December: Vacation in Edinburgh

December started with a lot of stress but ended on a slightly higher note. Funny how your mood seems to perk up when you have several weeks of vacation.

I slogged through exams with the help of my flatmates, diet coke, and a LOT of digestive biscuits. So many, in fact, that a salesperson at Tesco suggested I buy the bulk packages after returning to stock up several times in one week. (No regrets.) Saying goodbye to friends just in Edinburgh for the semester was hard – there are a few good ones that I fully plan on staying in touch with. I was jealous they were going home for the holidays, even as seeing them go reaffirmed my own decision to stay the year. And when my exams ended early, the whirlwind that was December had just begun.

As soon as my break started I jetted off to London to meet two dear friends for a long weekend. (Just writing that sentence is a testament to how absolutely ridiculous my life has become.) We went to all the touristy places, and also went (back) to the Tate Modern, ran across so many bridges, and enjoyed outdoor ice skating. These two women are going to be my friends for a long time, and I enjoyed their company as much as ever – there were a lot of fits of laugher and comparisons of our experiences abroad.

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Alice, me, and “Spier” in front of Buckingham Palace. Another experiment in the selfie.
Sunset from the train ride home. Unreal.
Sunset from the train ride home. Unreal.

As soon as I returned, one of my friends came up to Edinburgh to finish off her study abroad in London. She had already visited me earlier in the semester and fell so hard in love with the city that she scheduled a return.

Friends since elementary school reunited in Scotland!
Friends since elementary school reunited in Scotland for the first time.

She brought her aunt to the city and they invited me for a tour of the highlands, on which I gleefully tagged along. I can’t believe how beautiful Scotland is. I don’t have many quality photos (running theme), but hopefully these will give you a glimpse of a small slice of this amazing country.

In the distance...
In the distance…
View from the Wallace Monument
View from the Wallace Monument

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Loch Katrine
Loch Katrine
Loch Katrine
Loch Katrine
The beautiful, the elusive, the hairy coo
The beautiful, the elusive, the hairy coo

A few days later, a friend of mine from the states ended up in Edinburgh and we wandered Princes Street and the surrounding area. It was a welcome surprise to see another friendly, American face before I was faced with my long, December break.

For the December holiday, I chose to stay in the charming city I’ve been calling my home for almost six months. It was a very isolating and a very powerful experience. For most of my stay, I knew nobody in the city. I have never spent a Christmas away from my family, much less entirely alone.  To make things even worse my computer broke (yes, again!) on Christmas day just as I was attempting to video chat with my family. My flat and building were mostly empty, eerily silent except for vague bumps from the next floor up.

So, I baked two quiches and made vegetable soup, actually watching as the onions and carrot soften instead of impatiently pushing them around the bottom of the pan. I sang a lot of Regina Spektor, because I only have three albums on my phone. I refreshed the twitter app, a lot, and became very intimate with crafting 140 character messages. My continuing love affair with ice hockey took a new turn as I discovered the joy of radio streams available on your phone. Once, in a fit of inspiration, I mopped the kitchen floor.

I also went to two art museums; I think the portrait gallery can’t be beat, so make a beeline there as soon as you get to the city. I wandered around the Christmas market and ate a really excellent sausage. I went to the one person I knew’s flat for Hogmanay and drank and laughed with his flatmates, grateful for their hospitality and company. (Hi, Alex!)

(Imagine incredible fireworks here – surprise, surprise my iphone was not able to capture their majesty.)

I went to Blackwells and bought a book to read purely for pleasure. Being a student of English, where heavy reading loads are notorious, this is beginning to feel like somewhat of a luxury.

Definitely not on the English II reading list.
Definitely not on the English II reading list.

I also journaled a lot and used some of my down time to do a fair amount of introspection. Before I came to Scotland, I expected it would be an experience that would allow for time to think about who I am and what I want out of life. That is true to some extent, but I hadn’t really put in the effort to examine my past few years at college and my next few tumultuous years ahead. Disconnected from much of my known world, I was able to finally work through some of my motivations and aspirations. Who cares if the reflection was forced by an abrupt cutoff from technology; still counts!

And then, finally, my flatmates returned. Life began to resume what I’ve come to call normalcy. I met my new flatmate and cleaned my room for the new semester. I feel much more at ease going into semester two – one of the benefits of staying for a full year, I suppose. I know where things are and who to contact if I have a problem. My tutorial group for English hasn’t changed and I feel like I’m finally starting to make real friends in my Swedish class. My flat’s natural rapport has only increased – distance makes the heart grow fonder – and we even saw a rugby match together, at my prompting.

Edinburgh won!
Edinburgh won!

I’ll post again as soon as anything exciting happens, which might be next weekend. Dakota, Phie, and I have plans to go to Krispy Kreme. Flatmate donut adventures are the best adventures. We’ll just have to wait and see!

P.S. Did I mention I went to a ball? SURPRISE!

Thanksgiving ball with two flatmates.
EUNAS Thanksgiving ball with two flatmates.
Maybe the fanciest event I've ever been to. I will remember it for a long time.
Maybe the fanciest event I’ve ever been to. I will remember it for a long time.

P.P.S. Happy new year, everyone! Best wishes a month late from yours truly in Scotland.

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