Sunday, September 25, 2016

Discover Scotland and an Intro to Celildh

This past Saturday, a few friends and I decided to take a bus tour around the highlands of Scotland – we wanted to get our first real look at the beauty this country is known for. To say we were not disappointed would be a massive understatement. The first look at the incredible landscape before us was literally breathtaking and I found myself unable to believe that I was going to be living in such an amazing place for the next five years. I have never seen grass so green in my entire life – they say all the blasted rainy days are to thank for the vibrant hues on rolling hills and mountain tops. Another lesson I have been learning since moving to Scotland is the extent to which the people here love to drink and be merry. On the tour, we learned about something the locals refer to as the “Angels share” during the maturation of whisky. According to our guide, the Angels share of whisky is the 2% of alcohol that naturally evaporates during the maturation process – the locals like to think the angels are taking their share of spirits and will therefore ensure that the whisky tastes the best it possibly can. We learned a little something about the local’s sense of humor on this tour – apparently 7% of Scots voted to make I’m Gonna Be by the Proclaimers the new national anthem. I personally think that anyone would love an excuse to scream “Ba-da-da” at the top of their lungs after a night of drinking at the local pub and claim it was for the love of their great nation.

As we went along on the tour of the highlands, the guide was sure to point out famous shooting sites for movies such as Harry Potter and shows such as Outlander. We got to see the famous steam train that was used in all of the Harry Potter movies! I stood on the platform and watched as it slowly road by, imagining how easy it would be to just get on a train going anywhere and explore the world as it gets smaller every day. We also got to visit the shooting site for the scene where Hagrid skips rocks after Buckbeak's trial. It was really exciting to see the movie kind of come to life before our eyes. Along the way, our guide pointed out the heather and crystals shimmering in the midday sunlight. He explained that ancient lore stated that one should plant these crystals to help ward off against witchcraft and other evils, while heather was known to promote positive energies. Many Celtics and Druids believed in the properties of the plants and stones all around them and would surround themselves in pure energies. This part of the tour was understated but was a really interesting glimpse into the more mystic world of Scottish Lore. At midday we broke for lunch at a fisherman’s wharf where we dined on some of the best fish and chips Scotland has to offer. We explored a secondhand book store and mingled with some locals before walking to the train platform to send off the Jacobite Steam Train.

On our way back down the highlands, we stopped for pictures in a place called Glencoe – former home of the MacDonald Clan. We took many pictures and again were completely blown away by the absolute beauty that is Scotland, especially the highlands. We traveled back through Loch Lomond, singing The Bonnie Banks o’Loch Lomond (aka you take the high road, and I’ll take the low road), a beautifully sad song about two brothers who were given a terrible choice. They were told they must pick one of them to die and one to live. The older brother decided that he would be the one to sacrifice himself because he had known love in his life and “tis better to have loved and lost than to not have loved at all”. He “took the low road” and allowed his brother a second chance at life and love. We made one final stop at the Drovers Inn, which was established in 1705 and features a myriad of stuffed creatures that greet you at the front door. The whole trip was really fantastic and well worth the money spent!

My first week of school was filled with information laden lectures and we even got to try practicing our suturing skills. On Tuesday we had the pleasure of attending a talk hosted by Damien Mander – he spoke of rhino conservation efforts currently going on in Africa. He spoke about the uphill battle faced by conservationists, especially in the face of poachers in 3rd world countries. It was truly incredible to hear him speak about the efforts he and his team are making. During the first week of classes we also got the opportunity to attend a Scottish Ceilidh (pronounced Kay-lee). There is no way to truly describe this to anyone who has not seen it but the closest thing I can think of is line dancing but about ten times more boisterous. Everyone is running into everyone else and slipping over outstretched legs but by the end of it we were all laughing together about the crazy mess of a dance we just pulled off. The end of the night was filled with sweat, bruises, and laughter and now I understand why Ceilidh is such a popular way to celebrate. Everyone gets included, regardless of who you are or who you know – by the end of the dance everyone is holding hands with new friends and laughing about how rowdy everyone got. I went into this experience not knowing anything but came out ready for the next one!

Anyways, Cheers to another week at this crazy thing we call Veterinary School.
Thanks for reading,


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Planes, Trains, and Haggis

September 15, 2016

                This past Sunday (September 4th) my mom and I began the long journey to Glasgow, Scotland via the Baltimore Washington International airport. The check in process’ and security lines were uncharacteristically quick, everything going off without a hitch. I took this to be a good indication for how the rest of the day would progress. Almost as if sensing that our day in the airport was going too perfectly our flight suddenly got delayed just enough to squash any chance of making the connection to Glasgow. The woman working at the ticket counter looked at us with eyes half glazed over and casually gestured to a pile of cards with a helpline number on them. American Airlines told us to go back out to the front desk before security to see if they could issue a new ticket for a different flight. We waited in line to speak to a representative and when we finally did the only flight they had was on British Airlines at 22:00 that night (it was 16:00 at the time). So with our bags rechecked into the correct flight and hope renewed for an uneventful travel itinerary, we moved through security for the second time that day. With five hours left before our flight, we settled in at a restaurant to wait out the evening.

                The first day in Scotland was a whirlwind – we got to the hotel around 14:30 and decided the best way to get over jet lag was to try to stay up until at least 21:00 that night (this would mean approximately 24 hours with maybe a 3 hour nap on the plane). As excited as I was to be in a new country, this day dragged by so slowly…I don’t remember the last time I was that sleep deprived. But we met up with Chloe and Gail – friends of a friend, and a future student as well – that night for a drink and late dinner. Glasgow City Centre has some amazing food – especially the Italian! Seriously, there are so many delicious Italian restaurants in Glasgow that it makes me really want to visit Italy, but for now I have my fix of incredible food.

                The next day, we decided to meet up with the other family and tour both of the campuses that we would soon call home. The veterinary school is located about 3 miles from City Centre on an old estate that was taken over by Glasgow University. In order to walk from the dorm halls to campus you need to take a scenic route around a massive sports complex to this little stone bridge that spans the Kelvin River. I can just imagine wandering around the estate walking a foster dog or just walking to enjoy a rare Scottish sunny day. I will say the air is a tad more humid than anticipated – the air seems to stick to your skin like a thin sheen of moisture that never quite leaves. It makes the slight chill to the air seem warmer but I’m growing more and more accustomed to the feeling as the days go on. I love the weather so far, even all the rain – it means the earth almost seems to be teeming with life all around. I can see why people love this country – the grass is truly always greener on the Scottish side. Main campus was beautiful in a completely different way – a 1451 old architecture kind of way. The buildings are gorgeous and look like something straight out of Harry Potter – I can see why people compare the buildings to Hogwarts. As I walked through old stone archways and took pictures of immense cathedral-esk towers, I began to see my future unfold in front of me – suddenly the next 5 years seemed to make perfect sense and I got the feeling that I was exactly where I was supposed to be in that moment. There was a growing ball of tension and fear in my stomach as I tried to swallow the fact that I was moving to a new country where I did not know more than 3 people in order to pursue my dreams. They say if your dreams don’t scare you they aren’t big enough – well this dream is definitely going to prove to be a big one, full of twists, turns, and unbelievable adventure. And for sure some interesting food - like the Blaggis patty I tried this week (blood pudding mixed with pureed haggis, formed into a patty and pan-fried), which was not bad once you get past the mental block of what you’re eating.

Blaggis Pudding - Rachel :)

Thank you for reading. This blog will serve as a journal for all adventures, interesting foods, and all the new directions this crazy life will take me in the next five years.

- Dani