Monthly Archives: April 2015

WEEK THIRTEEN: KING OF THE NORTH

Surprise surprise, I had another fun week. Crazy, right? To start off, I had my final classes of the semester. I really enjoyed my classes and had really cool professors, so it was sort of a bummer to be done. That being said, class is still class, so it’s cool to not have to go anymore. I don’t have anything for a couple weeks, because we are meant to use this as a study period. This seems like way longer than necessary, but I’m not complaining.

With the limited schoolwork, I played a bunch of golf this week, and played the famous Old Course for the first time. I just walked down in the late afternoon and got a tee time on the spot. It’s pretty bizarre to get on such a famous course with such ease, that you almost forget that this is where so many great golfers have played and so many famous moments have occurred. I played the first few holes by myself and then joined up with Bryce, a full-time student, for the back nine. The course was not as hard as I expected, although this is largely because I somehow avoided a lot of its deadly bunkers through sheer dumb luck. It also probably helped that I was very focused on not trying to embarrass myself. I had a stretch on the back nine of a couple holes where I played so hard that I thought about quitting and going home to Seattle, but other than that, I played pretty well. The one shot that is most etched in my memory looking back is my drive on the seventeenth hole, where you have to hit it over part of the Old Course Hotel. I crushed it right over the into the middle of the fairway. We finished right as the sun set, and I’ve got to say, playing the Old Course lived up to the hype. Hopefully I get on a couple more times before my stint in St. Andrews is through.

On Wednesday, I headed to Dublin to visit Ellie, one of my best friends from high school. I got in that afternoon and walked around town. Dublin’s a nice size, big enough to be interesting but small enough to get a good handle of it in a few days. We walked through downtown and along the river, enjoying the uncharacteristically pleasant weather.

On Thursday, we headed down to the Archaeological Museum. Ellie’s shown plenty of people around Dublin, so there’s few things she hasn’t seen, but this was one of them. The museum is most famous for its bog people, well-preserved bodies that are thousands of years old recovered from Ireland’s bogs. They’re a little macabre, but very interesting, sort of like a scholarly CSI in how one can tell certain things about the body’s lifestyle, time of death, etc. There were other cool historical things as well, and it was interesting to learn about Ireland’s history given that it is in many ways intertwined with Scotland’s.

Next, we headed to Howth, a little seaside town about 45 minutes outside of Dublin. Howth happened to be hosting Prawn Fest at the time, but we were unfortunately there a little too early to join the festivities. The Prawn Fest logo is a cartoon prawn dressed like a chef, serving prawns. Pretty dark, right? Anyways, Ellie and I went on a cool hike from Howth, up around a hill along the coast. It was a nice taste of the Irish landscape, which I would describe as similar to Scotland’s but perhaps a bit more lush and less rugged.

On Saturday, we headed to Kilmainham Gaol, which played a significant role in Ireland’s history, housing various political prisoners, criminals, and families struggling through the potato famine. The tour offered a good view and context to understand Ireland’s complicated and contentious road to independence.

Then, just down the street was another establishment integral to the history of Dublin—the Guinness factory. We took a tour, learning the brewing process, how to taste Guinness in a ridiculous and pretentious manner, and how to properly pour a pint. It was one of the most important things I’ve learned all semester.

It was a lot of fun to see Dublin and hang out with Ellie, who’s one of those people I’m lucky to say will be a lifelong friend. She is, in the truest sense, a homie. Now, I’m back in St. Andrews, getting ready to leave for Copenhagen tomorrow.

Fun fact: to show respect to their kings back in the day, the Irish people would suck on the king’s nipples. On that note, talk to y’all next week!

WEEK TWELVE: LOST IN TRANSLATION

As I sit here trying to write this, it’s a little hard to look back and sift through the hazy mojito daydream that was my trip to Madrid this past weekend. It seems pretty surreal, going to a place I’d never been and staying with a bunch of people I’d never met who spoke a language I barely understand, and now I’m back in my room in Scotland like nothing ever happened. Life’s crazy, man.

Last week began pretty normally, a little golf, a lot of reading. Then, I left for Madrid on Thursday. One of my best friends at Whitman, Baker, studied in Madrid last semester, and suggested that I stay with his old flatmates. So I talked with Rob, Bake’s old flatmate, and we figured it out. I realized that it was sort of ridiculous, staying with a bunch of people I hadn’t met before, but I thought it would be a good adventure. Studying abroad is about being a fish out of water, so I went for it.

Rob met me at the metro, and we headed to the flat, where I met the whole crew. They were all super nice and welcoming, and seemed pretty cool with having a stranger chill with them all weekend. Also, not all of them spoke English particularly well, and combined with my rudimentary Spanish, made for lots of fragmented Spanglish conversations, which was kind of fun to figure out.

We went out that evening, hitting a couple bars, and a couple flat parties (and McDonalds of course). It was cool to be with people that actually lived in Madrid and knew where they were going, so I felt like I was on an authentic night out. I couldn’t understand most of what anyone was saying, but that’s part of the deal. I played the part of “confused tourist” pretty well.

The next day, Rob and his flatmate Mauro gave me the tour of the town. The tourist spots in Madrid are all clustered together, so we skated through pretty quickly. I saw the cathedral, the palace, and the Egyptian temple, as well as some cool gardens, plazas, and parks. I also got churros and chocolate at Madrid’s oldest churro spot, which was awesome, given my passion for fried treats of all kinds.

My favorite sightseeing spot, however, was touring the Bernabeau, home of Real Madrid, arguably the most successful soccer club in the world. Rob and I met some other friends and took the self-guided tour, which included the stadium museum, the team locker room, and sitting on the team bench. The bench seats are crazy comfortable, like seats in a luxury SUV. If I were to ever play on Real Madrid, I think I would refuse to go in the game, just so I could sit in those seats.

We went out again that night, starting with the flat, and then moving to a couple clubs. We took on some Danish people in a dance-off, and overall had a pretty great night. And in typical Spaniard fashion, we stayed out until about 4 in the morning. I don’t know how those people don’t collapse of exhaustion.

We spent the next day hanging out on the Siete Tetas, a hilly park with a beautiful view of the city. After the last couple nights, this was a much- needed day of rest for the squad.

I took off early the next morning, and got through a pretty inefficient day of travel thanks to Anil’s Ghost by Michael Ondaatje. If you need a good read and are curious about the civil conflict in Sri Lanka, I highly recommend it. After a great nap back in my room, I woke up at 4:40 to messages asking me to come play a soccer game at 5. So I headed to the field to play in the McIntosh Hall-St. Salvator’s hall match.

To my surprise and amusement, there were tons of people there from both halls, with face paint, signs, the whole deal. Apparently I’d stumbled into a pretty big game. But the atmosphere made it a lot of fun. Unfortunately, McIntosh lost 6-5, but I had a good time anyways running around in the sun and yelling at people.

This week, I finish up classes (I know, it went by too fast) and head to Dublin on Thursday to hang out with my friend Ellie for a few days. Should be a good time! K bye.

 

WEEK ELEVEN: YOUNG TRAILBLAZER

This week started as kind of a bummer. One of the places I’ve really wanted to get to is the Isle of Skye, lauded as one of the beautiful places in all the land. I tried to rally my troops and get a trip together, but they were not down, which is fair. Skye is like eight hours away, and that’s only if you get all the trains, buses, and ferries perfectly aligned, which requires some Zuckerberg-level code-reading or whatever. So the Skye trip didn’t happen. That’s honestly been one of the toughest things about the abroad experience: being aware of countless amazing places I’d like to go and things I’d like to do, while also being aware that I will not be able to accomplish it all. It’s a wonderful problem to have, but it’s still a problem, and one that certainly extends to other walks of life. You can’t do everything you want to do in life, but you’ve still got to do something, so you just kind of figure it out.

I wasn’t dwelling on this that much over the week, because 1) I had an essay to write and 2) the weather was faaaantastic. So I spent Monday-Thursday either playing golf or typing away about the presence of fascism in Scottish literature. Good times! Golf was a lot of fun. I played with some really nice, funny people, including John and Linda, an older British couple who’ve been living in St. Andrews for a while now. John told me about how he eagled a 680 yard par-5 hole in Portugal, and how he convinced a Starbucks executive to start serving doubleshots of expresso by default rather than by special order. He was not lacking for confidence.

I also met Luke, a nice young guy from Minnesota who chipped around with me for a while. He was with a wedding party in Edinburgh, and he’s a big golf fan so he made a St. Andrews day trip. I was practicing my chipping while he was walking around taking photos, and he walked up and asked if he could chip a ball. I gave him my club and a ball, and as he started his swing, he muttered, “Dream come true.” It was a nice reminder that St. Andrews is a pretty special place for a lot of people, and I’m lucky to be here.

I turned in my essay on Friday, so other than reading and a few more classes, I have nothing until finals. I celebrated by hanging out on the beach with my pals, playing soccer and drinking cool beverages, enjoying the nice weather before it inevitably changed for the worse.

We took it easy Friday night so we could go on a little hiking trip Saturday morning. Forrest, Adam, Kaelen, Scarlett, and I headed to the wee town of Scotlandwell, where we would start our trek into the Lomond Hills. The day’s improvisational style was established early, when we missed our bus stop and had to walk back two miles to the start of the hike. Then, we headed in the wrong direction until some nice Scots turned us around. Then, as we headed up Bishop Hill, Scarlett decided to leave the path and head straight up, throwing us off Adam’s very specific directions for the hike that we were following. We messed up a lot of times. But the scenery was beautiful and we were in no hurry, so it wasn’t no thang.

From there, we traveled onward, making it up as we went along. Forrest, Scarlett, and Kaelen decided to call it a day after about six miles, while Adam and I traveled onwards to East Lomond Hill. Scotland land is “free to roam,” and we pushed this to its logical extreme on the way to East Lomond. Without a clear path to follow, we trekked through lots of farmland, and when we couldn’t find any gates, we hopped their barbed-wire fences. We saw lots of sheep. The land is beautiful over there. Adam said, “Lots of countries don’t look as good as your expectations. Scotland is the only place that does.” Or something like that. I’m paraphrasing. But I agree with the sentiment.

After our meandering journey, we reached East Lomond and summited that baby with ease. And the view was beautiful. Also, it snowed while we were up there. On the whole journey, the weather changed a million times, but Mama Nature saved the best for last. The wind was blowing tough, and it snowed hard for a little while, so Adam and I hunkered down until the storm blew over. Then, we headed down to the lovely little town of Falkland. We met a nice couple (big Foo Fighters fans, two college-age sons, one dog) who gave us a ride to Freuchie, where we took the bus from home. It was a real adventurous day. I hadn’t planned on hopping over barbed wire and hitchhiking, but sometimes you just got to go with it. This was a lot more fun than spending eight hours on a train trying to get to Skye.

I played a whole soccer game yesterday for the first time in a while, so between that and the long hike on Saturday, I’m pooped. I’m going to Madrid on Thursday. The fun don’t stop, y’all.

 

Just a reminder, if you’d like to see my photos, check my Instagram (@quinstagram___). Have a nice week, friends.