Chapter 1: ABC’s of Edinburgh

“But seas between us braid hae roard sin auld lang syne.” -Robert Burns

“But seas between us broad have roared since times long past.” In this case, that sea would be the Atlantic which separates myself from loved ones who are waiting for me from 3,804.27 miles away. Two weeks ago between some see you laters, many final embraces, and even a Leaving on a Jet Plane serenade, I set off to Edinburgh in order to begin unfolding.

Unfolding. Unfolding a self that has been here all along. Unfolding a culture and a country and a history that I’m connected to. And unfolding a field (English Literature) in order to connect all of these elements together.

I guess this place will suffice for all of that.
I guess this place will suffice for all of that.

For those wondering about the adjustment period, there are three simple things you need to be aware of in Edinburgh. The ABC’s, really.

Atmosphere, Beer, Ceilidhs

Atmosphere. 

Unlike many other cities, Edinburgh’s time runs almost backwards. That is, everything goes by very slowly. Instead of the normal hustle and bustle of a big city or even the busy college student, it operates on a strictly 9-5 basis. Often I found myself trying to compete tasks, such as setting up a bank account and having to go back three or four times to complete it. Or registering for classes two days before they start and even then having the option to do it later. For me, this was the hardest change to make. I’m very much a go go go person, and being here is helping me reevaluate why I feel that is necessary. I’ve learned that students here seem happier because of how their time is managed, so this change will be much needed.

Beer

IMG_4095Yes, alcohol. I was expecting a drinking culture to exist, but this was even a shocker to me. I come from a school with a prominent drinking culture, so I had an idea of how that would translate to a country with one as well. But here, drinking is the basis for many social events, even within the school. It isn’t even the alcohol consumption that is shocking, it’s that people tend to watch out for each other much more than back home. The community, with or without alcohol, in Edinburgh far outperforms any city I’ve been to. People seek out the kindness of others and ensure that each person feels welcomed. This attitude has contributed to the positive adjustment to my new home.

Ceilidh

Possibly my favorite events that I have been to in Edinburgh are the ceilidhs. Ceilidhs are traditional Scottish set dances that involve spinning, running into people, jumping, and everything else in between. They are high energy, exhausting, but so much more fun than any type of dance I’ve been to. Everyone learns the dances and participates. It is a great way to connect traditional Scottish music and culture to everyday people.

And they end beautifully.

After the last dance called Strip the Willow (I’ll find a video another day), everyone gathers in a huge circle and joins hands to sing Aud Lang Syne. In the circle, everyone is connected and sharing the special moment. And even at the end when you charge to the center of the circle in and out, no one lets go. You hold onto your new and old friends, strangers, and neighbors until the end. So far ceilidhs are where I have felt most at home in Scotland because they embody the essence of a community.

ceilidh

So to answer Robert Burn’s question,

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne! 

Definitely not. Friends and family at home will not be forgotten in my time here these next 9 months. And the new ones I’m about to make will continue to be around for aud lang syne.

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