Alright, that settles it! I’m cold! Cold! Cold! Cold! Brrrrrr. It appears that we have hit winter; Scotland style and it ain’t pretty. I have already broken out the heavy artillery, silk long johns, polar fleece liner to my coat, and my very lovable wool sweatshirt. Much to my chagrin it only makes a dent in the chill. The cold here is the creeping wet chill that climbs into your bones and makes itself a home complete with cable. It’s not going anywhere regardless of what you do to warm up. I’m seriously thinking about stealing Shawn’s polar fleece hat, but I’m afraid he would fight me for it. I would not be the one left with the cap, only sore muscles and shortness of breath. You know it’s bad when Shawn is shivering and putting on sweaters and even *gasp* a jacket! We better check the sky for pigs; hell has frozen over causing millions of people to keep promises they never intended to!
Since of on a complaining spree I might as well move right into the mad chain smoker from hell we have living below us. You see, apparently even the Scots noticed that it was a wee bit chilly outside and decided to actually shut their windows. This was a rude awakening to the non-smokers on the first floor (they call the bottom floor ground here). This very old building is wonderful for nostalgic purposes and the beauty of old architecture, but as it is old it has the flaws of the time it was built. The worst being the lack of sealant between the floors, thus, the equation goes as follows…cold weather hits=people downstairs shut windows=smoke can’t go out windows=smoke goes up to next floor through ceiling=really unhappy non-smokers upstairs become miserable as we were effectively living with a smoker. Yuck! The place reeked, it was completely infused and as the toxin wimp that I am I was ill for four days straight. Now the logical thing would have been to open the windows, but you have no idea how cold it was outside. No friggin way! So, we suffered and went up to the accommodations office to look for a different place as spending the winter sick was not a pleasant prospect. They can’t do much for us, I might just have to suffer, but they will look for somewhere else to move. In the mean time we open the widows whenever possible for as long as we can stand it and stay in areas of the house that aren’t too horrible. I guess there are some major downfalls to this particular culture; one is the prevalence of smoking!
On a new and happier note–we made friends! *Wild applause* Yep, we finally managed to find people in our age group that we got along with! About time too, I was beginning to think that we smelled funny. Interestingly enough, however, we met mostly foreigners. The first is Elisa who hails from Dubai (for those geography majors out there its near Saudi Arabia) and is, as she puts it “mad.” which is in many ways a fairly accurate description. I met her in a seminar for my biology class and we ended up hitting it off and talking for five hours in a pub. She is almost my height with this short platinum blond hair and dark eyes, quite beautiful. She is extremely energetic, almost bouncy in a non-childlike manner, she talks a lot and very quickly with some sort of a cross between a Scots accent and her native tongue. She will talk to anyone from the person behind the counter at the chippy to the bus driver, to some random stranger on the street and seems to have an inviting air to her as they all just up and tell her their life history. Everything to her is “fantastic!” and she is exceedingly open-minded almost in a Californian kind of way, thus, we all get along swimmingly.
During our five-hour stay in the pub, which was up at the University, a few more people came along. (Yes,the university has its own pub, three in fact.) Elisa naturally waved everyone she had ever met over and some she had not yet met but thought looked
interesting. Trekveh (pronounced trrreeg vay, you got that?) from Norway, sat down with us. He had brown hair that was short, but in desperate need of a haircut, a goatee and a slight build. He was 23 years old, which is quite old for here as they start college at 17 and generally fi nish by the time they are 21. Yep, that makes me a fogey! We sat and compared countries for a while and came to find out that you could go to college in Norway for 20 pounds, but it cost 5 pounds for a pint. Four drinks and there goes your college education! Wonder if that is a difficult choice for some people. Eventually, Hazel came around and she became our token Scot for several hours. She was this itsy bitsy thing with enough energy for three people and pants that could fit all three people. She was very cute, and very fascinated with me. She kept asking me questions about America, most of which I have forgotten by now. However, she also seemed under the impression that Americans hate Canadians and vice versa, which I had never heard of until I moved here. She thought I was trying to be nice when I said it wasn’t the case and attempted to drag a confession out of me by describing the oh so affectionate relationship between the English and the Scots. After a long tirade of the evils of the English she seemed hugely disappointed that I didn’t fess up to an inherent dislike for Canadians. She also inquired about the drinking age in the States, as she was seventeen and well into her third pint (which was impressive since she couldn’t have weighed more than 100 lbs). She was very solemn about the drinking age, saying that she was going to go there for a year of school, but couldn’t deal with being under the legal drinking age. We also discussed food with her and there are these sinfully delicious chocolate bars here called Crunchies, which are chocolate covered honeycomb. The best thing I have ever tasted! Hazel thought it was scandalous that America didn’t have them and frankly, at this point, I agree with her! There are a couple other eating habits that are quite interesting here, the need to deep fry everything is pretty apparent as there is such thing as a deep fried mars bar and deep fried pizza, which is really, really, good!
Along the same social lines, during the weekend, we got in touch with a couple that some friends from the states pointed us towards. That was a very odd first telephone call, I must say. “Hi…I’m Kristen, I’m friends with….and they told me to call you, so that we
could have some friends here…” However, they were quite friendly and volunteered to take us out sightseeing for the day in their Jaguar, pronounced here as jag-ear, which confused me horribly. Their names are James and Morvin Cope and they were a lot of fun! We were picked up early afternoon and they drove us along the coast sight seeing and talking. The very incredible part was the fact that James was a tour guide in every sense of the word. He knew where we were, the history of it, the politics, the myths and legends, throwing in some of his own opinions and a silly joke every now and then. We went all the way down to Largs and then up and around. It was a fantastic day and a great week, this was the same week we met Elisa and crew. Although I did find that after spending quite a bit of time speaking to people with the accent it kind of rubs off. Which is not a big problem except when I talked to my mom that night, she not only made fun of me, but couldn’t understand most of what I was saying!
It’s interesting what you find yourself missing when you are thousands of miles away from home, aside from the people, that is. Shawn and I were lying in bed one night fantasizing….for you adults about to avert your virgin eyes, don’t….we were fantasizing about nachos! Mexican food is findable here but exceedingly expensive, equally, to make it at home all the ingredients would cost about ten pounds for one sitting. That’s a bit too much at the moment, so we are left to our fantasies. I’ve also found myself missing the peanut butter. They have it here, but it’s very granular and tastes quite different. Mind
you this is not a request to have anything sent to me! Lots of people found out the hard way that shipping is not economically efficient. Don’t do it!
We have been trying to follow the presidential elections from over here, not wholly successfully but close to. The sad thing is, our best resource for news on the subject is yahoo. How pathetic. I’m really quite impressed at the whole thing, but I don’t need to describe any of it to you as you are probably being inundated with the happenings. However, on the radio station we listen to they have some DJs that talk about American politics and in particular the presidential elections. To put it bluntly they are constantly capping on Bush quoting him in the worst possible way like “I believe we are on the road to greater freedom and democracy, but that could change…” Whatever hell they are giving him, from what we are gathering they are actually terrified of him winning the election. Can’t say I blame them, but in the interest of not stepping on any political toes I’m gonna change the subject.
School! That’s a nice safe subject. What have I learned in school this time? Well, that’s a good question and I am about to answer that in detail because I am Kristen, relayer of useless information! The most amusing thing that I learned was from biological clocks. These are the 6 keys to living longer according to studies done within the field.
1.Have parents that live long—a little too late on that one, but the logic is so you get genes for long life.
2. Eat very little—yeah right, not with ice cream and Crunchies out there! The logic on that one is that our body is aged by the free radicals that we take in through our food. Eventually, as we age, we get tired, and stop fighting the free radicals quite so much. The less you eat, the less fighting, the less tired, the longer you live.
3. Exercise minimally—the lazy American in all of us loves that one! Again, it’s the free radicals in the food, the more you exercise the more you eat and eating is no good!
4. Don’t breed—sorry Mom and Dad! Studies have shown that humans and animals that don’t breed tend to live significantly longer. Not surprising considering the terrible two’s and those ever so exciting teenage years. These shave years off your life by the second.
5. Take your vitamins and eat your vegetables—yes Mom! These help to mop up the radicals so that your body doesn’t do all the work. But then there is still ice cream out there, this one may have it’s complications.
6. Get a good degree—I think she just threw that one in there for job security. However, studies have shown that educated peoples live longer, likely because they lead more cushioned lives, if you will. The jobs they get tend to be sedentary whereas manual labor is exercise which drives you right back to the eating problem.
There you have it, your education for the day! Do you feel enlightened or just amused like I was?
I think that about covers it, I have spent the majority of my time trying to write essays and not necessarily succeeding. It seems that if I actually research the subject I become confused by these silly things called facts and can’t write. If I don’t know a thing about it I can fill the word quota with my wit and cynicism and am quite coherent. Kind of a dilemma. Don’t you think?