Glasgow & a little bit of gloom
I woke up this past Sunday at 5:15 am to walk my friend Rachel to the bus stop for her return flight to Ireland. Nowadays, sunrise is around 5 am, so the Royal Mile was empty as I made the trudge back to the Cowgate. A flat party was still in full throes right above one of my favorite bars, and I heard undergrads screaming and yelling over the music. I felt exhausted and misty-eyed about saying goodbye to one of my best friends. Additionally, the sight of the Royal Mile, its cobblestone literally glistening in the sunrise and the massive castle looming at the end, started the emotional rollercoaster that will be ‘goodbye.’ I felt rooted to my spot, at the cross section where Cockburn Row meets High Street and St. Giles, and just stared. And stared. And stared. As the sun came all the way up over the gloomy black stone of the Castle and shot over the spindly shop roofs toward me, I couldn’t help but think, how will I ever leave this place?
This was all running through my mind when my friend Aidan texted me about tagging along for a concert in Glasgow that night. After originally saying no, I caved and she met me outside my flat with a latte and a hug. Instantly, I knew it was going to be a good afternoon.
I’ve meant to go to Glasgow for ages; as the largest city in Scotland, it’s a lot more urban and ‘busy’ feeling than Edinburgh. It is also known for its incredibly difficult-to-understand dialect and reputation as Scotland’s drug capital. (Doesn’t sound like a very good sell, does it?) But the train ride was quick and the weather warm, and I had to knock it off the bucket list.
Glasgow was awesome. It felt surreal to be back in a real city after nearly five months of cobblestone and living in a Harry Potter book. My friends and I found the Glasgow Cathedral and wandered around the grounds. At this point, graveyards have become quite common and normal. I don’t flinch anymore when someone says, ‘Wow, what a beautiful graveyard!’ Because, most likely, it really is beautiful…and in Scotland, it’s what you do.
Afterwards, we celebrated Cinco de Mayo with Margheritas at Pancho Villas, a Mexican restaurant that also takes up residence on the Royal Mile back home in the ‘burgh. We made it to King Tut’s, a popular music venue and bar, just in time to grab a cider black (Magner’s cider with a sweet black current syrup mixed in) before the concert started.
King Tut’s is known as being the stage for up-and-coming bands that eventually make it big; past acts have included Coldplay, The Killers, Jason Mraz, James Morrison, Snow Patrol, and much more. Tonight’s lineup was this little Scottish rock band called The Prides (although I’m sure they would hate that description), a beautiful female singer whose name I forget, and The Neighborhood, a California-based indie pop band that was very good.
We made it back to Edinburgh on the last train leaving from Glasgow and took a shortcut through Fisherman’s Close to make it back home. It was a long day, and a tiring day, but a good one. Everything about it felt so normal, like, of course I’m going to a concert in Glasgow tonight. Of course I’m celebrating Cinco de Mayo in Scotland. Because I’m living in Scotland. It sounds so unintelligent and obvious, but these past few weeks have been full of arm-pinching and ‘Is-this-real?”-ing. Now that my sister is on her way home–something that I still can’t wrap my mind around–it is becoming more real to me that my time is coming soon.
I am so excited to hug Mom & Dad, tackle Devon, and smother Frank and Carlos with kisses at the front door. I can’t wait to sit on Grammy & Poppy’s dock as the summer sun goes down and eat ice pops & bombie cookies on Grandma & Pa’s back porch. I can’t wait to get mosquito bites in Vermont and swim in saltwater and walk out of my house to say ‘Hi, Pa!’ or ‘Hi, Uncle Michael!’ or ‘Hi, neighbor!’ to people who have watched me grow up. At the same time, I have this dreadful feeling that I’m going to get home and do these things but that all I’m going to think about is that 5:30 am morning on the Royal Mile with the cobblestones and the castle and the loud Scottish students and just want to be back.
They don’t warn you about this part of studying abroad. I guess that’s not entirely fair to say–they do, sort of. I heard that the last month is the hardest because your homesickness reaches an all-time high, and that’s true. But they didn’t warn me about the other kind of homesickness that has set in, that kind that comes when you still haven’t left. The kind that confuses you because you didn’t think you would feel like this. The kind that makes you cry at 5:30 am on the Royal Mile because you’re afraid you will never see something that beautiful ever again. It’s the strange development of feeling homesick for a place that wasn’t originally your home, a place that initially made you homesick for your home. Now I have two places to be homesick for, and as I begin the tearing away from my Edinburgh life, I feel like I’ve already left but haven’t gotten home yet, either. Depressing, right?
All of this ran through my mind while squeezed between two chain-smoking Scottish teenagers at King Tut’s, watching a California band play on a Scotland stage on a warm, beautiful night in Glasgow. Is this all real? Yes, it is. Does it really have to end? Yes, it does. It’s no wonder people say that Glasgow can be pretty gloomy. Maybe once I can burn the Oceanography book & wear jean cutoffs in the meadows I will feel better. Maybe God will play me a good joke and make it rain miserably here the last week just so that I’ll want to leave. But as long as those 5 am sunrises stick around…I’m pretty much doomed.