Wandering Writes: Scotland Edition.

Throughout the course of my two decades on earth (how trite) i’ve had an innumerable list of life ambitions. When i was seven, i dreamed of nothing more than a career as a dolphin trainer who worked as an author/singer/inventor on the side. I even had an old refrigerator box in my room that i used to collect tools to use for “inventing;” a favorite creation were DIY roller-skates (tennis shoes with matchbox cars taped to the bottoms).

I grew older, and though my interest in marine life abated, the desire to write and make music did not. Middle school was filled with dreams of the Big Stage and worrying over training bras. That is, until the African Highway Project in Mrs. Bade’s 7th-grade-social-studies class. In studying a myriad of different countries that comprised the vast continent, and speaking with several Peace Corps volunteers who came to share their experiences, i caught a bug. Maybe the virus had been planted when i went to San Francisco with my dad and grandma at the age of nine. Or maybe my transient life lived in eight states prior to the age of six infected me from infancy.

Whatever the source, by the time i left Culbreth Middle School behind me i wanted to live in Africa. Particularly, i wanted to go to Mali (that’s where the cute Peace Corps volunteer had lived. Naturally, it became my favorite yet-visited destination).

At the age of fourteen, my passport was stamped for the first time. I was Africa-bound, on a pilgrimage that would teach me two countries (Rwanda and Uganda) could not be more different from one another. That “Africa” is a very, very big place and i was madly in love with a very, very beautiful place called Uganda. I never made it to Mali, because cute-Peace-Corps-person aside, i’d been called elsewhere.

If the infection was dormant before, it was in raging contagion now. Four years and three more countries later, this blog was born and my bags were packed for ten weeks of calling Uganda home.

It’s been a year and half since that incredible summer, and over a year since i was privileged and blessed enough to travel abroad. But i’ve caught a virus i think will last my life long: i need to see. I live for bruising suitcases with exuberant boardings of planes. I’ve wanted to study abroad again, this time academically, for a long while.

And yesterday i got the jubilant news that i have, officially, been accepted to the University of Edinburgh in Scotland for the spring semester!

Between now and my departure in January there are Visa applications to endure, Lonely Planet guidebooks to be earmarked, and painful goodbyes to withstand. The excitement of the impending adventure is overwhelming – grueling paperwork and all.

Fourteen-year-old me would have thought i was going to make a career out of traveling, living like this. Part of that girl is still very much alive in me. But for this semester, i aspire to take off the capital-F Future questions off the table for a little while. I intend to explore, and to let the excitement of exploration be enough. I intend to grow, pains of it and all, and i intend to embrace the change.

Right now, though, i’m just ecstatic. I can’t wait to share the photographs i’ll take, basked in nerdy wonderment, at The Elephant House Café (JK Rowling! Sat there! While writing THE BOOK!). I’m certain i’ll start slipping up and unconsciously imitate a Scottish accent (coming off as a total fake, i’m aware). I’m beside myself at the thought of learning and living in a new city with train tickets across the UK. But most of all, right now, i’m excited to share this news with all of you!

current jam: ‘then i met you’ the proclaimers

best thing: um, SCOTLAND.

The Little Green Pig (And Other Adventures There and Back Again)

I can now officially cross #5 off of my list of fifteen things to be accomplished in six months (now totaling to six completed tasks): i went home to see my brother, Thom’s, directorial debut with The Pillowman. In fact, i’d be so bold to say i managed to knock out a double-whammy; i managed to also be home for my other brother, Mike’s, fifteenth birthday. While i may not be in the big sister hall of fame, i’m very pleased to have been there for both of these boys’ milestones!

Last Wednesday, i left Mount Holyoke’s frigid campus behind me for the single terminal of my second most frequented air portal, Bradley International Airport. Packed with a suitcase exploding at the seams (i did that college thing where i don’t do laundry for three weeks and instead bring it all home to do it for free) and armed with a fat stack of reading to accomplish on the plane, i managed to make it home to an ice cold glass of sweet tea and a comfortable, albeit environmentally worrying, seventy degrees.

It was a whirlwind of a glorified forty-eight hours; between 9 pm Wednesday night (touchdown) and 9 am Saturday morning (take-off) i managed to see Thom’s play twice, worship snuggle with my cats, lunch with one grandmother, visit my other grandmother, view in awe the masterpiece that is Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy with father and grandmother (review of said film coming soon), eat a fat whopping burrito with a friend, interrupt a band rehearsal to see another friend, wash three loads of clothes, play with my cats, cuddle up next to my dog, spend an afternoon with my mom, pack, unpack, pack again, and mew at my cats like we speak the same language. If that’s not an end-to-end 60 hours of well-used time at home, i’m not sure what is.

Amidst all of this, i fully intended to photograph every minute and, subsequently, present to ya’ll a blog-o-pictures for your visual feasting. However, as i was something of a tornado-generating machine in my to-the-moment time home, i only managed to take the following:

picasso and buddy the beagle.

eli in the sink!

Maybe all that nonsense about plays and Benedict Cumberbatch movies was a ruse to cover up the fact that i only ventured home for the sake of my perfect cats and sweet old dog.

But while such a plan to see nothing but my animal friends would be NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED OF BECAUSE ALL SOCIALLY-ADJUSTED LADIES OF SOME NORMALITY LIKE THEIR CATS AND DOG AS MUCH AS ME, it was not the primary reason for my sojourn to Chapel Hill.

I was home in my other home for my brothers. And while my visits with them were shamefully brief, i couldn’t be more proud of them. Mike, who is halfway through his first year of high school, has grown up so much into a considerate, thoughtful, sweet, and wrestling-conference-champion darling of a brother. Thom could not have been more in his element as the director of such a sinister, warped, delicious spectacular of a work that is Martin McDonagh’s play. It’s always a weird thing, coming home to find a window into the rest of my family’s life. We live in separate time streams in a multitude of ways – and yet, some things never really change. Being proud of my siblings is something that has never abided.

And i did manage to acquire a picture on the set of The Pillowman with Thom after the curtain. He’s holding (fake) severed toes in front of the cross from “The Little Jesus” (a story within the show). The play, which centers around a barely-published author of horrific short stories (most of which involving the grisly murder of small children) named Katurian, is a warped and wretched portrait of modern life. It explores interpersonal familial relationships in a way akin to John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, but with the added layer of gruesome imagery and lack of mucking out stalls (well, in the literal sense). It’s a show about the loss of innocence, but also about the glimmer of beauty that can be found – if sought- amidst tragedy. It may be a stomach-clenching, eye-shutting nightmare to behold, but Thom and the cast and crew did such a marvelous job at conveying the work in an entrancing, if not hauntingly mesmerizing, capacity. My cringe in the photo below seems to encapsulate how i felt for the entirety of the tale; not from lack of relishing in the talent of the show, but more as a product of the stellar acting and theatrical story-telling.

Thanks for being awesome, boys.

Even with the severed toes.

current jam: “lovecraft in brooklyn” the mountain goats

best thing in my life right now: ian mckellan reading instructions on how to change a tyre. 

thoughts from the journey

to begin, i apologize for the abundance in posts! prepare yourself for a dumping ground of four days’ worth of thoughts. this is my first visit to the internet cafe! but i am safe and sound and full to the brim with stories to share!

Thoughts from the Journey: Plane Ride Edition

Plane to Bruxelles, 10:47 PM EST (Wednesday)

May I simply say that all romantic comedies wherein the plot centers around the central character trying to uphold a lie really, really annoy me. Currently playing on the enormous television screen on my airplane is some Adam Sandler masterpiece where, as far as I can tell, he wore a wedding ring (despite being unwed) to attract women but now that he’d found “the one” he’s faking a divorce with his fictional wife, played by a beautiful coworker. Really? I mean, I understand that these movies are not meant to be factual, but nevertheless I find the whole premise completely ridiculous. As someone who prizes honesty above all other virtues, this tale is incredibly foolish to me. If he’d been honest right away, this whole mess need not occur.

Akin to this view is the main character in the Sarah Dessen I brought to keep me company on this flight to Belgium (thank you, Brenna!). This particular high school romance tale is called Just Listen and, while not my normal taste in fiction (where are the dragons?! Or time-travelling paradoxes?! Or dashing Jane Austen men carrying Marriane in from the downpour?) I’m quite taken with it. Owen, the male subject of desire, wears combat boots (win), has his own radio show (double-win), and never lies as a personal policy of highly prizing honesty (triple-win). The storyline, true to Sarah Dessen fashion, takes place in my hometown (she grew up in the house adjacent to my friend’s!) and is abundant in high school melodrama mixed with just enough realism to be compelling.

In any case, the book is far more relatable and interesting than whatever the hell US Air is playing. Now the woman of desire is walking around in a cropped top. Do people actually do that in every day life? With people like Adam Sandler? Whatever. Back to my book.

current jam: “misery” warblers cover (thanks nora! listening to my husband’s voice is ever so soothing)

best thing in my life right now: darren supermegafoxyawesomehot criss. singing in my ear.

Brussels Airport, Gate A/T 68, 3:07 AM EST//9:07AM…Brussels time? (Thursday)

So I’m running on two hours sleep at this point, so I must beg your indulgences as I writes. After a harrowing journey from my last plane, back through security (thank God for my six years of French to get me through that), through the first SIXTY gates of the terminal I came to learn was “B,” I clambered down two flights of unsettlingly unpopulated stairs into a makeshift hanger where, I was informed, I was to wait for the next bus that would take me across the yard to Terminal “T,” which was also known as Terminal “A.”

A and T being one in the same was quite confusing, especially when garbled in my sleep-deprived, coffee-less terrible French state. But, praise all divine things, I made it to yet another surprisingly and somewhat eerily empty staircase. This staircase, though, I was able to brave with the motley crew I’d joined on the bus ride over. There was a family of Mennonites (whom, I have a sneaking suspicion, I might be seeing again as I’m working for the Mennonite Central Committee), a family conversing very loudly in what I inferred to be Thai, two college girls, a boy who (by the name embroidered on his Adidas sweatpants) was named Josh, and my own bedraggled self. We arrived in the large building, shaped like and oval with walls seemingly made entirely of glass. In this glass-walled building I, at long last, found (singing angels chorusing in my head) my gate. But the gate, I confess, then became priority number two.

Priority number one was my rank breath and full bladder, so nonviolent peaceable guns a-blazing I plunged into “la toilette” for “les femmes” with much gratitude. The bathroom, unlike any bathroom in any other airports I have previously encountered, was completely empty when I walked in.

Whatever. My teeth. My gross, slimy, smelly TEETH.

With gusto I started the age-old rite of cleaning my dental arena when, thinking how John Green had recently been in Belgium, I had a fit of inspiration. For those of you who are unaware, John Green is a super-famous YouTuber (search vlogbrothers on YT) and is famous for including himself brushing his teeth in all his thoughts from places/travel vlogs. But John, unlike myself, most likely thinks this through more than I did.

In my eagerness (and, need I remind you, bleary-eyed state) to pay homage to my favorite YouTuber, I rummaged around for my camera in my bag, toothbrush sticking out of my mouth and the automatic-motion-detecting faucet and soap spewing their contents all over the sink. After my digging and subsequent splaying of all my toiletries all over the counter (which in turn prompted sink number two to start gurgling out soap and water everywhere) I found my camera… disassembled. Now with soap and toothpaste all over me, I assemble the damn thing (which takes far longer than it should).

After wrangling with the lens, I proceed to spend five minutes trying to get my picture in focus. Jubilant that, at last, a clear picture is coming through the lens, I start filming myself brushing my teeth in true John Green fashion. Despite the fact that by now my teeth are puh-lenty clean.

Now, John Green has taught me many things; how to aspire to vlog, that the truth resists simplicity, that Warner Chilcott is a captital-A corporate Ass- among other profound giraffe-related things. What I never learned from John Green: that filming yourself brushing your teeth is really, really hard. So after all the drama in getting myself set up, I think I managed ten seconds of filming. Which, in reality, is all I needed, but still.

However, of all ten seconds I spent in the bathroom, the utilities man had to pick these ten to walk in. So there I am, two sinks going nuts trying to be eco-friendly and dually splash water all over me, my toothbrush hanging out of my mouth, and me filming my reflection in the mirror. Needless to say, my garbled- FRENCH- explanation (toothbrush in my mouth) was only covered up by his profuse apologies (and obvious mortification) for intruding on such a scene.

Welcome to Belgium, Lizzie.

So I quickly wrapped up my business and then headed back to the gate where I now sit, writing this and desperately hoping not to be found by said utilities man here. The sweatpants boy and Mennonite family are here two. Kindred spirits. Well, spirits who don’t make complete fools of themselves in Belgium bathrooms.

current jam: “i’m the man who loves you” wilco (thanks again, nora! third time though the mix)

Plane to Entebbe (Thursday) 11:46 AM EST//5:46 PM…Entebbe time?

I am a genius. A loopy, now awake for nearly thirty hours straight (ish) genius.

Would you, dearest reader, care to know why?

Because, in my foresight and wisdom, I did not merely watch Season 5 of Doctor Who on Netlfix like every other poor chap. Ohhhh no, I bought season 5 for my computer. And while recently I’ve had to procure my third hard drive in order to hold the entire season (among other things) this purchase is the gift that keeps on giving. Because here on the plane, which now is playing re-runs of some Belgian show I can’t understand because its in Dutch, I’ve occupied myself by re-watching Vincent and the Doctor. My absolute favorite Doctor Who of all time (despite the fact that Tennant is hands-down the best Doctor, in my humble opinion).

One hour, killed. Now to occupy the remaining FOUR.

La la late December in sixty-three, what a very special time for me, as I remember, what a nighttttttttt. (what a lady, what a nightttt)

I’ve done laps around the plane, finished the aforementioned Sarah Dessen book, mourned over my stupid iPod dying, and now am using what little battery I have left on this old girl to write this.

Oh I’ve got a funny feeling when she walks in the moonlight…as I recall it ended much too soon OH WHAT A NIGHTTTTTT.

What’s a girl to do for the remaining four plus hours? With my book done, computer dying, and iPod apparently not turning on?

Current jam: do i really need to explain? But it just switched toooo… “just what i needed” the cars (seriously nora bond, this mix is keeping me sane in my depraved of rest state) I guess you’re just what I needED!

Today

Today is the day. In a few hours I’ll be in Philly, then on to Bruxelles, and from thence the final leg to Entebbe, Uganda. I’m part terrified, part exhilarated, part nervous, and mostly grateful. Grateful for my time with all of you, with my family, my kitties, the pooch, my time on this earth.

Well then…ALLONS-Y!

current jam: “redemption song” johnny cash & joe strummer cover

best thing in my life right now: um, uganda?! and waking up to my kitties. and reading letters and emails from friends.

days until departure: 0

quote of the moment: “courage is the price life demands for exacting peace.” amelia earhart