Tuesday, December 21, 2010

All I want for Christmas

Well, I'm sure you all know by this point, but I did make it home safely yesterday, around 1:30 pm, after successfully making none of my connections.  It was a really, really, really long day.  On the four-hour Newark-Denver flight I was stuck next to an enormous man (not fat, just BIG) who, in spite of the armrest, couldn't keep to his own seat.  So I was trying to sleep scrunched over to the other side, half on top of the guy who was reading a book about how twenty-something white chicks are, as a whole, the worst thing happening to this nation.  The first guy also, after drinking vodka and orange juice with his breakfast, started giving me advice on everything I was doing, including getting my carryon bag under the seat (sir, I cannot tell you how many times I have managed this all by myself) and making my connection.  That last bit turned out to be useless, because they had simply booked my flights too close together, so I missed the connection and had a two-hour layover in Denver.  Which was fine, because it gave me time to convert my poor useless ££ to $$ and buy a toothbrush and brush my teeth for the first time in a day and a half.  (Forgot mine in Edinburgh.  Fail.  Of all the things to leave.)  But I made it on the next flight and got home.

The money conversion was kind of funny.  The lady insisted that while my coins were British pounds, the notes were Scottish pounds, and therefore she couldn't convert them together and would have to charge me separate conversion fees.  I wasn't going to argue with her at that point in my day, but I had to laugh.  Really??  I'm pretty sure Scotland is Britain.  Nice try, hon.

Also: it turns out that not twenty minutes after I left Newark, there was a bomb scare and they evacuated an entire terminal.  Not my terminal, but I'm still INCREDIBLY glad I made it out of there before then.  It turned out to be a boxed computer monitor delivered (legitimately) to an American Airlines ticket counter that was emitting small amounts of radioactivity.  Win.

But anyway.  This European snow thing is turning out to be truly a nightmare.  The more I read the news and other students' Facebook statuses, the more I'm realizing how lucky it was that I got out on Sunday.  Thursday is the day they've told a lot of people, but flights are still being cancelled, and one American girl I was in Edinburgh with is stuck until Christmas.  My heart goes out to them.  By the end of the semester we're all so incredibly ready to just go home, and to be denied that is - while clearly not the worst thing that could possibly happen - really, really tough.  So all I want for Christmas is for everyone in Edinburgh to get home safely and soon.

So...I'm home safely, and this is blog post #80.  That seems like a good number to end on.  As for requests to continue blogging now that I'm home...we'll see.  :)  For now, thank you, thank you, thank you all for your support and prayers.  It was the best semester I could possibly have asked for.  I can't wait to be back at WashU in the spring, and I can't wait to be with all of you in person (wherever you are) and tell you about my adventures and hear about yours.  Merry Christmas!

All my love,

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Chasing the sunset, or running away from the snowstorm

Here's how this morning went.

Edinburgh: Oooh look a snowflake.
Me: That's nice.  Let's focus on getting off the ground.
Edinburgh: You know, we're basically the last major airport open in Europe.
Me: Peer pressure.  Resist it.
Edinburgh: I see another snowflake.  There's like three now.  Maybe we should...
Me: Don't even think about it...
Edinburgh: Airport closed.
Me: NO!!!

Yes.  They closed the airport.  While I was ON the plane.  We had literally just been cleared for takeoff and Edinburgh was like, oops, sorry, just kidding, we're closing until 2:30 at least.  Wonderful.  So I sat in the airport for four hours having a mild panic attack watching the snow fall.  (1.5 hours of sleep does horror to your nerves.)  Half my friends in Edinburgh had had their flights closed indefinitely already, whether because of Heathrow or other connection places, and I REALLY did not want to join the growing number of American students stuck in Edinburgh until at least Thursday.  Fortunately, however, 2:30 came, the snow had paused, the snowplows were actually diligent in doing their job, and before Edinburgh could change its mind our flight crew hustled us onto the plane and we were the first flight out.

By the time we made it to Newark, I had gotten a little more sleep and was slightly less prone to crying/flipping out.  So the fact that I had missed my connections, along with all other flights to Denver for the night, and that I'd probably have to spend the night on an airport bench in New Jersey, was kind of whatever.  BUT.  In a highly unexpected show of American airline kindness, the lady at the desk gave me, in addition to the first flight out tomorrow, not only a hotel voucher but also free meals tonight and tomorrow morning.

So as I write this, I'm chilling on my own massive bed at the Ramada in Newark.  I've never stayed in a hotel by myself before.  I'm kind of having a party.  On the way over from the airport, I met a really sweet British-American girl from my Edinburgh flight who also got stranded, so we ate our complimentary hotel grill dinners together, which was much nicer than eating alone.  :)

Flight out at 7 in the morning, home by noon-ish.  Yay.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Dear Dad,

I don't know how you managed to fly me home without routing through London or even why it occurred to you to do so.  But I'm so, so grateful.  London Heathrow is closed now, causing thousands of delays and cancellations and disappointed people, but more relevantly leaving hundreds of my fellow abroad students stranded here in Edinburgh.  But as of now, ten hours before my flight leaves, my safe and snowless departure to the States directly from Edinburgh is GO.  Thanks for being amazing at flight-booking.  See you tomorrow night.  Love you.


Final hours

Today is my LAST DAY in Edinburgh.  Yiiiiikes.  It's so weird - I can't believe an entire semester has gone by.  I can't wait to sit in the airport and read all of my blog posts from beginning to end - WOW so much has happened.  But it ain't over till it's over - I still have one more day.

Margaret's brother is here, and my fellow American is gone.  Our flat is overrun by Canadians.  O_O  Aboot.

Yesterday I went Christmas present shopping, with moderate success.  Another American girl came over, and she, Tina and I made sugar cookies.  Then Tina created the most incredible German Christmas dinner imaginable.  Wow.  We had soup to start (my contribution), and then venison (!!!) and dumplings and red cabbage and cranberry sauce (all different dishes).  Food coma.  And then we had a packing extravaganza.  And by we I mean me, actually.

Today I'm having brunch with a couple of WashU people, hopefully stopping in to Parliament since I still haven't, catching one last view from Calton Hill, and doing some final Christmas shopping.  My plan is to sleep like four hours tonight, so I can nap on the plane rides tomorrow (TOMORROW!!!).  Fish and chips at midnight, anyone?  Awww yeah.

EXCELLENT NEWS: We have had not a single centimeter of snow accumulation.  It flurried a little bit Thursday morning, freaking us all out, but nothing since then.  Nothing.  Not a flake.  Did I say God is awesome?  Oh yeah, that's right.  He's awesome.

Summary, continued.

Favorite feeling #1: Walking down the streets of Edinburgh (and London and Paris, for that matter) and feeling, while obviously far from high-fashion, well stylish enough for Europe.  Putting on my new coat and having Tina tell me I looked very European.  Spending a whole semester being relatively well-dressed every single day.  (That is, until the arrival, on Wednesday, of a UofE hoodie that I got for free for becoming an 'international student ambassador'.  I haven't worn a sweatshirt all semester, and so I've pretty much been wearing this one constantly for the past three days.  I missed hoodies.)

Lesson I've Learned #3: There's no place like home.  I've never been the most incredibly patriotic person, and coming out of the States I was prepared for a little bit of America-bashing by others, and I wasn't sure I'd argue.  I was so ready to see this incredible outside world, in every way so much better than the States.  But you know what?  It isn't so much better.  There are things that I love here, but there are also things that I miss that I never thought I would.  (Snow shovels, for example.)  And having now had America bashed to my face on several occasions, honestly, I am sick of it.  That's my country, thanks very much.  And I'm honestly a little fond of it, problems and all.  And I really can't wait to get back.

Lesson I've Learned #4: Normal is relative.  It's all a matter of being used to something or not.  Things that I thought were SO CRAZY coming over here I now can't imagine being different.  (Cars driving on the left side of the road, for example.  It's going to take me a good number of tries to look the right way when crossing the street when I get home.)  I've had maybe a day or two recently where I went - oh my gosh I'm in SCOTLAND - but for the most part, it's pretty much just normal.  It's kind of funny now when someone from home says something to the extent of OMG I can't believe you're in SCOTLAND, that's so crazy, it must be awesome.  Yup, I'm in Scotland, I have a flat and friends and stuff and a life.  It is in fact awesome, but it's pretty much normal.

Lesson I've Learned #5: Edinburgh is the best city in the world.  Period.  I love it.  I'm going to miss it.  I'm so happy I have friends here.  I can't wait to come back.

But right now, I can't wait to go.  42 hours to home.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Exams OVER!!

YES THEY'RE DONE!!!!  I'm so happy.  So, so happy.  I had my exam this morning...it wasn't incredible, but I actually had fun writing the three mini-essays.  The questions were more fact-based than I was ready for, but I knew enough to write decent essays on a sufficient number of them.  I'm certain that I passed, and that's all that was necessary.

I just discovered how to take out my laptop battery while I have the computer plugged in, so as not to wear the battery out.  That's a win.

4 days, kids.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Best discovery of the day: BBC has entirely wiped snow off the weekend's forecast.  Not to be too prematurely optimistic, but God is awesome.  Keep praying.

Second best discovery of the day: I have to get exactly a 19% on tomorrow's exam to pass the class.

Also: I have a schedule for my final days here.  Tomorrow: exam, then hang out randomly around Edinburgh with a girl from small group (who's Northern Irish and I love her).  Thursday: Glasgow!  Surprise final trip!  Friday: cook a German Christmas dinner with my most favoritest German flatmate + teach her how to make sugar cookies.  Saturday: pack!  Eat lots of Scottish junk food!  Cry!  Stay up half the night being ridiculous!

So that's the plan.

So very, very close...

I turned in my essays yesterday!!  It was literally the most freeing feeling ever.  Last philosophy essays EVER, everyone.  And I actually enjoyed it a little.  I had a real argument in both of them, they were interesting, and I think I made my point.  Made it to the word count without any problem, and turned them in a full two hours early.  I may have skipped a little walking away from that building.  So now I'm left with my single final exam tomorrow - Scottish Studies.  I'm incredibly not excited, but really not worried, either.  Because then I will be DONE!!  And I am ready to be done, and to come home.

I'm actually really worried about getting home, though.  Sources differ about the amount of snow that's going to fall this weekend (Weather.com says 'light', BBC says 'heavy'.  This could actually just be a difference in opinion about the same amount of snow.  I believe Weather.com, but I'm worried by BBC's assessment because their kind are the ones deciding whether or not the airport stays open.), but there's a definite consensus that there will be snow falling beginning Thursday and potentially not stopping until next Wednesday.  I have little doubt that I will make it home for Christmas, but please, please pray that I get out of here Sunday morning.  That would just simplify things a LOT.  But no matter what, I just want to get home safely, if that means Sunday or Tuesday or next Friday.

Last night was my final small group of the semester!!  :(  It was really sad.  I'm going to miss everyone a lot.  But it was a fun time - we had a secret Santa gift exchange, the condition being the item had to cost less than a pound.  I put in two Chronicles of Narnia books (score from the charity shops) and got a Rubik's cube.  (It's going to be my entertainment for the trip home.  It's literally going to take me that long to solve it.)  We played some awesome games, and then for the Americans going home they had a picture of our small group from the night we went to the 'oldest pub in Scotland', and everyone wrote the sweetest notes on the back.

Now, continuing what I started a few days ago...

Lesson I've Learned #2: Prioritize
Being in Europe on a really limited budget has been a great experience.  No, seriously, it has.  Obviously, having endless money would have been awesome, but I've really learned some stuff.  Quality is totally what you make of it.  I've spent the semester shopping primarily at Lidl, the mildly dodgy German discount food store, but despite the fact that sometimes the instructions on the couscous are in languages I don't read and that the deodorant is only 69p (how can anyone make actual deodorant that cheaply??), none of it has failed me yet.  On the scale of life importance, Paris is rather high and American-brand hair products are pretty darn low.