Saturday, May 8, 2010


This is how I have been studying for my exams: took notes on questions from past exams. Took notes on those notes. Underlined key concepts in both sets of notes. Took notes on the notes that I took on my notes. Read notes over and over. Talk to myself.

Is it possible that even with all this studying I could do poorly on my exams?


Also, the other night I had a nightmare about cell signaling pathways that do not exist. I woke up very cranky, and worried that I will accidentally write about these fake cell signaling pathways on my exam instead of real ones.

Recently I have been studying a lot at the Scottish Studies Library. It is way better then the main library, which is filled beyond capacity with stressed students who are furiously studying. I got an email the other day that said more tables had to be moved into the library to accommodate all the students going there to study, and more study spaces had been opened in other places. So, in short, the main library is a hub of MADNESS which I am avoiding at all costs.

The Scottish Studies Library, on the other hand, is lovely. It is small, with only two rooms and three tables at which to study. One table is in the room where the librarian works, and the other two are in the connecting room. The librarian is super nice, and barely anyone studies in this library. Sometimes I am the only one there. Then I pretend it is my library.

I can dream can't I?

Yesterday and today I took tea/coffee study breaks. Yesterday I met Harriet at Metropole, and today I met Lindsey at Elephant House. Both study breaks were so nice, but today's was a bit sad as I had to say goodbye to Lindsey. Luckily, however, she goes to Smith, so we have planned to go to Haymarket together sometime next semester. She has never been.

Okay, study time!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Molecular Cell Biology

Take that MCB past papers! I am done answering all your questions! Five past papers and five make-up past papers (for those who fail the first time) with about 6 questions each. Some questions were repeats and some not so applicable to this years course so all in all I answered around 40 essay questions. Now I just have to go over the concepts these questions didn't cover and then review everything over and over and over. Oh, and do the same for Biotechnology.

Despite being finished going through the MCB past papers I am still the opposite of happy, so I am off to watch Life is Beautiful 'cuz that will definitely cheer me up.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


Things are weird right now. One of my flatmates is gone. She left for the States on Wednesday. It isn't that I miss her, I mean, I didn't really get to know her so I can't exactly miss her, but it is the fact that she is gone. Her experience in Edinburgh is over. In 4 weeks my Edinburgh experience will be over too, and I think her leaving made this all the more real.

Because I only have 4 weeks left I should really try to enjoy my time in Edinburgh, but right now all I can think about is finals, Finals, FINALS. I already turned in my final paper for Genetics, Nature, and Society, so now I just have to focus on my Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology exams. They are on May 12th and May 13th respectively, so you would think that I wouldn't be too worried. Wrong. I am worried. For both exams I will be given 5 questions of which I must answer 3, and these 3 essay questions (which I get 40 minutes to answer) are worth 65% of my grade. Three measly questions determines my grade, telling you whether I successfully "learned" all the course material. What is driving me slightly more crazy, however, is the fact that I have 11 days. Eleven days during which I have to study. I would rather a short time to study and have it be done with, but instead I have to wait 11 days for my impending doom. I suppose I should try and look on the bright side, I have a lot of time to study, but that really isn't helping this rain cloud over my head to disappear.

Once my exams are over (which seems so far away) things will be great. I'll be done, my brother will come to visit, and we can enjoy all the lovely things Edinburgh has to offer. For now I am coping by watching Lizzie McGuire and eating lots of chocolate. Tonight's chocolate dessert is a Double Chocolate Swiss Roll which I bought at Tesco for 38p. When I was standing at the fattening cakes section trying to decide the best way to block my arteries I heard a girl talking about the Swiss Roll. She said when she was younger she use to get them and eat them right out of the package, biting the end off until she had consumed the entire roll. Sounded good to me.

I will update about my Spring Break travels later, when I am in a better mood.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Gray Day, Quiet Flat

So, term is over. I spent this past week studying, studying, studying. I took two theory or practical exams (exams based on the labs I did in my sciences classes), started research for my final paper for Genetics, Nature and Society, and gave a presentation on that final paper. Now all I have to do is finish that paper (due April 23rd) and study for two finals (May 12th and 13th).

By 11:30 on Friday my work was done and Spring Break had commenced. I came back to my flat to find my new computer waiting for me on the kitchen table. I took it back to my room, ripped open the box, and started configuring and personalizing it while having an email conversation with my father.

After a lunch of carrots and humus and couscous I took the slow, old laptop I had rented back to the library, bought toilet paper, and paid my first visit to the chocolate shop across the street, Choco Latte. The store was filled with chocolate and candies. There was barely room to form a queue, and only a small space sandwiched between sweets for the people behind the counter to peak their heads out from and take your order. I bought a giant chocolate covered Mars Bar muffin. I then returned to my flat, took the longest shower ever, and talked to my mother and Ella on Skype.

For dinner Lee and I went to the Mosque Kitchen, had the Mars Bar Muffin for dessert, and then went to a pub called John Leslie. Every month this pub features beers from a different brewery and this month the brewery was the Boggart Brewery. I got a Boggart's Brew which is a ruby red beer that isn't hoppy and has a distinct, light flavor. Lee got a Boggart Rum Porter described as "A classic porter with a smooth roast finish, enhanced by a sweet spicy hop taste, complemented with a hint of dark rum." As far as I am concerned with both made good choices. The drinks were also super cheap, at £2 each, and the pub was cozy and filled with old men and this silly woman who drank two half pints of Tennants (just get a whole pint, lady!).

Saturday was a lazy day. I didn't get out of the flat until around 8:30 when Lee and I went to the Jazz Bar. On Sunday Lee and I went to the Museum of Scottish History (which we are going to have to go back to because we only meandered around one floor and there are seven) and then got pies.

Today I made cheesy biscuits and am getting ready for my Spring Break trip. Tomorrow afternoon Lee and I are heading to Belgium. We will be spending six days there, followed by 5 days in Norway, and 3 days in Germany (specifically Munich). I still can't believe we leave tomorrow. I'm very excited, and I'm sure I will have a million and one stories about food to share when I get back.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Lily and London!

So of course after I write a post about how lovely things are something horrible happens: right before heading out to watch the England vs. Scotland rugby game I trip with laptop in hand. When I turned my laptop on to see if it was alright all I got was a gray screen telling me that the wiring in the monitor was no longer as it should be. Thus Lily's visit was a little less enjoyable then it could have been as I was a) spending a lot of time trying to find a way to fix my computer, b) sending frantic emails to my father, and c) studying in the library for exams. Incidents like these really make you miss home as this sort of thing would have been a lot easier to handle if I wasn't abroad. Also, without a computer I didn't really have any connection to home. However, I now have a beautiful, shiny, new laptop and all is well. So onto Lily's visit and adventures in London!

On Saturday I picked Lily up from Waverley Train Station and then got her settled in at my flat. For dinner we went to a place called Susie's Wholefood Diner which is a vegetarian restaurant set up sort of like a small, homey cafeteria. The food was pretty good, though at £6.50 it is not somewhere I can go all the time like the Mosque Kitchen. I got a carrot, squash, couscous mash that despite the odd mixture of foods was quite nice, an "enchilada" which was good when I didn't think about it in the context of the enchiladas I eat at home, and a pasta salad. All in all I enjoyed my meal and the homey atmosphere.

After dinner Lily and I went to some pubs with Lee. We tried to go to Brass Monkey (a pub with a back room that has lots of cushions), but being a Saturday night it was super full, so we popped over to the next closest pub, Aspen. Nothing to exciting to report there. They had the usual array of drinks accompanied by speakers blasting the top 100 and TV screens everywhere playing the weird Cartoon Network cartoons for 10-14 year olds. As soon as we finished our drinks we went to another pub, The Green Mantle. This pub was much more my style: a cozy, neighborhood pub with live music and well priced drinks. We stayed there for a while and got talking with some of the musicians.

Sunday Lily and I went to The Green Mantle to watch the Italy vs. France rugby game. Rugby is way more fun then American football. In rugby they lift people up by their shorts! It is an actual move, though I don't remember exactly what the purpose of it is. Near the end of the game the sound was turned off, however, because Sunday afternoons at The Green Mantle are dedicated to traditional fiddle music, so Lily and I just decided to make up our own commentary for the game. After the game we were joined by Lily's Australian friend Karl. We sat around talking and drinking for a bit and then headed to the Mosque Kitchen for dinner. Later that night Lee, Lily, Karl and I went to a pub on Grassmarket called Biddy Mulligans. The pub was Irish themed, but the atmosphere felt somewhat cheesy. The drink variety wasn't that impressive and was somewhat expensive. That combined with Lee being tired lead to Lee and I leaving the pub early.

Monday Lily and I got a late start, but we spent the afternoon walking up and down the Royal Mile. We went to the castle and we went to Parliament and Holyrood park. For dinner we went to Bella Italia (the Italian restaurant Lee and I went to in Glasgow) and spent the rest of the evening watching Friends with my Phoebe, Phoebe's friend who was visiting, and Aby.

The rest of the week mostly involved me going to class and studying during the day, leaving Lily to her own devices, and going to pubs at night. On Wednesday (St. Patrick's Day!) Lily and I went to the Blind Poet and a place called Opium. The Blind Poet had a nice variety of ciders and had big comfortable couches everywhere. The atmosphere and the people were quite friendly, definitely worth another visit. Opium was not exactly what I would call a pub. There was a bar downstairs and a dance floor upstairs, and most of the people there were young and quite drunk. Although we ended up staying there until 3:00 in the morning I didn't really like the general vibe of the place and don't think I will be going back.

Thursday evening Lily, Lee, and I met one of Lily's other Edinburgh friends, Josie. We drank Tennants at her new flat, and then headed out to the Three Sisters, a very popular pub on Cowgate. The Three Sisters is a popular spot to watch rugby games, and I can understand why as it is pretty big pub. There was live music playing when we got there, so we sipped our drinks and listened to the show. When the show ended and it was getting close to closing time Lee and I decided to head out.

Friday Lily and I caught a 3:00 train to London. We got into King's Cross around 7:30 and were starving so we bought some fries at Burger King. We sat around eating them and watching a one footed pigeon hobble around. For only having one foot it was pretty good at maneuvering. Then we took the Tube to Hyde Park where our hostel was. We had a bit of trouble finding it, however, so eventually we had to hail a taxi. We got there, checked in, put the sheets on our beds, and then went in search of some real food. We stopped at one of the first places we came to, a Malaysian and Chinese food restaurant, and ordered the vegetarian platter. The vegetarian platter consisted off mini egg rolls, mini samosas, weird vegetable-stuffed fried things, and mini cheese jalapaneo poppers, of course. It was not much food and rather expensive, but it hit the spot. After dinner we went back to the hostel, talked some, and then went to sleep.

Saturday morning we woke up and took a walking tour around London. We saw the following things: the Wellington Arch (dedicated to the Duke of Wellington who beat Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo), Buckingham Palace, the Place where the Princes' live, Hampton Court (the Tudor castle where King Henry the VIII lived), Pall Mall (famous street in London where many of London's elite live), the exclusive gentleman's club Winston Churchill was a member of, Trafalgar Square, an old World War II bunker, the house of the royal guard, the London Eye, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and Parliament. For lunch we went to Leicester Square and ate Dorrito nachos at a pub called Vibe. Then we walked around Chinatown and got dumplings and bubble tea. Afterward we headed to Oxford Circus and spent some time at Top Shop and Primark. I didn't get anything at Primark, but I did get these excellent socks at Top Shop that have red telephone booths on them.

After a long shop, we dropped our purchases at the hostel and then headed to the neighborhood Lily had lived in when she was abroad. We went to this delicious Thai restaurant for dinner, and then went to her old dorm to met up with some of her friends. After hanging out for a while waiting for everyone to get ready we finally headed out to a pub thanks greatly to a fire alarm. The first pub we went to was a live music pub, but the place was full so we walked for a while to another one. The second pub was full of the closest thing England has to frat boys, and had a horrible band playing. Picture a 45 year-old man who thinks he is still young and punk rock singing crude, crude lyrics. Soon after the band started the once packed pub had cleared out quite a bit. While initially we were enjoying making fun of the band, after a while we couldn't stand it anymore so we left. At that point Lily and I decided to head back to our hostel, and so we took the night bus home. This was quite an adventure as we didn't quite know what buses to take or which stop we needed to get off at to change buses. Luckily, both of the bus drivers we had were very helpful and nice, and we made it back to the hostel in one piece. Though when we got off the last bus we went running madly for our hostel as we both had to pee so much it hurt.

Sunday we spent most of the day at Camden Market, an outdoor market with lots of antiques, clothes, and food. The best thing we saw had to be this necklace:

Yeah. I'm pretty sure that's a caveman. After eating delicious veggie burgers and wandering around the market a bit longer we went to the graveyard where Karl Marx is buried. We sat on Herbert Spencer's grave and observed Karl Marx's grave and then walked around for a while. Afterward we went and sat in a nearby park. For dinner we went to Chinatown, and then we headed back to the hostel and played Scrabble and watched Jaws until it was time for me to leave to catch my bus.

My bus left London at 11:00 in the evning and got me back to Edinburgh a little after 7:00 the next morning. I was able to sleep most of the bus ride, waking up only twice: once at 3:00 am when the bus stopped at a rest stop and once a 6:00 when we were passing by rolling green hills in the Scottish countryside. I was only briefly able to appreciate their beauty in the golden morning light before falling back asleep again.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


It's a gorgeous Saturday morning and I am sitting at the kitchen table in my flat drinking green tea and trying not to spend too much time gazing out the window at rooftops and mountain-scapes. I need to get some work down this morning so I can go to the pub in the afternoon to watch the Scotland v. England rugby game. Then at a little before 6:00 I am heading to the train station to meet Lily for the best week of our lives.

This week has generally been a good one. Last Saturday Lee and I went to the Edinburgh Farmers Market which is picturesquely placed right below the castle. Although many of the booths were selling meat and fish there were also some booths selling foods more tempting to a vegetarian. There were a few vendors selling homemade jams, a vendor selling different varieties of honey, vendors selling cheese, breads and baked goods, and apple juice. Lee got a bottle of the apple juice and I have to say it is the best apple juice I have ever had in my life. EVER. We also got crisps from a stand that made the crisps right in front of you and allowed you to choose the flavor. We got salt and vinegar.

After sampling our way through the farmers market we walked around the West End for a while. When we got hungry we headed back to the farmers market to get some lunch. I got some soup, which was nice, but did not truly excite my taste buds. Lee was feeling adventurous and got venison haggis with neeps and tatties (turnip and potato mash). He didn't like the neeps and tatties so I ended up eating that, and he didn't really like the haggis either. I tried a tiny bite just so I could say I tried haggis, and it was... weird. I think I disliked the pâté-like consistency. It wasn't quite so smooth as pâté, but definitely a different consistency than most meat and quite rich too. I think I am going to stay away from haggis for the rest of my time here, though I might try vegetarian haggis.

After a somewhat unsatisfying lunch we came back to my flat and had afternoon tea. We drank Earl Grey and ate chocolate covered Digestives, Jaffa cakes, and toast with Nutella. It was quite a spread. We spent the rest of the afternoon watching a free show in a jazz bar. The band played mostly smooth jazz along with some jazz oldies such as "Old Black Magic". I think Lee and I were among the youngest people there, but that was rather nice. I liked watching all these elderly men and women with there friends singing along to the songs they had known when they were younger. When the show was over Lee and I got a dinner. We ate pizza and chips (1/2 a mini pizza and chips for £1.95!) and spent the rest of the night drinking cheap cider.

Monday was a day of doing little productive things like laundry and letter writing. Lee and I also began the finalization process for our Easter Break travel extravaganza. We are going to Brussels, Oslo, and Munich.

Tuesday was a busy day. I had a meeting at 9:00 in the morning to finish up a poster for a group project for MCB. We worked until 10:00 lecture. After lecture we were given 45 minutes of class time to finish and submit our poster, and then the rest of class was spent critiquing other groups' posters. The whole class period was just a laugh. First one of the girls in my group decided our poster had to be perfect and kept trying to make little changes to it when we hadn't even finished adding all the content, then the girl who still needed to add her information typed incredibly slowly, pecking daintily at the keys, and the whole time the professor was going around yelling "20 minutes left!" "10 minutes left!" "20 minutes left!". It was as if he had no concept of time, or perhaps just enjoyed making us nervous. We submitted the poster on time and then begin looking at other groups posters. This is when I lost it. It was obvious that some groups put no effort into their posters (likely because it was just an exercise and wasn't for a grade), and the outcome was hilarious, such as yes or no answers to questions that weren't yes or no questions. We were suppose to give feedback and all we could say for the yes-and-no answer group was, "Nice colors, but maybe answer the questions more in depth next time." Afterward I ate lunch, had BioTech lecture, and then BioTech practical. At 4:15 my friend Harriet and I walked home together, telling each other all about our respective experiences with the MCB poster project.

Tuesday evening Lee and I saw Beach House and Grizzly Bear at Queen's Hall. It was an excellent venue, with places to stand and sit. Lee and I decided to watch the show from the balcony as the stage was not elevated, thus in order to see the band you had to be in the front-most standing rows. Both acts had excellent lighting accompanying their music. Beach House had these white fuzzy structures that looked like closed beach umbrellas and that would light up pink, green, and blue. Grizzly Bear had glass jars with lights hanging all around the stage that lit up in response to the music. The music was great, but what was most amazing about the concert was that everything was on time. Lee and I got there at 8:05 and Beach House was already playing (they went on at 8:00). Then it took less then 30 minutes to move Beach House's equipment off the stage and move Grizzly Bear's equipment on to the stage. Grizzly Bear played for an hour and a half or so, and the concert was over at 10:45. I have never gotten out of an evening concert this early. I wasn't tired and the evening was still so young.

Wednesday I went to the King's Buildings in the afternoon and worked. In the evening I meant to do work, but I ended up making brownies instead. The brownies were amazing. I think they were some of the best brownies I've ever eaten. Lee and I ate them with ice cream.

Thursday I read for most of the day and then went to Genetics, Nature, and Society. Only four other people showed up, and after 20 minutes we all decided to leave. None of us received an email informing us class was canceled and there was nothing on the class website. I emailed the professor to ask if there is going to be a make up class and she has still not responded. Have we been ostracized? That evening I had tea and biscuits with my friend Lindsey from 6:30 until 9:30, and then spent the rest of the evening working.

Friday I had MCB lecture and tutorial and BioTech lecture and practical. I presented in tutorial and I think my presentation went fairly well. On my feedback forms I got mostly 4's and 5's (scale 1-5) except on one of them where I got 2's and 3's. Although the forms are anonymous, the people who fill them in hand them back to you directly so I knew who had given me the form. It was a guy who I gave 2's and 3's to for his presentation. My low marks for him, however, were justified as the tutor pulled him over after class and told him he needed to improve his presentation skills. Also, our tutor that day was Graeme Reid, whom I adore! He is an engaging and informative lecturer and an all around nice guy. BioTech practical was short and the last practical of the semester.

Friday evening I watched a movie and then Lee and I went out to a pub. After one pint I felt quite nice, but also somewhat sleepy so we headed home, stopping at Tesco along the way to buy some delicious crisps. There was something really lovely about walking lazily back to our flats in the crisp night air while munching on balsamic vinegar and caramelized onion crisps. I felt like I was gliding instead of walking.

And today Lily comes, which I know I already said, but I am very excited!

I've been drinking a lot of green tea in the morning recently and it is sending me back to summer mornings in China.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Highlands and Loch Lomond

You take the high road
And I'll take the low
And I'll be in Scotland before ye
For me and my true love will never meet again
On the bonny, bonny banks of Loch Lomond

So the essays are all done, and I spent my weekend gallivanting around the Highlands and Loch Lomond with the International Student Center (ISC). I woke up bright and early Saturday morning and walked in the snow to the ISC office. The morning started with check-in during which three small buses pulled up, one blue bus and two yellow buses which said "Haggis Adventures Wild and Sexy" on the side. This should give you some idea of what my weekend was like.

Lee and I got on the blue bus, ascending the stairs to a song whose only lyrics were, "Me so horny." The blue bus was driven by Tony, or Uncle Tony as we so fondly called him by the end of the weekend. I brought my iPod and a book for the bus journey, but it turned out I didn't need either. When Uncle Tony wasn't humorously relating bits of Scottish history or telling us embarrassing stories from his childhood he was playing silly music. Some of it was 80s and some was techno, but he also played Flight of the Conchords and Paul McCartney.

Anyway, the first stop on our trip was the William Wallace monument in Sterling which is the tallest monument to someone named William Wallace. The monument is on a hill and offers an excellent view of the town. Next we payed a visit to everyone's favorite hairy coo (highland cow) Hamish.

Isn't he cute?

For lunch we stopped in the small town of Aberfoyle. Lee had packed lunch for us, but after eating in the cold we decided to take refuge in a nearby cafe and get a pot of tea. We sat around drinking tea and eating caramel chocolate eggs and sugar cookies with icing (which I had made the night I finished my essays) for almost an hour. The sugar cookies dipped in tea were lovely. After tea we took a short walk around the town and then headed back to the buses and on to our next stop on the trip: Daivd Marshall Lodge at Queen Elizabeth Park. We took a nice nature ramble through the woods near the lodge and I took many a picture of zip-liners zipping over tree tops and a waterfall. By this time the sun had started to peak out from behind the clouds, so the ramble was very refreshing. Afterward we took a quick stop at one of the two lakes in Scotland, and then made our way to famous Loch Lomond. We took a walk around the banks of the loch and climbed a hill which marked the boundary between the highlands and the lowlands. Here is a picture of the bonny, bonny banks of Loch Lomond.

After our long walk we headed to the place we would be staying for the night: an old caste converted into a hostel. Upon exploring the castle Lee and I discovered that most of the rooms had been converted into bedrooms with bunk beds, but there was a main hall that was quite pretty as well as some other rooms that hadn't been too modernized. For dinner the organizers made tortellini and cucumber salad, and Lee and I had alcoholic drinks which we bought in Aberfoyle. When dinner finished we assembled in the main hall to watch a traditional Highland costume and weapons display, following which we had a Ceilidh (a traditional Scottish dance party). The Ceilidh was so much fun. Lee and I danced the night away. My favorite dance was the Flying Scotsman, which involved lots of galloping. When the Ceilidh became a modern day dance party Lee and I took our leave and went outside for a short walk around the castle grounds. At about 12:30 we headed to bed.

Here is a picture of Uncle Tony in front of our hostel. He is on the left:

In the morning we had a delicious breakfast of toast and cereal. I had buttered toast and half peanut butter half chocolate spread toast. I love toast! After breakfast we packed up and headed to a snowy mountain and valley area that was quite pretty. Then we went to a little town called Inverary which had a nice castle owned by the Duke of Argyle. The town was right on the waters edge so Lee and I walked to the pier and then walked around the town. We saw a church that looked like a mini cathedral, and also saw lots of cozy restaurants and bakeries. Next we went and saw a castle that once belonged to the nasty Campbell's (the Campbell's are not a well respected clan in Scotland because they massacred the clan MacDonald at Glenco in 1692). Then it was lunch time. For lunch Lee and I both had a delicious bowl of Cullen Skink, which is a traditional Scottish soup of potato, onion, cream, and smoked haddock. I know, I know I am a vegetarian, but I had to try it because it is a traditional Scottish dish. Also it was a cold day and I wanted lovely, warm soup.

After lunch we went to a town called Killin where the clan McNab have a burial ground. We were meant to take a brief stroll, but Lee wanted to go into the burial ground so he jumped the fence. He didn't get back to the bus at the pre-appointed time, however, so I had a bit of a freak out, but of course everything was fine and he soon made it back to the bus. We then moved on to another little town which I forget the name of and then headed back to Edinburgh. It was quite a full weekend.

Sunday was Lee's birthday. I made him a chocolate orange cake and we got Chinese take out from a super cheap place called Good Will.

So far this week I haven't done much of anything. Monday I took it easy. Tuesday I had class all day. Yesterday I took a three and a half hour walk during which I walked down the Royal Mile to Parliament, around Holyrood Park, and up to Prince's Street. Then I walked up Castle Street for a while and up some other streets until I found myself in a really posh neighborhood. After walking around there for a bit I got really tired and so I headed back toward my flat, stopping at Piemaker along the way. I bought one savory pie filled with tomato, basil, and mozzarella which I ate in the shop and one apple pie which I saved for later. When I got back to my flat I had tea and biscuits with Aby.

Today has been a wonderful, lazy day. I stayed in bed for a long time, got up to have coffee with a friend, went to my Genetics, Nature and Society class (which I love!), had dinner, and now I am eating a delicious cupcake with butter cream frosting. Lovely.