia: dichotomy

October 3, 2010

I have lately been thinking of myself as two people. Scottish Claudia and American Claudia. Scottish Claudia is INFINITELY cooler.

In America, I fall prey to the temptation of wearing sweatpants and sweatshirts to class all the time, and if not that, jeans and a T shirt or hoodie. Here, I don’t even have a hoodie, and I have maybe two t-shirts. I also don’t own any sneakers. I shouldn’t be defining myself by possessions here, but I feel like it actually makes a huge difference in my life. I think I am changing for the better: I feel more ambitious, motivated, and confident. I talk to people I don’t know, I go to parties, I jump at the opportunity to participate in a dance that I have no idea how to perform (well… I did at the ceilidh, even if I wouldn’t try out swing dancing in a style I didn’t know). I guess that there is comfort in the fact that a lot of other people at the university ceilidhs also have no idea what they are doing.

Also, my flatmate Katherine and I cook a lot. I feel like we’ve made more different and exciting things in the last week than I made in my apartment last year. In less coolness, but more better personness, I already started doing work for classes just a few days into the semester. I’m working on learning how to be a better student and really making the most of my academic opportunities. Because I only have three classes, it’s a little harder to get overwhelmed by different material.

Okay, 3 am has arrived. It’s probably time to go to sleep so I can hit up the library at a reasonable hour. I’ll post about my classes soon. So far, they are, for the most part, excellent!! OH, one more thing. I have a recently formed an addiction to WNYC Radiolab. It is really amazing, and I highly recommend listening to the podcasts off of iTunes (particularly the episodes on Words and Falling)!


Claudia: Scottish observations & the Pope

September 19, 2010

So I wanted this entry to be focused on pictures, but it’s not letting me upload any, so you’ll have to use your imagination until I put up a link to an album.

I feel like I have, for the most part, been carpe-ing the diem. However, I am incredibly exhausted at this point, and I think a lot of the other students are as well. I remember back to Welcome Week of freshman year, how much I wanted to just start classes and have a routine with set places to go every day, and I think a lot of people here are starting to get that feeling, including my flatmate, Caroline. To give a point of comparison to anybody reading this who experienced Welcome Week, Freshers’ Week is like Welcome Week on speed. Since the drinking age in the UK is 18, almost all of the events involve alcohol in some way, and for the first several nights, there were at least 3 Uni-sponsored parties to choose from every night. In the next few nights, that will be the case as well, but the last two nights have been pretty relaxed.

In the first two days of Freshers’ Week, I went to my first ceilidh, which is a traditional Scottish dance (pronounced like kay-lee). It was so much unlike anything I have ever done in my life, and it was probably one of the most fun! When I was waiting in line to get into Teviot, one of the student union buildings, I started talking with a group of girls in front of me, and we ended up hanging out at the evening’s events. First, we waited in an enormous line for our share of the free food, of which the main attraction was, you guessed it, haggis.

Now, I had been dreading the eventual moment when I was going to have to eat haggis, but when I started to smell the food, it did not seem like a bad idea at all. Also, I was not (and still am not, really) entirely sure what haggis is. I’ve heard that you just have not to think of what it is (just like hot dogs), and it will be okay. I was imagining a sausage-like food of a nasty creamy or stomach-y color, but it just looks like ground beef. So, I got my plate with my haggis, stovies, tatties, and maybe some other kind of food but I can’t really remember what anything was called, and we all sat down. Here’s the kicker: haggis is DELICIOUS. It’s kind of spicy, and warm and comfort food-y, and just really yummy. As are stovies (I think it’s some sort of root vegetable mashup stuff), and tatties (mashed potatoes). Haggis really just reminded me of shepherd’s pie. So, with that conquered, I went on to my next authentically Scottish experience, the ceilidh.

There were so many people crammed into the room, and we had had to sneak in, since it was full. Anyway, I guess a ceilidh is sort of like country dancing, because there’s a lot of swinging your partner round and round involved, and everybody’s kind of in a line. The wonderful thing is that in all of that swinging round, you meet loads of folks in a night. I could tell that the two Scottish girls who were in my group were a little frustrated with the rest of us for not catching on too quickly to how certain dances went, but we were all having fun, even if we were doing it wrong. There was one that I felt I was doing okay at, but then when we switched partners and I was dancing with this one guy who seemed to be an expert, my self-confidence failed a little. Then, we went back to dancing in a big group and it was good again!

So much has been going on that I can’t really remember what day anything happened, but at some point between Sunday and Monday, I went to Edinburgh Castle. I was pretty excited about seeing Mary, Queen of Scots’ chambers, and just in general seeing the castle. It was as cool as I had hoped! The castle is a mish-mosh of buildings from various time periods and monarchs, all the way up to the present day. It houses an active regiment, and affords some gorgeous views of the city and the Firth of Forth. Luckily, it was another beautiful day, and at that point, I still hadn’t experienced any of the bad weather for which Scotland is rather well known.

On Monday, there was a West Coast Swing taster session. I was so jazzed to be able to dance again. Of course, it was all incredibly simple and we didn’t get to do any free dancing or anything, but it was still nice. There’s a social dance tomorrow night, I think. Otherwise, there are a lot of venues for swing dancing around the city. After that, the main event was the Headphones Party. Again, none of my flatmates wanted to go, but a girl from my program met up with me, and we went. It started late, which caused us to be the first to show up, which was super awkward, but then, the whole point of a headphones party is pretty awkward. Everybody gets a headset, and the radio station DJs from like 9 pm to 3 am, with two channels to choose from. So, it’s a “quiet” dance. It was hilarious to take off my headphones and just watch everybody rocking out, or sing along to Don’t Stop Believin’, or do the YMCA with no music. I’m so glad I went, because we met a cool third year and a PhD student who invited us to their house party this weekend, so we’ll get to meet some more people who are our own age. Read the rest of this entry ?

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