“You have to find your own way”

The good thing about getting sick on this trip is that there are still a lot of days left, so sitting one out doesn’t feel quite so bad. Today has been a bit of a rough day because of feeling under the weather but I did some chores (grocery and map and midge-fighting potion shopping) earlier and now I’m taking a needed rest at my bed at the hostel.

The last few days have been quite awesome.

Two nights ago, I spent time traipsing around the area with Ellen (22 year old who is abroad in France for a year and traveling around this summer) and it was super. We giggled and skipped our way from burgers and beer at The Tron to a folk/acoustic/awesome performance by my new favorite artist Matthew Dames at a place called the espionage. Which was all awesome except for the beer prices at Espionage. Horrifying prices. They should be ashamed! Ellen was a hoot. She’d had like two ciders and was feeling tipsy and hungry for dessert and we were waiting (creepily?) for Matthew dames to play on the street after his show and she saw a (random) guy walk by with a fried piece of something in his hand and she basically jumps him asking “excuse me, what’s that? What’s that? What’s that?” She really really wanted it to be fried cake or donut. It was fish. And she was so disappointed and the (random) guy was just all big eyes and confused and Ellen was totally unfazed. I loved it. We laughed for quite some time. :)

The next day, the 15th (Joe’s birthday! Happy birthday joe!!!!!), my goal was to make it to the Edinburgh Book Festival to 1) see what it was all about 2) feel inspired and 3) see the Pygmy goats (don’t ask me why they were at a book festival. I was just thrilled they’d be there) and 4) see if jk Rowling made a surprise didn’t (spoiler:she didn’t). The walk to the book festival was supposed to be a ten minute one. But, after making a left instead of a right, it turned into a two-hour epic journey through Edinburgh trying to figure out where I was without the benefit of Internet. At first I was annoyed at myself, because I’d wanted to make to make it to the festival by their opening event. But once that time had come and passed and I wasn’t missing anything, I settled in to my walk and enjoyed my little unplanned excursion.

And lo and behold, I actually happened across a place I’d wanted to visit anyway – the water of leith. With a landmark now known, I figured out where I was in reference to the festival (whoopsies, about two miles off, NBD) and headed that way along the waterside path.

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The festival was smaller than I thought it would be — all contained in a little square versus the Fringe, which is EVERYWHERE — but it was really nice to be surrounded by people who had shown up because of their love of an author or a book.

While there, I found out there was a talk happening with David Levithan (co-author of “nick and Norah’s infinite playlist” and author of “every day” and a ton of other books) and I signed myself up. I’d read “every day” a new months ago — it’s a story about a person A who spends their entire life waking up as a new person everyday. It was awesome. And here was a chance to meet an author I liked in person! Or at least hear what they had to say. And I loved what he had to say.

Levithan’s books are filled with LGBTQ characters and his talk was filled by people — mostly teenagers — who loved those character and were touched by them. A few highlight from his talk:

Boy Meets Boy“: His first book “boy meets boy” was, he said, his attempt to “fill a spot on the shelf that was empty.” As an editor, he kept looking for a YA book that, instead of focusing on the scariness or the intensity of being gay, of coming out as gay, focused on the joy of falling in love In a romantic comedy kind of way. But he didn’t find the book, so he decided to write it instead. There’s “power in being represented in a bookshelf,” he added.

On what two questions he was trying to answer in writing “every day”: ¬†given that the main character A was a different person every day, with a different body, race, religion, gender, everything, levithan wanted to explore

1) What would you be like if you genuinely were not defined by your body?

2) What would it be like to be in love with somebody whose body changed everyday?

You have to find your own way.”:¬†“Levithan was asked by someone in the audience how his experience in writing affected his work in publishing and vice versa and his answer was really poignant for me.

His experience as an editor, he said, gave him the understanding that all writers were different. Everyone had a specific process that worked for them and them alone. He talked about how when he writes, he just sits down and ideas and characters and plot come out him – he doesn’t plan the story or know where it’s going or what’s going to happen. (Which is what I do as well.) meanwhile, he said, a writer he knows might create a 70-page outline for a 300-page book and that’s the only way that works for them. The point was that lots of writers are all tied up when they start out about writing the “right way.” We think there’s a secret sauce. A special combination that will unlock our incredible writing abilities and lead to success.

Levithan said that because he was an editor first and was able to see all the processes and voices that worked, that he knew when he started that he just needed to do what felt right to him. And that others need to find their own way that works, uniquely, for them. “You have to find your own way,” he said.

I liked that. Which is what I told him an hour later when he signed the book of his I bought.

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What a treat!

After the book festival I walked to The Meadows, a (HUGE) park where I’d heard people sometimes Slackline. No luck tho. After a quick dinner made at the hostel, I walked around town looking for a cheap(er) drink before going to a comedy show. Major fails all around.

1) Saturday nights is not a night you can find a low key beer to drink. Why I didn’t recognize this before I started out? Who knows. 2) when a comedian starts his show off talking about wiping your butt, you shouldn’t be surprised when ten minutes later he implodes, calling a girl anorexic and a boy “retarded” because they weren’t paying his bad jokes enough attention. What a trainwreck it was — I felt bad for him until he started name calling and then I was outta there and off to bed.

And speaking of, my sick self needs a bit of a nap if I want to recover for tomorrow, which I travel north to Glencoe! The highlands, here I come!
P.S. I did end up seeing the Pygmy goats after all. Basically my dream come true.

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The land of bagpipes, Fringe, and beauty: Edinburgh Scotland

You know what’s really amazing? When you can brush your teeth with tap water from the sink. Which you can’t do in Moshi. In Moshi (aka Africa) you have to use filtered/purified water in a bottle to wet your toothbrush, rinse your mouth and clean the toothbrush. Is this difficult work? No. Not at all. But it’s one of those small teeny things that I take for granted every single day in America. So when I got to my layover in Amsterdam two days ago and could brush my teeth at the sink in the public bathroom I was so excited I brushed extra long and with extra vigor. And smiled the whole time.

But anyway, there’s something else (almost) as awesome as drinkable, safe tap water. Edinburgh!

Aside from the dreadful exchange rate, Edinburgh is a gorgeous city. Cobblestones everywhere. Old and dazzling buildings, a touch of wild place in Holyrood. And aside from that there’s the Fringe, which means tons of free comedy shows and street music. (And crowds, but let’s be positive shall we?)

The night I arrived I took a shower (Another amazing thing! Dependable hot water!!) and headed out on the town to see what I saw. I ended up at a free comedy venue and met two wonderful ladies — Ellen (hailing from Texas and studying abroad in France) and Nicole (an occupational therapist from Chile). Having met the day before on a walking tour, they had been taking in the sites that day together. For the night, we became three, giggling hysterically and laughing together over cultural differences and language barriers and sharing bits and pieces of our life stories. It was a wonderful reminder (again) of the people you can meet while traveling — they pass in and out quickly but they make life really fun while they’re there.

Speaking of making friends, the hostel isn’t so easy to meet people at. Maybe if I was a big partier, or more outgoing, but the hostel has about 200 beds. So even though 14 or so people share a room it feels a little more like a hotel. Like it’s kind of awkward with that many people to say hi and introduce yourself and share your story with everyone. There’s just so many people. And, with The Fringe going on, many of them came here for the specific reason to see shows and party hard. They have schedules to keep!

But that’s ok, because I did some exploring on my own yesterday. The second sunny day in a row, I walked about a mile to the start of the hike of Arthur’s Seat, which is basically the top of a very large and wild-looking hill in the middle of Edinburgh. About an hour to get to the top, the place is a little like a “microcosm” of Scottish landscapes (so says lonely planet) — there’s green-topped rocks, miniature cliffs, rocky summits, green rolling stretches and at least one loch. Basically, it was awesome and I have some pictures to share here. Not sure they’re as awesome in picture form as they were in person, but, you know, that’s kinda always the case.

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The hike was really fantastic. After days sitting pretty still in Moshi it was awesome to get moving again. And the city itself helps with that too — the whole place is hilly as all get out. I love it.

The only thing that’s weird here to me is the food. There’s baked potatoes everywhere. You can get cheese on your falafel wrap. There’s mayonnaise to dip your fries in. There’s mayonnaise and tomato sandwiches. There’s baked potato and coke “meal” combos. It’s a little…disgusting.

I can’t really tell if people are fit here (because there’s so many tourists) but it feels like they can’t be. Right?

Anyway, today is rainy so I devoted it to writing some fiction before meeting up with Ellen for dinner. So, im going to get to it!