Adventures

Guess Who’s Back

Alright good people, here we go! I once heard an airport shuttle driver say that as we drove to the hotel and ever since I’ve thought about saying it, I just didn’t know when. So I figured, now’s the time.

Anyway, sit back, relax, and enjoy my tale of getting lost in the wilderness.

Last week I was up at my cabin in Wisconsin with my dear friend Beth. One afternoon we decided to go four wheeling. I’ve been around the block a fair amount of times so I knew the route well and I knew it only took about 30 minutes. That is until they completely redid the route. Just Andie being Andie, I winged it the whole time, following the signs and assuming that the “Birchwood Loop” is called a loop for a reason, right? Well, in the midst of enjoying the beautiful scenery and rocky roads, I realised we had been gone for two hours. Panic started to settle in but I knew we would be fine. Beth is always one for adventures and loves getting lost because it makes for a good story, so she was still loving life at the time. I, however, was mainly concerned about running out of gas, getting stuck in the woods at dusk with no phone and no money and probably getting malled by a bear. But, deep down I knew we would be fine. It’s just this time, it was all in my hands.

Not long after we found a sign for Birchwood and followed it down a very long and very bumpy dirt road. And eventually, whattya know, we made it back! Huzzah! Except there was one more thing. Because we were in the town, I had two options. 1. Continue on the ATV trail which takes around an hour to get home, and risk getting lost again or running out of gas. 2. Take the main road home which only takes 20 minutes and definitely not get lost again. Naturally, I chose the second option. Driving down the long and winding road was beautiful and knowing that we were going to be okay was even better. But alas, about 15 minutes in, I started hearing this really weird sound. At first I thought it was just my helmet in the wind, but then it got louder. I had an “oh shit” moment. I turned around and saw it. A cop car. Confession, I know that I’ve never seen a four wheeler on this road before, but I’ve also never seen a cop car in Birchwood. The town is tiny. So after I pulled over, he gave us the usual ‘who are you and what are you doing’ talk and said he’d be escorting us back to the cabin. I found this hilarious. 7pm on a Monday, making our way back to the cabin, except with a cop car behind us.

When we got to the cabin he explained that he had just come from a Town Hall meeting. (Confession #2: I knew that building said ‘Town Hall’ but I didn’t think they actually used it!) And what was the meeting about, you ask? It was about how they need to be more strict on doing the very thing that Beth and I drove past doing: four wheeling down that road. There’s them, the whole gang of Birchwood PD and the all the important people of town walking out of the Town Hall after discussing how they should pull people over more frequently. And there’s us, illegally rolling past in our four wheelers, not a care in the world. After I explained my side of the story, he said “Well that just cost you $200. You’ll get a bill in the mail by Friday” and he drove off into the sunset.

I must say, I definitely thought we would get eaten by a bear or a pack of wolves before getting pulled over, but life is full of little surprises. The funny thing is, I’d always wondered what it would be like to get pulled over on an ATV and when the first time I’d get pulled over would be. Two birds with one stone, am I right?

Three hours and $200 later, I have no regrets.  A large glass of wine and the Sex and the City movie was needed that evening.

(P.S. Later I learned that the Birchwood Loop takes a total of 5 hours. Oops.)

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Uncategorized

The end,the beginning, and the middle

I’m leaving tomorrow to go back to Swansea and as usual it’s a weird transition. Every time that I only have a few days before I fly back is strange. I’m happy to go back, it’s just hard to take everything in knowing that I won’t be here for a few months again. It’s somewhat daunting. Nonetheless, I am totally fine once I get there. Home doesn’t seem that far away over there.

In retrospect, the week before I leave is always great. I see people, I do things, and I try to take it all in. But then I think, did I spend my time how I wanted to? Did I appreciate everything? And the longer I live in Wales the more I think, am I too American to be British and too British to be American? And basically the only thing for me to do then is to go to a cafe, get some caffeine down my throat, play a little music, and reflect. Bottom line, it’s scary but exhilarating. It’s life.

My Christmas break has been nice. I saw a few movies, all of which I wholly recommend (Joy, The Revenant, and The Big Short), I went up north to Bemidji for a few days, I saw some of my friends and family, and I did some pretty good shopping. I forgot how to dress for the cold weather but after a few failed attempts I slowly got the hang of it again. I noticed that I don’t feel as Minnesotan when I look at other Minnesotans. Being gone for that long does that to you I guess.
Another bottom line: time doesn’t fly until you realise that it has. Life goes on and you have to go with it.
Because I didn’t write at all this semester, I should probably catch you all up. Second year has been better than first in some ways. Probably because I’m more comfortable here and the culture shock is mostly gone. I joined two societies (clubs): baking and tv. Both are right up my alley, and somehow I even became the treasurer for the baking society! In SUTV we make a lot of cool stuff and writing for it is something I’m getting into. I also hope to write more in this blog in 2016.
Last bottom line: just because it isn’t easy doesn’t mean it’s not worth it.
Let’s see what’s in store for 2016, shall we?
P.S. I’m now halfway through university!
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Letters

A Wednesday Update

Hiya readers! How the heck are ya? I’m still here and running this blog, only I haven’t written for almost two months. Apologies. Just like when you haven’t seen an old friend for awhile, catching up is a necessity.

Over the summer I got a dog. The cutest dog, in fact. Here’s pictures to prove it.

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See what I mean?

Her name is Mishka which means ‘little bear’ in Russian because she looks like a bear (obviously). She’s a Bernese Mountain Dog if any of you are wondering.

I love Mishka to pieces, but because of her I learned two things the hard way. First, puppies are like babies. They act like babies, they look like babies, they are babies. Puppies are fun, but some days after being at home with her all day, day after day, I felt like a housewife stuck at home with the baby. I feel for housewives who go on their fourth glass of wine by five in the evening. I really do feel for them. The second thing I learned is, I am definitely a cat person. Puppies are all fun and excitement but they have no chill. They need you to be there for them, but sometimes all I want to do is sit on the couch and binge watch Netflix. Dogs don’t like Netflix. Cats on the other hand don’t necessarily like Netflix either, but they’ll sit there with you if you give them some attention. Netflix and Purr. It’s a thing.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful, because Mishka is puppy goals. People actually stop in the street and gasp when they see her. One older man, the original hipster, took a picture of her with his disposable camera.

Jump forward to early October; I saw Atmosphere and Dem Atlas at The Fleece in Bristol.

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I was curious to what type of people would show up to his concert in England, and I wasn’t very surprised with the outcome. It was as you’d expect: young hipsters, stoners, drifters, and serious Rhymesayers fans. One couple, though, was different. They were just like any other fans holding pints and fist pumping to the beat, however their grey hair and wrinkles stood out. They were probably in their mid 70s.

Later on, after Dem Atlas performed (who was incredible, by the way) I was pointing out Minnesota on the map of the US on stage to my friend Charlie, when the lady in her 70s next to me tells me she is from Wisconsin. In retrospect, of course she is. Midwestern folk really do get around. After introducing ourselves, she told me has lived in England for seven years and has been teaching here. She explained she’s been listening to Atmosphere since the 90s and it was her first time seeing him. Once Atmosphere came on, her and her English date rocked out and loved the show. She embodies everything I want to be at that age. She is me in the future.

Seeing Atmosphere and Dem Atlas was such a treat, especially seeing them in Bristol. I realised how cool the Minneapolis music scene is. I knew this, but being somewhere other than Minnesota made it even more real. Throughout the show, a really hyped fan next to me kept shouting “Minneapolis!” as if it’s something cool to shout like ‘New York’ would be. It was all very surreal.

On a final note, being in second year is nice. Being a second year is like having all the fun of sophomore year and all the intensity of junior year. And hey, I’m almost halfway through university. 🙂

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Thoughts & Rants

Maybe She’s Born With It, Maybe It’s Coconut Oil.

I’d like to introduce to you the many joys of coconut oil.

First and foremost, what you need is extra-virgin, extra-unrefined, extra-organic coconut oil. You want that shit extra fresh and untouched.

Perfect Coconut Oil Hairmask:

  1. Open your jar of coconut oil
  2. Take a good ol’ whiff of your new bestie in a bottle
  3. Reach to the heavens and yell “DAAAAAAMNNNNN” because it’s just so fresh
  4. Take a huge slab of coconut oil and spread it all over your hair
  5. All over. Keep spreading. Work it girl. You’re flawless.
  6. Okay okay now STOP
  7. Sleep on it, do your thing, whatever, just wash it out with shampoo tomorrow morning or in a few hours. Your hair will thank you.

Perfect Coconut Oil for Face and Neck and All Over:

  1. Repeat steps 1-3 from the Perfect Coconut Oil Hairmask™
  2. Grab some of that fresh to death oil and put it on your face and neck and the rest of your body if you feel being hugged by a warm blanket of that dreamy coconut oil.
  3. Massage it in and let your skin soak up that good Vitamin K and E
  4. Make sure you don’t get it in your eyes because who knows what would happen then
  5. Go out into the world and show off your new soft AF and good lookin’ skin
  6. Also take a good look at your nails because honey, they look better

Other uses of coconut oil:

Cooking: Use as an oil for cooking. Show up your snobby neighbour Susie with a better french toast at this Sunday’s Upper-Middle-Class-American-Dream-almost-like-Desperate-Housewives-but-not-quite-Brunch. Coconut oil can withstand high heat and not burn like its friend Olive Oil does. (Sorry olive oil, but I had to say it. You know it’s for the best.)

Oil Pulling: You’re thinking, WTF is that? Well ladies and gents, it’s monumental. Just swish a tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth for a long and uncomfortable 20 minutes and it draws out toxins and improves your oral and overall health. (We think.)

In Your Coffee: I’ve never tried this, but some people have. What do you have to lose? Be brave, be adventurous, try something new home-girl!

Ingest It: A-tablespoon-a-day helps with mental health and allergy symptoms apparently. Those saturated fats are a true friend to your brain.

Everything Else in Life: Literally everything. You want that job promotion? Use coconut oil. You want to get married while your 30 flirty and thriving? Use coconut oil. Coconut Oil solves problems. Coconut Oil is the answer to your prayers. Coconut Oil is here for you.

When in doubt, coconut oil it out.

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Adventures

Danger at the Drive-In

It was a Friday. My friends and I were at the Drive-In.

EXT. VALI-HI: LAKE ELMO, MINNESOTA. DUSK.

We started the night off innocently with the movie Minions. Yes, Minions. No, I’m not proud of it. But honestly? It wasn’t bad. I know they’re slowly but furiously taking over our government, nay our world, but the film was not as disgusting as their marketing team is.

The first 30 minutes of Jurassic World rolled by and it was accompanied by a lighting storm. A soft one, but intense, like a soft grunge. A soft grunge lighting storm.

Nobody thought much of it. We knew it would storm but what we didn’t know was how fast it would hit us. How fast everything would change.

All of a sudden, right when the plot begins to thicken, the movie stops and a vague and anticlimactic voice flooded our car speakers. “Just to let everyone know…the National Weather Service has issued a severe thunderstorm warning…for Ramsey county…Anoka county…Dakota county…and Washington county…which is…where we are…so…you might want to leave.”

Severe thunderstorm warnings are no reason for Minnesotans to get their panties in a bunch. They happen often and (most) people look forward to them. Although, we knew this time would be different.

We quickly packed our Jeep and waited in the line of cars to get out of the lot. 10 minutes later and we were flying down 94 East on the way to St. Paul where my sister and her boyfriend would get dropped off, and I’d continue home 30 minutes away with my friend and her boyfriend.

10 minutes in and that’s when it began, what I like to call: 4D Jurassic World. What makes this storm different than any other storm? Two weeks prior to this fateful day, my mom and I took the soft top off of our Jeep, therefore making our Jeep TOPLESS. Open to anything and everything, and in this case: rain. 10 minutes in and the five of us packed in the car were soaked. Blinded by the torrential rain and wind, we parked under a bridge on the freeway with five other cars for about 10 more minutes. The freeway was a mess. People honking and swerving like madmen. Minnesotans are in no way bad drivers when it comes to driving in bad weather. In fact, I’d go as far to say as we are the true troopers. But this storm was a reflection of the chaos in Jurassic World. People were driving as if a T-Rex was chasing them. Or worse, the Indominus Rex.

When we arrived at my sisters house in St. Paul, it was my turn to step up to the plate. I sat down, buckled my seat belt, readjusted the mirror, and began what felt like my ascension into adulthood.

10 minutes away from home, and the yellow tint of the gas-light was shining in the corner of my eye. We were almost out of gas. I couldn’t bear the thought of being stranded on the freeway during this storm, but I knew I had to continue. After all, the Jeep can last a surprising amount of time with the gas-light on. Next thing I know I was driving on the highway a few minutes away from my house. Though, this time, the highway looked different. Street lights, stop lights, house lights, were all off. The power was out. Even if I needed to stop at the gas station, I wouldn’t be able to. It was shut down. I continued down the dark, eerie, and empty streets. Almost home. Nearly there.

Finally, we arrived home an hour after we left Vali-Hi. We were all in one piece, including the car.  My ascension into adulthood was basically immaculate.

All in all, the 4D Jurassic World was totally worth $8.50. It’s like I was actually soaked, freezing, and scared for my life! Now that’s what I call the drive-in experience.

But actually, this was an awesome experience. The funny thing about this night is that the last time my sister and I went to a drive in, it poured on us, and also I didn’t even want to drive to Vali-Hi in the first place because I thought I would be too tired to drive myself home. But I wasn’t! The rain woke me up.

P.S. – My Jeep was dry the next morning.

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Thoughts & Rants

America: Land of the Fat, Home of the Racists?

Recently I posted on Yik Yak, an app in which you anonymously post something similar to a tweet, and people can up-vote it if they like it or down-vote it to vote it off. It is all based on location and you can set your “home base” to one location and yak on it no matter where you are in the world. Yik Yak is mostly funny and relatable, but sometimes people cross the line.

My Yik Yak home base is Swansea and recently I posted “My American parents cannot understand the concept of Wind St. I should never have tried to explain.” Now, Wind St. is basically a street full of clubs in bars that livens up at night and is crowded with drunk students and young adults, partying the night away.  Sorry to post about you on social media, mom and dad, but I only did it because I can’t explain Wind St. without it sounding like a really stupid and somewhat dangerous street, in which it’s (mostly) not. I didn’t really do it justice and so I thought it would be humorous to post about.

And so I did, and this is what happened:

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Here’s my problem with it. It’s all fun and games until you actually offend someone. I get this shit all of the time and I’ve realised that this is probably the first idea that people have of me: fat, racist, and gun obsessed. Sure, America has fat, racist, and gun obsessed people, but when does a stereotype become an actual belief? You cannot generalise an entire nation based on one or a few stereotypes. This is an extension of my “You Guys Bomb Everything” post that I wrote a few weeks ago. It’s more negative comments from strangers just from the mention of America. It’s not necessarily anyones fault, it’s just what people are taught to believe from the news and the media. The thing is, America has the same problem. This correlates with more deeper issues such as assuming every Muslim is a terrorist, every black person is a thug, or that Mexico is dangerous and full of drug dealers, when in truth, it’s not like that. Before I went to Europe, I was told that it’s dirty and full of pedophiles. I could also simply say that all southerners are racist, or even that all Californians are vegan. It’s just not true nor is it fair. I could have thrown back some stereotypes about the UK, like that all they eat are chips and they’re all atheists, but that would just be throwing fire on fire. I’d be doing exactly what they did. So instead I sarcastically responded back. I wasn’t about to start a serious debate over Yik Yak.

I know America has done some shitty things, especially in recent events. Regarding the police brutality comment, it’s important that we talk about it, but I don’t know if that was the most appropriate way to bring it up. We aren’t the best nation. America is problematic. We can be ignorant, some of us are indeed bad at geography, and we can be self-centred. We can work on these issues in America, but they can’t be treated lightly. It’s important to be educated, but maybe we shouldn’t get all of our information from one source or stereotype that could easily be biased. This is another reason why traveling is important. Go out and gain your own perspective and beliefs before you assume anything.

I’m taking all of this personally and maybe I shouldn’t. Whether they meant it jokingly or not, I don’t find it very funny, rather just frustrating. In a way I feel more of an outsider; more like I keep having to explain myself and explain my country with everyone I meet. On a positive note, this gives me an opportunity to gain perspective and write a blog post like this, but it’s overwhelming. Pride and prejudice is an endless struggle in both the UK and the US (do I sense a second novel coming on?).

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Letters, Thoughts & Rants

End of First Year

First year is coming to a close. People are packing up their rooms, saying goodbye, and leaving Swansea for the summer. I myself am leaving with an addiction to Starbucks, a newfound appreciation for folk music, and a feeling of nostalgia for the past year.

This has been the fastest yet most life changing year I’ve ever had. I can’t imagine my life before university and I can’t believe I have been away from home for so long. I’ve only been in the United States for a total of three weeks since September 2014. I have changed immensely while being here. I even look different. The Andie in September seems years younger than me right now, but I am still the same age as her, and last time I was home, I was her. (Preach time: age is really just a number. It’s all about experiences.) Before you leave, you wonder how much it will change you. There isn’t really an answer to that besides that it just does. Experiencing this year at uni has made me grow so much, and that combined with traveling has made me gain so much confidence in myself. It’s weird because I honestly can’t believe how brave I was deciding to live abroad. Obviously, I couldn’t fully grasp what I was getting myself into, but I’m glad for that. Right before I left, I was sad and a little scared to leave home. I knew I’d never be this young again and that life wasn’t so serious yet. However, looking at myself now, I am so much happier. I would have never gone out of my shell and tried new things if I didn’t leave home. I needed it. The thought of home now has evolved into something much more meaningful, even though I didn’t think it could ever expand any more.

Despite worries of homesickness, I didn’t get homesick at all this year until about April, which is an impressive amount of time without getting homesick if you ask me. I can understand why homesickness is so overwhelming now. It’s a hard thing to want to go back home when you’re so far away. It’s easy to start to dislike differences in culture and whatnot, but it’s a very bad habit to get into. I did find ways to help it a bit though. I took walks, listened to music, Skyped friends and family, watched Welsh slang YouTube videos, and I watched House Hunters International. Oddly enough, House Hunters International really helped. Most importantly though, I became friends with Leah from Canada. Having a fellow North American with whom you can share your struggles with and also share the excitement of being in another country with is really what helped me the most. Homesickness is an isolating feeling and people can never really understand it unless they leave home and experience it themselves, but it is something that you can get through. Overall though, it was a lot less of a problem than I thought it would be.

To answer everyones question: my favourite part was probably meeting all of the different people from different places with different accents. It’s cool to learn about people and culture and where everyone is from! And by the way, asking what someone’s favourite part was is a very broad question and it’s difficult to answer because you can’t just choose one favourite part out of a big life changing experience. 🙂

At this point it will be hard to revert back to US spelling and slang, but I am going to try to keep my UK side as well. Personally, I think it’s better. Heehee.

Seeing how much I’ve changed in just one year, I can’t imagine what I’ll be like at the end. It’s a bit overwhelming at times, but knowing how many friends I’ve made, how many places I’ve been, and how much I’ve grown as a person, I would never change my decision to come here. Plus now I only have two years left of university 😉

Knowing that in a few days I get to wake up in my own home and see my friends, my family, and my cat has brought many tears to my eyes.

I love you Wales, but I am ready for you, Minnesota! Bring on the humidity, stormy nights, and even the mosquitos!

Me in September

Me in September

Me in June!

Me in June!

Song of the day:

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