Wow, the past week as flown by so fast. Since I last wrote, I have done so many incredible things. On Friday July 25, we visited the IBERS BEACON Bio-Refining Center. This was pretty interesting. We talked about sustainable energy and the more eco-friendly products that they are creating in their research. It was a cool presentation. They currently have a project in which they produce meat, using all eco-friendly processes (including driving it to the super market). For this project, they use genetically engineered grass to feed the cows. Some of the grass is cut and harvested and then turned into the the cardboard-like carton that they meat is stored in and oils from the grass are used to create a bio-degradable plastic wrap. They also have a method of creating ethanol from the grass which they use to fuel the car that drives the meat to the supermarket. The entire process is done using green energy and products, and it was really neat to see. Friday night we went to a BBQ on the beach with some Brazilian exchange students here at Aber. This was really fun to do. The Brazilians here are all part of a language immersion program. Some of the students have been at Aber for over a year and are getting ready to head home, while others had arrived in Aber roughly the same time as us. There was a very interesting mix of English and Portuguese on the beach, but it was a neat cultural experience.
On Saturday, July 26, we traveled to a town called Hay-on-Wye. In this town there are over thirty bookstores. Most of these are second hand books stores. It was so cool. We spent all day perusing all of these old books and seeing incredibly ancient and historic pieces. The worst part was knowing that we couldn’t buy many books because we have to fit them in our suitcases. I could have easily spent over five hundred dollars in this town had I had the money or the space in my luggage. Regardless, it was really fun to just peruse the books and be surrounded by that amazing old book smell. It was definitely a nerd’s paradise. The best find I came across was a copy of a Welsh newspaper, “The Daily Mirror” from two days after the Titanic’s sinking. Even though it’s not an original, it’s still really cool to see snapshot of this tragedy in history. On Saturday night, we decided to hike up Constitution Hill in Aber to watch the sunset. Only it was very overcast of Saturday, so instead of seeing a sunset we actually got rained on. It was a really fun adventure though. Before it started to rain, we were able to actually see the rain let less loose over the ocean and move towards us. It was one of the coolest things I have ever seen.
On Monday, July 28, we had a guided tour through the Ynylas Sand Dunes. This was a really neat tour. Our guide was incredibly knowledgable. She pointed out several really interesting plants and animals. We learned that rabbits are actually an essential part of sand dunes. They create burrows in the dunes and destabilize the sand, preventing grass from completely taking over the dunes. We also learned that during the World Wars, the British army tested bombs by firing them at the dunes. To this day they sometimes still find bombs buried in the dunes and they have to call bomb squad to detonate them. Its just such an interesting thought that they once tested bombs in an environment that is now protected by the government. After the tour through the dunes, we walked through Borth Bog and learned about the bog habitat and learned local legends that had to do with the bog. The bog habitat itself was really interesting. There is so much water trapped under the surface that it was a lot like walking on a water mattress. If one person were to jump up and land on the bog, it would make the rest of the ground wobble. It was really cool and amusing. On Monday evening, we had a traditional Welsh woman come to our flat to teach us how to make Welsh cakes. For all who don’t know, Welsh cakes may be one of the best desserts in the world– at least in Wales. The entire group as become obsessed with Welsh cakes, and I am so glad that I have two recipes to make them from when I get home. Look out Batesville, I am going to be showering you all with Welsh cakes!
On Tuesday, July 29, we went to Devil’s Bridge. This is an very interesting piece of folklore. The story goes that there was a woman in the 1100s who’s cow had crossed over the river and she couldn’t get across to retrieve it. The Devil appeared to her and offered to build her a bridge, with one condition. He would steal the soul of the first living thing to cross the bridge. She tells him build the bridge so she could get her cow back. The next day, she returns to the river and finds the bridge to have been built and sees her cow across the way. The Devil then reappears reminding her that the the soul of the first living thing to cross would belong to him. Standing at the edge of the bridge, the woman threw a loaf of bread across the river and her dog went scampering across the bridge. The Devil was furious and embarrassed because he had been outsmarted by a Welsh woman. Supposedly, the Devil never returned to Wales after the incident. After Devil’s bridge we went to the Hafod estate. This was an estate owned by an incredibly wealthy Welsh man in the 1700s. The grounds of the estate is roughly 500 acres. The house of the estate no longer stands. It was destroyed in the 1950s by a wildlife conservation team, but the Hafod trust has been slowly restoring the walk ways of the grounds themselves. Currently, over seven miles of the trails have been restored. On our tour we walked roughly a mile, and didn’t even touch the surface of the beauty on the grounds. It was a spectacular walk. After going the Hafod Estate we got our first “real’ fish and chips of the trip from a genuine “chipey”. It was really good, but there was so much food. The piece of cod was easily bigger than my face and the amount of fries was comparable to a large fry at Five Guys’. After dinner, we went to the theater to see Sister Act. I just really love that show. I found it really interesting that all of the actors were doing American accents in the show. Even more interesting was that none of us realized this until intermission. It just seemed so normal for us to hear the American accents, that we thought nothing of it.
Today we went to the Center for Alternative Technology. This was an interesting morning. We sat through a lecture about how to create a better and more sustainable earth. It was very interesting to see how much our opinions changed from one place of America to another. Not one of us could agree on the proper solution for reducing carbon emissions in the world. In the afternoon we visited the Museum of Modern Art were we met one of the artists who’s work was on display. That was a really cool experience. She shared her process for creating her paintings and really gave us a glimpse of her life. For dinner we ate pizza at one of the best pizza places in the UK (supposedly). The pizza was nothing like American pizza. All of us spent dinner talking about how excited we are for returning to college towns that deliver pizza at almost all hours of the night. Plus, the pizza here is quite different. There is a different type of tomato sauce and the crust is way too thin. After my pizza today, I am definitely looking forward to Greeks Pizza in Muncie.
That’s all for now. Its so sad to think that I have tomorrow and Friday left in Wales. This trip has in general flown by. It feels like I just arrived in Cardiff, and now I’m almost done with the Aber portion of the trip. The scarier part is knowing that the next two days will go by even faster. I will post pictures from this past week/weekend tomorrow. For now I will be catching some shut eye.