Sunday, June 20, 2010

The last tale or: What remains to be said

The last two weeks were a seemingly endless series of good-byes (some being more emotional and tearful than others) and I am glad not all of them happened at once. Finally, my turn to take leave came.

Wednesday, June 16

I spent most of the morning packing my bags and with quite a bit of squeezing and tugging managed to zip and clip them shut: one more item and they would have burst. Everything done and the day being extraordinarily fine, I dug out my swimming stuff and suncreme again, took the last bits of food out of my fridge and waited for Liz' and Will's arrival. In Sam's car, Pendulum blasting from the speakers, we went to Newborough beach for some last swimming, sunbathing, seal and jellyfish spotting and random exploring of a nearby, little peninsula.
The day passed quickly and although we were tired from our activities and the sun we went to the pub for a last pint of cider.
I soon said good-bye to the group that I somehow had managed to become part of (and it makes me sad just to write these lines) and went to bed early.

Thursday, June 17
I couldn't sleep long and got up very early, cleaned up what was left, grabbed my camera and set out for a final walk through town and some random picture-taking of my last term's haunts:

Bangor High Street (or Stryd Fawr): where all the shops are (logically)

Yr Hen Glan aka The yellow pub aka Yellow:
nice food, good atmosphere, reasonable prices (Burger+Pint £3.95)

The Belle Vue: a pub divided into 2 rooms; always first choice with my flatmates
- a pool table, quiz machine, beer garden: what else can you want?

Amser / Time: one of 3 night clubs;
Yeah, it is old and decrepit, but it's also good fun on a night out
and it's going to be knocked down soon anyway

High and mighty Uni Bangor: I loved it - especially the old-style library
and the cosy little green room.

Bangor Station: starting point of many trips
and also scene of several good-byes towards the end.

After this nice morning's walk I returned to the house, transformed the rest of my food into some kind of packed lunch, hugged Sam good-bye and left the house before my feelings could overwhelm me. As the train bore me along the north coast of Wales I mentally bid good-bye to the mountains, the sea, the sheep/cows/horses, the languages (both) and my friends. When I read all the nice messages they had written into my little notebook tears welled up, but with a bit of effort I managed to retain composure.
To cut a potentially long story short:
I landed in Bratislava, exhausted, curious and somehow also glad to be back, especially when I saw my mum and my sister through the parting automatic doors:

They'd even brought a banner!
(croeso gartref = welcome home)

To finish off, let me summarise my wonderful term in Bangor (it's the last post on this topic anyway, so I am allowed to keep you a bit longer):
When I chose the little city in rural North Wales I had my own reasons and motivations and did not know what to expect, but with a good deal of research my knowledge and also my expectations increased and I set myself some goals. Here's how they turned out:
  • Goal #1: Find a room in a house with some native speakers. I managed or rather got lucky, as the room (i.e. its former occupant) found me through a website. But here my luck didn't end - I had actually cracked the jackpot: My flatmates turned out to be sociable (ok, that was in the ad), friendly, funny, charming, helpful, cleanly and considerate - just the most perfect and wonderful flatmates I could possible have found. Tom, Sam, Dave and Nas took more interest in me than I had ever hoped for and regularly invited me to join them when they went out, met friends, went to the beach, had BBQs, went to watch rugby, went for a bike ride, and even to play xbox (although I was rubbish!). My flatmates' friends, to my immense surprise, soon accepted me as part of a bigger group of friends and often invited me round for film nights or took me horse riding and to the beach. I appreciated this in the extreme and thanked them a hundred times, because they just made this semester brilliant and I will miss them sorely!

My room in all its glory

The fabulous four: Tom, Sam, Nas and Dave (before paintballing)

  • Goal #2: Get to see and taste as much of Wales as I can.
    With "The Rough Guide to Wales" (thanks, Zach!) in my bag and a small group of Erasmus students with similar interests by my side I covered most of North Wales' sites, went to Cardiff and Swansea (and even small towns like Abergavenny and Cwmbrân) - I got to see castles, museums, neolithic structures, slate quarries, picturesque landscape and traditional pubs and, although I haven't yet seen all I'd wanted to see, I am quite content. (Plus: I took several other trips to England and Ireland on the side.) Into this category I also put exciting experiences with Welsh culture of any other kind (culinary ventures like laverbread or Welsh rarebit, literature like Cwmardy or A Toy Epic, glimpses at rugby, social encounters,...). Only now do I realise how much I learned about this country and its people!
Y ddraig coch (the red dragon) on the Welsh flag
- blowing in the wind atop one of the towers of castle Conwy

  • Goal #3: Learn the basics of Welsh and understand its significance. I took pains to find a suitable course, encouraged my little erasmus group to join me and had a lot of fun going there twice a week to learn, repeat and practise useful little phrases. I even successfully tried a few in real life. Welsh is a beautiful, melodious language, despite some strange and tricky sounds. It adds an ancient mystic, celtic element to this wild and remote part of the UK. I definitely haven't had enough of if yet and should I ever go back I will resume the course from where I left it and try to become fluent!

A rather beautiful example of bilingual signs

  • Goal #4: Join a society. I had heard that it is easiest to meet native speakers by joining one of the numerous clubs and societies and when Fiepje mentioned Irish Step dancing I had no excuse to stay away anymore. We both joined and had fun skipping around until Easter. The social night out was one of the highlights of my stay - for various reasons. Like Welsh, Irish Step dance is something that will stay with me and I plan to register at a school in my area with the start of next term.

Fiepje and me dressed up for the Irish Step social night out

  • Goals #5 and #6: Spend as much time as possible outdoors and Buy a bike. Last year's laziness upped my motivation and the weather and beautiful area drew me outside. I found a runnig partner in Rebecca and soon also a suitable and beautiful path (past the harbour, along a river, through wood-land and over Bangor mountain). Furthermore, I got myself a map of Snowdonia (the mountaineous national park just a few miles away) and went on several hikes with erasmus people, visitors and flatmates. Moreover, I bought a bike cheaply and used it to explore Anglesey, get to hidden neolithic treasures or the Farm Shop, or for proper exhausting but fun rides with Tom. (As a consequence of the latter it died on me). And, finally, when the weather turned hot, we even managed to go to the beach and swim in the Atlantic. Twice! I never thought I would...
Carneddau hike in Feb

The Aber Falls tour
Beach time

All in all this whole term was just one AMAZING experience, the magnificence and emotional value of which cannot be expressed in words! I am grateful for the wonderful people I met, the friendships I formed, the activities I did, the places I visited. The memories of all these things I will always continue to cherish and honour with many little tales and anecdotes.
This half year will be remembered: It might have changed me - it might also not, who knows, but however that may be - I would never swap it for anything else!

For all I know I do appreciate studying and living in Austria, but I miss a lot of things. Amongst them: the mountains, the sea, my running path, sheep, nice and affordable ciders, bbc iPlayer, Hobnobs, Ben&Jerry's, Welsh goats cheese, HMV, New Look, and, above all, English as my everyday language.
On the plus side: things like cheap train tickets, fresh local fruit and veg, freshly made ice-cream and proper bread are back in my life!

One thing is for certain (and here I'll quote from one of these many films I haven't seen yet): I'll be back!

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