Entry 1: Kansas, United States | Apr 30 2012
Entry 2: Kansas, United States | Jun 08, 2012
Entry 3: Bagging a Munro
I toured the University Saturday with a wine tasting get-together of all the International Summer School students and on Sunday, we toured all the major attractions and towns around the Stirling area. I spent a better part of the week settling into the routine of 21-hour days with 3 hours of night as well as trying to get to know flatmates and the ever-confusing transit system. And of course I couldn't get away with not going to class. I have found that some modules are very deceiving and aren't what they say they are.
Thursday the ISS coordinators took us to St. Andrews, the birthplace of golf. It was awesome! But super rainy. My flatmates and I spent most of the day inside in warm cafes drinking tea and having rolls.
The weekend was the most amazing thing ever. I went to the Isle of Skye with this group called Wild in Scotland. It's a gorgeous place to be. The trip getting there was almost more entertaining than actually being there. Friday afternoon when we leave Killin where we had lunch, we're about 10 minutes north when a motorcycle tries to overtake us. Well he crashes and burns to the point where we thought he died. *Note* he made it, but was broken severely. While waiting for the accident report and everything, Danny, our tour guide, leaves the bus running for us. When he returns two-three hours later, he can't start it. Here we have 14 uni students pushing this oversized minivan while our kilt-wearing guide tries to start the van.
Once we get going, we hit some beautiful places like the Eilean Donan castle and stop off on some points in the Highlands. The next morning we go scallop fishing! It was so cool! I also held a starfish. We see every beautiful place that the Isle of Skye has to offer before we have a delicious batch of fish and chips for tea (dinner). We hit this mountain range called Quiraing. Amazing. I would go there again in a heartbeat to climb the paths that wind through everything.
Sunday we drive down through the mountains (gorgeous) and end up at Loch Ness. It was pouring rain so Nessie decided not to come out to play :( We end our fabulous three-day weekend in a forest walk with homemade ice cream on a teddie cone.
Tonight, a few of the uni students made the climb of Dumyat hill. It is over 450 metres (1000 feet) to the top! We almost bagged a munro (climb a mountain almost 1000 metres). We got lost on the way down, but the photos are amazing.
I have spent the most amazing time in Scotland so far. I feel like I have so much left to see and I'm so thankful I have seven more weeks of amazing time here.
Entry 5: Five down, three to go.
On 5 July, the International Summer School took us all to Edinburgh, which happened to be the same day that Queen Elizabeth II, Prince William and Katherine were supposed to be in town for the continuation of the Diamond Jubilee. Seeing as how I was a photographer with a hoard of intense royal watchers, I thought I'd walk to the castle. Well the Queen was due to be on the Royal Mile, which leads to the castle. I was stopped, front row, at the perfect position to see the Queen and everyone drive by. By the luck of the draw, I got clear photos of the Queen!
On Thursday, 19 July, I was sitting in my kitchen reveling on the delicious dinner I made for everyone when I was looking out our third story flat window. Naturally, since being here, I have only seen brown rabbits. And it just so happens that Alice in Wonderland is huge over here. Now you can see where my thought process is going. As I'm looking out, I see a snow white rabbits come hopping out of the woods. In utter shock, I scream to my flat mates, "Follow the white rabbit!" and run out of the kitchen.
I was really hoping for an adventure in wonderland because I have been left to my own accords this weekend. All my flat mates left for the weekend (3), or have disappeared doing their own thing (2). Which leaves me. I have never wished Facebook to be more entertaining. But because of the dire boredom I was faced with, I went hiking. I got lost in the hills/mountainous regions for a few hours. I met some sheep, walked probably five miles, and found crispy m&m's (best candy on earth).
All in all, I'm starting to really love this country. The weather is just now turning sunny every day, the temperatures are perfect, the people are absolutely amazing, and I feel at home here. Were it not for the money and the visa factor, I don't think I would be coming home in three weeks. I love my family and I miss them, but there is a part of me that will always be here. I don't think I can ever be whole again unless I move back here, no matter the length.
I thought I knew who I was before I left for Scotland. Since being here, I forgot who I was. I can't say how I've changed, or what has changed, but who I am doesn't remember who I've been. I have a new life and a new destiny ahead of me. I couldn't have asked for a better summer.
And I still have so much more exploring to do! Eek!!
Entry 6: Why must it end?
Though, not everything is as peachy as it seems.
One of the things that most annoys me about this country is the bias that the UK has towards themselves. For instance, I was reading the paper the other morning and stumbled upon an article debating gun control in the States. The article, in summary, said that America was foolish for having guns and that they should adopt the UK belief about no guns. Granted, I do enjoy shooting a gun, but because unfortunate events like the Aurora shooting happen, doesn't mean we can automatically change the culture of America. Hunting, shooting and gun clubs are a part of our culture.
Also, even the announcers at the Olympics are very biased towards Team GB's athletes. I was watching men's gymnastics, a Ukrainian athlete was performing and one of the announcers gasped because he was paying attention to a GB member who fell off his event, instead of watching the athlete he was supposed to commentating on. It fills the stereotype that England is known for being pompous. I know this isn't true because I've come to befriend an English fellow, but it still irks me. I'm trying to keep an open mind being that I'm the tourist, but I've come across some close-minded people.
Now that I'm done with my rant, today in class we discussed the troubled areas of Northern Ireland and the many different sides of the troubles that hasn't been publicly discussed. Like the Holy Cross incident, or the walls dividing neighborhoods. Friday, my international relations class is headed to Belfast, where we will see first-hand these walls and the murals. It's been interesting to hear a documentary discussing the religious side of the troubles, versus the political side that everyone knows about.
The thing I'm most looking forward though is the part where my class leaves and I take a bus to Enniskillen, where I meet up with my little brother, his girlfriend and her family. Her cousin has been gracious into inviting me into her home, which allows me to see Ireland more than I would have otherwise. It also brings a bittersweet end to an amazing summer.
When I arrive back to Stirling next week on Tuesday, I hope to have a better grip on the reality that my trip is coming to a close. I don't want it to end; I just want to stay here forever, though Scotland may not want me to. Wednesday is my final day of class, Thursday is my farewell party with everyone and Friday is just a day where I get the last remaining pieces of my summer together. Saturday morning I ship out of Glasgow, where I will be greeted later that night by the smiling faces of my family with CHIPOTLE :)
Entry 7: The Troubles
The morning I spent doing the "touristy" stuff. I saw the Universities and then I saw where the Titanic was built and where it sailed. That was beautiful. We had lunch at a nice pub in the centre then it was off for the real reason we came to Belfast: the Troubles tour.
But it doesn't stop there.
The Peace Wall was the craziest and saddest piece of architecture that I have ever seen. Going into the neighbourhoods, we passed by a 20 or 30 foot tall gate, this is chained shut every night from 7pm to 5am. This just tells you how bad this part of Belfast is. Inside, the Peace Wall is a 96 foot tall structure that is meant to keep the Protestant neighbourhood separate from the Catholic neighborhood. The Catholic side of the wall has iron slabs across windows and back porches to prevent shrapnel and bombs from destroying the house/killing those inside. The Protestant side has murals painted on them, and thousands of people who visit have signed their name with a message. I did, and so did my classmates (see photos).
The entire time I've been here, I've really been seeing through the eyes of a tourist/student. Yes, I live in housing at a University and yes, I have seen and gotten to know every aspect of Stirling, Glasgow and Edinburgh, but I've never had to experience life in a troubled area. Seeing what is every day life to someone in Belfast really shook my foundation. Not everything is peachy wherever you go, and people in Belfast have experienced and witnessed things I will never ever have to experience, hopefully.
That's not to say that everywhere in Ireland is like Belfast.
After I spent Friday in Belfast, I got a bus down to Enniskillen, where I was picked up by my fabulous host and taken down to Drumshanbo. I had a wonderful weekend playing tourist and living with a family much like my own. It was a lovely experience that I hope I can have again soon! P.S. I have the hookup if you ever want to have a great weekend in Drumshanbo.
I would enjoy to come back to Ireland, but Belfast is not my city of choice. The people are lovely and the area has a lot to offer (i.e. everything Titanic), but I could not live in the troubled area. The people are still hateful towards each other and I couldn't live in that kind of environment. I hope by the time I reach the age where I have my own children, I want to see the Peace Wall, and every other wall, torn down in Belfast.