Hello from Glasgow! and musings on travel

Photos and food!

Actually, we’re not in Glasgow proper, but a bit south of it in an area called Cathcart. (I would be more specific than “an area” but I’m not sure what you’d call it. A town, a suburb, a district?) It’s cute and quiet, definitely more suburb-like than big-city. Today we walked this street on our way to the supermarket.

Lisa in Cathcart flat

Here I am immediately after we arrived at our AirBnB flat. Webcam photo.

We’ve gone from wet to wet: from Toronto’s humidity (which reached 80-something percent last week) to Scotland’s constant drizzle. I prefer the drizzle as it reminds me of San Pablo! And the temperature is very comfortable. Today I wore a wool sweater over a three-quarter t-shirt and it was just right.

Oh hmm, even a quiet street has its moments… As I write this, facing the front window, a house at the end of the street has disgorged more than a dozen teenagers (well, they’re around 18 or 20, I’d guess; drinking age here is 18) and several of the girls are visibly drunk (as in: having a hard time standing on their own). They must have been having a party. It’s more strange than alarming. Who gets shit-faced at home on a Wednesday? (Well, if they’re 18, maybe that question answers itself.) They ran, walked or stumbled, and stood around for a while on the corner where the small street meets the larger one, and now they’ve all gone and the street is silent again.

We haven’t yet seen the city nor even much of Cathcart, since the dreaded jet lag has struck. Our flight was a red eye (left Toronto 9 PM, arrived Glasgow 9 AM) and yesterday we were pretty much incapable of doing anything. We had a nap and a quick walk and that was about it.

River in Cathcart

Along the roadside

View from our window, last night

View from our window, last night. I’m facing this same window as I write this; it’s a bay window and that’s the view on the right side.

This morning I got up at 9 feeling great. I checked email, read some blogs, and watched from the window as the recycling got collected and a graffiti cleanup truck tended to the building across from us. (Graffiti was on the side of the building and I never saw it. I’m amazed there’s an official cleanup crew since I never saw anything like that at home!) I found a tin of baked beans in the cupboard and had those for breakfast (they were gross). Erik slept through all this.

Graffiti removal

Graffiti removal truck! There were two guys and what looked like a power washer.

Then, around 11 as Erik was starting to wake up, I got really dizzy and sleepy. Not quite vertigo, but it wasn’t very comfortable, so I took one of the pills I bought in Toronto. I ended up sleeping for a couple of hours, but I’m still pretty out of it.

When I woke up we went around the corner to a very cute little cafe. The man who served us was extremely nice and friendly, and when I ordered the “all day breakfast” he explained that it came with black pudding but they could substitute sausage, to which I readily agreed. The flat square sausage was a surprise, but I rather liked it, and the potato scone too.


Erik ordered the “lamb hot pot” which was a lamb stew with potatoes, peas, and carrots in gravy. Very tasty. Our server (it occurs to me now he might be the owner) said “it’s very nice if you eat lamb” and explained that he doesn’t, because he grew up on a farm around animals, and for that reason doesn’t eat much meat. I liked hearing that because more often I hear of people who grew up on farms and get desensitized.

Lamb hot pot

We told him we were visiting (and of course our speech gave us away), so he asked if we’d tried haggis and we said no, and he said he’d bring some out for us. After we got our food he came out with a plate of haggis and black pudding.

(EDITED to add photo! I knew I forgot a photo the first time around. Jet lag…)

Haggis (L) and black pudding (R)

Haggis on the left, black pudding on the right.

I wasn’t going to have any, but he urged me to taste it (“just don’t think about what it is”) and I figured I might as well. I took a tiny nibble of the haggis and found it completely disgusting. I admit I was not able to forget what it was (and the mild nausea I get from jet lag didn’t help either). Frankly, it made me want to retch, but I feel the same way about pâté; I just can’t stand the taste of liver. But Erik liked it and the black pudding (which I couldn’t bring myself to try). It is good to travel with someone who eats everything!

After breakfast, we walked to the supermarket and bought groceries, and then we stopped at a bakery and I bought two empire biscuits. They were like eating pure sugar, especially with the gumdrops on top. I liked them!

Empire biscuits and raspberries

My reward for trying haggis!!!

And now this gets into deeper thoughts

I’ve noticed that the first few days in a place always find me feeling intensely awkward and timid; I can really see the two sides of my personality battling it out. Recently I was reading this book about introverts and extroverts, and although it’s a relationship guide, it also helped me understand myself. I am nearly half-and-half introvert and extrovert, but I lean to extroversion (so my inner adventurer always wins in the end). But in the early days of being in a new place, when I’m already so far out of my comfort zone, I’m much more shy. As an extrovert, I want to explore everything, so I’ll happily march along for miles and miles, but once we’re inside a shop I get so socially nervous that I would rather not eat than ask what something is (which is why I was incredibly grateful and relieved when the man at the cafe volunteered to substitute sausage for the black pudding in the all-day breakfast).

For this reason, I think it’s a really good thing we’re doing this trip the way we are: starting in Canada, then moving on to Scotland, and then Iceland, and then elsewhere. It warms us up, getting us used to foreign surroundings and the experience of being foreigners. It’s funny, because the people in Canada, and now here, have all been so helpful that I really couldn’t have had an easier experience — but the challenge is largely mental. When everything is so different, even small tasks can seem intimidating, especially if you are like me and have some measure of social anxiety.

You know how sometimes someone will say something horrible to a friend, and you’ll have to reassure her, “No, there’s nothing wrong with you; he’s the one who was being an asshole”? There is a lot of ambiguity embedded in our social relations, no matter where we are or with whom we’re interacting. It’s hard enough at home, but while traveling I have to remind myself of this constantly. That store clerk was curt because she’s curt, not because I did anything wrong. Those people are staring at me because I’m wearing a hat shaped like a cat, not because they hate Asians. Not smiling can be a cultural thing, not a sign of rudeness. In the course of a day, all those small interactions add up, until I find myself veering strongly toward neurotic self-consciousness. Maybe someday I’ll be cool enough to never take anything personally, but for now, I just keep reminding myself that this has happened before, I’m just nervous because I’m new here, it will be okay. Don’t worry about it, just keep being curious and asking questions and exploring, and then return to the apartment when it gets to be too much. Before I know it I will be in full-on extrovert mode and out in the city walking for hours by myself — and loving it.

Luckily, for now, we do have a few days’ worth of groceries and a wonderful flat to come back to. Being able to write by this big window keeps the outside in my eyes and in my curiosity (in our Toronto basement, there was strong potential for “out of sight, out of mind”). And people are really nice. It astounds me to think that two months ago we were newly arrived in Canada, and now we are in Scotland. I hope the jet lag clears up by tomorrow, so we can take the train into the city and see what it has to offer!