On Friday there was an archaeological fieldtrip to Inchmahome Priority, which is isolated on an island in the middle of Menteith Lake, and Bannock Burn where Robert the Bruce defeated the English securing Scottish independence for a time at least. At Inchmahome a seven-minute boat trip dropped you into this beautiful and surreal island setting, which was centered on the beautiful ruins. We were given a tour and allowed to wander the island before setting off to our next destination. The sun was setting and the wind had picked up when we arrived at the Bannock Burn visitors center after we had got lost. We watched a movie explaining the importance and the strategy of the battle before moving outside to see the statue of Robert the Bruce and the ‘Scottish standard’, which looked like a giant flag pole/ships mast flying the Scottish flag and topped with an axe head.
Archive for September 2007
Everywhere you go there is a local insult. In the UK (or perhaps just in Scotland) the insult is NED, which is an acronym meaning non-educated delinquent; in other words a soccer hooligan. Apart from their behavior how can one identify a NED (please remember this is a stereotype told to me by local)? The standard apparel for the NED is track pants (or ‘joggy bottoms’) a soccer jersey (the Celtics or the Rangers in Glasgow), a lot of jewelry and the haircut of a famous footballer (soccer player- the most popular being a small Mohawk with the sides shaved). Now do NOT call anyone a NED as it is a serious insult; second, if the receiver of the insult is a NED they have the reputation of fighting a lot. According to the locals the usual friendly competition between rival soccer teams is tainted by the overflow of religious unrest between Catholics and Protestants. Note that I have not seen any of this hostility personally. I have personally seen all “Glasgwegians” unite together when Scotland beat out France, which was the most incredible sports-based celebration I have ever seen in my life.
My programme orientation starts tomorrow so the focus of my posts will shift to archaeology.
Everyone I talked to before I left warned me about culture shock and indeed I have felt it. First, it is easy to detect like when you look the wrong way for traffic; however, you do learn the local curses this way from the angered drivers. The regional dialect comes into play when words like hello yes and little become hi-yah aye and wee. The weather also doesn’t help however because of my six years in the Maritimes I barely notice how fickle Mother Nature seems to be. Currency sizes vary from nation to nation and soon you find yourself fumbling over change in a store or chippy (chip shop) with the grace of a teen aged boy attempting to undo a bra mid make-out session.
I am in awe over the beauty of Glasgow. Many times I find myself stunned by the stonework in the downtown that surrounds the everyday institutions we frequent. I also continue to disbelieve that such a beautiful campus would be functioning little alone allow ME to attend University of Glasgow tower. The subway is also incredibly efficient with a train arriving every 8-6 minutes with the later for busy stops. It that kind of efficiency that kept the British Empire going, if only some of their banks would follow suit.
Yesterday I traveled to Stirling castle and the Glengoyne whisky distillery. It was raining, (surprise, surprise) and therefore difficult to snap off good shots but I did manage to clean up some goodies (I’m attempting to attach one but please be patient as I’m still new at this). Stirling caste was beautiful and I especially like the beautifully painted ‘Chapel Royal’ and the wall statues.
Glengoyne was very educational as I learned a great deal about single unpeated malt whisky. The tour guide used the running joke “this is how you make it at home” but the more he described the process the more clear it became it is near impossible to do (i.e. access to 1000 liters of water per bottle of whisky produced). I also grabbed a ‘baby bottle of booze’ of single cask whisky, which means that all of the booze came from one cask and not a mixture of three casks (from within the same distillery) like all other single malts. As it is a ‘single cask’ it is very expensive as 65% of all the liquor evaporates from the cask that means that there isn’t much to go around and that specific and unique taste will never be produced again! I think I’ll save it for my wedding day.
The past few days have been crazy. International student orientation seminars continue and today hosted the ‘travel’ portion as well as a ‘miscellaneous’ portion that included banking police et cetera. An energetic fellow from the adventure travel company ‘Haggis’, which specializes in Scottish trips, hosted the travel seminar. In the end they held a competition and I volunteered to compete. The competition was to find the best imitation of Sean Connery and luckily I was well versed as I often repeat lines from SNL’s sketch on ‘celebrity jeopardy’ and I won a three days trip to the Scottish of Island of Skye (a 89LB value)! Also during this competition I wore a shirt my sister gave me which portrays a lumberjack and cut-log text that reads “Trust me, I’m Canadian” which also sparked numerous conversations after the seminar was over.
Later I hoped on a bus tour of Glasgow that was interesting, educational and it also helped me get my bearings of the city better. I did not bring my camera as I thought I had a social event (involving alcohol) after, but the event was actually two hours later! Now as there is some free time I can finally finish unpacking.
Oh I mentioned the REAL name of the travel company cause they gave me free stuff. Thats right, for the right price I’ll sellout!
Well the past few days have been a whirlwind. I’ve hiked through Glasgow to the point that my feet hurt. I travel mostly with my American friend who I met at the airport. We have hit up the Merchant City that claims the second best shopping in the UK. We have also taken about four trips on the Glasgow subway system (SPT) and are gradually getting our bearings. Last night we received insider info on the city from a grad student who just finished up. She is from Colorado and she showed us some local pubs and some clubs, which allows you to drink later when the pubs close down. My ‘accent’ and expressions has me sticking out like a sore thumb but it makes me seem exotic and people always want to know where I’m from and why I’m here. One of these conversations happened at a post bar eatery where I had my first fried pizza slice. Yes it’s exactly what it sounds like and then you throw some vinegar on it. This innovation brought to you by the same people who invented the deep fried mars bar. Some things seem to be universal and greasy carb-heavy food seems to mix with boose anywhere you go.
I placed my head against the provided pillow and attempted to fall asleep. Even with noise reducing headphones on, an airplane is very difficult place to sleep. The pillowcase seems to be made from the same material/webbing as the liner of male swimming trunks (which I bluntly called ‘ball catcher’). It was four hours into my flight and breakfast was going to be served soon. After my single serving meal we began our descended through the ocean of cotton clouds. Scotland’s beauty was observable and undeniable. Pastures with sheep, golf courses with carts that resembled scuttling beetles and tree lined roads dissected the countryside landscape. We arrived in Glasgow late due to a problem in Canada with someone’s chair bluntly refused to remain in the ‘upright and locked position’. The plane landed safely and soon we were being herded through customs like lambs to the slaughter. Without getting into security details lets just say it is advantageous to own a EU passport. I collected my luggage and moved on into the arrival ‘greeting’ area where I meet volunteers from the Glasgow International student orientation programme. They arranged a bus for myself and two American students to Glasgow where we were passed off to a university representative who gave us a brief tour and dropped us off at our respective areas of residence. I had a brief nap before I met up with one of the Americans and we visited a pub where we watched rugby, ate fish and chips and drank Tennants beer. So this is Scotland.