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I am in L.O.V.E. with the Meadows.

The meadows is the park separating Marchmont from Campus. It is a short 15 minute scenic walk from my real flat to the main area of old town where Uni resides and it is glorious. I have always appreciated walking along its path under the bare trees in the fall, snow-covered trees in the winter, and now the pink cherry blossom trees in summer. What’s different now is the people. All year we have rushed through the meadows, not looking around, not looking back. On the way to class, on the way to the library, late for a meeting, trying to make a lecture, etc. In the winter we tried to be out of the horribly tended walks covered in snow (no one seems to own a shovel and there are about 2 snow plows in all of Scotland) as much as possible. Even when the snow wasn’t around to annoy us, the days were too short to enjoy Edinburgh. The sun was up by 8 and down by 3. Pitch black at 4 in the afternoon.

Now with classes finished we all seem to mosey on through the meadows. People stop to take pictures of Jawbone at the start (or foot depending which way you are walking) of the path or try and capture the beauty of the cherry blossoms lining the way. Everyone is walking in the grass and finding a wonderful spot to call their own for the next few hours while they let the sun warm their skin and lose themself in a book or great company. The longer hours lead to a plethora amount of time to do things all day. The sun is up at 6:30 am and doesn’t vanish from the sky until 8pm and the days will only get longer. This beautiful sunshine will eventually stay out until 10  o’clock at night.

These past few days I have taken up shop with some great friends in the meadows. Which, with every passing day, is beginning to resemble OU’s south beach and sixfest more and more. Grills are out, people are sunbathing, playing football (Scottish), cricket, and rounders. Bands play in different spots throughout the Meadows. Dogs are running around free without leashes looking for friends to play with. People are flying kites, ribbon dancing, and riding unicycles. Others are tight rope walking and juggling. When I list these things off it is not a one time thing. Without fail each day we have seen all of things on several occasions. I am more specifically referring to the unicyclist, tight rope walkers, and jugglers. It’s crazy. The idea of Bingo game or scavenger hunt is in the workings of spotting out the randomness. Future barbeques are in the works as well. This is turning out to be a pretty fabulous summer!

Until August, when the I won’t be able to see the ground of the Meadows due to the festival, I plan on making The Meadows my office. Doing all my reading and writing under the sun.

p.s. I didn’t have my cam with me so the pics of the unicyclist and the tight rope walker were to far away. I promise to do better next time!

This is the first year I won’t be surrounded with the friends and family who have seen me through everything from freshman year. While “Take Back the Night” on OU campus is celebrated at the end of April, my “Take Back the Night” is tonight. After everything that happened I was given a great amount of support from everyone around me. Each year, the same people who found me, the ones who saw me through my P.T.S. episodes, who made me talk to someone, who supported me, would go through the anniversary with me. They would also participate in “Take Back the Night” with me. They would encourage me and give me the strength to talk – to share my story with others.

While it all happened so long ago it is still something that has become a part of my life, it is something I let define myself for a long time, and while I hopefully don’t give it that same control anymore I recognize at the same time it will always be there. But this doesn’t upset me because all the wonderful moments of kindness, generosity, selflessness, and love I received from friends, family, and even strangers, in the days and years following will also always be there. Everything that happened didn’t just happen to me, it happened to them too. It happened to all the people who have been there for me – my roommates, my best-friends, and my family. It affected them just as much. I want to take this moment to thank them all for the support they have given me, for the love they have shown me, and for taking back the night with me. So here are some classic chants for you to celebrate. And I’m pretty sure you all know my favorite…..

“We’re women! We’re here! We’re fabulous – don’t fuck with us!”

“Hey, hey! Ho, ho! This patriarchy’s got to go!”

“Hey mister! Get your hands off my sister!”

“2,4,6,8! Why don’t you go masturbate?!”

If at all anyone is interested:

April is Sexual Assault Awareness month

Sexual Assault Awareness is going on this week at OU campus. The march will be held on Thursday the 21st

The Cleveland Rape Crisis center is holding different events, fundraisers, and awareness discussions throughout the month

Statistics from Rainn.org:

60% percent of assaults are not reported to the police

every 2 minutes someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted

1 out of 6 women has been subject to an attempted or completed rape

since 1993 the sexual assault has decreased by 60%

Flat Swap

The entire time I’ve been Edinburgh I have somehow managed not to lose my wallet, keys, camera, or phone. Not to break my computer, phone, camera, or any other electronic. Not to land myself in the hospital.  Until Monday that it is.

This past week, while Lindsay was away on a Parisian Holiday with Lauren and Rosie, she graciously offered me up her flat. IT WAS AMAZING! I knew it would be amazing the second I jumped on the offer. A bedroom twice the size of mine, a kitchen twice the size of mine, a living space twice the size of mine, a bathroom – well the bathroom is the same size but way better. It was glorious. I had room to move about the flat, nobody’s mess but mine own to clean up after, large windows, lots of natural light. The flat is no only huge but also in the center of everything. Everything is about a ten minute walk away. I was spoiled with only having to walk two minutes to Starbucks instead of 15. If I needed to stop back at the flat to grab something, it was no big deal. It wasn’t a 20 minute walk out of the way. I was in heaven until Monday.

As I left Lindsay’s flat for my early morning jog I made sure to check my pockets for the keys scared to be locked out. Right when my iTunes informed I had run 1 km I passed my friend, Topher, walking through the Meadows, I said “hi” and continued on my way. At that moment I realized I couldn’t feel the keys in my pocket. Confused I stopped, checked my pockets, and realized I didn’t have them. With nothing but my running clothes and my iPod I walked back to Topher. I assumed I had mistaken my iPod for the keys that morning when I checked my pocket. We then phoned Emily who couldn’t help laugh when I told her all I had to my name was my iPod and Topher. Not only could I not get into Lindsay’s flat, I could not get into my own, nor did I have money, an I.D., or even a tooth-brush. Why I couldn’t have locked myself out on one of my many trips to Starbucks to work I will never know. After a long, convoluted process of getting a hold of Lindsay (who’s phone number I no longer had since I did not have a phone) and her landlord I made my way to the letting office to pick up the spare set — still in my gross running clothes, still not having showered.

When I returned to the flat 6 hours after I started my run the keys I assumed I’d locked in the flat were not there. I looked everywhere. Then I took to the street again. Thankfully I’d only run 1km before realizing I didn’t have them anymore so I didn’t have to go far to retrace my steps, which I did. Twice. Then I went into the stores to see if anyone turned in a set of keys. I posted an ad on Gumtree. After returning  to the flat ( and searching the flat again) I emailed Lindsay and the Letting Agent.  I was extremely annoyed and disappointed in myself for having lost the keys that Lindsay trusted to me. Had they been my keys I would not have cared as much, especially since the 8 times I’ve lost my i.d. and/or phone they have always found their way back to me, but this was different. A complete accident but still my fault and still irresponsible.

The next morning I woke up to an email of someone who’d found the keys! It was a christmas miracle! I felt the biggest sense of relief. After I picked up the keys, I returned the spare set to the letting office, cleaned Lindsay’s apartment, then did as she instructed — locked the locks and put the keys through the mail slot. When Lindsay, Rosie, and Lauren got off their flight and back into town I met them for a pint before we made our way back to Lindsay’s flat. As Lindsay tried to get in the flat, I informed her I locked all three locks. She was confused. She only locks two locks on the door.

“Oh well, I locked the top one too.”

“I don’t have a key for the top one.” She looked at me.

“what?” Apparently the keys she gave me go to all three locks, and unbeknown to both of us her keys did not have a key for all three locks! We both thought both set of keys were identical. We were wrong.

“Did you still have the keys or did you put them through the slot,” she asked.

“I put them through the slot.”

“Well do you have the spare keys?” Lindsay and Rosie asked.

“No, I gave them back today.” Damn my responsibility!

We then spent the next twenty minutes with our arms (mainly Colm and Lindsay’s arms) through the mail slot with one of Rosie’s wire hangers trying to grab at the keys we couldn’t see. We based our judgment of where they were off Colm’s camera phone photos he managed to snap by putting his arm through the slot. As we are all making an effort to grab the keys, Rosie, eating her chips and garlic sauce, goes “to bad we don’t have one of those clamps they use to pick up garbage.”

“Yeah, or the magnet man,” replied Colm. At that instant a huge smile washed over Lindsay. Just hours before leaving Paris she impulsively bought an Eiffel tower magnet. She dug through her bag like a man digging for gold, tied it around the end of the hanger, and two minutes later, we were standing outside her door cheering to the success of obtaining the keys! Thank God! We were also forced to explain ourselves as the minute the keys magnetized to the Eiffel tower on the opposite side of the door Lindsay’s neighbors emerged from their flat to see four people huddled around a door with their arms in the mail slot cheering on the key retrieval. “Yes!! We got ’em! and we’re not burglars!” we screamed in excitement.

After this whole debacle I thought to myself, never again. Too much stress. Then Emily offered her flat up to me for a month and I jumped at the chance. This time though there is another girl, Kat, in the flat that could let me in if anything happened. But perhaps I should make a copy, just in case…

My travels to Ireland with Michelle and Emily couldn’t have been more random or gone as well as we ever dreamed. Everything we thought would happen didn’t, but was definitely better than what we could have ever imagined. For our trip we decided to do the responsible, adult, and mature thing of making absolutely no plans what so-ever. We had a flight arrival time, a car rental, and that was pretty much it. Everything else we would figure out as we went along. Here is our trip in a nutshell, because it is almost impossible to write it all down for you.

Leaving Edinburgh

What we thought would happen:

Board the plane to Dublin

What did happen:

We were greeted with free makeovers at the Mac counter then discovered the free samples of whiskey, bailey’s, and gin floating around the airport in honor of St. Patrick’s day. We discovered them a couple of times before boarding the plane with our own bottle of whiskey in hand.

Arrival

What we thought would happen:

We would get into Dublin, hang out with Emily’s awesome friends, and go into town to drink some delicious beer.

What did happen:

Got out of the taxi, at Fergus’ house where we would be staying(Emily’s friend Leah’s boyfriend), met Fergus’ parents where my constant problem of being unable to pronounce my own name got me the nickname Jazz for the weekend.

If you are wondering how, the conversation is as follows

Me: Hi, I’m Jess

Fergus’ mom: Jass?

Me: No, Jess

Mom: oh, Jazz.

I just smile and nod

Fergus: No mom, Jess

Mom: Jass?

Fergus: Jess (looks at me) right?

Me: yes

Mom: it’s not Jazz?

We threw our stuff in a room and went straight to the bar where we consumed three Guinesses in about 45 minutes. Hands down the best Guinness I have ever tasted…and we all know how much I love Guinness. The Guinness at home is disgusting in comparison to the Guinness in Ireland. The drunken antics which proceeded are a little hard to depict (plus my parents read this) so I’m just going to give you the cliff notes version. Went back to the Fergus’s home. Met all sorts of his friends. Drank some more. When back out to the bar. Drank a little more. Returned back home. Drank a bit more. Went to sleep around 4 am. Essentially drank my weight in Guinness and Whiskey.

Day two

What we thought would happen:

Had absolutely no idea, do touristy things, pick up the rental.

What did happen:

I woke up, then proceeded to wake everyone else up then had the best time ever putting together the events from the night before. Such as learning that Michelle, locked herself out of the house and was let in by Fergus’s mom at 5:00 am just as she was about to give up trying to get back in to sleep with the dog outside. We then, still drunk from the night before, went to the store grabbed our hangover remedy drinks. Sprite zero for me, although I’m blessed with not getting hangovers, power drinks and water for the others. We then enjoyed a gorgeous afternoon in Dublin eating lunch in the park.

Picking up the Rental

What we thought would happen:

We’d get a dinky little smart car

What did happen:

I was given a set of keys to my dream car, a Land Rover. It was glorious! It was as though the rental gods new we were going on a road trip and blessed us with ultimate road trip vehicle.

Driving

What we thought would happen:

I’d be a not so good driver. Going down the road the wrong way, not driving fast enough, almost hitting people, hitting the curb, not staying in my lane, and creating a couple near death experiences.

What did happen:

Pretty much exactly that and then some. Damn Dublin roads are as big as a sidewalk….

On the Road

What we thought would happen:

We would drive to Cork and then Limrick

What we thought would happen after talking to Leah, Fergus, and John after they told us to expect to get stabbed in Limrick due to some sort of family gang war going on:

We would drive south until we were tired of driving, find a small town, go to the local pub for some food and pints, then stay at a little countryside bed and breakfast.

What did happen:

We drove until it started getting dark, not wanting to test my skills on pitch black country roads, and couldn’t find a bed and breakfast. We spotted Kelley’s Hotel Resort and Spa and decided we could go in and ask where a B&B would be close by. Well, turns out the closest B&B was about 20 minutes away and they would charge us 35 euros each. The front desk woman was soo nice she let us stay at Kelley’s for only 50 euros each (it’s normally 105 euros each) and we’d get the breakfast along with the pool, the hot tubs, and the glorious beach. We were then given the keys to our very own house! Not a hotel room an actual house! We each got a double bed and our own bathroom. It was the awesome. Even better the Hotel was right on the beach!!! We later learned it was named the best hotel in Ireland and it was the sunniest spot in Ireland. The next day we ate our free breakfast on the deck over looking the water in the Ireland sun listening to the waves. It was easily the best morning ever. Pays not to plan things.

Night at Kelley’s

What we thought would happen:

The woman at the front desk said a band would be playing at their bar later on so we thought it would be fun to check it out. We thought it would be some old men singing and playing some classic Irish music.

What did happen:

The bar was like stepping into a time warp. The ceiling had little lights, which dimmed and changed colors, covering it like a night sky. Everyone in the bar was either a family or an elderly couple. Emily, Michelle, and I stuck out like sore thumbs. Oh and the band, it was two great singers singing American soft rock including songs from Grease.

Our table was then approached by Max, an elderly gentleman of about 85, who danced with all of us. His wife passed away this past November and they used to go to Kellys a few times every year for over 25years! The entire staff knew him by name. He was a really sweet man…and then took a great liking to me. Continued to “make eyes” at me and gave me his card. And he didn’t let age difference get in the way of his charm as he asked me for a good night kiss. Yep. I don’t know what it is with super old guys and me on St. Pat’s but who could forget the old man Jeff had to save me from two St. Pat’s ago? The one who wanted to take me home. I really pick up some classy guys.

Day three

What we thought would happen:

No idea

What did happen:

Emily’s friends, now our friends too, Leah, Fergus, and John met us in the world’s smallest town where we rented out a country house for the night. The town consisted of two bars and a gas station. That is not an exaggeration. Additionally, the gas station was closed at 7 pm and both bars didn’t serve food, so we had to drive 10 km to the next town which was twice the size. It consisted of a grocery store, a bar, a gas station, and Chinese take away. The grocery store was closed so chips and burgers at the Chinese take away was the next best option (and the only option).

The house was super big and awesome. There are not words to describe the décor which was something mixed between the 60s and the 70s with a country flare. Each room had a different color scheme: blue, green, orange, yellow etc. Once Michelle posts pictures I’ll be sure to add them in. it is something everyone should witness.

Day four:

What we thought would happen:

Go back to Dublin where I would return the car and get on the plane

What did happen:

Everything was running smoothly until we hit massive traffic in Dublin. Half the roads were shut down for a marathon! I dumped Michelle off (her and Emily were staying an extra day)  in the middle of I don’t know where and started panicking as I drove to the airport. After getting lost twice, yelling at the cab next to me for help on directions, going around the airport twice looking for the Hertz drop-off, I began to panic as my plane was boarding and I wasn’t even in the airport. The Hertz guys saw my nervous look as he went over the car with me, I explained to him the situation, then took off running with my 25 pound bag to the airport. Once I got through security I didn’t put my shoes back on just picked them up and ran to my gate. Literally ran through the airport shoes in hand. I managed to make it to the plane. The last one to board. I feel sorry for the gentlemen who had to sit next to me as I was wearing two shirts and a sweater and was now drenched in sweat. I’m sure I smelled terrific.

Best trip ever. City, Beach, Countryside. Couldn’t ask for more.

I woke up in the middle of the night to what I first thought was a baby’s gibberish. You know the super early, “I’m awake so I’ll sit up, maybe stand, and talk to myself until someone hears me on the monitor and comes in to take care of me” baby gibberish. I waited a bit after hearing it because I was certain I was wrong. There is no way a baby could have found it’s way into my flat, then I started thinking perhaps one of my flat mates was taking care of the baby. Then I imagined what crazy mom would ever allow their child to stay in our flat overnight when it is so small and prison-cell like. I heard the sound again. It sounded like a “coo.” Okay, so there is a baby in the flat. It’s definitely not my baby, so whoever’s baby it is will wake up and take care of it. I sat in bed and listened for another ten minutes listening to the odd “cooing” sounds coming from outside my paper-thin walls. Finally it made a different sound. Almost like a muffled whimper before the wail which was sure to follow. Alright, I decided, I will figure out which flatmate has the baby and lightly knock on the door so as not to frighten the baby but to hopefully wake-up the person.

As I slowly opened my door trying to ensure the large creek wouldn’t scare the baby either. I heard the sound again. Louder. Closer. I looked down our hallway and then suddenly I saw it. The source of the cooing. It was a cat. Now before you jump down my throat about being unable to decipher between a cat and mini human being, let me defend myself and say the cat was definitely not “meowing” in its true sense. I don’t know cats so I didn’t know they do anything other than meow or purr but whatever sound it was making was definitely a cry of some sort. I shut the door.

I don’t like cats and I didn’t know what to do. It was clearly a stray. With mangy hair that was sticking out in various directions. I didn’t see a collar, but then again the door was only open for a second. When I came home last night there definitely was not a cat in our hallway. I must have accidentally let in when I came in without realizing. Ok, I decided I will handle this cat situation which was getting worse as it now saw me and sat outside my door loudly calling to me. I decided to put some spandex pants on underneath my sweats in case it started clawing at me or something. Did I mention I don’t like cats? When I opened the door the second time, it slipped past me and into my room, I softly called it out like an idiot. Doing what they do on television shows, clicking my mouth and calling it sweetie. Unsure of the cat’s demeanor, I decided it would be best to give it some milk to win its trust. As I placed a small dish of milk in front of it I could clearly see its dandruff covering it’s back as though it got caught in a light snow fall and I could definitely see the cat was pregnant.

Moral dilemma number two. Do I release a pregnant cat out into the world? I didn’t see a collar to give me a number to call for her. After deciding cats are smart animals and if it had a home it would find its way home, I decided to set her free. Maybe like dying dogs who tend to run away from home to die, pregnant cats runaway from home, I think to myself. I slowly opened the kitchen door to let it out, then the flat door, then led it downstairs to the outside door. She reached the outside door before me and stretched out pawing at the door as it meowed. This brought forth a wave of relief as I felt I was now making the right decision. She wanted out. She wanted to go home. I was helping.

As I let it go outside, it occurred to me, what if one of my flatmates was cat-sitting. I panicked. I didn’t wake them up to see if they knew how the cat arrived in the flat. What if it was one of theirs? But they never said they’d be watching someone’s cat, and animals aren’t allowed in the building, but then I didn’t see them all day and maybe they don’t know the animal rule. In my panic I did the only thing I could think of. I woke Lindsay from her sleep. I quickly ran down the story and Lindsay affirmed everything I had already done and said I’ll just have to talk to my flatmates in the morning about it anyways. You’re right I said and hung up the phone.

When I entered my flat again, I turned on the hall light, went into the kitchen, cleaned up the container of milk I set out for her, and went into the hallway. That’s when I saw it – the tray of food and water tucked into the corner at the end of the hallway. Holy shit! Unbelievable. It is one of the flatmate’s cats. Are you serious? Why would you take care of a cat not say anything, or leave a note, or something? Why would you leave it in the hall instead of your bedroom? Why are you taking care of cat we aren’t allowed to have in the building? And I just let her out, pregnant, into the cold morning! Ahhh! I started knocking on the doors.

First room number 4, the room across from the dish of food and water. Must be Lucy’s cat if the food is outside her door. Once she wakes up from my knocking, she says the cat was not hers or anyone she knows, she doesn’t know how it got here, and to go back to bed. Well I don’t go back to bed because I know I will have to be standing out in the cold calling for the cat whenever I find out who’s cat it is or who is watching it. I knock on the next door, number 3. When she finally wakes up she says yes she knows the cat.

“Oh yes. I bring it in from outside.” She tells me, groggy from me waking her from her bed.

“So it’s a stray cat. It doesn’t have a home.”

“No. we brought in and gave it food and water.”

I see that, I think to myself. “okay, well I’m glad it’s no one’s cat since I just let it back outside but you can’t bring cats or animals, or stray anythings into the flat. Animals aren’t allowed.”

“Oh, I’m sorry Jessie. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. We’ll talk about it in the morning. Go back to bed.”

“I’m sorry.”

“We’ll talk in the morning. Sorry I woke you.”

Yes, that is right. The cat did not sneak in, it did not find its way in, it was let in. questions I would like to ask my flatmate:

1. Who would clean up any cat pee or poop? I know I wouldn’t be doing it and I’m fairly certain neither would she since no one can apparently clean up their own spills in the kitchen.

2. What if the cat had kittens in the hallway? What would have happened then? What we would do with a mama cat and her litter? Who do we call to take care of that? who would clean up that mess??

3. What if the cat is carrying a disease of some sort and managed to infect someone with it? (this one I am unsure of how would happen and don’t know if it’s even possible, but I don’t jack about cats, so I’m going to go with it)

4. What would you have told the Resident Advisor if she saw the cat? Or the cleaning people? Or the maintenance people?

5. What were you going to do with the cat in the morning? Did you think it was your pet now?

6. Is this a culture thing I am missing? Why do I keep playing the mom role? (“can we keep it? please!” “NO!”)

I don’t understand! I need this explained to me. If anyone can shed any light on this situation. It would be marvelous. On a completely different note, I realize I have yet to blog about Dublin, I will do that this week as there are great stories to tell. This ridiculous story just had to take precedent.

Apple is taking over my life. Ever since I have moved to Scotland it has been making slow, calculated moves preying on my hectic life, knowing I’m too busy to notice it’s take over. It started off innocently enough. I started downloading podcasts for my walks to Cole’s in the morning. First it was just the New York Times 10 minute overview. Then it was Stuff you Should Know and This American Life. I started listening to these 30 minute to an hour episodes every morning walking to Cole’s. I began downloading all sorts of podcasts after that. John Hopkins. Freakenomics. Anything I might slightly be interested in – which is pretty much everything. If I had known then, what I know now, I may have tried to stop but I didn’t. Who knows if I would have even been able to?

I can’t watch television in Scotland, they have this dumb licensing fee over £100 to own a television. The television doesn’t even need to be hooked up for the fee to apply. As long as there is a television in your flat, you must pay the fee. (they mean business too, i’ve thrown away some pretty threatening letters) Clearly, I wasn’t going that route. Well I downloaded some free episodes form iTunes, then a couple episodes of my favorite shows. This of course, was before my discovery of Surfthechannel.com and sidereel.com. Maybe if I had stopped then, but no the damage was done. I now knew everything was at my fingertips on iTunes. Not just music. Since I don’t have a television and therefore a dvd player for the U.K. I began purchasing movies on iTunes. Not the expensive ones, just the cheap limited time $4.99 ones. Now I find myself waiting for the clocks to hit 5 am on Tuesday to see what new movies will be $4.99 this week and will I want any of them. I’ve talked myself into buying some pretty ridiculous movies justified by their price and my want to watch something – anything!

As many of you know, I am not the greatest cook. This used to be a problem, well still kind of is, but I’ve found my way out through iTunes…with the cooking made simple podcast and the Jaime Oliver podcast. Both with video! It’s almost Jess-proof this way. I’ve managed to cook up three successful meals, sure each time I almost burned down the kitchen because I needed to keep rewinding to see what I missed, but I did it. I made something edible. All through iTunes. They even give me the list of ingredients.

It doesn’t stop there, either. On my recent journey to Paris, without thinking twice, I connected to my iTunes and downloaded the French survival and French lesson podcasts. I even put a French flash card app on my iTouch. My iTouch – how quickly that has become another necessity to my life ( or should I say iLife). I can skype on it. I can create my grocery list on it. I can take pictures. Check the weather. Play games. The options are endless. I can’t stop.

After signing up for a 10k I’ll be completing in London I started using nike+ which of course is connected to my iPod. It tracks calories, time, distance. It’s linked to a workout regime and goal setting, as well as making running routes.

I recently saw audio books available on itunes…it’s only a matter of time before I cave in a moment of weakness. Just to try it out. See if I like. Listen to it on my walk to Cole’s. It might be nice. Multitasking. It’d be school related, right? Apple is taking over my iLife. I’m in too deep. It’s connected to every aspect of my life. I can’t get out now – there may be hope for others, but not for me anymore. My name is Jessica Thomas and I am addicted to Apple’s iTunes.

I want to believe people are innately good. I need to believe they are in order to live in this world, because if they are not then what is the purpose. It’s  funny the way humanity works. Often when we see the worst of it, it is coupled with the best. I feel this is exactly how my trip to Paris with Brigid went.

Before leaving, everyone told us how Paris was their favorite city. They loved Paris. We got on our plane with all the excitement of making a great choice. Walking through the airport we assumed our tourist roles taking photos of each other at the welcome sign, looking lost, and not speaking the language. We were on the train to our hostel for about 20 minutes when suddenly at one of the stops something happened. To this day I’m not entirely sure, nor is Brigid, what exactly took place. We witnessed a man chase down another man out of the train, throw him from the platform and on to the tracks, drag the mans limp body by his neck up from the tracks with his own face blackened, another man pull the emergency cord, and then the police being called why the one man sat on the back of the other man. (if you are confused and disoriented by this story, then you feel a fraction of how B and I felt). The man, Brigid and I took for dead, was thankfully only knocked unconscious was arrested and taken away. Unable to understand the language, not sure who was the good guy and who was the bad guy, and being in an unfamiliar country where the airport was guarded by men carrying semi-automatics, you can only imagine how terrified Brigid and I were from that moment on. The woman across from us just looked at us and said, “C’est Paris.” A couple stops later, the same woman looked at us before getting off the train and in English said, “Enjoy your trip to Paris. Please be safe.” Exactly what our mothers would have told us. We traveled through train stations with extreme caution after that. We were suspicious about everyone. When we got to the hostel we finally felt safe, but still opted to sleep in the same bed. You know, just in case.

The next day Brig and I had our bearings and we had the best day ever walking around seeing the sites. We did just that. Saw the sites.  Continuing Lindsay’s theory of us being “25% tourists” since we don’t actually “do” anything.  We would see something, take a picture of it, take a picture of each of us in front of it, and then keep moving.

It was too expensive to stick around to visit any of the galleries and not enough time. Our mission while we were there was to eat everything that was delicious and we did do that. We enjoyed great baguettes, a delicious meringue, a scrumptious pastry, and yummy crepes. The streets smelled too delicious from all the pastry shops to pass any of these goodies up. We survived Paris using two key phrases. Mine always being, “Je ne comprends pas” meaning “I don’t understand” and Brigid’s was always “Parlaz anglais?” meaning “Speak English?”

On the last day of our trip we visited Notre Dame and hung out in the Latin Quarter. While trying to find a cheap, sunny restaurant to sit down and enjoy a coffee a man came up to us. He asked us what kind of restaurant we were looking for and started making suggestions of where we could go. As he led us to a great place where we could sit and enjoy the view of Notre Dame he asked if he could join us. We agreed, he bought our coffees, and we talked about Paris and life. Where he’s from (Manchester), how he loves living in Paris, why we were visiting. I know what you are thinking, have these girls learned anything from the train! We did. We were on our guard. (We weren’t following him down dark alleys, or going back to his place. We were always in crowded places, we watched our drinks) Then he introduced to the most wonderful bookshop I have ever been in. Shakespeare and Co.

The walls are lined with books from the ceiling down. They are in piles in front of the shelves on tables, on the stairs leading up to the second floor. Writers such as James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, and Allen Ginsberg have been known to gather and work there. It was the most wonderful store in the world. It was if Charlie, our new friend, were the Beast giving us his library. Before leaving us to spend the afternoon consumed in books, Charlie, bought Brigid and I each a copy of The Little Prince, his favorite book. He even made sure the store stamped the inside of it with their logo. One of the steps in the store had “Live For Humanity” painted on it. I can not think of a better way for Brig and I to leave Paris, having seen the best of humanity after witnessing the worst. (Brig took a picture of the step, so perhaps I can post the pic later) It was a great trip with a bit of rocky start but I wouldn’t change a thing.

I especially wouldn’t change the conversation of buying the train ticket to Notre Dame with a French woman.

Me: un ticket to No-ter Dame (I’m spelling it how I said it)

French Woman responds with something in French in the form of a question.

Me: No.ter. dame.

French woman with confused expression on her face.

Brigd: Notre Dame.

French woman smiles: Oui

…. the time I got yelled at in French

French woman yelling in French

Me: je ne comprends pas.

French woman points and yells now

Me: je ne comprends pas

she walks away shaking her head.

My very first visitor! (Tom doesn’t count because he’s from the U.K., sorry Tom) The preparations for Brigid’s arrival have been crazy and a long time coming. Plans for her arrival began way back in January of 2010  when a certain someone missed a certain GMAT test and started applying for schools in Scotland. After doing a ton of searching for some great ticket deals Brig booked her flight back in November and ever since then the anticipation of her arrival has been crazy! As the date has neared my own hipanic panic has been coming through.

I have bombarded Brigid with endless emails. At any time, any moment, I think of something to tell her I shoot her an email, usually coupled with a facebook message. “Can you bring this with you?” “No need to bring a straightner.” “what time do you arrive?” “Don’t forget to tell your bank you’ll be in Scotland” “don’t exchange money at the airport” “what time do you arrive?” “can’t wait to see you!” “Can you bring peanut butter candy for me?” “what time do you arrive?” That is just my virtual Hispanic panic.

I have been also been out shopping for all the necessities to make her stay as comfortable as possible, such as buying two pillows from Ikea. Yes that’s right until last week I did not own any pillows. I only have one plate, one cup, and one bowl. Before this, there was no reason to have more, and now I’m on the great search to buy more. I’ve been taking extra napkins from starbucks and the library café, along with ketchup and other condiments. This is what Lindsay has since deemed as “Urban Hunting and Gathering.” Makes it seem less like thievery and more like survival tactics. I have also been stocking up on food to prevent us from eating out too much. I’ve been on cooking websites trying to think of things we can make that would be easy and fast and that our fool proof from me ruining. Thankfully the first couple nights Lindsay is letting us crash at her place so Brig won’t be too exposed to my disgustingly filthy flat, but that hasn’t stopped me from cleaning my room everyday, breaking out the vacuum, and doing all my laundry.

The stress of her getting from the airport to the city center has been just as stressful (for her too I’m sure). I was originally going to pick her up from the airport but then I remembered there is a certain little man, Cole, who I take care of in the mornings, meaning Brig will have to take the school’s cab. But of course in true Edinburgh spirit, nothing is easy. The cab system has one price listed on-line and they emailed a different price. This is all to be sorted out within the next 24 hours. By the time Brig is safe in Edinburgh, I will be ready for a few pints of Strongbow as I’m sure she will too after her hours of traveling.

Once she gets here I can relax and the craziness can begin.

She is in for a great time of pubs, pints, castles, walking, bagpipers, men in kilts (my personal favorite), 6 nations, train rides, new countries, thick accents, and most importantly some incredibly fun people. Having my Ohio life and my Edinburgh life collide will be A-MAZING!

Can’t wait to update the blog on our adventures!

It’s happening and it’s hitting closer to home then I would have ever imagined.

My mother is from Nicaragua and came to the states for school, fell in love, and blah blah blah. Then the best day of her life happened when she had me. With the 24 years of my life I spent growing up in the states I was constantly bombarded with a common theme of America’s stupidity with comments such as these:

“These stupid Americans”

“You know in this country you turn 18 and the parents push you on the street. That’s not right. You’re not an adult. How dumb.”

“Only in this country”

“Nobody cares in this country”

“Uhhhhhhhhh!!! America”

“You know, you Americans just don’t know.”*

* my mom has a knack of being American when she wants and Nicaraguan when she wants. You never know which way she’ll sway.

My most recent trip to Costco was not a pleasant one. After walking a mile to the bus stop, waiting for 20 minutes in the rain, riding the bus for 30 minutes, spending 30 minutes in Ikea to get anything necessary for my visiting guest (Brigid – future post to follow) followed by a trip next door to Costco.

In preparations for this trip I carried my oversized canvas bag and a large  folded blue Ikea bag.

the ikea bag I am talking about

This way I could distribute the weight of my purchases between the two and prevent cutting off the circulation in my arms when walking to the bus and walking home. I approached the front doorman with all the confidence in the world. Flashing my glorious membership card. The golden ticket I need to enter this wonderous American institution.

“Excuse me ma’am.”

Understandably I did not stop right away as, I think we all know, I am not a ma’am. I’m not even sure I’m a lady.

“Excuse me!” he shouts at me again. I turn around.

“Yes.” I say with a ginormous smile.

“What’s in your bag?”

“Excuse me?”

“Is that an Ikea purchase?” people start passing by me with their own golden tickets and carts and he continues to check them in.

“What? Yeah, I was just there.”

“You are going to have to leave that here.”

“Why?”

“No Ikea purchases allowed in Costco.”

“I don’t understand.”

“No Ikea purchases allowed in Costco.”

“Right, I heard you, can you explain to me why?”

“They are not allowed inside.”

It’s like banging my head against a wall. This goes on a little bit longer. I inform him I took the bus and don’t have a car to leave my apparently ginormous purchase (two pillows) I bought in. I ask where exactly he wants me to put the two pillows. He points to the floor by the entry way. Oh no. I suggest behind the counter or somewhere else; he, of course, says no several times in several different ways. I then bring up the point that if he doesn’t trust me in the store why should I trust him with my belongings. Desperate for Costco and the expedition it takes me to get here each time, I decide to coincide with his rules. I put the pillows on the ground. And start walking away.

“Ma’am.” Now, that was just unnecessary. I slowly turn in disbelief rolling my eyes.

“Yes.”

“You need to leave your Ikea bag.”

“I need the bag to put my Costco purchases in because the cardboard won’t last in the rain and is difficult to carry in my 2 mile walk to the bus and home.” I exaggerate, a tactic I picked-up from my mother.

“You need to leave your Ikea bag.”

“Are you serious?”

“You’re American” he says to my remark.

I throw the bag on the ground and yell, “ONLY IN THIS COUNTRY!” then storm off.

I then bought my groceries in anger. I didn’t even eat the samples I was so mad. I showed them! I was going to ask to speak to a manager, another tactic my mother utilizes. I envisioned the conversation I’d have with the manager as I stomped through the store but was so mortified of using one of my mom’s expressions I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

p.s. I’m afraid this tale has been hastily written and may only provide humor to those who know my mom but I felt the experience needed to be shared.

I have been incredibly good, or at least this is what I tell myself, on managing my finances. Correction, on managing the money I am borrowing at an 8% interest rate from the government. This pass Friday was payday for me. Payday is far more modest for me than it was at home but I make it work – most of the time.

I live in a town filled with kebabs, horrible pizzas, and average burgers (they are usually all sold in one shop). With ten of these shops per block you can only imagine how hard burritos are to come by. This past Saturday having another one of my Big Mama/Chipotle cravings my friend, Lauren, told me of magical place called “Illegal Jacks” where they specialize in burritos, tacos, and tortilla chips served in bowls or wrapped foil. Before Lauren could finish her sentence we were off to Illegal Jacks. Illegal Jacks exterior is not as inviting as one may think, it’s squeezed in between a shoe store and some other kind of restaurant. It’s white paint is chipping and it’s front sign is a little sad, giving no pizzaz to it’s Mexican cuisine. This did not deter me. Do not judge a book by its cover. We went in and it felt like home. Americanized Mexican treats laid out in front of me just like Chipotle. The only difference being the option for a haggis burrito (I’m telling you guys, they love haggis; they’ll put it in/on/with anything).

I purchased a chicken burrito with jalapenos, spicy salsa, black beans, and guacamole. With my burrito I splurged and got a corona. Yumm! But the burrito wasn’t right. It was wrapped like a peppermint candy not tucked in. It was given to me in a bowl with silverware. People weren’t holding it in the foil and unwrapping as they go. They were dumping them in their bowls and using the UTENSILS! If you’re going to do that then you might was well get the bowl option and skip the tortilla! It was absolutely sinful to watch. The only thing that made it worse was the cost of my burrito.

One burrito – £6.50

Add chicken – £0.80

Add guacamole – £0.50

Add jalapenos – £0.30

Add corona – £3.00

Grand total – £11.10

This translates into me spending on one person, $16. $16 for Chipotle! I mean it was delicious and tasted like a bite of home, but I could have bought four burritos for that a home or three burritos and a beer. I could have bought 5 baby mama’s with mama says no salsa for this much money. Needless to say, Illegal Jacks was a one time deal, delicious as it may be. That is how you drop 10 pounds in one meal. Thank heavens it’s not on my drunken walk home…