I thought I’d do a series of short posts outlining some of the best and most funny memories I had in some of the places I got to explore while abroad. Of course I had to start with my home base, Edinburgh.
- Misadventures and midnight scares in Old Town, Edinburgh
On one of the final nights before my departure from Scotland back to America, my friend Katherine and I went on a walk at night. It was a weeknight, around midnight. We walked by some of our favorite places in the old part of the city together, the chilly wind whipping the backs of our necks. We came upon Edinburgh Castle, and snaked around the corner of a street called The Mound, which curves beside and away from the famed castle. We paused on the shadowy street. We had heard a sudden, loud rustling just beside us in a particularly dark corner. Ironically, I had been joking with Katherine only moments before about the ghost of Mary Queen of Scots rising from the dead to murder us right there on the damp alleyway bricks. The rustling became shrill, like a scream from beyond the grave. I took off running down The Mound, laughing and screaming at the same time. Katherine tried to leave me in the dust, reminding me of this phrase: I don’t have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you!
We made it down to the better-lit city street without any encounters with a long-since-dead Scottish Queen. Katherine and I laughed and laughed as we caught our breath and continued our walk through our beloved adoptive city. We passed by Greyfriars Kirkyard linking arms. I jokingly leaned towards the (surprisingly) open gate, intending to walk through the graveyard famed for its hauntings of curious and foolish mortals. Walking through a graveyard or the Meadows at night was one of the few pointed and precise pieces of advice Edinburgh students gave me when I first arrived in Scotland. Katherine laughed and steered us away from the black mouth of the graveyard, heading towards the bright lights of Edinburgh campus.
- A Dance With A Kilt
You know those nights or events where you hit the softness of your pillow and you are so happy you went along or bothered to show up at all? This night was one of those. I think this specific feeling come with basking in your youthfulness. Maybe you had a good conversation, or met someone you were really glad you made a connection with. Maybe you just walked away feeling charged up, ready to take on the world the next morning, when the sun came up. That feeling, in particular, is rare for me, being a nearly diagnosed introvert.
I was invited by Katherine, one chilly night in early March, to a Ceilidh (pronounced “Kay-Lee”) which in Scottish Gallic means “a gathering,” which came, with time, to mean a gathering of dancers. Traditional folk music was also added to the mixture, to form what is known today as a Ceilidh. Along with pub quizzes, this was an event people had told me to attend and participate in while I was studying in Scotland, not only for its cultural value, but also its fun value. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was excited to go and experience.
For each dance, the band (who were all Edinburgh students, one of which I had met before that night) would explain the steps of the dance, giving us a general outline and having the group practice once or twice before doing it for real. I had grown up in private school, where we’d have an annual swing dance, so I felt pretty comfortable with the style of dancing I was about to learn. However, I hadn’t danced since New Years Eve, and I had forgotten how much I loved it.
I think I had made a mistake in wearing jeans. I rolled them up halfway through the night, and was thankful I had worn a sports bra under my shirt. I noticed four tall, beautiful men walk into the small room we were having our dance in on campus. They caught my attention because they were decked out like proper Scottish lads. Their kilts were bright and crisp, like they had been professionally pressed the day before. They wore stockings, button-downs and those fancy leather pouches with fur linings around their waists. You really have to see a man in a kilt to understand the gob-smacked wonder I felt when I saw men no older than I was in these intriguing, funny articles of clothing.
For the final dance to close out the night, one of the four men, the one with the red kilt and strawberry blonde locks, made a funny face at me, pulled me to him, and we commenced a fast-paced waltz. The music filled the hot air in the small room and he spun me this way and that, gripping my back and hand tightly. This dance, and that night, by far, made this whole study abroad experience for me. Knowing that I can say I danced at a Ceilidh in Scotland, and with a Scotsman, make those the best bragging rights I currently possess.
Morgan (another friend that joined us at the dance) discussed Ceilidh-ing later, as we walked back to our flats in the dark. She brought up a really good point about the fact that these men were really talented at Ceilidh dancing: “They grew up learning the classic dances,” Morgan told me as we skipped happily down Chambers Street, towards Southbridge. “In school, all the kids have to learn the dances starting in the first grade, that is why those guys especially are so good and comfortable with them.”
This realization brought me back to the awkwardness of having to learn to square dance at Rivendell, my private school. I thought the awkwardness and tension when dancing in America was due to the lack or practice and exposure to dance at a young age, unlike the way in which they do things in Scotland.
Morgan and I parted ways and I walked down the rest of the street alone, a spring in the center of both heels. I passed under the pale street lamps, their light beating down on my sticky skin and tattered shoes.