20 November 2010

Lost in Translation

I had a moment in class the other day that was surprisingly annoying. The girl with whom I share all of my classes made a comment that I don't speak English -- I instead speak "American." I chose to reign in my big, loud, American mouth and refrain from sharing what was on my mind: "Wow, apparently we speak a different language. That's impressive, since I understand her fine." Little frustrating, considering I would instead argue for American-English as a distinctly unique regional dialect of the English language and not a language all on its own. And this got me thinking about those little language differences that get a bit lost.

1.) Pants here do not equal jeans or trousers. Pants are instead referring to your underwear. So when an American unknowingly exclaims, "My pants are wet," most likely they will garner juvenile giggling from passersby.

2.) Tea often refers to dinner and not always to the hot beverage. Also, pudding is a phrase used for all desserts. So one would first have their tea (chicken and rice) and pudding (cookie) for their evening meal.

3.) Aluminum is straight up spelled differently here. Here, it is aluminium, and your neglect of the extra 'i' can really throw people off.

4.) The word 'fanny' is particularly hilarious. In the US, 'fanny' is a seemingly childlike name for a person's rear end. In the UK, however, 'fanny' is a slightly derogatory word for a woman's...erm...'lady bits.' So be aware and refer to your fanny pack as the more appropriate 'Bum Bag.'

5.) Floors are numbered differently here. The 1st floor actually refers to the ground floor. So I live on the 2nd floor of my building, which would be the 3rd floor in the US.

6.) A cigarette is called a fag here -- which, frankly, was hard for me to even type let alone say. I was aware of this one before, but it was still a shock to hear it actually said aloud.

7.) If you say 'Z' here, they tend to look at you with a completely blank face. "You know...the last letter of the alphabet?"....."Oh, you mean Zed?" What is this 'zed' you speak of? That's not in my ABC's!

8.) This one just makes me happy inside: instead of cross-walk, they say zebra crossing. Too cute!

14 November 2010


  • With the absence of Thanksgiving, Christmas season starts here freakishly early. Although stores put out their Christmas decorations back home before Halloween has even hit, it doesn't really hit full hysteria until the turkey is carved. For a couple of months now, though, decorations have been out and stores have had entire sections dedicated to the beauty of aluminum trees and fairy lights. I spotted my first decorated house about 6 weeks ago -- and it wasn't the house that just leaves their lights up all year but only turns them on when it gets cold again.
  • I leave for Barcelona in 10 days. All of a sudden it's so close! I still feel like I just got here, but now I find myself with only 3 weeks of class left. In exactly 4 weeks from Tuesday, I'll be on my way to Grayslake to spend the Christmas holidays.
  • I have found that cooking for myself is both fulfilling and frustrating. I enjoy the satisfaction in having made my own culinary creation -- but I have also realized that I have about 4 meals that I continually cycle through. There are only so many times a person can eat turkey tacos or teriyaki chicken.
  • Despite my complaints about the Christmas-overload, I do love that I live in a place where it's socially acceptable to begin watching my Christmas movies. Why hello, Elf and Love Actually...
  • Although it may be a huge time suck, Facebook is the greatest invention in the world. In just the click of a mouse, I can catch up with a friend thousands of miles away.

09 November 2010

Gimme, Gimme (the Cliffs of) Moher

This past weekend was spent in Dublin. What a magical place -- Guinness is the cheapest drink you can find, there are huge ornate cathedrals on every corner, and a bed and breakfast is amazingly affordable. Sadly, I did not see any leprechauns. Dang - I could have really used that pot of gold. After a frustrating RyanAir flight in which we were nailed with a ₤40 fee because we hadn't printed up our boarding passes early enough (damn you!), we
arrived at our bed and breakfast safe and sound.

Once our bags were dropped off, we set out to see downtown Dublin for the first time. We grabbed our first pint of Guinness in Temple Bar before heading to The Button Factory to see Hired Hands and James Vincent McMorrow. The concert was absolutely beautiful – even with the 6 drinks.

On Saturday we woke up bright and early and transformed ourselves into super tourists. We began at O’Connell Street before we headed to Trinity College. After a brief stop to check out the whiskeys available in town, we stopped at Dublin Castle, Christ-Church Cathedral, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral before heading to lunch at the Brazen Head Pub – the (apparently) oldest pub in Ireland. After a morning of walking around in the chill, my Beef and Guinness Stew was perhaps the most delicious thing I had ever tasted, especially since it was served in a huge yorkshire pudding.

To complete our day of touristing, we then headed over to the Guinness Storehouse. We fully enjoyed our tour around the factory, where we learned all about how Guinness is made and how it got its start. The best part? The free pint at the end of the tour and the 360-view of Dublin.

Sunday was spent gettin’ our tourist on at the Cliffs of Moher. It was absolutely remarkable. I could barely comprehend what I was looking at. The cliffs went on for 5km and were a 400m sheer drop off. At the very highest point is O'Brien Tower, which was built long ago to provide visitors with a gorgeous view of the cliffs. It was beyond windy, so I left with my hair in a huge knot at the back of my head. I was perfectly content just watching the waves crash into the cliffs. It was one of those moments when I couldn't even believe that what I was looking at was actually real.

Really, my trip to Dublin was a lot of fun. Ireland has a very similar feel to Scotland – although you may not want to tell either of them that. I enjoyed the food, drink, people,
sights, sounds…most everything except the hurricane that headed our way on Sunday night. I was, however, very surprised by how big and busy Dublin was. I was expecting a smaller, more laid back city, kind of like Edinburgh. Instead, it was hectic, very diverse, and crowded. Dublin was not exactly what I was expecting, but I had a great time nonetheless.

Most of all, it was just nice to travel again. I love going to a new place and experiencing everything that it has to offer. It was good to get out of Edinburgh for the weekend, to break my routine. Going to Dublin only made me more excited for Barcelona in a couple of weeks – I can’t wait!

04 November 2010

Mustachioed Adventuras

This past weekend was a double-whammy of fun. Not only was it Hallowe'en, but I also had a visit from Claire and Kaitlin! They arrived on Friday night at about 1:00 AM. We spent the next couple of hours talking and catching up. They told me all about France and their travels thus far. It was so nice to see some friends from home. The next day I had the daunting task of showing them around the city. There are so many great things about Edinburgh, so I always struggle to find an itinerary that will do it justice. Surprises of surprises, we were blessed with beautiful weather. For once, the sky was a clear blue without a cloud in sight. Le French chased the rain away! Merci!

We started out at Greyfriar's Bobby - my favorite part of the city. I love the quirkiness of Bobby's history. I mean, there are not many places in the world that would give a key to the city to a dog. Plus, the trees are all changing so the graveyard was beautiful with the blue
sky and fall leaves scattered on the ground. From there we made our way to the Elephant House so that we may soak up some caffeine and JK Rowling's genius before we went to the castle. I've been to the castle at least 8 times before, but it never ceases to amaze me. From the 1 O'Clock Gun to the historical reenactors, it is swimming in adorableness. I forced Kaitlin and Claire to take every imaginable tourist picture, culminating in Claire yelling, "Dear God, woman! Back off!" She came around eventually and joined in on my Michael McDonald impersonations. Woman, you do a good "Ain't No Mountain High Enough."

After our lunch of haggis, we went out in search of Hallowe'en costumes. Our solution? Mustaches! Kaitlin outfitted herself with a curly blonde mustache and a top hat, and she was thus transformed into the Monopoly Man. With a simple bowler hat and thick eyebrows and some upper lip fuzz, Claire became Charlie Chaplin. For myself, a splendid handlebar mustache and green suede hat transported me back into the 70's a la Burt Reynolds.

Our night on the town began at Doctors where we sampled our first cider and watched X
Factor, followed by a jaunt to Malones right down the street. We ended at Finnigan's Wake, where there was a live band playing some traditional Scottish folk songs. Perhaps the
strangest part of the evening was how attractive our mustaches made us, complete with a Polish med student chatting me up for a full half hour and a drunk 60-year old man telling me that he's always had a fetish to discover what it felt like to kiss someone with a mustache. Sorry dude - you'll need to fulfill your fantasy elsewhere.

After fully appreciating the extra hour of sleep - thank you, daylight savings! - we headed down the street to partake in our first traditional Scottish breakfast. Our plates each had about 8 different kinds of meat, which totally explains why there's such a high instance of heart disease here.

After getting our Atkins on, we made our way to Holyrood to explore the palace and
abbey. The abbey was particularly breathtaking. I was standing in the center, with the ornate stone walls on all sides of me and the deep blue sky above. I could hear the trees rustling in the wind and the flutter of a bird's wings as it took flight. I'm not a particularly religious person, but you can't help but feel God's presence when standing in the abbey's ruins.

Our day of sightseeing ended with a trek up Calton Hill. I had never done this before, so this was a new experience for us all. The view was remarkable, and we caught it just as the sun was setting. The sky was a gorgeous hot pink, and we just sat and watched the buildings slowly light up.

Another highlight of the weekend? For Hallowe'en we went on a ghost tour of the underground vaults. Our guide was adorably socially awkward, complete with a lisp. He would sometimes forget what his next line was, or he would slip out of his accent. All in all, it was a hilarious way to celebrate Hallowe'en. To end their visit, we met up with the other Chi Omegas for lunch on Monday. We had 6 of us gathered, which kinda blew my mind! That's a sizable to group as it is, but then I remember that we're in Europe. Woahhhh....!