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Posts Tagged ‘culture’

Colleen and I journeyed to Amsterdam during her visit. It was the most amazing city! As I’ve been a wretched blogger I am just going to do a brief overview of the time spent in Amsterdam through a series of what we did and did not do. This will benefit any readers who’s attention span is as short as my own.

We did…go to the Keukenhof Gardens

We did not…get to see the tulips in full bloom as it was the last day of the season and most of them had been clipped however the ones that were there were gorgeous!

We did…take a lot of pictures of flowers

We did….go to the Red Light District

We did not…go to a sex show
We did…get propositioned to have sex with male and female prostitutes after going into every sex shop and eventually being recognized by the workers
We did…exercise our will power and turn them down, EVEN when they offered us safe sex. (Great selling points)
We did…watch a transaction go down between a woman in a window and a man on street, who started the conversation with “Are you good?” we had much respect for this as it is a valid question, we just figured what good prostitute wouldn’t lie?

Anne Frank Statue

We did….go to the Anne Frank House
We did not…purchase any souvenirs as it seemed odd
We did…think it was completely awesome and totally worth it. Recommend to all! Amazing!

Even the buildings don't know which way to go!

We did not…get lost. Who are we kidding? We got lost walking straight because oh yeah, none of the streets stay straight for long.
We did…figure out buying a map is no better than the free maps you can pick up anywhere.
We did not…admit to others when we were lost hence Colleen’s line of “I know where we are! Leidsplein!” she did not however, know how to get home from there.
We did…almost get run over by bikes, cars, boats, and pedestrians every five to ten minutes.
We did…go out drinking
We did not…order drinks appropriately as I discovered while talking to very nice Dutch man. Apparently no one orders pints, they all order half pints so that their drink stays cold until the last sip. I then spent the next ten minutes trying to gulp my pint down as fast as possible
We did…find a local bar
We did not…find the bar through the tourist book and out of respect for our new friends I will not say where it was because when they realized we weren’t Dutch (because we didn’t understand what they were saying) they freaked out. The conversation went like this:
Man: *says something in dutch*
Colleen and I stare at him for an awkward length of time
Me: Oh, we’re english. We don’t speak Dutch
Colleen: Oh my God, we blend in. They think we’re from here! Success!
Man: this is a dutch bar
Me and Colleen: Cool
Man: how did you find this bar?
Me: we were just walking and saw it
Man: what tourist book was it in?!
Me: it wasn’t in one.
Man: you have a tourist book though?
Me: yes but we were just walking and we found this. It wasn’t in the book.
Man: Just tell me which one.

people ignoring the sign and waiting in the queue when they don't have to be outside of the Van Gogh Museum

We did…go to the Van Gogh Museum
We did not…go to any other art museum
We did…LOVE the Van Gogh Museum

We did…learn all attractive men seem to live in Amsterdam. They are everywhere and they are gorgeous. Even better, for every 10 attractive males there is one female.
We did not…learn any dutch.
We did…say “Hallo” obnoxiously for about ten consecutive minutes every morning
We did…discover our hotel has thin walls and our neighbors seemed to be having much better morning than colleen and I. Now if only we could have figured out who they were at breakfast…

Our hotel in the museum district and right by the park. perfect!

I would like to end this blog with this final note. I LOVE AMSTERDAM. After spending a few days there I definitely fell in love with this city. Additionally, I have found myself daydreaming and fantasizing about…getting a bike. They are so cool! I want a bike so ridiculously bad now. And not just any bike, a fun, Amsterdamy bike. One with a neat lock on the back wheel with a fun color. And I want a cool basket on the front to put my stuff in, and one of those bags that drapes over the back tires to hold more of my stuff. I also want a seat cover to keep it dry when it rains and I lock it up outside. That is all. My blog on Colleen’s visit to Edinburgh will be next. I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to keep my blog updated when I spend my days writing, so my apologies.

Cheers, Jess

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Alcohol. Yes. Fire. Yes. Nudity. Why not?

The Beltane Fire Festival was this past Saturday and in true Edinburgh hippy fashion it was celebrated at the top of Calton Hill with all the (fake) pagan fun. It is a Celtic fertility festival. The ritual is about the celebration of fertility of land and the animals practiced. Now it is basically an excuse for the hippies of Edinburgh, mainly students, to go up a hill, drink alcohol, play with fire, and get naked.

Enjoying the festivities

Rosie mentioned it in passing to Lauren and I and ten minutes later a plan and an evening was in the works. After reading the risk on the ticket – involves fire performance, uninhibited behavior, and semi-nudity; attendance at your own risk – my excitement only grew. Following the rules of the festival (no glass, drums, loud instruments, dogs or combustibles) we set off with Kiki, Colm, and a few extras to the hill.

The line to get up to the hill

The line to get into the festival was massive, with a prediction of 12,000 attendants. When we finally got there we did a wee once over of the set-up then found a nice spot to watch the sunset over Edinburgh while enjoying our beer. An hour later we were begging for the festivities to begin as we had not dressed entirely appropriate for a night out in the cold. All we could hope for was for them to starting lighting the fires.

When it did finally begin we forgot all about the cold as we made our way to see the torches. It was insane, 12,000 people all followed these specs of light like bugs to a zapper. The opening ceremonies consisted of lighting fire under the Athenian acropolis (intended to be a replica of the Parthenon but 200 years later still isn’t finished) followed by the Beltane performers scantily dressed and painted in reds and oranges to make their way to different areas of the hill with lit torches. When I say torches I mean legit torches, not how the English refer to flashlights as torches. As we came early we had a great spot for a majority of the show as we watched the performers dance around for an awkward amount of time without fire, then a nice amount of time with fire, and then began to take off some articles of clothing. Then they took off a little bit more. Lots of boobs and butt-cheeks. At one point they seemed to have created an orgy. Which for everyone, at least everyone not involved in the orgy, seemed quite uncomfortable.

No worries, after the orgy scene they went right into what everyone was waiting for – playing with fire! The second the fire tricks of juggling and twirling began so did the “oohs” and “aahs.”I know this was directed at the fire and not the nudity because many of the comments for the nudity such as “gross” or “show us more” stopped, along with some obnoxious American males sitting behind us.

Playing with fire...hopefully they are careful not to burn any of their exposed bits

Any thoughts of joining the nudity in any way shape or form were dashed by the frigid cold air, although attendants don’t normally get naked, it is mostly reserved for the performers. Dodged a bullet there. (I hear St. Andrew’s festivities are more broad to include everyone and more cold as they run into the water naked).

Any hopes of finding people we knew or them finding us were dashed when we realized how packed the hill was. After trips to the bathrooms we found ourselves still having trouble finding the people we left at our spot. Some of us, not mentioning name but rhymes with sholm and shessica, found the lines to the toilets too long. Too weak of a bladder to hold it we took to the hill! Right by the city observatory standing opposite of where all the fire fun was going on was a path. It split in two going in different directions around the observatory. Colm left me with the choice of where to go. I chose to go right. I chose wrong. We were instantly confronted with the back-ends of five men peeing. Clearly I had picked the boy’s bathroom side of the observatory. We quickly back tracked and went left where I found a nice bush while Colm ran interference for me. Once we managed to find our group again, we were up and running to follow the torches.

ohhhh pretty! (followed by "oh no is my hair burning again?")

The fire procession then moved from spot to spot ending with a giant bonfire that sent flakes of fire into the night sky. Another awesome sight which amusement lasted about ten seconds until we all realized we were standing down wind from the fire and our hair was burning.

Did I mention they sold mini torches to the drunks?

The night was a success. Fun, friends, and fire – I couldn’t ask for more. Oh, except a little nudity of course.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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