Scotsterdam!

Last weekend, the 19th, I went to visit Sarah in Scotland for her birthday! On Friday, after a trip entailing a bus to a train to a six-hour bus ride to Dundee, Sarah got me from the bus station and took me back to her flat. Her flatmates were setting up their kitchen/common area and we weren’t allowed in until it was ready. They’d decorated the room and had made three cakes and had a bunch of other snacks out, and invited a bunch of people over. We partied in the common room for a couple of hours and then went out to a fun little club called Underground, where drunk Irish girls sang their own rendition of Happy Birthday to Sarah.

On Saturday, we walked around Dundee and did a bit of shopping. We went into a museum and learned a bit of history about Dundee, which was pretty interesting! In the evening, we met up with Sarah’s friends and went out to dinner and then to see the new Harry Potter movie, which was totally amazing! I’d say it’s definitely the best so far.

On Sunday, we took the bus to Edinburgh for the day. Edinburgh is GORGEOUS! It reminded me of Athens in a way, because it was a modern city set in what clearly has deeply-rooted pieces of history in every direction. We saw about every landmark you could imagine, including Edinburgh Castle, which we couldn’t see all of, but I loved because, well, it’s a castle. We went to a pub called Dirty Dick’s for lunch, where I got a Vegetarian MacHaggis Burger, which is exactly what it sounds like. Dirty Dick’s was great–it reminded me a bit of The Egg’s Nest in Rosendale for it’s funky decorations and interesting/delicious menu. We walked around Edinburgh until our legs were killing us, and finally made an 8:30 bus back to Dundee.

On Monday morning, I took an 8:55 bus back to Manchester, got the train back to Huddersfield, and took the bus back to Storthes, and had a nice, loooong sleep.

On Thursday afternoon, I got packed up for Amsterdam! Kirsty, Lauren and I left Storthes to meet with the rest of our group at the Graduate, the bar in the Student Union. The bus was running late because of how much it had snowed up north. We finally left at about 7:30. The bus to Dover, where we got the ferry, took about six hours on its own. The ferry took another hour and a half, and the bus to Amsterdam from Calais, which is the port in France, took about another four or five hours. This was possibly the most unpleasant traveling experience of my life. We didn’t get to our hotel until 10 am!!! This left, of course, no time for sleeping. I took the worst shower of my life at this hostel. The showerhead literally let out a thin stream of either boiling hot or freezing cold water from the center, and that was it. Awful.

Finally, Kirsty, Lauren, and our roommate Suzanne, set off to find Anne Frank’s house. This was no small task. We did have a map, but Dutch words/street names are long and impossible to pronounce, so orienting ourselves was rather difficult. We had to literally count how many canals we had passed in order to figure out if we were at approximately the right place. We finally found it, and it was really something else. I am the only Jewish person I know in the UK (other than Sarah), so being in Anne Frank’s house meant more to me than it probably would have had I come with my family or other friends from home, most of whom are Jewish too. I realized I’d never seen any Jewish museum or memorial or place of worship—ANYTHING—without other Jewish people who I knew with me. This time, I was pretty acutely aware that what I was experiencing was something different than what my friends were experiencing. For my friends, it was “wow, I can’t believe this happened to Jewish people”, and for me, it was “wow, I can’t believe this happened to MY people”. Obviously, I’m not saying that non-Jews can’t feel pain for what Holocaust victims went through, I was just never so aware of how MY experience of seeing these places is different from a non-Jew’s experience.

It was really pretty eerie being in Anne Frank’s house. I kept trying to imagine that I was her, climbing the same insanely steep steps she did, but it never lasted for long.

After that, we needed a bit of a distraction, so we sat in one of Amsterdam’s coffee shops (hint hint) for a while, and then walked around and took pictures of the amazing city.

That night, we went out to a bar with the rest of our group. We had a pretty decent time, but we left at around 1 to go eat. We went to Wok to Walk, which implies what it was–a sort of create your own Chinese food place. That was perfect! Giant portions and good, greasy food.

On Saturday, we slept in and walked around Amsterdam a lot. We were too tired to do anything too much, but seeing such a beautiful city in person was activity enough. We went to sleep early to prepare ourselves for the nothingness that would take place on our way back the next day.

The way back to Huddersfield was about as exciting as the way there, except that on the way back to Storthes from Uni, a few of us shared a big tax—it held nine people including the driver, who was absolutely MAD (jeez I sound British!) He blasted Indian music and drove almost drunkenly (he was clearly not drunk) all the way back. It was hilarious and terrifying all at once.

Today, I got up and attempted to do some work, but was way too preoccupied with thoughts of tomorrow’s EuroThanksgiving to really concentrate. At about 2, Lauren, Kirsty and I went shopping for groceries and spent almost 2 hours at the supermarket!

For tomorrow, I’ll be making butternut squash soup, salad, sweet potatoes, the most amazing macaroni and cheese the world has ever known, apple pie, and flourless chocolate cake. I CANNOT WAIT.

What?

I feel more and more like I’ve been unintentionally mentally preparing myself to come back home. I’ve dealt with a lot of change in my life, especially moving, and maybe now that I’m older and self-aware enough to notice my actions, I’m starting to see how I’ve sort of created a defense mechanism to stop myself from getting fully attached to a place. I don’t know if this is good or bad. I guess maybe it’s both.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what classes I’m going to be taking in the spring and where I’m going to be living. Of course, these are necessary things to think about unless I want to be classless and homeless, but I think I’ve been getting myself more excited about them than I normally would. I need something major to look forward to to soften the blow of leaving a place I feel like I just got to, but have quickly come to feel at home in.

It’s also hard to think about coming home because I still have so much left to do here. It’s sort of like I don’t know what frame of mind to be in right now. Should I be thinking about leaving? I don’t really want to, but maybe I can stop myself from feeling completely shocked on the day I wake up in Huddersfield and go to sleep in Brooklyn.

Halloween, Apple Strudel, and Bonfires

It seems weird that I’ve been here for less than two months. It feels like I’ve been here so much longer, and yet my trip is more than halfway over. It’s kind of disorienting and definitely sad. I’m trying to keep in mind that this is not permanent–I do miss New Paltz and Brooklyn and my family and friends, but you wouldn’t have to pay me to stay here a while longer.

So. This past week has been about Halloween, little work, lots of fun, and going to class now and again (not that we’re cutting, we just don’t have class very often!)

Halloween here is pretty similar to what it is at home: costumes, decorations, and partying. On Saturday night, Kirsty and I went as a zombie 50s prom couple. We went out to a bunch of bars and met up with Berit and Lauren for a while. Sunday, I went as Zombie the Riveter (like zombie Rosie the Riveter), and a few of us went to D-Bar, the bar at Storthes Hall. I guess I was really into the zombie theme this year, although I sort of realized that adding a zombie theme to any regular costume makes it awesome, kind of like adding “in bed” to the end of your fortune in a fortune cookie is always hilarious. It was lots of fun, although I must say, I miss New Paltz and Brooklyn Halloween.

Yesterday was Lucie’s birthday celebration, so Lauren, Berit, Marianne and I went to her house for apple strudel, which Lucie was quite excited about. Apparently, it’s the national food of the Czech Republic, and Lucie thinks there is no better food on earth! She made it for us, and it was indeed very good. We then went to the Cotton Factory for brick oven pizza, which is where we went the night we met, when it was Berit’s birthday. Fun was had by all!

Tomorrow, I’m going home with Kirsty for the weekend to celebrate Guy Fawkes Day, better known as Bonfire Night. This is a celebration to commemorate the anniversary of Guy Fawkes attempting to kill the Queen, and not being successful. Yes, this is about as much information as I have about it, other than there being a huge bonfire and lots of partying. Good enough for me!

I’ve been stressing out a little about schoolwork. I don’t have much of it, but I have to do a summative essay for each class I’m taking. Three of them aren’t due until December, but one is due on the 16th of November (wow, I’m speaking like a Brit!) I know that’s a while from now, but I tend to get anxious about work long before I need to. I started the paper, but I really don’t know if I’m doing it properly. I hope I ask my professor the right questions about it tomorrow so I can get it sorted out (again, speaking like a Brit).

That’s about it for now!

Je Suis un Petit Update

A brief overview of my eight days traveling:

SUNDAY:

Lauren and I left Huddersfield at around 1 pm, took a taxi to the Huddersfield train station where we took the train to Leeds, waited for the shuttle outside of the Leeds train station to take us to the Leeds/Bradford Airport, arrived WAY too early–there was literally NO line to pick up our tickets or to go through security. We waited for a few hours to board the plane, which is never fun. Once we had taken off, though, we landed in what felt like, and more or less was, no time at all. The flight to Paris took about an hour! Lauren and I met Sarah, who had flown in from Scotland and arrived about five hours before we did, at the airport. At this point, it was about 8:00, and we had to make our way, using public transportation and French directions, to the 3 Ducks Hostel in the Eiffel Tower area of Paris. This was, in short, unsuccessful. We took the Metro a few stops to where we were supposed to catch our connecting train, which was not running due to the strikes. Finally, we caught a taxi outside the train station which took us to our hostel, and, thanks to our friendly driver, past the Eiffel Tower and Arch du Triumph. After checking in and putting our bags down in our tiny little 10-person room, inside of which all seven of our other roommates were already asleep, we searched the area for somewhere to eat. All we could find was a little cafe that was still serving the smaller food items on its menu. I was happy enough with this, but Sarah and Lauren, ever the picky eaters, watched me eat my baguette with chevre before we left to go to the 24-hour McDonalds. At least I’m able to say that my first meal in France was actually French!

After our meal, we walked back to the hostel and crashed. Our room was insanely hot that night. It reminded me of New Paltz dorms in the summer, when I wake up several times during the night because I literally cannot breathe. That was great.

MONDAY:

Our first full day in Paris was a long one. We woke up at about 9 and left the hostel at 10. We got coffee at a brasserie just a block from our hostel and made our way over, by foot, to the Eiffel Tower. As I mentioned in my last entry (or maybe my two last entries), I went to Paris (and London) with my dad and stepmom when I was 11 and have already seen the Eiffel Tower–but I did NOT remember it being anywhere near as big as it is. Despite our being New Yorkers, the three of us were really in awe. After taking pictures of the Tower, pictures of each other with the Tower, and pictures of each other taking pictures of the Tower, we walked past the Ecole Militare, or Military School, which was, even to a staunch pacifist, incredible. We walked around the outside of the Hotel Invalides (I’m still not sure how that’s pronounced–we called it the “Invalid” in over-Americanized accents the entire time), which is a beautiful building with a huge gold dome that can be seen from quite far away, and is where Napolean’s tomb is located. We then sat down in the adjacent Jardin du Luxembourg, the most wonderful-smelling garden ever, probably. We got lunch at a lovely little restaurant called Au Chien Qui Fume, literally “To the Dog Who Smokes”. I translated the name of the restaurant myself, based on the Latin and Spanish I know, and when Lauren, who knows a bit of French, validated my translation, I exclaimed “I’M SO SMART!” in excitement. Sarah and I both ordered croques, which are big pieces of bread with melted gruyere cheese, spices, tomatoes (I think) and a sunny-side-up egg. This might have been the best meal I had in Paris. Sarah and I split a caraffe of white wine, and felt tres Parisienne. Au Chien Qui Fume even had a little corner with a counter guarding a wall of cigarettes, in true Amelie fashion. We then wandered our way over to and across the Seine and into Notre Dame. I remembered the cathedral surprisingly well, but was certainly more struck by its beauty this time. It’s amazing how a few years, well, nine, can allow you to take in an entire city as if you’ve never seen it before. I was hoping this would happen, and it really did.

Finally, after walking literally about 15 miles (thank you, Lauren’s pedometer), we found our way to the metro and back to the hostel for a well-earned nap. When we got up, we picked a restaurant to eat dinner that looked nice, but whose wait-staff was anything BUT nice. When we entered the restaurant, the only English-speaking waiter, a 30-year-old man who would be a great subject for the game “European or Gay?” enthusiastically showed us to our table and told us to let him know if we needed any help translating the items on the menu. When we were ready to order, the man looked a bit insulted that Lauren and Sarah both ordered the “American Burger”, and even more insulted when we told him we would have water from the tap, and no wine (because the cheapest wine was something like 14 Euros, or about $20, per glass!) He slammed the pitcher of water on our table without even looking at us, and said nothing when he brought the food to our table. We ate silently, save for a few jokes about Parisian waiters and the distinct possibility that we might not make it out of the restaurant alive. When we asked for a dessert menu and decided we’d rather get pastries at a patisserie than pay 10 Euro for a scoop of ice cream, our waiter snatched the menus out of our hands and walked away in a huff. It seemed pretty clear that either he was telling the other customers that there was a table of rude American girls that he couldn’t wait to get rid of, or that we were becoming increasingly paranoid. We waited for the bill for about 20 minutes, positive that the waiter was ignoring us except for a few dirty looks every now and then, until we realized that we needed to pay for our meal at the counter. We paid, mostly in change, and left the restaurant as quickly as possible.

We decided that that night was the night we were going to be true Paris tourists and go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. We walked over, but when we got in line to buy tickets, we learned that the ride to the top of the Tower stop at 10:30, after which, we could only get to the second floor. It was 10:45. As the Brits say, we were “gutted”! After being harassed by all 500 of the men selling mini Eiffel Towers within a 100-foot radius, we made our way over to a cafe with a great view of the Tower for dessert and coffee. Of course, this didn’t go smoothly either. The outside of the cafe was lined with patrons sitting in chairs, as are most cafes and brasseries in Paris. We decided we wanted to sit inside. After we ordered our dessert–Lauren got chocolate mousse and Sarah and I got coffee and asked to split creme brulee, we noticed a stray cat come into the cafe. The cat was adorable and was clearly a regular at the cafe, so we watched it do what looked like a little dance, cheerfully. The cat stopped dancing, though, and started pooping. In the cafe. Right next to us. We didn’t know how to react except to burst into a fit of laughter, not only at the cat, but at the day as a whole. When we finally alerted our waiter about the cat poop in the otherwise clean establishment, he gave us a cold look and shouted something in French to a younger waiter, who begrudgingly walked toward us with a mop. We relocated to an outside seat, which for some reason upset our waiter. At least the creme brulee well made up for a day of rude French waiters.

We walked back to our hostel and sat outside in the courtyard with other guests from places including Germany, Argentina, Brazil, and Buffalo, and talked until 2 am, which was quite nice.

TUESDAY:

Today was the day we were going to see the Louvre! We took the metro and walked around the outside of the Museum, not caring about the rain, because the buildings were beautiful and we’d be dry soon enough… or so we thought, until we discovered that the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays. Great. So, we ventured forth and saw The Obelisque, some weird modern art, and a lot of fountains (can you tell I was thrilled to be walking in the rain on my poor, exhausted feet?) Once the rain had cleared up, we decided to walk along the Champs Elysees and to the Arch du Triumph, with some shopping on the way. This definitely made me feel better. We browsed in a few stores and got the chance to sit down, something we hadn’t had much of a chance to do the day before. We found ourselves in a store called Promod for an amazing two hours. It was well worth it though, as we were each quite pleased with our purchases. Of course, Sarah and I bought the same dress in different colors. Sarah and I are, most of the time, the same person. We walked the rest of the short distance to the Arch du Triumph and spent about 20 minutes looking at/in it.

Back to the hostel we went, and took another well-deserved nap. At this point, we noticed that three of the other girls in our room, who spoke a mystery language that sounded like a mix between Russian and French, had not left the room since we first got to Paris. Whenever we saw them, they were either sleeping or sitting in their beds, speaking their mystery language and eating baguettes. They also went to sleep for the night at about 9 every night.

After we got up, we had dinner, and walked, yet again, to the Eiffel Tower. On our way, we stopped to get crepes. We chatted with Harry the Crepe man for a good 15 minutes as he made our crepes–he was pretty hilarious and very Greek. I had a Nutella and banana crepe, which was WONDERFUL.

We bought our tickets and waited in line to go up to the top of the Tower. The elevator ride up was really cool, because you could see the metal pieces of the Tower and the lights around it. There were many levels of the Tower, and we looked around all but the very top one, mostly because Sarah was wearing a dress and the wind on the lower levels was not conducive to staying covered, so she would certainly not have had better luck on the top level. My favorite level was one that had the names of different cities encircling it, and each city was placed where the Tower faced it. It was so interesting! I really find geography fascinating, and being able to know that I was facing New York in one spot, and Sydney from just a few yards away, seemed to put a lot of things into perspective, somehow.

WEDNESDAY:

Today was the REAL day of the Louvre. To be up front, I’m not the hugest fan of art museums. I wish I were, but I never really was great at “understanding art”. I can only handle so much before I get bored. Luckily, since Sarah and I are the same person, she feels the same way. Sarah and I wandered around the museum at our own pace, looking at French, Spanish, British, Egyptian, Greek, and African art for about three hours. Some of it was quite interesting, but we did eventually decide that sitting down with coffee was more appealing than seeing the rest of the museum. Shortly after that, Lauren, who had sped through almost the entire museum, seeing everything she could manage, met up with us, and we headed back to the hostel. After what had become our gratuitous nap, we got dinner at Le Shanghai, because how could we not? That was an experience in itself, as the man behind the counter did not speak English. Another man who may or may not have worked there was able to loosely translate for us, and finally I was told what food was vegetarian. We ate inside the shabby little place, thankful that we weren’t being served by Parisians. On the way back to the hostel, we stopped at a patisserie for eclairs, which was a wonderful decision. Once we got back, we changed in silence and darkness out of respect for the three sleeping, mystery-language-speaking roommates, and got ready for a night out. We took the metro to the Bastille area, where we were told we’d find lots of bars and nightclubs. Unfortunately, since it was a Wednesday, the nightclubs weren’t very busy. We found ourselves in a little bar with a lot of young Parisians who were standing around chatting with each other. We were graciously accepted by all the drunk Europeans who found us exotic. This made for a pretty hilarious night. At one point, I had a conversation with a Romanian man in Spanish, for which I was perhaps a bit too proud. The night was a lot of fun, and a great way to end the Paris half of our trip.

THURSDAY:

Our last morning in Paris, we decided it would only be appropriate to have a little picnic by the Eiffel Tower before heading to London. We stopped at La Fromagerie, just a couple of blocks from our hostel, which we’d been planning on visiting. Sarah and I got a big piece of a semi-stinky, creamy cheese. We got a baguette and grapes, and were all set. Our picnic was just as French as it sounded, except for the other group of American girls having a picnic at the Eiffel Tower, who were rather overzealous with taking pictures with a bottle of champagne they bought from some man selling bottle of champagne to stupid Americans picnicing by the Eiffel Tower. In our wisdom, we did not partake. After our picnic, we went back to the hostel, got our bags, and headed to the airport.

Our flight took about five seconds, but by the time we FINALLY found our hostel, we were exhausted and starving and generally cranky. The hostel was situated in Zone 1 of London, which is the central part, in a Middle Eastern neighborhood. We searched for blocks for an inexpensive-yet-suitable-for-picky-eaters-and-vegetarians eatery of any kind. We found one, which was called Pizza and Chicken, and stuffed our faces with pizza and chicken, silent except when we said “No!” to a 12-year-old boy who offered to sell us pot. Welcome to London!
We walked back to the hostel and completely crashed.

FRIDAY:

On Friday, Sarah and I went to the Tower of London. Lauren didn’t join us because she went to London the week before with a friend who was visiting from home, and she’d already seen the Tower, and didn’t want to pay for it again. London Tower was great! We got a tour from a “Yeoman” who Sarah and I decided to name Yeoman Yellington. He gave us an in-depth and hilarious history of the Tower. I wish history were actually taught to be interesting in school, because it’s rare that I’ll be fascinated by a history class, even though I know it is inarguably important, and I do enjoy it when it’s not being taught to prepare me for a test. Sarah and I explored many of the buildings (and gift shops) and saw the Crown Jewels. After a few hours, we met up with Lauren. We walked along the Thames, past London Bridge, which was surprisingly disappointing, over the much more beautiful Southwark Bridge, into the part of Shakespeare’s Globe that was still open for the day, then back over the Millennium Bridge, which was just weird.

We took the Underground back to our hostel and got ready to go out to dinner with Kirstie, a friend Sarah worked with at camp (Sarah works at the sleepaway camp I was a camper at from ages 8-15, and a staff member at when I was 16–we met when we were 14). It was definitely nice to meet someone who was a native of the place we were visiting and was helpful in telling us what to do and where to go. It was also nice to talk about camp, even though I’d never met her. We ate at a place whose name, Pizza Express, was a bit misleading, because it was a sit-down restaurant with great brick oven pizza and wonderful pasta dishes.

After dinner, we parted ways with Kirstie and went back to the hostel for an early night.

SATURDAY:

On Saturday, Lauren went to the London Zoo while Sarah and I met up with another friend of hers from camp, Jean. Sarah, Jean and I went to the British Library, where we saw the Magna Carta, and then over to the Thames where we went on the London Eye. Despite the long queue (line) and high price, the London Eye was great–we got amazing views of all points in London, and since it took about half an hour to go all the way around, we were really able to absorb it (and take an obscene amount of photos).

When we got off the Eye, the three of us went to one of the cute restaurants along the Thames, Wagamama’s, which served all different types of Asian food. Let’s just say my Vermicelli was a lot better than what I had at Le Shanghai. After we ate, we went back to the hostel and met up with Lauren. All of us, including Jean, who shared (stole) Sarah’s bed, took naps before getting ready to eat dinner and go out for the night.

We headed over to Camden Tower, a long strip of bars, restaurants, and clubs. We didn’t get there until about 9:30, so most places weren’t serving food anymore. This is where America comes in handy–we managed to find The Diner, serving “authentic American food”, whatever that means. We got (veggie) burgers and a few drinks before going out to the Electric Ballroom. We danced there for probably four or five hours. They played the craziest array of music I could imagine, from hip hop to songs from the Grease soundtrack to Cotton Eyed Joe–which was great, because Sarah and I were teaching the dance to many a British onlooker–to the Macarena to real Latin music, which we started a conga line to. SO much fun! We left at about 3 and took a taxi back to the hostel, which we snuck Jean into for the night.

SUNDAY:

In the morning, we said goodbye to Jean and took the Underground to Buckinham Palace for the Changing of the Guards. Frankly, I remembered it being more exciting. We left the Palace at about 12:30 and went to a pub for lunch. The rest of the day was mostly spent getting souvenirs and shopping in Camden Tower, which, during the day, is Camden Market, a cross between a huge flea market and St. Marks Place in Manhattan. After a few hours of shopping, the week caught up with us and we decided to make our last night a lazy, cozy one back in the hostel.

When we got back, we changed into pajamas, went downstairs into the bar/lounge area, drank tea, watched TV, and ordered Indian food. Honestly, it felt totally perfect. We went to bed at around 10 and actually got a real night’s sleep.

MONDAY:

On Monday morning, we packed up our stuff, left the hostel at about 10, got breakfast at Starbucks, and went to the Underground, where Lauren and I parted ways with Sarah, who had to catch a 12-hour bus back to Dundee from Victoria Station at noon.

Lauren and I got our train from the London Euston train station to Manchester, then the train from Manchester to Huddersfield. We walked into town where we caught the shuttle back to Storthes Hall, and FINALLY, we were home.

It’s funny, I’ve only been in Huddersfield for about a month and a half, but after a week of traveling, being back here feels so much like being back home. Maybe it’s because I actually have privacy and space and my own things here. I wonder what it’ll be like when it’s time to leave this home and go back to my Brooklyn home. I won’t even be in Brooklyn too long before it’s time to go back to my New Paltz home. What a strange, exciting age to be. I’m so glad I decided to study abroad, it’s already given me a greater appreciation for being away from home, and for what “home” really is.

Next stop, Scotland for Sarah’s birthday during the weekend of November 19th, then after that, Amsterdam from November 25-28th!

Pictures of this trip will follow shortly!

An update… finally

Sorry it’s been a while! Here’s what’s happened since I last wrote:

We didn’t wind up going to Castle Hill because it rained all weekend. We’re still trying to figure out a time to go, but with everyone getting increasingly busy as we get further into the school year, it’s hard to come up with a time that works for everyone. I also have a (not so) secret suspicion that the idea of walking five miles does not appeal to everyone enough to put in the little amount of effort it would take to just pick a day and go!

I’ve been having a lot of fun in the past few weeks. Having class only twice a week is pretty much just as awesome as I thought it would be, except that I have no motivation to do ANY schoolwork at all because going to class seems like an inconvenience when it’s not part of my daily life like it usually is!

On Friday, Kirsty and I went to Manchester with her aunt (who is only 30) and experienced the nightlife on Canal Street, which, to draw a parallel, is a smaller version of New York’s Village. We had a great time, and the next day, we went out with her family to a mall in Manchester called the Trafford’s Center. Every time any member of Kirsty’s family said it, I thought they were saying the “Traffic Center”. Accents are strange.

On Sunday, we went to Carnage, which it seems most Universities in the area have. Carnage is a giant pub crawl that it seems the entire student body participates in. It was so much fun seeing SO many people out having a great time.

Yesterday, Kirsty and I went to the Chester Zoo, which, despite the long journey and massive amount of money spent on travel, admission, and a new camera, was so much fun! The city of Chester is BEAUTIFUL. It had a definite college town vibe, but it was quite big, and felt (and was) very historic. There were a lot of churches and the buildings of University of Chester, which were scattered around the city, are what you might find on an ivy league campus. I’d love to spend more time there. We got dinner in Manchester on the way back to Huddersfield, and wandered around a lot. It was the third time I’ve been to Manchester, and I like it more and more each time I go.

What I’ve been really excited about recently is my trip to Paris and London with Sarah and Lauren! We’re leaving for Paris on Sunday, staying in a hostel until Wednesday, then flying to London, staying with a friend of Sarah for the night, then staying in a hostel until Monday. I’ve been to both Paris and London before, when I was 11, for the “family honeymoon” of my dad and stepmom. This will certainly be different, as I’ll be exploring the cities with friend my age, and will be old enough to really take the cultures in.

Wee on the Hob

If any American can tell me what “wee on the hob” means, I will title my next entry after you.

Classes began yesterday, and, much to my dismay, it turns out that there is a lecture for my Intro to Narrative class every other Monday. What will I do?!

In all seriousness, though, I don’t have too much of a sense of what my classes are really going to be like yet. Aside from the Intro to Narrative seminar, my classes are all big lectures and involve little class participation. Despite that, Lauren and I have been very warmly received when introducing ourselves to our professors, who had all been anxious to meet “THE ONES FROM NEW PALTZ!!!” It’s nice knowing that not everyone hates Americans, like we thought they would—maybe it’s just because we’re from New York!

Last night, Kirsty, Lauren, Berit, and our new Finnish friend, Marianne, and I went to a comedy show at The Graduate, which was, to my surprise, actually funny—except when one of the comedians’ sets was at least 50% made up of jokes about rape. Being a women’s studies major, I have learned some frightening statistics on rape, rape in colleges/universities in particular, and it sickens me to know that one in four of the female students in the bar last night were laughing along with the “jokes” so that no one would know they were really recalling their history with sexual abuse.

Tomorrow, Lauren, Berit, Lucie, Marianne and I are going to Castle Hill, which is the most important ancient (as in 4,000 years old) fort in Yorkshire from the Iron Age. I hope that when I hike up the 5 mile hill tomorrow, that’ll mean a bit more to me!

Update!

What a busy week it’s been! I guess that’s why I haven’t had time to update this blog.

On Monday, Lauren and I were able to pick out what classes we’re going to be taking. Since we’re both doing psychology and needed similar classes in order to fulfill the major requirements back at New Paltz, we wound up with the same (AMAZING) schedule. On Thursdays from 10:15-11:15, we’re taking Intro to Narrative (we’re supposed to take one English or history class in addition to our psychology classes), then from 11:15-12:15 we have Individual Differences, which, given the description we heard, sounds like Psychology of Personality. On Fridays from 9:15-11:15 we have Exploring Investigative Psychology, which involves forensics–something I’ve always been curious about, and from 12:15-1:15 we have Health Psychology. AND THAT’S IT. Only four classes, only twice a week. I’ll sure be doing a lot of traveling during my weekly five-day weekends!

In fact, Sarah (my roommate in New Paltz who is studying in Dundee, Scotland right now), Lauren and I are planning a trip to London and Paris in a few weeks! I’ve actually been to both London and Paris before, but it was when I was 11 and was with my dad and stepmom for our “family honeymoon”. We only spent five days in each city and, being so young, I don’t think I was really able to appreciate it as much as I will this time around, even if I’ll still only be spending about five days in each city.

On Tuesday we had to go to campus to meet with our tutor groups, which every course (major) has several of. Tutor groups are groups of about 15 students, led by one professor/advisor, that meets once a week to discuss anything related to the course the students are on. I think this is a great idea because it helps to build the community which can be hard, especially at a large school like Huddersfield. Everyone in our group, which is, aside from Lauren and me, comprised of first years, was nice and welcoming and a bunch of us ate together during our lunch break, which was nice. The only part of the group that I’m not terribly enthusiastic about it that it meets on Wednesday afternoons, so we’ll have to go to campus when we otherwise wouldn’t have to. Such a hard life I lead!

On Wednesday, Lauren and I went to the not-as-exciting-as-I’d-hoped Societies Fayre (fair), a big event in which all the societies (clubs) and sports teams tabled and tried to get students to join. That night, I went to the first meeting of the LGBT society, which was held in the Graduate, the bar in the Students’ Union, and then moved to a bar in town. Some “meeting”! It was definitely a lot of fun though and I met some great people.

On Thursday, I met up with two of the girls I met the night before, both of whom are named Kirsty, and their friend Maria, for the Freshers Fayre, where local businesses came to campus and bombarded all of the first years with free EVERYTHING that no one really wants! I spent most of the rest of the day with the Kirstys and Maria.

Friday was pretty low-key. At night, I went to a party outside (yes, literally, outside) one of the halls in the complex I live in with one of the Kirtsys and a few of her other friends. Eventually, a group of us went back to one of their flats where it was actually warm and where we were audible to each other. We spent a few hours there, which I enjoyed. People really seem to enjoy my accent!

Yesterday, Lauren and I went on our trip to Manchester! We had to leave pretty early in the morning and I was extremely tired from the night before, but once I’d finally had some breakfast, I was ready to begin exploring Manchester–which is a wonderful city! There’s a lot of shopping there, a TON of pubs, and many beautiful buildings which I must admit, give New York a run for its money. It was too bad I was so tired or I would have liked to do more exploring. Lauren and I did sit near Piccadilly Square for about an hour and watch the people and pigeons go by, which was both entertaining and relaxing. I fell asleep on the bus ride back (as I did on the bus ride there), and when we got back to Storthes Hall, we ordered Chinese food and had a quiet night in.

This morning I was supposed to go to Liverpool, but I woke up still feeling exhausted and a bit sick, so I decided to skip it. Lauren tells me it was absolutely amazing and that she, Berit, Lucie, and a new friend they made from Finland, Marianne, want to go back very soon, so it looks like I’ll be able to see the city shortly anyway!

I start class on Thursday, which is probably a good thing since I can definitely feel my brain rotting. I’m glad I have this blog to update (even if I did slack off this week), otherwise I’m pretty sure I’d actually have no brain left at all.

Here are some pictures from Manchester:

York!

Today I went on the first of three trips I mentioned in my previous entry, which was to York. York was the most important Roman British city and has been extremely well-preserved, so it’s quite beautiful. My friends Lucie and Berit, who I also mentioned in my previous entry, went on the trip with me and Lauren too, so it was a lot of fun!

York was extremely rainy and cold today—not much different from how Huddersfield has been, but the weather in York (or maybe just today’s weather in Northern England in general) did put a littttle bit of a damper on the experience. We certainly made the best of it, though, and explored as much of the city as we could.

We started the day walking through the huge outdoor food festival, which was comprised of stand after stand of fish and meat and bread and sweets and jam and a LOT of free samples. We then decided to get lunch at a pretty good pub, where I got fantastic macaroni and cheese (I think they flavored it with cinnamon or nutmeg or both, which was really interesting), which came with a nice salad and awesome garlic bread, and a glass of chardonnay. What I’ve noticed about a lot of British eateries is that even though waiters bring you your food, once you’ve decided what you want from the menu, you have to go up to the bar and order it and even pay for it beforehand. But since this isn’t always the case, it tends to be a bit awkward knowing exactly how/when/from whom to order.

After lunch, we just walked around the very rainy and very beautiful streets, stopping in stores and taking a ton of pictures. Past the food festival was another outdoor market which had stands that sold a lot of knick knacks and scarves and other cute, small things of that nature.

About two hours before we had to leave, we stopped at a cafe for tea and coffee—I still hadn’t done tea time in England yet!—and relaxed and talked about the differences between our cultures (American, Danish, and Czech) and our experiences in other countries. It’s really interesting finding so many similarities and differences in customs you would never even give a second thought to, like what a normal breakfast is or how much you like your tea to be steeped or what you wear out to a club, or “disco”, at night.

On our way back to the bus, we stopped again at the food festival. We all gave in and bought brownies to take back to our flats. We’d gotten free samples of them earlier and none of us had forgotten how good they were. I got an Oreo brownie and a Nutella brownie, which I hope will last me a while. For dessert tonight, I had plain yogurt with honey, cinnamon, blackberries, and a few pieces of the Oreo brownie. YUM!

All of this coming week is Freshers Week, which means that there are events every day and every night geared specifically toward first years and new international students. Last week I bought a wrist band for five pounds which gives me access to every event for free, AND queue (line) skipping privileges. Lauren and I also have meetings with our psychology advisor almost every day this week, which is when we’ll sign up for classes, or “modules” and have an introduction to the psychology major, or “course”.

Here are some pictures of Huddersfield and York:

Huddersfield Has A Lot of Mini Coopers…

And I attempted to count them all today. I stopped after about ten, when I passed by an uncountable number of them parked in a parking lot and couldn’t decide if they were worth counting anyway. It’s all fine by me though, as my dream car is the Mini Cooper.

So today, I got up at about 7:45 and got ready for a 9:30 orientation, the first of many that will be taking place throughout the next two weeks. Lauren and I made our way over to the Central Services Building (which, for all you New Paltzers, is known as “CSB”, so we felt right at home) where all the international students were told what would be happening as far as class enrollment and activities for the next few weeks goes. We found out that we don’t begin classes until the 27th instead of the 20th, which is when I originally thought they began, so I’ve still got a lot of time before I have any schoolwork to do. After waiting in line for a while for our Visas to be scanned—this was somehow the process for “pre-enrollment”—Lauren and I went into town to get a couple of things, signed up for day trips to York, Manchester, and Liverpool. The trip to York is on Sunday, Manchester is the following Saturday, and Liverpool is just the day after!

A little before 17:00 (5:00) we made our way back to campus for a meeting of the International Students society, which met in the Coffee Bean in the Students’ Union. I was expecting it to be led more formally than it was, but what wound up happening was simply that international students trickled in and sat with each other at tables, randomly. Lauren and I became friends with Berit, a woman from Denmark whose 33rd birthday happened to be today, Lucie from the Czech Republic, and Rizwan from Pakistan.

After talking for a while in the Coffee Bean and having small conversations with some of the staff members of the Students’ Union, who are students and recent graduates of the University, the five of us went out to dinner at a place called The Cotton Factory, where we had really good pizza (though it was not like New York pizza) and a couple of drinks. We then went back to the Students’ Union, where there was yet another International Students event—though it wound up being populated with pretty much every kind of student—at the bar on campus, The Graduate. We stayed there for a few hours before splitting up and going back to our respective homes.

Tomorrow we have enrollment, and the rest of the day free. Hopefully we’ll find something fun to do like we did today!

Arrival Day

Well, after a delayed flight, almost not being let into the country by the border patrol officer because we had no documentation from our host university saying we had a reason to be here, a “we might not have housing for you” scare, and, possibly worst of all, not being able to figure out how to use the internet for an entire 20 minutes, Lauren (also from New Paltz) and I are here in Huddersfield and settling in.

We are the only two people in the flat to move in so far, and have been told that only one other girl is scheduled to move in (though more may sign up) and she won’t be here until next week. Not quite what I was expecting!

Anyway, after we dropped our bags off in our rooms and e-mailed our parents to tell them we were alive, Lauren and I ventured off into the town of Huddersfield to get a few necessary items and check out the area where we’re going to be spending the next three months. We live in Storthes Hall Park, which is about a 20 minute shuttle ride to campus and town.

The main part of the town of Huddersfield consists of the University and a few streets with a bunch of shops/pubs/restaurants. But the most unique part is this expansive, never-ending mall type place. Once you exit the main building of the mall, which looks like a regular shopping mall, if not a somewhat small shopping mall, through the back, you are presented with a TON of stores on curved streets that seem to go on forever. Following along one street leads into a sort of roofed outside market that sells everything from meat to clothes to pillows to textiles to (questionable) produce. It’s quite interesting!

Anyway, while in town, Lauren and I got toiletries, pay-as-you-go phones, and lunch from a place called Nandro’s. Nandro’s has a sort of customizable selection, where you can choose what kind of meat (or non-meat) you want, how you want it served (as a burger, in “pitta”, and… something else?), and what level of spiciness. I chose a beanie in a pitta with cheese and pineapple, medium spice. A beanie is, first of all, something we should have in America, and second of all, made of some sort of combination of vegetables, spices, and beans. YUM.

On the shuttle back to Storthes Hall, Lauren and I totally passed out and continued our naps back in our flat. When I woke up and showered, the water was so hot (and unadjustable) I could barely stand it. I hope I can figure that out because shower-induced burns is not a good enough excuse for anyone to be smelly.

Now I’m waiting for Lauren to figure out the issues she’s having using her power adapter so we can go to the Administration Building a couple of minutes away, which has a little market in it, to buy groceries.

Tomorrow we have nothing scheduled, but orientations and class sign-ups and the like begin on Wednesday, so hopefully there will be some updates more exciting than these by then!