Sunday, July 24, 2011

Ok, so let me give you a rundown of the first week. It was a bit crazy, so I hope I can remember it all. First off, the night before getting to Cambridge I stayed at the Stansted Hilton (awesome, by the way). I stuffed myself with the free breakfast and took a few extras to hold me over until dinner that night. I went to take the airport shuttle back to the main terminal but it was two pounds, and I only had one and a few euros. I went to get money out of an ATM in the hotel lobby but it didn't work. I went into panic mode worrying that my card had been shut down and I was stranded without money... bad news. Luckily I found a nice british lady that traded me a pound for a euro and some change (she said she was going to Italy later that month, but I suspect she just saw the distress on my face). Anyway, got the pound coin, got on the bus, and made it back to the terminal. The first order of business was to exchange some money, since I wasn't sure my card worked. I exchanged $100 US and got 58 pounds back after the service fee. "This is going to be an expensive summer," I thought to myself. I made my way to the train station at the airport and sat on a train headed straight for Cambridge.

I got to Cambridge, got off the train, then realized I was actually there! I have been to Cambridge before and had a great time (part of the motivation for going this summer-thanks Jen and Derek), but this time I was the local. Awesome. I got in a ridiculously long line to wait for a taxi, and after 30 minutes and an adventurous taxi ride, I was standing at the gates of the famous King's College. A couple of friendly Cambridge students in matching "PKP" shirts asked me if I was with PKP (Pembroke-King's Programme, named after the 2 colleges that host us for the summer). I said yes and they sent me on my way to pick up my welcome packet with keys and access cards and all kinds of maps and forms. I was then led to the back of the college to a quaint little court that would be my home for the next 2 months: Bodley's

Yup, that's my dorm for the summer. NBD. My room is sweet too, I have a "sitting room" with a couch, desk, large table, coffee table, and a few chairs as well as a bedroom with a sink, chest of drawers, wardrobe, side table, and fireplace. From my desk I look out over the courtyard and from my bedroom I look out over the Cam (the river you see on the picture). It's pretty sweet. I've already met a few students and they all seem pretty cool. I've met a girl from Macedonia who speaks Serbo-croatian, and a few Russians/Russian speakers. It's fun to chat with them and see the look on their faces when they realize I can understand what they're saying and carry on a conversation. Muahaha.

Dinner was bomb. Sumptuous I would even say. The desserts were amazing. Chicken, lamb, and veal were on the menu, as well as a ton of different salads and steamed veggies. Bread products exploded out of this huge basket, and there was enough salad dressing to feed a small african country. It was awesome. Looking around at the dining hall just added to the extravagance of the whole experience. Check it:

Yup. I eat there. Every day. Whatev, guys, it's totally not a big deal.

The first few days of classes were pretty intense. I am taking "Drugs and the Mind: Why do People Get Addicted," a pretty sweet neuroscience class looking at the neurochemistry of addiction. I have a minimal neuro background, so the first few lectures were followed by some extensive personal knowledge enriching (i.e. hours googling various brain areas and neurotransmitters until I had a general idea of what was going on). Then, after 3 days, they took us to Scotland.

Scotland is awesome. Beautiful. Green. Lots of plaid. Basically, just the The night before we left we had a late FHE involving huge quantities of extremely unhealthy food. I went home (after standing out in the cold for 40 minutes conversing with some friends) and got into bed, shivering. Turns out, I had a fever. I woke up every hour or so and was shaking uncontrollably, but sweating. It doesn't help that I have a huge comforter on my bed but no top sheet. Brits. I don't get them some times. Anyway, I woke up the next day, packed, had some breakfast, and headed to the bus. I had an I-haven't-slept-enough-and-am-sore-and-achy-from-shivering-all-night headache--something not conducive to a comfortable 10-hour bus ride (if there is such a thing). After bobbing in and out of something resembling sleep for a few hours, we got to Richmond, a quaint little English village with a cool castle and an even cooler bakery. Most amazing eclair I've ever had. After a few hours there, we continued on our way. When we finally made it to Edinburgh (pronounced Ed-in-bruh, I came to find) I was beyond exhausted. We got our room assignments and put our luggage away. Afterwards we all headed down to dinner at an all-you-can-eat dining hall that far surpasses the Cannon Center in quality (I may get lynched for that, but it's true). I, however, was experiencing another wave of the fever that had kept me up all night. It had mercifully subsided for the majority of the trip, but was reared it's ugly head as soon as I stepped onto the pavement at Polluck Halls.

The next part needs to be prefaced. There are two mature students on the program from BYU. They are both mothers. This was apparent when I came and sat at their table to tuck in to my dinner. They said I was terribly flushed and looked awful. I told them I would track down the program director and see if I could procure some medicine and sleep it off. Unfortunately, like so many other places in europe, everything in Edinburgh closes around 6, especially useful things like pharmacies. Greg (the director) took one look at me and sent me off to bed. I drank about 1/2 gallon of water over the course of the evening (and subsequently got up to use the facilities 5 times throughout the night) but slept relatively well. The next morning I woke up and felt 100x better. I had a bit of a tension headache from the fever soreness, but nothing terrible. I guess I should listen to my mother. Any time I was sick growing up the solution was "drink more water and take some tylenol." Thanks, mom.

Friday we started out the day going out to Rosslyn Chapel. You may be familiar with it if youve read Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code. Supposedly it is where the Knights Templar buried their treasure before they disappeared, including the Holy Grail. I had Monty Python quotes flitting through my head the whole time. Luckily, the chapel itself was intricate and beautiful enough to distract me from any other thoughts. It was built by Masons in the mid 15th century AD and has some very interesting details. One of them is the prevailing theme of nature, often represented by "green men," human faces with vines growing out of their mouths:

The wiki article has a ton more on the history, check it out if you're interested:

The bus then took us into the city center, where we dodged rain storms all day while wandering around soaking in the sights. The castle was cool, minus costing 15 pounds to get in. We took pictures out front and moved on. We saw most the requisite sights while there: Arthur's seat, the royal mile, tons of churches, and ate dinner at the Elephant House (where J.K. Rowling wrote out the Harry Potter story on napkins while on welfare blah blah).

I was surprized at how good it was, expecting it to be crowded and overly touristy. I was plesantly surprized at how quiet and classy it was. I had a caramelized onion and goat cheese pizza. It was amazing. I got to sit at the table where she sat, looking out over Edinburgh castle and realizing that it was not a far stretch of the imagination to see magic folk learning spells and charms in the towers of the castle. It was most definitely a major inspiration for Hogwarts. Anyway, we went back to Polluck Halls to get ready for the ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee), a traditional Scottish dance party. It was awesome. You know the period movies where they have feasts with fast music and people spinning each other around incessantly? That's what a Ceilidh is like. Dancing, swinging, sweating, laughing, and (for most) drinking lots and lots of alcohol. It was awesome. The most fun I've had in a long time. Good thing I have Scottish ancestors so I can justify having a Ceilidh band at my wedding (if that ever happens, that is). After hours of swinging, dancing, and sweating, we all headed off to bed in anticipation of the big hike the next day.

They took us up to the Trossachs, called by some "the Highlands in miniature." The hike was sunny and dry for us, a contrast from the day before where the PKPers told us it rained most of the time and they waded through water all the way up. After about 2 hours of hiking, we made it to the top of a rocky plateau, affording us breathtaking views of the lochs all around us and the unbelievably green mountains:

Yup. That green. Fun side story: in the first 20 minutes of the hike, after stretching a little too far to get over a rock in the path, my pants split down the crotch. We're not talking "just a little hole that unless you sit down you can't see it" kind of split. We're talking "zipper to butt-cheek pocket and a few little tears on the side so you can see my underwear every step I take" kind of split. It was bad. I eventually wrapped my jacket around my waist to cover my butt, but then the front kept ripping. I finally wrapped the zippered part around the front and zipped it, giving myself a sort of gore-tek skirt. It was pretty attractive. Sorry, no photographic evidence for that one (intentionally). We went back into the city, I made some new friends, and we decided to go to dinner together. I had an awesome burger at this place we went to in the center of town. It was bliss. Later, we wandered the city, went into a cool cemetery, eavesdropped on a ghost tour or two (they're everywhere, apparently Edinburgh is haunted or something), and then the crew wanted to meet up with some others at a pub. We never found the rest of the group, but the four of us sat down at a nice little place and had drinks. My mormon-ness had come up earlier in the night, so it wasn't a surprise to anyone when I ordered a Sprite. It did spark good conversation though, and I got the opportunity to explain my beliefs and hear the views of my fellow pub-goers. It was a good time.

A moment of musing. Living in Provo and teaching at the MTC, I don't have much opportunity to do missionary work of my own, despite training the next generation of elders and sisters. It has been a long time since I've had to explain what I believe so often, but it has been good for me. It has forced me to reexamine what I really do believe, and has given me the motivation to seek to strengthen my own testimony of the things I'm telling people who think I'm a little crazy on a daily basis. It's been fun. Ok, musing over.

Anyway, we got back a little after midnight and went to bed. The next day we took another 10 hours to get back down to Cambridge. We stopped at Fountains Abbey along the way, a sweet place with a lot of history. Basically, the trip was bomb. More on Cambridge itself when I've actually spent some time here, ha ha. Cheers!


  1. I find it very amusing how many times you said bomb. Utah is apparently a few years behind in the slang department. I'm glad you're safe and are having a good time. Keep posting!

  2. awww....sounds fun! Glad your hike was less rainy/muddy than ours was!!!

  3. You're welcome, Son! Safe and fun travels and learning! Love and miss you.