Flatmate Fun

In the past two weeks, I planned a few fun meals with my flatmates; although I have been living with the four of them, the five of us have our own class schedules and groups of friends in Edinburgh, and we agreed we needed some Flat 11 time to hang out and catch up!

edinburgh hard rockTwo of my flatmates and I decided to go out for a flatmate dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe on George Street Edinburgh. Zoe, Ingvild, and I had all been to a Hard Rock in our own countries before (Cyprus, Norway, and the U.S.), and we decided it would be fun to have an ‘American’ meal there for our flatmate dinner! I loved my goat cheese chicken salad sandwich and french fries (not ‘chips’, ya’ll)… definitely was a little slice of America for me.
DSCN44422I really enjoyed chatting with Ingvild and Zoe and getting to know them better; we talked about school, family, and friends, and I learned that Ingvild dreams of putting her International Relations degree toward working at the United Nations and that Zoe hope to put her Painting and Fine Arts degree toward pursuing a career in art in NYC and London. Of course, I chimed in that I didn’t know what I want to do with my life after graduation, but that I’m interested in going into education, non-profits, management, marketing, publishing… hey, I’m twenty years old and a career decision is a big one!

DSCN2893_2Also in the past two weeks, I got lunch at a ‘tattie shop’ with Ingvild. (For your American reference, a tattie is a baked potato stuffed with a filling of your choice!) We went to The Baked Potato Shop, right off the Royal Mile on Cockburn Street. The shop’s storefront bears the tagline “Hottie Tattie in Town” and had caught my eye back in September, when I was first getting to know Edinburgh. I had stopped in for a tattie once before I went with Ingvild, and I was excited to introduce her to delicious filled tatties.
On my first trip, I got a tattie filled with spinach salad with kidney beans, olives peppers, which I enjoyed a lot! DSCN4487The picture shows my tattie, which was supposedly small but really was anything but small, as it was chock full of goodness! And on my second trip to The Baked Potato Shop, I chose a tattie filled with a greek salad with feta cheese, which was delicious!! The Baked Potato Shop is offers small, medium, and large potatoes with one or two hot or cold fillings–which include salads, salsas, hummus, hot chili and baked beans! There are a few ‘tattie shops’ in Edinburgh that exclusively sell filled potatoes, but tatties (either mashed potatoes or full baked potatoes) are also a extremely common side dish with Scottish meals. One of the most ‘Scottish’ meals is actually haggis, neeps and tatties–which is haggis, cooked turnips, and mashed potatoes. [As an aside, I have had haggis four times this semester, and I actually do like it.]

Going out for American and Scottish food with my flatmates in the past two weeks has been both delicious and fun!!

 
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Field trip to the National Museum of Scotland

museumDuring my last week of classes at the University of Edinburgh, my Modern Scottish History tutor (the equivalent of a teaching assistant at American colleges and universities) brought my tutorial class to the National Museum of Scotland. Although this museum is less than 5 minutes away from my accommodations of Kincaid’s Court and the admission is free, I had not yet been inside before my tutorial’s trip.

sheepThe National Museum of Scotland houses ‘Scottish antiquities, culture and history’ and is attached to the Royal Museum which has exhibits of science, technology, natural history and world cultures. (I still have not been inside the Royal Museum, but I would like to go during these last two weeks I have here in Edinburgh!) One of the famous exhibits in the National Museum of Scotland is the stuffed body of Dolly the sheep–the first mammal to be cloned by an adult cell. I did not see Dolly during my visit with my class, as we were visiting the Scottish history exhibits, but I’m going to go back to see Dolly soon!

My tutor encouraged my class to explore the “Scotland Transformed” and “Industry and Empire” exhibits during our visit. To name a few things I saw:

DSCN44321. A tartain suit that was probably worn by the English Jacobite Sir John Hynde Cotton.

DSCN44332. The Newcomen atmospheric engine that was invented by Thomas Newcomen in 1712. Thomas Newcomen was an Englishman from Dartmouth in Devon county in England, and his invention contributed to greater successes in the mining industry in Scotland. The engine used steam power to pump water out of coal mines and assisted human labor with mechanical power.
3. Several technological innovations (for spinning and weaving) that were used in the textile industry in Scotland.

DSCN4435After my tutor concluded our official tutorial session in the museum, I walked around the exhibits about Scottish leisure activities. I enjoyed learning more about the custom of tea drinking in Scotland and the development of tea rooms, particularly those in Glasgow that were designed by the accomplished architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh in the early twentieth century. I also learned about some of the traditional Scottish leisure activities, like the Highland games, curling, and horse racing.

I enjoyed my quick, easy, and free trip to the National Museum of Scotland, and I want to go see some of the other exhibits (including Dolly) before I head back to New Jersey!

 
 
 

Happy Thanksgiving in Scotland!

Thanksgiving is an important holiday in America, but in Scotland, Thanksgiving is just another Thursday in November. My American friends and I weren’t willing to let Thanksgiving pass by on our November calendars, and we planned some fine dining and family-style meals.

On the actual day of Thanksgiving [it was Thursday November 22nd this year, for all you Scots and Brits], a group of my Georgetown friends gathered in a beautiful flat in Parliament Square on the Royal Mile that the parents’ of one of the Georgetown girls, Kippy, had rented for their week-long visit to Scotland. Kippy’s parents generously invited us to join them for Thanksgiving and be surrounded by family and friends on this day which we have always spent in the U.S. with lots of extended family, delicious homemade food, football, family debates, and more. I had a nice time at the feast prepared by Kippy’s family, and I have to say that my favorite dish was Kippy’s mom’s sweet potato casserole that had a pecan topping. It was so tasty!

DSCN4397DSCN4393Another group of my friends from Georgetown and Penn made our own homemade Thanksgiving feast on Saturday November 24th. It was super fun to make dishes for this ‘pot luck’ Thanksgiving, and I thought it was truly awesome that the boys were leading the planning of this; one of the boys’ parents had sent a refrigerated, uncooked turkey to him, and the boys showed such excitement about putting this Thanksgiving meal together. As you can see from the picture, some of us even dressed up like pilgrims and indians for the occasion!

DSCN4388Everyone made one, two, or three dishes, and it turned out we had a FEAST! Our meal included a huge turkey, stuffing, vegetable stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole with a marshmallow topping, steamed corn, steamed green beans, a mixed salad with avocado, cranberry chutney sauce, cornbread, homemade pumpkin bread with raisins (one of my creations!), and delicious homemade dinner rolls. Quite a feast, right?

DSCN4390The group of us Americans held hands, said grace, and gave thanks for our family and friends before digging into our extravagant meal. We shared wine and cider, and lots of laughs, as we enjoyed our Thanksgiving dinner.

DSCN4426After dinner, we quizzed each other on Thanksgiving trivia like the best practice of planting corn (that is, surrounding corn with fish to fertilize the soil–a practice that Squanto and other Native Americans taught the pilgrims), and we ignited debates about the first Thanksgiving (like whether or not the pilgrims had dogs as the time; some of us argued that unlike how the event is portrayed in paintings, pilgrims wouldn’t have had dogs because the pilgrims would have eaten them long before the first Thanksgiving– because the pilgrims had been starving without the help of good ole Squanto and the Natives).  I had a lot of fun with my group of friends, and this feast was a GREAT way to celebrate Thanksgiving while in Scotland.

DSCN4418After conversations, debates, and laughs, we enjoyed numerous homemade desserts! The treats that my friends and I had made included apple crisp, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, pumpkin whoopie pies, and mini pumpkin cheesecakes. Not a bad selection, eh? We also made homemade whipped cream for our tasty desserts! Rachel did a great job ‘whipping up’ that treat!

Although this was the first year that I missed the ‘Gallagher Thanksgiving’ (at which we always have between 20-30 relatives) and I treasure my family’s NJ and NY Thanksgiving traditions of eating scrumptious food and spending time with my cousins, I’m happy to say that my Thanksgiving celebrations this year were great alternatives for my semester abroad in Edinburgh!!

thanksgiving_day_graphics

 

“Teach me how to ceilidh, Teach me, Teach me how to ceilidh”

On Friday November 22nd, I went to my first Scottish ceilidh. A ceilidh is a Gaelic social gathering with folk music, dancing, and drinks, and Scottish ceilidhs are traditional events that Scottish men certainly wear kilts to!

The ceilidh I went to was actually a fundraiser for my basketball team and the basketball club at the University of Edinburgh, EUBC. For the ceilidh, the club rented out a private venue in Old Town called The Counting House and hired a three-person, local ceilidh folk band.

DSCN4379I went to the ceilidh with three of my girlfriends from Georgetown studying abroad in Edinburgh. Rach, Kary, Jaina, and I took a picture with my friend Chris who wore a kilt. Don’t be fooled by the Scottish kilt… Chris is from Wisconsin! This ceilidh was the first ceilidh that all three of my girlfriends had been to, and we were all excited to learn about the tradition, listen to folk music, and dance with some Scots!

Rachel and I took a picture with two of my friends in EUBC, or rather, two Scottish lads, Sam and Kyle.

Here’s a picture of Rachel and me with two Scottish lads in kilts. Sam and Kyle are in EUBC, and have ‘takened the piss out of me’ this semester for my ‘American’ phrases and ‘American-ness’.

Here's a picture of me with Nina and Kate from my basketball team. Nina is from Slovekia, and Kate is from Guernsey (a British Crown dependency in the English Channel). I've been so fortunate to meet, play basketball, and become friends with university students from all over!!

Here’s a picture of me with Nina and Kate from my basketball team. Nina is from Slovakia, and Kate is from Guernsey (a British Crown dependency in the English Channel). I’ve been so fortunate to meet, play basketball, and become friends this semester with university students from all over the globe!!

DSCN4383Before each dance, the caller in the folk band would quickly explain the different steps, and then as the music began, everyone just tried their best. There are many different ceilidh dances and songs, and known of my Scottish friends there knew every single dance we did that night. Some dances required partners, while others required two couples. For some dances, we promenaded in circles, and for others, we scurried through lines of dancers. At the end of the ceilidh, all of the dancers joined hands, swung our arms, and sang Auld Lang Syne–which is the traditional way to end a ceilidh. Auld Lang Syne is a famous Scots poem that was written by Robert Burns in 1788 and that was set to folk music.

The ceilidh was a lot of fun! I love to dance, and I had a blast learning different ceilidh dances and dancing with friends from Georgetown and EUBC! I will include a sample video of ceilidh dancing from a Scottish wedding, so you can hear some Scottish folk music and see some ceilidh dancing in action!


My Weekend in Brussels and Amsterdam

On the weekend of November 16th to 19th, I went to Brussels and Amsterdam with a group of eight friends who are all studying in Edinburgh this semester from Georgetown and Penn. This was my last big group trip of the semester, and I was very excited to see these two cities! On Friday afternoon, we took the affordable and convenient Airlink bus (which I have taken from Waverly Train Station in Edinburgh to the Edinburgh airport many times this semester!) and set off for our flight to Belgium–which was Ryanair, of course! My Ryanair plane after I landed in When we arrived in Brussels, my group of 8 friends and I took a cab into the city proper to our hostel, Jacque Brels Youth Hostel. My three Georgetown girlfriends and I set up the bunk beds in our private 4-person room and got excited to start exploring Brussels that night. (You may be wondering why I’m giving extra detail about my hostel room, but don’t you worry because your curiosities will be satisfied with the comparative description of my hostel in Amsterdam…) Then, my group of friends and I set out to see Brussels by night! During our one night in Brussels, we went to the famous and tourist-filled Délirium Café.

Op uw gezondheid! (I’m not sure how to pronounce it, but that’s the Flemish phrase for ‘cheers’.)

Délirium has the Guinness World Record for the bar that offers that most beers–with a record of 2,004 different brands of beer in 2004. Today, Délirium has closer to 2,500 beers, including Belgian Abbeys, strong dark beers, lighter fruit beers, and even chocolate beers. While I was there with my friends, I tried the Delirium Tremens!

 

 

The next morning, I made plans to meet up with my friend Caleigh (who I’ve known for 11 years and who is studying abroad in Brussels this semester from Villanova). On the walk to Grand Place, where my friends and I were meeting Caleigh, we past the Congress Column,which commemorates the 1830-1831 formation of the Belgian state and constitution, has a statue of the first King of the Belgians–King Leopold I, and has a memorial for the Belgian soldiers of World War I with an eternal flame.

We also past the Roman Catholic St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral on our walk to the city’s central square. It was nice to see the beautiful cathedral in the daylight, because we had also past the cathedral the previous night on our first walk around the city of Brussels.


 

 

 

 

My group of friends from Edinburgh and I met Caleigh in the Grand Place, which is the central square in Brussels. The square is the location of the city’s Town Hall, and the square is the biggest tourist destination in Brussels.

Next, Caleigh, my friends from Georgetown and Penn, and I enjoyed our first Belgian waffles of the day! (Rachel and I had three each that day…when in Belgium, feast on Belgian waffles, right?) Then, we went to see the famous status, Manneken Pis, which translates from a Dutch dialect called Marols to “Little Man Piss”. It is a very small bronze statue of a little boy urinating into a fountain, and it is a famous landmark in Brussels. There is an interesting tradition that goes with this statue; several times a week the statue is dressed up in costumes of different nationalities, military uniforms and other trades and professions! The collection of the costumes of Manneken Pis is displayed in the City Museum in the Grand Place, and I definitely want to go see that exhibit the next time I go to Brussels! While we were walking around Brussels, we saw many chocolatier shops! For example, Godiva and Neuhaus are Belgian companies and have numerous stores in the city.

I also learned that another Belgian treat is the biscuit called Speculoos.
Caleigh pointed out that Speculoos at one store that was shaped like St. Nicholas for the upcoming Feast of St. Nicholas which is on December 6th in Belgium.
Next, we walked to the Place Royal (or Royal Square in English), to the Royal Palace of Brussels, and to the EU buildings in Brussels. We went to the Parliamentarium, which is a European Parliament’s Visitor Center and has exhibits about the history and activities of the EU.

Although I had less than one full day in Brussels for this weekend trip, I was very glad that I got to see several of the famous things in Brussels, eat some Belgian treat, and visit with my friend Caleigh! With stomachs full of Belgian waffles (topped with chocolate and strawberries) and Belgian chocolates, we said goodbye to Brussels and headed to Amsterdam by train. Upon arriving in Amsterdam in the evening, we were not only greeted with foggy weather and an interesting aroma, but also, we were greeted with the sights of beautiful canals and elegantly lit streets.
We checked into Bob’s Youth Hostel and headed to drop off our carry-all backpacks. (Are you ready for the hostel comparison?) Our room at Bob’s had about 30 metal bunk beds, walls with interesting graphics and odd phrases decorated by other ‘guests’ of Bob’s, and numbered lockers that correlated with the numbered bunks. (At least Bob had thought about the safety of his guests’ possessions, right?) This was definitely the ‘roughest’ hostel I have stayed in, and it was probably my last one for the semester too!
After a comfortable sleep in our hostel (or, not so restful, peaceful or comfortable for those woken up by a hostel employer’s angry shouts at someone who had allegedly not paid for a bed that night), we set out to explore Amsterdam!
My group of friends decided to rent bikes for the day from Green Budget Bikes so we could explore the city as part of the prevalent ‘bike culture’. In fact, Amsterdam is one of the most bicycle friendly cities in the world, and there are about 1,000,000 bikes in the city. The trail of the nine neon green bikes of my friends and me traversed the bike paths of Amsterdam, as we rode along numerous canals and streets with beautiful buildings.
We locked our bikes at one of the many bike racks along the canals and walked to the Anne Frank House. The Anne Frank House is a museum in the
building that has the Secret Annex–where Anne Frank and her family hide from the Nazis between July 6, 1942 to August 4, 1944. I really had wanted to tour the annex and this museum during my trip to Amsterdam. I found the experience of walking through the annex and learning more about brave and mature teenage Anne Frank very interesting and emotional. 
After visiting the museum, we hopped back on our bikes and headed to the largest park in Amsterdam, Vondelpark. On our beautiful bike ride through the city, we ‘rolled’ right into the Sinterklaas Parade. None of us had known that Sunday November 18th was the scheduled 2012 date for this annual Dutch tradition, but I’m very glad I was able to see the parade! This parade celebrates the arrival of Sinterklaas, or St. Nicholas, into Amsterdam with his helpers who are called Zwarte Pieten. The people in the Netherlands believe in what is known as the ‘Sinterklaas season’, during which Sinterklaas travels around the Netherlands, visiting hospitals, schools and homes and bringing presents to children–which Piets deliver to homes through chimneys. 
There were numerous people dressed as Piets walking, playing instruments, throwing little candies, and dancing in the parade; interestingly, and oddly, all the Piets were dressed in blackface and traditional costumes. I’m glad we came across this big traditional parade while in Amsterdam!
We continued our bike ride to Vondelpark, where we biked around the ponds and took some great pictures as the sun began to set. Then, we headed to the city square called Museumplein, which has three of the major museums in Amsterdam: the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, and the Stedelijk Museum of modern art. While we did not have time to go into any of the museums during this trip, I enjoyed going to this square. I definitely want to go to the Rijksmuseum of Dutch art, crafts and history and the Van Gogh Museum next time I visit Amsterdam! In Museumplein, we took the ‘obligatory’ picture–that is, the picture with the iconic “I Amsterdam” sign.
After the sun set in Amsterdam, my group of friends returned our rented bikes, walked (quickly) through the red light district, went out to dinner at a nice thai restaurant, and admired the beautiful canals of Amsterdam!
The weekend trip to Brussels and Amsterdam was a great one! I really liked both of the cities, and I look forward to visiting them again sometime. Both cities have lots more that I want to see and do; to name a few, I’d love to visit the City Museum and other museums in Brussels, eat more Belgian waffles and chocolates in Brussels, visit to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, and try Heineken in Amsterdam. As you can tell from my lengthy descriptions and numerous pictures from this weekend, I had a wonderful weekend in Brussels and Amsterdam with the group of my friends from Edinburgh!

‘Monkeying around’ in my flat

Little did I know before coming to Edinburgh that banana bread is an American tradition and novelty. Yes you can imagine that I’ve been missing homemade banana bread and the weekly Leo’s vegan banana bread this semester! My international flatmates here weren’t familiar with it, and with a little research, I learned that banana bread first became a standard in American cookbooks in the 1930s–after baking soda and baking powder had become popular. During the first few months in Edinburgh, I ‘talked up’ banana bread to my Norwegian flatmate, Ingvild, who had never had it before. Two weeks ago, we decided to make some ‘American’ banana bread in our flat.

Ingvild and I with our banana bread in my flat!

 

Basketball Bums

I haven’t posted about my Club Basketball team in a while, so I wanted to update you all about the team that I am playing on at the University of Edinburgh! If you missed my other post about my team, check out my post about my basketball game in Stirling during my brother Kevin’s visit to Scotland.

The culture of university sports at the University of Edinburgh (and in the UK) is very different from varsity sports at American colleges and universities. To put that in perspective, both the A and B basketball teams practice only 1-2 a week and play games against basketball clubs from other Scottish universities on Wednesdays. The best basketball players actually play for national teams exclusively or in addition to playing for the university teams; they can even get payed to play for such teams while they are undergraduates. Wednesday is the day that all club sports have their games and matches and is the weekday that clubs and societies have their social functions. Because of this piece of the student culture at University of Edinburgh, there are not many lectures offered on Wednesdays; in fact, this semester I just have one tutorial for my Modern Scottish History course each Wednesday.

By becoming a member of EUBC (Edinburgh University Basketball Club) this semester, I have met a great group of students at the University. Like the diversity of nationalities of my flatmates, my basketball team has girls from many places, including Inverness in Scotland, Gibratrar (a British territory adjacent to Spain and the Mediterranean), Devon in southern England, Ilava in Slovakia, Galway in Ireland, Kansas City and Chicago! I feel fortunate at the University of Edinburgh to have met so many awesome students from around the world.

On a Wednesday in early November, I went to Malones Irish Bar on Forrest Street in Edinburgh. This is a pub that supports many of the uni sports teams; every EUBC games each Wednesday night, members of EUBC (and numerous other clubs) get a “free buffet” of buffalo wings, onion rings, and ‘wedges‘–which my British friends have told me can neither be called ‘fries’ nor ‘crisips’.

Some of the ‘Bees’ and me at Malones.

EUBC also had planned some fun social events on the weekends; this semester they have planned a Pub Basketball night (a pub crawl while everyone is wearing old-fashioned basketball uniforms), a ceilidh (the traditional Gaelic social gathering with folk music and folk dancing), and a Christmas Club Meal. Pub Basketball took place on Saturday November 10, and players of all of the four basketball teams dressed up for this night of fun!

Some of the girl ‘Bees’ and our Scottish friend on the guys B team, Kyle, inside the Caves. One stop of the pub crawl was the Caves, which are actually the site of many weddings in Edinburgh! One of the older EUBC members has a flat with caves so we continued out night there; its probably hard to picture, but there were large stone cave rooms in the flat!

For Pub Basketball, we went to four or five pubs in Old Town and then to Potterow, the student union building that has a club atmosphere with a dj and a dance floor on Saturday nights. At one stop along the pub crawl, I ran into some Hoyas who are studying abroad here; they were certainly curious about the massive group of tall university students who were dressed like old-fashioned basketball players!

I ran into these Hoyas at the bar Rush. Quite appropriate I was wearing my Georgetown hat, right?

On the following Wednesday in November, both the girls’ and guys’ B teams had bye weeks, so we organized a friendly scrimmage at the university Center for Sport and Exercise (the ‘CSE’). After two fun hours of playing basketball, a group of us went to Malone’s for our free buffet!

Our Malones ‘buffet’ on Wednesdays!

I’m enjoying playing basketball on the club team and getting to know the other EUBC members. They are super nice–although they do often pick on my American pronunciations of words including ‘aluminum’ ‘basil’, and ‘oregano’. I’m so glad I joined the team because being a member of a club at Edinburgh is a lot of fun! I’m looking forward to my first ceilidh, which is a fundraiser for EUBC, later this month!