September 19, 2008

Holy Fire Alarms, Batman!

So I packed up my entire life into two large suitcases, and two small carry-ons. I was so anxious to get past security, but my Mom ended up checking my second carry-on for me, and my Dad carried my computer bag as his second piece of carry-on luggage, so it all worked out. I have no idea how I'm going to get home... but the important thing is that I got past security and into the UK just fine. Turns out I'm not a terrorist, afterall.
As soon as I stepped onto Scottish soil, rain drops greeted the back of my neck. It was wonderfully chilly. I'm a cold-weather person, so I'm actually looking forward to Scottish weather. I'm living at the top of The Royal Mile on a stretch of road called Lawnmarket, just below Edinburgh Castle. Everything in the city is downhill from me, which should make for some awesome late night drunken stumbles back uphill from the pubs. I share a flat with three other girls, with two bathrooms, and a kitchen/common area. 
This week was orientation - what the Uni calls "Fresher's Week." Even though I'm not a First Year, I'm still technically a fresher as a postgraduate. I've been taking advantage of all of the free food and alcohol events thus far. Free booze and snacks in the common room of Mylne's Court the first two nights, a "Mature Student's Social" in the postgraduate common room with free beer/wine/pizza, free wine at the reception after registration for classes... so far I haven't had to cook a thing! I've just been hanging out with friends and shopping during the day, then drinking and eating for free at night, and heading to pubs after. It's kind of like orientation at Bucknell, but with castles, ghosts, and free beer! It's the best summer camp ever! I'm in for a rude awakening once classes start.
Speaking of rude awakenings, the fire alarm has gone off every day! I'm sorry, am I in Scotland, or am I still living in Vedder?? When I arrived on Saturday, I decided to take a little nap in the afternoon and was woken up by the fire alarm. I was so jet-lagged and out-of-it from not sleeping in 24 hours, that I stumbled into my hallway and asked my flatmate what it was. She was locking her door and putting on her jacket, explaining to me that it was the fire alarm. I then asked her: "how do we make it stop?" - and she politely said: "I think we have to evacuate." In my sleepy-stupor I recalled how in my apartment in NYC, when the fire alarm went off in our kitchen, we were responsible for making it stop - but even though I was living in my own flat in Scotland, it was still structured like a dormitory so when the alarm went off - it went off throughout the entire building. The buildings here are so old and the wiring isn't that great, so even the shower steam sets off the alarms. We also have a scheduled fire alarm for every Wednesday at 10:00am. We're not required to evacuate, it's just a test of the system... but I guess there's no sleeping late on Wednesdays.

When we evacuate, all three buildings spill out into the courtyard in the middle. So essentially, 150 or so people stand in a gated and locked courtyard surrounded on all sides by 8-story high cement buildings. If any one of them were truley on fire, then that is the WORST possible place for us to evacuate to. We're trapped. And yet, over the course of the year to come, during every fire drill, not a single person thought to mention this obvious fact... or suggest that we continue walking out to the street in front of our building (The Royal Mile) for a proper evacuation. And we call ourselves Masters...

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