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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

I Don't Know How to Title This

It is time for an update, isn't it? I apologize for neglecting you, blog.

Things are good out here in the Netherlands! This was not the same case two months ago. Or three months ago. It was pure hell, in all honesty.

So I was in Wales for most of May to take exams and finish out the school year strong, and then I came back to the Netherlands at the end of May, around the 26th or 27th. Immediately after getting back, one of my best friends from Texas, Beth, came out to visit for two weeks. That was really good! I miss her all the time. The only difficult thing was I have a really small room, so it was a tight fit having the both of us in! We visited Amsterdam, spent time with our good friend, Cate, and went to Cologne, Germany with Cate as well. I was doing a lot of working during the week, so we weren't able to do as much exploring (and I was flat broke). It was a really good time, though.

Don't worry, I'll get to the traveling bits of the past few months as soon as I discuss the horrible, hellish bits of the past few months. It's always darkest before the dawn, right? Same in my blog. Always.

Inappropriate use of meme, but I use it anyway.

Right! So what made these past few months horrible? I had no money. That always makes things horrible. You can talk about how money isn't everything, but when you have no transportation, shoes with holes, and a hairdo like Yoko Ono, money becomes vastly important.
The bus, without an OV chipcard, costs me 7 euros to work and another 7 euros back home from work. My parents were helping me pay for groceries, but I really didn't want to ask more for that. Thus, the bus was not an option unless I felt like begging money off friends, but I hate borrowing money. My bicycle had been stolen back in April, so I couldn't bike to work. I had to walk. It took an hour and 20 minutes each way. One hour. Twenty minutes. 80 minutes. The same amount of time it takes to watch a movie. 80 minutes. At least I was healthy, right?
So that was one cost. Groceries were ok. Other things happened though. My shoes had holes in them. I could take a pebble out of my shoe without removing my shoe. All I had to do was bend the bottom of my shoe back. It came about halfway off. My hairdryer had attempted to catch on fire back in January, so I haven't had a hairdryer since. I kept telling myself I would buy one when I got paid... but when would I be paid?! Thus, as a result, I looked like Yoko Ono. My hair was unruly and poofy. 

I wish I had been this cute as a poofy creature.

Despite the walking, holey sneakers, lack of hairdryer, and rather puny wardrobe, I kept faith because I had headphones and a functional iPod. Haaaaa. The day after I noted that, my headphones broke. I was truly distraught. I felt like everything had been taken away. My transportation, my ability to look well groomed, my shoes (I only have 4 pairs, and two of those pairs are for church)... but you know, reading this, I don't feel like I had it all that bad. I think I was just frustrated because I needed to pay my rent as well, but I had no means to do that. Luckily, my landlord was lovely about the whole situation and was ok with me paying once I had been paid. It was so frustrating though. I was constantly stressed. Luckily, I finally got paid half of my wage (to be explained shortly) at the end of June. Mind you, I started working in April. It took that long to get bank details sorted and be paid. I was questioning if I would ever get paid. But why did I only get half of my paycheck? Because of the lovely Dutch bureaucracy. I had to get a BSN, a Dutch social security number. I couldn't even open a Dutch bank account without it. Before I went back to Wales for exams, I had a meeting to get my BSN. Long story short, I had to have a residence permit (which no one had told me about) before I could get my BSN. I was told they wouldn't give me a BSN until I had a residence permit. The residence permit wouldn't be granted until Philips (the company this internship is with) did the paperwork. I was told I would have to come back to get my BSN in June. So! When I was back in June, after Beth left, I had an appointment to get my BSN. I went in, talked to the lady my appointment was with, and she kindly informs me that my BSN had been granted... in April. FLIPPIN APRIL. They bloody lied to me! I could have been paid my full wage in May! But noooo! 

Frustrated doesn't even cover it.

Anyway, Philips has a cut off for when you can hand in bank details, etc. for payday, and I "got" my BSN too late for my June salary. I got paid a nice fat amount for July, though!
Things got better, though. My family came to visit for my graduation from July 11th to July 22nd. My mom loves me and gave me a hairdryer (NO MORE YOKO ONO) as well as headphones. My supervisor gave me this truly horrendous bicycle to borrow. Haha, I really don't think anyone will steal this one! Its seat is falling apart, it makes a quiet screaming noise when I cycle, the brakes fail sometimes, and you can't pedal backwards or else the chain will fall off. Plus it has two mighty locks. Not worth the effort to steal. I love this bicycle. (Let me just mention how distracting it is typing with Michael Scott telling me he is going to kill me).

This is my beautiful bicycle. Note the seat. It's gotten worse.

But! Don't think I'm being pessimistic now! I am truly grateful for everything, and I do genuinely love this bicycle. It has so much character. I'm also forever grateful for my friends and family who helped me out during that time. Things are better now. Side note: this update is going to be scattered and unorganized.

So! My family came to visit! It was really good. We started in Liverpool, flew to Amsterdam and spent a day there, then went to Cologne, Germany for a couple of days, then Ballymoney, NI for a couple of days, to Bangor for graduation, and then to London to finish off the trip. I did love the whole experience even though I was grouchy and rude to my family sometimes *I'm sorry*. We were in Cologne for the World Cup, so that was awesome. The Germans were going absolutely mental! In Amsterdam we went to the Rijks, did the Amsterdam Dungeons, and wandered around. I like Amsterdam, but not the billions of people aspect *to be discussed shortly*. In Cologne we saw the Cologne Cathedral, absolutely gorgeous. When I had gone with Beth and Cate I went up to the top. Picture time.

These are pictures from the top. Here is one looking directly at it:

Pictures never do the beauty of things [and people] justice. It's a gorgeous cathedral.
So in Cologne all the museums are closed on Mondays (unfortunate for us as we were there Sunday and Monday), and instead we took a trip on a cable car and went to the zoo. I really liked the zoo. My brother was even lucky enough to see some naked old women swimming in a pool below us in the cable car! My mom and dad saw it too. Poor, poor me. I missed out. *PLEASE NOTE THE SARCASM*

In Liverpool we went to The Beatles Story and just walked around Albert Dock/city centre. I've been to Liverpool, so it wasn't really anything new for me. 

Ballymoney was my favorite part of the trip. I was a member of Benbrook Sister Cities while I was in high school (it's been shut down by city council, don't get me started on that). Benbrook was sister cities with Ballymoney, Northern Ireland and Bled, Slovenia. I never did Slovenia, but I did the program with Ballymoney. I've made so many good friends through that. I didn't get to see one of my host sisters, Sara-Anne, but we did get to see my other host sister, Rebekah, and her family. I love Northern Ireland. I fell in love with it my first time there as a 16 year old. I'll be going there for Christmas this year, something I am well excited about! While there we did the typical touristy stuff: Giant's Causeway, Carrick-A-Rede bridge, White Rocks beach... oh yeah, went to visit Carrickfergus Castle, outside of Belfast. This was new for me. I hadn't seen this castle before. Umm... I think that's all? Here's a few pictures that I took:

A view of the ocean from Carrickfergus Castle.

White Rocks Beach.


Aiden, my brother, on Carrick-A-Rede Bridge.

It's not blurry... it's artistic...

Can you not see why I have fallen madly head over heels in love with this place?!

Funny story about Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge. So, Aiden really wanted to go on it, but we weren't sure if we had enough time before our flight to Liverpool that evening. My dad hates heights, especially from a rope bridge, and no one else really cared if they went because we'd all done it before. I went ahead and took Aiden. It's about 1.5 miles to walk to the bridge. We did some speed walking, went across the bridge, and then Aiden goes, "Ok, I'm done." 
Let me explain. Once you cross this bridge, you're on top of a grassy cliff, that is quite a good size. You walk up to the top, see a marvelous, incredible, gorgeous view, and then you can leave. Aiden doesn't want to go up. 
"Are you sure, Aiden? It's really pretty up at the top!"
"No," he responds. "I'm good. I just wanted to cross the bridge. It wasn't scary."
What the flip, child. 
Since I'd already been there twice, I was like, "Ok, we'll head back." So we proceed across the bridge.
I have to agree with him, though... the bridge isn't scary. The scariest part is the stairs. They've made the bridge too safe. Here's a better view than the ones I've given you:

It's so beautiful. If you're an avid reader of my blog, I'm sure you've heard about Northern Ireland and everything before. I just can't get over how incredible it is. It's a place I will always recommend people to visit. Always.

What else? Umm... graduation was good! I learned that British ceremonies are 10000000x better than American ones. My high school graduation took ages. So many speeches. So much clapping. So much... grandeur. This one was simple. We walked in, sat down, crossed the stage one by one, congratulations, DONE. It was over in an hour. No long speeches. Fantastic. Here's a shot of me and my friends celebrating.

It felt so good to finally graduate! I graduated with a first as well! That's the British version of a 4.0. Next step for me: masters. I start in September.

Ok! Last stop on the Cook adventure: London. I'm not a huge fan of London. Apparently my dad is not a huge fan either. Oh! Right! By the way, this was Aiden and my dad's first time out of the US. Yay them!
Ok, anyway, London! I had never been during hardcore tourist season before. It was absolutely miserable. Go during the non-tourist season, ladies and gents, boys and girls. Or rather, anytime other than May through... mid-September. Yes. I think that would do it. It was so crowded! We had a good time though. We saw Big Ben, Parliament, the Eye, Thames River, blah blah blah. We also went to Ripley's Believe It or Not (better than I thought it would be) and did a Jack the Ripper tour, as I've done with my mom before. It was good. But all those people! We were stuffed like sardines on the tube. It was hot and miserable down there. It's always crowded, but so much worse during the summer. 

Man, this blog doesn't even begin to cover everything. I feel like I do a poor job conveying everything. New goal: become better at blogging. The thing is, if I were to go into detail about everything, it would take you centuries to read it all.

Anyway, after London we went to Manchester since that where we were flying out of. My parents and brother went back to Washington and I came back to Eindhoven. I miss them already!

Now, onto that topic about crowds and how much I hate them. I have learned that I definitely do not want to live in a city during the majority of my life. London and Amsterdam were the worst... but Eindhoven can be just as bad. The Netherlands is small geographically, but they have a really big population. As a result, there is always someone around. Always.

Not gonna lie, I'm enjoying throwing this in.

That's part of why I love Bangor so much. It's small, ruralish, and easy to get away from people, easy to get away from noise. There are parks here in Eindhoven, but you feel so confined in them. They're designated squares of forest. It's like a false sense of escape, a false sense of wilderness. I love being around people, yeah, but for small amounts of time. That's why I could never permanently live in the Netherlands. It is too populated for my liking.

I have learned a lot about Dutch culture. Not everything, no, but a lot. I've learned that the Dutch are very direct. They don't faff. They don't have a superficial liking for you. They say it how it is. I like it. They love licorice (some of which made me make faces I never knew possible; absolutely vile versions of licorice), they cycle everywhere, and sandwiches are the go-to meal. I fit in well with that. I live off of sandwiches. They eat this meat paste on their sandwich though. I've tried the tuna kind. It is good. I haven't tried the others though. The Dutch love dairy products. Chocomel (chocolate milk) is absolutely amazing here. The cheese here is awesome too. Haha, in Amsterdam, there are cheese shops everywhere! While I was there with my family, Aiden spotted a cheese museum and had us go there. It was basically a cheese shop with free samples. There was this one sample, truffle cheese. I picked up a piece, but then I got really scared at the last minute. I went, "Dad! I got you a free sample!" He ate it. And he gagged. And I think he swore. I'm pretty sure he said it tasted like sh*t [I'm making my blog Mormon-friendly, guys, for mah peeps]. He was not happy with me. Haha. 

Oh! Also, this nationality is more forefront in... compliments? I've had more guys whistle at me and tell me I'm hot here than anywhere else. I feel so popular. Jokes. I secretly love the attention, though. Especially since I don't get attention from Mormon guys too often, and when I do it is short lived. Enough about that though.

What else? Oh! And I learned yesterday that it is normal for Dutch people to raise pigeons! I have a neighbor, Rob, who is lovely. Yesterday I thought he was dead creepy, though. So, back up info, we have a billion pigeons living outside of my window and they truly freak me out. I am convinced they will fly into my room one day (they don't put screens on windows here, American friends. Unnecessary). Here's a picture I sent to my housemate, Andrea, the other day.

We have an ongoing joke about these pigeons and them taking over the world. Anyway, yesterday I noticed that Rob has pigeons in a cage in his back garden. What, is he planning on taking over the world? Nee. (Nee = No in Dutch). I talked to him yesterday. He races them. I've been told this is a typical Dutch thing. Why pigeons?! I hate birds. And flies.

Ohhh maaaaan... anything else to say? 

Oh! American friends! You know how we typically eat dinner between 6 and 7? Well, the British and the Dutch do it too, but this is not a worldly norm. A lot of other countries eat way later. It makes sense, but it had never crossed my mind before that people would eat dinner after 9pm...

I guess that really is it for now. I'm currently working on my masters thesis (early bird gets the worm... and a free summer next year). Since my masters program is a one year program, I'm trying to figure out where to go for my PhD. I'm looking at Virginia, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales, and New Zealand. I'm kind of rooting for New Zealand at the moment... but knowing me, I'll do a 180 during the upcoming year. Who knows where I'll end up? I refuse to take the GRE, so my options in the US are limited. Reasons to not take the GRE: I already have my bachelors, I will have my masters, I've done plenty of extracurricular research in labs, I refuse to pay the money, and it only tests my ability to take a test. The GRE test, specifically. Why the hell should I need it to get my PhD?! The money spent on the test, traveling to Manchester to take the test, accommodation in Manchester, and study materials for the test can very wisely be used in a much more rewarding fashion. The American education system already gets enough of my flippin money. I refuse, absolutely refuse, to take this test. I can get my education elsewhere, thank you very much.

Ok, before I start ranting on things, I'm going to end there. Adios muchachos! Vaarwel!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Spraaken ze Dutch?

That's not even Dutch, guys. I think it's just American for "I'm gonna pretend to speak another non-Spanish language".

According to, well, everyone here so far, I don't even sound American. So I dunno how much longer I can play the American card when I'm lost. I need to practice my Texas accent.

Right! I am now officially in the Netherlands. Got here on 8th April! Y'all, this is a completely new bowl of fish. I'm quite impressed that I found my way to my flat without major problems. I did manage Prague alright, so I guess there was only hope there for me.

Spent the night in Manchester Airport since I had to be there at 5am. Been there, done that, BUT! I discovered the beauty of the prayer room. I did not abuse it. I literally went in and prayed and read the Book of Mormon for like, 5 hours. Read 20 chapters that evening actually. It was so warm and peaceful, I didn't want to leave. I fell asleep between 2 and 3am, though, so I decided that was my cue to take off.

So catch my flight, dead tired, get into Amsterdam and find my way to the trains. I tried reading the boards to figure out which train to catch, and I thought I'd done it successfully, but that wasn't true. Ended up getting help off the information people. As you do! Traveling to a new place (in a new language) is a humbling experience.

The view from my train. Definitely not Wales. How? No hills. Or sheep.

So I get to Eindhoven and meet my landlord for my new place. My house is 10000000000000x better than Bangor's housing and it's cheaper too. One caveat: I live in/next to the red light district of Eindhoven. I think it's pretty funny. I mean, only me, right? One time in high school my tennis coach told me, after going for a forehand and getting the tennis ball stuck in the racket triangle, that my life is like a comic book. I agree with him. Each day only brings stronger testimony to this.
Anyway, check out dis house.

I love my room so much. And that window!

It's small, but it's such a lovely room. There are 5 other housemates, and they are all guys. I love this so much. I prefer living with guys than girls. They're really cool as well. I mean, I'm terrible at being social, but when I am I enjoy it. Haha.

I have to admit, my first few days here I was ridiculously homesick for... Wales... but only because I kept getting so lost. Direction Challenged Chandrie. I picked that name for a reason, y'all. On Tuesday it wasn't so bad because I was so exhausted all I wanted to do was sleep. I only ventured out to find the grocery store, the local c1000. It was so small. Smaller than Morrisons. Smaller than Albertsons. Small, guys. Small. I thought Morrisons was small compared to the grocery stores in Texas, but (from what I've seen anyway) the grocery stores here are even smaller. I wasn't expecting that. However! I've only been in that store and an Albert Heijn somewhere on Hoogstraat. I don't think that's the big one in the city, so I can't exactly judge. Directionally, though, I was at a complete loss. At least in Austin, streets made sense to me. Downtown you had 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. Then on campus you had the tower as a reference point. As long as you headed towards the tower, you'd find wherever you're trying to go. I didn't have much of a reference point in here Eindhoven, and I can't even pronounce some of the streets. It's like asldfjs;lkjstraat asldfjsd;lkjflaan. I like the streets named after American people. Like John F. Kennedlylaan and Franklin D Rooseveltlaan. I can pronounce those. I couldn't pronounce Boschdijk until one of the guys in my ward figured out what I was trying to say and corrected me. Haha.
Anyway, last Thursday I went to find my way to High Tech Campus where my internship is so I could have a tour around by my supervisor. I left half an hour early (it was only supposed to take about an hour and ten minutes to walk there) because I knew I'd get lost. I got lost. I found my way though. Here's a picture of the road I was along. Way prettier in person, as it is with the pictures I take.

Today was the first day I didn't get accidentally lost, and I've been here a week. I did get lost on purpose, though. That's one of my favorite things to do. I only like to do that on a bicycle as it doesn't take 5 hours to figure out where I am and where I am going. All last week I was getting lost on my feet... so it adds a long time to the journey. On a bicycle, though, it's no problem. So today I went out for about an hour/hour and a half and just wandered around the city. I love love love the bicycle paths. Last week I was homesick, and wanted to give up so much a few times when I got ridiculously lost. Fortunately, after cycling around today, I have fallen madly in love with this city. I don't like cycling in city center/centrum so much because I prefer rural areas, but along some of the bike paths and around the less urban parts of the city is gorgeous. This city is like a combination of Bangor and Austin, and I love it. My favorite thing about Austin was on the weekends I would just grab my bicycle and go somewhere. I never knew where, I would just explore. In Bangor I don't have a bicycle, and I don't feel confident cycling in the UK. I do believe I've posted about this before. I know, I'm a wimp. Here I can go back to that again. I can reactivate my more adventurous side I guess. I think my favorite thing about Eindhoven/the Netherlands is how bike friendly it is.  In my above picture you see the sidewalk, the bicycle lane (red), and then the car lane. I've only been here a week, but I'm already sad that I'll be leaving it in 6 months. Haha. Anyway, here's a picture of the bicycle I bought yesterday. Super cheap. Simple Dutch bike. It's simple as in the first bicycle you had growing up. No gears, back pedal brake. Once I get paid and can afford it I'm going to buy a better bicycle. I need to buy a replacement for the one my bishop let me borrow as well... it got stolen. I thought it was secure and it was not. Congratulations to me. So buying bishop a new bicycle will happen first. Then I'll sell my current one and buy a better one. Apparently Eindhoven is like Austin in bike thefts as well. Cheers, Eindhoven.

Here is my temporary bicycle!

It's been an interesting week needless to say. I haven't explored too much so far. It's easier with a bicycle, which I got yesterday, and I need to finish my dissertation as well as study for exams in May.

I haven't been able to actually start my internship yet as we're still waiting for my work visa to come through, but it should be in any day now. Tomorrow I'm going to the hospital to observe some tests so once I start I can actually be helpful rather than learning everything.

*Warning, Mormon lingo ahead*

My ward here is absolutely amazing. I've never felt so welcomed to a new place before in my life. The YSA are fantastic, and it's just been a great experience. There are a few English speakers in my ward, but it's pretty much all Dutch, minus the fact that they have an English-speaking Sunday School. I love it, though. I do want to learn Dutch. Most people do speak English as well, but it'd honestly be so much easier to learn Dutch. Plus I'm in the perfect environment for learning a language, total immersion. I've even started attempting to read out of a Dutch Book of Mormon. Check it ouuuut!

I've gotten as far as the first two verses of Chapter 1 of 1 Nephi. I know, I'm a legend. (Sarcasm, guys).

Pfffft... what else? Oh! Tips. Huge tip. Ok, so, when I got here, neither my British nor my American debit card worked in the c1000. I thought, 'My gosh, I'm going to starve.' I even tried online shopping to see if my card would work there, but you have to order a minimum of 100 euros, and I don't need that much or have that much money. So I researched online forums trying to figure out a way to get money. I didn't think an ATM/cash machine would work because my American card never works in ATMs in the UK, and I'm trying not to use my British card at the moment as I need to save that money for my phone bills. (My parents are helping out - eternally grateful for them). In a last, desperate attempt, I went to an ATM and put in my American card... guys. It worked.


I nearly wept with joy. 
Jokes. I don't cry. I punch things.
Kidding guys. I am human. I do shed human tears every now and then.

I didn't cry, but I was so ridiculously grateful. I smiled. Man, I didn't just smile. I was beaming from ear to ear. I wasn't going to starve. I could eat more than peanut butter sandwiches. Although, let's be honest, I could happily live off of peanut butter sandwiches purely by choice.

Lesson? You can withdraw money with your American debit card from ATMs. However! Always inform your bank about any traveling you're going to do before you leave the country. Otherwise your card will be declined and your bank will put a block on it in case it's been stolen. This is important. You do not want to be stuck in a foreign country with no money, stuck on a phone, especially if you're having to pay international charges. 

I dunno if there's really anything else... I guess if you're moving to a house, you might want to check out the neighborhood. You know, so you don't end up in the red light district... but hey, to each his own. I guess if I need money I know what to do at night! 
Kidding guys. I don't want to be a pimp.
Or a prostitute. I really don't want to be a prostitute. 

I think that's all I've got for now. I'm way excited for this summer. 

Right-o. I'll leave it here for now. I'll make sure to take more pictures than I have. This place is too beautiful not to do so. So is Wales, though, and we see how well I've done there... 

Anyway, adios!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Let's Go Dutch

Eeeeeeey! Long time, no update. I don't think I've updated since before Christmas.
Right, so Christmas was great. I hadn't seen my family in a year and I got to spend New Year's with them this year. #win
Also, I was convinced I failed Biochemistry. Not only did I get an A on my lab report I thought was complete crap, I got an A on the exam I was sure I failed. #win
Another thing, my family is coming for my graduation this July. #win
Oh, and I've accepted my place at Bangor next year for my masters. #win
Oh, right, and, I scored an internship in Eindhoven, Netherlands this summer. #win


Confession: I only used #win so I could post that picture.

Anyway, I'm pretty psyched. One of my supervisors/Biochemistry lecturer had told my friend and me about the internship literally minutes before our Biochemistry exam. I sort of forgot about it in the stress. About a week later I remember and emailed him asking. He'd said that the internship was closed because students were needed asap, but if I gave him my CV he'd forward it to his cohort in Eindhoven. I thought, 'Mmm, I'll send it just in case.' I didn't think anything would come of it, though.
Shortly thereafter my supervisor told me to get in touch with this guy. So I emailed him, he said my CV was 'very interesting' and we had an informal skype chat about the internship. The whole time he kept talking as if I already had it. I'm quite paranoid, though, so I kept thinking that was just wishful thinking. He told me if I was still interested after that chat we'd have a formal interview via Skype. I didn't even have to think about whether I wanted it or not. I knew I did. I've never wanted something so bad in my life. I wanted this more than I wanted to learn how to drive. Speaking for my 15 year old self, that's a big deal. 


I'm caffeinated.
So we had a formal interview, but at the end my future supervisor said, 'We have a few more CVs that were submitted. Once we've interviewed them we'll let you know.' My heart literally sank when he said this. First off, this internship is only for masters students... I don't graduate until July. Second, I never ever get jobs or internships I really want. Third, he said it'd be a bit tough sorting out visas just because of the time frame we're looking at. I thought that surely the other students he was interviewing would be better apt for the internship. Anyway, I figured it'd be a few days at least until I heard back so I put it to the back of my mind and went on with life.
The next day I was at Normal Site doing labs for my research project and I ran into my supervisor. He said something like, 'Oh the interview went well yesterday?' I was like, 'Oh yeah, I think it did...' and he responded, 'Well, yes. Did you not get my email?' I had been at NS all morning and hadn't had the opportunity to check my emails, but my phone did tell me I had two unread emails. He goes, 'Well, you have an email from me congratulating you and an email from Francesco. You got the internship! Congratulations!' I was like, 'Whaaaaat' and my jaw dropped. Haha. No lie, it was one of the most exciting moments of my life. 

This was my face. Curlers included.

Even more exciting than discovering I'd been accepted to Bangor's study abroad program while I was still in Austin. That's saying something! 
Right. So. I'll be in Eindhoven in April during the Easter holidays, come back to Bangor for my exams in May, then back out afterwards for the summer! Look for more exciting travel stories. I think I'm finally going to get to Denmark, and that's been top of my list of places to visit since I took Danish. Haha. OH. AND I GET PAID. Best news ever.
Also, I can finally become like my idol. The one person I look up to more than anyone else in the world.

That's right. Carl the Intern.

I'm actually serious about that. I absolutely love Carl. 
Right. That's my life. That and bruised arms, along with a couple of my friends. We're taking a phlebotomy course for our research project. My largest motivation is getting over my... discomfort... with needles and blood. I love blood. Absolutely love it. It's my favorite body fluid. (Bet you didn't think you'd ever hear someone say that). There's so much research to be done and info to be taken from your blood. But I don't like it leaving my veins. With this I get to take people's blood and they get to take mine! Only problem is I have crap veins. *Sorry, Kerry* Makes me wish I was a heroin addict so I was a pro at this. 

I'm totally kidding, by the way.

Anyway, this time next week I will be a trained phlebotomist, and I am pretty much ok with needles and removing blood from my body now. That first time, though. Flippin heck. I was thinking the first session would be health and safety, etc. No. Within five minutes the man training us had us paired off and told us to take blood. I was like, 'What. Are you kidding?' The guy I was with had fantastic veins, thank goodness. But I was so scared. The whole time I was thinking, 'My gosh, I'm going to kill this man.' I asked the instructor to come over to make sure I was doing it right. Had the tourniquet on, vein sticking out, needle ready, and the instructor is sitting there going, 'Go on! Stick it in! Go on!' So I stick it in. The instructor's sitting there, 'Further! Further! Stick it in there!' And I'm just praying my partner doesn't die. 

I swear this was what was going to happen.

I know, I'm way too dramatic sometimes. 
Right, I need to get to NS for a research meeting. Research is my life, y'all. It was one of my main motivations in coming to Bangor permanently, and it continues to be a thriving and driving focus in my life. Yay science!

Right, I'm officially late leaving my dorm. Adios muchachos.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Loneliness of an Isolated Nut

Howdy, folks. I think an update is in order. It's been a while, and I have actually traveled a bit!

So in September (yes, September) my mom came out to visit for about a week. That means travel! We explored York, Manchester, and Liverpool. Liverpool, though, we've done before. So I'll just ignore Liverpool.

Now, York is amazing. Absolutely incredible. I highly recommend it as a place to visit if you're coming to the UK for a trip. Umm... trying to do this by memory is horrible. I also recommend not waiting 3 months before telling people about your trip.
Anyway, in York we visited a fair amount of places. There was York Dungeons (AWESOME), we did a ghost walk (tradition, y'all), walked the York city walls, walked The Shambles, saw random key buildings as you do (like York Minster), York's Chocolate Story (tradition again, y'all), Jorvik Viking Centre... and others. I know, so descriptive. My highlights? Definitely Jorvik Viking Centre, York Dungeons, and, actually, probably Clifford's Tower, of all things. To be honest, everything in York is well worth the time, money, etc. It's such a great city to explore! Absolutely gorgeous as well, and it fits for any traveler's desires. Shopping on The Shambles, walking along the city wall, history in the museums, and absolute fun in the dungeons. I can't recommend York highly enough!

Manchester... Manchester sucks. Sorry to anyone who lives there. The only reason my mom and I went to Manchester was to see... ready for this?...

Roger Waters!!!!!!

I know!!!! It was amazing!!!! The Beatles are my absolute favorite band, and Paul McCartney's concert would be top of my list, you'd think, but Roger Waters bumped him down to second. 

Sorry, Paul.

Y'all, he was incredible. He performed The Wall, and he did such an amazing job including the audience, being theatrical, singing spot on... ahhhh I'd see him again in a heartbeat. 

Yeah, I don't have much to say. Oh! I get to go home on Saturday! Flying out at 5.55am! I'm really excited, minus the whole airplane part... So. Many. Hours. Sat. Still. Anyway, it's been nearly a year since I was in the US. I don't mind so much, and I hardly ever get home sick, but my accent needs sorting out. At least once a week someone tells me my accent is messed up. Seriously, it's like... some funky hybrid. I've even upped my dosage of country music, and it's still gone horribly wrong! If you're reading this for tips on studying abroad, I assure you that will not happen within one year or one semester. You may pick up some slang, but your accent isn't going to change much. I've been out here about two and a half years and it's only just starting to really change. 

In other news, I've recently taken up the hobby of walking around Bangor after dark. To be fair, that's any time after 4pm. However, I usually go out after 6 at least. I just love it. I love walking around by myself in the dark. I know, Imma end up dead. Ha jokes. That's not happening in Bangor any time soon. I've never felt safer. Don't worry! I'm still on my guard 24/7. I think the best part of my walks is when I venture up to Roman Camp. Granted, the only scary part is know I lack coordination and grace. I haven't ended up on my butt yet, but I'm sure that's going to happen anytime now. If I could, though, I'd just ditch my entire life, go walking, and never stop. Just me and my iPod. I love it. It's the best way to explore places as well. I recommend venturing out and getting lost on a regular basis. Just don't get too lost... You know, I really love that I am directionally challenged.

Right-o. I think that's it for now. I honestly can't think of anything else to say! 

Nos da!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Bustin' Shins

I actually don't have much to say! Just wanted to update on my experiences in the magical land of Cymru.

So a few weeks ago, on the 2nd of August I do believe, I went canyoning with some friends from my course. It was LEGIT. I don't have any pictures because, after the Christmas holidays of 2011, we all know that I cannot handle a camera (or a phone) near water. Here's a picture of what it looked like, though.

Now as I'm sure we all know, this isn't exactly how it looked. I was actually in a wetsuit and helmet. But there you have it.

Ok, ok, I'm in an incredibly weird mood today. Here's what we actually probably looked like:

This actually is a picture from the river we were on. I have to admit, canyoning isn't nearly as extreme as I thought it would be, but it was awesome. I absolutely loved it. It's becoming increasingly popular all over the world, so take advantage of it! I highly recommend canyoning or gorge walking/scrambling. You basically suit up in a wetsuit, helmet, and life jacket type thing then walk down a river. There are times when you walk, times when you do a sort of doggy paddle, and times when you're sliding down a rapid on your butt. There was also a spot where we were hooked to a rope lowered down a waterfall. It was so cool. The water is absolutely freezing, but you're having too much fun to really notice. And the scenery? Gorgeous. At the end there was a cliff we jumped off of into a deep part of the river. Ha, it was a bit insane. As I was stood there to jump I thought, 'Why am I doing this?!' and then I did it again. I don't think it was as high as the bridge in Lehi, UT that I'd jumped into the Jordan River from with my brothers, but it was still high enough to make you hesitate for a moment. Y'all, seriously, go canyoning! If you're in North Wales, the company I went with is Snowdonia Adventure Activities, and they were great. They provide all the equipment as long as you inform them beforehand that you will need a wetsuit, etc. 

Ha, be careful in the river, though. I banged my knee really hard against a rock coming off a rapid. Later when I changed out of my wetsuit I noticed what looked like a cut on my shin. It wasn't really a cut, but this massive bruise. My shin was so tender for about 3 days. It was also pretty swollen... and I've never seen a swollen shin in my life. Oh! So fun fact, every time you hit your shin and it hardens/grows back you get these dents. I've got a massive ridge on my left shin now where I whacked it, but my scar's finally gone. It was quite nasty looking. 

Umm, yeah. In a couple of weeks my mom and Aunt Cherri are coming out to visit. We're gonna explore Manchester and York, so be ready for future updates in the land of England. Oh, and I just might possibly be seeing Roger Waters perform The Wall in Manchester with my mom... I lie, I am definitely seeing Roger Waters perform The Wall in Manchester with my mom. IT'S AWESOME.

Right-o, that's all for my life of British exploration at the moment. Adios muchachos!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Constipated Cow

Y'all, a miracle has occurred. I have tales (good 'uns) to tell. Well, good to me anyway. Happy days!

So sometime in June, I think it was, I climbed Snowdon for the first time. That's right, ladies and gents, I can officially claim to be a student of Bangor University! You're not a real student til you've climbed Snowdon. 

All students climb Snowdon, but only the best have an epic mountain pose.

Snowdon was so cool, y'all! I've not done a lot of mountain climbing/walking. Now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure Timpanogas near Lehi, UT is the extent of my mountain career (which is pretty cool; go to Timpanogas if you get the chance). Living in Texas, your mountain experience is pretty limited... although I've kind of always wanted to be one of those mountain dwellers.

This was me in my past life.

 I love nature. Right, enough of these boring Cook thoughts, time for more Snowdon words!

(Just kidding. IT'S AMAZING!)

We went up Miner's Path, as shown above, and then came back down via Llanberis path. Miner's is an intermediate path that starts relatively flat. It's the second half of the climb that gets pretty intense. It's absolutely gorgeous and worth every second of heart rate elevation! Sorry, I had to let my sport science poke out. I think it's about 3 miles long... Llanberis is a slight incline (errr... decline for us..) the whole way, but it's 6 miles long. It takes you right into Llanberis, which is a pretty awesome town in Wales. They've got loads of outdoor activities to do and tons of outdoor shops. I bought my first map!

You can call me Dora.

So the climb up Miner's was incredible. Plus we were lucky enough to have clear weather and plenty of shine! It didn't stop the top from being absolutely freezing though. Anyway, here are some shots on the way up.

Amy and I giving the thumbs up that, yes, there's still oxygen present.


This is the plaque for the ancient church pictured below. 

I should have scaled the walls.

Amy and Jamie lookin' fly.

Aaaand another view.

I'm just including this one because, despite my crappy abilities as a photographer, I think I did a pretty nice job with this one!

This post is up near the top. People wedge a penny in for good luck, I think? I did it just because I can. Awwww yeaaah!

Believe it or not, there is a way to cheat the mountain.
Take the train.

There's a dial at the very peak of Snowdon. It points to different places from that spot.

Another view from the top! The sun was trying to break through the clouds that had moved in.

This is the view as we descended down the Llanberis path.


I just loved the color of the buildings in Llanberis. It made me think of the beach homes in Galveston.

Right. Those are some pictures from Snowdon. Not gonna lie, I'm completely out of it today, so my ability to write this post is.... nonexistent.

So this summer I'm living with my friend, Kim, and her family in Star out on the island of Anglesey because my new home is unavailable to me until September. I'm also working a job I hate, but that's beside the point. I'm surviving. Right! So what does living on Anglesey mean? It means every night as I fall asleep, I hear 

This guy.

To be fair, I also hear a noise that I can only describe as a constipated cow. The thought also crossed my mind that it could be a cow who has just been slaughtered for my dinner.

I thought I would hate living on Anglesey to be perfectly honest. It's 5.5 miles outside of Bangor, not a big deal, but still... Star is the middle of nowhere. I grew up in Benbrook, TX, a suburb of Fort Worth. It was pretty small town, but I had a bit city within a few minutes drive. Star is smaller than Benbrook, and Bangor isn't exactly a massive city. I absolutely love living on Anglesey, though. My boss has lent me a bicycle so I don't die on my way to work in the morning (I refuse to take the bus when my legs work perfectly fine, but there's no sidewalk for part of the 3.5 mile journey). Oh snap! That reminds me of another story to tell! You're in for a treat. It's coming briefly.
Anyway, there's so much cycling to be done on Anglesey! I've not done a whole lot of exploring yet, but I've done enough to know I'm going to love my time on Anglesey. My ultimate goal is to cycle to Holyhead, about 21 miles. I know I can do it because I've cycled that distance before. I've just not been cycling in over a year, so I'm building the strength up first. Gonna be good, though! So far I've cycled around Llanddaniel and discovered Bryn Celli Ddu. 


I was just cycling around, minding my own business, and I saw a sign that said 'Burial Chamber' and pointed down a pedestrian path. I broke the law, cycled down the pedestrian path, and found my way to...

A bridge...

And then sheep.

And more sheep.

But never fear, there was a burial chamber at the end of the path. A few bugs committed suicide on my face before arriving, but I got there.

Inside the chamber.

It was pretty cool. A nice find methinks. I did have the thought to camp out there, not gonna lie.

So that was that cycle fun. I also have another adventure of cycling to tell. This is the one I mentioned previously.
I'd bought this old bicycle off ebay thinking if I gave it enough love, attention, and frustration, I could get it good as new. 


This is Xavy, my crappy bicycle. I've actually saved that photo on my computer as 'crappy bicycle'. I fixed the tires, greased it up, did everything in my power to make it awesome. Two problems: 1) The bicycle seat has been tightened so tight I can neither tighten it nor loosen it yet it still slowly slides down; 2) This bicycle is from the 1980s and has downtube gear shifters. The seat problem was surmountable until I couldn't loosen the bolt... now it's kind of stuck. I've asked other people to give it a go as well, and they couldn't either. The gear problem? I felt like I was going to die. I do not have the balance for this.

So for the test run after fixing this bicycle (before I knew about the problems) I decided to ride to Beaumaris from Bangor. I kid you not, this was the scariest ride of my life. I've ridden my bicycle through the thickest of traffic in America, weaving in and out, around cars. I've cycled in the dead of night and the brightest of days. I've crashed my bike so many times I can't remember. There are two times I could have died (not even exaggerating). This, however, was the scariest ride of my life. In the UK the roads are incredibly narrow compared to the US, you ride on the left side of the road, I couldn't shift gears to adjust for hills, there were no sidewalks for most of the ride (so I couldn't even opt for that), the road was windy, and British drivers terrify me. I kid you not, the whole time I prayed, 'Please don't let me die, please don't let me die, please don't let me die...' while sloooooooowly sinking on my bicycle seat. My parents laughed cruelly when I told them of this part.

My mom laughs like this.

Right, so the ride was terrifying. Beaumaris was beautiful though! Hence the 'beau'?

Beaumaris coast!

Coastal path

I just love this photo... even though it's lopsided...

I've only just realized that I only took pictures of the water/beach rather than the town... ha. Y'all should know by now that I am not a good picture taker. I'm so bad I can't even substitute 'picture taker' for the more appropriate term 'photographer'. BAM!

Beaumaris was cool. I survived the roundtrip, had a sore butt thanks to that 1980s seat, and enjoyed wandering around Beaumaris. There's a castle there as well, but I didn't have money on me (I'm not the wisest when I go places... a story on that for you momentarily) so I couldn't go in. It's only a fiver to get in, I think, so it'd be worth it.

Anyway, oh, yeah, I actually crashed my bicycle on the way back from Beaumaris. I was cycling along a road that had a sidewalk... and I decided to try to hop up onto the sidewalk because the curb was practically a driveway... but it wasn't. Wiped out *on the sidewalk*. I was in a pretty foul mood with this stupid bicycle at this point (the seat was all the way down and being stuck on one gear was not fun), so I just walked the last mile, silently cursing Xavy all the way. Luckily no road rash for me this time!

Right, that's my cycling so far. Ok, ready for a funny non-Wales related story? You know how I don't take things with me when I go places? Well, I never usually take my phone with me to the gym. One day, a couple of weeks ago before I moved out of my house in Bangor, I'd gone to the gym. I consciously left my phone at home. At this point I was the only one living in the house. With no more threats to the sanctity of my bedroom from Jess (we prank each other), I leave everything unlocked and open in the house. Because of this I didn't grab my keys to lock my door, so I didn't have my keys when I left the house. I got to the gym in a state of sweet bliss. It was once I was leaving that I realized 'crap, I don't have my keys'.

He's not the idiot abroad.
I am.

I can pick locks and have successfully done our front door a few times. Unfortunately for me, I don't usually carry my lock picking set with me (I do now). I went to Morrisons to buy some paper clips to make a makeshift tension wrench and pick for the front door. The paper clip was too weak to act as a tension wrench, though, and I didn't have anything else that could substitute for it, so I was out of luck. The only person I could contact was my previous housemate, Carla, to ask her to let me in since she still had her key. I didn't know if she was home so I went to the library and logged onto Facebook to message her. She never responded so I messaged Jess to ask her to call Carla. Carla didn't answer her phone. Jess didn't have her husband's number, so I messaged my friend, Jade. Jade didn't have it either. So I messaged a guy in our church congregation and he gave me the number. I gave the number to Jade, Jade called Matthew, Matthew gave the phone to Carla. Carla got onto Facebook and saw the message. Got into the house about an hour later.
Such fun!

Oh, and just a fun fact for y'all! I live 1.5 miles outside of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

Yes, this is a real place. No, I can't say the name. I can't even spell it... I had to copy and paste that sucker...

Say it. I dare you.

I know, this isn't the normal tourist picture people take. I just saw it and thought, 'Hey! The name!' 
Anyway, I just call it LLanfair PG because I'm American. A lot of people call it that, actually. Welsh and English alike. This village is pretty quaint. I love it.

That, my friends, is the extent of my adventures in Wales thus far. I realized while walking back from Bangor today that I had quite a bit to say, so I thought I'd share with the world. Stay tuned. I'm going gorge walking next week. Heck yes!