Orientation: Day Two (long post)

First full day of orientation. Lots of fun, informative presentations, lots of learning and forgetting who everyone was. Saw my dorm and class building. Climbed a mountain, paid the toll of my hat. Went on a bus tour of the city. Had a quick, 1.40, half-hour fix of internet. Went to a pub, had my first Guiness.

I started out day two with a bath, which was reasonably sublime. Met and re-met some people at breakfast. After that, a guy talked to us about life in the UK and Scotland specifically. He was hilarious, and really informative. Then the Scotland Office staff talked at us for a while; I doodled and took notes when something interesting or relevant came up. I’ve taken a lot of notes, in the style of my dearest mother (and father, for that matter). After the boring talk, some police constables came in to talk to us about safety. The guy who talked was very tall, and very funny, not to mention informative. After that, we ate lunch, and I further saw how it makes sense that Francie and Janie are friends.

After lunch (1:00) we had until 3:30 off, when we had to meet the buses for our tour of the city. I went to a post office and cashed two travelers’ cheques, and noted that Sandy Bell’s, a hub of live folk music, is very nearby. It wasn’t far from there on Forrest St. to George Square, the University area which is the site of David Hume Tower, where all of my classes are. I had a notion to continue on to Pollock Halls, to see where I was living. The dorms are a pretty, little place, much smaller and closer together than I imagined from the satellite image. They seemed nice. But looming beckoningly over Pollock Halls is Arthur’s Seat, a mountain very near to the city center. As I had nothing to do for an hour and a bit, I realized I had to climb it, there and then.

After with difficulty finding the way out of the dorm area and over to the Park, I cut across a field, up to a road. I walked along that for a while, looking for a way up. Not finding one, and feeling like I was going in the downward direction, I turned around. That was at 2:19. Near where I came in, in the other direction, was the path I was looking for. There were steps, but it went much closer to straight up the mountain than the G-rated path one is directed to. I went up, sometimes having to climb rocks for a little bit, the wind getting stronger the higher I went. At one point, I was on a pretty bare grassy mountainside, with the wind whistling violently in my ears, flapping my coat around. I was scared, afraid of getting blown off the mountain, pretty literally. But I altered my course a little, not going over the crest of DOOM, and made it to a much nicer path, although the wind still howled around me. This time it was at my back, pushing me forward and upward. The path came to a sub-peak, all smooth and grassy. Now, from here on in, when there was grass, it was permanently plastered to the mountainside from the wind. I pushed on over this little crest, and there was the summit, in sight. I went down a little, and with slight anticipation, entered the wind tunnel-like depression between the two high points. Holy MOLEY it was blowing strong. I made it to the rocky base of the summit, laughing into the face of the gale (sorry for the dramaticism, though it’s all literal; this was a really amazing experience for me). As I began pondering how to ascend to the top, the wind gusted and my nice wool hat went flying off, tumbling at 40mph down the mountain. At first, I made to chase it, but quickly realized that it was moving quicker than I could possibly run, even on stable, flat ground. So, I battened down the hatches and made for the summit. The last little bit wasn’t difficult at all, although the wind was still very strong. It was likely strongest on the summit, where I stayed for all of 45 seconds, making sure to touch the summit point, before heading back down. I went to look for my hat, in the slight hope that it had caught on a bush or something. I soon gave up. I went down an easier way, close to the path followed by the majority of people. I realized that it was getting to be about 2:45, and I needed to start moving quickly to get back in time. So I did. The path was clear and easy, and I just tromped on off that mountain, across the road, and back into the city, using the Castle as a landmark to head toward. I was walking very briskly, and I happened to pass down the street where we stayed on Hogmanay, Montague St. I was just making a bee-line for where I thought the hotel was, and I made it back around 3:20. I dashed upstairs, changed my shirt and cleaned up a smidge, then ran downstairs (well, by elevator). I was actually in plenty of time for the buses.

The tour was nice. It was informative, although I already knew a lot of what they told us (from all my obsessive research before arriving), but it was really good to actually see all the places I knew about. The guy next to me fell asleep for most of the tour. This was just our program, by the way, in two buses. When we got back, I made plans to go to an internet cafe and dinner with some people, then galumphed to the Royal Mile to get a new hat. Stores were starting to close (they close around 5:30-6), but I was able to find a nice winter hat that says Scotland on it for not TOO expensive (those touristy shops…oy). Then I came back and typed up some posts to put on my flash drive and copy into my blog.

The internet cafe was really nice. It’s like when you’re underwater, and you come to the surface to get some air. Or like when you really have to pee, but you feel the need to hold it in, and then you finally get to a toilet….it was the same sort of sensation as those things.

The group I went to dinner with was of about 9 people, 4 of whom were studying in Glasgow. There were 6 of those people in our whole program, and they were having orientation in Edinburgh too. Anyways, two of the people I ate with were really interesting. One of them is one of BECCA WELLS’ FRIENDS FROM HOME!! Her name’s Tess, and she seems really cool. She wrote a novel in 8th grade, vaguely resembling Mists of Avalon, but with even-more-fictional characters. She’s a Women’s Studies and Creative Writing person, so her thesis piece is going to be something about generational interaction between a young woman and her grandmother. Cool, I say. Anyways, she’s studying at Glasgow Uni. Another of the people there is studying at Glasgow School of Art. She’s from New Mexico, her dad was Cherokee, her mom’s a Swiss nuclear researcher, and her grandmother was a prostitute. Let me just say that we got into the topic of her lineage by her saying, somewhat randomly, that her grandmother was a prostitute. Her name’s Alexandra, and she goes to Colorado College. Tess goes to UConn. Anyway, it was nice meeting them, if only for briefly, as they depart for Glasgow on Thursday morning and Friday morning, respectively.

Let me just insert this: there are some people who I find myself eating with a lot whom I really don’t like very much. One is a frat boy from GW in DC, another is a cynical Chicago sophomore. I always happen to be eating with them, but I really don’t like them. Oh well. There will be a whole new cast of characters very soon. Wholesale, as we say in frisbee. (That last means that everyone who’s playing takes a sub)

At dinner, we made plans to go out to a pub later. So we did, to one across Grassmarket from the hotel. I’ve been to 3 different places over there. One place there is the oldest pub in the city, being open since the 1500s. That’s history for you. Anyway, I had a pint of Guiness, and it was lovely, as alcohol goes. There were a lot of us there, and we were sitting in this little table at the back of a fairly empty pub. Most people were drinking in a fashion you would expect of mainstream American college students. I spent most of the hour and a half or so talking with Alexandra from New Mexico. She’s really nice and intelligent, I’m sad she’s studying in Glasgow. It’s not that far away, though. She reminds me of Alex Pressman, primarily in the way she talks and where she lives (Colorado). Oh, she interned at that art school in Chicago this past semester, and worked with some lady who wrote this book that’s been on the bestseller list for a while. She (Alexandra) also knows the person who designed the Sacagawea dollar. And she grew up on a reservation. Cool beans. Anyways, it’s the strongest connection I’ve made with anyone here so far. We went back to the hotel, and went to sleep.

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