Pimp My Crypt: and Other Ancient Things

Something remarkable about the old country: it’s old. As such, there are many old things here, pretty much all over. I guess that’s what happens when people live in the same place for tens of thousands of years–they leave their crap everywhere. Have you ever heard the phrase “take only pictures, leave only footprints”? Well, neither have the French. There are decrepit churches scattered ad nauseaum throughout the countryside. Ancient, majestic spires towering out of nothing and nowhere. While on the train to Paris (how snotty and cosmopolitan does that sound?) I looked out my window to see an enormous gothic turret. I say gothic because I know next to nothing about ancient architecture, and I don’t have a picture for you to prove me wrong. It really was a beautiful relic, jutting straight out of a tiny, sprawling hick town. I know for a fact that it was a hick town because directly in front of the steeple was a large billboard reading “Leroy-Merlin”, and if that doesn’t conjure up an image of a used car dealership, I don’t know what does. That’s how Europe operates. They have lasting memories of long-dead civilizations that they’re not allowed to tear down, so they build their junk around them. It’s certainly an improvement to the United States. At the epicenter of our parking lots, we just have more strip malls.

As I mentioned, I went to Paris. Because I’m classy. I won’t bore you with the details; you’ve seen The Aristocats, you know what the Eiffel Tower looks like. Paris in the rain, yadda yadda. Well, somewhere in the 10 miles of walking per day, we visited a little hole-in-the-wall local favorite called the Notre Dame Cathedral. You’ve probably seen it in that Disney film about the wide-eyed, physically remarkable dreamer who wasn’t allowed outside, but finally escaped to see a festival. I think it was called Tangled. It was pretty impressive, how old and big it was. I especially liked the stained glass windows. I found it a little hypocritical how they kept shushing all of us, and had signs reading “silence please”, when they rang these obnoxiously loud bells every hour, on the hour. No one complained about that ruckus, but whatever. My favorite part of the cathedral was definitely the gift shop, situated right between the pews and the Chapel of Our Lady of Guadeloupe. Here’s a picture:

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I forget, who was the Patron Saint of Tchotchkies?

I even got this neato souvenir coin. One side has Pope Francis, and the other has Jean-Paul:

Pretty sweet, right? This little number cost me 2 euro. I guess not even the Papacy can resist the cold allure of capitalism.

We didn’t have time to check out the catacombs this go about Paris, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t seen my fair share of “bone”-hommes. Hardy har har. That sentence was humerus because it was a play on the French phrase “bonshommes,” meaning good men, and the English word “bone”, meaning what your skeleton is made out of. That sentence is humorous because the humerus is a bone. Comedy. Recently I took a tour of the Crypte Saint Laurent, in my very own Grenoble. It was a charming little arrangement of scaffolding suspended over the skinless remains of who knows how many dead people. Here are some of the friends I made there:

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They don’t speak much, but they’re great listeners. My classmates and I argued over whether or not they were real bones. They were skeptical that anyone would leave real corpses within poking distance, but I figure that Europe is lousy with disturbed burial sites. They’ve got more exposed remains than they know what to do with, so they might as well make some money off of them. I think it’s great. These poor souls never got the chance to make a facebook, but now they get the opportunity to feature in countless selfies. A really cool feature of this crumbling church was the ceiling adorned with sweet little swastikas:

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Being half-Jewish, this put just enough fear in me to really appreciate life, which is more than I can say for these puppies:

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I think I’m starting to notice a trend here… When I was in the Louvre I saw a beautiful arrangement of sarcophagi. There must have been 50 of them, There was even a mummy:

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I may be mistaken, but I’m pretty sure this is how you get cursed. Oh well, Europeans just can’t resist violating personal space.

French cuisine tip: Did you know that when eating escargot, you’re supposed to cook the snails first? Well I didn’t, so I need to make a quick trip to the toilet.

Until next time!

G

Writings on the Stalls

Here’s something odd about French Universities: Bathrooms. Pardon me, toilets. Because in France, the bathroom and the toilet are two separate rooms, sometimes connected, but more often separated by a hallway. That’s a lot of door-handles to touch before washing your hands. For whatever reason, the administration doesn’t believe in toilet seats. I don’t know if it’s political or religious, but you’re lucky if you can find more than two beseated toilets per building. Stranger still, there are still the broken remnants of long-forgotten seats, still fixed to the porcelain bases, begging the question: who took them? Where are they now? Quite frankly, the situation works for me, as I much prefer to squat and pee anyway. Keeps me svelte.

I am moderately unsettled by the fact that most of the toilet cubicles come equipped with nifty cages above them, like this one here:

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I suppose they’re to ensure that you don’t accidentally climb out if you get spooked by a loud noise or a capitalist.

Truly though, my favorite alteration to the campus is the graffiti peppering everything in arms’ reach. I can’t speak for other universities in the country, but this one is riddled with whimsical defacements of government property. The missives are most rampant in the toilets/bathrooms, though it seems like a lot of work to squat and write at the same time. They’re tricky, the French. I must say it is a wonderful distraction from your aching hamstrings. I haven’t called any of the numbers, but from what I’ve read, Carlie P knows how to have a great time. The messages vary in eloquence, but they’re all equally charming, as you can see:

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The youth here are so expressive. The best I’ve seen though is definitely this one:

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For those of you who don’t read French, or have difficulty making inferences based on similar sounding latin-rooted words, it says “The chamber of Secrets has been opened. Enemies of the heir beware.” I saw this on my first day of school and I knew that I was home.

Truthfully there’s a lot of writing all over the school. On the walls, the desks, the ground, the vending machines, and such. It’s just like elementary school, except bigger and you get in a lot more trouble when you bite people.

The street art is pretty great too. There are sheep hidden everywhere. Look at these sweet little nuggets:

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I also found a beautiful spray-painted mural of some dancing gazelle covering the side of a building. I forgot to take a picture of it, and all the streets look the same, but if I find it again I’ll take another picture. I’m a fan of the animal graffiti, although I could probably do without the excessive amounts of furries in advertising:

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I’m not really sure what that’s about.

That’s all for now, I think, but I have to get going anyway. The family mime got out again and I have to put him back in his box.

A bientôt,

G

What’s That in My Mouth?

(B)log date: 1/10/2016

It has been six days since my arrival in France. Still no sign of a bidet. I am beginning to question whether they exist at all, however I remain optimistic.

In almost a week of living here in Grenoble, I’ve started to notice some of the vast differences in our cultures. One of the most striking things is the French relationship to alcohol. Not only can teenagers wander into their local pubs, supermarkets, and gas stations to buy a 40 without getting carded, but my university sells beer in their cafeteria. In their cafeteria. Where college students eat. In the daytime. Is that not the most counterintuitive thing you’ve heard all day? What a country. I should probably point out that this doesn’t mean students and professors are drunkenly stumbling to their classes. Hilarious as that might be, the relaxed position of alcohol in Europe results in responsible behavior; having a beer with lunch, a wine with dinner, going about your day in total sobriety.

In a less agreeable light is the French relationship to coffee. Coming from Seattle, I’ve become accustomed to hooking up an IV of Sumatran blend as I do my makeup in the morning, and keeping a few packs of Folgers Instant in my wallet to snort in case of emergency. I need my coffee, and France leaves a lot to be desired in that respect. Yes, they drink it—they don’t call it a French press for nothing—but their cups are tiny. You know those 8oz coffees your mom orders from Starbucks that don’t make any sense and you wonder how she can even keep her eyes open let alone drive to work and pay your tuition? That’s a French cup of coffee. Sure it’s espresso, but that doesn’t mean what you think it means. It has a higher caffeine concentration per volume, but is generally too small to have as much as a standard cup of regular coffee. Thanks Wikipedia. At least they’re cheap. I can down three café au laits or two café crèmes in under 30 seconds. Impressed yet?

Next on the docket is the French and their food. I’m a vegetarian, but even so, French cuisine really is incredible and blah blah blah, you’ve heard it all before. What I find more interesting are the weird things they do to their food. Have you ever heard of Kinder Surprise? They’re German chocolate eggs, about the same size as Cadbury’s, but instead of a caramel or cream center, they have a little toy inside. Not ringing a bell? That may be because they’re illegal in the United States. Something about parents worried their kids might choke on the little throat-sized hunk of plastic hidden in their delicious chocolate ovoid. That’s just the tip of the iceberg for the French. They up the ante with a little gem called La Galette du Roi. The King Cake. So named after the biblical three kings from the nativity story (who weren’t actually kings, by the way, and were more than likely just travelers—but where’s the mystère in that?). Good on them that they’ve left behind a legacy as distinguished as the Galettes; these harbingers of dental devastation run rampant through France in the time between Christmas and Mardi Gras. They’re very tasty—usually filled with marzipan and sometimes fruit or chocolate fillings—but they have one quirk: a tiny figurine embedded somewhere in their sugary depths. Traditionally, the figurine is a little plastic baby, which is meant to represent Jesus. What’s a better homage to the son of god than accidentally swallowing him in his infancy? These days the festive little choking hazards are less infanticidal, assuming the form of little enamel crowns, or tiny wooden books, or itty bitty porcelain flags. Whoever finds the trinket (la fève) in their cake and manages not to swallow it or asphyxiate, is the king of the feast. It’s a sign of good luck, bestowing upon the king a little crown and the task of honor of purchasing the next galette. Here’s a picture of the porcelain crown on which I chipped a molar at my first meal in the Antoine Saint-Exupery airport. Next to the crown, for size reference, I’ve placed an American penny. You can see Mr. Lincoln, who was kind of a king.

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It must be lucky—my periodontist told me I needed a crown replaced…Badoom-Tss!

Really though, I have my doubts about the fortuity of la fève, considering immediately after that my travelling partner and I missed our shuttle to Grenoble, and subsequently our professor’s free ride from the bus station to the city. Here’s a snapchat of us on the later shuttle:

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We’re smiling, but there is fury in our eyes.

Monoprix, the French equivalent to Target, has a spectacular campaign for their king cakes right now. Instead of a trinket, ten lucky customers across the nation might find a diamond in their bite of cake! I say ‘might’ because anyone who’s ever seen a diamond before knows that they’re not too big. Even the French, savoring each bite as they do, have at least a 20% chance of swallowing that little treasure. But hey, I’d rather pass a diamond than the baby Jesus.

I’d better sign off now. My host family and I are about to go take our baguettes for a walk.

À tout à l’heure,

G

The Great Schlep

Griffin  Hadden

12/28/15

This has been, perhaps, the most practical Christmas I’ve ever had. I’m sure it’s just another sign of getting older, but every year I seem to ask for and receive gifts that are a little less fun and a little more functional. I’m not complaining. Life is expensive, and it takes a lot of concentrated will power to go out and buy yourself a colander when all you really want is a full sized replica of the Triwizard Cup from Harry Potter. Yes, I’ve had to put whimsy on the backburner—this year in particular. For Christmas 2015 I received two suitcases; a secure, under the clothes money pouch; a pocket-sized French to English dictionary; a travel journal; a pair of luggage locks; a sleepsack for hostels; and a European outlet adapter.

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I know what you’re thinking: “Wow, this girl must have a lot of birds.” Wrong! What would give you that idea? What’s really going on is that in just six short days I will be boarding a plane to France. Well, I’ll be boarding a plane to San Francisco, then to Munich, and then to Lyon, where I will take a shuttle to Grenoble. Yes, I am gearing up for what everyone has assured me will be the experience of a lifetime: a six month study abroad in Grenoble, France.

 
For the past few months, the prospect of this voyage has felt like a distant relative. Oh, I know she exists, and I’ve heard all about her, but we’ve never actually met. She doesn’t quite feel real yet. Now though, she’s on her way. She’ll be here soon and we’d better prepare the guest room. Fluff the pillows, clean the bathroom, pull out the leaf in the table. We don’t know what to expect from her, but we know she’ll be different. This analogy is getting away from me, but you get the idea. France is looming before me, hexagonal and mysterious, and all I can do is power through my travelling anxiety. It’s not the prospect of going somewhere new that stresses me out; it’s getting there. I’m being bombarded by a bounty of belligerent budding blunders. What if I miss my flight because I incorrectly set my alarm? (This has happened to me more than once). What if my first flight is delayed and I miss my second? What if in my haste I accidentally pack a switch blade in my carry on? What if they lose my luggage? What if they sit me in between a baby and a judgmental old person? Myriad misgivings. I am not a happy traveler. Whatever happens, as long as I get to France, I’ll consider it a success.

 
Now I have to return to my two suitcases, simultaneously worrying that I have too much and too little, while convincing myself that I am not woefully ill-prepared.

 
Until next time,

G

Fall Break, The Lizzie McGuire Dream, and Finding Peace Abroad

There is so much to cover, yet so little time. I will do my best but if at any point this turns into a pointless rant or a wannabe YA novel, feel free to skip through and just look at the pictures.

Contributing to the idea that this feels like a vacation (zero complaints), we had a weeklong fall break after midterms, which felt odd. Odd in the sense that I spent many hours planning a smaller excursion during what seems like a dream from which I haven’t waken from yet. Still, my fall break was all I could ever ask for and more. Two of my roommates and I decided to head to the United Kingdom and found a second home in London and Dublin. Was part of that due to being able to speak English for a week? Well it probably contributed. Honestly though, we fit so many stops within so few days, it mostly felt like a touristy trip, something we tend to avoid at all costs while in Florence. This is where you start though. It was our first time in London so of course we were going to hit the major ‘must-sees.’ Nothing says London like sitting at the Buckingham Palace and getting a picture with Big Ben. It was surreal and amazing (the two adjectives I basically use to describe every experience I have had thus far). Again, it was a start. That is my number one piece of advice I could give to anyone spending their time studying on a program for such a limited time. Of course we wish we could spend more time everywhere we go, but I think it’s often forgotten that we are so young. There are many years in our future to continue exploring and to return to the places we could see ourselves living later in our lives. I am so bad when it comes to this myself, but I think our generation has a serious case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), but this saddening condition can limit our experiences and can make memories more bitter than sweet. So in conclusion, from this momentary observation, my U.K. trip was unbelievable, it went by very quickly, but when I come back I will have enough experience under my belt to adventure even further out in England and spend a lot less time working the tube system. But what did I do there this time you ask? Well…let’s see…WARNING: this may read like a laundry list of stops, but when you don’t have much time, you squeeze in as much as possible!

Night 1: Got lost finding our amazing hostel (everyone should consider the Wombat City Hostel – clean, amazing people, and a cave restaurant!), first tube experience, Starbucks trip, and we ended the night seeing Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre!

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Day 2: Starbucks trip #2, walk through of Harrod’s, Hyde Park, found the Peter Pan statue, Baker St./Sherlock Holmes Museum, Abbey Road Studios, King’s Cross – Platform 9 ¾, Camden markets, Chin Chin Laboratories (Nitrogen made ice cream), random blues club, and dinner at a place that supposedly housed the worlds’ best fish and chips…and rest at the hostel for the next day!

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Day 3: Tower of London, more Starbucks, Tower Bridge, the Borough Market, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Millennium Bridge, London Eye, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, walk through of Piccadilly Circus, dinner in China Town, and then we walked back to our hostel, taking the scenic route along the river.

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London was especially memorable as we were able to meet up with our friend who is studying abroad there and was able to show us our way and help navigate the bus system our second full day in town. I cannot reiterate enough just how jam packed our day was but it was completely worth it. Even though London was short-lived, we moved onto Ireland and knew only more adventures were to come.

We arrived in Dublin with just enough time to catch a bus into town, find our hostel, grab a nice dinner at a local place and grab a late night snack at a grocery store. It was here that we saw some of the snacks that we have been missing since our arrival in Italy *enter Pop-Tarts, Microwave Popcorn, Oreos, etc.*. After our snack food binge, we retreated to our hostel (another amazing spot called the Generator Hostel in the center of town), to find it had a full restaurant and dance hall in the lobby. Not a bad way to spend the night. We started our next day pretty early on a walking tour of Dublin’s city center. Not going to lie, most of my knowledge concerning Ireland stemmed from movies like P.S. I Love You and Once, so hearing the stories and folklore behind almost every street we passed, was very eye opening. We also were able to have lunch at O’Neill’s, one of the most well-known, traditional Irish establishments in Ireland. Our tour then left us to experience the Guinness factory where we took a crash course in bartending and capped our tourist time at their skyline restaurant with a 360-degree view of Dublin.

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Our next day in Ireland was my favorite though. We started very early and made our way to the Cliffs of Moher on the coast. Honestly, one of the most unforgettable places I have been since coming abroad. It definitely put things in perspective. After spending a couple hours walking the cliffs and listening to the traditional music of the players sitting along the countryside, we took a bus to Galway. Although we only had a few hours to explore, we tried to make the most of it. After grabbing another delicious meal at a local place, we strolled along the streets listening to musicians who seemed to be coming up every few feet from one another, and peeking in the shops here and there in search of the perfect memento. Our time once again flew by, out of our hands, and before I knew it we were on our way back to Dublin. I feel as though I should also mention that this day happened to be Halloween. YAY! Halloween is a holiday that is not celebrated in Italy for the most part, but the same cannot be said for Ireland. All day it was costume after costume and people throwing candy in the streets. It was quite the sight to see. As a result though, we had to quickly throw together costumes from what we could find at our junk food grocery store. By the end of the day we had a Batman (mask), a cat (ears) and a cowboy (hat).  A super fun trip, a very short trip, but it was definitely hard to leave Ireland. It only inspired me to come back. If I ever live in another country for an extended amount of time again, I can only hope it will be in Ireland.

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I will only briefly mention my weekend that followed directly after fall break, but with the ISA program we traveled to Rome for the weekend. This was it, my chance to see and walk in the footsteps of my favorite fictional character, Lizzie McGuire. I have to say, Rome surprised me. I thought after hearing about it from other students studying there, and seeing a lot of the more famous sites in movies and in different T.V. programs, that I would enjoy it less for some reason. That was not the case. In fact, Rome was so stunning, I could have used at least a week to experience everything it has to offer. The Colosseum alone was more magnificent than I could imagine and no pictures I have seen have done it justice. My other favorite moment-in-awe, was walking through the Vatican City and seeing the Sistine Chapel and Basilica. Pieces of art like that of the city itself do not happen anymore. I honestly have never seen anything like it before in my life. It really made me stop and give some thought to our society’s fascination with all things modern. Are these the same people who haven’t been able to experience history and beauty like that of the civilizations we have learned so much from? It would have to be – there is no comparison.

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Finally, I don’t think it would be possible for me to be abroad, and not mention the events in Paris. I send all of my love to the victims and residents of Paris after the attack on their beautiful city. I do however employ us to spread our prayers beyond this horrific incident and recognize the travesties happening worldwide and the victims who are not receiving the same media attention and reactions, as was the worldwide concern for Paris. I do not, under any circumstances deem the loss in Paris as any less important, but I do think there are so many people worthy of the world’s love, grace, and attention who are not currently in the spotlight right now. Please join me in sending good thoughts out into the world as we move forward and strive to be decent human beings to one another.

And with that excessively long post, until next time. Seriously, if you have made it this far, you deserve a cookie.

Ciao!

-Justine

Remember that blog I was writing? Yeah, I forgot too. Let me tell you why.

Long time no see!

The last time I put finger to keyboard for the sake of this blog we were just starting official classes.  Now, we just passed our midterm week and break so it’s fair to say a little bit of time has passed (half the term actually). In the meantime I pretty much forgot about this little blog here, chiefly because of all the other plans and projects that took up most of my waking hours the past month or so. Since that last blog I’ve traveled quite a lot, did a lot of schoolwork (wasn’t expecting that were you?!), and met some pretty interesting characters along the way. Here’s a bit of a taste, and my sorry version of an excuse, for what has kept me preoccupied the past 4 or 5 weeks.

About 2 weeks ago I found myself trudging through the docks of Dublin Port, fresh off the ferryboat and raring for a little adventure, when I realized an odd pattern within my travels up to that point. Rather, it was more like a checklist of situations that I would inevitably find myself ticking off in rapid succession at some point in time. Here’s the basic structure I worked out for myself:

  1. You have (insert number less than 25 or 0) amount of currency
  2. You have been walking for (insert number greater than 3) hours already
    • Or alternatively: walked (insert number greater than 5) miles already
  3. You are (insert number greater than 4) miles away from your destination
  4. You have (insert number less than 20) % battery life left
  5. You have (insert number equal or less than 2) hours of daylight left

To varying degrees this is basically the rundown summary of every major trip I’ve taken so far. In Wales I ended up dreadfully lost in the Brecon Beacons National Park. The rundown in that one being I was (at that point) about 10 miles into a hike through the hills, had a swollen IT band,  took a wrong trail, trekked through herds of sheep, ended up in someone’s farm, ended up hopping fences through fields while the cows lazily acknowledged my existence with a few “moos,” got lost along the hedgerow one-lane streets taking me back to town, failed to make the last bus running (it was a Sunday so they stopped running early), talked to some exceedingly nice locals who managed to help me get the last taxi in town back to the train station (which was about 15 miles away), and managed to catch the last train back to Cardiff by 11pm… rather unorthodox, not planned out very well, potentially disastrous, and something I found myself repeating to some extent in Scotland and Ireland; but totally thrilling and worth every second. In terms of the whole “man vs wild” thrill of an adventure that comes from trying to make the most out of limited resources, I think I understand a bit more why people do far more extreme versions of this.

When it comes down to it, studying abroad becomes an odd amalgam of sights, sounds, and experiences.  Pictures and those selfies don’t capture the wind in your hair or the foreign looking street signs or the assorted mix of tourists and locals milling about their lives. I’m incredibly aware that so many little experiences that are commonplace to me at this point (scanning into the tube, paying with coins, etc.) will be beyond my memory after only a few days of being back in Seattle. I wonder sometimes, and this goes for all traveling, to what extent these experiences shape our lives; if we can’t remember how all of these little moments pan out are they really collectively shaping or do we only pick out through happenstance individual stories to hold onto?

Speaking of little stories, one story of when we were in Scotland struck an interesting and thrilling chord. It took 30-odd American students, a bunch of Scotsmen, and a well-used karaoke machine. A group of 40 or so of students from the program and I went up to Scotland last week and ended up in this little town called Oban on the western coast of the highlands. That night most of us headed to one of the local places rumored to have a fantastic karaoke setup.  When we arrived there were maybe a dozen Scotsman milling around and staring dubiously at this large contingent of clearly American students. The awkward silence continued and we retreated (to the extent 30 people can in a tiny place) into the back corner. As I walked in one local looked me dead in the eye, stuck out his hand, gave me a toothy grin and said in a distinctly highland brogue, “Heya there mate, what brings ya up to these here parts?” After a few introductions Jack turned into one of the most conversational, expletive, and exuberant men I’ve ever met, let alone in the middle-of-nowhere Scotland. We caught on nicely and he absolutely couldn’t believe he’d ever meet someone from Seattle out there in Scotland. He was giddy with excitement that some Americans were in town, and that he “won the powerball a few times” to be lucky enough to be at the one place in town we all showed up in. I was surprised to say the least, I thought we students would have seemed pretty obnoxious to the locals to which he answered (with some heavy censoring for this blog) “I hear the same bloody eejiots singing the same bloody songs every night. You Americans are gonna light up the place!” We did exactly that as two friends of mine shattered the proverbial glass by starting off the night with “Baby Got Back.” After that pretty much everything was on the table and, once the locals stopped shaking their heads, the group’s favor quickly swung to our side. As the place filled up, it became steadily more and more boisterous with this huge sing-along filled with raw throats, a bunch of dancing Scotsmen, and a troop of Americans leading the chant alongside tunes including “Piano Man,” “Let it Go,” Don’t Stop Believing,” “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” and “Livin’ on a Prayer.” Not bad for a bunch of ‘youths’ in Scotland huh?

I have about a 6 weeks or so left here in England and it is already apparent November will go by incredibly fast.  Lots of friends are dropping by, others are already here, and many other loose ends all need tying up in a relatively short time. Hopefully I won’t forget about this blog in my next set of adventures but if I do, I swear I had a good excuse for it (just like last time). In any case, I’m back to find some more stories and adventures and I’m wishing you all the best for your own.

Cheers!

-Ian

From Beaches to Midterms While on “Vacation”

These last few weeks have been more than amazing. They lay somewhere between surreal and unimaginable. Just within the last two weeks I have made it up an down the Italian coast; hitting Sorrento, Amalfi, Lovanto, Le Cinque Terre, Capri, and exploring Assisi, Siena, Vinci, Chianti and Napoli somewhere along the way.

A quick trip through Manarola, Italy
A quick trip through Manarola, Italy

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I was provided with more than my fair share of beach trips that resulted in running into the ocean with wet suits on so we didn’t freeze to death. The second I jumped into the pure teal, mirror-like water on the Italian coast in nothing more than a bathing suit – I was in love. It was a feeling that I wanted to relive over and over again until it was simply my reality. So that became my new priority, to spend what little time left of warm, delightful weather there was, being a beach bum. The only downside? Limiting our travel time to the weekends. I do not regret any of the short, sometimes only overnight, trips we took because we still were there to experience something we wouldn’t have otherwise. Our last beach adventure we took to Sorrento and Capri, involved an overnight bus, a 4am train ride, a ferry ride, and multiple boat transfers. The outcome? I was able to scratch off yet another bucket list item – rowing through the blue grotto in Capri. While this may seem like the stereotypical tourist moment we all try to stay away from, I can honestly say it was the most beautiful place I have yet to been blessed with seeing (also, it helped me conquer my fear of small spaces and sea sickness).

Inside of the blue grotto in Capri
Inside of the blue grotto in Capri

Although my beach days were well lived, and possibly my favorite memory thus far of my time in Italy, this last week has proven to be a serious wake up call into the ‘real world.’ Even though you are traveling way more than you probably would be at home, and you could be in a different country every week should you choose, we are all still here going to school. Funny concept right? Well, while the thought of classes may make you laugh as you transfer trains coming home from your latest adventure, they are very much real and come with the same regularities at home, including midterms. General PSA, midterms are not easier abroad! In fact, most classes here only grade your midterm and final for your final grade, they are very much worth studying for. What I am happy to report is, they are followed by fall break (so don’t worry, you will soon only have to put your brain power to use simply for booking flights and re-arranging your budget). I just finished my midterms today actually, and am now looking forward to trying to run into Ed Sheeran and Bono as I travel to London and Ireland for the next week or so! And don’t worry, my next post will be the woes of staying on some sort of budget while attempting seeing the world while being on the ‘right’ side to do so.

Check you soon!

-Justine