Dundee, Scotland

I have arrived.

And I am already so far behind in describing everything that I have seen and experienced that I barely know where to start.

So I think I will start with where I am right now. I am in bed. It’s a crappy bed, but at least I have one. The mattress isn’t hard–no, I could handle it if it were hard. No, no, instead it is soft–except for the springs, which are very hard. I have circular bruises in the shapes of the springs from last night. Today, I wised up a bit. There was a comforter that came with the room. It was a skanky thing, and smelled vaguely of mildew and teenage boy, so I didn’t want to use it (particularly because I have my lovely down comforter with me). However, when placed between the fitted sheet and the mattress, it prevents the springs from cutting holes in me overnight.

The bed is in a small room. Very small. The bed is situated with the headboard alongside the wall with the door in it. There isn’t enough room between the door and the wall for the width of the double bed, so the bed is pulled a couple of feet away from the wall. It might have been pulled all the way to the end of the room(about four feet past the end of the bed) but there is a built in wardrobe there.

I have a window seat that looks out into the garden, framed by red curtains that stretch almost all the way to the ceiling. The ceilings are probably ten feet, maybe twelve.

This room is on the end of the hallway in our apartment. To the left of my room upon exiting it, there is the kitchen. To the right, a cupboard for storing things, or hiding jews if you are hiding them from people who aren’t looking too hard. Across the hall is the living room. Next to the kitchen is the bathroom, and across the hall from the bathroom (and facing the street) is Alicia’s room.

The apartment is cute. It’s reasonably nice for a student apartment, even if everything requires far more work than it really ought to require.

The shower, for instance. In order to use the shower, you have to turn on a switch that is in the hallway. Then, you have to go into the bathroom and turn a dial on this weird box in the shower (which I later ascertained to be a heat-on-demand water system). Then you turn another dial that sets the temperature, and THEN the shower finally starts. The heat-on-demand water system has the advantage of supplying endless hot water (or virtually endless, until your prepaid electricity card runs out of pre-paidness.) However, it has the significant disadvantage of only supplying that hot water in teacup sized increments. This creates a shower with all the pressure of a baby breathing softly onto rose petals.

Everything is complicated like that. I haven’t even tried to figure out the thing that runs the radiator. When I saw pictures of the kitchen, I noticed this weird box next to the microwave. It’s about the size of a mini-fridge, really. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what it was–I knew too much to hope that it was some kind of crazy dishwasher, and all the other large appliances (oven, washing machine, fridge) were accounted for.

It turns out, that’s a water heater. Again, it’s heat on demand. It has several incomprehensible dials, and several equally incomprehensible buttons, accompanied by little lights that may or may not convey useful information.

All of the doors in the apartment are solid wood, which is novel to me–I’ve never lived in a place where all the doors are solid wood.

All in all, the apartment has lots of character. And it comes with free crack heads!

Okay, heroin junkies, specifically. Apparently, Scotland has a really huge heroin problem, and Dundee is no exception. One can (allegedly) find junkies hanging out in the hallway leading to our apartment. The hallway in question looks like the kind of place junkies would choose for chilling. It’s a very dodgy place. Very soviet. It’s entirely gray concrete, worn and uneven, and dimly lit by flickering fluorescent lights. On the landing of the stairs, a stained glass window is half boarded over, presumably broken out by roaming junkies. What little paint there is peels.

Alicia has admonished me not to leave any window open in the house when I am not there, under any circumstances. Our apartment is on the ground floor, and even though the windows only open about 8 inches (they open out, with the hinges at the top, somewhat like the flap on a doggie door, for those of you unfamiliar with that kind of window), and the opening is poised a good six or seven feet off the ground, apparently junkies will climb in and … steal your shit? Stab you to death with their dirty, infected needles?

I imagine the junkies scuttle, like half-spider half-crabs. Like the spider splicers in Bioshock! They are emaciated, like runway models (whose heroin-chic look is the closest i’ve ever seen to a real junkie), and they stick to ceilings and climb in impossibly high windows. They’re the new boogie men, let me tell you.

In seriousness, I will of course take her advice. And, I’ll probably not carry much cash on me at any time, nor more than one card. I already have an emergency back-up plan in case I am confronted by an aggressively scuttling junkie. I will simply thrown my wallet as far as I can in the opposite direction of my travel, and then run, probably while screaming. Hopefully, this won’t involve running uphill, because in that case I’m just screwed.

Note to people who worry about that kind of thing: I’m not really going to get mugged by junkies.

My apartment is situated about three quarters of the way up the most ridiculous hill in all of the universe. The university is located all the way down the most ridiculous hill in the universe, and part way up the next one.

Words cannot describe how sore I am, and I have only walked up and down the hill twice now. If I survive this, and at this point I sincerely doubt that I will, I will be able to kick through walls when I return home.

This was the part of adjusting to life in a new country that I had forgotten about. The “I don’t know where a grocery store is–I am too tired to walk to the grocery store–why are there no beans in this country–I have to walk up the damn hill again–sweet moses why do the banks close at 4–why can’t any of these people speak english”-part. It’s the part full of incomprehensible radiators, and showers for which my butt is literally almost too big to fit through the teeny opening, and not being able to find kale or chicken stock or goat cheese, of not having any storage space… and on and on. But, it can’t be helped so on we go.

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Dundee, Scotland

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