12.09.2016 - 18.09.2016
The past week in Edinburgh was truly amazing and quite relaxing – just what I needed at this point in the trip.
I had to get up early on the morning of 12 September in order to catch my flight; I left the hotel just before 03:00 and walked to the bus station which was about a block away. The night bus was the easiest and cheapest way to get to the Warsaw airport in the middle of the night, but I was nervous waiting around on the street at that time. Several people walked by, including some who were visibly intoxicated, but thankfully no one approached me.
The bus picked me up slightly after 03:15 and I was surprised to find it quite crowded. We made it to the airport within 20 minutes, far faster than I had anticipated and I had to wait around for a little bit before I could check in. After going through security I grabbed a bite to eat and watched some of “The Dark Knight Rises” on Netflix.
My flights were quick; I had a short layover in Brussels and I arrived in Edinburgh around 11:00. The landing in Edinburgh was very rough; there was a lot of turbulence and we seemed to just slam into the ground when we landed.
I met up with my friend Kevin just outside the airport terminal and we drove off to his house, which was less than 10 minutes away. Kevin and I were roommates in Seattle in 2008 to 2009; he had come over to the States for school and we spent a year living together in a house with two other roommates (Jay – the Supreme Chancellor Douche – and Oscar). It was probably the best year I spent in Seattle. I visited Edinburgh back in March and had such an amazing time that I decided to add in a week there during my world tour.
Kevin lives with his family, who were all so amazing and welcoming! His sister Michelle cooked us lunch and dinner almost every day, which was an unexpected and much appreciated treat. Everything she made was delicious; it was great having some home cooked meals after eating out all the time over the past month or so.
Our first order of business was to get some beer and snacks; we stopped off at Tesco, the local grocery store, and stocked up on a variety of beers and Pepsi and then grabbed some Krispy Kreme doughnuts before heading back home. The only real plan for the week was relaxation and playing World of Warcraft (WoW). The newest expansion, Legion, was released about two weeks before I arrived, so Kevin and I planned to play that all week.
Kevin had a man cave on the upper floor, complete with a TV and his computer desk; there was a smaller desk which I was able to use to play WoW using an old laptop that Kevin had. Sitting there and gaming together was just like old times in Seattle. We would hang out at our house and play WoW for hours, drinking beer or rum and coke; often taking breaks to play Rock Band together. It was during the time that we were roommates that I was introduced to WoW and I became hooked. Later, after we’d both moved out of the house, we’d spend time holed up in his bedroom at his new place and play WoW for hours, often with South Park or Family Guy playing in the background (or playing the soundtrack to Sweeney Todd, which we’d goofily sing along with).
*Start Nerd Alert* This blog post is going to be pretty nerdy as I write about playing Warcraft for a week.
We played WoW all day, every day, taking breaks just to grab something to eat. Kevin started playing a paladin healer and I decided to focus on my paladin tank – a combination that would let us queue up and instantly get into a dungeon (a DPS player could wait for 15+ minutes); we grouped up and set off to explore the new expansion. We were both blown away by how the story and game play pulled us in; it was really engrossing and engaging.
The only picture I have of Kevin and me, he's playing WoW on his computer behind me:
We made it through the intense starting quests and then went solo to get our special class weapons. This expansion focuses heavily on giving each class and spec their own unique weapon which you power up. We finally got to the point where we could go questing in the new zones; up first was Stormheim. The primary story line was rather good, though neither of us read any of the quest text so we missed large pieces of the story.
The second day Kevin switched characters and started playing the new demon hunter class, which became his primary toon for the remainder of our time gaming together. We quested together for a short while, but eventually went off on our own, though we’d often run several dungeons together. A nice feature of Legion is that all content scales to your character’s individual level, so you can play with other characters regardless of your mutual levels.
Eventually my paladin reached level 110, the new max-level in the game. At that point I started to chip away at the enormous about of end-game content that the game offered. My primary focus was on completing the storylines and quests in each of the questing zones. By this point I’d made it through Stormheim, Azsuna, and Val’Sharah, so I only had Highmountain left. I managed to complete the Highmountain quests about an hour before we went out for dinner last night (my final night in Edinburgh).
Reichwolf, level 110 paladin
*End Nerd Alert*
On Wednesday the 14th we met up with my friends Pip and Stephen for drinks and dinner in the city center. We met up at the Thistle Street Bar around 18:00 (Kevin’s sister Michelle was nice enough to drive us into town). After having a couple of beers we headed out for dinner around 19:30. We each had a starter and a main course; my starter was a pork ear salad and my main was pork knuckle. We all shared a bottle of the house white wine, which was nice; Kevin, Stephen and I each had a beer as well.
After dinner we went to a small bar nearby; it used to be called the Jekyll and Hyde, which apparently had some strange bathrooms. It was just a regular pub this time though; we had a couple of beers here and then moved onto a different bar, where I had some strange cocktail that I didn’t much care for.
It was amazing getting to hang out with Pip and Stephen again. I met them in Iran in 2015; we met up during my March visit as well. They were getting ready to take a trip to Uzbekistan, which sounded absolutely fantastic! I’m rather jealous of their trip, but I’ll make it there some day (ideally I’d like to take a tour of the 5 Stans at some point… too many places to visit, too little time and money!).
We all caught a cab to head home; surprisingly Pip and Stephen live relatively close to Kevin! Once we were home, Kevin and I played some more WoW and I had another beer. At one point I abruptly declared that I was drunk, asked for a bottled water and then went to bed. I was so drunk that I just passed out in bed in my regular clothes and still wearing my glasses!
As a thank you to Kevin for letting me stay with him and to his sister Michelle for all of the meals she made for us, I took us out for sushi on Saturday the 17th (my last night in town). We made reservations at an excellent restaurant in the city center and ordered several different rolls which we all shared. The food was quite tasty! It was nice getting to go out and chat with Michelle for a while too.
After dinner Kevin and I headed over to a nearby pub named the Hanging Bat Bar, where we waited for my friend Alan to arrive. Alan, who is in the British army, just got back from Cyprus (he was supposed to be back earlier in the week, but his return flight via the RAF was continuously delayed). Thankfully he made it back to the UK before I left town; he is currently stationed a few hours south of Edinburgh and made the drive up Saturday afternoon. He brought his girlfriend, Kim, with him and she was really nice! It was great fun getting to hang out with everyone.
I met Alan on another one of my trips, this one back in October 2011 when I visited North Korea (the DPRK). He was traveling with his buddy Tom (who is also in the army; he came to North Carolina earlier this year and we managed to meet up at the Flying Saucer for some drinks). Alan, Tom and I all had tailor-made “Kim Jong Il” suits made up at our hotel in Pyongyang, which we then wore to the “mysterious” 5th floor on the hotel to take pictures with the propaganda posters.
After returning to Beijing from North Korea, the three of us spent a few more days hanging out; by a happy coincidence their hostel was about a 5 minute walk from my hotel. The time we spent in Beijing was the best time I had during my travels in China.
The last time that I saw Alan was in September 2012, when he and his friend Rob came to the States for a visit. The closest they made it to Raleigh was Washington DC, so I drove up to see them there.
We had several rounds of drinks and spent hours just hanging out and chatting. We reminisced over our travels in the DPRK, which never gets old talking about. We also talked politics quite a bit; Alan is one of the few people I know who truly takes the time to educate himself and stay on top of current events around the world, something that is woefully missing from so many people in the United States.
After a few hours Kevin grabbed a cab to head home and I decided to stay out with Alan and Kim for a little while longer. The three of us decided to head to a different bar, ending up at an Irish pub named Footlights. We had two rounds of drinks there before the bar started to close up (bars in Edinburgh all close at 01:00). During our time at Footlights we discussed a lot of LGBT politics and issues; Alan has always been supportive of me being gay, always interested in if I’m seeing someone, etc.
We took a tuc tuc ride over to a cab hire station, which gave us flashbacks to our time in Beijing where we took a similar ride (though that one was more terrifying than fun). The queue at the taxi stand was quite long, so we had to wait. A woman in line ahead of us fell over at one point and we were able to see right up her short skirt – and she was not wearing any underwear; we got a full view of her ass and vagina. Disgusting! Two guys in line got into a fist fight at the same time.
Alan decided to get us an Uber car instead, despite Uber costing significantly more money than a regular cab. We cross the street to wait for the driver to show up; while we were waiting the cops showed up to sort through the fight and everything. Our driver showed up a few minutes later. Alan and Kim wanted to continue drinking and tried to go to a club (which is open later than the pubs), but the queue was far too long. Instead they were dropped off at a casino where they could have a few drinks. I hopped out of the car to say to goodbye to them. I truly wish that we’d had more time to hang out; they were staying overnight in Edinburgh and it would have been great to spend more time together. However, I had to get back so I could get some sleep before catching my flight the next morning. I was really sad at having to say goodbye to Alan, just as I was when I had to say goodbye in Beijing and DC.
I’ve known Alan for five years, during which we’ve spent less than a collective two weeks hanging out; despite this I consider him a very good and close friend. I always wish that I had more time to hang out with him. Hopefully he’ll be able to come visit Chicago once I move there. I’ll definitely be visiting the UK again soon to see all of my friends there.
I got back to Kevin’s house around 02:00; luckily he was still awake and playing WoW. We talked for a few minutes before I went in to bed. We had to be up and leave for the airport by 06:30 as my flight was at 08:30.
Saying goodbye to Kevin at the airport was difficult as well. I’d had such an amazing time getting to hang out with him again; it was just like old times. Nevertheless, I had to say goodbye and head off to Africa.
I had a short layover in Amsterdam and am currently on my flight to Nairobi as I write this. The flight to Nairobi is around 7.5 hours. I paid extra money to have a window seat, which was worth it; the row only has two seats, rather than three, since I’m near the very back of the plane and the hull starts to narrow here; I’ve got a large open space to my left where I can stretch out. Sadly, the in-flight entertainment is not working at my seat. The TV works, but the remote at my seat doesn’t work, so I can’t watch any movies to help pass the time on the flight. The man sitting next to me is having the same issue with his remote.
I’m both nervous and excited for my safari tour through Africa. I’m nervous that I have over packed and that my luggage is too large for the safari truck that the tour group will be taking; the trip dossier stressed luggage size repeatedly, stating that any oversized luggage could get left behind. I have my travel backpack full of clothes and it’s no bigger than a large duffel bag, which I’m sure will be fine, but this is a new type of travel for me, so I’m just unsure of what to expect.
I’m sure that the trip through Africa will be amazing though. It will be nice and weird being cut off from the world for such a long time. The trip is 41 days long, during which we’ll be camping most of the time, without Internet or even cell phone service. Wish me luck!!