"Welcome to Scotland. Birthplace of the Enlightenment."
Such was my introduction to Scotland at the Edinburgh Airport as I stepped off the plane from London. I think this is a bit misleading for the average tourist and should say instead 'Welcome to Scotland. Home of killer winds and schizophrenic weather.' But what do I know about strategic marketing?
I landed in Edinburgh around 12:30 on the 9th, took the Airlink bus to the city centre (Waverly bridge) for 3 pounds (which was in itself quite amazing to me, as tickets from Heathrow to Oxford city centre were 18 pounds). I whipped out my directions and started the trek up to the Castle Rock Hostel. Things were progressing well until I got to step three on my directions, which said to proceed up the News Steps. Well, these steps turn out to be 10 flight of narrow, winding steps leading up to the Royal Mile. I would have to climb these carrying my 10 kilo backpack, 19 kilo duffel bag, and 22 kilo suitcase. I had made it up three flights when some construction workers coming down the other side stopped and offered to help. Luckily, I was able to push aside my pride and accepted their offer. It probably would have taken me twenty minutes to get up the steps without them. Afterwards, I lugged my baggage up towards Edinburgh Castle, took a left on Johnston Terrace, and found the Castle Rock Hostel.
The hostel itself was enormous. I checked in, placed my large bag in the luggage room, and then relaxed in the Posh Lounge while I waited for my bed to be cleaned. In addition to the Posh Lounge, the bottom floor of the hostel contained a kitchen, Fun Lounge (boasting a pool table, jukebox, many couches, and TV), and an internet room (with two computers). An hour after arrival I was assigned to the 'Mr. Men' room, a 14 bed mixed dormitory that, while I was there, was home for four Aussies and three other Americans. It is always a bit awkward entering into the hostel environment as there are some people who want to talk to you and hear your life story, while there are others who would rather not interact with anyone at all. The Aussies and I exchanged pleasantries, but the other Americans were rather standoffish and decided that they would much rather discuss how wasted they were going to get that night.
By this point I had been up for over 24 hours and was starting to lose my grip reality (as evidenced by the fact that I was barely able to construct a grammtically correct email to my parents to let them know that I had arrived safe and sound) so I retired to bed. The entire building had no central heating and the one radiator in the room was on the opposite side of the room from me, but I was so tired that I really didn't notice how cold it was. I was rudely awoken at 530am by one of the Aussies who had stumbled in drunk and realized that she had a train to catch in 45 minutes. She proceeded to be as loud as possible in packing and managed to wake everyone in our room up. After she had left, I lay in bed until 9, hoping that I would be able to fall asleep again. Unfortunately, this was not the case, and so I packed my things up, sent a couple of emails, found out that I have been chosen as an alternate for the Department of State's summer internship program, and checked out.
According to mapquest, 23 Warrender Park Crescent (the office for the Resident Assistants) was 1.4 miles from the hostel. An easy walk or so I thought. Unfortunately, this distance combined with steeps hills, several wrong turns, and almost 100 lbs of luggage meant that it turned into the walk from hell. By the time I made it to Warrender Park Crescent, I thought that I was going to have to go to the hospital to get my back re-aligned.
After checking-in, the RA took me to my flat at 102 Warrender Park Road, one street over from the Crescent and approximately 1 mile away from the city centre. The building contains 12 flats (I think?) and mine is on the second floor. It is quite nice. We have a kitchen, two bathrooms, and five study-bedrooms. Mine is at the very end of the corridor, has two windows, four mirrors, a wardrobe, a desk, a bookshelf, a set of dresser drawers, a bed, and a bedside table. The only downside is that the bed is right next to the windows and, as the building is quite old, subsequently is exposed to the frigid air that is let in through the window cracks. In addition, the radiator is at the opposite end of the room and operates on an energy-saving timer. In order to get it to operate, you have to push a button underneath the desk, upon which the radiator will turn on and emit heat for about 20 minutes. Unfortunately, this is quite inconvenient at night when I refuse to get up every 20 minutes to turn on the heat.
(As the semester has started and I have no inspiration at the moment, this bulleted list detailing the rest of my time will have to suffice.)
Rest of Saturday:
- Met flatmates, who are all very nice. One is Scottish and a first-year. Two are from the Arcadia program and arrived this semester. And the other is from Texas and has been here since September.
- Bought new cell phone since the last one was in the stolen purse.
- Subway for dinner. (Horrible, I know, but I just wasn't feeling up to cooking that night.)
- Went to orientation for three hours, which consisted of listening a representative rattle off facts about the Uni and the city, taking a guided tour of some of the Uni buildings from a student (very similar to the one that I was given in Oxford, except the guide was not nearly as attractive and very few pubs were pointed out on the way), and then eating the free lunch. Afterwards, I couldn't take any more of the orientation, especially since the rest of the afternoon was to be spent in the lecture theatre listening to the various health and sports representatives give their speeches.
- Went to Blackwells and bought two books that are going to be useful. (It was a wee bit sad going to Blackwells since it is not nearly as big as the one on Broad in Oxford and, obviously, not the original one.) Got stuck in the hurricane-force winds that decided to descend on the city.
-Went to my first class, 'Popular Religion in England, 1000-1500'. It is going to be a seminar-style class and has about ten students. It meets two hours a week on Mondays and looks like it will be quite interesting. Next week I have to give a presentation on ghosts and vampires in the Middle Ages since the theme is the survival of paganism into the Middle Ages. Week three is saints and pilgrimages. Fascinating.
- Matriculated at Old College. I now have an official Uni student card. This may not seem that exciting, but considering that at Oxford all I got was a blank white card that let me into St. Peter's and my oddly coloured Bod card (which was lost in the stolen purse), this was quite a significant event for me. All I have to do is apply to get a new Bod card when I'm in Oxford so that I can finish my SMP research during my three-week long spring break in April.
- Checked out books from the library, which is located in a converted parking garage. It was incredibly strange to leave a library with books because at Oxford we weren't able to take books from St. Peter's or the History Faculty and no one is allowed to remove books from the Bodleian. Unfortunately, the library apparently sensed my hesitation and the alarms decided to go off whenever I tried to leave with all of my books. The security guard librarians (who has ever heard of such a thing?) had to help me walk them through one by one so that they wouldn't set off the alarms. Ugh. I think I'd rather just sit at the library and read the books for all the trouble that was.
-Went to the Opal Lounge with my flat mates for their re-freshers' week rave. Unfortunately, everyone was dressed really posh in their going-out clothes and I was dressed for the rave in a t-shirt and jeans. But next time I will be prepared. It was also my first time taking a cab in Edinburgh. In fact, it was weird to be in a city where I needed to take a cab at all.
- Attended my lecture class 'Medieval Europe 2', which meets for fifty minutes three times a week (T-Th-F), although sometimes the third meeting is replaced by a tutorial. Apparently, the tutorials here are not one-on-one as they are in Oxford, rather they are with nine or ten other students. I'm not a huge fan of that idea, but we shall see how it turns out. The class is basically a repeat of the integral course that I took back at Oxford, but the prof seems nice (he teaches the Popular Religion course as well).
- Met with my Director of Studies. We mainly chatted about the differences between Oxford and Edinburgh, since he not only was at Wolfson but also taught for a spell at the University. It was quite nice. And he reckons that if I manage to get a first, having Oxford and Edinburgh on my CV will secure me a place at Oxford for grad school. Oh well, I can dream, can't I?