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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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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Adventures

In Which I Eat Soup With the Elderly

On Wednesday my friend Leah and I decided to go to St. Mary’s, the catholic church in Swansea city centre (not to be confused with St. Mary’s of the Lake in White Bear Lake 😀 ) . We wanted to go mainly just to check it out, but also because it had been awhile since either of us had gone to church. We decided to see what it was like so we went to the lunchtime service at 12:45.

Just some interesting information: St. Mary’s church has been around since the 12th century, however it was destroyed in the Blitz in 1941 and wasn’t rebuilt until the late 1950s.

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Leah and I entered the church and it was completely empty, except for a few old folks drinking coffee and eating cake in a little makeshift cafe. After a few minutes of aimlessly walking around, we realised that the service wasn’t taking place there, but in the chapel in the back. We followed the signs and entered a small circular room with about 15 chairs circling around an altar. It was just me, Leah, and a bunch of elderly Welsh people. I’ve never been in a church that small or intimate but it yet it was comforting experience. It was actually nice saying the responses because it was something that I did basically every day in my childhood. It’s hard to forget things like that.

When we gave peace, everyone and the priest included, enthusiastically walked around to each other and shook hands. They were incredibly welcoming to Leah and I. During Eucharist a lady motioned for Leah and I to join everyone in a circle as the priest gave out the bread and wine. This was slightly uncomfortable for Leah and I because we couldn’t help but think of the germs that must’ve been on the wine glass. But whatever, we laughed about it (on the inside of course. I had repressed my church giggles this time, except for when the priest mentioned the prime banter he had earlier in the day with some school children).

After the service they all invited us to eat lunch with them in the room behind the chapel. This was the best part of the whole experience. We sat at a long table with the 15 other old Welsh people and ate chicken noodle soup, drank tea, and had dessert. We introduced ourselves to everyone and they immediately recognised that we were both North Americans. A few of them had been to Iowa and Illinois before and it was weird to think that they’ve been there before I have. One of them also saw Jimmy Carter at the Sainsbury’s in town once. He was there for the opening of the Dylan Thomas Centre. We talked about their grandchildren, university, the queen (who is having lunch with the priest in Cardiff next week!) and other elderly gossip. Leah and I both found it really easy to talk to them. I’ve never met a nicer or more welcoming group of people in my life. One of the reasons being that I’m sure they never see young people in church. Compared to America, the United Kingdom is very unreligious. People assume you’re agnostic or atheist before they assume that you’re Catholic or another religion. So for them to see two young people in church on a Wednesday afternoon must have been a shock. I think they were also excited just to see young people in general.

This is one of the best experiences I’ve had abroad so far. Talking to locals, especially elderly locals, is a great way to connect with a city. It not only is a way for you to learn about the city, but it’s comforting and good to have connections outside of university.

When we left they all wished us luck in our studies and invited us to come back. One woman even gave me the church schedule and showed me which times are best to attend. I hope to go back sometime soon. Leah is an exchange student so sadly she wouldn’t be able to accompany me, but maybe I can become BFFs with an old lady and go with her or something.

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Adventures

Piercings and Phones: An Erotic Friend Fiction

I told my friend Kate McCoshen, aka Hey Poofy (follow her blog here. do it. she’s wonderful), about when I went to the piercing shop and got my ear and belly button pierced, and how the tattoo guy hit on me. Kate asked if she could write an erotic friend fiction about it and so of course I said yes! This is nothing like how it happened, however merely inspired by it. Or was it? You’ll never know. Let your imagination run wild.


It was a cloudy day, much like any other day in the great country of Wales. A young American girl, Andie “innocent” Chapin set off to start her life in this country. She dreamed of culture, she dreamed of knowledge, she dreamed of friendship, but she never thought of finding love until this fateful day.

Andie wanted to be edgy, she didn’t want to be seen as some naive American, after all she even drank her tea with milk now-a-days. If that’s not European sophistication I really don’t know what is.

Her and a few of her good mates took a sensual stroll to the local tattoo and piercing shop. Obviously, the most sophisticated one they could find. As they opened the door a wind kept it open, but not just any wind. This wind had colors of lust and adoration that not even Pocahontas could paint with. There he was, the dim lights of the tattoo parlor seemed to all focus on him, which really is concerning because there were people getting tattoos at the time and like how well can a tattoo artist work with poor lighting I mean come on guys. His arms were covered in beautiful tattoos that were almost as beautiful as his chiseled jaw line.

Andie grew red as she realized her stare had lingered. Little did she know that he was still watching her, lust twinkling in his dark brown eyes.

“Hey” he started confidently breaking the sexual tension. Andie looked around the room confused. Could this god among men really be talking to her? Just an American girl?

“Oh, well hello there.” She was cool, she was collected. She was there to get a piercing, not meet the lust of her life. As she walked away, his stare continued to linger, as if she was the Bella to his Edward, the Hermione to his Ron, or the Kanye to his Kanye.

Finally it was time to get the piercing, the piercing to prove how mature she was. She was a woman now, and the world needed to know. He continued to flirt with her, holding his gaze. Flirting, ever so casually making her feel like the only girl in Wales, or at least that tattoo parlor.

Freshly pierced and ready to take on the world, when he swooped in and stopped her in her tracks.

“I need you to know, I wasn’t complete until I saw your face. I was lost without you Andie. Will you please be my American girl?” He slides her his number ever so smoothly, her friends giggling in the distance.

When she returned to her courters, her friends were distraught to discover that Andie had lost the mans number. Little did they know, she actually didn’t lose it, she threw the number away. Andie didn’t need a man to be happy, she was an independent woman. Plus his butt was only a solid 4/10 and she quite frankly knew that she could do better.

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Adventures

The Hunger Games: Corridor Edition

On Friday night I voluntarily spent nine hours in the corridor outside my room for the sake of pure competition and pride. It all started after dinner when we normally hang out in the corridor, except this time it escalated very quickly. The participants were me, Greg, and Skoggins (his real name is Lewis but we call him Skoggins because he wears skinny joggers a lot. Joggers are like sweatpants. Just google it). At first it was all fun and games, but without the fun and games. We were bored. I don’t even know what we did, but all of a sudden we realised that we had been laying there for two hours. We all suggested that we do something like watch a movie, but none of us could be bothered to get up. It really started when Greg and I tried to go into our rooms whilst leaving one foot in the corridor, so that we still hadn’t technically left yet. The competition started before we even knew it.

To deal with the boredom, I decided to get sharpies from my room and gave myself a sleeve of tattoos, which later proved to be a mistake. Greg tried to steal my phone and I tried to steal the charger from his dying tablet, although both attempts ultimately failed. However, then Skoggins gave me his phone to look at something, and because of pressure from Greg, I threw it into my room and locked the door. Shit just got real.

It neared six hours at this point. We were hungry, we all had to pee, and we were getting tired. Greg resorted to pulling his bed out to the end of his door and laying down while keeping his feet out in the corridor. Daisy then came along and kindly opened my door to make me the gourmet meal that is one tortilla and some shredded cheese. Alas, when Daisy opened my door, Skoggins peeked in to see where his phone was, and he was pushed in by Greg. One down, two remained. Defeat and shame were in the air as Skoggins walked back to his room. It was now just Greg and I (and Pete who came to watch the ridiculous brawl).

About thirty minutes passed until Skoggins came strolling back in with some water, bourbons, and his recovered phone. We all questioned why he came back and he said he couldn’t leave. You see, Skoggins was suffering from Corridor Syndrome. He got attached to the corridor and he needed to find out who would win.

Skoggins and I started watching Gone Girl on his phone while Greg was on his tablet. I took my eyes off of my phone for a second and Greg threw it in his room and made it unreachable. But I was not letting that stop me. However, he also had another tactic. He had a timer going, counting down until he would pick me up and put me in the bathroom so this whole thing could end. I denied and said I would pick him up and put him in the bathroom. I may have overestimated my strength, but really it’s all in the mindset. I couldn’t give up. My American pride was really starting to show. I resorted to bribing and said if we gave up he could shave off a part of my eyebrow, I would buy him dinner, and even that I wouldn’t brag about winning. None of it worked but I gave it my best. The timer went off and shit got even more real. It turned into a fight to the death. I had nothing but a loofah and my body pillow to protect me. And mom, you’re right. I should have taken a self-defence class. We started kicking, pulling, tackling, cornering, basically everything. My full sharpied arm started smearing all over the walls and my face, which I declared was war paint. I grabbed Skoggins’ half full water bottle and tried soaking Greg, which basically hit both of us, the ceiling, and the floor. I tried to team up all of us against Greg but they didn’t help much. Thanks guys.

At about four in the morning, Greg (and I give you full credit for this) came up with a plan to end it. As neither of us could let go of our pride, this was our last resort-we pulled a Peeta and Katniss. Skoggins duct-taped our legs together, and we each took a step into my room with the other leg. We both grabbed Skoggins’ hands, and took the final step with our duct-taped legs into my room. Nine hours later, it was all over. Although there was no victor, Greg and I were just happy that it was all over.

Now that I look back on it, it looks like some social experiment. We literally spent nine hours in a hallway with no food or water and turned it into some strange competition of who could stay the longest. It turned very serious and very personal very quickly.

What did spending nine hours in the corridor teach me? Don’t risk friendships for the sake of competition. It’s a lot easier to turn against someone than you think. Greg and I are okay now, but it’s still a touchy subject.

Also, shoutout to my dad for making me bring duct tape. It came in handy.

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The aftermath. Sharpie on the walls.

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Adventures, Differences

Exams, refreshers, and husky onesies.

Exam season is officially over and refreshers has begun. Instead of exams being before Christmas break, they were spread throughout a few weeks in January. That being said, it was nice to have more time to revise (study, for all you americans) instead of going through the exam and pre-christmas stress. I had three exams, all were two hours in which I had to write two essays. I didn’t know what the questions were going to be, but I had a general idea.

Side note: In one of my essays, and I’m not ashamed of this, I wrote about The Graduate and how it changed Hollywood, so I ended it with “The Graduate was one small step for film, one giant leap for Hollywood cinema.” I mean hey, The Graduate came out only two years before the moon landing so it was definitely appropriate.

Overall, I think I did pretty good and plus, you only need 40% to pass and your marks this year don’t actually count towards your final degree. 40% seems very low, and it is, but they use a different grading system here. A  52-58 is a lower division Second Class degree (or a 2:2), 62-68 is a higher division Second Class degree (or a 2:1), and a 72-85 is a First Class degree (or a 1st). It’s different and it still confuses me, but it works.

Now on to refreshers, and to explain that, I should probably explain what freshers is first. Freshers is the first two weeks of uni where the uni hosts a different event/party every night. It’s basically like being drunk for two whole weeks. Refreshers is that again, except after exam season and it’s only one week. On my first night out someone came up to me and told me it was my birthday, so I went with it and told everyone, and I mean everyone, that it was my birthday. Someone gave me a fake rose and now it’s on my wall in my room. So it was fun to have my birthday a little early this year. Monday night was Aniball so I wore a siberian husky onesie (and no Charlie, I was not a cat). Despite how hot it was, it was really fun to go out in a onesie, plus unlike all women’s clothes these days, it had pockets! We ending Monday night with cheesy chips and curry from Swansea Kebabs. Ten out of ten recommend. Tuesday was a snapback party at the on-campus club (you read that right, the on-campus club) called Diva’s. Yes, I wore a snapback (thanks James!) and it didn’t suit me, but frankly I don’t really know who looks good in a snapback. Wednesday night everyone wore black Welsh Varsity shirts that came with our refreshers band and hit the town. The shirts are for the Swansea vs. Cardiff rugby game coming up (it’s a pretty big deal). Wednesday night I stayed in and watched a documentary about North Korea and then fell asleep to Bob’s Burgers. I what you’re thinking, I’m an animal. Tonight is the last night for refreshers and it’s at Diva’s, but on Friday’s it takes the name of Tooters (like Hooters, but also £2 for 2 drinks). It’s been a good week! Classes start again next week and then it’s back to reality.

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Adventures

A Little Note Regarding Rain

I had a real Wales weather experience on Sunday afternoon. I took my friend Daisy’s bike (shoutout to Daisy for letting me use her bike!) to Tesco for some cereal, pot noodles, and peanut butter (…what else?) along the path by the sea. It was pretty windy to begin with, but I was expecting nothing that was about to happen. Five minutes into the ride, it starts raining. And I mean really raining, torrential downpour. After a few minutes biking through that, I had to pull over and stand under a protected area for about 10 minutes because I couldn’t see anything. Although it didn’t really protect me from anything, the wind was coming down at an angle. Once the hurricane lightened up a bit, I made my way into Tesco and tried to dry myself off with the hand dryers. It didn’t help. But going grocery shopping completely soaked was definitely a new (and probably expected from now on) experience.

Something not a lot of people would say if they went through that, but it probably one of the best bike rides I’ve ever had.

To conclude, the weather is just as expected…completely unpredictable. But no matter what, you can always count on rain every day.

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