Friday, May 27, 2011

Final Exams

On Thursday I had my first and last exam of the semester. If I was at home I would have been studying all semester to prepare myself for my finals but this semester I didn't do any actual studying until 2 days before my final. I have throughly enjoyed a stress free semester but it is going to suck getting back into the swing of things next semester. If I was at home I also would have had 5 final exams, but I wasn't at home and I'm ok with that. The exam was for ecology and evolution, a class I will never ever use again. Because I will never use this information again it made it even harder to motivate myself to study. I love biology; human biology that is. I could really care less about natural biology. It's not that I don't care about the environment I just don't care about learning about it, and that is exactly what ecology is all about it. It is all about nature and how and why it works the way it does, and evolution, well I will see that all again next year.

All semester I kept telling myself I should start studying but there was something about the laid back feel of the classes that stopped my motivation. Before I knew it, it was two days before my final and I still hadn't started studying. So, on Tuesday I packed my stuff up and headed for the library determined to make myself study. I did manage to go over all 35 front and back pages of my notes and go over my online tests. Another thing that made it hard to study was the amount of information that we had gotten over the course of the semester. We had so many notes and the test was only 40 multiple choice questions. It is hard to study so much information when the questions would be so pin point. So off and on (and more off than on) for the next two days I tried to keep going over my notes to prepare me for something impossible.

As I was walking with my flatmate to the exam we were discussing what it would be like. I said I hoped that there would be at least one question about Darwin because I was sure I could get something about Darwin correct. And to my luck the first question was about Darwin, but guess what I wasn't sure about the answer. Of course the question would be one I didn't know. I was debating over 2 of the choices and picked one but than changed my mind. When you aren't sure on an answer you should always go with your gut, but of course I didn't. When I came back after the test I looked it up and realized my first pick was the correct one. Oh well! The rest of the exam was about like the first question. I was able to narrow most questions down to 2 choices and I had a few that I was sure on. The test was graded on a negative score meaning you get +5 for correct answers and -1 for incorrect answers and there was always a choice of "I don't know" which I chose quite often. It would have been nice to not have negative points because then I could have made a few blind guesses. Oh well, I'm going to hope for the best. I should have had a passing grade going into the test so hopefully I got enough points to get me to a decent grade. I won't find out my grades until the middle of July so i'm going to forget about it for now.

Hard to believe I will be going home a week from tomorrow. This next week should be fun and I'm going to make the  most of it. Today, we went to Chester and it was a lot of fun. Hopefully there will be a lot of celebrating between now and next Saturday because I am completely done with everything and I want to enjoy the freedom!

Until next time...


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Nothing too exciting

Well, I don't have anything too exciting to report. I'm down to the last 2 weeks here and I'm just lying low, trying to save what little money I have left so I'm not completely broke when I get home. I have all of my papers and journals written with just one exam to study for. My exam is Thursday so I think I will start studying tomorrow. On Wednesday we walked to the botanical gardens in search of a ship wreck and a waterfall. We wandered around but never found them. It was beautiful so no big deal. Thursday I worked on my paper all day. It shouldn't have taken all day but I got it done none the less. Friday, we drove around with Hannah's flatmate who is from around here. She has a car and was willing to drive us around so we took her up on the offer. It was nice just driving around with friends just hanging out. We revisited a few places on Angelsey and we jammed out to a bunch of music over and over. It was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed myself. Friday, we ventured to Llandudno Junction for another movie. We went to see the new Pirates movie and we almost didn't get it. The place was packed because it was opening weekend. I love Johnny Depp so it doesn't matter if he makes a crap movie or a great movie, I will love it either way. The movie wasn't his best but I still loved it. After we returned we had a bit of a going away/birthday party. It was the soccer boys' last night here before they headed back home so we had to have a party. One of them was celebrating their birthday so we had to help him out with the celebrations. It was a fun night and its sad to see them go. Crazy how fast our time here has gone but I'm about ready to come home. Today, is a sappy movie day. I watched The Last Song earlier which was actually really good. Now I'm watching Charlie St. Cloud. Any more recommendations?

Until next time...


Monday, May 16, 2011

Penrhyn Castle

Sunday was our last field trip of the semester; so sad to think it was the last. Seems like we just got here and it seems like it was just yesterday we walked into our first castle. It's amazing how many castles we have seen this semester; before coming here I didn't even know there were this many castles out there. Sunday's castle was not like a castle at all except for the look on the outside. The inside was like a ginormous mansion. Everything about the inside was glamorous and extravagant. We couldn't take any pictures on the inside so there is nothing for me to show off. I could go on and on about the detail but that would get boring. We also toured the gardens which were beautiful. I have pictures on facebook posted of many tropical plants that grow there. Because the gardens are so sheltered they have swampy aspects and are perfect for growing tropical plants. There were plants with leafs that were bigger than my whole body, quite crazy! The whole time we were walking around it was raining so that kind of put a damper on the beauty. It also took away from the view, which I'm told is quite spectacular.

Now that the semester is coming to an end, I'm just working on wrapping everything up. I have one final on the 26th that I'm having a really  hard time motivating myself to study for. I haven't had to study all semester so why start now? Hopefully I can make myself study so send some motivation my way! I just finished up the last of my journals for Tecwyn's class so the only bit of writing I have left is my "What is Welshness" paper. Can't believe I will be back home in less than 3 weeks! 

Until next time...


Friday, May 13, 2011

Sad to see it end...

Wednesday morning was different from any other Wednesday morning I have had since I have been here. Normally we head out for OP on Thursdays but this week we were in for a treat and headed out on Wednesday instead. The weather wasn't great come Wednesday morning but it soon cleared up and it was sure to be a beautiful day. We were all in suspense if we were going to get to go sailing because it was the only activity we hadn't done yet but we soon found out it just wasn't going to work. That ended up being ok. I wasn't overly excited to go sailing anyways. What I really wanted to do was give surfing a second try and that was exactly what we got to do, but I will get to that eventually. So this was our last outing for OP and it also included an overnight camping trip. We were in no hurry for the day because we had no deadline, we literally had all day. So instead of doing just surfing we decided to play monkey again, but before we did that we got to say hi to Tuesday's group. They had camped out the night before and were just returning shortly after we arrived at the center. They looked a little worse for the wear, but that happens after a full day of surfing and then a night of sleeping on the ground. They said they had a ton of fun surfing and camping was fun too. They left the tents up so at least we wouldn't have to do that part, everything would be ready for us when we got there.

I just missed!
So, back to the monkey part. If you remember, the very first OP day we played around in the trees on the high and low ropes courses and we did the trapeze jump. There was another "activity" in the trees that we didn't have time to do that day so we decided to give it a try. It is called Jacob's Ladder and it is basically a huge ladder made out of logs and wires. Each log consistently gets further from the next one as you travel higher and high with the first two being about 3 feet apart. You work in teams of three, with 3 people climbing and 3 people on the ground belaying the climbers. I wasn't too crazy about giving it a try but I wasn't going to pass it up either, so we clipped in and headed toward the sky. The couple of logs were easy and we were able to get up independently of each other. By about the third one we had to start working out a plan of action to get to the next. We helped Melissa get up first and then I went up second, Melissa helping from above and Lauren helping from below. Melissa and I then pulled Lauren up. This worked well for one or two logs but eventually the logs got too far apart for this method to work. Lauren is very monkey like and was able to help herself up more than I was able to so it ended up working just fine. We helped Melissa get up and then I would go and then Lauren would grab on with her arms and then legs and we would help pull her up as much as possible. Eventually I just got too exhausted and too scared to go any higher. We were only 2 from the top but I couldn't possibly get any higher. It was terrifying being up there balancing on logs. I knew that if I fell I would be just fine because I was attached to the rope but the terror overcame me. I couldn't go on, but I was ok with that, I climbed really high and gave it my all. After everyone had there go on the ladder we decided to give the trapeze jump another try. I was so close to getting it the last time and I was pretty determined to get it this time. I guess I needed a little more determination or a little less fear. I think, if it is possible, I have developed a fear of heights these past 11 activities. I remember coming into the high ropes course at the beginning of the semester fearless and now I get scared on every heights activity. By the time I climbed to the little platform I had a hard time letting go of the tree and edging myself to the end. I eventually talked myself into and jumped. I touched the trapeze again but not enough to grab it. It wasn’t being on the platform that got me worked up, it was the getting there. If I could avoid the climbing part I think I would be fine.

That ended up being the end of the high ropes course. We took forever on the ladder so we decided to get into the wet suits and head for the sea. As always, it was great fun getting into the wet suits; that is one thing I won’t miss about OP. We got everything packed up for surfing and for camping and headed out. The first beach we stopped at didn’t have good waves so we continued down the road to the next one. Llion told us the waves at that beach were as good as they were going to get so we headed out. The waves were bigger and coming in faster than the first time we surfed and I was ok with that. It was also about 50 degrees warmer and the water felt much better too. It was actually rather refreshing in the water. I was so excited, there was nothing that was going to bring me down this time. Since we already knew what we were doing we just jumped right in. More or less we just kind of ended up playing around in the waves. The guys had really good luck with standing up early. Some of the waves were perfect but I never seemed to be on my board at the right time. It was ok I was having a great time just playing in the water either way. I did manage to ride a few waves in on my stomach and I even got to my keens a few times. My arms were just exhausted from the morning’s activity and from all the paddling. The key to surfing is to paddle before the wave gets to you so every time one is close you have to paddle paddle paddle! After doing that a few times, and finally catching a wave, I wouldn’t have enough strength to push myself up onto the board. But I sure had fun trying! I gave it my all and I will have to give it a go the next time I have the opportunity to do so!

For the last time, we got to change in the parking lot and thankfully there were showers at the campsite. At least we didn’t have to stay full of salt and sand over night. It was nice having the camp site set up for us when we got there. All we had to do was put our sleeping bags in the tent and start the grills. We lit the coals, showered and then started all the yummy food. On Tuesday, Riley and I bought supplies for the night and we were 100% sure no one would go hungry! We had a feast including homemade chocolate chunk cookies, hot dogs, hamburgers and enough potatoes to feed an army. I cut up potatoes for an hour the night before just to make sure we would have enough. We took turns grilling and eventually, just like I suspected, everyone was stuffed. There was plenty of food to go around. The best part about the campsite was the fact that it was just a short walk away from a cute little pub. What more could you ask for? A day of surfing, grilling and then a pub to relax in. It was bound to be a great night! We had a couple of rounds and then headed back to the camp site for s’mores, ghost stories and games. It was a great night of bonding with the group. I was so exhausted after the day’s activities that I thought I would fall fast asleep but it didn’t work out quite as planned. It took me forever to fall asleep, probably because I’m spoiled and I don’t like to sleep on the ground. Oh well, it was worth it after the awesome day we had!

The next morning we were cooked out of our tents around 8; the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day! We packed up and headed home. We cleaned up and put everything away and then reminisced about the whole semester. It is really crazy how fast it went by. It feels like just yesterday we were putting on the purple suits for the first time! OP was on of the greatest opportunities I have had since I’ve been here! I can’t wait to try all of these activities again someday!

Until next time…


Monday, May 9, 2011

Last Norman Castle and the Welsh Mountain Zoo

It's hard to believe that I have been here for 4 months already and I have less than a month left before it is time to head back to Iowa. It seems like just yesterday I was scared out of my mind walking off that plane in Manchester. It also seems like just yesterday when we headed to our first of many castles. The first castle we visited was Caenarfon and it was absolutely breathtaking. We do have one field trip left next week, and it does involve a castle, but not a Norman castle; it's a modern castle (but I will talk about that after I visit it). Anyways, I have visited more castles than most native Welsh people ever have or will visit in just one semester.

The last Norman castle we visited this semester was also the one that was closest to us. On Sunday we visited the town of Conway that has one of the most beautiful castles out there. The town also has one of the only still intact medieval town walls. We started our tour of the city by walking almost completely around the town walls. It was super cool towering over the city on the walls. You could see for miles in every direction from every point of the wall; great line of defense back in the day. Once we arrived at the castle there was plenty of exploring to be done. We went in search of the well and the dungeon that Tecwyn told us were must sees. Having a well inside the castle walls was also a great line of defense and was also quite uncommon for that time in history. Having a water source inside the castle would allow the people inside it to hold out longer against attackers. The well had to be quite deep to be reliable so that was cool to see. It took us awhile to actually find the dungeon but in the mean time we climbed the towers and walked the walls. From the towers the castle on the inside was amazing. All of the other castles we have been too have just been wide open for the most part on the inisde, but no this one. This one had all sorts of chambers and sections; very unique! Once we found the dungeon it was easy to see why it would be feared. Once in it, there was really no way out. The only way in was through a trap door, so you didn't want to be someone who wound up in there because there was no way you were getting out.

After Conway we headed to Colwyn Bay to visit the Welsh Mountain Zoo. I haven't been to a zoo in many years so this was quite the treat. There is something about being at a zoo that makes me feel like a kid. Of course the Welsh Mountain Zoo was no San Diego Zoo or any other major city zoo, but it was still pretty cool. When we first pulled in the first animal we saw off the right left was a big old brown bear. I'm sure they strategically placed the bear right at the entrance to get everyone excited, and hey it worked! Some of my other favorite attractions had to be the reptile house, the sea lions and top of the list would have to bee the tigers. We even got to see a bird show that included a penguin march. After the bird show there was a sea lion training but we had to leave, I was super sad. One of the best parts about zoos are their play grounds. We got to mess around on the slides and the tire swings and the obstacle courses.

So this week I'm working on a lab report and some journals. Other than that all I have is a final on the 26th. So from here on out I should be able to take it easy... haha hard to take it any easier than I already have these past few months, but I will try ;o)

Until next time...


Friday, May 6, 2011

Sea-Level Traversing

On Thursday, for outdoor pursuits, we went sea-level traversing. I have been looking forward to going sea-leveling for most of the semester. We only had two activities left to choose from, so we knew that we would either be sailing or sea-leveling. Since Llion didn't have a helper for the day, that meant we would be sea-leveling and I was ok with that.

Once again we got to gear up in the good old wet suits. They are just so much fun to put on but oh so helpful in keep us nice and warm in the freezing cold water. We headed to the cliffs called the Range that are near Holyhead. It was a rainy crappy day so it didn't really matter that we would be playing near the sea; we were gonna get wet anyways. The trick was not falling on your butt while walking on the wet grass. The cliffs that we were traversing on were perfect. It was like climbing on huge flat rocks piled one on top of another. There were tons of hand and foot holds. And for those of you who may be shady on what traversing is, it is basically just climbing sideways. We were climbing right at sea level and the water wasn't exactly calm. The waves were constantly crashing against the rocks, which made it a little nerve racking at times. A few times we even had to cross rocks that would be completely covered when the waves crashed in. This caused us to time our moves quite carefully. Sometimes the waves would crash up higher than we were tall. It was pretty terrifying when we first got started but we eventually got used to it.

Another thing we had to do while traversing was Tyrolean Traverse, which is traversing across on a rope. There was a gully that we had to get past that we could traverse across so Llion rigged a rope from one side to the other. He first had to do his spider monkey thing and jump across by timing the waves just right. Basically when he was done rigging the rope it looked like we would have to tight rope across. In reality, we hooked ourselves to the rope by the karabiner on our harnesses and then we crossed our legs over the rope and then pulled ourselves across with our arms. It was super intimidating because even having the water 6 feet above the water, once all your weight was on it, you sunk down a bit and the waves were crashing, so you were sure to end up getting wet. Needless to say I was a little scared when it was my turn to go, but it turned out to be a lot of fun. The hardest part was when you got to the other side and you had to drop yourself down from the rope and then climb up while still being attached to the rope.

The whole day was a lot of fun. We even came to a cave at one point that we got to go into. We didn't get to explore much, it wouldn't have been that fun since we didn't have any lights, but it was still fun. The last challenge for the day was when we got to jump in and swim across a little gully. It was only a little scary because there were jelly fish in the water where we were jumping. They were tiny but i'm sure their bite was worse than their bark. It was ok, they didn't really come near us when we were swimming. It was funny when I jumped because my wellies (aka my boots) started to come off when I tried to swim across. So it looked like I was really struggling but in reality I was trying really hard to swim without kicking my legs. And then I had to fight with the waves. As soon as I would get a grip on the rock to pull myself out, a wave would come and pull me back in. It was rather comical but I eventually pulled myself out of the water. Surprisingly it wasn't as cold as I expected it to be. It was rather refreshing and pretty well enjoyable.

Next week, we are doing an overnight camping adventure. The last activity we have to do is sailing, but if the weather doesn't cooperate then our second choice is surfing again. And if that doesn't work out we may do some sea-leveling again. Either way, that night we are camping and we are told there is a pub down the road, so if nothing else works out we can always go pubbing as Llion said :o)

Until next time...


His adventure makes mine look like a day in the park!

So as many of you know a friend of mine from back home has been backpacking across Europe for the past 6 weeks. Frank Sigwarth is a friend I grew up with and I feel so fortunate that he made time to stop in and see me here in Bangor. He arrived here on Tuesday and then headed for Ireland on Thursday morning. As we wandered around Bangor on Tuesday afternoon he told me the stories of where he had all been and I was just in awe. He started his journey 6 weeks ago in Spain. The story of his first night in Spain was pretty exciting and scary at the same time. Just the fact that he has been traveling by himself the whole time, to me is just crazy, I wish I was brave enough to just head out with a backpack for 7 weeks. He also told me stories of the other places he went like Paris, all over Italy, Germany, Amsterdam, Oxford and more. I was wondering why he would even think of stopping in a small no name place like Bangor. I guess it was just nice to see a familier face... and we did manage to have some fun!

So Tuesday we wandered around Bangor. I showed him all of the things that makes Bangor great! We started by walking past Hogwarts (aka the main arts building). He had just come from Oxford and said it felt very Oxfordy.... I believe that is where the inspiration came from! Then we went up to Roman Camp and as many times as I've been up there, I think it was the best view ever. He was really in for a treat! After that we had to go walk down the pier, too bad the shop wasn't open for scones!  Oh well, at least we enjoyed the beautiful weather! After that we headed to Yates for some delicious food! Riley met us down there since we eventually had to go to Tecwyn's class anyways. Normally, Tecwyn's class is on Monday nights but because this Monday was a public holiday, he had to move it to Tuesday. Bad timing but it worked out. Frank stayed at the pub while we went to class. After class we met him at Yellow Pub because on Tuesday nights, the special is pound a pint! Can't get much better than that AND the soccor match between Barcelona and Madrid was on so we enjoyed watching that. Eventually, we headed up the hill to Patty's! Just like Yellow, Patty's has drink specials on Tuesday nights! We all had a really good time giving Frank and great Bangor welcome and I think he enjoyed himself too! Bangor may not be as amazing as some of the other big Cities he visited but we gave it our best!

Wednesday morning I had a field trip, so Frank got to sleep off the night before while I played in the woodland. It was a really pointless field trip where we had to classify the vegetation at the Treborth Botanical gardens. No one really knew what they were doing so we basically made stuff up! I did get to work with some cool people and the gardens were really beautiful, but that was about the only cool thing about it! After I got back to Bangor Frank and I had a quick lunch and then headed to Caenarfon for the afternoon. We played around in the castle for a couple of hours and I actually got to see everything the castle had to offer for the first time out of the 3 times I had been there. After returning to Bangor we took a nap and then headed out for Fish and Chips! The rest of the night we just kind of took it easy and enjoyed a film and cards. Nice and easy night compared to the night before!

The next morning Frank headed to Dublin for the last leg of his amazing journey while I headed out to Outdoor Pursuits. I had a great time with Frank and I'm glad he found time to stop in!

Until next time...