¡Si, puta! ¡Sciencia!
look at the stars
look how they shine for you
and everything you do
west · coast · best · coast · ©

Sometimes I forget that when I first applied to this program, the place didn’t matter. What really mattered was that I could intern with the Parliament. And for the record, Ireland is awesome. I took an Anglo-Irish Lit class once (yes Lily, hello) and the professor was Irish and super awesome and all we did was learn Irish history and fail to speak in Gaelic and read a bunch of Irish poems. So I very well could have applied for the Irish Parliament internship. Plus, no three hundred dollar visa.

But I didn’t. And holy fuck, am I glad. Scotland is fucking amazing. And it grows ever more amazing every single day. We took a trip up to the Highlands this weekend. It’s really amazing how old everything here is. And it really highlights the cultural difference between here and the US. Like, on the way to the Highlands and even in the Highlands, we visited a bunch of small towns. And the way these towns look reminds me of something at Disneyland, with the tiny signs and the miniature parks and the flower displays. But the thing is, they didn’t deliberately make it look like this! They didn’t deliberately make tiny parks, they had a park and it just happened to be tiny! And it’s the same thing with the castles. Castles aren’t, you know, just castles. They’ll have lakes and trees around them. And everything is just so goddamn picturesque! But again, it’s not like they made it look so picturesque on purpose (though they probably maintain the stuff). It’s picturesque because it just is.

And the landscape is freaking amazing and ridiculous! Everything is so lush and green. I tried to take pictures of Glen Coe or Ben Nevis but it’s impossible. I mean, I’m sure someone with better camera skills could. And it was really foggy today. But regardless, it’s one of those things where taking a picture could give you an idea of what it looks like. But actually being there is a completely different thing. We took a gondola up to the mountain next to Ben Nevis…? I don’t know the name of the mountain. And you’re up there, and you’re on the summit, and it’s just super overwhelming. And Glen Coe is like, you just look at it, and you’re like, fuck. This is fucking amazing. And you’re like (or at least I was like), I’m fucking tiny compared to this mountain. I am nothing. We humans think we’re so cool and influential and I bet the Three Sisters are like, these mortal beings have no idea what we’ve been through. You know? You look at it, and you’re just like, this one tiny part of the mountain could crush me seven million times over. I am so inconsequential. 

It’s all about putting things into perspective, you know? And going on trips and understanding Scotland better because of it. And learning a lot of the history and the culture. Which is amazing, by the way. I don’t know. I feel like a lot of Scotland’s history is marred by… tragedy? Like, they won the Wars of Independence. Then they made a really bad investment for colonialism (which is like, White people amirite? Their “big fluke” is making the wrong investment for a colony and not getting colonized. But I digress). Which leads to the Union with England. And Scotland just so happened to be where Bonnie Prince Charlie got a lot of support from Jacobites, even though he was the English monarch. And his defeat led to stringent laws on Scottish culture and they banned the tartan and whatnot (damn Tories tho). And now it’s the week of the referendum. So we shall see.

But the most important thing about Scotland. Loch Ness. We stayed at Fort Augustus, which is at the end of Loch Ness. It’s twenty three miles long and awesome. I don’t know. I didn’t go to Loch Ness a believer, but then we went to this exhibit that explained the science side of Nessie. And their explanation was that what people saw could have been anything—it could have been a log, or a seagull, or a mirage, or even a swimming deer. Which was hilarious because like, think about it. Swimming deer. But science technically hasn’t disproven it at all. So I don’t know. I think I came back a believer. And I wouldn’t be entirely opposed to chilling at the Loch for extended periods of time.

Concluding remarks: Scotland is awesome.

View of Loch Ness from Fort Augustus.

Tayyyyyyyyyyyyyytos in Dalkeith.

Posted on September 10, 2014  ·  with 1 notes
Filed under: #photography  

the good

  • got a refund check for financial aid. significantly more than it said two weeks ago.
  • makes me feel better about the money i’ve spent on clothes
  • finally went to the constituency today
  • figured out how to tie balloons
  • yes campaign is driving down the pound. yay for exchange rates

the bad

  • getting sick
  • leaves in my mouth while jogging
  • twisted my ankle, sort of
  • fingers hurt from tying balloons
  • internet at home is v spotty

Posted on September 10, 2014  ·  with 2 notes
Filed under: #captain's log  #it's pronounced edinbruh  

Rainy days in the Meadows.

Posted on September 5, 2014  ·  with 1 notes
Filed under: #photography  #it's pronounced edinbruh  

I’m shit at updating this thing.

Yesterday I finally got to do something relatively important. I got to go see Colin speak in front of a group of Germans visiting the Parliament since he’s in the CPG for Germany. It was really cool listening to Colin speak, since he’s never in the office and I’ve never heard him speak in front of other people before. He’s really casual but charming and he knows a lot of facts and figures about the referendum (though Iain has pointed out that he sometimes makes mistakes. Which begs the question, how does Iain know so many facts and figures about the referendum that he notices that Colin makes mistakes???). Colin is a really good speaker. He makes it lighthearted without taking away from the seriousness of the issue and the passion he has for it. I guess that’s just something a politician needs to know how to do.

Anyway, Parliament is in recess right now, so everyone just comes in casual wear. So I found out that I finally get to leave my desk for once, and I’m excited. Then I realize I’m wearing my dollar sign shirt. So the one time I wear something stupid to work, I get assigned to greet people. Great. Just. Great.

Luckily, I had a jacket so I just wore the jacket to the talk. But they wanted people to stay for the tour so Iain and I stayed for the tour. As you may recall, Colin is on the CPG for Germany. And he was speaking to a German group. So the tour, naturally, was conducted in German. So I effectively spent three and a half hours yesterday listening to a talk and went on a tour of the Parliament… in German.

I’ve moved into my flat for a little under a week now and I feel so much better. We live two blocks from the Meadows so I go jogging there sometimes. I think it’s a little over two miles all the way around, so I’m determined to be able to run the entire thing by the time I leave. I’m also really starting to get the groove of the food and whatnot here, and it’s honestly not that much different from the US. But like Hannah said, it’s exactly the same… but just a little different. But it’s that little difference that’s enough to change everything. Like, washing your clothes is the same, except there’s no dryer. And walking and taking the bus is the same, except they drive on the other side of the road. What I’m saying makes no sense. I know.

The other day Leoda and I were trying to look for a launderette (laundromat) and couldn’t find one so we asked some man on the street. While we were talking to the man, a lady started shouting down at us from her third story window. She was like asking us if we needed help and we explained our situation. She then pointed us down the road to a laundromat. It wasn’t open when we got there, but I mean, having a lady yell at you from her third story window is just about the most Scottish thing that can ever happen.

I’m also starting to really notice the subtle differences in language, like “I’ve just off the phone” and “hiya.” I don’t know. It’s different. Weird. Friendly. I am determined to develop a gnarly Scottish accent by the time I go back to the US. (I also haven’t said bomb, fly, jam, d, or chill in a very long time.) Also, Indian food here. Y e s.

This weekend is the first weekend I’ll have that I’ve just been able to do whatever I want. I’ve moved into my flat, I don’t have to worry about anything, so I’m just gonna sleep in, wander around the city, go into quirky stores, visit thrift stores, find a nice coffee shop, not buy coffee but instead buy a hot chocolate or something, and read some Jonathan Franzen. I’ll get around to reading Ulysses before I go to Dublin, I swear. Really. And I can finally get around to taking pictures.

It also feels really weird not talking about the referendum so if you want to read about my thoughts on the referendum, continue on. If not, check back next time!

So. I haven’t written anything about the referendum on this thing. Is it because I wanted to wait until I understood it more? It is because I didn’t feel like it’s the right place to write about it? Or is it because I’m lazy? Regardless, here we are. A little introduction: On September 18, 2014, Scottish voters will be presented with a choice between separating from the United Kingdom and becoming an independent Scotland, or staying with the UK and continuing under Westminster policies. The Scottish Parliament, which I work for, gets some powers, but not much. Most of the important powers are decided by Westminster in London. The majority party in the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish National Party (SNP), is currently working toward Scottish independence (Yes campaign). There are a lot of parties in the Parliament, but the main opposing party to this is the Labour Party, representing Better Together (No campaign).

I work for the SNP so I naturally get exposed to a lot of Yes propaganda. And I mean, coming here as a foreigner, I really didn’t know what to think. But I very quickly became sympathetic to the No campaign. I understood what a lot of No voters were concerned with: the Yes campaign simply didn’t have concrete answers to how they would change Scotland. They have a lot of ideas, but no actual plans. And it’s true—even if the Yes vote prevails, it only gives Alex Salmond the power to start negotiating with Westminster. It doesn’t grant the SNP or even the Scottish Parliament any powers to enact its platform.

Moreover, watching the debates between Darling and Salmond cemented my feelings about the Yes campaign. I don’t personally like the way Salmond presents himself. He tries too hard to be personable. It’s gimmicky. Though as Iain pointed out, he did learn this from Bill Clinton. (But Clinton allowed Gingrich to run amok the House, which directly led to the gridlock we have today, so I mean. More on that some other day, and not on a travel blog.) Whatever. I don’t like how Salmond tries to present himself. Watching the second debate, I was much more sympathetic toward Alastair Darling because he had the facts and figures to back himself up, whereas Salmond was just trying to appeal to the emotional core of the people.

Which is what I have noticed a lot about the entire debate. The No side is more about using facts to point out their fears (though some of it does indeed come across as scaremongering), while the Yes campaign is much more about Scottish identity and emotion. Which makes sense. The support base for the Yes campaign indeed reflects the very people independence should help—the lower classes. They need to be appealed to emotionally because all these numbers don’t mean shit. When there’s a growing number of children in poverty and high unemployment in a post-industrial society, what they want is to be told that there will be change that is directed at them. And it’s true. I do believe that the Yes campaign is trying to put forward the best view of Scotland they can. 

It very much reminds me of the social justice cause in the US. Yes, of course people fighting for social justice are right. But there’s such a difference between being right and being able to get your point across and legislated. The reason the social justice people can’t get their legislation passed is because they don’t go about it in a political fashion. They scream and shout and protest and it just makes them seem crazy. But there’s no other way for them to get noticed if they don’t scream and shout. It’s a double edged sword.

And it’s how I see the Yes campaign. They’re fighting for the little guys, but that also means their support base is, on average, less educated, less politically active, and less compelling. See: crazy lady in the back of the room at the English Speaking Union. But again, I work for the SNP. So I personally help write this propaganda that goes out. And you know what? I changed my mind after writing a particularly impassioned piece.

George Fitzhugh wrote this book called Cannibals All! Or, Slaves Without Masters. His main point is that slavery in the US was a good thing because it promoted community bonds. Masters took care of slaves not because of any racial hatred, but because they thought of slaves as children. So Fitzhugh argues that slavery is actually a good thing because it created a society in which people took care of one another.

That being said, in this situation, at least to me, Westminster is the master and Scotland is the slave. I mean, “Better Together.” The comparison can’t be more obvious. And I’m not particularly drawn to the community/love argument that Fitzhugh puts out. (Malcolm X for life.) I’m more convinced by the individualistic camp. That being said, you go Scotland. It’s like, yeah okay it’s scary if you separate. But if you do, anything that goes wrong is your fault. And that’s fine. Make a mistake, vote your MSP out. Do it.

What worries me, however, is that the Scottish people themselves are not ready for such a drastic change. I mean, there are people writing in to their MSPs about their lawns not getting mowed. And come nineteen months from now, the Scottish people are going to have to deal with the fact that their MSPs don’t have the time to deal with their miniscule shit. Yeah. So with two weeks to go, I am a steadfast Undecided.

Alright, so I’ve been stalking other people’s travel blogs (Hi Matt & Rachel/Hannah! If you’re reading this, I’ve been reading your blogs because I have no idea how to do this one. If you’re not reading this, I’ve just proven myself very self-absorbed for thinking you would be reading my blog.) And I’ve come to the realization that my first post on this blog isn’t exactly how I was supposed to write it.

Oh well. I like to be introspective pretentious. You may notice that there are posts on this blog that have nothing to do with my trip to Europe and are even dated a year back. That’s because this is a side blog that I run and keep because I like to hoard urls on tumblr. Which is why the url of the blog, which refers to Wally West, has nothing to do with Europe.

Which is why I’m writing this. Now that the awkward and frankly horrible introduction has been written, let’s get into it.

Edinburgh in the summer. Unbeknownst to myself, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is kind of a huge deal. It’s a month-long arts and culture festival that runs in Edinburgh every August. (Un)luckily for me, I arrived on August 12, smack in the middle of the action. It’s bad because it meant that most of the locals leave Edinburgh during August and rent out their flats to people willing to pay exorbitant amounts of money so that they can be here during the Fringe, leaving people like myself without a semi-permanent flat. It’s amazing because the streets are buzzing and there are people from all over the world who come for the Fringe.

There’s dance, comedy, art, and a plethora of street performers. I’ve gone to my share of comedy shows with mixed luck—the shows I aim to see are never good, but the shows I just happen to walk into are always great. Life lesson: pay attention to the people on the street who are handing out flyers. But today is August 26th (or as they do it here, 26 August), and the Fringe has largely come to an end. Which is really quite sad. Edinburgh during the Fringe is the only way I know Edinburgh, really. It’ll be weird not seeing crowds of people looking for clubs on Cowgate and hoards of people on the Royal Mile watching the street performers.

Speaking of the Royal Mile, my hostel is located in the Grassmarket, which is a very central location. Imagine the Haight, but closer to downtown. And downtown here is called the “city centre”. (Grammar joke! In the US, quotations are used “after the period.” But in the UK, quotations are used “before the period”. Middle school grammar lessons are important, kids.) My new apartment is a ten minute walk from here, which means I’ll still be in a really central location for the next four months. Which can only mean… I’ll still be able to buy a shit ton of chips when I get hungry.

I’ve been eating tayyyyyyytoooooooos most days. Sometimes by choice, mostly not. The canteen at work always serves potatoes in one way or another, and I always end up with some on my plate before I even think about it. But mostly, I’ve been going to this fish and chips shop on Grassmarket because they do takeaway (another cultural difference! Takeaway vs. take-out). I also eat a lot of pies. Like, for dinner. Like, a lot. And the candy! There is so much more variety for candy at the grocery stores, especially chocolate. I’ve been trying out different candies, but my favorite so far? Kinder’s Bueno in milk and hazelnut. It tastes like Ferrero Rocher, but without the stupid nuts.

Lastly, work. So I have a badge which allows me to enter through the restricted entrances. I’m like, a big deal. I work 10-4 Mondays, and 9-5 Tuesday through Thursday. I might have to go in on Fridays, but I also might not? My MSP is Colin Beattie. He represents Midlothian and Musselburgh. He’s not in the office much, but he seems like a chill dude. I refer to him by his first name. I know. Scottish politics, amirite? Graeme (the chief-of-staff-equivalent) is on vacation, and Iain (the parliamentary researcher) is chill, so I don’t think I have to go in on Fridays. We’ll see. I still have class on Fridays from 10 to 12 though. 

The one thing I’ve learned about politics is that there’s a lot of work, but it’s never your work. Whether it be motions, congratulatory letters, press releases, or even research, you don’t actually have to put in any work. It’s all just paraphrasing whatever someone else sent you. They do the work. All I do is paraphrase.

I miss being a student. I have to wake up super super early to get to work, and I’m there for hours. I will never complain about class again because I go to class like, what, three hours a day? And it’s actual riveting, stimulating stuff. And the rest of the day I do nothing. It’s great. And I don’t have to worry about when I’m going to cook dinner because I have so much goddamn time to cook dinner. Now when I get back from work, I’m super tired and I don’t even feel like cooking dinner. Damn, I miss SB (HI JIMMY/SHAWN/KENNY. YOU’RE TOTALLY NOT READING THIS, JERKS.) God, I miss that California sun. I can physically feel myself losing my tan.

Anyway, this was a good introductory post to my life, yes?

Before I go, some miscellaneous bits of information:

  • still having trouble with the accent sometimes
  • still don’t know which way to look when crossing the street
  • I’m moving into my flat on Saturday!
  • the soda here is gross. there’s like, no sugar in it. like, i bought a fanta. it was horrible. the soda smells good but just tastes fizzy
  • one of the most popular sodas in Scotland is called Irn Bru (Iron Brew)—the name is not intended to fool you: it indeed does taste like metal. it tastes like orange, cream soda, and iron
  • it rains at least once every day. except for the past two days, in which it’s actually been somewhat sunny. this worries me.

I suck at taking pictures.

Today was the first time I’ve been here that I’ve gone and done touristy things. It’s hard because I wanted to get everything done before I started my real adventure.

When I first arrived in Edinburgh, I thought I was walking in a fairytale. The buildings and the architecture here is amazing, and all of it is juxtaposed with modernity.

There are old, campy Scottish shops selling deep friend mars bars and kilts right next to McDonald’s—the cleanest and most technologically advanced one I’ve ever seen. The big chain stores are ridiculously high-tech and the older stores are the same as they have been for the past twenty years.

It’s such a huge difference going on the Royal Mile and Princes Street. Princes Street is home to all the big shopping stores and the high tech places, while the Royal Mile maintains a certain rainy, distinctly Scottish vibe to it. Even when it’s sunny on the Royal Mile you’ll think it’s raining.

No matter how hard I try to position my camera, I just can’t seem to capture the juxtaposition of old and new that dominates so much of the city. There are old, historical buildings with glass-lined buildings right in between. There are statues everywhere that are surrounded by contemporary restaurants.

My hostel is in Grassmarket, right across from Edinburgh castle. The hills and the stairs here are gnarly. Walking up to the Castle is a workout in itself. People say Edinburgh is the San Francisco of Europe, but I don’t feel at home at all.

Edinburgh is way scarier and way bigger than I can even imagine. It might be because I’m situated right in the middle of all the action, but the city scares me a lot. I’m still staying in a hostel waiting to move into my apartment, but I moved from the short stay hostel to the long stay hostel. Staying in the long stay hostel is the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life.

I’d never been so reminded of my privilege before. I couldn’t even do it. I had to move out the next morning. I consider that night the low point of my trip. And though this is only day ten of my five month journey, I really hope that sentence remains true.

I’m a twenty year old kid (nineteen when I flew over) living alone in a foreign country. I really hope I’m not in way over my head.

(I’m also not as independent and badass as I would like to admit. I miss my friends and I miss home. I’m scared people will go on with their lives and forget about me. And I never thought I’d say this, but I miss the warmth of that California sun.)