This past Saturday, I took a trip with my study abroad group to visit the Southern Highlands, specifically the towns of Comrie and Killin. The weather was absolutely perfect (a rare thing here!). For such a short drive (about 1.5 hours), the scenery change was dramatic. Instead of the bustle of Edinburgh and the green rolling hills, we began to see smaller towns, more open expanses and farms, and brownish hills that were apparently covered in heather, a purple flowering plant that is now losing those purple petals. Now, there aren’t the same kinds of mountains that you see in the Sierra Nevadas, say. We didn’t drive by towering, snow-capped peaks that look like that rose from the Earth just yesterday. The mountains in Scotland are older (wiser you might say), a little rounded at the corners, but still so beautiful!
While walking home from class the other day in the rain, with my woolen scarf wrapped tightly around my neck, my rain boots sloshing in the puddles, I though about how different this is than Pomona. In Claremont, at the slightest hint of a rain drop, every one starts running around in circles, unsure how to handle this new development. In Edinburgh, it’s as if the rain isn’t even there. Gusts of wind up to 40 mph – was that a breeze I felt? As I get blown into the street, fearing for my life while the seemingly soulless drivers bare down on me as if I am not a valuable human life (or a hefty jail sentence), everyone else walks merrily along, somehow without their hair blowing into a veritable tornado and blocking all hopes of sight (as I have seen, but not experienced – this short hair business is a godsend). Weather is just ignored here – even though people can’t help talking constantly about how bad it is. But honestly, there have been some really nice days so far.
Freshers’ Week has wound down. And the rousing Big Ceilidh on Friday night was the highlight of my weekend. So. Much. Fun! I don’t even know how to describe it. You’re whipped, twirled, and danced around for hours to the liveliest Scottish music you can think of – and it gets faster as time goes on! In my fav dance of the night, we were in groups of 8 (four couples) with the couples across from each other doing the same moves at the same time. My partner of the night, a bright young Scottish fresher, knew all the dances and carried me through this one very well. And I mean literally carried. At the end of each round, he had to pick me up and twirl me round and round for 16 beats. And he did it every time! Very impressive. I felt like such a lady!
Remember your first week freshman year? That’s alright, neither do I. There is so much to do, so many people stealing a piece of your attention, so many new things to see that it all becomes a blur. Now take whatever your freshman orientation week was like and multiply that by about 100 – I give you Freshers’ Weeks at University of Edinburgh. For ten straight days, at any given moment there are at least 5 different things you could be doing, from city tours to society events to parties to gigs to actually doing your three weeks of laundry (guess what I finally did!).You can’t even consider doing it all, and if you don’t plan it right, you’ll miss all the good stuff! Thank god I’m not actually a freshman, or I’d probably be lying on my bed in a comatose state.
This week has not been the quite the intensive sightseeing march the previous 10 days have been. This has left more time for wanderings and for essentially exploring the city in which I will be spending the next 3 and half months! Although I’m still spending most of my time with the Pomona group, and I haven’t yet moved into my flat with other Scottish or international students, I am starting to feel more a part of the bustle of the city. Rather than looking at a map at every street corner, I’m developing a sense of the city: where the streets go, which names they inexplicably change to at each block (a word they apparently don’t have here), and even some shortcuts between university buildings. I haven’t ventured to the store for food yet (an undertaking I may attempt tomorrow. . . or Saturday. . .), but when I walk around the city, I feel more comfortable and at home everday. I might even fit in! (a little bit).
As the title indicates, today Tom took us to Fife! Fife is the area just north across the firth of the river Forth (I know, who thought of these name?) from Edinburgh. It was so gorgeous – the classic British coastal towns you see in pictures. First, we stopped on our drive to look out across the Forth at the two bridges that cross it. One is a rail bridge built in the 1800s that even now is an engineering feat. It’s also quite beautiful!
Today our group got together and made the trek to the top of Arthur’s Seat. It was only about a 30 min walk, but pretty steep! Once we got to the top, the view of the city and the sea was gorgeous. The wind was pretty strong though… It was like a hurricane! Classic Scotland.
We hiked back down, stopping by some ruins on the way, and then made our way to the Royal Botanic Garden, a couple miles to the north. It took a while to get there, but the gardens were beautiful. The even had a section from the Americas, and we saw some little Sequoia trees. I came all the way from California to Scotland to see some California trees!
On the way back, Danielle, LaMarcus, and I decided to take the bus. We stared at the list of lines at the stop for a while, looked for familiar names, and chose the one we thought might get us close. We chose wisely! We got on, ran up to the second level, and plopped down right in the front with the big windows. The view from the bus is so different! It was really fun to be able to watch from so high, and from the actual street! I’m still not sure how I feel about this left side of the road thing.