Making my way back home!

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I clearly am a fucking horrible blogger. I’ve been home over a month and still haven’t written about my final days in Wales. I’m going to try and rectify that now…

The day after we dropped Lisa off at the airport, Haylee and I had a busy day. We got to meet the field school that was in Wales from our old school, Douglas College! Some of them were sick when they arrived because they’d been drinking the night before. If there is one lesson that I can pass onto future international students, it is this: NEVER drink the night before a trip to anywhere. Welsh roads are tricksy and curvaceous assholes and if you happen to have a weak stomach or are not used to drinking with people who probably sipped ale from a sippy cup as a wee lamb then you are FUCKED. I never got sick on a bus, but there were times on long international student trips where I felt like I was about to be come a mighty chunder dragon and it wasn’t a fun feeling.

After the everyone was done being sick, Haylee and I went with them on a tour of our campus (it didn’t take so long – Lampeter campus is SMALL), and then we all loaded onto a bus to go to Strata Florida Abbey where some first and second year archeology students were learning the tricks of their trade in the field. They were actually literally in a field too. My flatmate, Heather, and Haylee’s flatmate, Sophie, were both there digging. They were dirty and sun-kissed and I loved seeing them actually being able to put what they had learned into practice.

That night was my last night with Pumba. We all stayed up late and then Pumba was back in my room early the next morning to wait for his dad to come pick him up. I met and became close with Pumba late in the school year, so I didn’t get to spend as much time with him as I liked. I can say with a certainty though that he is a proper sweetheart and I miss him. He quickly became the baby brother that I never knew I wanted (Josh is the little brother I always asked my mom for) and my life definitely has more hugs and smiles in it thanks to him.

The goober being a goober. And me being cute. As we do.

The goober being a goober. And me being cute. As we do.

Once Pumba had driven off with his dad, reality intruded and I suddenly realized that I was leaving. On Friday. It was Thursday. I was leaving Friday. My room was still a  bloody mess.

Except…I still had my last basketball practice of the year to go to! It was a very chill practice because most everyone had gone home, but it was a good practice all the same. There isn’t a lot to say about my year with the Lampeter Lions except that it was a great one.

I couldn't have asked for a better team. Well I could, but they would need rocket shoes. I still think this mean was the bees knees <3

I couldn’t have asked for a better team. Well I could, but they would need rocket shoes. I still think this mean was the bees knees ❤

Then I had to get back to cleaning my room. Eff.

Where the hell did all this stuff come from?! Was I giving birth to it in my sleep?!

Did I have a version of King Midas’ touch where everything I touch turns to mine and hidden somewhere in my room?

I’d spent the entire week leading up to that packing, unpacking, and repacking all of my stuff while I debated what would stay and what would get to go home with me. It was annoying because I had to get rid of a lot of things that I loved, but just didn’t really need. I debated learning how to live a minimalist life and cutting out all of the pointless random stuff that I had, but one look at my lawn gnomes told me I could never do that.

Throughout the night a few people stopped by my room while I was cleaning to see me off in their own way. I got to see and hug my teammate, Mark, one last time. It was great spending the year playing basketball with him even though I hated that he never let me have any easy shots over him. Pete and Hamza stopped by as well! I even got to hug Pete which was slightly awkward because I’d never hugged Pete before, but it was nice because he’s a #niceguy and he’s someone that I miss now that I’m home.

Pete, Pumba, Scouse, Josh and Billy. This pic sums this lot up nicely.

Pete, Pumba, Scouse, Josh and Billy. This pic sums this lot up nicely.

Eventually Friday morning rolled around and I found myself dragging my bags out the door and handing over the keys to what had been my home away from home. My safe space.  My room was perfectly clean for the first time since I’d moved into it and I was sad to leave my little hobo hole. So many memories happened in that room. Like the first day that I first arrived in Lampeter and met Haylee. I’d just curled up in bed to have myself a proper cry when she and Robin turned up in my flat, shouting my name. They took me grocery shopping.  Or the night that Haylee broke my wardrobe door because she hid in there to scare me during one of our movie nights with Josh.

I couldn’t believe I was leaving. Then I was loading my stuff into the back of Mike’s car to start my adventure home. Mike is one of the guys who played on the football team and he was always nice enough to drive Lisa, Haylee and I to all the away games that we wanted to go to. He was also awesome enough to drive me, Haylee and Josh to Carmarthen so I could catch my morning train to Bristol. Thank you, Mike!

One last look at these lovelies before the train door closed.

One last look at these lovelies before the train door closed.

Haylee, Josh and Mike stood with me until my train pulled in. Then it finally hit me. I WAS IN WALES! THIS WAS REAL! I HAD COME TO WALES! I’d spent the entire year feeling like my entire study abroad experience couldn’t be real. It couldn’t actually be happening. I must have been dreaming. Then I hugged Haylee and…I was amazed that this whole entire thing was real and it had happened. Not only that it had happened, but it had happened with Haylee. I couldn’t believe the two of us had been in the same program at the same school and had the same love for basketball, but had never met until we’d both flown across the world to go to school.

My Littlest and I during one of our many "homework" sessions.

My Littlest and I during one of our many “homework” sessions.

After surviving the 12-hour basketball match together!

After surviving the 12-hour basketball match together!

A walk to the lake together!

A walk to the lake together!

Except now I can believe it. There is no way in hell that I imagined travelling across the world where Haylee stole my blankets while we were staying in Rotterdam. I’m positive that I don’t have that good of an imagination. Haylee and I spent most of the school year together. We stalked a guy who had a basketball together. We introduced poutine to our friends together. We traveled together We spent hours agonizing over our dissertations together. We pinned Josh down to tickle him until he hissed at us together. There was a lot we did together and I’ll never forget it. Unless I suffer some sort of blow to the head that causes me to forget that year. Then that kind of sucks and I hope that doesn’t happen, but if it does, at least Haylee will remember our shenanigans and she can fill me in on the time that Raz left us alone in his dorm room and we planned shenanigans together.

Fun Skype session with Raz!

Fun Skype session with Raz!

IMG_5927As the train pulled away I started to cry. I couldn’t help myself. Lampeter has made me into a bit of a crier. Or a lot of a crier. It depends on who you ask. The tears started to fall and I stole one last look at Josh. The little brother that I’d always asked my mom for. As it turns out he was hiding on the other side of the world. I guess that means he wins at hide-and-seek for now. I’m going to miss Josh. And Geoff. That’s the name I gave Josh’s beard. And this is why I’m going to miss him. He was always happy to go along with any shenanigans that the Turdettes threw at him. Like me naming his beard. Or the night Haylee, Lisa and I decided to dress up in his clothes and have a “Turd” fetish. Or coming along to London with his. He made our adventures complete. Even when those adventures happened to be just the four of us hanging out in my room and watching movies until we were all ready to pass out.

Naptime!

Naptime!

"Sneak hug!" Someday I shall get one more hug from Ky!

“Sneak hug!” Someday I shall get one more hug from Ky!

Movie night with Josh is best night.

Movie night with Josh is best night.

Once the train pulled out of the station I went and sat down at a table on the train and some creepy guy offered to hug me and let me sleep on him. So with this creeper temporarily by my side, I started to make my way home.

Back in Wales

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IMG_0601I’ve been back in Wales for just over three now and I can’t believe how much has happened in that short of time! I feels like a lifetime ago that my mom and dad dropped me off at the airport and I spent the next 24 hours making my way back to my home away from home. Last time I made the journey to Wales I felt nervous, stressed, and I really needed to poop. Except I’m a nervous pooper so I can’t poop in public places so I had to hold it. This time I was excited and happy to be returning to school and looking forward to whatever shenanigans lay ahead of me.

I landed in Heathrow just after 11am, collected my bags and made my way through the now familiar airport to Terminal 3 where the international students from my school were being picked up. Other students were already there waiting and I talked with them while I waited for the International pick-up people to arrive. This term Charlotte and Haylee are International Buddies, which meant they were going to be there to pick me (and the other students) up! We had a movie moment when we saw each other. I saw Haylee first and shouted her name. Then I saw Charlotte and before I knew it the three of us were hugging and I was crying again.

I’m a bit of a crier now.

Even though I was only gone for five weeks, it had felt like longer had passed since I’d seen the girls who have become like my sisters. So, yeah, I cried. Though I didn’t cry a lot. It was just nice to be back with friends that I had missed and even nicer to be going home with them. We had a lot to catch up on so we stood together chatting until I heard someone say “How’s it going, Rachael?” in my ear. I knew the voice! It was Raz! Raz was coming back to Lampeter with us too! I was just as excited to see him as I was to see Haylee and Charlotte.

One of many "study" sessions.

One of many “study” sessions.

After a long bus trip, we finally got back to Lampeter. It was dark out and I was exhausted. The long trip combined with jet lag was starting to kick my ass and I wanted to collapse and pass out. Except Alex was waiting for us when we got off the bus! I probably would have cried then, but I was too tired to cry at that point. I was just happy to see him. We carried my bags back to my room and I quickly “unpacked”.

Read: I pulled all of my stuff out of my bag and tossed everything everywhere.

That night Haylee, Victoria and I stayed up to watch the first NHL game that I’ve seen in several years. The Blackhawks were playing the Penguins. Haylee and I are Hawks fans and Victoria is a Penguins fan. Victoria went to bed before the game was over, but Haylee and I stayed up to watch the game go into overtime and then go to a shoot-out where the Blackhawks won! That night Charlotte was away so instead of going back to my room, I slept in her bed.

I couldn’t have dreamed of a better “homecoming”.

From that point on I have everything has been all about the go go go go! 

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Lampeter Lions. We kind of look like bumblebees.

The day after I arrived back, I had a basketball practice. It felt great to have a ball in my hand again. I felt a little bit rushed to get back on the court and get back into the swing of things because the next week we had our first game against my school’s Camarthen campus. I couldn’t believe that I had just landed the day before and I was already planning to play in a basketball game the next week! We won that game and it felt even better to be back on the court playing an actual game!

Between basketball, netball, and classes, I quickly beat the horrible jet lag monster and easily fell into the routine that I’d created for myself last semester. I don’t spent a lot of time in lecture, but I’m really enjoying the courses that I do have. Especially my Contemporary Literature course because I’ve never studied literature beyond the Modernist era. It’s really weird to think that some of the authors we have studied are still alive! Everyone I have studied in the past has been long dead before I was even born. This time I can actually google search authors and see them alive, kicking, and having opinions on real world things.

IMG_0557Besides those things, this semester has given me new experiences as well. I got to see my first football (soccer) match ever. One of our teammates, Josh, plays for our school’s team so Haylee, Charlotte and I went to watch and cheer. I winced every time I saw one of them slam their heads off the ball and wondered how they didn’t concuss themselves more often. I don’t understand the game at all, so I was really confused when I saw Josh and a few of his teammates stand in a line to create a wall of yellow jerseys. Then I saw someone from the other team was going to kick the ball and I winced again. This looked like a good way to get your face smashed in. I spent most of the game being amazed at how high these guys could kick their legs and how quick their feet were. In the end the Lions won and I decided that football is still not a sport for me and that I’m a rugby girl for a reason.

IMG_0558Afterwards Haylee and I went for a walk to a lake that’s just outside of our town. It was a long walk with lots of hills, but it was worth it to see the lake (more of a puddle, but still beautiful). The walk was fun and seeing more of the Welsh countryside that’s right out my door left me in awe at how pretty my home away from home is. On our way back from the lake we decided to take a different way home and wound up walking in single file along a semi-busy road. For the record, the people here in the UK are all crazy drivers. Despite the somewhat scary walk home, we eventually made it back to town and were able to return to our rooms to warm up.

Since then my netball team has won our first league game, and I’ve started to work more on my creative project for class. I can’t wait to see what else this semester holds for me. This weekend I’m returning to Bath and am excited to see the Roman Baths again! I’ll definitely have more to share soon!

84 Days Gone

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After 84 days I finally made it back home. It was the longest that I’d ever been away from home and there were tears at both ends of my journey. I left Lampeter just after 5am on Saturday December 13. I clung to two of the girls who had become like sisters to me and I cried. I have no idea why, but I know that I bawled my eyes out because I was sad about leaving them for five weeks. Yes, I was stoked to finally be going home, but I also…I don’t know. I was just emotional. Then my basketball teammate, Juan pulled out his last bottle of whiskey and said everyone had to take a drink. So Juan, Alex, Josh, Raz, Haylee, Charlotte and I stood in a circle together and had one more drink before Juan and I got on the bus that would take us to Heathrow Airport.

I’m not even sure what time it was when I finally stepped off my last flight home. I do know that I was home and the first thing I did was hug my mom. I cried for the loss of my Uncle Ken and my Great Grandmother Lizette. I cried for all the days I’d been homesick. I cried because I was happy to be home and safe. Then I cried some more. Apparently these past 3 months have turned me into a bit of a crier. I wrapped my arms around my mom and got the hug that I’d been needing all semester. She tried to let go and I held on tighter because I wasn’t quite ready for my hug to end. And my poor tiny mother who is barely taller than my shoulders was trapped in my arms while I got my tears and snot all over her shoulder.

Where I did a lot of my crying. Except cleaner than usual!

Where I did a lot of my crying. Except cleaner than usual!

But I did other things besides crying the 84 days I was gone!

A couple weeks ago, I took Haylee to her first rugby game. It was my schools rugby team against rugby players who had graduated in past years. We got there in time for me to see someone punch someone else. I got to show Haylee what position I used to play (tight head prop) and we got to watch a bunch of guys knock into each other for a while. That day we also watched our basketball teammate, Josh play football (soccer). I know nothing about soccer, but it was fun to watch. After that Haylee and I went back to her flat and we made breakfast for dinner for Raz and Josh. Then after a bit of dancing, we watched the first Bring It On move with Raz, Josh, and Alex. Haylee and I did all of the cheers while we watched Raz and Josh watch the movie. The looks of disgust were hilarious and almost better than watching the classic that is Bring It On.

Charlotte, myself and Haylee

Charlotte, myself and Haylee

Haylee, Charlotte and I played in our last netball game of the year a few weeks ago as well. We lost 21-24, but it was a good game. My netball team has improved by leaps and bounds since September and I’m very proud of the improvements they’ve made. That night I was a goal shooter, Haylee was a goal attack and Charlotte played wing defence. Despite having only just met in September Haylee and I work very well together on the attacking end of netball and the defenders had a hard time preventing us from scoring. Hopefully the two of us will be able to work on the defensive end of the game as goal keeper and goal defence next semester.

On the school front, this semester was very different. Rather than having finals after classes end in December, my school has finals in January after Christmas break. So despite the fact that classes are over, I still have quite a bit of work to do! Even I’m home and still having to do school work, I really enjoy that work. Thanks to my Towards Publication and Writing Workshop professor, I’ve found inspiration in places I never would have looked before. One of my favourite pieces that I got to write this semester was about a boxing match between Jack London and his wife, Charmian. Not only that, but I’ve even gotten some good direction and tips on how to write my dissertation that is due at the end of my school year.

cockfostersAs much fun as I’ve had this semester, there was more fun to be had after leaving school! Yes, I cried when I had to leave, but London was waiting for me! Because Nita and I didn’t fly back to North America until the day after the bus dropped us off, we had a whole day and night to spend in London. We started our day off by dropping our stuff off at the hotel we would be staying at and then made our way to Leicester Square. Because I’m 12 I spent the whole train ride giggling because the station we were heading to was called Cockfosters and it was announced every stop. Hearing it didn’t get any less funny as the train stops passed by. Eventually the giggles stopped and my excitement started to build. Nita and I were going to go see The Phantom of the Opera! One of my “must see” places from my teenage years was Her Majesty’s Theatre. I’ve been to theatre performances before, but this was something entirely different. From the opening scene I was breathless! Everything and everyone in the production was flawless. Especially the lady who played Christina. Not only was she beautiful, but the way she played the role was brilliant. The man playing the Phantom was, of course, superlative. During his closing scenes I was ready to cry and felt frustrated for him.  I couldn’t believe that I was actually sitting in Her Majesty’s Theatre watching The Phantom of the Opera. Once again, one of my dreams had come true and I couldn’t believe it!

Outside Her Majesty's Theatre! Ignore the garbage please...

Outside Her Majesty’s Theatre! Ignore the garbage please…

I just noticed the helicopter shape in the production picture...

I just noticed the helicopter shape in the production picture…

After the Phantom, Nita and I had just enough time to go and get dinner at Five Guys and head off to our next show, Miss Saigon. I hate to say this, but after the brilliance that was The Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon was anticlimactic. I can honestly say that I wasn’t a fan of the storyline. However, I was enthralled by the people who played Kim and the Engineer. As much as I didn’t like the storyline, the songs and individual performances were so well done that I still enjoyed the show. One of the more interesting parts of seeing this show were the seats Nita and I had. Because of where we were sitting, we could see down into the orchestra’s pit. I think it was the cellist that I could see. Even from where I was sitting I could see the passion and love that they played with. It looked like every molecule of their body was playing her instrument. Then the end of the show happened and I was…stunned. The show was simply over and I was stunned at the ending. I had gone into the theatre knowing nothing about Miss Saigon, so the ending was…upsetting and it was just over. I kind of had a WTF MATE?! moment when the final curtain fell and I genuinely left the building feeling like there should have been more. Except there wasn’t. The show was still brilliantly done. I don’t think I’ll ever see another show where they land a fake helicopter on the stage, so I’d definitely go see it again! Never mind how upset the ending made me.

Eventually Nita and I made our way back to our hotel and found our way into our beds and we passed out after a long day in London.

The view I get from my room: Rolling hills and sheep!

The view I get from my room: Rolling hills and sheep!

With everything mostly said and done for this semester, I can’t wait to start my next semester abroad. I’ll be returning to Lampeter in January. A part of me doesn’t want to leave home, but there is another part of me that can’t wait to see all of the faces that I’ve come to love seeing and spend time with all the people who I’ve started viewing as my family away from family. I don’t know what next semester will hold for me, but I hope that it will be less of an emotional rollercoaster. I don’t know what will happen, but I do know that I’m looking forward to more shenanigans in my home away from home with my Lampeter family.

Tales of Wales

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Lampeter.8Every morning (or afternoon depending on what time I’ve managed to pass out) for the past week I have woken up and realized that I’m not dreaming. Whether I’m on a plane, train, automobile or in bed, I wake up thinking that my life can’t be real right now. In fact, from the moment I got accepted to the University of Wales Trinity Saint David I have had a hard time accepting that this is real. That this is happening. I’ve been so excited about going to school in Wales that at one point I stubbed my toe and ran around my house bleeding because there wasn’t any other reaction that could have expressed how stoked I was. My toe healed, my summer quickly passed, and the fact that I was leaving for Wales became more and more real.

Then last Sunday happened. I’d spent all week packing, unpacking, and re-packing my bags trying to narrow down my life to fit into one carry-on suitcase and a hockey bag. My life can usually be packed up and fit into a pick-up truck. Except this time, a pick-up truck wasn’t an option. So I agonized, I stuffed, screamed, cried, and rolled my life up to fit into two pieces of luggage. Finally I was ready to leave home. I wasn’t as ready as I thought I would be, but I was ready enough. My dad loaded my bags into the back of the truck and I climbed into the backseat behind my mom and I tried not to cry as we drove away from my childhood home.

“Au revoir, house.”

My parents, my sister, and my Aunty Deb all came to the airport to see me off. With hugs, tears, and promises that I would check in as I flew across the world they left me at the Kamloops airport and I wondered what the hell was wrong with them. I was scared shitless (I literally couldn’t poop until I landed in London), and I was shocked that this thing was really happening. I sat in the airport and I cried and questioned the sanity of what I was doing.

lampeter01After over 20-hours of travel on 3 planes, 2 trains, and a bus, I arrived in Lampeter and I imagine I looked like a very sorry and pathetic creature as I dragged my luggage up to the main gate. I was exhausted, I wanted to cry, and I possibly needed a reality check to be sure that I wasn’t going to wake up after my hellish travels. What I got instead was a smiling and friendly girl with a bright smile who instantly offered to watch my luggage so I wouldn’t have to drag it anywhere else so I could go find my room keys. I nearly cried in gratitude (this trip has made me realize that I’m a bit of a crier) when this wonderful girl dropped what she was doing and helped me find my way to my new home.

By the time I arrived at my new room I had been surrounded by this amazing circle of people who were friendly, supportive, and welcoming. Yes, I wanted to cry about that too. Jet lagged, emotionally spent, and incredibly happy to have finally arrived I wanted nothing more than to curl up and sleep for at least a week. Instead I heard my name being called out in the hallway and I met one of my flatmates. Before I knew what was happening, I was off and running with my life here in Lampeter.

Due to the fact that I arrived late (thanks to some troubles I had with my Visa application), I spent my first few days playing catch up and being extremely jet lagged. Besides the very strange urge I get to cry at the drop of a hat, I have been awed at how instantly friendly and supportive everyone is. Seriously, this place is almost like Cheers: everyone has either known my name or they knew I would be arriving and they were waiting for me with smiles and open arms. My first full day on campus I was enrolled into my courses, given a tour of the campus (there’s a Starbucks on campus!), received my student ID, and ate the equivalent of Thanksgiving in a bun. If I hadn’t been sitting with the perfectly lovely girl who had helped me jump through all the hoops I needed to get through that day, I probably would have sat in the little cafe and orgasmed over my Thanksgiving in a bun and mocha frappacino. I think my mother would be proud of the restraint and good manners I demonstrated in keeping my pleasurable climaxes to myself.

Not only have I started to settle into my newest hobo hole, but I’ve gotten to travel off campus for a trip to Cardiff. Initially I was hesitant to go because I’d just spent a ridiculous amount of time traveling, but I’m also just a country bumpkin at heart and tend to be easily overwhelmed in big cities (read: I was afraid I might cry) and get lost. However, there were castles and manors involved so I put on my big girl boots and went.

st ffagansOur first stop was Saint Ffagans. It was an outdoor museum where we were able to walk up to the manor and explore the inside. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take pictures of the inside, but I can assure you that I was impressed. I’m personally in awe of the fact that this place has been standing all of these years collecting stories, spiders, and who knows what else within its walls.

After Saint Ffagans we carried on to Cardiff. I honestly thought that Vancouver, BC was a big and busy city until I saw the streets of Cardiff. Holy throngs of people, Batman! The city was fairly buzzing and I felt as though I was swimming through an ocean of human beings as I weaved my way up and down the streets. I’m sure I could have better spent my time exploring the city, but I kept getting turned around and lost. I would mean to go down one street to look at one thing and then I would suddenly be back in a place that I’d already been. Eventually I managed to buy a hair straightener and a few other essentials that I needed for my room and I made my way back to where we were going to be picked up to go home.

It was on the steps of the National Museum that I discovered a -luxury that we don’t have at home: City-wide WiFi. While the rest of the city carried on around me I called home and told my mom and dad about castles, busy cities, and buying a purple loofa.

Now it’s Monday. I’ve gone grocery shopping, bought a dress that I adore, and I’m hungry. I can honestly say that with the help of all of the wonderful people that I’ve met this past week that not only am I ready for classes to start, but I’m fully ready to take on all of the shenanigans and challenges that the next few months have to offer me. In the meantime, I’m happy to wake up in my new (and tiny!) bed and convince myself that I am for surely in Wales and this whole studying abroad thing is for surely happening.