Firstly, I would like to apologize for the delay in getting this blog out. I know it may be hard to believe, but I do actually have some responsibility, and do more than just travel. Last week I had an essay due in my Scottish Literature class, a take-home test for my Genetics class, and an anatomy quiz I had to study for because I was gone last weekend. So, needless to say I was quite busy with other things and couldn’t find the time to get a blog up. However, I hope to remedy that by writing two this week.
As I am sure you have noticed, the majority of my blogs have actually not been about Scotland, but other various places I have been. This is due in part to the fact that I had already seen much of Scotland when I visited with my family. However, I have still been up to a variety of fun things while here in Glasgow, and this blog is devoted to those little events.
The first goes all the way back to the first week of class. My anatomy class had yet to start so I had every afternoon free. At one of the more popular pubs in the West End, Oran Mor, there is also a theater in the basement, and every afternoon they have what is called A Play, A Pie and a Pint, which is just that; a ticket that gets you a pint, a meat pie and a seat for a short one act play. Since we were still settling in and had some free time, Will and I, along with 3 other Butler students Jonathan, Sarah, and Michelle, thought it would be a nice cultural experience.
We went on Wednesday afternoon because the tickets were discounted at only 8 quid as opposed to the usual 12 or 14. When we got downstairs we quickly realized that we were the youngest patrons in the room, but we didn’t let that deter us and grabbed our pints and delicious meat pies with gravy. We chatted with a few locals who were frequenters of the Triple P and had sort of like season passes because the show changes every week. After the show I could understand completely why someone would want to invest in that because it was a wonderful way to spend an extended lunch break. I would have loved to go again, however once classes got into full swing it made it slightly impractical, however it was a fun experience early on that helped me get integrated into the community.
The next couple of events were actually not with Scottish people at all, but were very cultural and entertaining. My flatmates are all graduate students at the uni, 2 of which are Chinese girls, Melanie and Sarah, studying finance and the third, an Italian guy, Alesandro, who is getting his PHD in aerospace engineering. The girls are absolutely fantastic cooks and put Will and my poor excuses for meals to shame. After a few weeks of us complimenting them on the quality of their food, they decided to have a Chinese dinner party with a couple of their other girlfriends and would cook for all of us and a friend of Alesandro’s.
We all went over to their friend’s flat and enjoyed an absolutely delicious meal of authentic Chinese food. They apologized that the dishes were not as good as normal because of the quality or lack of ingredients they could find in Glasgow, however I think all of us were in agreement that they were being far too modest. We chatted for a few hours about different cultural differences in terms of school structure and what it is like studying in a foreign country. I can’t imagine essentially studying abroad my entire college career in a place that does not speak my native language.
Having dated a Chinese girl for two years and having traveled to China last January, I knew that food was a very important part of the culture, but I learned that unlike Americans and Brits, if Chinese people want to “go out” as we term it, they will go to a restaurant and spend 3-4 hours there eating and drinking. Sounds like my kind of party! After dinner, they begged Will to play a few songs on his guitar, having heard him countless times playing in his room throughout the day. Once Will finished his quick set, we were also treated to a few songs by Melody, our appropriately named cook, who had an absolutely exquisite voice. Before she sang she talked herself up quite a bit and boy did she deliver. She sang a couple American songs and then a few famous Chinese ones. Apparently it is also very common for Chinese young adults to do this kind of mock talent show at parties like this. I guess it’s a more glorified and refined version of American karaoke parties.
After the immense success of the Chinese dinner, Alesandro and his friend Alberto, also an Italian rocket scientist, volunteered to host an Italian night at our flat in a couple weeks. Will and I eagerly counted down the days for another delicious home-cooked meal. Again our expectations were surpassed and we enjoyed honestly one of the best Italian meals I have ever had and don’t think I have ever been so full. We had essentially 4 courses: antipasti which consisted of fresh bread and bruchetta, olives and proscuito with mozarella, 2 pasta dishes, linguini with a cheese and bacon sauce and a lasagna bolognese, and finally tiramisu for dessert. Foolishly I almost filled up on the bread and bruchetta, but I was able to fight through till the end.
We also enjoyed a few glasses of wine expertly selected by another friend of Alesandro’s, Frederico. Will and I learned a little about the 5 s’s of wine tasting from them: swirl, sniff, sip, swish, and finally swallow. Once you have done all five, with a thoughtful look on your face, you authoritatively declare, “It’s red!” We talked about the nightlife culture in Italy and learned how expensive and harsh it can be. Apparently people don’t head out to clubs UNTIL about 12 or 1 and stay out till 4 or 5. And if you are a guy you can expect to pay at twice as much as girls to get into a club, and might not even get in unless you are with a girl or two. Boy am I glad I decided to study abroad in Scotland instead!
The last couple events I would like to share are in regards to football, hands down the most popular sport in the UK. Since being here, Will and I have become pretty good friends with three guys who almost perfectly represent the UK: Allan from Belfast, Northern Ireland, Callum from Manchester, England, and Stewart from Dundee, Scotland. We have yet to find a guy from Wales, but hopefully we can in the next few weeks to complete the collection. They are second years at the uni and have been great friends to have made because they know all the ins and outs of social life here in Glasgow.
In mid October, we met them at Tennents Pub to watch Scotland take on world champions Spain in the European Championships qualifying rounds. The game was actually being played in Glasgow, however, it being such a big game, tickets would have been very expensive and hard to come to by, so we watched the game with a bunch of other die-hard Scots at a pub. The first half was relatively uneventful and surprisingly evenly matched until the final minutes when Spain capitalized on a penalty kick. Spain scored another goal early in the second half, and it was beginning to look pretty grim for Scotland, but they then countered with two spectacular goals within 5 min and the pub absolutely erupted in cheers.
The game was tied with about 20 min left and the atmosphere was absolutely electric and incredibly tense. Scotland and Spain battled back and forth, both keepers making great saves to keep their team in the game. Unfortunately, in the last 5 min, Spain’s all-star David Villa took advantage of a slight break in Scotland’s defense and gave the lead back to Spain. Scotland fought hard and bravely till the very end, narrowly missing a few shots in the final minutes, but alas Spain reigned victorious. However, despite the loss, all of the Scottish fans were still in high spirits and incredibly proud of their boys for showing such grit and determination against the best team in the world and arguably one of the best in the last couple decades.
- Glasgow Celtic
After watching a game on tv, Will and I were eager to go to a game in person. Allan tried to get us some tickets to see the Glasgow Rangers, but unfortunately wasn’t able to. However, we were able to get our hands on some tickets to an away game of Glasgow Celtic, the Rangers’ biggest rival. Celtic was to be playing St. Mirren in a town just outside Glasgow. Will and I were accompanied by a couple of other friends on the short bus ride to the stadium and enjoyed a great match from the second row. Unfortunately we weren’t able to get tickets to sit with the incredibly enthusiastic and loyal Celtic fans because all of the tickets were reserved for season ticket holders, but we still enjoyed the game immensely.
Celtic was clearly the better team, exhibiting finesse and incredibly precise passing in set plays. This contrasted with St. Mirren’s powerful, transition based offensive style of play. St. Mirren fought off every attack by Celtic and the score was tied at nil nil until the 91st min when finally Celtic was able to knock one in off a beautiful header. The Celtic fans went absolutely ballistic, charging onto the field, chanting and cheering at the top of their lungs.
- Great Action Shot
All of these little events, though only a small portion of the fun little excursions and get togethers I have had during these past few months, but they stick out uniquely in my mind and are ones that I hope to remember. It will be these little things that I will miss most about Scotland when I leave in amazingly a matter of a few more weeks. It is hard to believe that my time in Scotland has flown by so quickly and I hope I can do my best to take advantage of the last few weeks as best I can before I have to head home.