Thursday, August 8, 2013

UK Theatre Trip Day 8: Are You Afraid of the Dark?

By Eusyher Mendoza and Mary Castro
Midway to the top of Arthur's Seat.
Picture of the sunrise
from midway up Arthur's seat.

The night before, Jenny had an invitation for us. To hike the hill called Arthur's seat in the early morning in order to see the sunrise from the top. I jumped at the chance until I learned in order to experience this, we would had to head out by 5 am. Even though it seemed crazy, I decided to go with Jenny and Cecille. The hike seemed easy at first but as the slope got higher, I sensed this was going to be a challenge. Jenny and Cecille were very patient and helpful as we made our way to the top. When we finally made it, I was ecstatic! I am proud to say I only tripped and fell once, because that's a huge accomplishment for a klutz like me! In finally reaching the end, we realized that the long anticipated sunrise view wasn't going to happen.The top of the hill was engulfed with clouds and it was difficult to see anything besides the hillside.

On our way to Arthur's Seat.

At the top of Arthur's Seat.

Even though our plans to see the sunrise were foiled by circumstances beyond our control, I find this morning hike as one of my most prized experiences of the whole trip. I bought countless souvenirs and took thousands of pictures, but neither actions came close to the memory of how this hike made me feel. I was challenged by the journey to the top and as I reached Arthur's Seat I was humbled and inspired by my struggle and accomplishment. If you ever get the chance to visit Edinburgh, hiking up this famous hill is a must. If you're anything like me, you can't help feeling changed by the experience.

In the midst of fog at the top of Arthur's Seat

While Elsie was busy conquering Arthur's Seat, I was busying myself with getting out of bed. Once battling the shower and finding clothes that didn't smell too funky we headed down to breakfast. During our morning meeting we were informed by Gerritt that we would have to watch a show by ourselves. I'm not going to sit here and say that this did not make me feel uncomfortable. I thought being assigned to walk Edinburgh alone the previous day was hard, but this had awkward written all over it. But despite this I was ready to once again challenge myself and watch a show by myself.

The program for "Hag."
After exploring Edinburgh with a few friends and being handed an immense number of flyers, I decided to go to a show entitled Hag. According to the girl that was handing them out, the play followed the witch Baba Yaga who is infamously known to eat children. The flyer boldly stated, “I only eat the ones who deserve to be eaten.” With this very bold statement, there weren't any questions about it this was the play that I was going to see by myself.

Upon entering the venue where the play was to be held my eyes went straight for the stage. It was dark and slightly foggy. Through the fog I could just make out skulls hanging in a semi circle a broken and decaying armchair sat in the middle. If this didn't give the creepy feeling the distorted music playing in the background definitely made the hairs on the back of my neck stand. I swallow hard and forced myself to remember that this was a play and just outside these walls bustling Edinburgh was waiting for me. I took my seat in the back, due mainly to the fact that the venue was packed and not because the skulls gave me the creeps. This is where I began to feel a bit uneasy. Everyone was in pairs or groups and I seemed to be the only one who was sitting by themselves. Trying not to seem too awkward I flipped through the program that I was given at the door. Within a few minutes what little light was in the venue dimmed and the show began.

Personally, I believe that the show was great. During the show I completely forgot that I was alone and I had no problem laughing out loud. I didn't have to worry about being judged and that in itself is a great feeling. During the day, when light is still out we worry about how we look. What our faces are doing. How other people perceive us. But while watching Hag, all of those worries went out the window. I don't know if it was because the venue was so dark or because the show was that powerful that it was able to take me to another place. But whatever it did, it made me become a little more comfortable in my own skin. Afterward, as I began making my way back to the hostel I contemplated this feeling and I realized you never really know how comfortable you are around certain people until you are forced to be without them.

For some reason that day seem to have an overall theme. Starting the day with Hag, it was only right for us to end the day with a haunted walk through the tunnels of Edinburgh. Now, I know what you're saying, “It honestly can't be that bad.” But trust me, I'm the person who sleeps with a night light at the age of 21, so it's safe to say that the haunted walk was probably one of the scariest things I have been through.

Before the City of Dead tour, Molly and Garret grab a bite
from a local sausage stand.
The haunted walk was set to begin at 10p.m., so the group decided to meet at 9:30 p.m. We walked together to the meeting place for the haunted walk. As we walked you could sense the excitement that we felt. Giggling and laughing out loud, maybe a few were hiding their fear? I know I was.

We gathered around the spot where we were suppose to meet and talked excitedly about what we did that day. Finally after about 15 minutes of waiting our tour guide called our group to attention. After laying down the law and telling us the rules of his tour we followed him to our first stop. I will admit that I was a bit iffy on the tour guide. I wasn't sure we were going to have a fun time. But as we reached our first stop what little reservations I had went away. As he warned us about the steep slope he demonstrated how to go down without falling. The key to not falling, according to our tour guide, was to get into a squat like position, stand sideways while still in this squat like position, hold both your hands up and waddle your way down. By doing this I believe the tour guide was able to show the group that he was serious about his job, but also that he was inclined to bringing fun into the walk.

As we made our way through crowded streets we finally got to the opening of the tunnels. We paused there and the tour guide reminded us about the rules again. As we entered the tunnels my heart automatically began to race. The tunnels honestly looked like they were pulled from a horror story where nothing goes right. The walls were made out of grimy stones, everything echoed, and something was dripping from the ceiling. Refusing to look in either direction except straight I grabbed onto Elsie's hand and attempted to walk at a normal pace.

Group Photo Underground Edinburgh. 
I didn't seem to be the only one who seemed to be afraid throughout the group you could hear high pitched voices of girls not wanting to be left behind. Finally after what seemed to be an eternity of walking through the creepy tunnels we settled in an even creepier chamber. This is where our tour guide decides to leave and check on the back of the group. My reaction to this was a simple high pitched, “don't leave us.” But of course he had to check on the well being of the rest of the group and make sure that no ghouls had gotten them or rather they hadn't fallen on rubble.

After seeing that everyone was accounted for our tour guide went into the history of the tunnels. According to our tour guide the tunnels use to house the poorest people in Edinburgh. They pushed there due to the fact of overcrowding. During this time many died from disease, but what really got the deaths going was when the authorities refused to go down there do to the circumstances of the tunnels. Knowing that there would be no police officers and that there were only women, children, the elderly, and the sick it gave criminals free reign to do whatever they wanted.

Hearing these stories and many more would give any normal person a heart attack. Especially since you were standing in a place where most of it happened As the explaining went on our tour guide began talking about how our brains tend to play with us as we sit in pitch black. As he said this I noticed he went around turning off the lights he had set on the floor early one by one.

Our tour guide Gerry
talking about the gruesome history of Edinburgh.

My hands began to twitch and I began to internally freak out. I have always had a fear of the dark, as I stated earlier I sleep with a nigh light. Right before he turned off the last light he asked if everyone was ok with this and if anyone had any objections to speak now. It took everything out of me not to speak up, but I knew I had to do try and get over this fear. As he turned off the light I reached out and held Elsie's hand, I wasn't ready to deal with this darkness completely on my own. After 10 seconds he turned the lights back on and we continued out of the chamber. We emerged out of the tunnel and I will admit that I felt accomplished. I didn't die, I didn't get attack by any ghosts. I decided to label this experience as a win.
Overall I believe that this day was a win for me. I found myself pushing my comfort levels more than I had ever planned on this trip. I began to realize how being secure with yourself and facing your fears, no matter how petty they may seem, can only make you into a better person.

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