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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Just So You Know

I traveled to Morrisons today.

In my hat!

Sorry, I was just telling my housemate, Jess, that I need something to put in my blog and she suggested my hat. I told her it needed to be travel related and she kindly reminded me that I went to Morrisons. Exciting stuff.

Ha, totally useless post! Anyway, to make some use of this entry, if any of y'all have a place in the UK that needs to be explored (or should be explored by moi) let me know. I need some UK-related adventures to experience and share!

On a side note, I made pumpkin pie tartlets today.

Bore da!

Friday, November 9, 2012

SO Many Words

Ladies and gents, it's been too long! I can't even remember where I left off with my blog updates. Opologies, opologies, opologies (yes, opologies; that is how I've decided to announce 'apologies' in my head for the time being).

I've been back in Bangor for nearly two months now (time flies), and life has been swell. Wet, yes. Cold, yes. But horrible? Nay, t'is been swell.

Here's a tip for folks needing to get to Bangor from another country: do not fly into London airports. This time around I flew into Manchester, and boy howdy was that trip way more manageable than flying into London. First of all, the train ticket to Bangor was about 45 quid as opposed to nearly 80. Second, I did not have to take the tube (WIN). Third, Manchester is better than London. Just a fact, you know.

My flight was relatively uneventful, but it was long. Since I was flying from the west coast of the U.S. it added a couple of hours to my travel time. I flew from Pasco, WA to Salt Lake to Atlanta to Manchester. It was a long day, and I was grateful to finally get into Bangor. Luckily for me, Carla got into town a bit before me, so we had the keys to our house and didn't have to worry about being locked out waiting for the landlord. I slept well that night!

Then after getting into Bangor (on September 13th) we didn't have internet in our house until November 2nd. Sweet heavens of mercy, that was the longest time period of my life. Just kidding, but it was long. Classes started on October 1st, so that just made being a student even more difficult than it already is. Luckily we are a mere 5 minutes walk (tops) from the Main Arts Library, so it wasn't too bad heading over to use the wifi. Still, there's nothing like being able to access the world in the comfort of your own home where you don't have to wear trousers.

Just kidding, by the way. I don't walk around the house without my trousers. That would just be awkward since I live with 4 other girls. Oh, and just saying, I have the best housemates ever. Brooke (temporary housemate), Carla, Jess, and Alex are amazing, and I have loads of fun with these gals.

My American amigos y amigas, just a note about British culture when it comes to houses, or more specifically, student houses. They may be called houses, but they are small. Yes, we have 5 bedrooms, but that's most of the room in the house. (Plus James and I are convinced that my bedroom is a front room converted to a bedroom... it's pretty big and has a fireplace; I am spoiled! But that's what you get for getting first pick... I do feel a bit bad). Anyway, the front room is kinda small, the kitchen is very small (you can pretty much only fit 2, maybe 3, people in there at most), and the house is always cold. ALWAYS. (The British have no idea what proper heating is). Then again I am used to it being extremely warm... TEXAS!

Then you've got the fact that the water pressure in the shower is like a trickle, we have a zoo of spiders, some windows don't open, some windows don't close properly, and a bunch of other stuff. But it is a student house! Very different from the concept of getting a flat, which was the norm in Austin. Plus the flats that I'd been in were always really nice. And warm.

Right. So this semester has turned out to be pretty busy. I've gotten involved in research (again, because I'm a nerd!), became a course rep for Sports Science, aaaaaand have classes. Oh! I also joined squash because I am too much of a sissy to brave the Welsh weather and play tennis. I do love racket games. I'm pretty psyched, though, because this upcoming week is reading week which means... no lectures! I am living the high life. The next country on my list to visit was going to be Denmark during reading week, but I'm required to be here for my Italian class (ugh, don't even want to take that) and for research. Alas, no exploration for me. I'm really bummed! However, I do have a bit of time in January free during which I'm going to take a 2 day trip to Copenhagen. I took Danish for a semester in Austin and fell in love with the language, so I've been dying to visit ever since. It'll be cold and miserable, but I'm up for the challenge! Then, get this, there is this amazing website I need to share:

You make a profile (22 euros for 2 years) and then can find work experiences in countries all over the world. The template is you work 5 hours a day 5 days a week in exchange for food and a room. I'm not going back to the US this coming summer, so my intentions are to work abroad in (preferably) a warm country like Italy or Greece. I'm really hoping for Greece. I also had the idea of working like 2 or 3 weeks at each place (there's no minimum amount of days you have to work in one place) and doing a bunch of different countries. We'll see what happens.

Yeah, that's life back in Bangor. We've had some pretty scary weather. Well, not hurricane Sandy scary, but freezing scary like hail that doesn't melt... well, it did after a day. Then it's just been cold, but it's always cold to me.

I'm thinking that's about it for an update. One quick thing though regarding British culture:

They are obsessed with American politics. First thing Wednesday morning, my lecturer asked, 'Who stayed up to see the results of the election?! I stayed up until about 3am!' My days. I'm American, I voted, and I didn't even stay up to hear the results. I don't mind so much, but what really irks me is when they have a strong opinion about everything that is wrong in the States, but they haven't even lived there. That is obnoxious. Ha, but yeah, everyone has an opinion with no valid reason... just kidding, some folks really do have a good reason for their opinion.

Not gonna lie, my head's not in and my energy is next to dead, so this post is really lame. Opologies! I'll do my best to get some exciting tales to share.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Eye Candy for the Desert Soul

Howdy y'all! I realized, literally two minutes after posting my previous entry, that I completely forgot about my promise to post Northern Ireland photos. Here they are, sirs and ma'ams:

So, this isn't very important... but it makes me smile. Two of my favorite Prestatyn-dwellers, Nic and Jordan, like to call me 'Chan Chan'. When I saw my ferry ticket, I laughed because it made me think of them!

Goodbye, Liverpool!

 Hello, Belfast! 

The start of the Portrush Raft Race.

The teams all had different themes. I was rather fond of these guys. Hardcore Irish, right?

A pirate raft that definitely took a long time to finish. I think they might have capsized.

Styrofoam rafts. Clever, but dysfunctional.


A bunch of the rafts rounding the cliff.

And the finish!

That's pretty much it. I know, not too exciting, but it's something. I'm mighty proud of myself for remembering to take some pictures. Ha.

So, that's the purpose of this post, but you know what? I kinda want to talk. So I will!

About a week ago we moved to Kennewick, Washington. Oh my gosh, I love Kennewick. Absolutely love it. It's sunny all the time (I thought it would rain), it's a pretty small city, and the people are really friendly. I think I love it so much because it reminds me of Benbrook, TX, where I grew up. The whole moving experience sucked a bit (especially since it coincided with my birthday), but it wasn't too bad. We didn't have any furniture other than air mattresses, an army cot, and 5 camp chairs for 4 days or so, no internet for a little over a week, and no TV for a little over a week. I didn't mind the internet and TV, but I really miss having a bed. Even now I'm sleeping on the couch because I don't have a bedroom and my brother couldn't set up his waterbed due to the lease, so he gets my old bed. Another incentive to get back to Wales! Ha.

Ok, so I guess I didn't want to talk too much since that's all I had to say. Hope y'all are doing well! 

By the way, I am obsessed with Mumford & Sons. Their new album comes out September 24th. I'm just a little bit beyond psyched.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.!

Hola amigas and amigos!

So, this post is ridiculously and beyond fashionably late. Apologies, I must admit I've been reluctant to post just because I knew I had a lot to say, it meant loading pictures, my hard drive died in June (didn't get a replacement until July methinks), and, quite frankly, I just didn't want to. Too busy reading, running, swimming, and chilling!

Got back in the good ol' U.S. of A on June 17th, but I didn't get home until June 18th. That is a rather amusing story, I suppose. In this amusing anecdote you will get a view of humor and pain, tears and laughter, mind-numbing boredom, and OCD. Just kidding, it's not that intense. I think it'll bring about some sort of chuckle to your lips, though!

My last few days in Bangor were alright, just did some packing and then hung out with Carla, April, and Brooke (love them girls). When I packed up I only had about 6 boxes of stuff, and these weren't even big boxes. They were banana crates from Morrisons (the guy kind of laughed at me watching me carry those out of Morrisons and up the street to Gwynant, my dorm). So packed those with clothes, books, and any spare things I had like kitchenware and office supplies. Last but not least, my beloved Texas flag was the last thing to be packed:

Honor the Texas Flag;
I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas,
one state under God,
one and indivisible.

Haha, in middle school we had to pledge allegiance to the Texas flag and the U.S. flag every day during homeroom. I didn't mind, to be honest. I love that pride we've got!


Right, so everything packed up and ready to go, got my boxes picked up by a friend, then finished packing up my suitcase. Here comes the OCD part: for the night I was sleeping with one blanket. In the morning (June 16th) I was catching the 6-something am train to London. My plan was to just get up, brush my teeth, wash my face, pack my toiletries, pull my hair back (what a mess my hair was), dress, pack my pajamas, pack my blanket, bid adieu, and head to the train station with my 2 suitcases (thank Neptune for suitcases with wheels), violin, and backpack. To make sure everything would pack up alright I did a practice run. Yes, I practiced my departure. Well, everything up until the bid adieu. You know what? It worked! Next morning everything went according to plan, I caught my train, navigated the tube with assisted ease, and got to my hotel with no troubles.

Assisted ease: required addition to my travels. In the morning I had to take my stuff with me to hike up a small hill towards security to turn in my dorm key, then stroll down the middle of the road to the train station at the bottom of the hill. The sidewalks in Bangor are terrible as it is (more on that to come), and one of the suitcases I was dragging along does not wheel very well. I swear I had to stop every few feet to set it back upright. Anyway, I really didn't need much help up until I got into London. Navigating the tube with 2 suitcases, a violin, and a gigantic backpack is a nightmare. I would push one suitcase in front, strap my violin across my torso, and drag the other suitcase behind me, and then my backpack was just on my back. There are some stations in the tube that don't have elevators. Flip me, thought I was going to die!  Fortunately there were a few kind strangers who helped me along. Lesson for me? Always help those in need. It can make any day 100000000x better. Anyway, finally get to my stop at Heathrow terminal 4 and caught the hotel shuttle over to the Holiday Inn or something like that. Here's a lesson: when catching a flight from London in the morning, just spend the night in London. I would have had to catch a 5am train to London from Bangor, and that wouldn't even guarantee me making my flight in time. Also, Heathrow airport is terrible in terminal 5. NEVER NEVER get a hotel in terminal 5, it's technically not in London, so if you are forced to get a taxi they charge you an arm and a leg, plus your (future) first born. That is, if you're lucky to get a taxi willing to go to that hotel. Learned that lesson with me mum! Anyway, got to my hotel and waited for my friend to get there. She was exploring Europe with her sister, was getting into London, and needed a place to stay so I offered up my hotel room to share. Unfortunately there are like 3 or 4 Holiday Inns in terminal 4 and she went to the wrong one... she eventually made it though! That's the extent of my adventures for that day.

Next morning: rise, shower, get to the airport. Another feat requiring the kindness of strangers! I've never been so grateful. It was a huge relief dropping off my two suitcases (2 required to get souvenirs home to family...) at the luggage counter. Next stop: catch a flight with American Airlines to JFK! 

Oh my days, it was wretched. Well, ok, could have been worse. All the international flights I've ever been on had individual TV screens for each seat... except for this one. There was a TV screen in the aisle every few rows. This wouldn't have been so bad except I absolutely cannot sleep unless laying down (no matter how many and how strong of a sleeping pill I take), my laptop was dead (stupid hard drive), Sudoku got old after a couple of hours (needless comment), and I have a hard time sitting still for more than an hour and a half (the only reason I have a hard time watching movies).

Eventually landed, missed my connection because my life sucks (jokes, my life rocks), and ended up spending the night in JFK. WITH MY SUITCASES. I was switching over to JetBlue (I think) and couldn't check in until 5am the following morning, so I was stuck with them for the night.

Check out my sleeping quarters:

5-star hotel, I tell you what!

This is what I did: used the giant black suitcase as the mattress for my upper body, used the grey suitcase the blanket is on top of for my lower body, cuddled up with my lovely Toy Story blanket, then laid my violin (behind the blanket-laden suitcase) on one side of me next to the wall, and laid my backpack in front of me. I chose this spot because of that convenient outlet which charged my phone that was lying on death's doorstep. Because sleeping on your own in a large airport can be a bit unnerving, I teamed up with a girl from Italy and we watched out for each other like when we really had to pee (you know how I am about my bladder comfort). My bed was actually right next to the bathrooms. I tried sleeping, dozed for maybe half an hour, but ended up reading the night away. Around 3am I decided to head over to my terminal since I wasn't getting any sleep anyway and chill out there. I said goodbye to my Italian ally, bid her good luck, and started the trek from whatever terminal I was at to whatever terminal I needed to be at. They've got this little metro that goes between terminals, so I lugged my crap on there and rode it to my terminal. Let me tell you, it was really tempting to just camp out there for the night. 

Anyway, got to my terminal and sat pretty much right in front of the check-in desk until they opened. Dropped off my suitcases (hallelujah!) and headed to my hopeful future gate. I was on standby fo' free because my mom worked at JetBlue at the time, so it was iffy if I was actually going to make this flight. At this point I was so tired that I literally prayed for an hour and a half that I'd make this flight. Here's pretty much how my prayer went:
"Please, oh please, let me make this flight, Heavenly Father. I promise to..." then gave a long list of promises I'm ashamed to admit I've not kept very well. I made the flight regardless. Let me tell you, I have no idea how many times I said thank you. Lost count! Anyway, finally landed in Salt Lake around noon (I think) on the 18th of June.

To keep myself from having a horrible sleep schedule I stayed up that whole day... even went on a bike ride! Best bike ride ever.

That was the exciting adventure of Chandrie Elaine Cook back home. I hate flying.

After that start, my summer was destined for nothing but adventures! Jokes, I've had some lull time to read, but I've actually done quite a bit of exploring the U.S. this summer, more exploring than I've done in summers past! I think it started with a trip to Timpanogas Cave near Lehi, UT. My great great uncle or something like that actually discovered Hansen Cave, part of the cave network. Preeeeeetty cool! Pre-note: I went with my mom and youngest brother, Aiden. Here are some lovely pictures:

Mr. Aiden. Constipated. Jokes, making a weird face though... what a cheeky turd!

Me mum! She's a velociraptor! 

Maybe a meteor. Maybe a bird. No, definitely a cloud.

Frightening face on my part, awesome thumbs up from Aiden.

We beat each other up on a regular basis.

Finished with the hike!

Beautiful view of the valley from the hike up to the caves.

Inside the cave.

Awesome formation.

Straw formations! The only formation name I remember. 

That's it for Timpanogas pictures. After the Timpanogas adventure, sometime in June, I went to the Grand Canyon to go camping with my mom and my two youngest brothers (I have three, all younger than me), Ian and Aiden. Now, I am horrible at taking pictures, always forgetting, so for these pictures I had to steal from my mom.

View of the Grand Canyon!

And another view. 

Hiking the Grand Canyon (pictured: me up closer and Ian further ahead).


I absolutely love the Grand Canyon, especially the camping. I've actually been before, back in the summer of 2008, but just for a day. I was checking out Northern Arizona University, and on a whim my mom and I decided to drive out to visit. On this visit we camped for 3 days (I think). I love to camp but have never camped outside of Texas (that I can remember anyway). This was a completely different experience. In Texas, it's hot day and night. It's humid... day and night. The ground is hard and the sun unrelenting. In the Grand Canyon, however, it's freezing at night, moderate during the day, the ground was actually a bit soft causing one of the stakes for our tent to keep coming out, the air super dry, and I personally didn't need bug spray. The hikes were incredible as well, as you can maybe see from the above photo. Then one of the nights we were there we went to an astronomy program the park held. Oh wow, talk about incredible! There's very little light pollution, so we were actually able to see the milky way! THE MILKY WAY! I had never seen that before in my life. Also, so much wildlife! I've seen my fair share of deer, they're everywhere, but I've never seen so much elk before. I swear, everywhere we went, there were elk just merrily minding their own business. One even ate right next to us during a ranger fireside. Incredible.

While in Arizona, we also went to Alice Cooper's restaurant in Phoenix. We literally drove all day just to eat there. No complaints, really cool restaurant! Here are a few pictures from that:

Ian Cook vs. Adam Richman's Bases Loaded Hot Dog
Ian didn't come out the victor.

Aiden Cook vs. The Big Unit.
Aiden just barely came out the victor.

Smart me just went with some green chile chicken. I win.

The four of us with an Alice Cooper cut out! The real Alice Cooper was off playing golf...

Have any of y'all ever watched Man v. Food on the Travel Channel? If you have, and you've watched the Phoenix episode, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you haven't, I highly recommend you watch it! Quite uh... unappetizing at times, but overall, awesome show. Anyway, Adam Richman visits Alice Cooper's restaurant, hence the giant hot dog named after him. Those hot dogs are 22 inches in length, one pound in weight. Well, The Big Unit is. Adam Richman's Bases Loaded is a bit heavier but the same length. Aiden managed to push it all down, and Ian came really close. I think he had maybe 4 bites left, and it was all hot dog. 

Trip to Arizona: total blast. Loved every bit of it, even when I was a bit grouchy (sorry family!).

The following week brought the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. It was quite literally the first thing I've done that took blood, sweat, and tears. 

It was...

The Deseret News Marathon. 

I haven't mentioned it on here, but I've been training since April. There were times during the training that I wanted to give up, and I shed a few tears of frustration when I struggled with those wretched long runs. But you know what? I did it. My mom did it. We did it.

I've been running since 8th grade (grew up the fat kid in school, finally started getting myself into shape in 7th grade with volleyball), and I started considering a marathon a few years ago. I read journal articles, checked out running websites like Runner's World, and even read a book by Hal Higdon. I meant to run one last summer, but did a half-marathon with my mom instead. This year I seriously considered it, approached my mom with the idea again, and we did it. It was difficult. This is where my input on Bangor's sidewalks comes in! Check out my battle scar when I tripped on those stupid uneven sidewalks running my first long run:

Beast mode!

Bahaha, it was actually quite hilarious! So I was running by Normal Site (where I have my lectures), tripped in front of some ladies, knew I was going down, and hit the ground pretty hard with my right hand and both my knees. I knew my hand was messed up, looked at my knees and they looked fine, assured the ladies that I was alright, and then ran back to my dorm. I was pretty mad, there was no way I was going to be able to finish my long run. My knees were hurting something fierce. So I got back to my dorm, cleaned up my hand (tons of gravel stuck in it), wrapped it in toilet paper, then proceeded to look at my knees. I thought I'd just hit them, I didn't think they'd bled because when I looked down after tripping they weren't bleeding. Ha, so wrong. So my left knee I'd actually made a cut and some gravel got cut in the flap of skin (wasn't that deep) and I had a stream of dried blood running down my leg. Must have been quite a sight to see for the folks of Bangor as I ran the remaining mile back to my dorm!

So, my first week of marathon training, not so good. My right knee was fine, but my left knee still hurts time to time. I bruised the bone pretty bad. I survived though! So here's the before picture...

Let the torture begin...

We had to be up at 2am because the last bus to the top of the mountain (the marathon started at the top of a mountain, down a canyon, then ended at a park in downtown Salt Lake) left at 3.15am. The marathon started at 5.30am, but the ride to the top of the mountain was about 40 minutes. Luckily my adrenaline kept me wide awake and ready to go! So we get to the top of the mountain, chill in this tent thing they set up, and waited for 5.30 to roll around. Met a few cool people, including an 81 year old running his (I think) second marathon. His name was Woody, and boy was he an inspiration. Oh, our finishing time was something like 5 hours and 18 minutes (I KNOW, a terrible time!) and then Woody finished like a minute or two behind us. The run was incredible. I actually didn't listen to music for the first 6 miles, and then after that I turned on some 70s dance music. Definitely encouraging! There were also two musicians, one at the beginning and one around mile 10, who played their instruments for the runners. I'd set points along the run where I could listen to music on my iPod. One treat came at mile 20: Karl Pilkington. I absolutely love Karl Pilkington. If I were his parent and he had like 10 other siblings, Karl Pilkington would be my favorite child. No joke. I love the stuff that his mind comes up with. I had a podcast of the Ricky Gervais show that was a day in the life of Karl Pilkington. Oh gosh, definitely the boost I needed! That was my big treat and I definitely timed it right. Around mile 17 or 18 my mom and I started struggling and had to run/walk. That's what really slowed us down. Finally, with some block energy shots, water, gatorade, and the encouragement of spectators, we crossed that finishing line. Surprisingly, I had a sprint to the finish! Didn't think I had it in me!

Picture: courtesy of my dad.

I felt bad sprinting away from my mom like that, but I just wanted to get this ordeal over with. Despite the negative tone, I loved every minute of this marathon, pain included. I'm actually planning on doing another marathon next summer with my friend, Chris. Can't wait!

So here are the end pictures:

Mom, Dad, me.

Mom, me, Aiden.

Fact: my family is disgusting. Fact: I sweat like a mad man. Not a mad woman, no, far worse. I sweat like a mad man. Check it:

Super power: Corrosive Sweat.

This armband you see is the armband for my old iPod nano. My sweat ate through the metal and broke it. I sweat like a thousand litres per hour and half of it is pure salt. Just kidding, I'm not as heavy a sweater as Alberto Salazar, but I am a pretty heavy sweater. I'm not kidding about the salt, though... seriously, every time I finish a workout I have a ring of salt around my face and on my arms and legs. Anyway, my dad and I will give out hugs to the family after we work out because we are literally drenched, my family does not hug, and it's just plain disgusting. My thought was the ultimate revenge on my dad would be my mom and I hugging him, drenched in sweat. So we did. Pure awesomeness! 

Right, so after that marathon, like 2 hours after the marathon, we left for a road trip to Texas! Worst idea ever. Dude, I was so freaking stiff and sore from that 2 day drive. Take my advice and get a massage after a marathon. Don't go for a road trip.

Anyway, the trip was awesome. I didn't get to see everyone I'd have liked to because of time, but I did get to see two of my best friends from high school, Mellany and Alli. I also got to see my second family, the Jones. Love them to death! We went to 6 Flags (500x better than Alton Towers!), a Rangers game (the Texas Major League Baseball team), went to the new Batman movie (excellent, but I really struggled sitting through that movie-3 freaking hours!), visited the Stockyards... oh, and we went to the Fort Worth Zoo, the one I mentioned a few posts back. Ummm... I know there's probably more that we did, but I can't remember at the moment.

Gah, even though I love Wales, I miss Texas so much. Really and truly, I do. I miss the heat, the sun, my friends, my family that I'm not so related to, the culture... all of it. It's really hard leaving everything you've ever known.

So, since Texas I've been chilling, swimming (decided to train for a triathlon), and packing. My family moves to Kennewick, Washington on Friday, so the house is currently in the form of boxes. Oh, and today has been horrible. Since my laptop died, I've been putting off reloading my entire iTunes library. It's taken me 3 days. 3 days. I've nearly gone mental! Thank goodness I've pretty much finished. I have a few CDs left, but they're out chilling in the van that I've been driving around town. No, it's not a white van that says candy on it.

Lame joke!

Anyway, yep. That's my life. Oh, one final adventure! So there's this bridge that people jump off of into Jordan River out here near Lehi. I jumped it with Ian, Aiden, and my cousin's daughter, Tav. Talk about adrenaline:

'Frank! NO!'

There are two bridges, a metal one and this concrete one. The concrete one is the bridge the cars drive over and it's higher up from the river than the metal one. Ian and I jumped both, and it is awesome. We're going jumping again on Thursday. Meant to go the other day but the weather was bum. I think this concrete bridge is about 20 feet up from the river, but I suck at measuring distances in my head so don't quote me on that. Loads of fun though.

Also went to a Ringo Starr concert back in July with my dad, Ashton, and Aiden. 

Punching the air like a pro.

For those of you who don't know who Ringo is, he is one of the original Beatles. Although I love Ringo, he did not compare to Paul McCartney! I got to see him in concert in August 2009 at the Cowboy's Football Stadium. Freaking incredible. To this day Paul's concert is the best I've ever been to in my life.

Aaaand this past Saturday I went to a water park in Salt Lake City called Seven Peaks. Pretty awesome! Got completely sunburned, but after a school year in the U.K. I enjoy ever burn I get.

Right, that's been my summer of adventure! More to come in Kennewick, I'm sure, since I don't leave for Wales until September 12th. Got to enjoy the sunshine until then!

Well, good night world! Gotta be up at 4.45am for a morning swim before the movers come pack our house away...

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Drowning in the Rain

Sad news, ladies and gents. The hard drive of my laptop is officially dead! Won't be getting a new one until I'm back in the U.S. (my dad's got one I can have), so once I'm back in Bangor on Wednesday, you won't be hearing from me until the 18th or so.

Due to the death of my dear friend I am giving my Northern Ireland-tinted update now!

Originally I was to be staying here in Ballymoney until the 7th, but most of my friends have gone home for the summer and I'm having a great time, so I changed my flight to the 13th (my brothers birthday!). Advice: don't change your flight. I'm flying with EasyJet, which has pretty cheap flights, but they charge about 35ish pounds to change a flight... In the end, it was only one pound cheaper to change my flight than book a new one. I would regret the cost, but after talking to my mum (hahaha, using a British laptop and it said that 'mom' is misspelled) I was convinced that it was good to stay. She gave a fantastic argument: great times with friends that you hardly see does outweigh money every time! Well, ok, most times.

Right, so, what have I gotten up to as of late? Well, first of all, this first weekend of June was the jubilee weekend. What's that, you ask? Quite simple. The queen of England has been queen for 60 years, therefore the diamond jubilee!

Congratulations, ma'am.

I'd say that here in Northern Ireland it wasn't as big of a deal as it would be in England. The Celtic folk, especially in Wales, tend to have a sort of resentment towards the English and vice versa. Of course there were a few jubilee teas being held, possibly a few parades, but not much, at least here in Ballymoney. In England, however, they did a lot. There was The Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the 3rd, the jubilee concert at Buckingham Palace on the 4th (PAUL MCCARTNEY PLAYED!!), and then just plain massive celebration on the 2nd and the 5th. I bought this sucker for my family in honour of the jubilee:


The picture doesn't do it justice, but that beauty is 400 grams. It's big. My family had better worship me. Just kidding, but my brothers had better appreciate me!

What did I do to celebrate? Well, I watched the, to be honest, really crappy jubilee concert (only so I could see Sir Paul) and then on the 5th the family I'm staying with threw a bbq and had a lot of friends and family over. It was good fun!

On the 2nd there was this really fun raft race in Portrush. Let me show you a quick map, actually, so you can get a grasp of how small Northern Ireland is.

... so... puny...

That dark green speck is Northern Ireland. Keep in mind that the population is about 1,685,000 and the area is 5,345 sq miles. Connecticut is 5,544 sq miles, so just slightly larger than Northern Ireland. To get an idea of where I come from, Texas has an area of 268,820 sq miles and a population of 25,674,681 (according to an estimation in 2011). Fort Worth alone had a population of 741,206, nearly half of Northern Ireland! Seriously, I would never be able to live here. Visiting is just grand though!

Anyway, back to the raft race! So every year Portrush holds a raft race where individual teams can enter a raft to race from the beach, around a bend, and into the harbour. It's honestly not that far, and I think the first place raft did it in about 10 minutes. Unfortunately I won't be able to load the pictures I took until I get home, but I'll get those up ASAP. Anyway, all these different designs are entered. There was a raft of smurfs, a raft of leprechauns, a raft made of Styrofoam (actually, quite a few of those)... the originality went on and on. It was a great laugh! This has been going on since 1982 and is used as a fundraiser to raise money for the Lifeboat which goes along the coast and helps anyone who may be stranded or whatever. In my opinion, it's a really cool/amusing fundraiser and definitely worth a visit! It usually happens on the last weekend of May/first weekend of June.

Hmm... oh yeah! London is hosting the Olympics... and I saw the torch in Bangor... well Northern Ireland was next up in the torch relay! I saw it again in Ballykelly! The story of us finding the torch was pretty funny. So first we were headed to Dervock to see the torch, but we got there literally as it was leaving. We hopped in the car and drove behind the advertising vans that go through first (like Coke and Samsung) into Ballykelly. Debbie (she and Benny are married with 3 kids Rebekah, Thomas, and Matthew with Rebekah being around my age) hopped out of the car with Matthew while Benny and I stayed in the car and started running towards the advertising vans (we thought the torch van was one of the vans directly behind). Benny lowered his window and asked a guy on the street where the torch was. It was right behind us.

Ha, so, Benny and I pulled into a B&B parking lot, parked the car, and headed to the street to find Debbie and Matthew. They had found out the same thing and were pretty much right across the street from us. Imagine, running away from the torch! Rebekah was in Spain at the time and I think Thomas was either revising for exams or working. Aw man, that was funny. We did see the torch though! 

This past week I haven't gotten up to much since Matthew is still in school, Benny and Debbie work, Thomas is revising and/or working, and Rebekah just got back from Spain, but it's been good. Today we headed to a reservoir near Coleraine and walked around while letting Pepsi (their black lab) run like mad. Gahh, it's so beautiful. Seriously, everything is green, lush, and just gorgeous. It reminds me quite a bit of Wales, though not as hilly, but it's definitely got more green and hills than England. Ha, and while Wales is loaded with sheep, Northern Ireland has a fair mix of cattle and sheep. A nice change in scenery. Just kidding. Oh, but you know how there are a lot of places along the east coast named after places in the UK? It's because they really do look so much alike. Last summer I spent a few days in upper New York state and it looks so much like the UK. I was pretty surprised when I first got here and noticed that.

Northern Ireland: gorgeous and always worth a visit! Be sure to pack an umbrella though... we had fantastic weather during the jubilee weekend, but it's pretty much been raining nonstop since then. There was even flash flooding in Wales! 

Before I go, a few quick terms for your enjoyment, my dear reader:

-brelly = umbrella
-what's the craic = what's up
-wellies = rain boots

I thought I had more terms until I typed them out. Clearly I was overestimating! If you do ever visit Northern Ireland, the accent isn't as difficult to understand as the Welsh accent, but it can still be difficult, especially if you're talking to an older person and/or if the person you're talking to is talking fast, which they tend to! So many times I'm caught off guard and have to ask people to repeat what they say. It's like learning a whole new language... nah, not that bad. 

Oh, a little confession as well:
I am so freaking excited to get back to the US. I miss the sun and heat!! I've never been so white this time of year! Or cold! I had to wear a winter coat the other day. Come on UK, it's summer time. Mr. Sun needs to shine.

K, I'm thinking that's about it. Can you believe I head home a week from tomorrow? I'm pretty much in shock with how fast this semester went by.

Real quick, just because I love looking at maps, here's a close up of Northern Ireland:

I'm in Ballymoney!

Oh yes! I completely forgot! From my trip in 2007, let me tell you, Giant's Causeway is amazing. Definitely worth a visit. Here are a few pictures of my own taking from 2007:

These rocks are perfect hexagons and litter the entirety of Giant's Causeway.

See? All over the place!

This is Finn McCool's dragon. More of nature's wonders!

This is the lot of us sitting on those incredible rocks. I'm in the front in the middle with the freaking awesome shoes and black jacket. Sara-anne, my host sister, is to the left. If you ever get the chance, definitely get involved in twin city/sister city programs!

Us trying to surf (there were no waves...). Thomas on the right (he looks a lot different now!), me in the middle, and my brother, Ashton, on the left. The water is so cold.

This is Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge in Antrim. So awesome.

This is a view of the coast from the bridge. I told you it's gorgeous!

The view straight down from the rope bridge.

This is Matthew, Sara-anne, Ashton, Thomas, and me in front of the smallest church in Northern Ireland (and Ireland). It is very very very very small. And I always look awkward in pictures, as seen throughout the entire lifespan of this blog!

I think that is a great note to end on. Hope y'all are doing great! Even though Wales lost in rugby to Australia today... sad times. Sad times indeed.

Nos da!

By the way, here's a link to the story of Finn McCool from the Giant's Causeway, worth a read!