Friday, December 19, 2014

A bittersweet farewell to Scotland:

It is amazing how quickly time actually passes by. Just yesterday it seems I was so anxious to get out of the house and start my journey abroad, yet now I find myself having to say goodbye to Glasgow and the wonderful people I have come to learn along the way. Angus and Craig, friends of the frenchies had a christmas party with some mulled wine. It was warm wine with some nutmeg and other stuff mixed together. I caught a glimpse of the Uni at night while walking to their place: 

While at the party most of my time was spent surrounded by JoJo and Saufuan. Apparently JoJo wants him and I to be her sons: 

Come Sunday was my last service at ReHope with the regular group. I can't begin to put in words how lovely the church was and how much I had already learn from only being there a couple of weeks. Afterwards almost all of us went for breakfast at a place we have walked passed so many times craving the food because it smelled so good. Delizique:

I even managed to sneak in a last sunrise at Murano before heading back home:

And finally right before I was departing I was able to grab a few pieces of straggling hairs, and put it all into a mini top knot. Great success. Don't worry the hair will continue to grow until I have reached an adequate length for the top knot: 

After I finished submitting my last essay for this semester what better way to celebrate than to go have a 3 hour tennis session with the team players: 

Followed by a four hour climbing excursion with Mikael and Jasmyn at TCA: 

It had all finally hit me that I was leaving some people behind and not returning to them for quite some time. A dinner at the french house had to be in order. These three had really grown so much on me and I will cherish the great memories we have made together. I really am going to miss these three, and the constant banter I kept getting from them:

I made a little bucket list of what I needed to do before leaving Glasgow, one of which was to eat some sticky toffee pudding and after Syd and Harper had a mishap with communication, Jacob joined me for some pretty posh pudding at Di Maggio. It was a first for Jacob and man was it goooooood: 

My last night was spent doing a subway crawl with a couple of goobers. If it wasn't the silly hanging from the railing in the subway, to the singing and being obnoxious people, it was the dynamic of the entire group and lack of sleep from studying for finals that made this night such a success. Okay also because everyone of these guys make it hard not to have a great time with: 

And just like that it was all over..I had reached the end of this particular journey: 

I really had quite the expectations going to Scotland but what I had figured out, was that no matter what I had expected, nothing could have prepared me for the circumstances and moments I was able to have while living there. I surely am going to miss the people, the food and the occasional sunshine that Glsagow had to offer. I am so thankful for having this opportunity presented in my life and creating the connections with so many different people. 
When I thought I had about a week left before coming back to the States, it turned out to be a couple of days left instead. My flight got switched earlier and now I am back in Chicago. 
If I could give any advice about Glasgow it would be this: 

There is no such thing as too many SCOOBY SNACKS

It's been real Glasgow.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Un Viaje a Toledo y Madrid

Okay I know I am behind on posting, however there is a lot to talk about. I have refrained from putting up a lot of pictures in this week's blog because most of them you can browse through on my Facebook.

On the 4th I was all packed and ready for my trip to Spain but before leaving I had a delicious breakfast with Jacob at the Crepe and Croissant place on Byres road: 

As always the chats were good and the food, well food never disappoints me as long as I have some. 

I took a bus to Edinburgh where I caught a flight with EasyJet to Madrid, Spain. I got there at night but was welcomed with open arm by Naomi Forman. I will talk a bit about her at the end of this blog, for now let's continue with the adventures in Spain. The airport in Madrid might seem like it goes on for hours and when we finally got to the end, we took a metro and a bus to arrive about 2 hours later in Toledo. I probably spoke Naomi's ear off because I was so excited to see her and just catch up on everything and anything. Her host family who I lived with for the next 5 days really was such a blessing and I am so thankful for them hosting me as well. Christina and Pepe. Now I haven't spoken Spanish in over a year and a half and man did I have to remember it quickly. Christina and Pepe didn't speak a lick of english and my broken Spanish didn't really help, however I soon found that I actually remembered a lot of it. After a delicious meal Christina made me, Naomi and I went to a pub nearby to meet some of her friends. The pub was called O'briens, and Irish pub. After the introductions Nay and bumped into another South African at the bar. Such a small world because I haven't met anyone from South Africa since I have been abroad. After the pub we went to Dragos and La Nuit, some local places in Toledo.

The next day was exploration day in Toledo. Christina made us some breakfast, and in Spain, they eat olive oil with bread, and you heard me correctly because none of their dishes are made without olive oil! Nay was my personal tour guide who showed me the library: 

The city streets who are all this narrow and old looking. Apparently Toledo is one of the oldest places in the world and the true capital of Spain. I think. 

We went to the Catedral del Toledo and found a back entrance without having to pay. 

As we continued to explore some places, we found a staircase that was extremely narrow and something out of the Lord of the Rings,which led us to the top in an encaged square: 

While we were at top there was no openings except some holes in the walls, but even with those there were wires put in to keep pigeons out. We spotted one pigeon inside and had no idea how it had gotten in there. Determined to set it free I finally grabbed it after bouldering some walls, and taking out wires. When the pigeon got out we followed it and saw that other pigeons were waiting for it's return and as if a couple hadn't seen each-other for a while they embraced each-other with their beaks and bodies. We kept walking around and enjoying the sun. Toledo is pretty hilly so we got to the top of one and saw this beautiful view. We sat and just embraced the moment: 

After we walked around Toledo it was time for Lunch. So everything in Spain is done way later than expected. Lunch is from 1-4, dinner is normally around 8 or 9 and then people don't go out until 1 or 2 in the morning. We had lunch with Christina, Pepe, their son and daughter in law, and their grandchildren Pablo and Sarah. Pablo is quite popular on Instagram, Nay and I still can't figure out how. After lunch we met up with Emily Collins: A Cali girl who goes to San Diego. Most of my time was spent with Nay and her. She is quite the character but really nice and on point with her comebacks. Quite the sassy one. The three of us walked by the river side exploring what sites Toledo had to offer us: 

When it comes to climbing, I am always willing to do so without hesitation. This time it had me in quite the pickle tho. I got to the top and getting down wasn't so pretty. Emily and Nay were having such a laugh watching me trying to get my big butt down. 

We walked back and met up with Chris and Delaney. Chris came to visit Delaney for the weekend and they both are from Cali also. We walked up to the Rock in order to watch the sunset over Toledo: 

After a massive dinner, a PDN was needed. Post dinner nap. Nay and I woke up to meet up with the gang again at a tavern called Livingston. It was an African Tavern where I found St. Johns College:

We met a couple of Spanish guys, Mario, Miza, Edu and Rodrigues and just talked for a while before departing and going to bed. 

The next day we went to grab some Churros with Emily in the park close by. When the two girls went to grab the Churros I was sitting down at a table, a guy came by to clean it when this conversation happened: Guy: De donde? 
Me: Soy de SudAfrica.
Guy: SudAfrica? Pero no eres Negro. 
Me:.... no comment 

For those of you who don't speak spanish. The guy asked me where I was from and then when I told him South Africa he said you can't be because you aren't black. (Really) After Nay and Emily returned we were enjoying the Churros with Chocolate when the guy returned and ask the girls where I was from. After repeating my answer the guy said that I have to be from England because the background of South Africa is not white. Very interesting way to start off the day. Before lunch Nay and I grabbed some rays in my ENO hammock:

We hammocked in el parque de Mozarabe. Lunch was packed as always with some delicious food: Lentejas con verduras y croquetas de jamon. I also tried some spanish fruit called Chirimoya which tasted a lot like a Leechie. The rest of the afternoon Nay and I took a bus to Madrid to meet up with Sarah Johnson, Emma Burns and Lauren Ulrich. We saw the palace, the cathedral and a park that is easily bigger than Central Park in New York. I had my first tapas at the market. One thing I realized is that Madrid had so many people in it that even on the streets it was hard to move: 

After the short trip to Madrid, Nay and I spent the next day along the river side, watching people lead climb, and enjoying the blue skies in Toledo: 

Easily one of my favorite dishes prepared by Christina was the Tortilla Authentica. Made with eggs, and potatoes this was hands down the best thing I have eaten in the last four months. We went to Emily's house to get some homework done and studied for our finals. This was the view from her balcony: 

We went for a walk with Pepe at night while he was trying to show us the best place to view the sunrise. We didn't wake up because I have been too sick this past week. Nay had her finals on Monday so I went to Madrid for the day to meet up with Sarah: 

A very hipster coffee shop called The Bicycle Cafe. During this time I learned a great deal about Sarah and her story. I didn't really know much about her but I am so thankful that she shared with such detail. She is truly such a nice girl who made me realize just how much I value listening to someone. Also she is 4' 11 which makes her such a funsized person, genuinely so happy to have spent the day with her, getting to know her more. We explored Madrid's parks and restaurants. We ended up just going to the market instead because there were no spaces in the restaurants: 

The night was spent back in Toledo with Nay watching a movie. The morning after we went to a market with Emily and Nay before my departure back to Scotland. This is a picture of the kitchen and Christina. The table had a heater underneath it, so awesome: 

So Naomi Forman: She's a Vegan. She is short. She is a hippie. She is almost fluent in Spanish. She is friends with the only two South African's at DU. Those are just the basic facts about her and what I knew before actually staying with her for five days. One thing I knew before however was that she is very accepting. What I mean by this is she is always open to hearing things and accepting them for what they are. One of the nicest girls to be around because she makes you feel welcomed. She is always willing to listen, and willing to try new things, except food. Such a blessing to be around honestly. 

Before I got my flight back to Scotland I had lunch with my flat mate Brooke Edelson, just one of the three beautiful people I will be living with shortly! 

The rest of the week I am just busy working on my final essay and while u procrastinated a little bit I found it well worth it. I read this amazing book and it flipped my head upside down! Seriously read it if you want some awesome perspective change:

Monday, December 1, 2014

A true Scottish experience:

The week started off with me saying goodbye to Maryke and then immediately going to the climbing center where I met up with Jacob, Michael and Jasmyn. This blog is going to involve a lot of people being mentioned because let's face it, my time abroad in Scotland is running up a lot quicker than expected. 
First off I would like to mention Jacob Malaluan: To sum up Jacob I would probably refer to one of his quotes this week: "I don't understand how people live here?" This was referring to how cold it is here and something to note about him is that he is from California and this is his first time out of the country and into a place where the sun is almost never out. One of my best friends I have come to find here in Scotland, he is always such a wise person who is willing to talk about everything. He has been there for me when I needed someone to just vent to and his endearing faith truly is an inspiration to me.  If it isn't his smile that cheers you up it is probably his one liner comments about the cold that gets you. So thankful to have met him. 
Tuesday came along and because it is approaching finals week I have been working my butt off in the library and that is what I have been doing almost everyday. 
On Wednesday the gang dragged me along to go and see Mockingjay with them.
Thursday night came along and about 8 of us decided to go to the Celtic football game. Now when I say 8 of us decided to go...the 7 of them so graciously invited me along. Here are some pictures of the stadium: 
In order from left to right: Gregor, Laurence, Raddi, Ethan (the 14 year old in front wearing blue), Ciara, Dan, Johanna and myself. 

Note to self: When yelling out a chant or anything for that matter, make sure you know the right words...

So now that we've already covered Dan and Raddi, Gregor and Laurence are going to be my next two victims. Gregor for some reason has such a simple name but whenever his name comes up I think of Gordon, who is another guy on the tennis team. Sorry mate. Gregor is such a nice guy who I haven't really hung out with a whole lot but always has a firm greeting of enthusiasm to see you which is a great quality to have. Next we have Laurence, who is quiet with his words, but he seems so knowledgable with his words and his one liners that he seems to slip in whenever seems fitting. Also side note, he doesn't really look much like a tennis player, but he has consistency on the courts! Seeing him mess up is normally just a sigh from him and then back to the end of the line which just adds to his awesome character. I'll save Ciara and Jo for later down the blog because they appear again. Oh boy...where do I even start with Ethan? Perhaps with Banter, banter and more banter. Have you ever thought of a stereotypical UK guy? For some reason he is exactly what I think of when I think UK. Pale, short hair, some freckles, skinny, short, he doesn't seem to have bad teeth so he escaped the stereotype there. The only other thing about him is that he doesn't have a London accent, but a thick Glaswegian accent. Rarely, infact never have I seen him in a dull state of mind. He always has a good laugh and some smart comment that he brings to the plate. His tennis technique would probably be a representation of his personality. Squak - a squirrel on crack. Constantly he is moving at such a quick pace, sometimes it's hard to keep up with his body movements. His laugh never fails to amuse me and others. A genuine guy who is always great to have around, especially when you need someone to pick on. I would easily say that his boy like features makes him an easy target for everyone, but he is a great sport about everything. 

Friday came along with a sunny day and some cornbread thanks to the McNellys, along with Bible study and some great talks during our time together in Sydney and Harper's room:  

Saturday was spent in the library after some breakfast with Katie Williams, a California/Colorado girl stuck in a London girl's body. Most of our conversation was talking about hammocking and slack linning among traveling and other languages. Great way to start my Saturday. At night I had my first Ceilidh, which for those who don't know, is a Scottish version of line dancing. The entire GUT team hosted it and it was such a blast just trying to figure out the dances, watching so many guys wear kilts and just great chats: 

In the middle we have Johanna: A german girl who I can't give enough justice to in this blog. Since day one she has picked up on every joke I have said and played along with every comment we have made up. Smart, witty, german what more can a guy ask for? Honestly she has become such a great friend of mine here and she has truly just embraced me into the team here making things so worth it. If we aren't joking about getting married we are probably talking about Dan and what a riot he is. Sorry dan, not really. Jo and I's "date" will presume once I return from madrid, we decided to get fancy for it and...well I won't spoil to much and save it for the next blog. On the end we have Momma Evans, Mum, or I guess Leila Evans. She probably takes the most beating from me, because well it's easy. I first started calling her mum after a post on facebook and ever since then if there was any situation where I could turn it against her , I did. She gives me as much grief back so it evens out kinda. Oh and no one talks to themselves more on the courts than this one. She is so much fun and easy to get along with because of her spunky attitude. Love ya momma. 

In the middle we have Ciara. She reminds me of a Teletubby in such a great way! Up until this past Celtic game I had no idea how animated she is. I think at one point she went on for a good 5 minutes doing the same tune and not even worrying about speaking words. She's also one of the only people I know that can rock a carpet as a scarf and still look good. I know that I've said this about a lot of people but she always has a smile on her face, and a great one at that. To some up she is the sweetheart of the team. 

Okay where are we now? Sunday - Church library and a lovely chat with Jacob! Here are some pictures on the way to church and inside the church itself: (It's always sunny on sundays here)  

Now before you ask why I have a half eaten donut in this blog let me explain the backstory: 

I think for the past six weekends now I have been going to this amazing church called Re:Hope, and before service they have some donuts, croissants and other things. For the past 6 weeks I have gone up multiple times and gotten a CUSTARD filled donut, hoping I would finally get jelly filled one. For the first time in 6 weeks I can finally say that after defeat and the loss of hope the dire times are in the past because not only did I get my first JELLY filled donut, but I got 3. Don't judge. 

Christmas time at our church.

Now I have truly started to follow my feet and walk on the path that God has set for me and I am running to His open arms. I truly am so thankful that He has turned my life around again and blessed me with such an amazing community here in Scotland, a loving family back home and such great experiences abroad. This week I am going to Madrid to visit my amiga Naomi.

God Bless