Leaving for Edinburgh in exactly 4 days. In line with my ability to think things are not going that smoothly, when in fact they are going fantastically, I secured an apartment in Edinburgh today, contrary to my recent resignation to the fact that I would probably be searching for place when I got there.
I actually posted an ad on the big craigslist type website in Edinburgh & the UK, called GumTree, saying I needed a room for 4 months in a flat near the University. Amazingly, within a few hours, two people had emailed me about vacancies that fit my description of what I needed.
Promptly, I was able to set up a call with one of them. They gave me their number and I called using Skype to their home phone (8 hours ahead). I was not really sure who or what to expect, and I didn't really expect what happened, but it appears all will work out fine. I didn't ask them their life story, but it seems as though an old retired guy owns one ground floor apartment in a 6 apartment flat in a quiet neighborhood near the University campus. He basically said he is rarely there, and does not sleep there. He is rehabbing it up a bit as well, so I told him I was ok with the fact that he had some guy that would be doing work for a few weeks in September. It's all furnished as well. Funny oddities being that when I told him I was going there to study fire protection engineering, he said he was a retired fire fighter. And his favorite sport is golf. Not your typical roomate, but I could care less, it makes it even more entertaining. At least he is from Scotland, so I can get a good perspective on things in Soctland & Edinburgh and probably learn a lot more than just living with other international students. He even offered to pick me up at the train station when I arrive. Not bad. The apartment is only a 25 minute walk to the center of Edinburgh, where the Castle and all the other good stuff is.
It does not feel like I am going to be gone that long. In fact, I come back Dec 22nd for a week or two, so that's less than 4 months in Scotland. The South America trip lasted a good 5 months. The semester in Lund, Sweden, will last much longer, starting late January and going all the way until early June, and I likely won't come home until the following Christmas.
People keep bombarding me with their thoughts on Scotland. For example, Haggis is one of the world's most awful foods. And, listening to someone from Scotland speak English might as well be listening to someone speak Swahili. Still trying to go in without any preconceived notions, however.
I've been monitoring the soccer schedule in the UK and hope to get to go to a few games. The English soccer league, the Premier League, recently started their season, and I'd love to get to a game of one of the bigger teams, such as Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, or Liverpool (which also gives me a reason to travel to some other cities). There are also country qualifying games for the EuroCup in 2012. Spain plays Scotland in October, in Glasgow, so I'd like to check out that game. Of course, Scotland is a bit of a joke of a soccer team, but that's okay. Maybe I can find a kilt and wear it to the game...haha!
The great thing about securing an apartment now is that I have a good 10 or more days before the semester starts to relax, get adjusted to the city, work out the details like getting a phone, and hopefully explore a bit. In early September, if I can, I'd like to try to go to the Scottish Highlands, while the weather is still decent. Otherwise, I'm hoping to try to meet some people here and there, probably through Rotaract and Couchsurfing. I am sure, however, that I will be meeting plenty of other international postgraduate students over the course of the semester. And as I experienced in South America, it's just plain easy being a foreigner, haha.
I'm also looking forward to seeing my friend Lautaro, one of the couchsurfers whose place I stayed at on my several trips to Buenos Aires. He moved to France for about a year for work, and is planning on visiting Edinburgh. I still remember playing some soccer & frisbee golf, brewing beer once, making meals, meeting people from many other countries at his place, and him helping me out immensely when I lost my bank card... Also, a couchsurfer I hosted while in Chicago from Sweden, Johan, who is now living in the UK (Birmingham & then York), so we will certainly meet up at least once.
Finally started packing, 4 days before departure. I'm not exactly too sure what to bring, it's quite the luxury bringing more than just 4 shirts and a pair or two of jeans along. I'll be hauling along the same red backpack as earlier this year, but also an additional suitcase. I'll be sure to pack along lots of sweater type things, given the drizzly & damp Edinburgh climate. Unfortunately I have 4 massive textbooks to lug, weighing over 25 pounds! I'm flying American, so the first bag is free up to 50 lbs, then the second is $50 up to 50 lbs. That seems like plenty. Not worried.
I leave you again with bay area photos:
Stuffing ourselves in SF Chinatown (photo not posed...., photographer just has an uncanny knack for catching people at perfectly timed moments such as these... ok, I lied, too bad):
Going to a Giant's game:
Saying goodbye to Sabrina (couchsurfer) with Erik, before she goes back to Germany:
Hiking in Marin Headlands:
WWII Battery on the Marin Headland coast:
And scanned some funny family photos in....
An exceptional photo of Dad & Aunt Jean:
Too cool for school:
Stylish, Cool, Calm, Fanny packs, shades:
Gramps during WWII:
This is a good photo:
A showcase of wedding wear from the fantastic four from the early 90s:
An aspiring 49er:
Wildman (I realize this joke is very hypocritical! haha!)
Foggy Pacifica falling into the ocean: