Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Edinburgh Bound

Greetings, Salutations, Howdy, Salaam: Well, besides being lazy and slightly bored (yet relaxed) at times over the last month, things have been coming together for my imminent departure to Scotland. Despite the many little things that I need to take care of, I am really looking forward to living in Scotland for 4 months, getting to know a new city, and studying my ass off.

After a bit of a long hassle, I finally got my visa to the UK. In fact, the process for getting the visa itself was rather quick. I just had to wait about 3 weeks to get a letter of acceptance from the University of Edinburgh, which I needed to provide the UK consulate for the Visa. Because that took so long, I actually ended up having to apply for the visa twice, costing me over $200. Not cool.

In other news, I'll be putting my car up for sale shortly. I won't really need a car for the next 2 years, and I could use the cash. I think that my stipend, $1,000 Euros/month, will be fine for living far from extravagantly, but in order to do some inevitable travelling, I'll make handy use of that car money.

Speaking of travelling, my greedy little mind is already thinking about what I want to do next summer. I have about 3 months off, between the end of semester 2 in Lund, Sweden, and the beginning of semester 3, in Ghent, Belgium. I'm not trying to plan it too much at this point, but I have 3 or 4 general ideas that I probably will attempt.

First, I'd like to spend one of those months between Spain and Morocco. Rehash some Spanish for a few weeks. If timing works, stay with Kath & Peter if they trade houses in Barcelona. Then hopefully travel to Fez, Tangier, Marrakesh, and Cassablanca in Morocco. Running of the Bulls?

Second, I'd like to spend a month between Egypt and Jordan. Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor, maybe some other places. Jordan just seems like a really interesting place from what I've read. I wouldn't mind going to Egypt or Morocco in August, for Ramadan. It was an incredible experience in Dubai, it would be really interesting to see it elsewhere, in other more low key Muslim countries.

Third. Go to India for a month. Round trip flights are quite cheap from London. Take a guess why.

Fourth, if I don't do 3, go to Eastern Europe for a month. Romania and Bulgaria are the two places I have the most interest in going.

Well crap, maybe I should start learning a few Arabic phrases if I do 1 & 2. Speaking of languages, I have been lightly reviewing some Swedish, and will continue to do so until I get there this coming January. Mostly through this online program called LiveMocha. So, I can count to 10, say the days of the week, and maybe few basic phrases. Real conversation pieces, if you ask me. No doubt, my pronunciation is horrendous.

Oh, and I bought my plane ticket to the UK. I'll be coming home for Christmas. I leave September 1st, land in London, and return on Dec 22nd. I still have to find my way to Edinburgh, probably by train. American Airlines does not fly to Edinburgh anyways, and I wanted the airline miles so I went with them (they had a good price too). I haven't booked a flight yet to Sweden for late December or early January, but may shortly here. I have found that if I go through Iceland, I can get a one-way for about $450, which is not bad. I also found a ridiculous way to get there for free on airline miles, by flying to Spain first (and then paying for a RyanAir fare from Barcelona-Sweden), but leaving from an airport in Los Angeles, hmmm.....

Other than that, I dropped a whopping $600 on 3 textbooks for classes. Good friggin thing I don't think I'll need any more textbooks for the rest of the program.

Housing seems to be a bit of an issue. Looks like I'll probably stay at a hostel for a week or so while trying to find a room in an apartment off the internet & advertisements. I applied for University housing, but since my admittance was so late, and I'm only there one semester, it appears I have not one trump card over a single soul there.

Oh, and I found out there are about 24 or so people in this program. But only 12 of us are starting in Edinburgh together. Everyone is from different countries. Malaysia, Iran, China, Argentina, Romania, Australia, Ethiopia, to name a few. I am the only one from the US. Interestingly (I wonder if by coincidence or not) of the 12 starting in Edinburgh, basically all except 1 of the Spanish speakers were grouped together, 2 from Mexico, 1 from Argentina, and 1 from Colombia. So, I'm sure they will want to speak English since of course they are in the UK, but hey, maybe I can maintain my Spanish just a little with them, just maybe.

Other than that, I have been reviewing some old engineering textbooks (ahhhhhhhhhh!), and began studying one of the fire protection books I bought. General nerd stuff. And, getting all the little details sorted out for travelling to Edinburgh (and there are alot...).

I leave you with a few entertaining photos:

Goat milking like it's my job:

Ridge hike (roughly 5 miles from the booming metropolis of 92 people, Ventucopa, CA):

The blogs might keep coming...for 2 more years...yikes!

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