Thursday, June 3, 2010

it is time

It was nothing like I thought it would be.
It was everything I never knew it could be.
It was difficult, scary, terrifying.
It was beautiful, full of joy.
It was awkward and complex.
It was freeing and simple.
It was full of laughter. So much laughter
It was full of tears. So many tears.
It was essays, exams, lectures, tutorials.
It was castles, exploring, adventuring.
It was unimaginable, but it was real.

The key word: was. My time in Scotland has come to an end. And I'm beyond numb. Apparently, tomorrow morning I'm saying goodbye and not only am I numb to the fact that I'm leaving, but I'm also numb to the fact that I'm not going to be on this soil for a long time. And even if someday I'm blessed enough to return, the soil will not be the same. It won't ever be the same as it is right this second. This day. But years from now, if I ever do come back, I'll be filled with only the deepest joys, the most beautiful memories. This experience has been the blessing of a lifetime for me. I needed it to grow and see life outside of the box I've lived in for twenty years. And to know that somehow, on a whim, I ended up studying abroad for a semester will always be a reminder that my plans never work out. My plans never included a semester in Scotland, but a greater plan did. And so there it is. My plans never work out. They never turn out how I assumed they would, how I wrote them on paper. They only turn out much, much better. And to be twenty years old and still be able to say that everything has only been better than I've ever dreamed brings tears to my eyes. So as I say goodbye I feel many things, but above all, I am grateful. So, so, so grateful.

Tomorrow morning, I will look out the window of a plane and see Aberdeen get smaller and smaller. Tomorrow night, I will look out the window of another plane and see Traverse City, MI like I've never seen it before. And I've never been so sure of where I'm supposed to go next...

Goodbye Aberdeen. It is time.
Hello home. It's been too long.

(I've taken a picture a day in Scotland of the most beautiful things I have seen. If you have time, take a look.

Also, something I've made as a reminder of my last week:

Blog: El Fin. Cheers.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

all these little things

This is Miss Mousey. Miss Mousey has been around the world and back now--to Jamaica, to California, to Connecticut, to Vermont, to New Hampshire, on every plane, every family vacation, and now, to Scotland. (And yes, I am twenty years old. If you have a problem with this, well, bullocks to you.) I recently looked at her apart from being my pillow and noticed...she's mighty rugged. 19 years of life for her, and many of them have been soaking up my tears on homesick family vacations or being smushed under face for 8 hours a day, 7 times a week. Still, it's funny to think of all the places she's been. And that I've been. And soon, she'll take her rightful place back on my bed in Williamsburg, MI. So three days left. Here are my thoughts for now.

Top 15 things I will not miss about Scotland:
1. Seagulls of abnormally large size that rampage around Hillhead and campus and try to eat my macaroni pies.
2. The uselessness of my cheap umbrella in the rain.
3. Philosophy tutorials where no one speaks and I can hear my watch ticking.
4. Professors who say, "George Washington was a dumbass," and "America never had an Enlightment."
5. Walking 20 minutes to lecture up a steep hill that, contrary to popular belief, does not become easier after walking it over and over.
6. Drunk older men whistling. And drunk everyone. By 6PM.
7. The lack of Northern Michigan stars. Although once in a great while a few would spring out and make me smile.
8. Having to calculate how much I'm actually spending due to the blasted exchange rate. Example: "Only 10 pounds!" Oh wait, that's like $16.
9. Paying 30 pence to use a "toilet." Oh dear.
10. Sinks that only have a I'll-singe-your-skin-off faucet and a hypothermia-is-grand faucet. It is a skill and an art to use two faucets and attempt to mix them. And getting burned is an everyday occurence... in the literal sense of course.
11. Essay exams that count for 50% and 60% of my grade, taken in an impersonal room of 400 students. And no, you don't know the questions before hand. Fly by the seat of yo ..trousers!
12. If you say pants, it should be clear that you are talking about underwear. That way, when you yell, "Wait, I can't come out yet! I have no pants on!" from the GAP dressing room, you don't feel so embarrassed. Also, don't yell "Paragraphs without periods!" at the airport bus stop. You will have just yelled, "Paragraphs without menstrual cycles!" Say end stop. Always say end stop.
13. Having to look every single way (left, right, up, down, around, backwards) to cross the street. Instead of feeling like drivers should be on the left, I now feel that drivers are anywhere and everywhere and I must sprint around looking every way to cross a street
14. Having to communicate with the people I love over skype. Their faces in computer screens are far from ideal.
15. I will not miss missing people from home.

Top 15 things I will miss about Scotland:
1. Living 25 seconds from my best friend and taking naps in her room from 7PM-8PM when homework isn't the priority and too much daydreaming makes me sleepy.
2. The way the daffodils seem to stare you in the face and yell, "GOOD MORNING SUNSHINE!"
3. Green, green, and more green. The shire has been my home and the comfort of the trees and the river and the benches and the clouds off the sea. These are things I can't forget.
4. Beautiful people from places around the entire world. Lithuania, Germany, Czech Republic, France, Scotland, England, South Africa, Belgium, Latvia, Switzerland... all with their own stories. I've been blessed enough to hear a few.
5. Closing the 3,613 mile gap with the noise of the the mailbox slot.
6. The atmosphere of a good ole' pub and having the giggles from yummy cocktails. And having my first drinking experiences in a country where they do it right. Slain's Castle, ftw.
7. Hearing bagpipes on the way to class and spotting men in kilts. Yes, kilts are sometimes funny. Mostly though, they are just legit.
8. Running through castles and embarrassing your best friend as a weekly experience.
9. Feeling alone and alive and all things standing in a valley, surrounded by mountains.
10. 288A: My small, picture-filled, thought-filled room. My favorite room I've ever had in my life.
11. Learning that traveling is not so much stressful as it is hilarious. Lochs, castles, cathedrals, mountains, valleys, cities, views. Also, traveling with your best friend is nothing but wonderful. Even if you have to keep a death grip on the map.
12. Tattered maps. Campus maps, London maps, bus-route maps. Tattered because they've been used. And kept in a drawer because they aren't needed anymore.
13. The tree outside my window that I've watched grow and change with every season. On January 29th, it was covered in snow. In April, pink flowers. In June, green again. Always back to green.
14. Secret thinking spots where I've sat and wondered how I came to be in Scotland, why I came to be in Scotland, and how none of those questions really even matter because here I am. And although it hasn't always been easy, I wouldn't change a single thing. Not one.
15. I will miss feeling at home in a country with my best friend, surrounded by the most beautiful woods and sunsets, with more questions that answers, more doodles than homework, the largest range of emotions, the deepest joys that come with feeling alive, and the tears that come with being so far away. I will miss Scotland and every memory that goes along with it.

I can't believe I only have three more days. Three days to say goodbye.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

the goal of living is to grow

"in time of daffodils(who know
the goal of living is to grow)
forgetting why,remember how"
-e.e. cummings

and grown we have.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

feels like home to me

It's as if every possible feeling is sitting around in my mind wondering what it's supposed to do when all the other feelings are around.

I found out a few days ago that I'm headed home a week early. Leaving on June 12th would've meant that I had less than 24 hours at home with my family before heading to Hope and it wasn't enough for any of us. Saying goodbye to Scotland a bit earlier than expected is bittersweet. I really dislike that word to describe my time here because it feels like such a cop-out. Maybe I'll elaborate. I look at my calendar and see 11 days left and I immediately create a mental list of every person, every place, every thinking spot that I won't see anymore. I know 11 days won't be enough time to say all those goodbyes, but I know that a week more wouldn't be enough time either. On the other hand, I look at my calendar and see 11 days left and I think about how that's the closest I've been in 4 1/2 months to the people I love. So ya see, I don't like the word bittersweet because there's nothing truly bitter about my time here, and the word sweet sure doesn't do it justice either. So here I am, stuck with no word to describe my last 11 days here. Well, wait a minute...

Sometimes Mary and I play a game. It's called iTunes Shuffle Your Terrible Library. (It's not. I made that up just a second ago.) Anyway, we say something like, "This is the song that represents my feelings about haggis." Or, "The clouds would say this if they could speak." We normally don't listen to all the words and just look at the title of the track. It usually ends with too much laughing, but the day before we left Hope College in January, it ended differently. We played this silly game at our friend Jess's cottage and I was sitting in a big chair and Mary was sitting on the arm and I said, "This song will describe our time in Scotland." I clicked shuffle and we both looked at the song and looked at each other. I hoped it would be true. And guess what?

The only words to describe my time here seem to have appeared on my computer screen on January 23rd on iTunes Shuffle Your Terrible Library.

11 days to go. And I look out my window and know that my best friend is sitting in her room too wondering how that can be. But I know she's there. And somehow, I'm here too. I'm in Scotland and part of me isn't ready for June 5th. Feels like home to me.

(Ermmm, did I mention that I have two beastly exams coming up? Trying to avoid James Watt and other Enlightenment thinkers, epistemology, and the mind-body problem? Write a blog. Woops.)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Pools of sorrow waves of joy
are drifting thorough my open mind
Possessing and caressing me

guru deva om
-The Beatles

The most frustrating part about life is not knowing.
The most magic
al part about life is not knowing.

A few nights ago I swam at midnight in t
he North Sea. With nothing but a mini flashlight positioned as a marker near my clothes, I ran into the cold salt water and jumped over waves in the pitch black hole of I-can't-see-squat! But around me, farther away, I saw it all. The city lights were lines of stars, and the stars were something even greater. Everything about it was pure and raw and beautiful, and while getting lost in it all made me smile, I thought to myself... I have 25 days left. When will I be standing here again? Will I ever be? The most frustrating part of life is not knowing.

A few days ago I laid under a beautiful blossoming tree in Seaton Park on my way back home from class. It was about 2:00 in the afternoon, the sun was the perfect I'll-warm-your-back temp. There were little bugs crawling on my arm (cute ones, I assure you) and purple flowers all over the grass. I could finally taste the thought of days at the beach, ice cream cones, running around in the Pine Grove, chasing squirrels, climbing trees, and hugs. Yes, hugs! The reality of home and the anticipation of a wonderful summer seemed to slap me in the face. In 25 days I'll be sitting under a tree 3,613 miles away from where I am now. Will I be wanting to come back? Will I be scared as four-year plans and research work clunk around at the front of my mind? What will I feel and how will I look back on my time here? How has it changed me? After Scotland, what's next? The most magical part about life is not knowing.

A few things I DO know:
- Ash clouds that keep me from seeing my good friends in Ireland are absurd and obnoxious.

- Studying for my Philosophy of Knowledge exam is less than satisfying.
- 60 minute history lessons with Jeffery Hawkins on Skype are more than amusing.

- University of Aberdeen has a pine grove. And people are finally in it. Juggling!
- If Mary fails her exam, it is my fault because I ask way too many questions.
- If I fail my exam, it is my fault because I ask Mary way too many questions.
-Mary and I are going to an Ingrid Michaelson concert in Glasgow. Holy YES.
- I love it here.
-"Pools of sorrow waves of joy are drifting thorough my open mind, possessing and caressing me.
-The hugs. I can't wait for the hugs.
- "Jai guru deva om." I give thanks to God...Om.

Love to you.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Backstreet's Back... Alright?

Five weeks left. Wait, hwhat!? My reactions can be summed up in an absolutely awful, 'I-have-no-words-for-this'-inspired song parody with the assistance of five glorious, oh-so-studly teenybopper icons. Wave your lighters to and fro and feel free to snap along.
Scotland... Ooh...
Even in my heart, I see

Your country is changin' me.
Deep within my soul, I feel
A love for bagpipes, castles, accents, and sheep.
Sometimes I wish I could fast-forward time
To see my friends and family
But right now, I... don't
No way, babyyy.
*drum solo*
'Cause Scotland has a piece of my heart...
Yes, I do realize that is a cop-out for putting my feelings into words, but to be honest, it's a difficult task to explain my time here sin los NiƱos de Backstreet.

Having only five weeks left in this place is quite terrifying:
1) I have two essay exams worth 50% (Philosophy of Knowledge and the Mind) and 60% (History and Philosophy of Science) of my marks. This only means that the preceding week will consist of me + coffee + forced revision and absorption of course material.
2) A goodbye to a beautiful land that isn't, most likely, a "see you soon."

BUT, on the other hand...
1) I'm headed to Ireland for a week.
2) I have a week and a half after my exams to climb Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in the British Isles.
3) Goodbyes make room for long-anticipated hellos! (Especially with these goons below.)

Time to tackle my last week of classes and a beastly essay. Cheers, loves.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Don't study abroad with your best friend? False.

Over and over again, people say, "Don't study abroad with your best friend." The thing is, though, those people must've gotten the wrong memo because I wouldn't have done it any other way. This experience wouldn't be the same if Mary wasn't here, and although I like to think I could have done it on my own, it'd wouldn't have been half as hilarious, half as comforting, and half as awesome. On the outside, it may look as though we live in our own little world. You know what? Maybe we do. I don't feel the need to defend this world, and heck! I could care less about the study abroad people and their memo. Today, while I'm waiting to have our sandwich-and-tomato-soup lunch, I'm feeling grateful. I miss my special people at home so much, but a little part of my home is here (we're talking about 4'11"). Life is great. Spring is great. Essays aren't, but hey, they're good when they're done. Speaking of essays.... welp, see ya later!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Over the hill, the big 50

50 days left in Scotland. 50 days until I sprint to my family at the airport. 50 days left of frolicking through Seaton Park and walking on cobblestone streets. 50 days until I laugh with Rebecca and give her wedgies (that's what big sisters are for, right?), sing terrible harmonies with my mom to John Mayer's "Say," and woop my dad at Mario Kart. 50 days left of the daffodils and sunsets on the North Sea. 50 days until I pull into the driveway and see my diabetes cat, Freya (named after yours truly). 50 days left in my cozy room filled with two suitcases of adventures and photographs. 50 days until those photographs turn into people that I haven't hugged in months. 50 days left of absorbing everything I can from this life I've lived in Scotland. 50 days until I come home.

A lot can happen in fifty days. And a lot will happen. Every day I wake up from my little bed in my little room in Hector Boece 288 and I look out my window at a big, beautiful tree. I sit next to the radiator (always too close, which gives me a nice healthy burn) and wonder where the months have gone. This morning I looked out my window and instead of the bare, cold winter tree that has been staring at me for months, there's a new tree. Well, the same one. But not at all. It is covered with white flowers, little birds singing beautiful songs, and hints of green sprouting from the ends of the branches. (I think it's telling me that it's Spring.)

Things change. And I've changed, too. But not too much. Some people would call it growing up. But I think mostly, I'm just a little more me. A little more Kelsey Freya Hawkins than when I left. No drastic changes. Just a few more white flowers, a new song, and a hint of green. The song? It goes like this: Little darling, here comes the sun.

50 days. Time to live it up.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The ABC's of Easter Holiday

For the past three weeks, I've been on 'Easter Holiday.' No, not Spring Break. (That is way too American.) During my time off from the hussle-bussle of classes, homework, and more homework, I had the chance to frolic around Scotland and England. The first two weeks were spent traveling around Scotland with Mary, Madeleine (Mar's sister), and Mary's mom, and the next week, Mary and I went to London. I fear that putting every detail of my whirlwind adventures into a single blog post would take 8 years (and as I write this, I'm putting off a philosophy paper), so instead, I've made a decision. My Easter Holiday shall be written in the form of ABC's, including some of my most memorable moments, favorite sights, and a few laughing-my-arse-0ff times as well. So, in random order, here it goes:

Always bring a map, especially when the names of roads are practically identical. Belgrave Road, Belgrave Place, Belgrave Square, Belgrave Street, Belgrave Plaza. Yeah, that took about 2 hours to figure out. By the end of our week in London, our map was tattered, torn, and very well-loved.

Billy Elliot, Buckingham Palace. We saw Billy Elliot our first night in London and it was magical. We left the show teary-eyed and smiling. "And suddenly I'm flying, flying like a bird. Electricity! Electricity sparks inside of me and I'm free!" Beautiful. And the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace? Holy ace of spaces. Brilliant.

Castles, castles, an
d yes, more castles. Urquhart Castle, Castle Stalker, Kilchurn Castle, Old Sarum Castle, Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle. All amazing con beautiful views, and all really fun to run around in. At Old Sarum in Salisburg, Mary and I had the chance to grab a coffee and sit on the edge overlooking the city. A talk about life on the edge of castle ruins... so great.

Driving on the wrong side of the road. With Mary's fam, we rented a car to travel around Scotland. The best part? We couldn't get the thing to move out of the rental parking lot. The emergency break was on and, after we all tried to put it back down, we had to ask a worker to help us. What's even funnier? There a man who was staring at us the whole time probably wondering, "How are those Americans going to drive around this country if they can't get out of the lot?" Oh well, Mrs. Cantor totally rocked the driving, round-a-bouts and all.

Edinburgh. A beautiful city in Scotland. We spent a couple days there and went on bus tours, saw the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh Castle, The Elephant House (where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter), a literary pub tour, and so much more.

Food. Every morning, Mrs. C
antor, Madeleine, Mary, and I would steal a heaping ton of food from every continental breakfast. Needless to say, chocolate muffins and croissants made a perfect stockpile. Also, Mary and I went to a small pub our last night in London for dinner where we realized that 1) drunk men become best friends and 2) bathrooms without toilet paper are hilarious after the fact, but not so much when it happens to you. Twice the same night.

Glen Coe, looks like a drive taken straight from a postcard. The feel of this valley was unreal. Well, the blustery intense wind made it a little more real, but the views were awesome.

Hostels. Mary and I decided it would
be a good idea two months ago to save some money and book a co-ed room in our hostel, Astor Victoria. When we arrived, it became a little more awkward when we realized there would be 6 of us (3 guys, 3 girls) living in a very small room together. After four nights, a few awkward brief sightings, and a very funny French guy with a feather earring, we decided we'd probably book an all-female room next time. Oh well, it's very funny now.

I love London. I realize that this is somewhat of a cop-out for the letter "I", but I don't mind. In comparison to my cliche, picture-esque expectations of a city I've only seen in movies? London rocked them out of this world.

Just can't seem to keep your eyes open? Go to Caffe Nero, where the bathrooms don't smell like moldy pumpernickel and the white chocolate mochas taste like heaven in a 'take-away' cup.

Kelsey Wallace. My name after marrying Sir William (yes, from Braveheart). We went to the William Wallace monument and it was so amazing. Not sure I could do what he did.

Loch Lomond, Loch Ness, Loch Laich, Loch Awe. If I had to pick my top five moments of Easter Holiday, one would be driving around Loch Lomond. For a couple hours, I stared out my window at green hillsides,
glassy, dark blue water, and waterfalls cascading down mountains. Had to hold back the tears. Too beautiful for words.

Mary, we're not in Kansas anymore. London is big, Edinburgh is big.. heck, the world is big! I realized over holiday that I'm in another country. And yes, it took me this long to really acknowledge th
at and find peace in it too. I'm living in another country.

Never stopped laughing. For instance, after having a cider at a pub in London, Mary and I saw a man with the cooky-est hair I've ever seen. It was wispy and looked as though he had an invisible fan in front of his face literally making his hair look like he was flying. Well, maybe things are just a
bit funnier after a drink. Still, we laughed our way through a great three weeks.

Oxford. Um, Mary and I decided that we'd just hop a bus to Oxford to see the Great Hall from Harry Potter. And get this: we did just that. I don't know how it worked out, but we had no idea where to go, what bus to take, what stop to get off at, or where to pick the bus back up. It all worked out somehow. We saw The Great Hall (Hogwarts' Dining Hall) and that was UNREAL. Oh man, loved it. After that, we got icecream and decided we should find our bus. While getting out our map, we saw it drive by, ran after it, and managed to run fast enough to catch it. Lucky.

Parks for people-watching... and too many pigeons. Favorite part of London: the parks. They are everything I could have hoped for in a people-watching spot, and on a sunny day, they are a perfect place to plop down and have lunch. The pigeons flocking every which way... not a fan. Not a fan at all.

Queens. There are queens. And Mary and I have decided that that is really cool. I could say much more, but I'll leave it at that.

Rainbow, a double rainbow. Driving back to Aberdeen with Mary's fam, I woke up to the sound of Mary's excited giggles. I looked out the window and in front of us was a double rainbow. Behind us? A sunset. A 360 view of beauty, a witness to a beautiful God.

Stonehenge in Salisbury, along with many sheep. Also, a sheep scarf tha
t I bought that smells just like sheep buttocks. (Ready for the wash, thankfully.) Stonehenge: fantastic. Right by the road, which was funny. Sheep? Everywhere. At one point, I "baaa"-ed and a whole field starting staring at Mary and I and baa-ing in unison. It was actually very frightening, but I laughed so hard I almost peed my pants. Close call, but made it away safe and sound.

Tower of London and the crown jewels. Man, those jewels were beasts. The Tower of London was spectacular and we spent 2.5 hours in there. Could have spent much more time, but happy for all that we saw.

nderground ("the tube"). "Please mind the gap." That is all.

Victoria Bus Station. 12-hour bus rides to and from London were fairl
y brutal. We didn't sleep, and realized how tired we were when the game LineRider became a source of intense punchy-ness at 4AM. Also, Mary and I thought it would be smart to sit by the bathroom on the way there in case we had to go. Guess what? Everybody has to go. Yup. Never felt so lucky to get off a dang bus.

Westminster Abbey. No words. The history, the building, the tombs. Magical.

X, what a terrible letter you are for the ABC's of Easter Holiday.

Yet again, feeling so blessed to have seen faces from home, to have a great friend that 1) always has a map, and 2) is as much of a doofus as I am, and to have seen such a beautiful part of the

Zebra, for the win. Didn't see any, but let's be honest, what a cool lookin' animal.

4 weeks of class + revision week + 3 weeks of exams = 8 more weeks in this land! Hope College, I miss you and your pine grove. Mom, Dad, Betsy, and friends back home--all my love.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Every time

I am in Scotland.
Yes, I repeat, I am in Scotland.

I am very certain of that as of last Friday, the beginning of my three-week 'Easter Holiday.' I've been traveling with Mary, her sister, and her mom and it has been a great time thus far. We've climbed glorious castles, seen many a kilt, been on audio-tours of massive buildings, went on a literary pub tour, danced around Edinburgh singing terribly self-constructed Scottish jingles, gooned around with swords and a big hairy William Wallace impersonator, and basked in beautiful 45 degree, sunshine-filled moments. A break from classes was much needed, and with two weeks of break left to travel around Scotland and then to London with Mary, I'm feeling rejuvenated and ready to take on the world! (Nah, not that ready.)

Top 5 Very Humbling Ways I Know I'm Still an Amateur
  1. I nearly burned my entire flat down by means of a heating pad last week. Smoking plastic in all its glory, and singe marks on my sheet to proof it. Never leave to get a glass of water. Just don't ever do it.
  2. I have yet to take a walk on cobblestone without tripping. Literally, I now take a tally. "L" for left and "R" for right. For instance, L1R3. Left: one. Right: three. Four trips.
  3. While buying a new camera, the saleswoman asked my surname. I responded, "Hawkins." And my first letter? I responded quickly, "K." When asked my house name, I thought it was another funny word for a name and responded, "Kelsey." With a confused look, she said there wasn't a house named Kelsey on Don Street.
  4. In attempts to throw away my rubbish on the train, I made my way to the middle of the two cars and without any footing whatsoever, missed the garbage and ran into the wall.
  5. Sometimes it's funny to try out accents. I mean, my own voice gets old. Reminder, though: you should not yell out random phrases in accents when there are about 70 countries represented within earshot.
To be honest, God only knows why I'm here. But really, it's true. I couldn't tell you how I ended up studying in Scotland and living in another culture for 5 months. It's just not ME. Well, a year or so ago it wasn't. And now? Now it's me. And I like that. The thing is that Monday marks the halfway point of my adventures in this country, and that knowledge brings about a huge range of emotion. Time flies by, and as it does, there's been one phrase running around in my thoughts. I try to make sense of my time here, the choices I've made, the places I've been, and the many exciting days left to come, but I find peace in this: You get it right with us every time. Every time.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Coincidence? The tale of the mastercard.

Picture this: The 2nd floor of Queen Mother Library on Tuesday night at 9:15PM. I was curled up in a little corner with my partially completed Freud powerpoint, nine books about Mr. Sigmund, my laptop, and my credit card. I was finishing a presentation for class and had to complete a handout (one to be given to my classmates in the morning). But get this! You have to pay for printing here. This said, I needed to put money on my account. I took out my blue credit card and added seven pounds (no, not weight my USA friends! Money!) to my account and proceeded down to the computer lounge to print my paper. I finished my document, hit print, and then the dreaded box popped up: Would you like to save this document? Because it was finished and I already hit print, I clicked ... "do not save." (You can see where this is going. Also, reminder to self: never hit "do not save.") I went over to the printer and what did it do? It printed one copy. How many do I need? Fifteen. Can I print more? No, I didn't save it. So I head over to the library desk to ask to use the copier with my print money. Nope, you need to buy a copy card. No problem, right? Just whip out my credit card and get 'er done. Wrong. My stinking credit card is nowhere to be found. Somewhere in between the second floor and the ground floor, my blue piece of plastic disappeared! Just my luck: Presentation early the next morning. 1/15 of the handouts I need. No copy machine available. No credit card.

Needless to say, I checked everywhere. With only 15 minutes before the library closed, I was tracing my steps like nobody's biznah. Sigh... nothing. The next morning, I woke up bright and early and asked at the reference desk on the ground and 2nd floor. The replies were similar, given with awkward "that's a bummer" face. I searched my coat pockets, jeans pockets, backpack pockets, notebooks. I even checked inside my pants in case I missed my pocket. Oh, so desperate. That dang little thang was nowhere to be found, but I had to keep looking. I told my parents not to cancel it yet because I felt like it was around. How stupid. I felt that it was around--enough to risk that some stranger might be draining my poor excuse of a bank account (pardon the pun). So I went to sleep on Wednesday night after another day of searching, only to find myself in an interesting dream.

In my dream? My credit card was in a book. And get this: I turned in those nine books on Freud Tuesday night. Holding on to my last bit of hope from the dream world, I headed to the library. I asked at the front desk--still nothing. I then went up to the second floor psychology section and began looking for the nine books. Oh, how silly I felt. Sadly, I could only remember three of the titles. Just when I was about to give up I saw, "Freud: A Man of His Century." It was the brown, scraggly one. I remembered it because I hadn't found a blasted piece of information in it for my presentation. Useless? Think again. I grab it, quickly flip through the pages, and what falls to the floor? You guessed it. My credit card.

Sometimes I wonder the point of these little experiences. But now that I'm sitting in my room with my card de master, I realize how semi-awesome the whole ordeal was. Not only that, but fairly ironic that my presentation Wednesday morning was on "Freud and the Importance of Dreams." You may think, "Eh, that's a coincidence, Kelsey." And to that, I give my reply: I think you are wrong.

Oh, and I forgot to mention: my three-week Spring Break began one hour ago. As my dad would say, "BONUS." I think I like it here. Yes, I really really do.

Monday, March 22, 2010

1.5 year plan

Kelsey: Tell me your schedule.
Mary: For the Fall?
Kelsey: No, for when you are 34. (dripping with sarcasm)
Mary: Well, that one isn't on KnowHope Plus yet.
Here's the thing: scheduling time is drawing near! In my time at Hope and Aberdeen, I've made more four-year plans than all the advisers in the universe and Mars put together. Okay, so maybe that's an overstatement. Still, I was looking through my blue advising folder and found degree evaluations for a biology major, a communications major, a religion major, an elem. ed. major, a psychology major, and right back to an elementary ed. major. So now, with only a year and half left (staying an extra semester for student teaching), I only need to make a "1.5 year plan." And guess what? It worked. Lots of rejoicing! With a few summer classes here and there, I'm able to take every class for my major, my minor, gen. eds., as well as a few classes I've wanted to take for some time (Christian Love, an art class, night sky, and volleyball). Not only that, but six credits of Fall 2010 will be with my sister (couldn't be happier).

Through my overabundance of four-year plans, I've always held out faith that God has bigger and better plans for my life than I can put on paper. And every random elective, every degree evaluation, every new adviser, and every schedule change has only cemented my faith. And believe me, I've had my fair share of on-a-whim or "it just doesn't feel right" massive schedule changes. Even in Scotland, I was running around from office to office trying to find what classes to take. And yet, no matter how confusing the process may be, it's always worked. And it did once again. My 1.5 year plan is signed, sealed, delivered. (False: It just sounded nice. I schedule online in a couple weeks.)

I e-mailed the counseling center last night to find out the steps I'd need to take to go to graduate school after student teaching and get my Master's or Ph.D. in higher education counseling. I like to close my eyes and picture what my life would be like if that's what I choose, and since writing that e-mail, I feel very excited. The butterfly kind. And at this moment in time, that's more than enough to begin pursuing it.

Once again: Kelsey Hawkins is flying by the seat of her pants. (Oh well, at least I'm flying, right?)

Today is Monday, the first day of the last week before three weeks of Spring Break. Yes, I know. Try reading it again. I'm only one Freud presentation, one tutorial reading, and six classes away from SB'10! I can't wait to travel around Scotland and take in the country in all its beauty. In all honesty, sometimes I forget I'm in SCOTLAND. Because believe it or not, I actually have to go to class. Silly, huh? Anyway, I'm ready to set down the "student" label for a bit and pick up the "adventurer, wanderer, smiley tourist" label instead. Also, did I mention that there are flowers EVERYWHERE? And that Spring is in the air everywhere I look around, in every sight and every sound? Yeah, that's definitely probably a copywritten song. Woopsiedaisical.

Cheers, lads and lassies! I miss you all and send my love.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Lights will guide you home, asdlfkjsk

How to begin? That is the question. Maybe a few words on feelings of confusion, maybe an analogy of a bird without wings, or maybe some tender words on dreams and living. It's hard to explain the place that I find myself in. It can best be described by a mumblejumble of letters: lasdkfjslkajfskd. Tonight in a little coffee shop, with only two more weeks until a three-week Spring Break, I'm feeling the tension between my forever love of home and my new infatuation with Scotland. I'm feeling my left arm being pulled by the beautiful North Sea, the budding flowers, and the new and adventurous life I lead. And my right arm? I might as well have left the thing in Michigan.

Now I don't want it to sound as though I'm discounting my time here. (And that's the risk for writing about this.) That is not the case. I adore Scotland and my time here is precious and a blessing unlike any I have ever had. But my love for home? Always in the back of my mind, and on harder days, the very front. I don't think it's the comfy couch in my living room that I miss, or Orion's belt out my window in my bedroom, or Mom's homemade mac and cheese. Nope. I miss my people. And I think that's okay. Well, more than okay. I think that's a very special thing. And in the end, (here comes the cheesy line): lights will guide me home. Literally. Plane lights and men waving funny wands on the runway. But for now, there's a lot of light still to discover in Scotland, England, and Ireland too. And beautiful clouds too. There's just a whole lot of light everywhere and I have about three more months to bask in it all I can. How will I spend these three months, you ask?

For a bit of humour:
-two weeks until break (Freud presentation, philosophy paper)
-three-week Spring Break (Travelling Scotland for a week, then London and Salisbury!)
-four more weeks of classes (pretending to really 'kick it in'/writing essays that count for 50% or so of my grade.. whaa!?)
-one week with no class to prepare for exams (Ireland!?)
-three weeks with no class... and two exams. (Saying holy moly in the sunshine.)

AKA: 6 more weeks of class, 7 weeks of break.
My feelings about that equation: asdlkfjalskdfjlaksdfja. Brilliant.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

You and Me, we're alike

People-watching: the art of taking on the characteristics of a wallflower; watching, listening, noticing, seeing; quietly rejoicing in other peoples' beautiful moments; ultimately acting like a creeper (but could ultimately care less).

I've picked my three favorite people-watching moments captured in some lucky photographs and, thanks to (my new favorite procrastination station), I've found other peoples' beautiful words to go with them.

"We listened as he played the guitar & sang old love songs & then there was a moment we looked at each other & discovered we were much younger than other people might suspect & it was good to know we had that much more time together."

"I'm not that good at being a tourist because I'm always looking at the way the light shines in your hair or the way your dress opens to the wind & my favorite places in the world are places filled with you."

"The first time his laughter unfurled its wings in the wind, we knew that the world would never be the same."

And if there's anything I've learned here thus far, it's that in this beating, ticking, breathing, moving body, I have my very own soundtrack, my very own voice. And nobody's is better, nobody's is worse. When I walk through Seaton Park, I hear French, Italian, Spanish, English. I see Moms with little white carriages and old men with walking sticks. We are all different, but more than that, we are all the same. "We're all just people," Mary says. In Scotland. In the U.S. Wherever you are. Wherever I am. And that truly brings me a great deal of comfort so far from home.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

One for the books

This week has been one for the books. Sadly for my lecturers, I'm not referring to the real books I'm reading for classes. I'm talking about "the books." I wonder if whoever coined that phrase had an actual book in mind, but since I do not know him or her, I will interpret it as my own. Let me begin again: This week has been one for the books. What's the title? "How to Exercise While Smiling Your Face Off." No title judgments, it's my book and the obnoxiously long title is only fitting. There are only four chapters, but let me elaborate.

Chapter 1: Training for a 10K. Mary and I and a few other girls here are running a 10K in Edinburgh in May. We're at 3 miles now and working our way up! Our favorite place to run is to the North Sea and home, and somehow, the beauty of it all never ceases to amaze me. We normally run after my philosophy class around 5:15PM, which is ideal for the timing of the oranges, reds, pinks, and golds. Just when I look behind me and think the sunset is the most beautiful it could ever get... NOPE! It gets prettier. There is usually about a fifteen minute span of time where the colors are at their most vibrant. I could care less that the biting cold is freezing my arms and legs; the view is breathtaking. (Literally, have to catch my breath. I choose to attribute that to the sunset rather than my body whipping itself into shape.)

Chapter 2
: Joining the sports village. Mary and I recently joined Aberdeen's sports village. Once you sign up for a membership you can take any classes that you'd like. They have everything from step to cycling to weight-lifting to abs... to combat aerobics.

Chapter 3
: Combat Aerobics. First, a little history. I took dance classes for about three years. Why didn't they work out? Well, besides not being able to leap without sticking my butt out and my awkwardly tall and lanky middle-school bod, I cannot walk into a class without getting punchy. Ask anyone who has ever been in a dance class with me (a.k.a. my sister), and she will be the first to tell you that 1) I laugh too hard, and 2) for that reason, I cannot remember any of the choreography. So back to combat aerobics. We walk in and everyone is in the back. Who moves forward? Mary and I. (I knew this was a bad idea.) Our teacher starts teaching us routines with KICK, JAB, HOOK, UNDERCUT, DUCK, JUMP... I'm done for. I managed to bite my cheek and stop laughing for parts. Until she told us at the end of the routine to strike a pose. Who has two thumbs and struck it too early? This guy.

Chapter 4
: Salsa. Friday night, a few of my flatmates invited Mary and I to go Salsa dancing. Oh dang. At first I was a bit skeptical (because I have no idea how to salsa dance), but needless to say, it was a blast. The Ricky Martin and Shakira were perfect to get our grooves on and standing with my ears one inch away from the speakers (no lie) left me with ringing ears for the rest of the night. Scared out of my wits at first? Oh yes. Final thoughts? No regrets. Salsa dancing is the best thing since sliced bread.

False. Best thing since sliced bread? Seeing the faces of people I love (even if it is over the computer!) Shout out to my family... Mom, Dad, Betsy: I love you! You already know.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Happily ever now

Dear Scotland,

Yesterday was our one month anniversary. It's getting pretty serious, too. Might as well be facebook official! Let's be honest: you've given me flowers (already blooming!), blue skies and sunshine, and you've opened my heart to a world full of kilts, accents, and food! I mean, it got "complicated" when you didn't sell macaroni and cheese, but I forgave you when I saw your sunset over the North Sea. See, Scotland, it's only been a month, but I think I like you a lot. You continue to surprise me. And well, I like that in a ... la(n)d. Your classes are decent, but your dancing seagulls are much better. And the homework you give me? I can totally deal with it when it forces me to walk a beautiful 15 minutes to campus! That hill you put at the end of the walk sure makes my legs burn, but at least it gives us both a laugh when I slip all over the ice on the way up. Yesterday, I found out another thing I love about you: YOU have little pinecones just like the ones at Hope College! You sure do help me appreciate the simple beauties... you put them all over the place! And I'm so glad you and Mary are friends! It makes it even better that you know my best friend too. Not only that, but you've introduced me to three other beautiful women from Hope. Man, I'm lucky to call them my friends. Man, Scot (can I call you that?), life sure is an adventure with you. I couldn't ask for more than that. I look at all we've been through already (many highs and many lows) and how far we've come. And get this! We have more than three more months together... cool, I know.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

The little destroyer

All the classrooms here begin with G, F, S, and T and are followed by a number. The letters correspond to the floor (ground, first, second, and third) and the number is... yeah, you figured it out, the number of the classroom. I was looking at my schedule and I couldn't help but notice that I feel like I'm playing a new version of Battleship, the University of Aberdeen limited edition. For instance, today I went to King's College F7: the Psychology class I added last Friday. Let's just say, it was a big fat "miss." I dropped it not even a half-hour after walking out of the lecture. Sadly, none of my battleship-esque classroom coordinates have been real "hits." I mean, my classes aren't too much of a bummer. I'm just not a heaping bowl of passion for them... yet, at least. If this was battleship, my classes would be like finding the big five-person aircraft carriers. The ones that are like, "Woopdie doo, can't miss 'em!" Like, of course you are there you big piece of grey plastic. BUT: If this is indeed a case of Battleship, Aberdeen edition, I'm in for a treat. You see, the little sneaky two person boat is still out there somewhere.

You know which one I'm talking about. The one that, if you find it, you really can't help but say, "SUCKA! I FOUND THE DESTROYER!" That little destroyer can be so tricky, but I have a feeling it's hiding in one of my classes somewhere, and I'm going to find it if I have to call out every number and letter in all of Aberdeen. Maybe it's the bottom corner, or maybe on this bright green game board full of trees, birds, and puddles, it's smack dab in the middle and I've been dawdling around it this whole time. My classes may not be all that great, but that little boat full of passion for knowledge is hiding and waiting for me to find it. And I know I will. I'm equipped with a noggin, an inside-out prone umbrella in case it rains along the way, some sturdy shoes to climb and run, and open eyes. Well, I probably only need the open eyes, but the crappy umbrella sure makes the journey a little humorous for everyone around me.

Little destroyer of wonder, here I come. Coordinates: UNKNOWN. Opponent: NEAR-SIGHTEDNESS (lost my glasses last week. Sorry Mosmo y Faja). Remedy: Follow heart not bad eyes. Goal: FIND LITTLE VICTORIES IN MY CLASSES. Final Words: HIT AND SUNK.

For a look at me con mi trusty umbrella, watch this:

Saturday, February 20, 2010

This is not The Greatest Song in the World, no. This is just a tribute.

A tribute to my Ness
Yo, Ness. Where are you? I've been keeping my eye out all day, it's true. I went on a boat and climbed Urquhart Castle, swimming to me wasn't worth the hassle!? ShortAEY, never thought I'd be on a boat, you say? Well I WAS and you didn't come out to play! You didn't hear my call de monster, which is lucky because you would've hated it. (And nothing rhymes with monster.) I am so bummed you didn't want to be friends, yet in my heart, I'm offering amends. Secret little spunky dinosaur fish, I made a super-duper awesome wish that maybe next time you'll give me a chance and across the Loch we shall swim and dance. Come out, come out! But whatever you do...please don't eat me. (I realize the last line doesn't rhyme, but it was fairly essential.)

Loch Ness rocked my socks right off. (Lie. Socks stayed on.) Loch Ness rocked my world. (Truth. Total truth.)

Somewhere in between the rolling obsidian-colored waves, the snow-capped mountains, the intense castle ruins, the perfectly painted landscape, and the sun lighting up a blue, blue sky, I found myself smiling. Can you believe it? It's true. It felt like I fell into a 3D postcard, and again, Scotland puts my speck of a life into perspective--not in a depressing sense, but a refreshing way. Small speck, big heart. I'm ready to roll.

In other news...
Scotland went from Spring with little budding flowers back to a snowy Narnia. The snowflakes here are the size of gargantuan beasts and they pelt straight into your eyeballs. Is it weird that I love that? (Even when the icy hill from class sends me straight into the mud, complete with many giggling onlookers.) Also, I've been missing my home/homies a lot lately, but I think that is okay. Up and leaving somewhere for five months isn't always going to be rainbows and butterflies, but missing home doesn't mean I'm not loving Scotland. A little both is healthy for me, or a lot of both I guess. Oh, well! Every day is a turning point. And today? Today was yet another reminder that the world is great, that God's love is even greater, and that running through castles is exactly how I pictured. But better.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The little victories

A quirk in the life of Kelsey Freya: when I find a song that I love, it plays on repeat. You may be thinking, "Well, so what... a couple times a day maybe?" No. When I'm in my room, it's playing. My sister and Mary can both attest to this as they have been a victim of my habit for a very long time. Lately, these lyrics have been spinning through my ear buds: This time, I'll be sailing. No more bailing boats for me, I'll be out here on the sea, just my confidence and me. And I'll be awful sometimes-weakened to my knees, but I'll learn to get by on the little victories.

My lifestyle in Scotland, without a doubt, can come off as quite glamorous. I have my best friend next door, endless possibilities for hill-climbing and sheep-chasing shenanigans, and the North Sea only a few miles away. It wasn't until coming to Scotland that I've been able to take a removed glance at my life back home and have realized: shoot. There is life outside and after Hope College. At this point, I have changed my major on paper at least four times and at least 100 in my head. I have read Hope College's course catalog in its entirety, and have read way too many 'find your calling' books from Border's. I have soul-searched and prayed that I may feel drawn to a major, a concrete dream, a calling. I am currently an Elementary Science Education major and Psychology minor, and I'm only now realizing (the 2nd semester of my Junior year) that I have no intentions of working in a classroom. It makes me laugh that both my sister (a freshman) and I are having the same big questions, only she is encouraged to work with them and I am discretely discouraged from having them. But it is now, halfway across the globe, that I realize that God's plan for my life, for anyone's life, is so much more than a major declaration form.

If I make it to 100 years old maybe I'll finally have plan. Chances are though, I'll still have more questions than answers. Throughout these few weeks at Aberdeen, I've realized that I'm not called to answer to a sheet of paper, an advisor, or a cookie-cutter dream. I'm called to pour my heart into every morning, to listen and to love the people that walk across my path at the perfect times. And even when the fear of living my story weakens me to my knees, I'm called to focus my eyes on the simple beauty in life. The way I get lost only to find a perfect thinking place. The way inopportune class changes seem to work themselves out perfectly. The hopeful little origami bird I found sitting next to me on the bus. The little victories. The overlooked gifts. (They are everywhere.)

On a lighter note, there is a seagull outside my window that does the happy feet dance almost every morning. He looks around to see if anyone is watching (which I always am), and then boom shakalaka: he breaks it down. I highly doubt it will ever get old.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Raindrops keep fallin' on my head

I'd like to share with you a few things I've noticed:
1) Macaroni pies at Auld Toon Cafe on campus taste like heaven... in a pie.
2) Large, 200-person lectures means anonymity. Anonymity means no pressure. No pressure means way too much room for mind-wandering.
3) Penne pasta is a staple. So is tomato soup. (Don't worry Mom and Dad, we make other things... sometimes.)
4) Hot chocolate and Bailey's tastes very yum for dessert, and once in a while, makes us quite punchy.
5) The toilets here flush like nobody's business. AKA flush and run, or flush and don't run. Always pick the first.
6) My attempts at Scottish, Italian, and French accents all fade back to Borat.
7) Falling asleep to techno music and a pounding bass has become the official lullaby.
8) Naps in Mary's room are better than naps anywhere else.
9) Professors still say the darndest things: "George Washington was a dumbass," "The Americans never really had an Enlightenment," and "Heffalumps are delightful beasties, to be sure."
10) If you volunteer to give a presentation on Freud, be prepared to hear sex jokes.
12) Concerts in second story coffee shops are wonderful (especially The Boy That Trapped the Sun con a cellist).
13) Laundry is expensive; a small room can be transformed into a make-shift drying palace.
14) The day the snow melts is the day the gardening begins.
15) I used to decline sleepovers, birthday parties, and telephone calls left and right because I was the epitome of a home body. Somewhere along the line, I flew across the world. Same girl, same heart... just a bit older it seems.

"And everything that’s new has bravely surfaced teaching us to breathe. What was frozen through is newly purposed turning all things green. So it is with You and how You make me new with every season’s change. And so it will be as You are re-creating me--summer, autumn, winter, spring." - Every Season by Nichole Nordeman

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Let's sit and stay for a while

We walked for a total of four hours through little towns stamped with blue and red doors, strolling on beeping crosswalks and cobblestone roads. We didn't really say a whole lot. Both Mary and I spent our long walk thinking, looking, wondering. When we finally found ourselves at the bottom of the long-anticipated path to the beach, I ran up the steps carved into the kelly green hillside. At the top, I saw the North Sea.

The world is big and I am small in comparison.

Though I do have elaborate daydreams, big thoughts (and even bigger questions), and a heart in wild pursuit of beautiful people, places, and ideas, I'm still oh so small. Not small enough to write off entirely, but small enough to go unnoticed with a cup of coffee and a journal. Scotland's green hills, majestic weather, and perfect bench placement makes it a great dreaming spot. (Ideal for an utterly confused but perfectly content 20 year old.)

Ever close your eyes
Ever stop and listen
Ever feel alive
What a day, what a day to take to a wild child.

(Shout out to Mom and Dad! I know you were waiting for one.)

Watch this to see the North Sea adventure!

Monday, February 1, 2010

There's a bird singing

Every day is a turning point.

Mary cut out an ad from Oprah magazine for me that says just that. It's pinned on my bulletin board along with quotes, pictures, verses, and other simple reminders that I want to hold close while I am here at Aberdeen. Every day has truly been a turning point for me. Every day I become comfortable with a part of my new situation, but every day I am immersed in another part of this life that challenges me. It's as if I always have one foot firmly rooted in my newly formed Scottish comfort zone and one foot plunging forward into a big and scary mud puddle full of campus directions, class tutorials, new faces, and intense courses. And every time I begin to feel settled in the once scary mud puddle, my other foot lunges into an even bigger one. This constant puddle-jumping, from comfortable to uncomfortable to comfortable, is my new way of life. Still, as long as I have my rain boots, I'm able to find peace with each step.

On top of transitioning, it has been our first week of class. In one class, Celtic Scotland, we discussed vikings (which, let's be honest, is legit.) I also went to Philosophy of Knowledge and the Mind. It digs deeply into how we can justify our beliefs and what it means to "know." It feels wonderful to actually be allowed and encouraged to have my head in the clouds.

Finally, while looking for classes, I've managed to create my own round-a-bout through campus, shuffling around with my map when no one is looking. During the time I've spent getting lost and backtracking my way around the university, I've happened upon some of the most beautiful moments and places. I'll leave you with my favorite two:

1) I walked behind King's College (a beautiful building) looking for the Philosophy Dept. and stumbled upon the University Field. The blue sky left room for the sun to literally light up the snow, while two people enjoyed it together. People-watching really is a constant reminder of how beautiful people are. I snapped a picture so that I'll never forget that.

2) I took a longer way back home through Seaton Park and found a river that runs through it. It was just the river, the trees, a bench, the snow, the sun, and me. (And thank goodness my camera!) I then found a steep woodsy hill and, grabbing from tree to tree, I found my way to the top. Just as beautiful as I had imagined. I wasn't so lost.

"Okay, so question. Are your high schools just like in Mean Girls? Because that's what everyone thinks. The plastics. Like, 'OMG'?"-friend from Scotland

Somewhere in the deep recesses of the soul, there is a bird singing. Slow down, listen to the call, and hail the advent of hope. -David Rankin