Try Pronouncing Tsitsikamma…

Come on. I dare you!

Okay I’ll tell you. Sound it out! Its pronounced: “one-of-the-most-beautiful-places-I’ve-been-to-yet”.

5 of us girls packed ourselves into our Toyota Corolla and set out for an adventure. And an adventure it was.

We drove 3 hours to Plettenberg Bay and visited a wonderful farmers market! The market was set up in the trees which so many beautiful pastries, fresh-squeezed juice, and bread stands. We had a little of what seemed like everything and then made our way over to the craft market that was right next door. Here you had so many different types of goods, ranging from vintage finds to handmade wooden giraffes. There was plenty to look at and we took our time!

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Our next stop was Knysna Head overlook. This had to be the most breathtaking view I ever seen in my entire life. I would compare it to when my family took grandma to Hawaii and we had a huge cliff beyond the backyard that overlooked the ocean. Knysna was a huge drop down the ocean which rocks jetting out everywhere. The waves would come in and you would have a beautiful color combination of the tan rocks, the deep blue ocean and the White Sea foam. Rather than me trying to explain this, why don’t I just show you.

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Our accommodation for the weekend was what truly made the trip so special I believe. We stayed at Bethany Farm which was a little more inland. Jacks, the farm owner, gave us impeccable directions to get to the farm which was quite secluded in a valley. When we arrived to the farm we were greeted by his dog and many cats. We had our own house on the property with several amenities. The house was quite gorgeous, but there was no heating system and the lights ran on solar power so they were quite dim. This combination lead to an interesting night. To top it off, the only wifi available on the farm was underneath a tree directly in the middle of the two houses. With no wifi, three layers of clothes, blankets wrapped around us and what seemed like 20 candles lit on the table of the living room, we did what all 20-something girls would do. We grabbed that old guitar off the wall and improvised our way through “Baby” by Justin Bieber.

The following day was full of adventure and excitement. It began with a lovely visit to a small restaurant for breakfast. After we were fed we headed towards the Storm River. When we got to the coast I was in awe. I am used to the 2 or 3 foot waves off the Port Elizabeth beach but here there were waves reaching 10-13 feet at least. They were incredibly beautiful and carried so much power.

We made our way to the Untouched Adventures gazebo and got into our wetsuits not knowing what would lie ahead. We were going kayaking! After a small “lesson”, Meagan and I got into the kayak both having no knowledge on how exactly to kayak. And with that we kayaked across the waves of the Indian Ocean. That’s right. We went on part of the ocean. (ahhhhh!!!!!!) We followed our way down the river that was in the bottom of a small canyon. The views were absolutely gorgeous! Halfway through the trip we docked our kayaks on the rocky island and got onto our lilos (rafts). We used our hands to paddle ourselves down the river and tried not to realize how blue they were turning. We asked the guide who said the water was around 8 degrees Celsius today (46 degrees F) but in the summer it can get up to 24 degrees C (75 degrees F). So moral of the story, go in the summer.

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We climbed the suspension bridges and the rocks that sat on the coast giving a spectacular view of the ocean. On Sunday morning we had to say goodbye to our beautiful farm and head back to PE. Memories were made.

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King Arthur and Merlin

Guys, I am in the land of ancient kings and castles. Naturally, I’m taking a class that is essentially a crash-course in the last millennium of Scotland’s history. We finished the Wars of Independence last week (far more dramatic than even Braveheart paints them) and went over the entire Scottish Reformation in one lecture. Fun fact, apparently kings from Robert the Bruce to James VI (centuries later) quote the unbroken line of 113 Scottish kings. One hundred and thirteen at the time of Robert the Bruce, and no more or less during James VI’s reign.

Questionable as that statement is, it illustrates the sheer power of the mythology of this ancient kingdom. Edinburgh Castle is still an active  garrison, and rally leaders for the second Independence Referendum quote the 700-year-old Declaration of Arbroath. In its self-checkout stations and contactless payment options, Scotland is very modern, but in other ways, it’s ancient to a level that is hard for my American mind to grasp.

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Meanwhile, it’s been a while since I posted. It’s a gap I didn’t intend before lectures swept me up into a whirlwind of note-taking and then buried me under a pile of reading. On top of that, there’s the realities of being in another country, as well as my dreams of hiking the Highlands and spending nights at trad music sessions. This madness has made me very aware of my personality and limitations.

For example, I can only really attend one, at max two, social events a day. This includes choir rehearsals and even the tutorials required for my courses. Otherwise, a variety of things can happen. I can end up feeling like my nervous system is frizzing. Often I zone out and stare blankly without really hearing or saying anything. Sometimes I get so tired that everything is extremely funny. This overwhelm has been a constant ever since I can remember, but I’ve always wondered, why do I respond this way?

For a long time, I thought I got overwhelmed so easily because I’m an introvert. Introversion explains why I love to sit quietly and research and why I prefer to socialize in small groups. That makes sense. But all of my research into introversion revealed that while large crowds and a rapid series of events can drain introverts, it did not indicate that these situations could overwhelm one’s entire body.

I found my answer in the university library. A few years ago, my dad mentioned the idea of a highly sensitive person (someone who happens to sense and feel everything more intensely) in passing. So when I saw a book titled – you guessed it – The Highly Sensitive Person on the shelf, I was drawn to it – especially since the subtitle was “how to thrive when the world overwhelms you.” Jangled by a day of walking up and down bustling Byers Road, I curled up in my quiet room to read it.

Elaine N. Aron’s book, backed up by years of scientific and psychological research, assured me that I am not, in fact, crazy. Fifteen to twenty percent of the population shares the same intense sensitivity that seems to dominate my life. More people than I could have imagined have the same tendency to pick up on the mood of every person in the room, take criticism to heart, and bounce off the walls after one cup of coffee.

I’ve often considered a career as a hermit. Some of us HSP’s do end up retreating. However, some of us brave the huge world of crowds of people, of drama that affects us intensely, and even scents that overwhelm our consciousness. Sometimes we go on to do great things.

In her psychological framework, Elaine refers to us as the king’s advisors. Behind the scenes of the reigns of kings like Malcolm I and Robert the Bruce, and even the legendary King Arthur, there were the Merlins, the people who would stop and check and guide their brave king to victory. Behind the great revolutions (and the not-so-great ones) of the last four centuries are those to whom the injustice to the people cannot be ignored, and they must understand it, they must write the great texts, they must change the world.

I don’t claim to know the neurological makeup of every great writer and thinker of history, nor do I necessarily commend all of their actions. However, it’s really exciting to find people like me in a historical record full of great adventurous men. My high sensitivity now seems more like a superpower – like a Spidey Sense!

Granted, I’m still a little annoyed that the mere passing of a motorcycle makes me flinch. It’s rather disappointing to be knackered after only an hour walking around Edinburgh Castle. However, I have a greater understanding of my strengths. My thin skin means I can empathize intensely. My acute hearing means that when the fire alarm goes off down the block, I hear it. And, least practical but best side effect, I can taste everything in my favorite mocha.

 


Alice Major

SCOTLAND – UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW, 2018 FALL

Alice Major is studying at the University of Glasgow in Glasgow, Scotland. She is a double major, focusing mostly on music and adding history because history is cool. Study abroad is Alice’s first time out of the country, and she hopes to come home in one piece and with a wicked Scottish accent.

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