The Medieval Bestseller
I read it somewhere on the Internet...
Wednesday, March 14, 2007

We’ve arrived. Currently, it’s approximately 4:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon and I am upstairs, in Josh’s top flat (he has two, one on the second story that he lives in, and one on the third story that is unused). Apparently, I get this entire flat to myself (including my very own bathroom), which is fairly rad. The three men will be sharing Josh’s flat downstairs. Everyone, including Josh (it seems) has jetlag bad except for me. I feel awake and vibrant, which makes it fairly dull to be around three tired men. So, they’re downstairs resting (although it seems like Josh would like to be resting, he’s actually working on his ministerial stuff for tomorrow morning). I’ve prepared some baked chicken for our dinner tonight (Josh’s seasonings were quite limited so I’m using steak seasoning on chicken, but that shouldn’t be that big of a consequence), but am waiting about a half-hour before I put it in the oven. This is the first time ever I am attempting to cook in another country! It is somewhat more difficult than cooking in America, in that measurements and temperatures are not the same. So, I have come back up to my flat to listen to some Depeche Mode while composing a blog entry. As I am sure you all are excited to hear all that has transpired so far, here are some highlights (that have ended up being an extremely long dissertation).

Despite my dislike of taking the train to the airport (I hate managing luggage on the train), we ended up taking the train, which became fairly busy as we headed toward the airport. We found seats in the first car and settled ourselves in for the hour-long ride. On the way there, there was this peculiar woman who slid the seats on the Dinky such that she insisted in sitting in the same row as Tony and I, even though there were other seats available. What makes her truly peculiar, though, was her donning of plastic safety goggles, the sort of glasses you’d wear if you were say at a shooting range or doing woodwork or something. Then, on our second leg, Noah and I spotted this guy sitting four rows behind us who, within the span of the 40 minute train ride, drank not one, but two 24-oz. cans of beer. I suppose I found it fairly shocking that he was drinking them unabashedly on the train, as I didn’t think drinking alcohol on the train was legal. What was even more astonishing was that while he was doing this, he was also reading the newspaper. I don’t know about you, but if I had just consumed 44-oz. of beer, I don’t think I would be able to read (especially when on a moving vehicle).

Once we arrived at the airport, we discovered that only Noah and I had guaranteed tickets on the plane, as Continental overbooked the flight. This left Tony to be extremely preoccupied with how this was ruining his whole plan and how he felt uncomfortable to travel by himself the following day. Since I am not averse to traveling alone, and since I was planning on meeting Simon in Glasgow on Sunday afternoon anyway, I told him I would be willing to trade tickets with him and then just fly in, hang out with Simon and then take the train and meet up with them on Sunday night. It ended up that at the very last minute this was not necessary, as there was an extra ticket that was not claimed because another plane did not make a quick-enough connection. I was slightly bummed out about this because I was beginning to think about where I could use my $400 voucher to travel to…

While in the waiting area (and then also during the times when I was waiting for the bathroom to open on the plane), I liked playing this game I made up. I call it “Guess the European.” It entailed me singling out a person or group of persons, observing them, their face, their clothing, etc., then determining (in my head) whether I thought they were American or European. Then I would wait patiently until they spoke and found my answer. I’m fairly gifted at this game, but maybe because I made it up myself.

Tony, Noah and I were scattered throughout the plane, which I appreciated, as I generally do not like it when people talk to me on airplanes, especially for a flight over two hours long. Once airplane conversations begin, especially between strangers, it is painful to break apart from them. Admittedly, it might have been ok for Tony or Noah to be sitting next to me because friends are able to start and stop conversations with better ease. I took a Nyquil right when we boarded the plane, so I felt fairly tired relatively early on and was able to doze in hour sessions periodically through the flight. Thankfully, I wasn’t lured into watching the movie, which was some totally awful Selma Hyack movie that I would not even consider watching, even when trapped on an airplane.

At one point when I got up to go to the bathroom, I marveled at the innovation I saw one man take. As a giant myself, being confined to the airplane seat for a 6-hour flight (or longer, as in the case of some of my traveling ventures) is grueling. Well, this person camped himself out on the floor in the emergency exit area. Smart thinking!

I was surprised when we were landing that we were told to remain in our seats for the paramedics to come onto the plane and do what they needed to do. How could I have missed a medical emergency that happened on the plane? Well, it turns out that the innovative sleeper was not innovative at all, but had some sort of heart condition; he both almost died as well as almost diverted our plane to Finland or somewhere equally as Nordic. All the while, I was completely oblivious to this. Noah was seated very close to the action, so he said that he and others around him were praying for this man because apparently it was a very close call.

Anyway, landing in Glasgow was neat. First of all, I had a window seat and was able to see the sun rise over a sea of interestingly-formed clouds (it’s always remarkable to me to see how clouds kind of look like the currents of the ocean when viewed from above). The sunrise was spectacular!! Secondly, I was seated next to this American teenage boy who I would guess to be about 15 years old. Periodically through the flight, he would speak, and I was never quite certain if he was speaking to me, speaking to his companions or simply speaking to the thin air. When we were landing, every three minutes or so, he’d exclaim, “Sweet!” as he was looking out of the window.

Landing in Glasgow kind of reminded me of a lemon meringue pie. Our airplane dove through layer after layer of meringue and finally ended up passing through it to the hidden Glasgow below. The scene actually kind of reminded me of the beginning of the show The Vicar of Dibley, as we flew over a lot of countryside. Even landing upon the airstrip at the Glasgow airport seemed fairly rural. I guess I am used to airports being surrounded with much more concrete than this runway. It is both a bit refreshing to see the quaintness of it, but also a bit perplexing to think that this is one of Scotland’s major cities.

Our customs man was a like an overzealous office supply guy in an office, enamored with the power and authority of his role. He asked the three of us ad infinitum what day we were leaving. I finally said, “When the U.S. reinstates green beer. Ok, buddy?” I didn’t really say that, but I should have because it would have been awesome and much more interesting than our continually telling him our return date was on the 17th. Once we made it through customs, got our luggage and exchanged our currency, we were met by Josh and this older man from the church, Jack. Or maybe it was Jackie. Either way, I liked him. He was full of spunk.

Jack insisted that it was cold outside, but it actually felt quite pleasant. Although, perhaps being outside after being cooped up on an airplane for an extended period of time makes any sort of weather pleasant. It was mild, with a sort of light mist and patchy sunshine. I liked it, particularly the light mist. Jack took our luggage in his car, since Josh’s car is much too small, and Josh, Tony, Noah and I followed Jack.

Jack took us on what seemed to be a drive of the perimeter of Scotland. It was beautiful, to drive by the green pastures, sheep, houses, small towns, abundant rainbows, etc., but it took us like two hours to get to Cumnock, which I thought was strange because I thought it was much, much closer to Glasgow than that. Once we arrived here and put our luggage in the flat, everyone (except for me because I was wide awake) felt lethargic and just sort of sat around. So, I showered and listened to my iTunes for a bit and looked forlornly out of the window for a bit.

Sunday I went to church in the morning at Lugar while Tony, Noah and Josh went to a church in Girven. A couple of very sweet parishioners took me there, Jack and Jean. I was the youngest in the church by at least 30 years or so, so I got a lot of attention and the people were absolutely wonderful to me.

After the service, Jack and Jean drove me to the train at Ayr so that I could catch a train up to Glasgow to meet up with Simon. Simon met me in Glasgow Central station around 1, and we walked from there to the Glasgow tube to catch a train to the west end to get some lunch. We ate at this pub-like place on this cute little street on the West End and there I had the most delicious sandwich ever (sliced beef with this delicious mustard and caramelized onions on ciabatta bread). From there, we walked over to Glasgow University and looked at its beautiful campus. Then we tried to go through the back of the campus to get to the Kelvingrove Museum, but with no luck – apparently, all of the gates are locked except for the main gate we entered through. Undeterred, we walked back to the entrance and walked around the university to get to the museum and stayed there for a couple of hours to escape the rain. One would be hard-pressed to say that there is nothing to do or nothing to see in the Kelvingrove Museum. This museum is like someone taking a handful of confetti, throwing it up in the air, and then placing random exhibits everywhere the confetti landed. There was natural history stuff next to space stuff next to airplanes next to photography and old western stuff next to art, ad infinitum. We looked around there for awhile and then left to get some coffee before going to Simon's church.

We got coffee at this coffee shop very close to St. Silas and ran into a number of Simon’s friends from church, a couple of whom I indirectly knew through clicking onto their blogs from his, which was kind of cool. Simon got me a piece of “tablet,” which neither seems like a candy nor a cookie, but something inbetween. As are all Scottish things I have tried, it is, at the same time, both really tasty and really bad for you. Simon also made fun of me for wanting black tea with milk and sugar. Apparently, that's just called "tea" here.

After having coffee and chatting for a bit, we headed over to St. Silas and right as I entered the door, this guy shakes my hand and asks me if I'm an American. I was dumbstruck - how could he possibly have known that I was American? I hadn't even opened my mouth! It turns out that this guy, Mike, is Simon's roommate so he had the upper hand. We went in and got ourselves settled and shortly the service began. I really liked the service, but was a bit embarassed when David, Simon's pastor (aka vicar, as this is an Episcopal church), asked if there were any Americans in the audience at one point during his sermon (I think right as he was about to talk badly about America) and, since I had already met a handful of people in the church, I felt obligated to raise my hand. It was a bit embarassing, but ended up being ok. Afterwards, I spent time talking with a bunch of people afterwards at the coffee and tea time...probably the longest I have ever stayed after when it has come to the coffee/tea time after church services. There are a bunch of super nice people who go to St. Silas.

Then, after coffee/tea time, I went with Simon to a nearby pub to meet up with some of his friends to get a pint, which was really fun. This is where I tried that brown stuff with my fries (aka chips). I had a difficult time explaining to Simon what an "amber" beer is (my preferred favorite), so I just got whatever he got, which was good...smooth. There was a lot of discussion about British/Scottish politics and some of the girls brought up the topic of shoes whenever the conversation got to be a bit much.

After we were finished, Simon's friend Fiona gave me a ride to the train station and I tried to get home. When I arrived, it looked clear that there were no trains and I was not quite sure whether there were any available buses. So, I asked this one guy who proved to be absolutely useless. I went outside and asked someone who looked official because they were wearing a fluorescent vest, but they passed me off to someone else, who passed me off to someone else, who passed me off to someone else. It was actually a fairly chaotic scene. When I was talking to this guy and told him I needed to get a bus to Cumnock, he said, "Where's Cumnock?" And I said, "I don't know - I'm not from here," to which he replied that fact was obvious to him. It all came down to my classic luck - the guy pointed me to this other guy who was driving a coach and it wasn't until after I was on the coach that I realized that he wasn't on duty but happened to be going that way or something (because, by the time the fluorescent vests got me figured out, all the buses had left). So, I called Josh on the way and Josh picked me up at this agreed-upon point somewhat close to Cumnock.

All in all, it was an adventure. I was just a tiny bit annoyed when I found out that Josh and Tony were worried about me when I got home. Not that I mind them worrying, but it felt a little bit like they thought I was this poor, defenseless girl who can't fend for herself, when the reality is that I am both older and have traveled more extensively than the two of them. Annoying.

Anyway, this is enough for now. It's currently Wednesday and I'm waiting for Simon at the Starbucks by the subway station (aka tube). I'll write more about visiting with Danny and the past couple of days.

- Jenny, 3/14/2007 08:01:00 AM

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