Worst. Blogger. Ever

I am so sorry that I haven’t updated in forever.  I feel like all I do is apologize :/. So I am going to write, like, three posts. Right now. Last time we spoke, I talked about my trip to Ireland. So now I guess y’all get to hear about the second leg of my solo spring break European journey: Italy.

I’m going to level with you, right here, Cornell blogosphere. When I was a wee child, imagining my studying abroad experience, I placed myself in a beautiful, foreign Mediterranean atmosphere. Italy was my goal. My priorities changed a little bit, obviously, but I was super excited to just be in Rome. So.

I flew into Rome through Paris, which meant that I flew on Air France, which meant I got a super fancy and delicious inflight meal. I’m talking tabouli and custard-y things and some super yummy cookies. I sat in the airport in Paris for a while, surrounded by tourists making their way to EuroDisney (or whatever it’s called now). Yeah America, is basically what I’m saying.

I made it to Rome no problem, and spent two days wandering around the Coliseum and the Pantheon and the ‘three coins in a fountain’ fountain (the fontana di trevi). I went to the Spanish Steps and ate way too much pizza and gelato.

Rome was so different than Edinburgh. Edinburgh is sort of idyllic; it’s green and cloudy and scenic and there’s a big castle in the middle of it. Rome is a huge, bright, bustling metropolis. And the weather! There were palm trees!

I stayed in a hostel by the Coliseum, and there were definitely a lot of other tourists taking advantage of the early season travel deals, but it was crazy being surrounded by a language that wasn’t English (although sometimes it feels like that in Scotland, too).  I have a little bit of Italian and a little bit of Spanish, so I could understand what people were saying but had a really hard time recalling vocabulary to respond with myself. In the train station, someone actually mistook me for a real live Italian (and let me tell you, I have never been more flattered in my life) and asked me a question that I understood and knew the answer to, but I couldn’t figure out how to reply. Then I tried to answer in English, and my new friend apologized and went to find a real Roman. It was pretty frustrating.

From Rome, I took a train to Florence. I am sort of enthralled with rail travel; it’s an exotic thing that we don’t have a lot of in the American Midwest. The trip through the Italian countryside was beautiful.

Florence was also gorgeous. Surreptitiously, I unknowingly planned my visit during a national cultural week. So all the museums were free. I saw David. For free. Florence was chock full of tourists. I think heard more English than Italian in the few days that I was there. I found myself wishing that I knew a little bit more about art history, so I could really appreciate what I was seeing. I was amazed at the size and scope of the museums, and in awe of being in what was once the center of the Renaissance.  Also I saw Dante’s house. So that was pretty exciting.

Then the stupid volcano in stupid Iceland erupted. Just kidding, kind of. But I did get stuck in Rome for a few days. Which, you know, there are worse places to get stuck, amirite? I used my extra time to tour the Vatican museums and see the Sistine Chapel. I was sort of amazed at the number of people in line at the Vatican; it was definitely one of the most crowded tourist sites that I visited.

There were also nuns everywhere, from all over, which shouldn’t have been surprising, of course, but I really enjoyed seeing women in habits eating gelato and taking tourist-y pictures of themselves.

It was kind of nice to get back to Edinburgh after my trip. I realized that I have come to know this city pretty well. I was so relieved to not be a tourist anymore, and I realized that I’m not a tourist here anymore! I look the right way when I cross the street, I call my sweaters ‘jumpers,’ and I order food to ‘take away.’ I still get lost, though. Medieval streets, man. So maybe I’m still a little green.

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Long time no blog

Hello loyal readers  (mom). It’s been a while. When we last spoke (when I last talked some nonsense on the internet), I was in Dublin, writing about the Scottish Highlands. Och aye, lassie.

Dublin was pretty awesome. I got lucky, weatherly speaking, and it was warm (ish) and sunny the whole five days I was there. I went to a lot of museums and completely nerded out on literary stuff. They should really just rename the place ‘Jamesjoyceville,’ if you ask me.

The night I arrived, I got completely lost in front of a hotel that was the setting for, guess what, the last story in the Dubliners. I mean, I don’t really even like James Joyce that much (I’m a philistine, what can I say?) but it was a little overwhelming to see how he absorbed his hometown into his work and how his work has become such a defining part of Dublin. I also saw my boy Oscar Wilde’s house, and saw a really interesting exhibit on Yeats.

Here’s the thing, right. I don’t really like poetry much (see previous parenthetical statement). But I did love Yeats. He would go on my shortlist, which also includes Langston Hughes and then probably Sylvia Plath, but only sometimes, and Dorothy Parker. And ee cummings because everybody likes ee cummings and maybe TS Eliot even though he was probably an anti semite and also Gil Scott Heron. So it pained me to find out that WB Yeats was a Mussolini sympathizer. I mean, I knew he was sort of crazy and into occult stuff. But I definitely never had him pegged for a fascist, especially after ‘a terrible beauty is born.’

I also went to the Irish Museum of Modern Art, which was on the old National Hospital grounds and had a formal garden and this really cool old sanatorium feel. It was creepy and awesome. I don’t know a lot about art, but they had a few exhibits I really enjoyed. The Morton Feldman exhibit, especially, was amazing. I know it’s kind of gauche to admit one’s love for Rothko and and Franz Kline, but whatever. I’m a plebe. The exhibit was fascinating. Feldman’s music, which I actually don’t really care for, paired with the paintings that inspired him, was just really cool to see. That sentence is fraught with grammatical error but I can’t figure out how to fix it. Oh finals (excuse me, exams), eating away at my brain capacity.

What else to say about Dublin? I gleaned a little about Irish history (depressing), went to both the Guiness and old Jameson breweries but decided not to pay for the tours, and mostly just walked around a lot. Besides the getting lost, and Yeats breaking my heart, it was a pretty successful solo jaunt.

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the scottish highlands

Hey guys! It’s been a while. Sorry about that. I am sitting in my hostel in Dublin, and I realized that I never updated about the first part of my grand solo European adventure. So here goes nothin’.

The tour itself was pretty funny. There were only two other native English speakers on my bus, because a tour group from Taiwan had also booked the trip, so the guide gave us a lot of personal attention. Which was nice, I guess. The tour was kind of hokey, as I had expected, but the Highlands were beautiful. Snow capped mountains and sprawling moors covered in heather (which, unfortunately, blooms in the fall– it would have been amazing to see the fields covered in purple). The guide told us a lot of silly stories about faeries and the like but he also shared a fair bit of history with us, which was actually really interesting. I saw Loch Ness and Glencoe and too many castles too count.

The Isle of Skye, where we stayed for two nights, was sort of eerily beautiful. There was something almost menacing in the starkness of the landscapes. One of the girls on my tour got a dirty poem recited to her by a ‘native’ fisherman, so that was pretty entertaining. I ate overpriced fish and chips and went on a whisky tour.

I will add some of the pictures I snapped before my camera battery died (oops) when I get back to home base in Edinburgh.

xxxx (what is with the British and their kisses)

-Elana

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a sad day for bagels everywhere

So Scotland, right. Not really renowned for the local cuisine. I have to say, for the most part I’ve been fairly pleasantly surprised. There are many non-haggis delicious foods to put in my mouth. So take the following cuisinical (yeah I just made up a word) horror story with a little grain of salt:

There’s this bagel place in Edinburgh which has okay bagels. They’re kind of bread-y, and not quite right, but they’ll do in a pinch.  So I went for lunch the other day and ordered a ‘deli-style pastrami’ sandwich. I figured I’d get some rye bread and brown mustard, you know. Instead, I got a toasted bagel with cream cheese, pastrami, sliced pickles and yellow mustard on top. I don’t know what sort of delis these people have been frequenting, but geez. So that’s my funny story, which also led me to adopt a new life rule: never order deli-style food in a place where there isn’t much of  a Jewish community. Which, hello, Elana. You are in Scotland. Think. Once at home I ordered a corned beef sandwich and they put mayo on it. The tragedy that is my life.

My Scottish Highland trip begins on Monday! Will update with plenty of pictures later!

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The End (of term) is nigh

Sorrz for my neglectful posting, guys. I realized I haven’t said much since my return from the Canada of Europe. I don’t think that really works. Oh well. I don’t have too much of interest to report. It’s really, truly spring (knockin on wood). I’ve been sitting outside and reading a lot, mostly. I took a walk up Arthur’s Seat, finally. So that was nice.

I realized this week that the field I live next to is actually a golf course. Public links. It’s pretty funny, because in America golf has a pretty hoity-toity reputation. Not here. People carry a club with ’em and whack a few golf balls on the lawn before class. Football players and rugby players are also pouring out of the woodwork (I am just failing at metaphors all across the board today). There are irises everywhere, and the sun doesn’t set til at least 6. And the scottie dogs. Oh, the scottie dogs. I wish it were the beginning spring everyday, when everyone is so happy to just be outside.

Term ends next week. What. Basically, we have the whole month of April to study for exams. Or, in my case, travel. I am going to get my James Joyce on in Dublin for 4 days. Whoa. I’m also taking a super cheeztastic bus tour into the beautiful scottish highlands (that’s what the website promises), and I’m going to Italy for a week. Whoa whoa whoa. I have never solo adventured before, so I am a little bit nervous. But I’ll be so continental when I return. You won’t even recognize me. “Elana,” you’ll say, “you’re so… refined.” And I’ll be all, “Europe, dahling.” Like when Audrey Hepburn went to Paris to learn how to make  souffle and then Humphrey Bogart fell in love with her. You’ll be Humphrey Bogart’s brother. Look for the small dog at the train station.  END SCENE.

ANYWAY, I have to write a paper by next week, and then I’m off! I’m so excited, I just can’t hide it.

Peace out, etc.

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elana abroad 2: electric boogaloo. OSLO.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m from Minnesota. Only like every time I write something, amirite? So here’s the deal about Minnesota. Sometime in the mid 1800’s, a bunch of Scandinavians hightailed it out of Sweden and Norway (and Finland and Denmark) and made their way over to the land of opportunity. Most of them settled in the upper Midwest (holla!) so a lot of us guys chillin (literally) in almost-Canada have us some Scandinavian ancestry. ‘Gee, Elana, thanks for that lame history lesson, but what do I care?’ Well, faithful readers (read: my mother), being the true-blue half Scandinavian (Norwegian, mostly, with a lil bit of Swedish and Finnish thrown in there for good measure) that I am, I went on a trip to Oslo this weekend (actually the flight was just really cheap. Because, really, who wants to go to Norway in February?). And let me tell you, I have never been so homesick in my entire life.

‘Oh, Elana. Surely that’s not true. Surely you cried like a baby when you went to sleep away camp when you were seven.’  A) stop reading my diary, and B) sometimes I like to hyperbolize a wee bit. It is part of my charm. On the real, though. There was snow. There was water. There were boats. People were driving on the right (and correct) side of the road. Most importantly, there was American candy hanging out in the convenience stores.

What I’m trying to say is, Oslo was gorgeous, but also kind of disappointing. I was expecting an exotic wonderland full of seven foot tall blonde people who listened exclusively to black metal. What I got was a normal (okay, super expensive) city, covered in snow and full of the eccentricities that give every city its own unique flavor. (Yeah, I just wrote that sentence. Before, it said ‘weird oddities.’ Be happy with what you got). The Vigeland Sculpture Park was super cool, and I saw the Scream. I did not steal it, but you can bet your bottom dollar that I made way too many jokes about doing it. I bought a super tourist-y ‘Norwegian Sweater’ which I’m sure they mass produce like whoa and sell to people like me, but it was cheap (ish). So whatev. I saw a viking museum, and I creepily took a picture of a small child wearing a Minnesota Wild jersey.

I still want to make a lot of money someday (yo, as of yet unknown to me fabulously rich, consumptive (exotic!) relative, take note) and move to Scandinavia, and be a crazy genius (‘crazy,’ ‘genius’ and ‘crazygenius’) because there is no light. I’ll be super dark and hilarious like Ibsen or that Swedish vampire movie. You’ll see, you’ll all see. I’ll be the darkest, starkest, genius-ist fake Scandinavian the world has ever seen.

Until then, I have to write an essay about 16th century women’s autobiographical writing. Barf.

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Snow Umbrellas

When I was little, I used to get strep throat a lot. I’d go to the doctor and they’d do that test where they stick a popsicle stick in your mouth and make you say ‘Aah’ and then they’d write you a prescription for liquid bubblegum-flavored amoxicillin. Why am I sharing this story? Because that is exactly what Irn-Bru tastes like. Bubblegum-flavored medicine. I have been searching for a more universal descriptor, in case you were a healthy child and/or made to swallow penicillin tablets like a grown up, but words are failing me. I have tasted one sickly-sweet Scottish delicacy, and now I must taste them all. I will eat a deep-fried Mars Bar and some haggis before I leave (in my head this declaration sounds like William Wallace as channeled by Mel Gibson, FYI).

In other news, it is snowing. The wettest, densest snow I have ever encountered in my entire life. My first winter at Cornell, I laughed at the kids from warm weather places wielding umbrellas to protect themselves from the snow. ‘Amateurs,’ I scoffed. But now I sort of wish I had one. Everything I own is soaking wet.

My computer died, so I have been living in the library. I did go on a fun adventure trying to find a computer store in my neighborhood, so that was nice. I have found my calling in life: walking around in circles. I never thought I would long for the comfort of a giant box store, but I have never wanted to go to Best Buy more in my entire life.

I naively (dumbly) thought that Edinburgh would be, like, untouched by American consumerism. McDonald’s I expected. But Pizza Hut and Subway are here too, and there’s a Starbucks on every corner. Which makes sense, of course. Globalism and a culture of convenience and all of that. Did that sound like I know what I’m talking about? (I don’t).

I am off to find mittens for my trip to Oslo. Ha Det! (That’s how the internet tells me you say good-bye in Norwegian).

(Oh man this computer’s spell check is telling me that ‘neighborhood’ is properly spelled ‘neighbourhood.’ AWESOME. Also, £££€€€€€€££££. Dig a UK keyboard)

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V. Good and Co Criminal Defence Lawyers

The title of this post is my very (v.) favorite sign that I pass every day. I might even venture to say that it is my “favourite.” Although I must say that I still get a pretty big kick out of “This Building is Alarmed.” Poor building, we’re wearing on its last nerve.

The weather is really starting to improve. It feels like spring! I love to watch people bobble along on their bicycles in the cobblestones. I got pretty sick this week, which was no fun. But I am on the road to recovery.

Speaking of illness (what up awkward segue), I’m taking a class called “Politics of the Welfare State,” which is a required course for first year social policy undergrads. It’s been really challenging for me, not because of the workload, but because of the entirely different conception of poverty that exists here– in large part due to the existence of the National Health Service.

I’ve been thinking a lot about cultural differences, lately. Like the fact that stores charge you extra for plastic bags, for instance. Some things just make sense. There aren’t a lot of giant cars because you couldn’t drive a giant car here without blocking traffic every which way. But I am constantly met with things that amaze me. Did you know that the Labour Party actively identifies some of its policies as “socialist?” Dang. I can’t think of a dirtier word in the US mainstream political vernacular than “socialist.”

Well, I can think of one. And it seems that Islamophobia is not particular to the US (duh). I’ve been reading Indymedia Scotland, because I am a nerd, and tomorrow there is a counterprotest against the Scottish Defence League, an “anti Islamic extremism,” nationalist organisation, who have a marched planned for the afternoon. I think it will be really interesting to observe from the outside. Don’t worry, I’m not gonna get my black bloc on. I do like to see the way dissent and protest works in a culture with a different Constitution and Bill of Rights– from both sides. I know that the ACLU has fiercely defended the first amendment rights of groups like the Ku Klux Klan to march stateside, and it seems like the same sort of “censorship vs spreading hate” debate rages here.

I’m also planning to take a hike up Arthur’s Seat this weekend, and to see where the Queen lives when she deigns to vacation northward. Just kidding Liz, let’s have tea. Your people can contact my people. Arthur’s Seat also happens to be the most awkward name for a hill (mountain? I don’t think so) ever. Numerous studies have shown.

Peace. Seacrest out. XOXO (et cetera)

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

I realized that I have now been here for over a month. Which is crazy! I also have been woefully negligent of this here blogging, so I am going to try to update at least twice this week. We’ll see what happens. Today is the day that St. Valentine drove all the snakes out of Ireland and then became the first US president. Yes, that’s right, Chinese New Year. LOLJK etc, although it really is Chinese New Year (or at least that’s what my Chinese flatmate says). But it is also Valentine’s day. Which, it seems, is not quite as big a deal over here as it is in the states. Which, like, awesome.

The weather has been getting nicer and nicer (now that I’ve said that it means it’s going to snow tomorrow). Last weekend, I decided to be proactive and buy myself a bike. Bike culture here seems pretty laidback and nice; there are bike paths all over the place and very few snobby fixed gear riding look down their nose at you cool cats. There is a bike co-op not too far from my house that puts on a bike sale every Saturday morning and also offers workshops on how to fix your bike and cool stuff like that. So, I got myself out of bed at the ungodly hour of 10 AM (I know, right?), and picked up a super ugly 90’s Will Smith mobile. But it’s sturdy, and, as the guy helping me out so wonderfully put it, “no one’s gonna steal it.” It is kind of perfect for Edinburgh, though. A road bike would be handily defeated by the cobbled streets, and there is a delightfully mid-nineties air to this city which is pretty appealing to a grungy kid like myself.

I have been doing a lot of tourist-y things as I tool around on my bike. Free museums are awesome. It is really wet here, though, and I think I am developing a cold.  I can hear my mother chastising me from across the ocean, and she is right. Gotta better combat that dampness.

I don’t have much else to report. I am going to see a poetry reading at the National Library tomorrow, and then in two weeks I am going to Oslo! There is a notoriously cheap airline called RyanAir which was offering 4 pound tickets to Norway, and my roommates and I thought, “Heck! Why not!”

Will update again soon. Pinkie swear.

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A Comic Book Store, or: How I learned to Combat Homesickness and Embrace my Inner Nerd

I have to confess something to you, Cornell blogosphere. I, Elana Dahlager, am a comic book nerd. So when I woke up this week feeling a little lonely and homesick, I decided that I was going to find a comic book store in Edinburgh and find me some Daniel Clowes to keep me company. I got on the ol google box to do some research, and found that there was only one independent comic book shop left in the city. Curses, big corporate chains. So I headed down to Deadhead (a more lol-worthy name I have never heard) to check out the graphic novel sitch.

So I walked through the Meadows and past Greyfriars Bobby, down Candlemaker Row, one of the many winding, medieval (I think) side streets that manage to confuse me so. Admittedly, I have a very poor sense of direction. But still. I found the correct address, and was met with a dusty little hole in the wall crammed with comix (the proper spelling) and two guys playing video games behind the counter. In other words, a refreshingly standard comic book type atmosphere. It wasn’t like the grocery store where I am always afraid of buying the wrong brand or the discount store where I spent far too long trying to figure out whether a clothing conditioner was laundry detergent. Oy vey. No, Deadheads was like a little piece of (more expensive) home.

I have also been museum-ing it up. I saw a really cool exhibit of Turner watercolors at the National Gallery of Scotland, along with some impressionist paintings that I recognized from the only art history class I’ve ever taken ever. So that was pretty awesome. I also took a little bit of a hike down (up? west?) to the National Gallery of Contemporary Art, where I saw the  BP Portrait Award exhibition. There were some pretty spectacular pieces, including an entry from Cornell and also a portrait of a pretty prominent figure in the Minneapolis music scene, P.O.S. It’s funny how you find little bits of home everywhere you go.

I have an essay due next week, so the reality that school has actually started is starting to finally sink in. I am still a little bit in awe of the music scene here. Dubstep (Dub Step?) and Drum and Bass seem to be the popular cub jamz, but I went to a night at the arts college where a dj spun a really fun mix of new wave and soul and punk records. So that was cool. I also saw one of the dudes from Belle and Sebastian spin, but he really needs to work on his transitions.

Here is a random smattering of pictures of things that I’ve taken; I promise to add pictures of the castle and other more picturesque things soon.

the view from my literature lecture

the view from my literature lecture

walking around old town

walking around old town

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across the street from my flat building

across the street from my flat building

pretty university buildings (i think)

pretty university buildings (i think)

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the walk home from class

the walk home from class

it is so nice to see green things in january

it is so nice to see green things in January

the (blurry) street where i live

the (blurry) street where i live

inside the old elementary (primary?) school where i live

inside the old elementary (primary?) school where i live

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