BIG NEWS: my boyfriend and I got an internship in Indonesia for this summer and will spend six weeks teaching English in a village!! After that we’re going to backpack for a month. Absolutely cannot wait. If anybody reading has any advice, stories, etc about Indonesia/Southeast Asia I would love to hear it. I’ve done a lot of the basic research but hearing from people with experience there is always helpful.
On that note, I wanted to talk a bit about one of my favorite things about having an international group of friends, as I did in Glasgow.
Language barriers. They cause a surprising amount of amusement as well as confusion. Before I go into this and offend anyone, let me say this: I was constantly impressed with my friends’ grasp of English. I’ve taken 6.5 years of Spanish and am nowhere close to fluent, but the people I”m talking about had without a doubt achieved fluency. Their vocabulary impressed me and the fact that I didn’t need to slow down or use small words will always be incredible to me, as I know I would not fare so well in a Spanish-speaking country.
So, without further ado, a few of my favorite anecdotes:
– My friend Luisa is from Mexico. I was at her flat and to use the restroom I had to go through her room. It was kind of messy and the duvet (comforter) was on the floor. Explaining this to me, she looked at me sadly and said: “I wet the bed.” I was slightly baffled and didn’t know whether to laugh or not and just repeated her: “You wet the bed???” She responded: “Yes, I had a water bottle and I thought it was closed and it wasn’t and the bed got wet!” Needless to say, once I explained what “wetting the bed” actually meant we had a pretty good laugh.
– My Dutch friend got a little bit confused while attempting to remember how to translate something. He asked “What do you put babies in? Wait, wait don’t tell me, I know this…a coffin!” He realized his mistake pretty immediately…there is a pretty big difference between cradle and coffin!
-The same Dutch friend was telling a story about a crazy night and said: “Yeah, and I was so drunk I just passed away!” Oops.
[Side note, another funny story: I once accidentally kissed that Dutch friend. When I say accidentally, I don’t mean I got drunk and did something I regretted. I mean we were in a loud club and he was leaning in to kiss my cheek. Me and my awkward self thought he was leaning over to say something to me and turned to him like “whaaaa?” and my mouth collided with his. It was just a little bit awkward.]
And finally, two pictures from Glasgow City Chambers:
Isle of Arran surprised me. It’s one of the southernmost islands of Scotland, and is very different geographically. From crazy fauna and leaves bigger than me to the more typical rolling hills and highland cows it was absolutely breathtaking. The plant life was so much different from the rest of Scotland but wasn’t English, either. Isle of Arran is really just its own magical place.
Glasgow doesn’t have a great reputation and many travelers skip over it when going to Scotland, but in my five months there I came to know and love it. I truly believe it is a highly underrated city, and guidebooks don’t give great advice on what to do there. So, for anyone that’ll be in that area, these are my recommendations. If you have questions about anything else there, please feel free to ask. I’ve also spent a lot of time in Edinburgh if you want any recommendations for there.
The Necropolis. This, in my opinion, is the best thing Glasgow has to offer. Latin for “city of the dead,” the Necropolis is a massive Victorian cemetery built on a hill. That might not sound so appealing, but it’s absolutely incredible. If you’re lucky enough to get some nice, sunny weather definitely head straight here. While there, also check out Glasgow Cathedral aka St. Mungo’s (the patron saint of Glasgow), which is right by it. The religion museum next door isn’t bad if you’ve got some spare time, but don’t bother if you’re trying to squeeze lots of things in.
Kelvingrove Museum and Park. The architecture of the museum is spectacular, and even if you don’t have time to explore the inside you must see the outside. The inside is famous for the numerous sculptures of heads hanging from the ceiling. When I asked an employee what they meant he said “nothing, they’re just meant to attract your attention upwards so you don’t forget there’s a second story.” The inside of the museum is huge, and there’s lots to see. The park is beautiful, and on sunny days hoards of people flock there.
University of Glasgow. The main building of the university is awe-inspiring. You feel like you’re at Hogwarts. You can also tour the inside, which contains the Hunterian Museum and numerous gorgeous halls in which people actually attend class and take exams. From the university you have a view of the towers of Kelvingrove Museum.
Botanic Gardens. I walked through the Botanic Gardens every morning and they’re wonderful. I was in Glasgow from January to June, and flowers began blooming mid-January. There are always flowers and they change frequently. The daffodils are particularly nice. There are two greenhouses which are free and worth a wander. There’s an old police stand outside the gardens that is now called “Cop A Coffee” which is open sporadically. You can stop at Oran Mor, the once church, now bar across the street, for a pint and meal outside.
St. George Square and City Chambers. This is a nice stop on the way to the Necropolis. The square is busy and houses a few statues and a memorial. You can tour City Chambers for free and it only takes about 20 minutes (although advertised to take 45). The inside is lavish and luxurious, and boasts the largest marble staircase in the world, beating out the Vatican by half a flight.
Glasgow Museum of Modern Art. I’m not a fan of modern art, but the statue outside the building is famous and worth seeing. There is almost always a cone on its head; occasionally the police take the cone down but someone always replaces it. Friends of mine who actually like modern art have said the museum is good, so if that’s your thing go for it.
When I was 16 I stayed with a family in Spain for two weeks. It was a great experience and I’m glad for it, although the living situation wasn’t always comfortable. Their eldest son was about my age, and had spent two weeks with my family in the U.S. before we both went over to Spain to stay with his family. He was spoiled and childish, obsessed with World of Warcraft – let’s just say that spending four consecutive weeks with him was not pleasant.
I did, however, get along very well with his parents. The father was one of my dad’s good friends from work, and I had known him for a while. He and his wife were so welcoming and hospitable. We spent the first week in their apartment in Benidorm and the second in their house in Laredo, outside of Bilbao.
Benidorm is on the Mediterranean and I absolutely loved swimming there. If you stood still for a minute you could see huge purple fish swimming around your feet.
One of my funniest (and most embarrassing) memories from the trip occurred in Aqualandia, a water park there in Benidorm. I had gone to the bathroom and was trying to leave the stall when I realized the door was broken. I was stuck.
I hadn’t had any trouble getting into the stall, but there was a doorknob on the inside that I suppose wasn’t connected properly, and therefore wouldn’t open the door even when turned. I tried pulling on the top and bottom of the door to no avail. I considered crawling under, but I was in a bathing suit and didn’t want to rub my bare stomach all over the wet, dirty bathroom floor.
Finally, I stood on the toilet and looked out. A couple women gave me confused looks and I stood there for a minute trying to remember my Spanish.
I made eye contact with someone “Um, ayudame?” I asked.
She looked at me, not all that convinced that I was sane.
“La puerta,” I said. I didn’t know how to say “stuck,” however, which was turning out to be an issue.
She stared at me for a second before walking away.
Oh God, I thought, I’m going to be trapped in this stall forever all because I never learned how to say “stuck” in Spanish.
I had learned the word for “broken” at this point in my Spanish education but couldn’t remember that under pressure.
Finally, after repeated entreaties of “Por favor, ayudame,” hoping I wasn’t being rude by using the informal command but unable to remember the formal one (my Spanish suffers greatly when I’m stressed), someone walked up to the door and gave it a little push.
It swung right open, leaving me even more embarrassed than I had been while poking my head over the stall.
Naturally, I couldn’t think of any way to explain and weakly said “la puerta….” a couple times before washing my hands and getting out of there as quickly as possible.
The Laredo part of my trip consisted mostly of hanging out with a bunch of people my age who spoke too quickly for me to keep up and referred to me as “la americana” as if I didn’t have a name. Luckily, the scenery (though not my photo quality, sorry) was incredible enough to make up for that: