Saturday, September 18, 2010

wallabies castles and rain

Did you know that there are wallabies in Scotland? Neither did I until I went up there to glasgow a couple of weekends ago! I was staying at Loch Lomond and my host took a group of us out on his sailing boat to a little island where we discovered this bizarre fact. Apparently there was a lady living on the island who brought them there in the 1920s. Her house is now long abandoned and the wallabies have been thriving ever since (with the odd exception of the environmentalist rangers who want to get rid of them for not being "natives"). While I was in Glasgow I also made a bunch of lamingtons for the first time (turned out amazingly) and got to catch up with Belinda and went to night church up there which was great!

I had a bit of a run-in with the police in whitehaven one night recently on my way home. I was most confused, driving back to my house in the rain at about 11.30pm (with windows all fogged up) when i saw the yellow and blue lights flashing behind me. I actually thought it might have been an ambulance wanting me to get out of the way but no it was the police. Back in Aus police lights are red and blue so I didnt realise they are yellow and blue in England! I stopped the car and the police man came up to me and said, "hello, what do you call yourself?". I was slightly confused and answered "ahh... Gemma?" "Gemma Sampson from Felixstowe?" *lots of stuttering and ummingh** "oh yeah right yes, i've moved around alot and my car is registered to my Aunt's address because I don't have a permanent address". "Not to worry, we just tend to pull cars over at night if they are out of area to check they haven't been stolen" *policeman walks off.., I'm left feeling rather confused about what just happened!!*

Last weekend I made my first trip to 'real' Europe and spent 3 too-shortdays in Prague. Such a beautiful city, the architecture there is amazing! I went over on Friday for a bit of a couch surfing event. I spent my first day exploring the city with someof my housemates before heading to a pub to meet the rest of the group. Here I had my first experience of goulash. Doesn't look like much but oh my, it tastes absolutely amazing!! We all went on a night walk through the city - it looks just as amazing at night with the lights shining on the buildings as it does during the day time. On Saturday our entire household (about 7 people couch surfing) joined the greater group in an old Skoda bus which took us about 50km out of town. Everyone then went on a 3hour hike through plains, hills and forests to reach castle ruins. Along the way we kept bumping into youth dressed up in medieval attire, almost like they were playing a real-life game of war of the worlds or something! Some of them were dressed up like peasants or criminals all filthy , and others were guards or royalty. It was fun to watch them act it out! There was more of these kids at the castle playing around.

Sunday was a bit of a chill-out day in Prague. Everyone met up at one of the parks for a bit of a picnic. We walked there and had a bit of a guide by our host about some of the buildings and monuments along the way, including a huge metronome overlooking the city. Alot of us then went into one of the town squares and spent about 3 hours giving out free hugs. So much fun!! There was probably about 30 of us going around the square hugging people. It was interesting the reactions from different people - some people are all for it, others shy away, others want to know why and some will even run. There was this one little american lady who was like, "oh I saw you guys on youtube yeah of course I want a hug!". When asked why we were going around hugging people, I found the best reason was to say that we were trying to make people happy and brighten their days, put smiles on their faces. It generally works! Later that evening when I was getting on the metro before I had to catch my flight back to England, I was recognised by a Czech man as one of the hugging people. I couldn't understand a word he said but he was calling out to me as I ran down the stairs pointing and put his arms wide like a hug with a big smile on his face.

The culture of the city in Europe is so far removed from that of say Sydney. It is significantly more laid back and relaxed. For example, the streets don't have all that many cars on them so you can walk all over and through the streets without being abused for taking too long to cross! The cars that are on the road, are all extremely fancy and expensive as most cities have high car taxes.

My contract at Whitehaven ended up last week, so I'm not entirely sure what lies ahead for me! For those who haven't heard yet, I am now seeing Sam. He goes back to work on tour in early October so we're using this time over the next couple of weeks to hang out and get to know each other better.

This past few days we have been up in Scotland visiting Oban, the Island of Mull and the greater area of mid-western Scotland. We've done pretty well with the weather, it has been raining quite a bit but luckily the rain always seems to start about a minute of two after we get indoors! I'm writing now as we drive back to St Bees (Whitehaven) as it is Sam's Dad's birthday tomorrow.

Next week we're going to head down to London and visit various family members along the way (both his and mine), so that should be good to catch up. Some of my greater family here in England I haven't seen in 2-6 years. I think some of the areas on the agenda are Blackpool, Felixstowe, Devon and Brighton. LOts of driving! Might do an odd day trip on the train as well.

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