Surprise Visitor and Art in Edinburgh

Dearest Readers,

Last week, my friend from home – I’ll call her K – told me with about two days to spare that her family is vacationing in Scotland, and we would be able to see each other. I was thrilled, and certainly surprised, since I had no idea her family was even planning on vacationing.

So on Friday, I hopped a train to Edinburgh, picked K up at a coffee shop, and we wandered around. We had no real plans. She’d seen Edinburgh Castle already, and was mostly just looking for a fun day. So we ate more than we should have – I definitely recommend checking out Yocoko – and looked at some art galleries and people-watched.

And then yesterday, her family came to Glasgow, and they wandered for a while, but I met K and her brother in the city center for some drinks and a farewell as they’re going off to explore Loch Lomond and old churches and then make their way back to Edinburgh for their flight home.

It was amazing to see her, especially since she just graduated, and to finally meet her brother. And it was also amazing to see more of Edinburgh and explore some lovely art and exhibitions.

We saw art by Mark Wallinger at The Fruitmarket Gallery after exploring the Edinburgh Alphabet at the City Art Centre, an A-Z of the City’s Collections. I recommend both, if you happen to be around, but I did take some pictures to share!

I do hope life is treating you well.

Your Bonnie Celtophile,


This was my favorite dress in the A-Z Exhibit.
In the upper right there’s a man that K and I thought looks like some sort of angel of death among the crowd. We were looking at the way the artist made a crowd without painting every face.
The angel of death figure from the close-up of the painting is in the bottom left.
The information about the painting with the angel of death.
I is for Ink! I loved this set of type.
That’s a big “if.”
Information about a series of signed declarations of allegiance.
Can you see the Fraser? (Shoutout to you, Outlander fans.)
Mark Wallinger’s work. The Fruitmarket Gallery says he painted one side of each painting with his ride hand and the other with his left. K and I spent a lot of time finding images within the shapes and lines.
This was K’s favorite. Every time I look at it I see something different.

The Scottish Boat Race 2017

My Dear Readers,

Every year since 1919, there are rival races between the rowing teams of the University of Glasgow and the University of Edinburgh. This year, it was on the River Clyde with its finish line at the Tall Ship located at the Riverside Museum, where there was a screen showing video footage of the races shot from the banks of the river as well as with a drone. It also coincided with the Festival of Museums, meaning the Tall Ship had pirates and activities all over it, with musket demonstrations and mock sword battles. There was also a street food festival, although the number of people meant the lines for food could get ridiculously long.

With all this going on, I, of course, had to attend, and I was there from 10:30-5:00.

As sporting events go, it wasn’t the most exciting. Edinburgh won every race, sometimes by more than five boat lengths. It was slow paced, with races happening only about every fifteen minutes for a couple hours. People came and went and wandered about.

But it was a good atmosphere, with proud cheering from Glasgow fans no matter what was happening in the races and the Glasgow tiger and the Edinburgh panda mascots moving among the crowd.

I don’t actually know if the panda is Edinburgh’s mascot, and Google didn’t help much on that front, but there was a guy in a panda costume and Edinburgh jersey with a student escort that very much seemed to be the mascot.

People were simply there to have a good time, watch their student athletes display their ability, maybe talk to some pirates, and eat street food. It was a feel-good community event with none of the high-stakes, heated, long-running rivalries I’m used to with American football.

I think one little girl watching a race from the Tall Ship summed it up nicely: “It doesn’t really matter; they’re both from Scotland.”

It’s all about priorities.

Anyway, I took some pictures, and they’ll be below for your viewing pleasure.

Your Bonnie Celtophile,


The races were partially interrupted by a steamboat.
Part of the crowd.
Artsy shot of some boat race watchers on the Tall Ship.
Can you see them?
The screen for boat race viewing.

One of the activities on the tall ship was to design your own cup and then get some punch to drink through a pirate flag straw. I made mine Doctor Who themed. The colors on my hand are from when I was testing the markers while talking to my flatmate, who was the volunteer at the stand.
The Riverside Museum has a recreated, old Main Street inside. This is one angle of it.
Some of the pirates demonstrating muskets. I heard one teenage girl being assured that yes, they are licensed to be shooting in the UK. The pirates claimed not to be using musket balls because they ‘will not be shooting at Govan today.’

A Birthday Abroad

Dearest Readers,

This is the first year I’ve had the odd experience of having a birthday completely away from home. Sure, I’ve not been at home on my birthday before, but I was always going home soon or seeing family soon or with friends I truly love as family. This is the first year I was near nobody with whom I was that close, and not about to be with people with whom I’m that close.

And with this, I’ve learned a few things.

1-It’s possible to have a great time even if people you love completely won’t be there.

I decided, and my parents encouraged me, to plan something nice for my birthday. To have an active day and surround myself with new friends that will, if all goes well, one day be old friends.

So I did. My flatmate and I went shopping. Then I met six women for some tea at the Willow Tea Rooms which are, as I’ve always heard, absolutely lovely and beautiful. Then my flatmate and two others wandered shops some more, and me and two others went to see Guardians of the Galaxy II.

To finish the day, my flatmate and I went to one of the women’s residences to watch the last half of Eurovision, which was a lovely, hilarious experience.

I had a great day with great people, and I received cards and some gifts, which was unexpected.

And so, those women all made me happy and made my day.

But at the same time….

2-Birthdays are trigger points for homesickness.

It doesn’t have to be your birthday. It could be your best friend’s or your sister’s or your father’s. And you can be, until then, perfectly content. I’ve had my share of homesickness, but I’ve settled and don’t get hit with it very strongly very often anymore. And yet, last night I called home around 1am in tears because I was sad with no idea why. I’d reached the point of sad at which everything is a reason, and therefore nothing is a reason.

Truth is, though, I was expecting that. My mother’s birthday is less than two weeks before mine, US Mother’s Day is the day after my birthday this year, and I have a twin. It’s prime homesickness time. I just wasn’t prepared for how hard it hit me.

And, in a way, having a lovely day increased the feeling. But I don’t regret a thing.

3-Birthdays are opportunities for comparison and jealousy.

What did other people abroad get on their birthday? How many cards? How many well wishes? Did anybody visit them? Does anybody plan to? What about video chat?

As much as people hate it, jealousy and envy are very real feelings in many aspects of life. Expats celebrating birthdays are no different, at least for me. I can’t help but compare my friends and family to that of others I know that were abroad on their birthdays. Did they get more cards from home or a person visiting, more well wishers through our ever-growing technology, more…?

Which is not mentally or emotionally healthy, of course, but is somewhat unavoidable. Humans like to compare themselves to humans similar to them. It’s why representation matters.

But in this case, what matters is that you focus on your friends and your family and their personalities and normal customs and not those of other families and friend groups. It’s not easy. And if you get homesick it’s nearly impossible.

One good night’s sleep and recognizing what you’re doing helps accomplish it, though.

And finally, and somewhat most importantly for me….

4-Handmade, glitter-covered cards are always something to smile about.

I received two, one each from some identical twin lassies, and although opening the envelope left glitter all over my desk and chair and some work notebooks, I love them. They were the first onto my wall and will stay there for the foreseeable future, a reminder, along with a card from my parents, of the people who love me back home.

And the cards from my new friends beneath will remind me of the people who care for me here.

And together, these things remind me that I am one of the lucky ones.

Your Bonnie Celtophile,