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Elections, Fire Dances, and More Bovines

The past two weeks have been very uneventful for me, involving a lot of procrastinating, a little bit of hiking, and a visit to Edinburgh’s Beltane Fire Festival. The procrastinating needs no explanation, as it resembles occurrences of procrastination among other Homo sapiens. Namely, it involves watching many YouTube videos, reading pop science books that have nothing to do with your coursework, doing laundry in your sink to save money and waste time, and finding anything in the world that has the slightest semblance of being productive but doesn’t involve actually studying. I am now in the stage of actually studying, which comes with the required doses of coffee. This could get expensive.

As for the Fire Festival, this requires a little bit of explanation. Basically, there are people and fire. And then there is more fire. There are also a bunch of people painted red and wearing nothing but loin cloths. There are also giant glowing mushrooms, and there are people who act out various skits involving cool pyrotechnics and stories that most of us ignored because the pyrotechnics were cool. If this sounds confusing to you, then you understand exactly how I felt while visiting this festival. I was with two other exchange students from the States, and so none of us were sure of what to do. The festival took place atop a hill and was covered in humans to the point that it was difficult to see the main event, which was a story told through dances that moved around the hill to various stages. The stages that weren’t currently in use for the main event held other skits and dances, including a vuvuzela war between people dressed like birds. At one point, my friends and I ended up in the way of the loin-cloth people, who stole someone’s hat and ran around putting it on their faces. In summary, it was hectic and intentionally comical, a pagan ceremony infused with British humor.

The hiking that I did was only to places I’ve been to before in Edinburgh, although I took new paths and explored different areas of the parks. In the park behind my dorm, Holyrood, I visited a lake that I had not been to before, and I was greeted by a friendly and slightly shy duck who ambled up to me with its head down. It clearly wanted food but kept pretending to be interested in the grass directly in front of me. It got within a yard of me before another duck ran up out of jealousy, not realizing that I possessed no food. It’s quite entertaining to see how conditioned the birds in this park have become to associating humans with food. But it’s sad when you think about what might happen to them if the entire human race were wiped out by some terrible disease and they were left with the perpetually unfulfilled expectation of breadcrumb hand-outs. Let’s not think about such things. Another animal encounter of mine was with multiple bulls, in the same location where I was chased by one in February. I was with two other people, and we were very cautious not to make eye contact with the bulls who flanked the path we were taking. One of them turned, stared at us, pawed the ground, and then returned to grazing. I bet they get a lot of laughs out of teasing humans like that.

Meanwhile, while I was busy not being busy, the UK had its general election. I started following a lot of UK celebrities on Twitter recently and have been following their conversations on the matter. Due to a division in party loyalties among people who voted to keep Scotland a part of the UK, the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) had a near-clean sweep. This was only in Scotland, of course. It would have been quite rude for people in England to have voted for a party that sought to get Scotland out of the UK. This major victory for SNP made it the third largest party in Parliament, behind the Conservatives (Tories) in first place, and the Labour Party in second place. Many people here have complained about the electoral system, as the SNP received less than half the votes of another party, UKIP, while also obtaining 56 seats to UKIP’s single seat. This is because they use the same silly, First-Past-the-Post electoral system that the US uses. The difference is that third parties in the UK are receiving rather large percentages of the votes but very small percentages of seats in Parliament, whereas third parties in the US receive neither significant amounts of votes nor Congressional seats. As such, the call for election reform seems to be greater here than in the US. And it is now the case that Scotland is represented almost entirely by people who want to leave the UK. Interesting things are expected to happen, and I will be back in the US, safe from politics until next year’s presidential election.

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