The weeks leading up to exams were defined by personalities old and new – family, friends, acquaintances, strangers. Most people I just passed by in the street or on my way to catch a train; a few I have interacted with on some level, and of those few a small percentage stick out in my mind like splotches of color in an otherwise gray and rainy recollection.
The cast, in order of appearance:
Character 1: The woman in the bus station
It was about 10:40 at night and I was rushing through Edinburgh, trying to catch my 11:00 bus. Everything looks different at night, and because I was already in a hurry I took a wrong turn. I arrived at the bus station at about 10:50, looking around anxiously after the harrowing journey to make sure I could find my bus, when an older woman walked up to me and asked me where I got my bag. The bag in question was a simple canvas tote bag from the Ithaca Farmer’s Market. It was given to me by a very good friend because it has an owl on it, and owls are my favorite animals. It turns out this woman collects owls, and she had taken a fancy to my stained and battered tote. We talked for a moment, and then she directed me to my bus. I have a bad tendency to get myself worked up, and sometimes I need to be reminded to relax. It wasn’t much, but that very brief conversation helped me to calm down after the stress of walking the streets alone at night.
Character 2: The Anthropology Major
This person is the reason for my wandering the streets of Edinburgh late one Friday night. We met in the Cornell Anthropology Exchange, had some classes together, and became friends. She is studying at UCL and offered to let me stay with her in London. After I made it to my bus, I found out it would be a few hours early. Despite the fact that she got home from a concert in the wee hours of the morning, she agreed to come pick me up at the bus station early the next day. Unfortunately, she didn’t have a reliable phone and wound up going to the wrong bus station, whilst I wandered around the two buildings that make up Victoria Coach trying to find her. But we found each other at last! We had breakfast and then transformed ourselves into proper tourists, the type that are always tsk-tisked in the streets for having their cameras and not knowing precisely where they are going. We saw Westminster Abbey, the Sherlock Holmes Museum, the Tower of London, Platform 9 3/4… we also had delicious food, and watched the 50th Anniversary special of Doctor Who while munching on Jelly Babies and chocolates. It was a very refreshing weekend after having just turned in essays and reports the week before!
Before we move on, a note on London:
London is a beautiful and captivating city. It has its bad side, no doubt about it: My friend has gotten her phone stolen twice, there are homeless people all around, it’s crowded, and parts of it are not very clean. But it has a certain charm about it. When you’re walking through the underground and hear the music of a talented accordionist echoing on the tiles, and then emerge from the dim station into the sunny (yes, it was sunny the first day I was there!) afternoon and see “Big Ben” before you, you can’t help but love the city. Even the dirtier, graffiti-covered parts of the city are somehow loveable.
Characters 3-6: The flatmates
My flatmates are amazing. They are friendly and always willing to stop and chat, and most importantly they put up with me when I brag about being done with my exams. They also put up with my crazy desire for a proper Thanksgiving dinner. Each of them chipped in a bit, and we all sat down around the table and had a feast! Although I couldn’t be with my family that day, I’m thankful to them for sharing Thanksgiving with me, and I’m thankful for skype, which let me talk to my whole family later that evening.
The feast: A turkey crown, gravy, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, fruit cocktail, roasted butternut squash, peas, bacon, freshly baked bread, spiced apple elderberry juice, and a chocolate cream pie for dessert (whipped cream was made after dinner so it was fresh).
I’m still eating turkey, but it was a good day nonetheless.
Character 7: The man of many years and many cruises
This is yet another person met while in transit, this time to Tewkesbury via train. I hadn’t had anything all morning so I had just gotten myself a drink and was shivering in the cold, waiting for my transfer from Birmingham New Street, when a man walked up to me and started chatting. I swear, he told me his whole life story! How he met his wife, how he was turning 80 soon and had been with his wife for 50 years. His love of cruises. I got a list of every single cruise he’d been on. He’s traveled to every continent including Antarctica via cruise ship and was planning on taking a larger cruise to celebrate his birthday and his anniversary. He acted as if we were old friends who had just been catching up, and then just walked away to catch his train.
Character 8: the not-so-long-lost cousin
My cousin lives in Tewkesbury, or I should say my great-aunt’s cousin. I believe that makes her my third cousin? I’m not quite sure how it works out, but our families have kept in touch. I hadn’t seen her since I was very young and I didn’t know very much about her. I’d talked to her on the phone once, and my grandfather had called through and we lost connection. I had emailed her multiple times and, most recently, spoken with her over facebook. I didn’t even know what she’d look like, exactly! But she welcomed me into her home with so much hospitality and warmth that I couldn’t help but feel perfectly at ease after only a short time. We both have a love of history and architecture, and she likes frogs as much as I like owls. She showed me around the small but historic town of Tewkesbury, where she lives, and the next day took me to Stratford-on-Avon. I got to pet owls (!!!) and see Shakespeare’s birthplace and eat delicious Bailey’s fudge and Italian food, but more importantly I got to spend quality time catching up with my cousin AND I even got to sleep in a real bed! Ah, what bliss that was after the slightly lumpy dorm mattress I had been sleeping on for months!
And with that weekend over I was into finals week. But more on that soon.