Friday, 29 August 2014

Letters From America: Playlist so far

Hello Everyone, 

I am going to try and make a playlist of songs of my year here, and every month I will add five new songs to it. So, by the end of the year, I will have a playlist of 50 songs, because I am here for 10 months. If I stay longer and travel, I will add songs for them too. So, as it nears the end of August and my first month here, these are my songs:

  1. Since You've Been Gone by Kelly Clarkson
  2. Sunshine on Leith from Sunshine on Leith the Film by Jane Horrocks
  3. The Climb by Miley Cyrus
  4. Cups from Pitch Perfect by Anna Kendrick
  5. Hit Me With Your Best Shot from Rock of Ages by Catherine Zeta-Jones
Hope you like it.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Doctor Who New Series

Hello Everyone, 

On Saturday I watched the new Series 8 Episode 1 Doctor Who episode with the outing of Peter Capaldi as the new doctor. This was the make or break episode that would either send people running for the hills, never again to watch the show, or leave them hankering for more. So I was prepared to judge this episode very quickly if it didn't live up to my expectations. I didn't read anything about it before I saw it so it was completely fresh and new to me, with no bias.

Well, I loved it. I knew Peter Capaldi would be a good doctor, and he hit the ground running. His doctor was more complex and less obviously comic than Matt Smith's was at the beginning. You never quite knew what he was going to do next, even though he was the doctor, and all the expectations that it brings. He seemed to be trying to find out who he was, rather than knowing exactly what sort of man he was meant to be. When he was walking through the alley, muttering to himself, he was the madman with the box, but a deeper sort of madman, not the happy-go-lucky one Smith had been. There was a little bit of all the Doctors in the episode, almost as if he was going through his memory banks and finding out all that he had been. I was hoping for a darker doctor, a bit like Christopher Eccleston's, which I got a little bit of, but not a lot. I think we will see more of the darker Doctor in future episodes as the Doctor was not really considered too much this episode. In fact, it was more about Clara than the Doctor.

Clara needed to know that he still was the Doctor and she seemed less capable of handling the regeneration idea than the only other recent companion who saw him regenerate: Rose (I can't count the Classic Whos yet as I haven't seen all of them). Either way, Clara wasn't coping well with the new face of the Doctor, apparently because he looked older. Now, most people would judge Clara for this kind of reaction (which she was, by Madam Vastra) but I think it represented the struggle that most people would have when faced with someone who regenerates and changes their face. The face is such an intrinsic part of someone's personality, and for it to change so completely would test anyone. In finding it difficult to accept this change, Clara became more relatable to me than perhaps Rose was when Tennant started. Moffat used the character of Clara well by using her to call us all out on wanting a Doctor that was similar to both Smith, Tennant and Eccleston, young and attractive. In doing this, he created a more three dimensional character that reflected the audience's reactions to Capaldi's casting.

I look forward to seeing the relationship dynamic between the Doctor and Clara. I am looking forward to a different kind of relationship rather than the flirty, euphemism-filled, almost desperate companions that we have had in the past. I liked the previous companions, but almost always hated the romantic, unrequited love undertone to their relationships with the Doctor. The only one that didn't was Donna Noble, and it was a better dynamic. She wanted to see world, not just follow the Doctor. In doing that, she helped him heal and grow. I hope the relationship with the current Doctor and Clara becomes a similar one, although with it's own ups and downs and nuances.

For the most part, the plot was superlative to the episode. You needed it to give some background to what the characters were doing, but it could have been anything. I enjoyed the subtle points of Moffat's writing with the slight references to past adventures, past companions and past Doctors. The best reference had to be about Capaldi's past character in Doctor Who. He played Caecilius in the Fires of Pompei, when Tennant was the Doctor. The idea that the Doctor gets some say in his faces, or that his faces are only ones from his memories is one that the fans will discuss for quite a while, unless Moffat decides to make a definitive decision, which I hope he doesn't. I love a little debate and theory in Doctor Who, it's almost as enjoyable as the show itself. That said, the end of the show provided enough debate to keep me going for a while. Who is the mysterious Missy, the 'girlfriend of the doctor'? Where is Paradise? And did the clockwork droid jump from the escape pod, or was he pushed?

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Letters From America: Freshers Round 2

Hello Everyone, 

This is my second fresher’s week in so many years. The first, when I was actually a fresher, was spent on nights out to the local clubs and meeting people from my past and future. I went along to student activities events and made myself sit for hours sorting out my timetable and buying books and food shopping for the first time. It was a turning point for me, giving me the belief that I could actually do this, live away from home and do everything for myself. 

This time round, I was wiser, a little more experienced and restrained, feeling like I knew what to expect from this one. Yes, I was in a different country, in fact a different continent, but how much could really change from small detail of the drinking age being 21? There were under-aged students during our fresher’s week, so I didn’t expect a lot to have changed. Well, a lot did. 

First off, evening student events were not held in a pub, or a nightclub, but in the Student’s Union Building, or in other places on campus. Secondly, Americans know how to party! Lack of alcohol did not diminish the party spirit, or the dance moves. In fact, they were better! Without the false confidence and stumbling that alcohol provides, the dance moves were more complicated and much more synchronized. On the dance floor in Britain, it is littered with groups of girls on a ‘girls-night-out’ and guys on a ‘lads-night’, or the totally smashed individuals pouncing on each other with little or no regard for standards.

I don’t want to be a hypocrite, I do enjoy a good night out dancing in a club, and alcohol comes as part of that. It allows me to postpone the horrible moment when you just crash from too much dancing and too little sleep to a much later moment (normally the second I get back into my room). However, I have never done a night out completely sober, and this last week was undoubtedly tougher than my first fresher’s week. Still suffering the effects of jetlag, it perhaps was more difficult than it could have been. However, it was an eye-opener. I got to see the progression of couples from the first meeting to those first tentative steps onto the dance-floor, rather than the lumbering ‘what’s your name?’ and immediately locking lips. I got to see proper dance-battles, the likes of only seen on the TV. Synchronised dance routines, which I have always had a soft spot for, were played so often that it was an abomination if you didn’t know at least one by the end of the night. An outdoor dance floor and a movie on the field, which would never happen in Scotland, either because of the rain or the dropping temperature, rounded off a pretty good week. A perfectly enjoyable sober week. 

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Letters from America: Old Town Albuquerque

Hello Everyone,

Yesterday I, along with other international students, went to visit Old Town Albuquerque, and a museum. I met some really interesting people (also on the international exchange) and ended up having lunch with them.
The main plaza and bandstand!
Old Town Albuquerque is a really interesting place as it is the oldest part of the city, and has been there since 1706, when the city was founded. All the buildings are in the style of traditional Mexican style, with flat roofs and big porches. This means that the residents and shop owners are able to hold really nice markets on the porches for tourists to buy. It also means that there is a lot of shade, which was really useful as it was so hot.
Look at all the pretty things!
Inside a pretty trinket shop
The museum we went to was called the Albuquerque Museum of Science and History. It had some really cool exhibits about Bolo Ties and Christo, the artist that wraps buildings and landmarks up in different materials. However, my favourite exhibit was the sculpture garden, when we were just allowed to roam around by ourselves taking pictures.
One of the murals all around the museum
A really pretty fountain/sculpture
A really long sculpture of cowboys transporting their goods and families
It's a pretty epic scene
I just thought he was so cute!
This one was called Tea and Steel, it made me crave a cuppa!

For lunch, we just had to go to a traditional Mexican restaurant. However, we weren't too hungry, so the girls at our table decided to get four appetisers to share (as we thought they would be smaller than a main course). To our surprise, what do we get but four huge plates, that we were barely able to eat! And the nachos! There were nachos on every plate, as well as complimentary nachos brought over when we sat down. One thing I was very surprised at, which we don't get in Britain, was that the waitress kept filling up our glasses with water. Every fifteen minutes (or more frequently, I wasn't watching the clock) she came over with a jug of water and ice, and would top up our glasses. This was a relief, as it was so hot, and we would have gotten pretty dehydrated if she hadn't done that. Although we couldn't eat all the food, the amount we tried was very good. It was pretty spicy, but so flavoursome.
The restaurant we went to

So. Much. Food.

I really enjoyed this trip, and although we didn't really do a lot, we learnt a lot about New Mexican culture just by looking around and seeing what it was like.
That's a lot of chillies!

P.S. If you liked this post, you may also like Letters From America: Day 1 and 2 or Dinard.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Letters From America: Day 1 and 2

Hello Everyone,

In case you didn't know, I am taking part in an exchange year abroad in Albuquerque at the University of New Mexico. I have spent the last day travelling there and have taken lots of pictures of my journey. So here they are.

My plane from Amsterdam to Atlanta
The plane from Atlanta to Albuquerque
The wing of the plane, original, I know
And we have touchdown!

The second pink bag is mine!
My School!
My first impressions of Albuquerque as I watched the plane circle the huge sprawling city was that it was a magnificent piece of humanity in a sparse and dangerous terrain. The straight human road lines cut through the landscape like a knife through a cake. The mountains, huge and domineering the skyline are the crowning glory of the Albuquerque scenery. The heat hits you like a wave crashing down on you, drowning you until you slowly adjust. There are times when it seems like heaven on earth, and others when all you want to do is run around in the cool rain found only in Scotland. Mad, eh? I mean, just look at these pictures.
Pretty sun

Tuesday, 5 August 2014


Hello Everyone,

Although on Sunday I told you about my day trips, there is one particular day trip that was very memorable for me. We were supposed to be looking for a market to buy some groceries from, and instead we found the annual FĂȘte des Ramparts in Dinard. This is essentially a Renaissance Fair, so everybody was dressed up in medieval garb, along with a tournament and stalls selling medieval produce. I am not often under dressed, but on that day I was. Everyone got involved and it was lovely to see, it isn't something that really happens in Britain.

There's a lot of effort put into this festival
Wish I had taken them up on their offer!
Fancy some furs? Or a belt buckle? There was pretty much everything on sale
No medieval festival is complete without a jester
The streets were lined with these flags, all colours of the rainbow
A blurry picture of my dad blending in with the locals!
The musicians played some medieval music to help set the mood
There were lots of street performers
I have never wanted to buy a sword/bow and arrow so much ever!
These guys put so much effort into their costumes!
This is so cute! (I'm sorry about the blurriness) 
This was the security detail!

The Medieval Walk

 P.S. If you liked this post, then you may enjoy Day Trips or Motivate Monday

Monday, 4 August 2014

Motivate Monday

Hello Everyone,

As I am doing a holiday themed week, here is a motivational holiday quote to get you inspired by your own holiday, whenever or wherever you have them.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Day Trips

Hello Everyone,

Although 99.9% of my holidays are spent doing absolutely nothing, I do sometimes drag myself off my backside and have a look around the place I am staying. Here are a few photos of some of the times that I did just that. And the times that we didn't bother.

Stranger in the Rain
Shopping is my cardio
Just Around the River bend
Day Trip to Dinan
I do love a cloudy sky
'The Duck Pond'
'Sunset Driveway'