Adventures in Aberdeen

Sarah's semester in scotland

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Springtime in Stratford

Once again I have failed my (three?  four?) readers and not posted anything in several weeks.  I apologize.  Once again, it is not because I had better things to do.  Actually, the only reason I’m posting now is because I now have better things to do and need an excuse to procrastinate.  If you remember, I was last having issues getting to my destination of Stratford-Upon-Avon.  Here is the conclusion to that not-so-suspenseful cliffhanger. 

By the time I got to Stratford it was pushing 4:00.  It was also still very cold, and it was still snowing.  There were at least two inches on the ground already, though not on the roads or sidewalks—I’m pretty sure they salted them.  I got into the bed & breakfast and napped awhile before we headed out to a chip shop our host recommended.  It was a pretty legitimate fish & chip shop where the chips were piled up on some pieces of butcher paper with the fish on top, and all of it was given a liberal squirt of vinegar and sprinkle of salt.

We consumed our fish & chips as we watched Casino Royale, the prompt for this being that Victoria had never seen a Bond movie before and wanted to watch Skyfall before she went to the castle they used on Skye.  Well she wasn’t going to watch Skyfall first—she at least needed Casino Royale under her belt before that one.

The next day we got up bright and early for a full English breakfast served by our funny French host Pascal, who introduced all of the parties staying in the Bed & Breakfast.  Then we set out for Palm Sunday worship at Holy Trinity church, where William Shakespeare and most of his family are buried.  They had a dramatic reading of the traditional Palm Sunday scripture, which somehow seemed more dramatic when it was read with British accents.  The cathedral was gorgeous, of course, and we had to go back after lunch to visit the grave of one William Shakespeare, which is actually in the church.

We then wandered around the downtown area a bit (there isn’t all that much to do on Sundays) and went to an Italian chain for dinner that we were expecting to be more on the Pizza Hut end of the spectrum and ended up being closer to the Olive Garden end, which was a pleasant surprise.

On Monday after another English breakfast we headed out to the main tourist attractions of Stratford.  There was a Shakespeare… museum… interactive… video… thing?  It played clips of a bunch of famous performances and gave a bunch of really basic info on Shakespeare and had a few cool artifacts, okay?  That sort of guided us to the house that Shakespeare was born in, which was turned into a pub for awhile but then restored.  It was all set up with period furniture and everything, and there were people in period clothing giving demonstrations and impromptu scenes from various plays.  The actors were pretty impressive—one of the guys was working on having multiple scenes from every Shakespeare play (that’s 37) memorized so he could do them on the spot.  He was working on Titus Andronicus and only had a few more to go.

We also went to Hall’s Croft, which was Shakespeare’s daughter Susanna’s house (actually technically it was her husband John Hall’s house), which had a bunch of information on the medical practices of the time (Hall was one of the best doctors in England at the time).  Hall’s medical practices were actually a lot more scientific than I think a lot of people would imagine (probably part of what made him one of the best doctors in England).  There was still definitely superstitious stuff in there, but he kept extensive case notes of all of his patients and their symptoms, what they were diagnosed with, what they were prescribed, and the results of the diagnosis and prescription.  We took a turn about the gardens outside, which feature an enormous 150-year-old mulberry bush.  The garden was pretty, but it would have been much prettier if we’d have been there a few weeks later when everything was in bloom (the only things even sort of in bloom were the crocuses and the poor frozen daffodils).

Overall Stratford-Upon-Avon was a charming little town that I could see myself living in.  Or perhaps retiring in.  The town itself is pretty quiet, but there’s always good theatre going on and London isn’t too far away by bus or train.  Too bad there’s no market for research psychologists.  

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Update: 2:30PM (Or, How One Direction Ruined my Day)

3/23/13

There is a simple three-word phrase that saves enormous amounts of stress when traveling—all day train ticket.  I’m extremely glad mine was an all-day ticket, because I missed the train I intended to take from Birmingham to Leamington Spa.  Not because I was late, but because I physically could not get on the train.  Wanna know why?  I blame these bastards:

 

That’s right, my friends: there was a One Direction concert in Birmingham this evening, which means that the trains arriving at the station were all packed full of teens and tweens to the point where I was not physically able to make it onto the train before the doors closed.  Much to my dismay the last one of them escaped right as the doors were closing without pushing the button to hold them open and I got to wait another hour for a different train that wasn’t quite as packed full of girls.  And then another hour at Leamington Spa for my connection to Stratford-Upon-Avon.  Did I mention it’s freaking cold and that most of England got 2-3 inches of snow?  And that it’s still going?  I really hope that Victoria has scouted out somewhere to get a hot meal after I crash for my 2 hour nap because I deserve the meal and the nap.  At least I’ll make it there.  Overall this has been a good experience for me.  I’m learning to navigate public transportation and it’s forcing me out of my comfort zone tremendously.  By the end of this trip I should be able to read train and bus schedules like a pro.  By the end of this trip I will probably also have spent more time waiting in train/bus stations because I missed the train/bus than I will have spent riding said trains and buses.  But I won’t complain as long as I eventually get where I need to go.

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By Bus, by Plane, and by Train

3/23/13 ~8:00am

I’m glad I got up early for this trip.  I woke up at 5am because I wanted two chances to catch the airport shuttle, which only comes once on the hour early on the weekends.  The bus center is a half hour walk away and it was really windy this morning.  It has been for the last few days, but I’d vainly hoped that it might let up in time for my journey.  No such luck.  It’s going to be a bumpy takeoff.  Anyway, I heard some of my hallmates coming in after a long night and begged the favor of a quick phone call to a cab company (since my phone is lost).  Unfortunately I think I missed my cab.  I was outside the other hall in our little Crombie/Johnston complex and forgot there was another driveway in what is technically the front of Johnston hall (I can’t help it if the back entrance is the primary one).  Anyway, I definitely missed the 6:00 shuttle but the best thing about it is that there was NO STRESS because I had a full hour to take a 30-miute walk in no traffic to get the next airport shuttle.  And the moral of this story is always give yourself an error margin while traveling.

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Everything’s so F***ing Green! (St. Patrick’s Day in Belfast)

3/17/13

Apologies for the implied profanity, but it’s a movie quote (bonus points if you know which one—answer is at the bottom).  This morning Victoria and I went on our tour of Northern Ireland.  There was a Swiss girl in our hostel who was on the same tour, so we sort of stuck together.  In a wonderful imitation of a taxi service, the tour company actually picked us up at the hostel.  They will be getting an excellent review online.  The driver had a wonderful accent that I could listen to all day.  Naturally, he was wearing a bright green leprechaun hat and greeted us with a genuine “Top ‘o the mornin’ to ye!”  Our tour was filled with a combination of history, fun facts, and useful information.

The scenery in Ireland is beautiful.  Lots of cliffs and VERY green grass.  Like, REALLY green.  Oregon is green but they definitely call this place the Emerald Isle for a reason.  Most of what we drove through were very green fields dotted with sheep and week-old lambs.  According to our tour guide it was a good lambing season, and they were frolicking everywhere.  Regrettably, I wasn’t able to get any pictures of them because there weren’t any easily accessible sheep on any of our stops. I did get to eat one for lunch though.

Our first stop was Carrickfergus Castle—a 12th century Norman castle that is remarkably well-preserved and was in use for a remarkably long time.  Unfortunately we didn’t have much time to explore the castle.  It looked really neat, but we would have had to pay to actually get into it and we only had about 20 minutes for that stop.  We stopped quickly at another costal town on our way to the Carrick a Rede rope bridge to get snacks and food and some costal charm.  When we got to the place with the rope bridge it was a 15-20 minute walk up and down some hills to get to the bridge, and that’s when I started to notice my knee really hurt.  Considering the location of the pain I’m betting my money on ACL, and I hope to god it’s just strained or sprained and not torn or else these next few months will sure be interesting.  I’m pretty sure it’s not torn.  I’m not in quite enough pain for it to be torn.  Going down stairs was pretty painful though.  Not excruciating, but painful.  I was still able to cross the rope bridge though, and the weather today gifted us with some wonderfully-lit shots of the cove and the green sea.

Only fifteen minutes away from Carrick a Rede was the Giant’s Causeway—a natural rock formation on the northern coast caused by hot basalt flowing into the ocean.  Because we were feeling like little old ladies by that time, Victoria and I hopped the bus all the way down to the causeway instead of walking the entire way (another 15-20 minute walk, and we didn’t go out onto the causeway very much because someone would have gotten hurt.  We did get some good pictures though, and again the lighting was very kind.  It’s hard to take bad pictures here. Taking the bus gave us time to have a much-needed hot meal in the small pub at the Causeway, which happened to be a huge steaming bowl of Irish stew with bread and butter that made me very happy with my life choices.

Our last stop was the Bushmill distillery, which is the oldest (licensed) whiskey distillery in Ireland.  It is significantly older than my country.  By that time I was very tired and my knee still hurt (along with the rest of my legs because of the accursed running I had to do to miss my train on Friday).  We weren’t even taking a tour of the distillery—it was really just a stop for people to pick up some genuine Irish booze.  We stepped into the gift shop for a few minutes but there wasn’t anything I felt the need to buy, so we went back to the visitor’s center to pet the cat in the lobby.  The poor animal had been surrounded by (Japanese, I think) tourists ogling at its cuteness and trying to shake its paws.  I think most of that group was about to continue on to the gift shop anyway, but I stepped in to pet the cat and it seemed pleasantly surprised that I held out my hand to ask its permission to pet.  I think all of the people skills I was supposed to develop over my lifetime somehow got converted to cat skills, because I made a friend.  Victoria didn’t, though.  Victoria tried to pet the cat while it was sleeping.

The ride back was a blur—mostly because I passed out soon after we started back.  I was extremely tired and not too keen to go out again since I was still full from the big late lunch I had.  Luckily I was able to overcome my exhaustion.  When we got back to the hostel the Swiss girl and a guy we’d met at breakfast from northern California were headed to find something to eat and drink nearby, so Victoria and I joined them.  By that time most of the pubs were no longer serving food because they were all packed, so we found a nice-looking Italian place and sat down for a light meal and some wine before heading back to the hostel to meet up with the others and go out as a group.  We hung out in the dining room for awhile and found out that one of the hostel workers is from Seattle and knows a lot of people from PLU.  Finally our multicultural gang of tourists left in search of alcohol.

We had to visit a few places before finding one that wasn’t packed tighter than a can of sardines, but we eventually settled on a place called Lavery’s (sounds pretty legit) that was packed more like a can of sardines that’s missing a single fish.  It was very crowded and very loud.  Luckily they were playing pretty agreeable music though—you can’t go wrong with oldies, and who can resist singing along with Bohemian Rhapsody, complete with drunken air guitar and power fists.  We sent one of our group up to the bar to order us all 7 pints of Guinness.  I didn’t have anything else that night.  I was already exhausted and in that state where you’re still going and you don’t understand how.  The bar closed at midnight, which is when I went back with our Swiss friend, who was looking at an early morning.  I felt a bit bad ditching Victoria, especially since it was her 21st birthday, but she understood and she’s with a group of people.  We’re facing another pretty early morning in order to get around the city a little before we have to leave, so I’m taking a shower and getting to bed ASAP.

*The quote is from Death at a Funeral, for those of you who are playing. If you’ve never seen it, go see it.  The ORIGINAL British version though—I can’t stress that enough.

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White Jesus is Everywhere

3/15/13

I finally made it to Edinburgh.  The trains were having signaling problems, so we were delayed for quite some time on the tracks.  But I made it.  Right now I’m in my 6-bed hostel room.  It’s a co-ed room, but the only other people I’ve seen have been middle-aged men.  Not that it’ll be awkward or anything—I’ll probably barely see them since I’m going to bed so early, and I brought earplugs in case anybody snores (though after my day I could probably sleep through anything)

Edinburgh is nice, if a bit steep.  After my lengthy jog to the Aberdeen train station I wasn’t too thrilled to be hiking everywhere especially since Victoria chose this of all days to be the one who walks ridiculously fast.  After we found our respective hostels we went back to the mall to which the train station is attached to meet up with some friends of Victoria’s.  Unfortunately there was a miscommunication as to which Starbucks we were meeting at (nobody thought to clarify which Starbucks by Waverley Station) and Victoria’s friend’s phone had died.

The two of us eventually decided to take a trip to the National Art Gallery, which houses some truly breathtaking art.  I once heard someone wonder out loud why they would ever want to go to an art museum if they can just look those pictures up online.  Trust me, person: you want to go see the originals in a gallery.  Among others this museum houses pieces by DaVinci, Raphael, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Monet.  It also has some impressively large pieces (that are also absolutely gorgeous), a variety of sculptures done in the Greek/Roman fashion (which isn’t actually the Greek/Roman fashion because the Greeks and Romans painted their beautiful marble statues with gaudy-colored paint), and an impressive collection of paintings featuring White Jesus, some of which also feature biblical characters in Medieval/Renaissance clothing.  Victoria and I had some good quiet laughs about that.  The Scottish collection housed by the museum was also pretty neat.  Some of the landscape pictures painted in the 18th and 19th centuries looked like photographs, and one of the painters was even completely self-trained.

After our trip to the gallery we headed down Princes Street in search of a pub, and settled on a nice, relatively uncrowded one.  I got a delicious plate of Highland chicken (chicken stuffed with haggis), mashed turnips and potatoes, and vegetables with a delicious gravy.  It was the first time I’d had haggis and I figured it would be best to try it with something else so I wouldn’t go hungry in case I didn’t like it.  No need for caution because it was delicious.  Even just the haggis alone.  I would definitely eat that again.  I also had a pint of a nice refreshing cider.  Victoria had beer and a burger, and a joke about the Episcopalian drinking beer and the Lutheran drinking cider was made.  We also indulged in deep fried Mars bars, which were quite good.  I don’t think I’d be able to eat one without a bit of ice cream, but with some ice cream to even out the sweetness and make the caramel just a little bit chewy it was heavenly.  After we were full and warm and happy we headed back to our respective hostels.  Victoria ended up going out with her friend and some of her friend’s friends on a pub crawl.  As for me, I shall sleep.

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Should’ve Just Walked

This one has nothing to do with public transportation.  Oh no, this is a tale of sweat and panic and faulty alarm clocks that look like you’ve set them when you haven’t.  Public transportation had little to do with my waking up at 7:12 to catch a 7:52 train to Edinburgh except that I waited 10 minutes for the bus that was supposed to get in at 7:26 (I might have made it if that bus had been on time, but I’ll try not to be bitter).  Now I’m tired, sweaty, and sitting on the next train to Edinburgh. I’ve done my yearly jog, and God willing I won’t have to do another one in the course of my travels.  Despite still waking up pretty early I don’t think I want to nap on the train.  This one is actually going to Penzance for its final destination, so I need to be awake when it stops at Edinburgh.  Knowing my luck I’ll fall asleep and wake up in Penzance. 

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Weekend Update

3/15/13

Right now I’m on the train to Edinburgh (MUCH more on that later), and I realized that I haven’t done an update in awhile.  So you get this much more boring update before you get to hear about Edinburgh and the ordeal getting there.

Classes have been going well so far.  Two of my classes, Developmental psych and History of Language in the British Isles, are only 6-week courses, so they’re all finished now.  Well, Developmental is finished as soon as I turn in my essay next week, which is only 1,000 words on developmental arguments for why there’s such a wide gender gap in high-level STEM (science, tech, engineering, and math) fields (answer: biological and environmental factors are both in play JUST LIKE WITH EVERYTHING ELSE.)  There’s also a final exam for Developmental, but we get to choose our essay topic.  History of Language doesn’t even have a final.  Of all my classes that is the one I wish was longer.  It’s an extremely interesting topic, and given my soft spot for both dead languages and etymology it was right up my alley.  My final essay was on the history of Gaelic in the 20th and 21st centuries, which was great as an essay topic because the rest of them would have required lots of digging up old sources full of barely-written-down ancient languages. It’s much easier to find sources from the 1900s on.

The weather here messes with my sixth sense.  I don’t claim to have ESP, but I firmly believe that all Northwesterners possess the uncanny ability to predict whether it will rain or not just from looking outside in the morning.  This is mostly because if it is cloudy there is an 85% chance that there will be rain, and if it is sunny there is a 50% chance there will be rain.  Here it will look very much like it’s going to rain but then stay dry all day.  I found myself impressed by the bravery of all the people who were wearing coats without hoods around here until I realized that it really doesn’t rain that much, so people don’t need waterproof raincoats.  I found myself explaining to some of my Scottish acquaintances that most people in the Northwest don’t dare leave home without something with a hood, whether they’re wearing it or it’s packed in their bag.  It does seem that the English and Scots share the Northwest’s disdain for umbrellas.

Speaking of the weather, a few days ago (I think it was Tuesday?) was the first time I got the type of weather I was expecting from Scotland.  It was very cold, the wind was blowing very hard, and it was snowing.  We’ve actually had quite a bit of snow over the last week—about 3 inches or so overnight on Tuesday that was top of some that was still around from Sunday.  That weather is gone now though—back to just moderately cold and looking like it’s going to rain but never actually raining.

On a final note, I’ve discovered a glorious candy called a Crunchie Bar and have resolved to consume as many as I possibly can before I leave.  If you’re lucky you might get one as a souvenir.  But you probably won’t because by the time I see you I’ll have eaten all of them.  Sorry I’m not sorry.

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FREEDOOOOM! (Exploring the Highlands)

Last weekend  Two weeks ago (Three weeks ago? I don’t even know anymore. Let’s say three weeks ago,) I went to visit Victoria in St. Andrews. This involved me successfully navigating to the train station, boarding the train, getting off at the correct stop, getting onto the correct bus to get into St. Andrews, and meeting Victoria at the bus station there.It may not sound like an accomplishment, but trust me: it was.

Once I connected up with Victoria we went back to her hall to have a self-catered dinner with our mutual friend Andrew.  Dinner was two quiches, a head of lettuce and a bell pepper (for salad), roasted potatoes, pear cider, and a chocolate cake with clotted cream for dessert.  We managed to accomplish this with no plates, one fork, and one knife between the three of us. To give you a vague idea, the lettuce was eaten as whole leaves dipped in dressing and there was some creative use of the aluminum quiche pans.  I don’t know why recent college grads aren’t hired on the spot—we’ve all just finished with four years of creative improvisation the likes of which can only be found on a college campus.

We woke up bright and early to grab some coffee and sandwiches and get to the big yellow tour bus that was waiting for us in the very small downtown area of St. Andrews.  The tour first took us (meaning a group of about 30 mostly American tourists) to the Wallace Monument where our guide enumerated the myriad ways that Braveheart is historically inaccurate (let’s just say that Wallace wouldn’t have been able to say much with his dying breath considering the body part that was occupying his mouth).  We also saw Stirling Bridge of the famous Battle of Stirling Bridge, which was depicted in Braveheart sans-bridge (they really could have done better with that one). Our next stop was the Old Grouse whiskey distillery, though we had a ways to go. We got a glimpse of Doune Castle (of Monty Python fame).  All of us on the bus were impressed, but our tour guide scoffed “It’s just a model.” Apparently every summer they have a Monty Python festival there where the cast reenacts scenes and everyone is given coconut shells with which to gallop around the estate.

We drove through a lot of farm land and saw a lot of sheep.  Highland sheep are cool-looking though.  Their wool is long and wavy, and doesn’t mat together like regular sheep.  Highland sheep still have their horns too, so they seem a lot more dignified than our lumpy, harmless, bumbling animals. We stopped to see Haymish the famous Highland cow (or “hairy coo”), but Haymish was in for the winter.  Luckily our tour guide had a good eye and we were able to pull over later where there were some hairy coos close to the fence to get pictures.  Unfortunately most of the American tourists were big city dwellers who probably have very limited experiences with animals that aren’t cats and dogs, and didn’t realize that 30 or so people rushing off a bus and talking loudly would scare away cows.  Luckily, I predicted this would happen and jogged ahead of the main group as soon as I got off.  I got a couple of good pictures of cows not so close to the fence while the others got nice close-ups of cow butts as the cows immediately decided to go graze somewhere quieter and less crowded.

Our journey to the distillery also took us through what our tour guide considered the “gateway to the Highlands,” which was a completely arbitrary dip in the road at which he encouraged the bus to yell “FREEDOOOOM!” Being the Anglophile tourists we were, we happily obliged. The Highlands are very pretty, and I wish I could have gotten some better pictures than the ones I got out of the bus window. There were several instances when we went up in elevation and our tour guide welcomed us to Narnia.

The smell of distillates at the whiskey distillery brought back fond memories of slaving away distilling rum in Advanced Biology. The actual process of distilling whiskey was pretty straightforward and since I am already an expert at distilling rum using only PVC piping, plumber’s putty, and whatever happens to be lying around, but the tasting was a new experience.  We got to try two whiskies—one of the blends that that particular distillery makes, and its signature single-malt.  Most people didn’t like either of the whiskies they tried. Maybe it’s my Scottish roots showing through, but I thought both of them were pretty tasty.

Our final stop was Finlarig Castle, which was completely awesome.  It was falling to pieces but still sturdy enough to climb around in, and it presented some very good photo ops.  I was very pleased to have an opportunity to explore an abandoned, decaying piece of architecture.  Finlarig used to be a Campbell stronghold, and as some may know, the Campbell clan had something of a friendly rivalry with the McGregors, and by “friendly” I mean “about as hostile as you can get.”  Finlarig castle, like many other castles, has its very own beheading pit, which was used for after dinner entertainment when there were any McGregors around to play with.  I’m glad the Scots have improved on their hospitality.

Other Ways in Which Braveheart is Historically Inaccurate:

1.  William Wallace was not a poor farmboy, he was very cultured.  There is evidence of him (not a scribe) writing in Gaelic, English, Latin, and French all fluently

2.  Despite being as cultured as he was, on the sliding scale of war heroes he was much closer to the “batshit crazy bloodthirsty warrior” end of things than “ingenious military strategist” like the movie depicts him

3.  Wallace was a lowland Scot; he would not have been wearing a kilt.

4.  Wallace’s torture/death in the movie?  That’s actually tame compared to what actually happened.  

5.  The Battle of Stirling Bridge was not fought on an open field, and as one might suspect, it did involve a bridge.

6.  Robert the Bruce was not the one to betray Wallace to Edward I—that was a different Scottish nobleman by the name of John de Menteith (the Earl of Menteith). 

7.  Scotland has many, many lochs, but only one lake—the Lake of Menteith.  The folk reason for this is that Menteith’s earldom included Loch Menteith, which was demoted to lake after his betrayal of William Wallace.

8.  The movie depicts pretty well-armed, uniformed English soldiers.  While the English soldiers were probably better armed and better armored than the Scottish soldiers, they generally wore whatever they had lying around.  During long spans of war and unrest foot soldiers acquired armor and weapons as they went along, which is part of why the English were better equipped than the Scots (fighting the French is good practice).

9.  The blue face paint was a Pictish thing.  The Picts were the people that lived in Eastern Scotland before everyone became Scots, and they painted their faces to scare off the Romans, who, somewhat contrary to their reputation, were put off by the sight of barbarians with blue faces. (Actually Rome never conquered Pictland because they didn’t see anything there worth conquering, but Scots like to think it was because their ancestors were too fearsome for the Romans to take them on.)

There are more, but this post is long enough.

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Harry Potter is a Multicultural Phenomenon

I told anyone who’s been actually reading these in my very first post that it was very likely I would get incredibly behind and not post anything for long periods because I’m lazy.  This delay is not due to my being exceedingly busy doing interesting things or anything—I’m just lazy.  This post is from the weekend of Feb 1st, and more backlogged posts are on the way.

I’ve mentioned before the very neat multicultural environment here at Aberdeen facilitated by programs like ERASMUS and European socialism (which are of course components of a communist plot to install a fascist government in America).  I don’t think I’ve ever been in as diverse an environment as the group of 40 or so students who sat down to watch all eight Harry Potter movies over a Friday/Saturday.  We heard on the news whenever a new book came out about how Harry Potter was unprecedented in the breadth of its fanbase—it set multiple world records for number of pre-ordered book copies, has been translated into 67 languages, and convinced a large portion of my generation to sit down and read over 4,000 pages for fun, but the exact scope of this series didn’t really sink in until I saw how many people from so many different places were brought together by a movie marathon.  Just in my immediate area (sitting directly next to/in front of/behind me) were people from Canada, England, Scotland, France, Germany, Lithuania, Romania, and Spain.  And there were plenty more.  Most people copped out after a few movies, but we happy few, we band of brothers stuck it out for all 18 hours of Harry Potter.  I brought my bag of American candy, and the English girl next to me tried Hershey’s chocolate for the first time, the German girl in front of me had Sweet Tarts (which she really liked), and the Lithuanian guy behind me had a Reese’s for the first time (of which he was suspicious at first but found surprisingly delicious).

Being around people of so many different nationalities is very neat, and I’m interested to see how many countries’ cultural differences I can learn about while only visiting one country.

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Spending Money Can be Fun

My name is Sarah (“Hi Sarah”) and I am a cheapskate.  I don’t typically consider this a bad thing, because pretty much any time I’m spending money it’s money I don’t have; money I need to be saving.  However, without a sum due to PLU for the term, I (for the first time in my life) have a significant amount of money available to me to spend on things like traveling and going out.  Now don’t worry Mom, not having spare money to go do fun things for much of my life has left me agonizing over any purchase at all that isn’t completely necessary for my survival, which makes me still cautious and stingy with any purchases.  I really had to work to convince myself to do it, but I bought play tickets for my spring break trip to London.  One show, Spamalot, was relatively cheap, and I will be seeing that with Victoria and Kenedy.  The other, Peter and Alice, is about the two individuals who influenced the characters of Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland, and stars Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw (who quickly jumped to the top of my list of favorite actors for his acting in The Hour and also did a pretty good job as Q in the most recent Bond movie).  Tickets were not cheap (at least by my standards), and I’ll be going it alone, but I don’t regret a thing.  Besides, there’s even psychological evidence that purchasing experiences makes us WAY happier than purchasing items (Note:  this is a good tip for when you can’t think of a present for someone).

With all this talk about money, I thought it might be interesting to address some of the surprising things I’m finding about my grocery receipts and shopping visits.  First:  produce is surprisingly ridiculously cheap.  I live in the second closest state to Hawaii and I can’t get a pineapple for under $2.50, yet there are pineapples down the street at Morrison’s for £1 (about $1.60).  You can get a nice big carton of blueberries in the off season here for £2, where a carton ¼ the size will run you around $4 in Oregon.  I don’t know how it works, but it sure makes it easier to eat healthy stuff when it’s cheaper than junk food.  Cost of living is still pretty high—food at the grocery store is sold in smaller packages for more money, and transportation costs are extremely high even if you take the bus everywhere (which is why I’m grateful I can walk everywhere I need to go here).  It is nice that Aberdeen, as a fairly large university, has the advantage of securing pretty good deals on all sorts of things for their students.  Movie tickets for students run around £3.50 (~$5), which is very exciting (the new Star Trek movie also comes out on the same day as in the US, which I’m thankful for).

I’ve been told that everyone spends more money than they expected to when they go to Europe.  I hope that’s not necessarily true, since I think I’ve done a pretty good job budgeting everything (I made sure to overestimate whenever possible), but we will have to see.