Ireland

Two weeks before departing Edinburgh (which I have now done– more on that later), six of our friends went on a trip to Ireland. We flew Ryan Air into Dublin, where we spent two days before taking a bus to Belfast, and then back down to Dublin two days later. It was a really successful trip– the weather was gorgeous, we did a bunch of really neat stuff, and none of us slaughtered each other from over-proximity. Win!

Here are some highlights from the adventure:

Avoca Lemonade

I know, I know, lemonade does not seem like a noteworthy part of an international holiday. But dear goodness, this was some good lemonade. It’s from a store called Avoca, which they have in a number of Irish cities. It was recommended to us by our friend Athina, and we just happened to stumble upon it while lost– we spent a lot of time lost. However, all the good things we discovered were found accidentally while looking for something else. So I suppose it worked out. Anyway, Avoca is a multi-floored shop whcih sells all sorts of cool crafty stuff, knick-knacks, clothing, and food. Upstairs is the restaurant, where this lemonade so happily inhabits. Seeing as it was 25 degrees and sunny, it was absolutely a lemonade day. Our friends all sunburned. In Ireland. Shocking, but true. Anyway, this fresh strawberry lemonade came in a big pitcher with fruit bouncing among ice cubes at the bottom. It was pretty darn good. AAnnnnnd moving on…

Music Festival

We happened to stumble upon a free funk/jazz music festival in a Dublin park. There were tunes and sunshine and ice cream and all manner of wonderfulness. We played a good deal of cards in the grass, and did our fare share of dancing.

Sweny’s 

There is a tiny pharmacy/bookshop in Dublin called Sweny’s If one enters this establishment at the correct time of day, a bow-tied gentleman named P.J. (as seen above), will hand you a mugful of tea, sit you down in a chair, and thrust a volume of James Joyce into your hands. He will then proceed to read aloud, and then you will read the next page, and the pattern will commence for about an hour. Connor, Rebecca, and I read Finnegan’s Wake during our visit. The pharmacy itself is the same one in which Leopold Bloom stopped to purchase a bar of lemon soap for his wife Molly in Joyce’s masterpiece Ulysses, and Sweny’s still sells lemon soap, today. I picked up a bar to give to my Joyce-enthusiast friend Shannon back in the states.

Belfast & Titanic Museum

Leaving Dublin, we headed north to Belfast. The town of Belfast itself isn’t much to speak of. However, there was a really awesome pub called Filthy McNasty’s– yes, the name sounds questionable, but I promise you, it’s great. In the back, there is an open courtyard with a gazebo and long strands of fairy lights tangled around the tables, and indoors bottles dangle from the ceiling like chandeliers.

The best part of Belfast, however, was visiting the Titanic Museum, perched on the very harbor from which the mighty ship departed for its ill-fated voyage. As this is the 100th anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking, a new, very thorough, and super high-tech museum was erected. It included an imax style theatre with underwater footage of the ship, interactive touch screen exhibits, full recreations of the different class cabin rooms complete with holographic residents, and even a full mechanical ride through the building process of the ship. I must say, it was one of the cooler museums I have been to in my life– and for a historical museum, they really got creative.

Giant’s Causeway

While staying in Belfast, we took a Paddywagon Tour day trip bus up to the Giant’s Causeway. The tour guide told terrible jokes; he was basically that guy you get stuck talking to at a party, who traps you in some severely boring anecdote and refuses to let you leave. But with this guy, they gave him a microphone and let him trap you on a bus for six hours. Even so, the trip was free with the hostel we stayed in (Paddy’s Palace), and the Causeway was breathtakingly gorgeous, so it was actually pretty great.

Eventually, we headed back to Dublin for a last two days. We read comic books by the river (a series called Saga, with which Rebecca and I are currently obsessed), made an overabundance of pasta, drank Guinness at a Temple Bar folk session, watched Eurovision on the hostel TV, played cards, argued, hugged each other, took photos of Gavin falling asleep in inappropriate locations, wandered the streets, and finally, flew back home to Edinburgh.

Twas a good trip, I say.

Love,

GennaRose

The Follies of Exams

It’s exam time! That’s right, boys and girls, the day has come when you all get to sit in a large room full of matching desks, chuck out your name and identity for an assigned number/barcode, and regurgitate facts. Naturally, one’s ability to repeat information like a talking parrot is ample proof that he/she has internalized an entire year’s worth of education. How better to flaunt your scholarly rigor than by spitting up into mamma bird’s mouth? Give back a little!

If it weren’t clear, I think exams are absurd.

Now, I will grant you that I am slightly biased at the moment, seeing as I am writing this in lieu of revising for said exams, and thus just a wee bit bitter. However, I do believe that formal exams are an extremely flawed means of testing the amount a student has learned in any given course. The format of exams here (as is the case with most traditionally-run institutions) involves writing essays or answering questions in a defined amount of time whilst sitting in a big, quiet, room which is full of more stress than oxygen. It is an extremely high-pressure environment, without room for creative input or individuality. To prepare, students have to spend weeks cramming information in hopes they can quickly learn everything the test may ask of them.

The reason I think this is such an ineffective way of learning is because of the priorities it places on the learning process. Instead of learning for the sake of bettering one’s self and widening one’s breadth of knowledge, students are shoved into the mindset of learning for the sake of surviving the exam. In theory, both should lead to learning and therefore be effective. However, what ends up happening instead is that as soon as the exam is over, the information (which has been learned hastily and heartlessly) can be immediately dropped from the mind. However, if a student is encouraged to learn for self-betterment, the information becomes a part of him, and an integral piece of his development as a person and as a learner.

Of course, this raises the question of how to go about setting up an academic system that supports this. The school I attend in the states, Hampshire College, successfully achieves it, in my opinion. Granted, I take some major issue with many things about Hampshire, but one thing I stand by them on is finals. Instead of formal tests, students do massive final projects, and are given creative leeway to make the project their own. For example, in an American literature/history class that I took last year, I did my final project on Hawthorne, the fabrication of American mythos, and puritanism. To do so, I wrote a short story which emulated the style of Hawthorne’s gothic tales, and accompanied it with a paper discussing the way in which Hawthorne used puritanism to explore ideas of American identity, flipping the traditional puritan idea of “everyone is a saint” to the darker moral of “everyone has the devil in them.” By having the space to explore these questions in a manner I was interested in (creative writing), and have full control over the topic and the content, I ended up learning an immense amount which I retain to this day– primarily due to the fact that I felt an attachment to the work I was doing. Giving students control and space to explore within their subject will allow them to feel a personal connection with the work they are doing. Impersonal formal exams, however, make that impossible.

It’s simple: Learning should be for yourself, not for someone else. Universities should be set up to support this.

Aaaand on that ranting little note, I should probably go read some Virginia Woolf…

Love,

GennaRose

Best Bites in Edinburgh

Video

Hey guys!
Here is a video I’ve been working on lately– it showcases five of my favourite eateries in Edinburgh. If any of you manage to make it to the city, be sure to check at least one of them out. I highly recommend everything here.

Love,
GennaRose

Hula Champions

Video

Hi all!
Today’s entry is in the form of a vlog letter, which I made for my friend Shannon. It is a prime example of some of the bizarre situations I somehow find myself in.

You may wonder about the logo at the end of the video– this is the reason I made this video in the first place. Shannon and I run a small theatre company in Vermont, and are currently preparing to go on tour this summer with an original play that we wrote and perform as a two woman production. We wanted to promote the show in a hands on, creative way, so we decided to make some videos back and forth. This way, we can not only keep in touch and be doing film work (which we both love), but also promote our show and let people see the production develop as we approach the tour. Not that this particular video is even slightly related to our tour…

It’s hard to book and write an entire production while also a full time student. This year has been especially challenging– my time in Edinburgh is already so limited that I really want to be focusing on HERE as much as possible. I know, though, that having something exciting to go home to will be really important. The tour will be wonderful– we did one last year, too, and it was one of the best experiences of my life.

If you are interested in our group, you can check out our facebook page, where we will post our tour schedule of the East Coast when I return to America.

https://www.facebook.com/PenumbraPlayers

Hope you like the video!
-Genna

The Joys of Lazy Days

The past week and a half, I have traded in productivity for a wee bit of leisurely enjoyment. With classes done and no exams for another few weeks, it has been a time of galavanting rather than work. My flatmates all emptied out to go adventuring around Europe, so I’ve had the flat to myself for the past week. I really love living alone– I know some people hate being in solitude, especially at night, but there is something about it that I find quite nice. The best part is definitely being able to drink milk straight from the carton. Hands down. I would venture to assert that are few more satisfying actions than drinking milk from the jug. A bold claim, I know, but I’m standing by it. Sure, there are downsides to solo living, like the water heater in the hall closet which, at night, makes a sound exactly like ragged, measured breathing. Not my favourite sound to walk by at 2 am, but honestly, the joy of jug-milk outweighs potential closet-murder. Totally worth it.

Additionally, I have been having copious amounts of slumber parties on my kitchen floor. At night, we play Risk and drink rum and play cards and listen to battle music and Frightened Rabbit, until we fall asleep in a pile of blankets, bodies, and air mattresses on the cold linoleum. We wake mid afternoon, smudged and hungry, and the stove sputters to life as I make pancakeggs. What, may you ask, are pancakeggs? Only the best invention to ever revolutionize breakfast! Okay, less of an invention and more of an aesthetic rearrangement of things that already exist. But still, they’re fantastic. Promise.

Waking to a sleepy, 4pm breakfast of Pancakeggs

The boys and I now have grand dreams of opening a diner that serves exclusively things-inside-of-pancakes. We’ll have regular competitions where we offer unfilled pancakes and patrons can come bearing potential fillings. The winner will get their recipe added to the menu and named in their honour. The name of the restaurant would undoubtedly have to be something punny (suggestions are more than welcome– every imaginary restaurant needs a good name).

Sometimes little dreams like those make my heart twitch a little, remembering how little time I actually have left. But it’s important not to think about that. It may seem like I’m slightly over-enthusiastic about pancakeggs, but it’s not the food itself that matters to me (though it is freakin’ delicious). It’s what it represents– these perfect nights and mornings, the people I share them with, the way it feels to wake with messy hair and tangled blankets in a pile of friends, tabletops sticky with spilled drinks, playing cards strewn about the room.

Anyway, I want to see the pancakegg craze catch on. Any reader that makes pancakeggs (or anything inspired by pancakeggs) and sends me a photo (genna.nethercott@gmail.com) will have the picture featured on this blog. Do it. Lets start a breakfast revolution.

Love,

GennaRose

 

Spring Updates

It’s been a while since I’ve last written, but as the semester is now nearing its end, I figured I would give you an update of how these last few months have been.

Classes:

I took four classes this semester: English Lit 2, Intro to European Theatre, The Supernatural World, and the Highland Bagpipe (yeah, you heard me– bagpipe). The most inspiring of these courses by far is The Supernatural World, which is an honours Scottish Ethnology course on supernatural folklore, beliefs, and practices. And gosh darn, if I haven’t been learning just the coolest things. For example, if you examine alien abduction narratives, you will find the structure, themes, and general descriptions in the reports are pretty much identical to those in fairy abduction stories from hundreds of years before, in which people are kidnapped and taken into the fairy world (vs taken onto a spaceship). I don’t know about you, but I find that absolutely fascinating.

Other Stuff:

I’ve also been chipping away at booking a theatre tour for this coming July and August. The theatre company I co-founded in the states, The Penumbra Players, is touring again this summer, and as I am our business manager I have been making a lot of phone calls to venues, trying to chirp a pitch that will knock their socks off to the point where they can’t wait to hire us. The show, which is still in development stages, is a collection of short plays on the theme of reading and literature. I have a snazzy skype plan that lets me call the states for only 6 pounds-ish per month, which works great. I would definitely recommend it to other people abroad who need to make disgusting amounts of phone calls.

I have also found myself writing poetry again, which I could not be more thrilled about. Getting back to it has filled in this gap that opens up in me whenever I’m not writing for a while. Producing a good piece of writing conjures the same satisfaction as hearing a stone hit earth after throwing it off a cliff top.

Speaking of which, I have been meandering cliff tops quite frequently now that the weather has gotten nice. It has been 70 degrees Fahrenheit  all week, and the Crags by Arthur’s seat ripple across the horizon, shimmering with yellow blossoms that squeeze from between boulder cracks. The sky is heartbreak-blue, pierced with black pinpricks where crows careen like bomber planes diving towards destruction. After borrowing a camera from the photo society (who rent out cameras for free, and have darkroom access for just 6 pounds per semester. Best deal ever.), I shot three rolls of film in three days whilst scrambling up the hillside and skimming along the tightrope-taut cliff edges. The other night, my friends and I traversed the rocks at midnight, huddling under blankets, the only light shuddering out of orange coals from a grill and the silvery hook of the moon. Our volcano, sleepy as always, was curled into itself, a hibernating brown bear in the throes of spring.

For the first time, the floats of dust which lift from pages in used bookshops are struck by daggers of daffodil sunlight, sparking them alive– tiny fairies trapped between lines of text, then set free and made visible to the human world.

Anyway, that’s enough waxing on the weather for now. I’ll leave you with some photos to summarize the last few months:

December: I made a spaceship-house out of a cardboard box and went on many adventures to distant lands. As the landing dock was in our kitchen though, navigating around the stove proved much more difficult than planned.

January: I went to Barcelona with my friend Peter. There, I fell in love with the bohemian district Gracia, buying bags of fresh dates at market, and with the way laundry hangs like prayer flags across terrace balconies.

Late January: My mother came to visit, on her first ever trip outside North America. We drank a lot of tea (this photo is at Anteaques, the best tea shop in Edinburgh and arguably the UK) and I introduced her to the magic that is scones with jam and clotted cream.

February: When my mom was visiting, we ran off to the icy-cold yet always lovely Paris. This photo is of me perusing the hearty selection of good reads at Shakespeare and Company. This trip also included a kiss planted on Oscar Wilde's grave, with a half-read Dorian Gray stashed in my pocket.

February: We went to a masquerade ball. I got to wear a mask and frolic about with a demeanor of general debauchery. It was a delight, I say!

March: Last weekend was the glitzy Bedlam Ball-- essentially prom for members of the student theatre. It was in the George Hotel, which was very regal. I could not help but feel like members on the upper class deck of the Titanic all throughout dinner. The event included a three course meal and a ceilidh, which is traditional Scottish dancing similar to New England contra dancing. This shows Rebecca (left) and myself (right) all dressed up for our fancy night out.

...and of course, no ball would be complete without a few Scotsman showing some mighty national pride. Gavin (left) and Andrew (right) clearly have that covered.

Late March: The sun came out and The Meadows filled up with picnic-goers. I've eaten four ice cream cones this week thus far. No regrets whatsoever.

So, loyal readers– I know I have been distant this semester, for which I wholly apologize. However, hopefully this update can make up a bit for the things you missed. Thanks for sticking with me, and for the really kind feedback I’ve been getting from you guys. It is so exciting to hear from people I’ve never met who enjoy reading this blog, and hopefully my exploits can help some of you figure out plans that will make you just as happy as this experience has made me.

Love,

GennaRose

Holiday Thoughts

The semester is drawing to a close, and people are beginning to disappear. Some are leaving just for break, but others have completed their time in Edinburgh and are heading back to wherever it is that they hail from. It is sad and strange to see friends who I have spent the last three and a half months with vanish without the prospect of return. I’m trying to fit in as much time with everyone as I can before people filter out. Saying goodbye has made me so endlessly glad that I signed on to be here for the full year instead of just a semester. One semester would have been far too short, and leaving now would have felt like a tease, as if I were letting myself glimpse this amazing life and these wonderful people only to have them snatched away right when I felt most at home. It is already hard to think about how heartbroken I will be come June, but for now I am just grateful that I have another six months here. I imagine it would have been hard to really connect if I had chosen to be here for only a semester, knowing that I would have to say goodbye so soon. Yes, nine months is an expiration date in itself, but at the moment it feels far away. Instead of having to pack my bags and say adieu, I am preparing for the lovely things to come over break!

These include but are not limited to:

Reading for pleasure (*gasp!*)

Spending a week in Barcelona!

Hopefully writing a play… or three…

Spending Christmas in Scotland

Moving in with various friends

Baking Christmas cookies

Eating latkes for Hanukah

Playing my penny whistle as loud as I want to without making my flatmates hate me

…I love the holidays.

Yesterday, my flatmates and I had an early Christmas gift exchange and celebration. Leila baked an amazing raspberry cake, and our four foot tall, artificial christmas tree was surrounded by a stack of wrapped gifts. I sewed each of them a present– a personalized apron for Leila, an infinity scarf for Jenny, and a stuffed animal for Sarah. I was pretty pleased with how they each came out, and I love giving people handmade gifts. As for my presents, the three of them got me a onesie (which I am wearing as I write this) and numerous tiny bottles of whiskey. SO EXCITED. I will now be spending break onesie-clad and whiskey drunk, hopefully in a blanket fort surrounded in books and crumpled poems. That is really my idea of paradise.

I will never stop wearing this. Never.

On that note, I’ll leave you with my favorite, very easy and very scrumptious recipe: Honey Beer Bread!

This recipe does not belong to me, but I follow the instructions on this link I found and it comes out delicious. I often find that I have to bake it for a bit longer than the directions say. Also, if you are living outside America, the bottle sizes will likely differ, so make sure you are using the equivalent of 12 ounces of beer, and be aware that the measurements listed here are in American measurement units.

Wooo honey beer bread! It’s the best!

Love,

GennaRose