The Intrepid Battle of Jen vs. the Volcano

Trip Start Aug 29, 2009
Trip End Jun 20, 2010

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Flag of Germany  , North Rhine-Westphalia,
Monday, May 17, 2010

    Most of you heard in the news about Iceland's super volcano, spewing ash and beating down air traffic like a giant blanket across the skies. Most of you heard that the resulting plane confusion was worse than that following September 11th. I did not.

    I showed up cheerily a few days after the eruption at the airport an hour and a half from my house, and got in line to check in for my flight to Scotland. There I waited, checking my watch nervously, afraid of missing my flight. Finally I lost my patience and asked the people in front of me what on earth was the hold up. They mentioned something about a volcano. Volcano?

    The dumb-founded look the people in front of me gave me will mark that moment forever as one of the most humiliating in my life. I left the airport with my tail tucked between my legs, dragging my luggage behind me.

    After two canceled flights, I was finally airborne and managed to wing my way to Scotland! There I was able to visit Glasgow, a tiny town called Calander in the Trossachs National Park, and Edinburgh (a city I consistently mispronounced), before finally making my way to St. Andrews to visit my cousin, Jenna.

    Scotland is an absolutely wonderful country. I cannot believe I haven't been there before. More unbelievable still is the fact that my dad hasn't been there before--a country where the most important activities are drinking scotch, drinking beer, hiking, and exploring the most epic of castles. The first half of my trip I was alone. It was a wonderful experience, hiking through the gorgeous Scottish landscape, taking pictures of new lambs, drinking delicious (AND non-German) beer in cozy pubs, wandering old cemeteries, and jotting pathetically philosophical and introspective notes in my journal. The Scottish people were inordinately friendly, so there was no shortage of people to talk to. If there was only more sunshine, you couldn't drag me away from the country! But even on cloudy days (which are frequent), the sky is beautiful--the clouds rimmed in purples, blues, and golds.

    After several harrowing bus and train rides (public transportation seems to be Scotland's Achilles heel) I ended the solitary portion of my trip and landed in St. Andrews. My cousin, Jenna, attends St. Andrews University and was my host for my few days there. Again, the land is beautiful and the town incredibly charming. Being a coastal town, I was able to take a gorgeous hike along the ocean, its rocky shores giving me nostalgic twangs of home. Aside from the scenery I got to see the beautiful university, the famous golf courses, and the tumble-down castle and cathedral that come straight out of a fairytale. I also got to meet a bunch of Jenna's friends who attended her birthday party while I was there. My favorite moment with them was when we were saying our goodbyes. A certain boy went around bidding adieu to Jenna and all her housemates in turn, saying he'll see them later. He finally got to me. "Well, you I'll probably never see again." I agreed and requested that he have a wonderful life. He began to walk away before whirling back and snapping his fingers at me, "I'll see you after." Oh, Scotsmen!

    After Scotland, I had a week to pull myself together before heading out to Amsterdam with my friend, Tara, in tow. We were scheduled to meet Chris, a friend from high school, who was on a European tour. We found Chris without problem and proceeded to have an amazing weekend filled with Belgian, Dutch, and wonderful American beer, live music of the blue grass persuasion, art and photography exhibits, random street wanderings, and friendly religion-touting Rastafarians. It was one of those experiences that we'll remember forever, those perfect few days when you seem to stumble upon everything interesting and original, where you meet characters zany enough to rival Savannah, Georgia.

    After a few packed days in Cologne, Chris met up with us again, this time in my stomping grounds. Our good luck held (Chris seems to carry it with him) and we had an extraordinary few days. A perfect storm was created in Cologne, consisting of a combination of the World Hockey Championships being hosted there, Christiehimmelfahrt, a religious holiday, Father's Day, and Wine Week downtown. The result was the entire population of Cologne on the street, some wearing hockey jerseys and blowing sound-makers, some chanting psalms, and a very many drunk. We joined in the fun by running around, joining a group of jubilant fathers in Der Wahlfisch, my old stand-by, and attending the most epic hockey game of my life.
    The game itself was not epic. It was a relegation round between the US and Kazakhstan to decide which of these two losers was so crappy that they would not be able to return to the Championship next year. I'm happy to say Kazakhstan received a grand spanking the likes of which you don't often see in professional sports. When I lost count, we were up 5-0. No, what made the game truly glorious were our costumes, the friends we made out of Russian and Kazakhstani fans, and the copious amounts of beer we managed to collect between us. We were draped in spandex, glitter, and red and blue electrical tape. We had bought giant American flags just for the occasion. We carried glow sticks, sparklers, and confetti. Chris was even decked out in a black eye we had painted on him. Never in my life have I so often been on the giant screen at a stadium. It helped that we were the only American fans there outside of a group of Germans who were rooting for the US because they didn't like Kazakhstan. The game is rather a blur, and I don't remember actually witnessing a single one of our goals because I was so busy singing and talking with other fans. But I have to say, the photos we have as a result are in themselves worth the trouble we went to.

    So after an incredibly busy few weeks, I have snatched a moment to write. I have only a month plus a week or two before I'm back home! I'm definitely getting antsy, but I'm determined to make the most of the time that remains for me here in Europe. Ahead of me I still have a visit from my parents (volcanoes permitting), a trip to Sofia, Bulgaria, and a German musical festival. I can't wait for the rest of the adventure!

I send my love and am counting the weeks before I get to see so many of you again!!! Jen
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