The English Channel: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

If you really thought this column would consist only of happy-go-lucky European travels and romance, I sincerely apologize for crushing your hopes and dreams.

The Good:

Edinburgh. I could stop there. Everything about the Scottish capital was breathtaking and so much fun.

My crew and I woke up at 3 a.m. to catch a train in the wee hours of Saturday morning. Too cheap to call a taxi, we decided to walk. In doing so, we also decided to rocket our stress level through the glass ceiling of the universe.

Allie and Trine got ahead of everyone else by leaving earlier and running faster. Miana could not get her train ticket to print. Eileen and I ran in the wrong direction to the top of a parking garage.

It was somewhat hilarious looking down at the train station below — I half-considered jumping.

We arrived at Sunderland Station sweaty, with mere seconds to spare as we climbed on the train and into a state of bliss that hung with us for the next 36 hours we called Edinburgh home.

Walking out of Waverley Station, our eyes met the sight of medieval architecture and castles. I took the tourist route and clicked a new picture every five feet.

In Edinburgh, the sights were our biggest friend and the 20-mph winds became our biggest enemy.

We saw the castle in all of its grandeur — paintings by Monet, Degas and van Gogh in the National Art Gallery, gardens on gardens on gardens, and ate dinner at The Elephant House, also known as “the birthplace of Harry Potter.”

At dinner we spent way too much money and drank a little too much wine, but what can I say? We were in Scotland!

The Edinburgh nightlife was booming because of the rugby match between Scotland and England, and so we stopped in a couple pubs and danced with a pair of Scottish women to a Scottish band’s cover of 80s rock anthems.

Then we took a family vote and decided to go back to Caledonian Backpackers to relax.

After a few minutes in the hostel bar, we made friends with a group of rugby fans that were dancing on tabletops to boy band ballads.

Peter O’Toole, (no, not that one,) and Martijn de Frankrijker, two of the most interesting people I have ever met, gave us the VIP treatment Sunday as they toured us around the city.

Peter has been living in Edinburgh since last May and knew some of the cities best kept secrets.

He took us to the tops of buildings and a graveyard near The Elephant House that had headstones that shared names with several of J.K. Rowling’s characters.

After hopping from pubs and pastry shops, we finally made it back on the 9 p.m. train home.

And thank goodness….

The Bad:

I woke up Sunday morning in a bed at High Street Hostel.

The way my head felt, I may as well have just watched the sun explode.

My throat was so swollen that I could not eat more than a little oatmeal, much less swallow my own saliva.

I decided to toughen up and push through the pain to enjoy my last day in Scotland.

And I did. Between the drooling and spitting, I took some great pictures and made great friends, but I was so happy when my body slumped in to my bed that night.

Little did I know, I had developed this crazy fun illness called quinsy.

I went to the hospital Monday morning after I woke up shivering and clammy.

First, let me tell you how amazing the healthcare system is here.

I walked inside, teary-eyed, with everything I thought I would need for at least a seven-hour wait—typical emergency room procedure back in the States.

Nope. Within 20 minutes, I was in the back room getting blood work done. As soon as they pulled out the needle, I cried because of how expensive the doctor’s visit was going to be, but the nurse said, “Don’t you have a student card?”

I whimpered a yes and she chuckled, “This is free, lovie. You don’t have to pay for any of this.”

Thank goodness.

Even though ISEP forced me to purchase a $350 insurance plan, the hospital did not want to see it. I do not think they even checked my ID the entire two hours I was there.

The nurse said my temperature was 38.2C — I felt so foreign. That number meant nothing to me.

So, there I was, sitting with my kind-faced nurse and she said, “Lovie, you are probably going to stay here for a couple of days.”

WHAT. Am I really that sick? 

The Ugly:

I just cried. The ugly face cry.

Am I dying? But I only got sick yesterday…

It was in that moment I realized how far from home I am — 4,200 miles.

Homesickness became the cherry on top of my quinsy milkshake.

I miss my parents and my friends. I miss the Fahrenheit scale and all the other measurements I understand.

The doctor told me I did not have to stay in the hospital if I did not want to, but I would have to be sure and take my medicine on time.

I took this option gladly. I have alarms going off every six hours for penicillin and pain medicine and then I have to take more pain pills with each meal that I must force feed to myself.

It is a beautiful life I am living.

Of course I googled quinsy. Web MDand Wikipedia are the best ways to decide if you are dying, right?

Apparently, it is commonly resistant to penicillin and out of 100,000 people only 96 will get it.

Anyway, to all my loyal three-week readers, do not worry! I live right across the street from the hospital and my local cell phone can easily call 9-9-9 for help!

Also, I am accepting Valentines in the form of soup this year.

Cheers and Beers,


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