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.