November 7, 2006

Hi Everyone!

Happy Guy Fawkes Day! If you are scratching your head, don’t worry, it’s not something we celebrate in Canada.  Basically Guy Fawkes tried to blow up King James I with gunpowder on November 5, 1605 . . . he failed (because he got caught), but has a day named after him – pretty spectacular failure, eh?

My social schedule has remained pretty hectic over the last few weeks – thanks in large part to the weather that keeps turning out beautiful days! I can’t even remember the last time it rained (touch wood), but it certainly has been getting colder and colder. On Hallowe’en we recorded our first -1°C night of the fall! Average temperatures during the day are about 5°-10°’ish, but I think that now most nights are right around freezing.

Our days are getting much shorter too. Scotland has Daylight Savings as well, so now the sun rises at about 7:30’ish, and it’s totally dark by 5:30 pm! The other Canadians and I all complain about how tired we are, by 9 pm we feel as if its 11 or something because its been dark for so long! Ah well, assignments are starting to be due now that we are at midterm, so one could almost see it as an excuse to stay in and study – almost. Choir is still going well, we have a concert in mid-December that we are preparing for. As always it seems like we have so much music and so little time . . . only 6 rehearsals left! eek!

Even though our local friends subject us to merciless teasing, us international students continue to take our cameras everywhere, adding megabytes of pictures to our poor little laptops, and swapping pictures with everyone else to make sure we don’t miss a thing!

International Student’s Night (Out!!) – October 18

For some reason we decided to really live it up this week – first we went to a pub in the south of the city called The Goose for a few rounds, and then onto Kushion nightclub (a favourite spot of ours) for hours of non-stop dancing.

Flat 4D’s International Dinner Part I – October 19

Since all six girls in our flat are from different countries, we decided to try each others’ cuisines. But, six courses is a lot of food, so we broke it down into two different dinners. In part one, Lily (from China) cooked the main course – some yummy and very spicy chicken stew, Caroline (from France) made crepes for dessert, and I made poutine for an appetizer. It’s a wonder poutine hasn’t caught on in Scotland yet – all those deep fried chips and fatty gravy and cheese, it’s what the Scots love! But alas, poutine must remain a Canadian dish.

Falkland Palace and St. Andrew’s – October 21

Ah yes, for all you golf enthusiasts – I made it to the mecca of all golfing destinations . . . but first, and partly for torture, I will bore you with some details of yet another palace!

Actually, Falkland Palace is quite cool – because it’s a real palace!!! As in actually owned by the Queen, and not an aristocratic and wealthy family like the other castles! It was mostly destroyed by Cromwell’s (as in Oliver Cromwell) army in 1652 while they were taking over the British Isles . . . something about a fire in the kitchen on a Saturday night. As the tour guide pointed out, it is not known whether alcohol was a factor. Mary Queen of Scots (Mum of James I of the aforementioned Gunpowder Plot) stayed here, as have many other royals over the years. The grounds were quite impressive, and were made all the more beautiful by the fall colours! There is also a pond and Royal Tennis Courts that are open to the public.

There was also an orchard on the grounds, so fellow Canadian Scott and I decided to help ourselves to an apple – we hope the Queen doesn’t mind!

There are actually four courses at St. Andrews now, all running alongside each other. As far as golf courses go, and please keep in mind my utter distaste for the sport, they all look pretty much the same . . . long fairways, nice greens, no trees but plenty of shrubberies for that little white ball to get lost in – and really tough bunkers, according to Scott. The courses are open to the public for golf (there is about a 2 year waiting list, but also a lottery you can enter) and also for walking around. We took a stroll in and between the golf courses for about an hour, wandering around trying to find the sea, which is right beside the course. Much easier said than done, I tell you what! Although you can hear the sea, you have to find a way to get to it, and since walking across fairways and green’s isn’t really an option, it can be quite the ordeal. However, there is the occasional sign that alerts pedestrians to crossways.

We finally made it to the sea, where, in true Canadian style, we took off our socks and shoes and went for a ‘paddle’ (the Scottish term for wading). It was pretty funny to walk back along the beach in our bare feet alongside other tourists and locals all bundles up in boots, wool coats and scarves.

International Student’s Night (again) – October 26

Yes, I know what you’re thinking, another night out?! Jim Wilson is our International Advisor here at Strathclyde, and he is just such a lovely gentleman! We call him ‘Uncle Jim’ and he loves it! He is so helpful and always makes us feel welcome, not to mention the fact that he organizes our weekly pub nights and always finds us a great deal!

Pumpkin Carving and Hallowe’en – October 28 and 31

They do have Hallowe’en in Scotland, but not in India, Germany, Australia and a host of other countries that fellow SFU’ers Ali, Lisa and I have befriended – and so the International Pumpkin Carving Night! Ali gave an excellent demonstration to the first-time pumpkin carvers, and I think the results were outstanding!

Phil, my pumpkin, went mushy only a few days later . . . I don’t think they make pumpkins here like they do back home, although you’d think they’d be better considering the price!

Fairies seemed to be a common theme for costumes this year . . . I think mostly because a dress or skirt, when paired with wings, gives the illusion that you spent hours agonizing over a costume!

Abby, Urszula and I partied it up at all-night Hallowe’en Ball at the Union, Strathclyde’s 10-storey Student Union building that turns into a 10-storey club at night (every night!)

Fireworks at Glasgow Green – November 5

So since Guy Fawkes tried and failed to light up the Parliament Buildings, they light off fireworks . . . makes sense, right? On Sunday night, us international’s (I think about 15 in all) made our way down to Glasgow Green for the fireworks – along with about 60 000 others. It was a great display and we had a great time being out in the cold cold night (we are talking thermal underwear all around people), seeing the little fairway that was set up in the Green, and walking through the streets without having to worry that a car would run you over!

I did take a few pictures of the fireworks themselves, but they didn’t turn out very well . . . so just imagine the Celebration of Light, in a big park, with no water, in November, and you’ve got it!

So that’s what I’ve been up to for the past few weeks! As I mentioned, assignments are coming up. I have a Geography report due on Friday (which I have already started!) and then a few papers (4 in all) before the end of term in December. On the 19th Glasgow lights up its Christmas lights in George Square, and on the 25th I’m heading to Edinburgh to watch the Australia vs. Scotland rugby game, so look for those pictures and stories in a few weeks! Have you started your Christmas shopping yet? Every time I go to the store I am reminded of its imminence – scary.

Hope everyone is doing well at home,

Take care,


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