We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

To My Best Support Sytem, My Family

Mom, Dad, and Katie,

Crazy isn't is? I come  home on Friday, after 3 and 1/2 months of being away. Time just flew right on by me, but I feel like it's been ages since I've seen you. Where do I even begin? Thank you. Thank you for all the love and support you have given me throughout my life and during this wonderful journey I have been on this semester. It has meant more to me than I could ever express with words. You've supported my wanderlust filled soul since I first realized there were roads that would take me anywhere I wanted to go in the world. You have been my biggest fans and always encouraging me to study abroad since I was a junior in high school and through this entire time of being in a land far from home. Look where I am? I did it. I finally achieved my forever dream. I've studied abroad, made the best of memories, and have seen places I have only ever dreamed of seeing. Katie I remember always looking through pictures of the world and making plans for all the places we wanted to see in the world, never really knowing if we ever would. You're my best friend and I am so glad you could be a part of my journey and I could show you my life in a different country. You have always pushed and applauded me and I can't tell you how happy it makes me to have you be proud of me or that I've helped you realize you can achieve your dreams. I've always wanted to inspire people. This experience has made me realize how many opportunities are out there and how much the world has to offer. Be crazy, take chances, and do things for yourself. If you want to move to Seattle? You know what, move to Seattle. Go off and experience something amazing,  Don't be afraid to leave home, you can always come back. Mom I have always wanted to follow in your footsteps since I was a little girl. All the stories you used to tell me of your travels with your girlfriends only heightened my curiosity of the unknown, what the world has to offer me. Even though I joke about how I am turning into my mother sometimes, I really couldn't be prouder. How blessed and what an honor it would be to even become a fraction of the woman you are. Your compassion and your kindness make me want to be a better person. No matter how old I get you'll always be my Mom, the person I need, want, and call when I get sick, am feeling sad, or have the best news and I just need to tell someone. Dad, even though I know you would rather have me locked in the basement than in a different country I appreciate the fact that you set that aside and support my dreams and ambitions. If it eases your nerves, I promise to never go to Africa or the Middle East. You've taught me to work hard for the things I want in life because no one else is going to do it for you. There is no one I know in life who has worked harder for what they have than you. No matter what happens you'll always be the best guy I know and look up to. No one can ever replace your spot in my heart. I thank the three of you for giving me something I can never repay you for, myself. I found myself you see and I didn't even know I was lost to being with. This experience has helped me see that awkward, weird, and loving person that I am. I have realized that I am great just the way I am and there are people out there who are going to love me for me and the rest of them don't even matter. It has helped me see the type of person I am and the one I want to continue to grow into. I want to take every opportunity that is presented to me and experience what it can give me. This trip has given me a tremendous amount of joy and has made me feel alive in a way I have never felt before. I feel like I got stuck in routine in the past and I wasn't really living. I have laughed so much these past 3 and 1/2 months and I have realized how good it makes me feel, and how all my days for the rest of forever should be filled with laughter. I never want to stop traveling in my life, I never want to stop gaining new experiences but I can promise you one thing, I will always come home. Home to me will always be small town Iowa, down an old dirt road, where the wind whistles through the big oak trees. Home is where the heart is and it will always be with you three. No matter where I go or what I see in this world I will always be counting the days until I see you three again. So thank you. Thank you for giving me the world, letting me get the chance to make amazing memories in a land far away from home, giving  me the opportunity to make lifelong friends, and most importantly, for helping me meet myself. I owe everything I do in my lifetime to you and I hope more than anything I have made  you proud. I miss and love you. See you soon.



Monday, May 5, 2014

A Weekend in Ireland, Scotland's Celtic Sister

Lauren and I getting ice cream.
Well my last weekend overseas was spent in Ireland with my friend Lauren and we had a great time! Ah, that's so scary to say, my last weekend here, and it's already come and gone. We left on a flight Thursday night to head to Dublin. We arrived in Dublin around 10 pm and we took a taxi to the hostel. We had a hostel a block down from where we were supposed to meet for the three day bus tour the next morning. Let's just say our hostel experience that night was quite the experience. We had a shared room so when we got there, there were already other people in the room. The hostel was a bit sketchy and I am pretty sure we had every nationality in our room. I slept horrible that night because the hostel was loud, we were by a tram, and someone was outside jack hammering cement at 3am. I probably got three hours of sleep that night, got up at 6am and headed to our tour. It makes for an interesting story though. We loaded that bus along with 13 other people and away we went. There were a few Australians, Canadians, and Spaniards on our tour with us. It was so great to meet people from all different corners of the world, they were all so interesting to talk to. The first day we stopped in a few little towns to see some abbeys and took a short walk through a park. We ended in Galway for the day. In Galway we walked around the town, ate at a really good restaurant called
Cliffs of Moher
The Skeff, and went on a pub crawl with a couple of guys from our tour. Lauren wanted to do the pub crawl so I told her I would do it with her. I didn't actually end up paying for the tour. I just kind of tagged along. It was a lot of fun, met some cool  people, saw a neat town, and heard some live music. The town of Galway is so incredible and I loved it. And of course one of my favorite songs, "Galway Girl" was written about the city. I would recommend going there versus going to Dublin. One of the biggest differences I noticed between Scotland and Ireland is how everything is so much more colorful in Ireland. Yes they are similar in a lot of ways but Ireland is more rocky and not as hilly and mountainous as Scotland. Scotland has a lot more unique architecture and grey stone is used a lot. Our hostel in Galway was super nice, we even had our own bathroom! We shared the room with Hamige, the Australian guy on our tour and Bobby and Grahm, the two Canadians on our tour. They were a lot of fun and it was a good time because they are close in age to us. They all
Bob the horse and I. Carriage ride.
slept in boxers though, so it was kind of awkward in the morning running into them. I'll always have funny stories to tell from staying in hostels and I think it's something everyone should experience. On Saturday we stopped at a few lochs, a castle, and an Irish wishing well. Some people in Ireland are so superstitious they can't even drive by it without stopping to make a wish. That's one thing I learned about Ireland over the weekend. Like Scotland they are very superstitious and believe strongly in folklore and it's a huge part of their history. Ireland's history is just as morbid as Scotland's is. We visited a cathedral and it's said that 30,000 children are buried on the grounds in unmarked graves that dies during the potato famine. My favorite part of Saturday was our stop to the Cliffs of Moher. The cliffs have been on my bucket list for a long time and I was so glad I could finally cross it off. The cliffs are just as grand as they look in the photos you see, even more so. They are so geographically amazing it just makes you sit there in awe, it's where land meets
Killarney National Park
the unknown. How lucky are we to live somewhere where as beautiful as the planet Earth. I don't know how anyone could ever not want to explore every inch of this magnificent surface. At the cliffs there is a memorial to all those who have lost their lives at the cliffs, whether it be they chose to take their own lives or they simply got to close to the edge. I thought that was pretty awe-inspiring. We stayed in a little village that night on the Dingle Peninsula called Annascaul. It was nestled in the mountains in a small populated town. There was a pub attached to our hostel so Lauren and I went there for dinner and a Guinness. I had to try a Guinness in Ireland, it's like a right of passage. Guinness in Ireland is a lot better than anywhere else, I guess that's probably because it's its homeland. At the pub we met a girl from New York who is studying abroad in Galway for the semester named Jess. We had a great night of playing pool(which I am godawful at), chatting, and listening to music. We all sat around, Bobby, Grahm, Jess, and I chatting. Jess introduced us to her friend from Australia who was working in the kitchen for the time being. I ended up talking to him for most of the night, he was so intriguing and I loved listening to his travels. He graduated in November and ever since he has been
Blarney Castle
traveling and so far has gone to 16 countries. He does a lot of volunteer work in the towns that he travels to and they give him a free place to stay or he stays in cheap hostels. His stories were so amazing and I was captivated by them. He was such a free spirit, something I hope I can become more of. He thinks life is too short to live in one place and even if he doesn't make money in his future he just wants to be happy. He was very inspiring and I think more people out there need to live life the way he has. It was a great night at the pub! That night Lauren and I shared a room with these two ladies in their 60's who are best friends. Neither has ever had children because they haven't felt the need to, but are both are married, love to travel, and are two of the funniest ladies. They kind of reminded me of my sister and I and how neither of us has ever been to keen on children. I could see us 30 years from now traveling and being those older ladies who are a riot. Our last day on the tour we went stopped in Killarney and went on a carriage ride around the national park. It was beautiful and we saw some Red and Japanese Deer. We also went to Blarney Castle. I know a lot of people have heard Irish drunks go and pee on it, but I highly doubt it. It is quite a hike up a long windy staircase that is very thin, so my shoulders touched the walls. It is said that if you kiss the stone you will be able to speak eloquently, maybe it takes a week to set in because I don't think it's working yet! You have to lay down and bend backwards to kiss it, while a guy holds you to be sure you don't fall over the edge. The weekend was a great one and I am so happy to be able to check Ireland off of
Kissing the Blarney Stone
my places I want to see in my lifetime. I will never understand how people can just stay in the same town all their lives. There are so many windows of opportunity presenting themselves for everyone to see the world. It has opened my eyes and made me want to go to every country and see how they live their life differently than me, Australia, Thailand, and  maybe even Croatia! Who knows where I might end up! My time is almost gone here and I can't believe it. It feels like just yesterday I was terrified to leave home and come to a place I didn't know and I didn't know a soul. I am so glad I jumped head first into this journey because it has changed my life, given me so much confidence, made me love myself, helped me see a different corner of the world, and opened my eyes to so much they were closed to before. I have my suitcase all packed up and my passport ready for Friday, under 50 pounds! Score! We are having a bonfire on the estate tomorrow night and I am looking forward too. It will be a wonderful night to sit around a fire with the people I call my second family. It will be one of the last times we are all together. As sad as it is that means one day closer till I see home. Iowa, good old Iowa. I cannot believe I will be seeing you, Iowa in a mere four days. How I have missed you so. I even miss your fields of corn! Miss and love you all back home and I am jumping with excitement of seeing you all!



Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Weekend in the Most Beautiful Place on Earth

The highlands are the most magnificent thing I have ever seen in my life. I will never tire of the views I have seen here in Scotland and just when I thought they couldn't get any better I go to the Highlands and am stupefied. My journey to the Highlands started bright and early Thursday morning when we hopped on a bus and took off at 8 am heading north. Our first stop of the weekend consisted of a stop to Scone Palace. Scone Palace is the place where the Stone of Destiny lies. The Stone of Destiny is a stone that sits under a chair.
Scone Palace

RIley, Kyra, and i at Hermitage Waterfall
Bus Buddies!
The group at the barracks.
This was the place where all the royals used to be crowned. The estate was huge and we wandered around it for an hour. They had a maze in the yard that we did and they had a little zip line as well that we went on. It was more directed towards kids, but what can I say I'll always be a kid at heart and it was fun. After we left Scone we continued to travel north. We stopped at Hermitage to see this beautiful waterfall. We had to walk on a trail for 15 minutes to find it and it was breathtaking. That area reminded me of what Oregon looks like with the tall trees, moss, and everything being so green. I felt like I was transported into a Narnia movie or something, it was quite magical. We jumped around on the waterfall rocks for awhile and then loaded the bus to our next destination. Our next stop was Delwhinnie Distillery. It lies in the Highlands surrounded by beautiful scenery. We took a tour of how the whisky is made at the distillery. We also learned about the different strengths that come from the distillery's around Scotland. At the end of our tour we got a small glass of whisky with some chocolate. Our tour leader told us it was a lighter whisky and maybe to him it is, but woah, I though I was going to grow hair on my chest. It was very strong and the chocolate was very rich. I almost couldn't finish it, but I toughed up and did it. We got to keep our glasses so it was a nice souvenir. Through the first day we also just stopped along the road a few times to look at the beautiful scenery. We spontaneously stopped at some old barracks along side the road and it was historic and parts were crumbling to the ground, but it didn't make it anyml less alluring. We took a huge group picture at this stop standing and sitting within the tumbling barracks. We finally reached out hostel destination around 6 that night in Inverness. Inverness is a neat little town settled in the Highlands. While a pack of us girls were searching for our rooms a guy came out and said "woah I think I hit the jackpot". That was pretty funny, but awkward at the same time. That night Kyra, Riley, Lauren, Trevor, Mickenzie, Kati, Hannah, Christina, and I walked to the local grocery store Morrisons. We all felt like ice cream because we haven't ate it in forever so we got some Ben and Jerry's. We walked back and sat outside our hostel enjoying the view, eating our ice cream, and chatting for a few hours. It was nice to talk and get more close to some of the friends I've made here that I haven't spent as much time with.
Riley, Anna, and I at the distillery.

The views from our nature walk around Ben Nevis.

Me in the Highlands.

Me at Fort George

Christina, Lauren, and I watching dolphins. 

The next morning we got up bright and early to head to Culloden Battlefield. Culloden Battlefield was the final confrontation of the 1745 Jackobite Rising. The Jackobites tried to do a surprise attack, but the English were ready and the Jacobites were slain. There are thousands of Scottish soldiers buried on the field, so many shallow graves. The battlefield has been untouched since the final shot rang out that day and the casualties were buried. It was very leery feeling with the fog setting in and I felt a lot of respect for the land because it is like a cemetery of unmarked graves. The have markers of where they assume that most of the clans lay, but not names and only a few hundred of names have been discovered of who died on the field that day. After Culloden we went to Fort George. Fort George is a military base that is still in use, so there were soldiers running around everywhere. It's a neat place and right on the coast. We sat on the walls and watched the dolphins out in the firth. There was a big pod of them and it was relaxing to watch them in the nice weather. After we had free time. Lauren, Christina, and I went to a place where we saw advertising wildlife boat excursion. We waited for the guy to show up for an hour and he never did. So we sat there and played I Spy for an hour. It was funny and we spent the rest of the evening in Inverness exploring the area and going out to eat.
On Nevis Range

On Loch Ness

Traditional jumping picture. Anna, Jenna, Amanda, and I.

Urquhart Castle

On Saturday we went to Urquhart Castle that sits right on the beach of Loch Ness. It was neat and a charming ruin. It was so neat to see Loch Ness and dip my feet into it. It was foggy that morning so it added to the mysterious Nessie. I found Nessie and I will be bringing her home packed in my suitcase! After our adventure to Loch Ness we went to Nevis Range to take a gondola ride to the top of the range. It was worth the ride, but it was scary going up the side of a mountain. At the top the view was to die for. I wanted a picture of myself standing on this rock that was close to the edge with the Nevis Range behind it, but I was so scared to do it. I am so glad I did though because it felt amazing and it's true when they say the things you fear most are normally the most worthwhile. After the gondola ride we went to our hostel in Fort William. It was 2 miles outside of town at the foot of Ben Nevis. Ben Nevis is the tallest mountain in the UK. It stands at 4,500 feet. Although that may not be huge compared to others in the world it's big for the UK. It was a great place to stay and Kyra, Riley, and I went on a hike around the foot of Ben Nevis and the river for a couple hours. The scenery of the Highlands was amazing there is really nothing to compare it to and it's greatness is simply Scotland. We walked along in the river and the water was freezing. It was a really fun little adventure we had and we saw a bunch of Highland Coo's! The last day of our trip we went to the Harry Potter Bridge, Glencoe, and Doune Castle. Glencoe was an area where the clan of Campbell murdered an entire MacDonald clan in their slumber. It's said to be haunted, but what isn't haunted in Scotland. Doune Castle is going to be where the new TV series Outlander is filmed, so it was neat to be somewhere where a TV series will be filmed. Although I had a great time in the Highlands I was so happy to see Dalkeith again after a long weekend. I have everything turned in for my classes for the rest of the semester, so I am feeling great!
Me with a lamb in Glencoe

Riley, Kyra, and I 

Just look at that view!

Wednesday I went with my host family to Brig O'turk. The town possess a tree called the Bicycle Tree. When we got there we were actually surprised at how untouched by tourism it is. It made it that much more special. The tree got it's name when a blacksmith who lived next to the tree went off to World War I to serve and left his bike chained to the tree. The man never returned so the tree grew around his bike. It was so amazing to see and so unique. We also stopped at a cafe along a Loch and ate lunch. It was a great view. They fed us so much food. I had soup as a started, risotto for my main dish, and Mocha cake for dessert. I didn't eat anything else the whole day because I was so full. They are so kind. Yesterday was sad because I had to say goodbye to them for the last time. It makes me realize how limited my time is becoming here in my home away from home and how my days are filled with more and more "lasts". I am excited to come home, but it's bittersweet. Last night I went to the Beltane Fire Festival with Amy, Riley,  and Lauren. It was a very unique experience. The festival is to celebrate the begging of summer and fertility. There was some nakedness and a lot of fire. It was really cool though how they dances with fire and the effects they used. It seemed almost demonic at some points, but it was  an experience. This week we also had a meeting for our reentry into the United States. It was a very emotional meeting and we all cried together. I have been saying I can't wait to come home, but I didn't realize what they pointed out that night. That indeed I have changed and I might not fit into my old life exactly the way I left it. It's kind of scary to think about.
Bicycle Tree

Amy, Riley, Lauren and I at the festival

Our Assistant Resident Director put us through a visualization and it was tough. He walked us through when we first started applying for this program until three weeks after when we get home and will probably want to come back. The hardest part that hit me is when we ride away in that taxi and look back at the house that has become our home for the last time, when we land in the states to get off the plane and our journey is officially over with study abroad, and when we wake up that first morning at home in our beds, no longer in our rooms at Dalkeith, Scotland. It is going to be so hard to let go of this journey and I didn't realize it until that meeting. It hard to think I might not ever return here, to my home away from home, and that my time pasted far quicker than I wanted it too here, but I can spend a lifetime knowing I have studied abroad, I lived in Scotland, and I made some amazing memories. I learned so many lessons, made so many friends and although I am leaving to go home to my family what I didn't realize is I will be leaving a family I have made here. It's going to be an emotional last week here in Dalkeith. I leave to spend the weekend in Ireland with Lauren today and I am very excited. It will be a great last trip to put an end to an amazing and exhausting semester of traveling. Can't believe in 8 days I will be home. I miss you all and see you very, very, soon.

Love and Cheers!


Monday, April 21, 2014

18 days till home. 18 days till I say goodbye.

Chef Henry and I
I could not have asked for more beautiful weather this last week in Scotland. It didn't rain the whole week and that's rare being that it normally rains at least once a day here, even if it's just for a couple of minutes. Another shocking realization hit today, I have 18 short days left here in this beautiful country with some amazing friends! However 18 days also means the time until I board a plane and see home. 18 days until I see my friends and family whom I love and miss dearly. To sum up this last week lets start with Henry's chocolate making class on Tuesday night. Henry taught a group of us how to make different chocolates and fillings. I worked on a giant
Chef's in the making. Riley and I. 
chocolate egg most of the night, but sadly it ended tragically and my egg is no longer with us. I made two halves to the egg and Henry told me to glue them together using the chocolate on the stove. I put the chocolate on and it started melting my chocolate egg and it broke into pieces in my hands, so to comfort myself about the loss I ate it. Henry them taught us how to make swans out of apples and melons. Riley and I had a fun night, but I ate way to much sugar. I also went on a nature walk around the estate with a group of people and Cameron, the man who looks over the estate grounds. He showed up an area on the estate where you can still see trenches that were from World War I. He told us that during the war 30,000 men were slaughtered and buried on the grounds and that they still run into graves frequently. They leave the bodies where they lay and go on about their business. One more reason of why I love this estate and how much history lies in the area. Also another reason to add to why this place is so haunted. Patty our Resident Director and her wife Nat hosted a crisp(chip) night in their flat this week as well, the only area in the palace I had not seen. Crisps here come in all sorts of unique flavors, so they bought a ton along with some drinks. We all sat around visiting and munching. They also have one of the most famous and beautiful fire places in their flat. It was made by  a famous woodworker that only ever worked with marble when he made this fire place.
Beautiful fireplace
It was a nice break away from writing papers because that has been a huge part of this last week. I am proud to say however that I have the rest of one paper to finish standing between me and the end of the semester. Yay! Kyra and I decided to get oout of the house on Friday and take a walk around the estate and around the river. I was wearing shorts and although I know it's not nearly as warm as back home, that's still really warm for Scotland! After our walk I went to Blacksmith's with Riley and ate dinner. I am pretty sure the staff just knows our orders without even having to ask, we go in there a ridiculous amount. We sat there for 3 hours just talking. I am going to miss my friends so much when we leave and it will be one of the most difficult things to let go of, but it's also heart-warming to know I have made life long friends from this experience and my time here. On Saturday Kyra and I went to North Berwick Beach. It was absolutely stunning and we walked around for 3 hours. Things are winding down here at the palace and everyone is getting anxious to go home, but sad
Walking on the estate.
to leave at the same time. We have our big group trip to the Highlands this weekend and I cannot wait. Everyone I have talked to says the Highlands was their favorite part of Scotland and it is absolutely beautiful. I have seen pictures and I just can't wait to see it with my own eyes, breath the air, and step foot in the beauty. My last weekend over seas will consist of going to Ireland with my friend and roommate Lauren. We will be doing a tour and seeing all the big tourist spots and I am most excited for the Cliffs of Moher and to here the song Galway Girl played in an Irish Pub. That song melts my heart every time. Gosh here I am already talking about my last weekends here, time has just whizzed by. It was so strange to not be home celebrating Easter with my family. At the end of the day family is the most important thing in my life and they have and will be there to support me through everything I do in life. I got to Skype them, so it was nice to see them on the
North Berwick Beach
holiday. Over the weekend there was a horse show on the estate. I felt right at home with all the horses and trailers in the area. It reminded me of summer and how much I can't wait to go to shows with my Dad this summer or to just simply ride my horse down that old dirt road again. You never realize the simple things you'll miss when you're gone like your Mom's home cooked meals, the smell of home, or the way the grass rustles in the warm spring air. Being in Scotland has made me see a part of the world I hadn't before and showed me a side of myself I never knew either. This trip helped me in so many ways I never knew it would or could. I just love this feeling Scotland has given me of life. From this point on I plan to take ever opportunity presented to me that will help me grow as a person. It makes me see that dreams and goals are obtainable with
Kyra and I at North Berwick Beach.
enough hard work and determination. I cannot wait to see my family on the day I fly into Cedar Rapids Airport, but at the same time I will be sad to leave my little family I have made here in this land I love. It's heartbreaking to think I might ever return to this country, but reassuring knowing I've been here and got everything I wanted from the experience. It's crazy to think that only a week later 5 new girls who are complete strangers to one another will be arriving in Scotland, lugging their suitcase up the stairs, and opening the door to what was once our room, but will then be theirs for the summer. They will begin this journey being unsure of what the next few months will hold just like we did all those weeks ago. They will make their own memories here, find their best friends, and find themselves through this experience. It's not quite time to pass on the torch to them yet, but I hope they let this journey change their lives like it has forever changed mine. It will be a very emotional filled day, but reassuring knowing I will be truly going home. They always say home is where the heart is and I believe this is true. Even though life takes us on all this different paths, love will always lead us home. As to my friends and family I miss you all so much and am thinking of you daily. I will see you all very soon and I can't wait to have an amazing summer back in Iowa! Much love.

I'll really miss these beautiful skies in Scotland, where the day meets the night.  

These four will always be my second family, the people I saw the world with, and my soul mates. We were quadrupling last night.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Little bit of this, little bit of that.

Myself at Melrose Abbey.
Today is April 12th? I feel like I just got home from spring break and April had just started. Now it's close to being half over and I leave in a slim  27 days. As much as I love it here in Scotland and living with my friends, as time passes I find myself missing home more. Home, small town Iowa, a place most of us couldn't wait to get out of and go to college. The older I get the more I realized how lucky I was to grow up in small town Iowa, where the summer's are hot and the fields are endless. Especially having lived in a city now for 2 months I cant wait to be home where the only noises you here are the rustling of the trees, the cows mooing, and the gravel hitting a car as it drives by. It's simple things like this, even noises or therefore the lack of noise, that I miss. Even the air, I miss the smell of home. I've been using public transportation for too long now, I can't wait to drive my car down those back roads with my dogs in the passenger seat. The last two weeks have been busy and the next four weeks before I come home are filled with trips, fitting in last minute activities, and lots of paper
Abbotsford, Sir Walter Scott's home.

Lauren, Kyra, and I at Abbotsford. 
writing as the end of the semester nears. So to start off last weekend we went to Bowhill, Melrose Abbey, and Sir Walter Scott's home. Bowhill is one of the Duke's homes and there are pieces that were moved from Dalkeith to the home. Such as the grand fireplace that used to be in Marble Hall was moved to Bowhill. It's engraved with a giant "A" for Anne Buccleuch who had Dalkeith Palace remolded. Sir Walter Scott was a famous writer in Scotland, who was the first to have his work sold internationally. His home had beautiful architecture and was in a very scenic area. He also was a collector, so his home was filled with antiques. The day we went and toured all of these houses the bus ride was incredibly bumpy a lot of people weren't feeling to well from the motion. I even ended up taking some Dramamine and woah did it knock me out. At Bowhill I was basically a zombie along with Kyra. Everytime we got on the bus I fell asleep, my friends found it quite comical. We also went to some clubs last weekend and danced the night away. We met two Danish girls whom we
Riley and I at Blacksmith's.

Lauren and I at Blacksmith's
became fast friends with and also met some guys who were in town for a bachelor party or as they call it here a "stag party". They were hilarious and very entertaining. On Friday night this weekend we went to our second rugby game to cheer on Edinburgh or as they say it at the rugby games EDINBRAAAA! It was a good time, but it was very cold. Edinburgh lost this time, so it was kind of a bummer. Today we went to Incohlm Abbey in the Firth of Forth of Scotland. We had to take a boat out to the island. First things first. The island had the largest seagull population I had ever seen. With my fear of birds it
Me wearing one of the masks from the Bachelor Party. The Duke of Edinburgh.
was quite terrifying. They were screeching at me and it was almost to much to handle. Kyra and I ended up being the only two who made it off the island without being pooped on. Champs! The abbey on the island was a medieval abbey from back in the day that was eventually used for military purposes. The abbey is the most well preserved one in Scotland. It was really quite beautiful. Kyra and I walked the beaches and collected as many pieces of sea glass as we could. The water was so blue there and I swear the views here will never get old.
Ladies and I at the rugby match.

Rugby game! Go Edinburgh! 
When we got back to Edinburgh we went to a restaurant called Garfunkles. I would recommend it to anyone who is in Scotland and is missing American food like I am! I had a burger and it was delicious. I have barley ate meat sine I've been here mainly because it just freaks me out. Tomorrow is a paper writing day. I only have three more papers to write between me and the end of semester then I am home free and I want to have all of them done before we go to the Highlands on the 24th. I have a start
Bridge by Incholm Abbey. 

Incohlm Abbey

View of the sea.

Kyra, Trevor, Amy and I at Incohlm Abbey.
on all of them, but hopefully tomorrow I will be able to finish two of them. I am exhausted after my day today of walking all over an island, but when I think about it I really have never felt well rested since I've been here. We are always on the go and traveling takes a lot out of a person. It's been worth 3 months of being tired, but it will be nice to get well rested back home in my own bed. Next weekend is my last weekend in Edinburgh and at the house, how sad is that. It's getting to the point where we can say, "hey this will be our last time here or our last time doing this". As sad as it makes me, it also makes me excited because it's one day closer to when I see everyone back in the states again. The other two weekends I have left here will be spent in the Highlands and Ireland. Both of which I am very excited for. Then it will be time to come home. I know it will be very emotional to leave, but I can tell I will be ready in a sense. I am really ready to see all my friends, family, and animals back home. I really am starting to miss everyone and it's nice to know people are missing me too. It makes you realize how loved you really are and how many people you care about having in your life when you do something like study abroad or are gone for an extended amount of time. I keep getting little reminders everywhere I go here of home. When I was in the kitchen the other day a man was out cutting the lawn and it reminded me of summer days at my house when my mom is out cutting the lawn and I'm riding my horse. Today on the bus a man's dog was so excited because he got a new toy and it kept looking at me with it's big brown eyes and all I could think about was how much I miss my puppies Stella and Shadow back home. I don't want to rush they days away here though because I am still a lot of fun and seeing so many amazing sights. The time is passing fast enough as it is. Sometimes I think about it and I can't believe I really did this, I really studied abroad. I worked my butt off and saved the money up to do it. It had been a dream of mine forever and I made it happen. It just shows me that you can achieve any goal you set your mind to. I have great family and friends who have supported me through this journey and for that I am forever thankful. Can't wait to see everyone back home, see you all very soon!

Much love and cheers!


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

An Adventure with My Big Sis

Always together, never apart. Maybe in distance, but never in heart.
What a whirlwind it has been since I have last posted! Well the last week of school before spring break was filled with packing, last minute homework, and excitement. My sister arrived on the 19th, so two days before spring break. I was so happy to see her I cried, it was nice to have a sense of home. Even though I see Scotland as my home parts of my heart are with my loved ones back at my home in the states. We left early that Friday on a train headed to London. We stayed with my grandfather's friends wife's brother and his wife. Woah that was a mouthful, hope you can still follow after that! Anyway, their names are Ginny and Gordon and they are absolutely amazing people. He can't hear what you are saying half of the time, but is very intelligent and talkative. Ginny is very quick witted, hilarious, and walks so fast everywhere. Together they make quite the entertaining and endearing couple. They are always making cracks at each other. They fed us every meal the two days we were there. It was so nice to have home cooked meals. It's one of the biggest things I cannot wait for back home in the states. The first day we got to London Ginny and Gordon took us to the Natural History Museum. It was huge and it would take weeks to get through the whole thing.
Meet Gordon and Ginny!
Got flowers for Ginny. She has tons around her house.

Eye during the day and at night.
We mainly looked at the dinosaur and mammals exhibits and it was really intriguing. That night we went to a little bakery where I had the best chocolate meringue! Meringue has become my weakness since I've been here. The rest of the night we ate dinner with Gordon and Ginny and just talked to them about their lives. Gordon is so intelligent and knows so much about the United States it's incredible. On Saturday we went with Ginny around the neighborhood. Ginny took us to an apartment he rents out, it was lovely and I would love live in a place like that. She showed us Camedon Passage which is a market area by their home, where Gordon's antique shop is. It was such a bustling and alive little area, filled with some amazing shops. Katie and I enjoyed looking and browsing while we ate some frozen yogurt along the way. That night we ate dinner with Ginny, Gordon, and Ginnny's son Steve and his family. They were all so kind. After
Our hotel in Wales.
we went to ride the London Eye. It was the second time I had rode it, but this time it was at night, so it was just as amazing as the first time.  I really feel like I I have more respect and appreciation of London now than after the first time I went. This time it was much more relaxing and I was able to see it through locals eyes, the last time we were just rushing to fit everything into the weekend. Katie and I had a train to Wales on Sunday morning. We were really sad to leave Ginny and Gordon after all the hospitality they had shown us for the time we spent there. I think more than anything this trip has shown me how truly amazing people are all over the world. I am
The beautiful Tenby.
often quick to judge someone or always see the negative in someone, but I never really open my eyes to see how many beautiful souls roam the earth's surface, how many enriching people I am surrounded by daily without even noticing it. After Gordon dropped us off at the train station we had a four hour train ride to Tenby. We arrived in Tenby, got off the train, and just started walking. We didn't really know where our hotel was, only that Tenby wasn't a very big town, so we had to find it eventually, right?! Well that didn't last long because toting a suitcase up a hill while trying to find your destination isn't a fun time. So a cab just happened to drive by and we wrote the number down and called. They came and got us and I'm glad we did that because our hotel was  a little ways out of town, so I don't think we would have found it just by wondering around. Once we to Hammomds Park we met Peter, who runs
St. Catherine's Island
the bed and breakfast. He was very kind and fun to talk to. The first night we were there we wandered into town and ate at a nice restaurant called The Qube. Our waiter was very happy and nice. I had a blue cheese pasta dish with garlic bread and it was heaven. The rest of the time we were in Wales we explored the town of Tenby and all it's little shops. The town still has standing stone walls that were built around it in the 13th century. There is the 5 Archers Gate and it used to be the main entrance to the town before the town outgrew its walls. The arches mean friendship. There is a North and a South beach in Tenby, both of which we walked all along and watched some surfers out in the water. There is a island called St. Catherine's Island right off of Tenby's coast. There is a war armory on the island and it is no longer open to the public. On the same island there is an arch that cuts through the island. A local told me that legends says if you swim through the ark you will see a mermaid. Sad to say I didn't get the chance to test this theory out because the waves looked pretty rough and I wasn't going to risk it. We also visited Castle Hill in Tenby which has the remains of an old castle and some amazing views of the ocean and town.
First day there was a bit windy.

Another view of Tenby.
Katie and I decided we wanted to rent a car while we were in Tenby so we could explore some other areas of Wales and visit some castles. Katie had to drive because you have to be at least 25 to drive a rental car in Wales. She had a minor panic attack, she yelled at me when I was telling her what to do and then yelled at me when I wasn't helping. There was also this constant beeping in the background so we didn't know what  was wrong, turns out we were driving with the parking break on. Opps! All the road signs in Wales are is Welsh first and English second so that confusing. We had a fun time
Pembroke Castle
trying to pronounce them in Welsh, made for entertainment. The first day we had our car we went to visit Pembroke and Manobier Castles. They were very neat, the stairs in those castles went about straight up! It was a little scary. When we were in the little town of Manobier the roads were only big enough to fit about one car. We were going up a hill and ran into a bus coming from the other direction. I'm sure Katie and I 's faces were priceless. We had to drive the car up onto the sidewalk so the bus could get through. It's funny to look back on our memories of driving on the opposite road and laugh at our predicaments. Overall I thought we did well, and myself as the navigator using a paper map, no technology, to get us around the country side! Dad would be so proud! One night we went to a local tavern and heard some live music, they played Backstreet Boys at our request, so funny! Our last day in Wales we went up to a town called
South Beach in Tenby.
Nolton to ride horses on the beach. The horses we road were Irish Cobs. It's a breed of draft horse and their legs are feathered so it looks like they're wearing bell bottom pants. Our horses were Taro and Barney. Riding horses on the beach has always been something I have wanted to do and I'm glad to say I can check it off my bucket list. It was fun running through the waves on the back of a horse with beautiful scenery surrounding us. Wales was a beautiful place and had such amazing people. I will never forget it for that. It's a land I would really enjoy going back to one day. It was nice to get away from school and where I live and take an adventure with my sister, but it also was really nice  to come back home. Crazy how I call this place in Scotland home now, but it really is. On Saturday we went to a Celtic Football Club game in Glasgow. It was fun and a great atmosphere. Katie and I enjoyed the man and his hilarious comments about the game. Celtic tied the game to end the day and I fell down the stairs to end mine. Katie thought it was very entertaining. I was a bit embarrassed, but all a person can do is laugh at themselves in those situations. Sunday was the last full day Katie was here. We just stayed in Dalkeith, walked around the estate, and watched some 90's movies.
Katie and I on our beach walk.
Only the best ones of course. My 3 best friends got back to the house that night and we all jumped and screamed. I missed them so much in only a week and it was so good to see them. It finally felt like home when we were all back together again. We all visited and talked about our breaks and laughed at some of the stories there were. Katie left Monday morning and a part of me felt like I should be leaving to go home with her. It was hard to say goodbye, but I know in just a short month I will be leaving Scotland to fly home. It makes me so sad to think about it, but also really excited to see everyone back home. I still have so much I want to do here in Scotland, so the time I have left will be busy. My time is limited so I plan to have a blast with my best friends the last month I am here and make memories to last a lifetime.     
Celtic Game
Overall spring break was a success and I really enjoyed the time I got to spend with my sister. We some memories that I will forever treasure from this spring break. I'll add them to my collection of all my other memories from the time I have spent here in the U.K. I thought in the beginning 3 and 1/2 months was such a long time, but it has passed so fast. I can't believe I only have a month left when I still have so much to do. The day I say goodbye to Scotland will be so difficult, but also exciting knowing I will see my family in 12 hours. Enough about that, that time will be here soon enough! Best wishes to everyone back home, I'm missing you all.
Laugh every day.

Much Love and Cheers,