The Welcome Parade (…not for me, exactly)

Last Thursday, September 16th, was the feast day of St. Ninian. I’ve heard of St. Ninian before—in fact there’s a cathedral on campus at StFX (my university back home) dedicated to him—but I’ve never exactly given him much thought. But gee, he must be popular here.

Actually I would be more accurate in saying that St. Ninian’s Day was celebrated in a very big way in Edinburgh this year. Last Thursday was when the Pope visited Edinburgh as part of his state visit to the UK. (It was big enough news to headline the CBC broadcast that night, I checked.) He dropped into Scotland for a quick reception with the Queen and then zipped over to see the Bishop, and boy did he make a splash.

I was one of the thousands of people who lined Princes Street to see the St. Ninian’s Day parade, although unfortunately I showed up near the end and only caught the pipers. At least I was in good time to see the man of the hour, who followed the parade route half and hour later in the popemobile with his legions of security and Cardinals. For the few seconds that I saw the Pope he looked very happy to be in Scotland, smiling and waving and even wearing a bit of tartan.

So this was my introduction to Edinburgh, and I must say that I’m also having a good time here. My first week was a bit chaotic. Not being a fresher (the local term for frosh/first years) I decided to forgo most of the orientation activities and settled for the more disorienting experience of figuring out the Scottish banking system and the Edinburgh streetscape. In retrospect, a tour of campus or a night out at a ceilidh (a traditional Scottish social) would have done me some good, but I know that everything to do with school and socializing will sort itself out soon enough.

I did manage a few modest accomplishments in my first week. My university flat at College Wynd has been transformed from Spartan stucco into something a lot more comfortable. There are four of us living here, three visiting students (from Toronto, South Dakota, and Freibugh, Germany) and one fresher from Glasgow. The plumbing is a little temperamental, but we have a van Gogh poster in the kitchen and one of my flat mates loves to bake! I have no doubt I’ll enjoy living here.

And this is how my year in Edinburgh begins: with pipers, posters, and the Pope on Princes Street. Kudos to St. Ninian, he made my week.