These past two weeks have gone by so fast and so slow at the same time that it's hard to keep track of what I'm doing! I never thought that being without a workaholic routine would be so hard for me. I don't know what to do with myself on weekends when I'm so used to working at least 8 hours a day, 7 days a week. This concept of "free-time" is so foreign to me! Another issue I'm having is the fact that I can't stand having to live via an itinerary everyday, seeing as we have been on one for the past two weeks. I don't like having to consult a piece of paper everyday to check my schedule and make sure I'm not late for something or having the past two weeks completely planned out for me without any time to do what I want to. I'm just ready for a schedule and routine so I can plan things I want to do around them, and be able to just know what class is when and what room it's in because I've gotten used to going there every week. Itineraries make me feel touristy too, which I'm trying my best not to be while I live in London.
So far one of my favorite moments in London was food shopping at Whole Foods and having a British woman tell me my $15 Target rain boots were "quite unique" and she'd like to know where I got them from. It's good to know the cheap things in my closet can get me recognition too! Clothing has been a bit of a problem/hassle for me. I am not used to having to be fashionable on a daily basis. It's just not me! I feel like the section of town we're in forces you in some ways to have to dress up to be able to walk out the door without getting a huge number of stares. I miss the days of college life where you could be completely normal wearing a hoodie and jeans to class! I know fashionable does not coincide with expensive all the time, but in the UK with the exchange rate I'm facing, clothing I would normally buy without looking at the price tag is expensive for me! Guess I'll just have to keep my $15 rain boots with me to stay "unique".
I didn't realize that the concept of driving on the other side of the road applied to walking too. One thing a lot of the people on the program have mentioned and experienced is people walking into them. I have had friends who have studied in London before who said the same thing and that they just got used to it because it always happened to them when they went out. It is really hard to change your natural tendency to walk on the right though! I tried a few times to walk on the left and then I just end up running into the tourists who don't know any better either. I'm amused how they have painted on the street which way I should look for traffic before crossing. It's actually really helpful though, and I get confused when it's not there which way I should look! Apparently they have had trouble in London with tourists/foreigners who come there and don't know which side to look on and end up getting hit by cars. It was interesting that one of the tours I went on noted that all the places where it is still driving on the left were all former British colonies. I guess when the colonial rule ended not everything the British brought to the nations left with them!
We just got back from a 4-day visit to Edinburgh, Scotland! It was an absolutely gorgeous city! Everything was so old. I found James' tartan and mine as well and got these great scarves with the tartan on them. I was surprised at the number of clans the Scottish have, there are even "denominations" of clans depending upon where the clan originated from. For example, James' clan, Campbell, has somewhere around six or seven different denominations, all with slightly different tartans. It took me awhile to find Shaw, which is my grandmother's mother's clan, but at the last minute I found it in a small shop. I took over 230 pictures in Edinburgh and most of them came out really well. My favorite part was definitely climbing to the top of Calton Hill where the National Monument sits. The views were jaw-dropping and the monument was a lot larger than I thought it was. One of the kids on the program had to help me up onto it since my legs are so short! Of course, I went to Edinburgh Castle too! I didn't realize how the castle is like a city within itself. There were so many buildings inside the castle walls! I can see how it was a great vantage point for defense in past times, since it sits on top of a large hill and the rest of the city sits in the valley of it. I had some difficultly with the linguistics of Scottish language, especially at the bars there. It took me five tries before I could tell the bartender was asking me "Do you want a glass?" Slightly embarrassing, but at the same time it went to show me how even knowing English won't get you by everywhere, even where English is spoken! I think my feet are ready for rest now after that trip because I walked everywhere it seemed. I also learned to look what times shop open in areas I visit. I got up early on Thursday thinking I'd get some souvenir shopping done before I had to be at the European Parliament building and found that no stores other than places to get food would be opening until 9/9:30am. So, I did a lap down Prince Street and up the Royal Mile thinking I'd find something, and wound up right back on Prince Street at 9:00 when some stores finally opened. Stores seem to close earlier in Scotland as well as England too, compared to the US. I think part of it is less department type stores, but I think its part of the culture as well too, though I don't know how anyone gets their Christmas shopping done when stores close at 7pm.
Now that I'm back in London I feel like it's time to settle down and get schoolwork done and at the same time get my side trips planned before prices get outrageous. I'm realizing that I really won't be here for very long and it's going to be difficult balancing people coming to see me to see London and me wanting to go to other countries in order to explore Europe. In addition to all that, there are all the day trips outside London to Stonehenge, Bathe, etc. that I want to take too! I'm hoping I'll find a balance for everything before time runs out.My major goal is to get to Northern Ireland to get a feel for the area and maybe do some interviews for my dissertation. I think it will be a different king of side trip to go to an area that is so rich in political conflict as history. I am really looking forward to taking a black taxi tour, which is a tour of the political murals which the area is well known for by a local who lived during some of the worst times of the Troubles. Plus, Belfast is a city that isn't raft with tourists yet, so it will definitely be a different kind of experience than visiting somewhere like Rome or Paris.
It's hard for me being one of the few people in the program that has a significant other at home. I've found my relationship requires more work with me being abroad, which I expected, but I wasn't fully prepared for it I think. There are so many things I'm experiencing that part of me feels they'd be that much better if James was here experiencing them with me. I don't want to be that girl that cries in her room (and so far that only happened the first few days when I was sleep deprived and sick) but at the same time I have this extra thing I have to work on here that few others have to worry about. They get to explore and have time for other things like sleep, while I have to make sure I write emails and make phone calls to stay in touch and connected. I know in the end things will be okay and we'll be stronger for this but I think sometimes I can't fully be excited about London because I feel like part of me is missing here. Once the routine kicks in I'm sure things will get easier since I won't have so much down time, but right now there is a lot of time to think and dwell on things that probably won't be as big of a deal when I look back on them later.
We find out about our internships (finally!) on Monday, and I can't wait to know where I'll be working! I really hope it is somewhere that will be able to aide me with my dissertation paper and has resources (people/written) that will help me focus and be engaged in British politics. It wouldn't hurt if my internship will help me understand my class material either, and maybe aide with an essay or two! We'll see on Monday I guess... until then!