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.
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.
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.
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.
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…)
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!
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!
Hey Lisa. Wow this is too cool Scotland from Toronto. Going to read your post later, at work now….sigh. But glad to see you having a great start. Have fun.
Thanks, Walter! I know… I can hardly believe we’re here so fast. I think it feels faster because normally it’s a big deal to prepare for a trip: go shopping, pack, take care of stuff at home, arrange rides, etc. But since we’re already on the go, all that stuff feels normal, so it really is just like getting on a plane and finding myself in a totally new country just six and a half hours later. 🙂
Have to say, Glasgow was my least favorite place, but that was many years ago. It will be so much fun to see what you find and how different it is now. I like haggis if it’s done well, but could never stomach black pudding. The friend I traveled with gobbled it up though. I know what you mean about the social shyness but I’ve never had someone get sharp with me for asking what something is. I think it’s in how you ask. And even though everyone there’s speaking English, there’s still communication stumbles. We ended up in a hilarious fumble when talking about chocolate chips and our hosts were grossed out, thinking Americans dipped french fries in chocolate. Asking opens windows to laughter, conversations, comparisons, learning, and best of all, new friends. But you know that, and once jet lag and dizziness wears off I know you’re going to be fine. I wonder if this mild veritigo is impacted by flying? The change in air pressure?
Lisa, your chocolate chip story is hilarious and I love it. 🙂 I have to keep reassuring myself that people are generally very nice when asked genuine questions — I don’t know what I’m expecting but obviously there’s some part of me that’s just terrified I’ll get shouted down with a mean-spirited, “YOU MEAN YOU DON’T KNOW? WHAT KIND OF IDIOT ARE YOU? GET OUT!!” ;b (And honestly, if that really happened, surely someone would follow me out and say, “God, I’m so sorry, that person is an ass, let me help you on behalf of all good people everywhere…” ;b )
I don’t know what the relationship is between flying and dizziness, but it definitely happens to me every time I’m in transit for a while. In fact it’s even happened to me after being on the subway for an hour, so I think I’m just extra-susceptible!
Haha, who gets shit-faced at home on a Wednesday ? Apparently the Scots. 🙂 I’m looking forward to reading about your Scottish adventures and when you’ve checked out the cosmopolitan side of Glasgow ( and the galleries) I’m sure you’ll like it. Unfortunately you’ve arrived just as we’re having our wettest June for 100 years. It can’t last. And if you get chance whilst you are in Scotland you must check out the Highlands or Border region. Beautiful. And Edinburgh is not too far – go for it. Have fun !!
Or at least their teenagers. 🙂 I’ve never seen anything like it in the daytime!
That’s really good to know about the weather being weird! It does remind me a lot of San Pablo, though in CA it’s rarely rainy in the summer. When I went to VONA a couple of summers ago all the non-Californians were shocked that San Francisco could be so grey in July. 🙂 At any rate, we are here until the first week of August — “here” meaning Scotland. We’ll be in Edinburgh for a month after we leave here, and then we’re taking about six days in a yurt in the Fort William area (central Highlands, I think that is?) before we leave for Reykjavík!
Edinburgh is great. But I can’t comment on the yurt. Brave is the word ! 🙂