Bank Holiday weekend is here in Aber and I have my mate Richard visiting. Today (Sunday) we climbed Cadair Idris, which is a short drive up the road (About 40 minutes.) My knees no longer work and Richard is currently stretched out on the kitchen sofa with a glass of wine like Ophelia. In typical Bank Holiday style, the weather was atrocious and I am currently stuck with a large bag of seething, wet, sweaty kit that is going to need a trip to the laundrette to deal with. Accompanying us on this mountain mission was my friend Tommy. We may have got a bit lost in the mist that descended upon us. Fortunately we were well equipped with a map and compass and the skills to use them so we managed to get down safely. Cadair Idris is a mountain of legend. it is said that if you stay the night up on the mountain you will either go mad, become a genius or a poet. I decided not to risk it as I feel the only thing on offer today might have been a bad cold.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, we are going up Consti to look at the Camera Obscura and possibly have ice cream.

Things are winding down for most people here at Aber, but for postgrads like myself the fun is only just starting. I have another nearly four months of my course left and a dissertation to do. I was notified of who my tutor will be and I have my first meeting on Tuesday. All that stands between me and my Masters is a two hour screenplay. In preparation for this summer of writing up I have now got somewhere to live and have applied for a few jobs. Fingers crossed but I am fairly confident and excited about the whole thing.

The week has otherwise been fairly quiet, with a string of farewells, some forever, some only until September. There has been some lovely weather and an ice cream hunt. (Not that ice cream is difficult to obtain in Aber, you understand, it’s just we were looking for something quite particular.)

There is now just two weeks of this term left to go. This time last year I was watching as the excitement grew for myself and my fellow students. We were all preparing to leave home and come to Aber for the first time. We had no idea what to expect. We all had ideas. We all had our doubts. We all came in spite of those. And now some of us are Poets, some are on their way to becoming geniuses and some, like me, are just mad old men with a blue box (well actually a Leopard). But we all climbed the mountain. And even with zero visibility, the view was worth every bit of the effort.

Not just a Timeleopard...
Not just a Timeleopard…
Me and the slinky ginger goat that is Tommy!
Me and the slinky ginger goat that is Tommy!
Genius/ Madman/ Poet unable to say anything that can be repeated here.
Genius/ Madman/ Poet unable to say anything that can be repeated here.

007

 

The main problem with doing a blog like this is that due to us having a timetable, a lot of the stuff that happens in a week tends to repeat and for you, the reader, that could get rather boring. So, where possible I try to focus on a theme and go from there. (It’s rather how I imagine being a vicar trying to write sermons does it really, at least the good ones!)

There have been a few things that I’ve considered writing about this week. And I suppose the main thing that I need to mention is VARSITY!!!!!!!!  It was that time of year. When Aberystwyth play Bangor in one mad day of sports (with a few other things thrown in for good measure.) I wasn’t fencing this time around, sadly, I am a little too old and slow and my days of varsity competitions are over. So I had the unenviable task of cheering on the team, with some fellow club members, fixing the occasional bit of faulty kit and of course I was in charge of the Lucky Leopard. Lazarus worked his magic for the ladies’ team but sadly could not quite repeat the feat for the men. Still it was very close, and to make up for it, we think he may have eaten Bangor’s Unicorn mascot. He did point out that he is only one small leopard and it was an awful lot of fencing.

Saturday evening we were all in the Union for the presentation of the Varsity Trophy. Aber was victorious and retained the trophy. (This same week I was also made aware that Keele beat Staffs in their varsity  as well.  It may only be a coincidence that I have attended both winning establishments…) There was, as usual, much rejoicing and two pint glasses of beer to be had at very reasonable rates.

That was the fun bit of the week. But it isn’t all fun, regardless of the impression you might get from reading these blogs.

At the start of this week I was feeling a bit down. There was nothing specific that was the matter, there doesn’t really have to be, this is how it works. And it is something people don’t usually understand. Far cleverer individuals than myself have talked at length upon the subject, Stephen Fry for one. It is called depression. It takes many forms.  People deal with it in different ways.

My misery was compounded on Tuesday by a bad mark which was not totally unexpected, but still a bit of a knock down. And so there it is. The Black Dog. And it doesn’t matter what else happens, on Tuesday I got told by someone I was a genius, I got a job offer, I had a really good fencing session in the evening, lots of positive stuff. But the demons always shout down your better angels. The nasty little voice in your head tells you that you are worthless and there is no point to any of it. On Wednesday I stayed in my room. On Thursday I stayed in my room. On Friday I would have stayed in my room but for a promise I had made.  I found myself at Old College, with some people from the National Theatre, reading through a new play. A play about a tortured soul who eventually took her own life, she lost herself in the darkness and couldn’t get out.  In reading the beautiful words that writer Lucy Gough had painted into the portrait of this woman, I was able to light my way out.  I felt a lot better. Suddenly able to see how blessed I was for the numerous friends who wanted to check I was okay, who understand when I say there is nothing wrong that there actually is something.  That are kind enough to care, but wise enough to let me be.  Aberystwyth is one of the friendliest universities in the country. It is full of very lovely people, many of whom I am privileged to call friends. Thanks Guys!

I’m sure this isn’t an easy blog to read, it certainly isn’t an easy one to write.  But these things happen, and the more we talk about them the greater chance of everyone finding their way out of the darkness is.  Time to Change!

Lazarus sends a message of greeting to our Varsity Opponents.
Lazarus sends a message of greeting to our Varsity Opponents.

Let us go back some twenty something years so that I can introduce you to my nineteen year old self. You’ll recognise me, I’m the short, chubby one with the undercut/curtains, baggy jeans and Doc Martins. I’m probably wearing a “James” t-shirt.  If you ask me a question I probably won’t answer you. If you are lucky I will grunt and shrug my shoulders. My response rate does increase if you offer me marmite on toast.

Nineteen year old Sion has just been presented with a pile of choices from various Universities. (Including Aberystwyth, Keele, Oxford, Welsh College of Music & Drama and York.) Nineteen year old Sion doesn’t know what he wants to do next week, let alone what he wants to do when he leaves University. On one side my parents are shouting at me to go to Oxford and read medicine. Yes. Be a doctor. That’s what you want to be.  On the other side, my teachers, who are pleased I’m an Oxbridge candidate are also quite keen on the idea of me going to The Welsh equivalent of RADA. (At the time the School was really trying to push its Arts A-levels.) And in the middle of it all I didn’t really want to go to University. I’d only applied because of some strange, romantic vision of Brideshead Revisited that I had convinced myself was still playing out at universities up and down the country.

And then, as they so often do, a miracle happened. Well, I say a miracle. It was actually a very painful accident involving a patch of black ice, a mountain bike and several broken bones. I went splat. I ended up in hospital being put back together with bolts. The promising rugby career that may have had something to do with the offer from Oxford was over with.  (Twenty years ago, the surgery wasn’t quite as good as it is now.) I was going to have to spend some time getting better and University was just going to have to wait. I got to postpone my indecision.

It was my Grandmother who gave me the best advice: Go where you will be happy. Three years is a very long time to spend somewhere you don’t want to be.

Back to the future. Or the now. There are a lot of people preparing to make the same decision I had to make before most of them were born. The way you do it is different, it is all online now, but the advice is the same. Go where you will be happy.  That is the best advice I can possibly give. Don’t be persuaded by bright shiny buildings or a cleverly worded prospectus, or even the promise of wealth beyond your wildest dreams for accepting a place. Go to the place you feel you can live happily for three years.

And now, back to the week at Aber.  It has been a quiet week. I’ve done a lot of reading. Taken part in a Charity Fenceathon. Been to a few meetings. Had a hysterically funny seminar on Friday with one of our PhD students who was filling in for our tutor (he’s at a conference.)   I have shared in the joy of friends receiving news of scholarships and bursaries, and the aftermath of other friends not getting their postgraduate places. I have also slain the laundry monster. Then on Friday night I attended the Bar Stock Exchange in the Union (60p for a pint of Coke, bargain!)  And I have now begun to formulate my plan of attack for the future.

I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. I hope it stays that way.

Strange things happen late at night...
Strange things happen late at night…

 The sun came out this week. And with it came the shorts, flip flops and beach parties that made us all forget for a brief moment that it is still only March.  Unfortunately for me, I spent most of this week in my room alternately writing my essay and banging my head against my desk. The essay is now complete and ready to hand in on Monday. The bruises may take a little longer to go away!

By Thursday, the sun had gone and been replaced by thick fog. Outside my window visibility was down to a horror movie style few feet and trees creaked eerily in the twilight. And there were bats. Yep. That’s right. Actual bats. Fluttering about like leathery bowties of the night. There could well have been anything in that fog.  I decided I could live without the outdoors, and we made garlic bread. Just to be on the safe side.

This week I’ve been doing my bit in front of camera, being filmed for the University website, keep an eye out for me and some friends sat on Consti trying not to make it look rehearsed (it wasn’t I assure you!). I’ve also been helping some final year film students with their project. My character is called “Pete” and I am a studio executive having problems with a blocked writer, so no type casting there!

As I have said previously, the great thing about Aber is there is so much going on.  Saturday found me at Arad Goch, one of the theatre spaces in town, watching Broad-Ways Theatre Society and their one act play festival. Eight plays all written, directed and performed by Aber Students, all for four quid. Bargain! This weekend has also been the Weekend of Superteams, where sports teams compete against each other in a variety of events to win the coveted Superteam Title!  The mystery event this year seemed to involve mud. Lots of mud. It also possibly involved a few drinks and a lot of banter. Most things here seem to and everyone looked like they were enjoying themselves. Even the poor guy I saw expiring behind the Students’ Union. He was unable to breathe (I think he had been running up and down stairs for a while) but he was unable to breathe in happy way!

Monday’s flat inspection was passed successfully, even allowing for a last minute clean of the oven (one of those things where everyone thought everyone else had done it). And of course a little help from Lucius, who has still not let me forget he was referred to by the inspector as “You little spotty darling.” I do wish they wouldn’t, it just makes him conceited and unbearable.

It seems a little strange that there is only four weeks left of this term.  Then three weeks of Easter holidays and I will be starting my last term at Aber.  Where has that time gone? I have no idea. And what comes next? Even less idea.  Still. That is what makes life brilliant and terrifying all at the same time. The not knowing. What is coming next? What is in the fog?  Garlic bread?

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Evening Sun in Aber
“Little Spotty Darling” with his inspection pass

I’m currently running a temperature high enough to cook eggs on me (maybe) as I have just succumbed to the re-freshers flu that is going around. I apologise if this blog takes any surreal turns or makes less sense than usual.  The best advice I can give for dealing with the inevitable infections you will get at Uni (any Uni, not just here) is stock up on cold meds before you get there. Drink plenty of fluids, stay warm and try not to infect anyone else!

So: The Week at Aber. It’s been a bit of a quiet one really, but one that has raised some interesting issues. Most of this week was spent having the usual assignment meltdown that has become customary in my case when anything is due to be handed in. One day my self-doubt will be the undoing of me. However today is not that day. Safe assign on the other hand might just finish me off sooner. At Aber we not only have to submit assignments in hardcopy, but also electronically. The theory is quite simple; you log on to your student account, go to the relevant module and upload your essay.  However this week my computer’s anti-virus software decided to throw a hissy fit and refuse to do it.  Fortunately there are enough computer rooms on campus that a quick trip out with a USB pen and all was well in the world once more.

I spent an enlightening couple of hours on Tuesday night talking to some members of the Christian Union, who were handing out tea and coffee and biscuits to late night revellers.  And we got on to the subject of the University Chapel.

The Chapel at my previous University, Keele, played a very large part in the life on campus. It still does. It was and is a place where people of all faiths and none could go to have some quiet time, talk to someone if they had a problem, get a coffee, use the piano and if they felt the need, to take part in the various services and worship that were offered.  The Chapel transcended religion, in the words of Father Jack “It was an ecumenical matter” and in the words of Father Mike, the RC Chaplain at Keele back in the day, “Probably 90% of my job is nothing to do with religion at all.” It was a great resource for students and it is a massive shame that every University in the country doesn’t have one.  They do say that ideas are like candles. If you have one lit candle you can light many others from it.

One of the things that came out of my conversation with the CU was that the sign on the chapel (large letters on the glass doors saying Capel/Chapel) had been rubbed off, so no one really knew what the place was. There is a brilliant episode of “The West Wing”, called “Holy Night” in which Leo McGarry learns that the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem has been shut just before Christmas. The reason being that the roof is damaged and that repair men are not allowed in because the tools used for repairs are potentially also weapons. At the end of the episode Leo’s deputy asks him how the seemingly insurmountable issue of the situation in Palestine can be resolved. Leo replies that he doesn’t know, but they can make a start by fixing the roof.  By no means am I comparing chapel signs to the problems in Palestine, but the analogy holds that by doing something small, you can start to make big things happen. I made new letters for the windows and with the help of Lois from the Anglican Society, we fixed the sign on the doors.  People can now find the place. The candle is lit.

I have mentioned the brilliant community that we have here at Aberystwyth. There seems to be a huge amount of very engaged people.  Aber has one of the highest rates of participation in sports in the whole country for students. That might be because you can do almost everything here, not many Universities have the Sea within walking distance and the mountains a short drive away. It is one of the few times geography works in our favour.  We also have some very active societies and volunteer groups. On Wednesday I was helping out with Time To Change Wales. They are a charity that addresses mental health issues. More specifically trying to change the way mental health is viewed. End the Stigma, that’s the sentiment.  They try to get people talking about it. Mental health, bi-polar disorder, depression, none of it is anything to be ashamed about and yet it is still something no one really wants to talk about. It is fine to say you are not okay. On Wednesday, my brilliant friend Jonny and other volunteers were out in the Union selling cake. I lent a hand and we got a really positive response from everyone we spoke to!  The charity lets people know they aren’t alone.

Now, you remember a little while back, all the stuff that went on with the storms?  I thought that it was all done with, other than the drinks reception we are having with the VC on Monday. But no! It seems the fame of the Aberpocalypse has reached far and wide and now ITV  might be coming to interview us about it.  Which is very nice, but also slightly terrifying.

By the time my next blog is up, I will be 39 years old. Thirty-nine lit candles. (Not in halls, they won’t let us)  Sometimes I think this must be a mistake. I can’t possibly be that old. And then something will happen to confirm it. This time, one of my nephews, who was born just before I went to University as an Undergraduate, has sent me a message to tell me he’s going to be a father. Which means my brother will be a Grandfather.  Yeah. That. Right there.

And so there is a whole new generation on its way to light candles for. Hopefully that means we will never be alone in the dark. The future is bright. The future is what we make it.

Time to Change Wales: Cake!
Time to Change Wales: Cake!
A couple of late night revellers.
A couple of late night revellers.

I shall start off by boring you with tales of the previous week. I am sure you are all on tenterhooks to know what the leopards and me have been up to. Having returned to Aber on Monday, traveling through some quite soggy looking countryside, with rivers ready to burst and not one but three canoes washed up against the tracks near Borth, the week looked as though it was going to settle into a normal pattern.

Term is now in full swing. Seminars are go, industrial action permitting, and already we have new assignments to do. The first one is due next week, on Friday. And I am trying not to panic. I always try not to panic. I usually fail.  But it’s fine.  So this week I’ve spent in seminars watching “Shakespeare in Love”, discussing the Romantic Comedy and also talking about Behavioural Paradigms. (Look it up if you don’t know, I had to!) One of the things I have been slightly apprehensive about is answering questions in Seminars. I prefer to “remain silent and be thought a fool, rather than open my mouth and remove all doubt.”  Sadly for me, I think they get a lot of that. The really good thing is that there aren’t actually any wrong answers. You can get stuff wrong, of course, but even if you do the answer  you give is usually taken as a valid contribution. Coming from a science background, this is a whole new world for me.

Also this week, I have been talking to the tutor who will hopefully be supervising my dissertation. As predicted he took my PhD proposal to pieces. But like The Weeping Angels, he killed it nicely. More importantly he told me how to fix it. Whilst on the subject of PhDs I’m seriously considering waiting a year in order to get my Masters mark before submitting an application. This is because of funding. If you don’t have a first at Undergraduate level then you are unlikely to be considered for things like the DCDS scholarships. However if you can get a good mark for your Masters then that is considered instead.

This brings me rather neatly to the next remarkable thing of the week. I got the marks back for two more of my assignments. I did rather well. If I can land the last two in a similar grade then I could be on for a distinction!

The week was finished off by an invite to go and have drinks with the Vice Chancellor. As I understand it this is kind of like being mentioned in despatches. It is something to do with the recent storms. I’m getting my suit dry cleaned, it always pays to make a good impression.

This week at Aber also saw protests about the Sochi Olympics, or more specifically the treatment of LGBT+ people by the Russian Government. It was a peaceful protest which saw the Union Concourse covered in rainbow chalk graffiti. It is nearly all gone now, washed away by the rain, which is somewhat fitting in a way. Because you can’t have the rainbow without the rain.  However the spirit of solidarity at Aberystwyth is used to weathering the storms and will remain long after all the chalk has melted into the drains.

Leopard Spot: This week Lucius and Lazarus enjoyed the company of some rugby fans in the Students’ Union and were introduced to giant steins of beer. They may or may not have eaten someone at Shrewsbury station, but nothing has been proved.  Assuming the felonious felines are not arrested, this week they are trying Archery.

jack and annieJack and Annie, seen here enjoying some outsized beers at the Rugby!

Dear Reader,

As you my know, I have written my previous blog to try and show the unconditional adoration I feel towards Montreal. Leaving this amazing city and my newfound friends behind and going home to Hungary for the Christmas holiday left me feeling gloomy and happy at the same time. Even though I know I have missed out on all the Christmas lights, decoration and sights that December brought along to Montreal, the feeling that I had gotten the most out of my trip has made me feel less downhearted. While I spent the majority of my four months in Canada studying at McGill University and enjoying the city, I would have felt incredibly guilty, had I not travelled around at least a bit. Since I was the first of my family to set foot in Canada and live somewhere not thousands of kilometres away from the USA, I felt sort of an obligation to take a break from studying once in a while and spend a couple of days knocking about. This blog is my way of trying to show the most interesting trips I have made during my stay.

-Celebrating the winter equinox on Thompson Island-

The decision for my very first trip was made in less than a minute. I was peacefully preparing dinner after an exceptionally long and tiresome Monday at the end of September when one of my flatmates suddenly burst into the kitchen and told me about this amazing opportunity to celebrate the winter equinox by visiting members of the Mohawk Indian tribe at the Akwesasne reserve. We immediately realised that this was no ordinary opportunity so it took less than a minute for almost the whole flat to decide to go on the trip. We have reserved our places the very next morning. The trip, organised by the fantastic McGill Outdoors Club, looked amazingly exciting and it was only two days long; exactly the amount of time I severely needed away from my books.

We left one of McGill’s parking lots 7 in the morning on the 21st of September and arrived a couple of hours later at Lake St Francis, where we were greeted heartily by our friendly guides. After each receiving a paddle and a life jacket, we grabbed our bags and walked to our boats. Soon after, our two canoes left the docks as we started rowing towards Thompson Island where we were going to spend our weekend.

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We have arrived at our destination after two and a half hours of rowing. Following a short break, we went on a hike around the island while Bob, one of our hosts, showed us the various medicine plants found on the trail. While it was relaxing to walk around and breathe in the fresh air, the most interesting part of the trip was when we kicked-back with a cup of hot herbal tea in the evening and listened to the adventures of our host, Bob. Bob grew up in the Northern parts of Canada and spent much of his childhood and adult days hunting in the wilderness with friends and clients. Naturally, all his experiences were highly interesting to a group of city dwellers so we listened in awe as he told his tales of hunting bears, beavers and moose, or getting lost in the forest and spending a cold winter night under a pine tree. However, Bob had also been exceptionally active on a political level, embracing the issues of Indian tribes living in Canada, aiming to help in various ways. While these kind of tales may not have been the most interesting topic for the majority of the group, the politics student found them enthralling. Hours passed like minutes as we sat in a circle asking questions and telling stories of our own besides the roaring fire. However, we have all started to feel drained after a while, after all, it had been an exciting day for everyone. After catching a few hours of sleep, our morning continued in a largely similar way, listening to stories and hiking around the island or playing games and talking to Bob and his wife.

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 After bothering Bob with my politics related questions for a bit, our guides told us that it was time to return to the Park. Since we have seen all the beautiful parts of the lake on our way to the island, the voyage back was a lot quicker, which proved to be a good thing as a huge rainstorm have decided to see us off and pursued our canoes relentlessly. The exciting weekend and all the rowing left everyone tired, so most of the car ride back to Montreal was spent by sleeping.

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In the end, my first trip in Canada was simply amazing and provoked some jealous Facebook messages from friends back in Hungary. Not only have I visited the beautiful Lac Saint-Francois and Thompson Island, but I have met new friends and listened to the tales of a man with an amazing life.

-A day at Mont-Tremblant-

The idea of my second trip came from my extraordinarily beautiful and talented roommates (just in case they happen to read this at some point). They have invited me to spend a Saturday at Mont-Tremblant hiking and taking pictures; a proposal that sounded particularly appealing as we were supposed to have glorious weather at the coming weekend. We arrived to Parc National du Mont-Tremplant approximately three hours after leaving our flat, getting lost at least two times along the way. The view that greeted us, however, was worth the trip on its own. The pictures I took have nothing on the real, picturesque scenery of of mountains, but they do give a sense of how beautiful our trip was.

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Even though it was the end of Autumn, Mont-Tremblant was still dressed to impress. The beautiful fading colours, the sparkling blue sky and the orange, yellow and red leaves stubbornly clinging to the branches or quietly rustling beneath our steps immediately cleared our minds. We took a handful of minutes to just breathe and taste the fresh mountain air before beginning our hike, which turned out a bit longer than expected: around 11 hours.

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 As we have made our way further and further up the hill, the view just kept getting better.

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 When we have (finally) reached our destination, a small clearing in the woods at the top of the mountain, we have decided to take a short break before heading back to the car and grab something to eat to replenish our energy. At this point, the local residents of the clearing appeared, demanding their fair share of the food in exchange for tolerating our presence. They were particularly fond of the bag of mixed nuts we brought with ourselves.

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Even though the walk back to our car took us around 5 hours, it was no less tiring compared to the first half of our trip. We took a couple of last pictures before thankfully slumping into the car seats, more than ready for some well deserved rest.

All in all, if you have the chance to go and spend a couple of hours marvelling at the beauty of the Mont-Tremblant landscape, do not hesitate to do so!

-A long weekend in the USA-

If there was one thing that I absolutely wanted to do while I was in Canada, it was going to the USA. Keeping the goal of being the first of my family to set foot in the country in front of my eyes, I have been constantly looking for opportunities to travel around a bit in the northern parts of the States. Interstude; a startup event team organising trips for international students who are only staying in Montreal temporarily; offered a wide range of trips to choose from. One of them, the “Yes We Can” trip was particularly appealing because it was at a weekend which was not immediately followed by any assignments or exams. During the four day trip, we have visited Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and Pittsburgh, spending two nights on the bus and two nights at a hotel.

Thursdays have always been the most taxing schooldays for me, days filled with conferences and lectures back to back. However, the Thursday on the 14th of November was much more exciting compared to the rest as the convoy of Interstude buses left at midnight to Philadelphia. By the time our bus started to get more lively in the morning, we had already reached the outskirts of Philly.

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We started our day by roaming around the rooms of Independence Hall and marvelling at the sight of the Liberty bell, displayed only a few strides away on the other side of the street.

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We spent the whole day walking around Philly and managed to visit almost everything worth seeing. We even had the time to go to the “Rocky stairs” and the statue!

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Even though the whole city was breathtakingly interesting, the highlight of the day was when we went up to the tower of the City Hall. The view from the top blew away our small group, but sadly we had only eight minutes to take pictures and try to absorb as much of the view as we can, which was no small task given the immense scale of the city.

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 Following a long, but very much enjoyable day spent sightseeing and walking around, we grabbed some well deserved dinner at Jim’s Steakhouse, the place that serves undoubtedly the best cheesesteak there is in the whole of Philadelphia! Again, if you happen to be in the city, check it out, your tastebuds will be grateful!

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 After concluding our first day by drinking a couple of pints at a local pub we returned to our buses and started the next part of the trip: the journey to Washington D.C. We arrived to our hotel in Washington in the middle of the night and we were all excited to sleep in a bed for a change, even if it was only for a couple of hours. Even though the weather was a bit gloomy, Washington did not disappoint. Just like Montreal, it is a special and immense city with an atmosphere that is hard to describe, but is very pleasant and welcoming. We, of course, visited all the important sights: the White House,

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 all the memorials

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and we even found the time to go and see an NBA game between the Washington Wizards and the Cleveland Cavaliers!

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At this point, my friends in Hungary, who were following my trip on Facebook, started going mad.

The fact that we still had Pittsburgh left for Sunday was not helping either…

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 Even though we had less time in Pittsburgh compared to our previous stops, we still managed to walk through the Andy Warhol museum, a must see for anyone who is even a tiny bit interested in the artist and his works. The museum offered an amazing collection of his paintings, movies, short videos and other creations, presented in an interesting and engaging way.

After spending the rest of the day by walking around, eating a shamefully large amount of pizza and finding our way back to the buses, we set out for the journey back to Montreal. We reached our destination relatively on time, around 10’o clock on a Monday morning. I barely had the time to run home, grab a shower and make a huge cup of coffee to combat the effects of not being able to sleep on a bus before leaving my warm and welcoming flat for a conference I could not miss. After I was done with all my classes and other duties for that day, I went home and slept for hours and hours, trying to regenerate and get ready for the next couple of days at the uni.

Even if it was incredibly tiring and even if have learnt to feel an intense hate towards taking overnight buses, the “Yes We Can” trip was truly amazing and Interstate enabled me to fulfil one of the most important goals I set out for myself at the beginning of the exchange. If anyone who is going on an exchange to Montreal is reading this, go on trips! It is definitely worth it, even if Montreal is an amazing enough place in itself. I know the city is hard to leave behind, but don’t miss out on all the fun!

The conversation at Fencing about three weeks ago went something along the lines of:

NICOLA (Club President) Hey Sion, there’s this Triangular Competition coming up. Would you enter the Novice Sabre Section to represent the Club?

The Lucky Fencing Hippo!
The Lucky Fencing Hippo!

ME: But I don’t really do Sabre, I’ve quite literally picked one up for the first time today?

NICOLA: It will be fine. It’s a lot of fun.

(At this juncture I should point out Nicola is a rather lovely red headed lady and under such attack, I am powerless to defend myself.)

ME: Okay.

So that was the “How” of me being in this thing in the first place. Now, I don’t know about you, but when someone says “Novice Sabre Section” that phrase implies a couple of things. Mostly that there will be Novices  in that section of the Sabre competition.  Oh No. Like the proverbial sacrifice of old, I’d been had.

I arrived at Plascrug Leisure Centre, with all my fencing kit and a borrowed Sabre Lame that smelled like wet dog, on Saturday Morning.  It was at this point that I discovered that there wasn’t actually a Novice Sabre competition, due to me being the only idiot who had entered. So I was fighting the “Non-novices”

The first Non-Novice I fought is on the Welsh National team. Needless to say it was over pretty quickly. The only small moment of consolation in it was getting a point by scoring on the underside of my opponent’s  arm, and the subsequent look of surprise on the referee’s face.  I had another four bouts like this. I scored some points. In addition to the Welsh team  guy, my opponents were the Aber Town ladies Captain, The Aber Town Sabre Coach,  and Pawel and Harry, who both fence for the University Team.  Then we came out of the poule stage and into sudden death. Or in my case, sudden, violent death at the hands of one of the Old Boys. He was having a bad day. He’d got a cold. When he’s not having a cold he’s on the British Olympic team.  I lost that one 5-15. In my kit bag, the Lucky Hippo had the good grace to look slightly embarrassed.

Never mind they said. All the points count towards the club total for the competition, at the time, not really a consolation.  And then the question was asked. “So how long have you been doing Sabre then Sion?”  “Oh” I reply. “About six hours?”

As part of the Fencing Triangular (Town vs Gown vs Old Boys) there is a proper black tie dinner at the end of it.  And they announce the results.  And you get to meet a whole lot of interesting people. And have a nice dinner.

The results:  The Old Boys won.  By a landslide. Of course. But in the Town vs Gown things were looking close.  Very close. Complicated maths was being done.  Finally the results were in: Gown had won! The final score had gone down to decimal places for the points.

It seems every point really does count at the end of the day.

This time next week I will hopefully be in my new room at Aberystwyth.

I will hopefully be somewhere close to being unpacked, the obligatory, but tasteful posters adorning the walls, a pink gin poured and slowly steeping and the leopard settled and not eating anyone. I will be in Trefloyne Halls. I will have my own sink. I am hoping for a larger cupboard than previously. And possibly a more robust desk.

I imagine by this time I will be installing the shrine to Mark Gatiss in an appropriate place. (Please understand that the term “appropriate” is entirely subjective and that thing you are thinking is not it.)

My whole life is currently in boxes awaiting this spectacular move and I have, due to a temporary holiday from sanity, signed up to play sports with people half my age.

Yes! I am doing Sports Week.

There was no such thing as Sports Week twenty years ago. Or if there was they kept it very quiet. I can’t say that I have no concerns about it. I still feel young but every so often the creak of protest from my bones tells me that the years are marching on. Bones break and take longer to heal. Knocks that were shaken off in youth now render you crippled for days. Time. Gets you every time!

That is why I am doing Sports Week.

I shall never be this young again. Neither will you. So my darlings, enjoy yourselves. It is going to be Faberystwyth.