Settling In

I’ve been asked several times in the past couple weeks, mostly by hopelessly lost tourists looking for directions, whether I live here. And I’m never really sure how to answer. I mean, I do live here, at least temporarily, although I’m not from here. I’m not Scottish, I didn’t grow up in Edinburgh, and I still sometimes have trouble understanding that (sexy) Scottish brogue. But in terms of giving directions, I know the city well enough now that I can usually help them out, at least a little bit.

Fall colours  Walking up the Salisbury Crags

This always gets me thinking. When people talk about study abroad, they almost always touch on “immersing yourself” in the culture (at least they do at a liberal arts haven like Pomona). And ever since I got here, I’ve worried about whether I’m “immersing” myself, however much you truly can in another English-speaking country. I may have not adopted a Scottish accent (yet) or met the Scottish love of my life, but when tourists mistake me for a local, I realize that I am no longer just a sightseer. I’ve reached that (slightly awkward) balance somewhere between local and tourist. I know my way around, I no longer have a desperate need to see all the sights, and I can get away with hiding my American-ness, at least until I open my mouth. I’ll never be able to call myself Scottish, but that doesn’t mean Edinburgh doesn’t feel like a home.

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A Little Bit of Real Life (Ugh.)

Fall in the Meadows

Reading this blog-of-sorts, you might be under the impression that I’m not studying abroad, that I’ve actually taken the semester off to have fun, meet new people, and see new things. And two days ago, I might have said you’re kinda right. Procrastination has been my best friend this past 6 weeks. Without any assessment or accountability for my work, it gets harder and harder to convince myself to do the work now rather than later, especially when there’s way more fun things calling your name!

Totoro and Finn!  Getting ready to audition for the next James Bond

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I left my heart on the Isle of Skye

Last weekend, my friend Cara and I boarded a bus for the Isle of Skye. Those outside Scotland might not know what or where the Isle of Skye is. Don’t worry, neither did I. Before I arrived in Edinburgh, all I knew was that “if you don’t go to the Isle of Skye, you’ve wasted your study abroad” (according to past Pomona-program students). Woah man, woah. That’s a little serious. I’m sure your term isn’t completely wasted….

The highlands

But no. I was wrong. It is completely wasted. Skye is an island off the northwestern coast of Scotland, the northern most island of the inner Hebrides (if that means anything to you). It is one of the (dwindling) remaining areas of Scotland where at least half the population can speak Gaelic, but there are probably more sheep on the island than people. Legitimately. So many cute sheepie baas!

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One is Stirling and the other… honeycomb?

After two straight weeks of glorious, inexplicable, and (probably) unprecedented sun, it has indeed begun to rain. And get quite cold. The forecast for the next two weeks is just rain, rain, and more rain. But it wouldn’t be Scotland without rain and cold! In a similar vein, our trip to Linlithgow and Stirling yesterday with the Pomona group was appropriately cold and wet. Tom was unable to come with us, but we had Jim as our trusty guide. With me wrapped up in my wool scarf, woolen socks, boots, gloves, and my big coat, we set off into the wild beyond!

View from Stirling Castle Hill

First stop: Linlithgow Palace, built throughout the 13th to 17th centuries as a fort and then a royal residence. Although it is now a ruin, it once “dominated the landscape,” as Jim told us. And I could see that! It’s over 5 stories high, full of room on top of room. Imagine seeing that in the 1600s.

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Taste of the Highlands

As a culmination to their trip to Scotland, my parents and I stayed in a little town called Pitlochry in the Highlands for the weekend. I say little town, because it was about five blocks, but for the highlands that’s a BFD. Pitlochry is probably one of the larger towns in the center-ly (non-coastal) area of the highlands. So adorable!

The Blair Atholl Castle

We took a bit of a round-about way to get there on some wee roads that some might call paths (much to the chagrin of my poor driving father). First stop: the Falkirk Wheel. Apparently some sort of mechanical/civil engineering marvel, it’s basically a canal that lifts the boats 80 feet in the air instead of using 11 locks or somesuch. Pretty impressive actually! We even got to see it work and shtuff.

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Skipping class is a type of field trip…

Last Wednesday, as the title suggests, I took some liberties with my class attendance and took a driving trip southeast of Edinburgh (with the parental units, of course – don’t even ask about the left-side driving business). I’m sure Paedar was so disappointed with my absence. But like I said, priorities!

Hay fields and building clouds  The wild coast

I’ll let the photos do most of the talking on this one. We saw the gorgeous (and strictly no-pictures-inside) Rosslyn Chapel – where some of the DaVinci Code took place, apparently. The brain-child of some William Sinclair, 1st Earl of Caithness, the chapel is a testament to his obsessive behavior. The stone carving throughout the inside is spectacular (look it up), and there are subtle Christian, Pagan, and Knights of Templar symbols everywhere. And… wait for it…. they had a CAT. A black one with white mittens. Named William. It passes the test.

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The Hard-Knock Tourist Life

It’s been a wee while, I know. To be fair, my classes are actually expecting me to do work now. A bummer, to say the least (and completely unexpected!). And my parents have come to visit. So instead of spending my time on my classes, I’ve been spending time with them! My priorities have never been straighter.

View from Edinburgh Castle

With them here, I’ve been able to do all the touristy (and by touristy I mean costs-money) things around Edinburgh that I never got to do! I also get to show off all the new-found knowledge that Tom and his endless Scottish facts have instilled in me. Gives me a bit of a confidence boost, until they start asking questions that I can’t answer…

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High on the Highlands

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!

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Weather? What weather?

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.

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Haggis, Neeps, and What??

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!

  

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