“Any fool can know. The point is to understand” — Albert Einstein

Finally. Here I am. Gatwick airport on the way home. It really doesn’t feel like it’s been a year. Over a year, actually. But that is not the point of this post. Although I could probably write several hundred words of rant about some of the lovely people in the airport. This one, the one in Edinburgh….just great, great airport employees.

But instead, I will share some of the things I learned from my week here in Scotland. Most of it is about history or random stuff that the tour guides told me. But I find it all really fascinating.

So of course, if we’ve talked recently, you know that the second I set foot in the highlands, I’ve been enamored with them. Maybe you didn’t know that…now you do. And it’s the whole thing; the rocky hills, the lochs and glens. The highland cows, hairy coos, the thousands (millions?) of sheep. Everything. It’s gorgeous, and I’m sure when it’s actually green, or purple actually, it’s even more beautiful. The castles! Although there are a ton of castles all over Scotland. Like seriously, a ton.

Anywho, I spent three days in the highlands. The first day I went to see Loch Ness, the second Loch Lomond, and the last day back over towards Loch Lomond again, but also to Loch Fyne and Invarary.

The lowlands, where Edinburgh and Glasgow etc. are is pretty too. Stirling castle and William Wallace, which the tours guides all made very clear, is not the same person as Braveheart, nor did he wear a kilt, nor was he a highlander. Oh! The Kelpies! There is a fabulous statue near Stirling…I think, of these two huge kelpie heads. It is one of my favorite things I saw. (Kelpies are white horse, beautiful, that are sometimes mermaids that drown people and then eat them. So that’s fun.)

But here some of the things I learned, besides the history of William Wallace and how he was not Braveheart: Robert the Bruce, whose heart was Braveheart, Rob Roy, Mary Queen of Scots, James the Ist…who then became James the IVth? And some more general stories of the various clans and history of the people of Scotland. Oh! And Mac is son of but Mc is second son of….

Also, and I’m not sure if I really believe these, I heard the origin stories of the terms blackmail and armed to the teeth. Or I should say black meil and armed to the teith. Right, so blackmail. This is a part of the much longer story of Rob Roy, who was basically a cattle thief. But at some point he realized that stealing cattle was not making him enough money. So he went around to the landowners and told them that for a small fee, protection money, he would protect their highland cows from thieves, ie he would stop stealing them. Also, if someone else stole them, he would go out with his expert cattle thief-gang and get them back. So here’s the blackmail part. The highland cows were originally all black. It was only after a crossing with some less shaggy breed of cow that they all became gingers. AND meil is apparently the old Gaelic (pronounced more like gal-lick) word for money. Then there’s Armed to the teith. There is a village somewhere near the border of the highlands and the lowlands, where the lowlanders and the clans people used to meet to trade and sell and buy supplies. They would arrive in the morning, buy what they needed to buy, the go with whatever money they had left, or whatever money they had made that day, and proceed to drink a whole bunch of whisky. According to the tour guide, they would then get in a lot of great, messy, bloody fights. Then rinse and repeat. The village, unsurprisingly, didn’t like this very much. So they set up a check point just outside the village, where you would have to turn in all your armaments, swords, guns, knives, etc., before you could go into the town. Hence you were armed (up until you got) to the teith. And teith sounds a lot, identical even, to teeth. So there you go. Again, I’m not sure if I believe that. I mean why not, it seems to make sense. I certainly don’t know any other reason for these saying to exist. I guess I choose to believe it, until something forces me to actually look it up and check it out.

And I almost forgot! You know “You’ll take the high road, and I’ll take the low…”, right? I mean telling someone to ‘take the high road’ comes from that doesn’t it? I’m not sure. I’ll possibly look that up. But, what I think I knew, but probably had never heard was the song it comes from. Which I think is called On the Banks of Bonnie Loch Lomond. But really, I am not sure about that. I also did not know that the song was originally a letter from a Jacobite imprisoned by the English…yes. And for sure, the song is super dark and deeply depressing when you know the back story. So it’s a letter right, from one Jacobite to his family back up in the highlands, I think. But he gives to his friend, also a Jacobite, I think, who has somehow been released from jail, because the first guy has been sentenced to hang or be executed however they did back then. I guess beheading was still big? Mary Queen of Scots got it real bad with the beheading.

Back to the song. Here are the lyrics as I understand them, not to be taken as fact, but as I listened to the song and then remembered it. Words may have been changed or left out, but the general ideas are still there.

You’ll take the high road, and I’ll take the low, and I’ll get to Scotland afore ye.

But me and my true love, shall never meet again, on the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.

So some break down: high road – land of the living, low road – land of the dead as in underworld low, I’ll  get to Scotland afore ye – time is apparently immaterial to the dead, the rest of the song – he’s dead, so of course he’s not gonna meet her…not unless she dies too. So not a cheerful song. But the versions of it I’ve heard are beautiful. There’s more, this is just the chorus, but I did not catch the lyrics to the rest of it. I think it’s just more stuff about Loch Lomond and Ben Lomond. Very catchy though.

That’s the majority of the fun facts that I learned. Of course there was a lot more history. Particularly the history of the fight for independence. Lots of William Wallace and Rob Roy and Robert the Bruce (although Rob Roy doesn’t really fit that category). Some more stuff about various clans whenever we went through a particularly interesting/important/relevant glen. But I am not sure about which clan did what, so I don’t want to get it wrong. And a little about James the first/fourth and his mother Mary Queen of Scots. And some stuff about Whisky/Scotch.

It was really interesting. Not having studied any of it in school in America, particularly when you’re focused on the other side of the world (cough cough Japan) it’s pretty cool. I really, really liked it. And I can’t wait to go back, but I know that most of my time will be spent studying in the city.

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“Until I feared I would lose it, I did not love to read. One does not love breathing.” — Harper Lee

I know that it’s been a while. And I have been told to update. I thought I mentioned that it was going to be NaNoWriMo, but that is no excuse. So as it is Thanksgiving for me now, I will put up as many posts as I can. Even though A and B are not mutually exclusive, but I have three hours of sitting and waiting to get through.

I heard it snowed stateside! I wish it would snow here, not just for the obvious and eternal ‘maybe-I-don’t-have-to-go-to-school’ reason, but also because then it wouldn’t be cold enough to rain. It’s not fun trying to decide what to wear in 40 degree rain. Nor is it fun to wake up and walk to school at 7 in 40 degree rain. Nothing is fun in 40 degree rain, except sitting inside under a blanket and pretending you’re asleep.

And on my four-day weekend this week, I did just that. On Saturday, because I could, and what else does one do with their Saturday morning? Stuff, Errands, Chores? No. I should have been writing. I always should be writing, or finishing applications, but you don’t need to tell me that. I know! I know! It’s getting done. Slowly, surely, it’s getting done.

What else is new? I have hiccoughs right now and it’s driving me crazy. And I know it’s because both my brain and my body agree that I should take a nap, but somehow I don’t think the school would appreciate that. Plus it’s like they’ve never heard of insulation. The walls are so thin, or made mostly of glass, and the BOE announced this week that the heaters should not be turned on until December. Because it’s not like there’s the flu going around or anything, and I know that’s not how germs work, but I’m sticking to it.

On the plus side, you can find every size and type of hand warmer you could dream up in seven-eleven. Like small or large, or stick on or for your toes. So if it gets too bad I’ll just layer those on under my suit. Well this has been fun and rant-y.

I wish you could find turkey here. Or anything other than fried chicken or ham. That’s what I really want right now is turkey and stuffing. And just thinking of all the pies and cookies and mashed potatoes and green beans. Man, I miss thanksgiving food. I don’t miss the food-coma that come after it, or black Friday adds. And cyber Monday. I can’t think of anything dumber.

But that means it’s Christmas time! Officially. There is nothing in between that you can throw at me and say: “it’s too early! What about __________?!” After tomorrow, Christmas songs will no longer lurk among the random radio stations and muted shopping store music. They will be blasted unapologetically from rooftops and anything that could remotely hid a speaker. TV stations will begin pushing their Countdown to Christmas events like crack cocaine and no one can stop it! Charlie Brown, the Grinch, Rudolph, and three ghosts of Christmas will gang up and take over, like some sort of evil Christmas affiliated Avengers team. Elevators will play the Nutcracker suite, and candy canes will sprout like weeds everywhere you go! It’ll be weeks until you can even hope to get the scent of evergreen out of your nostrils. And the increasingly popular measurement that we all live our lives by, the Starbucks peppermint latte, needs no longer hid behind the red and white snowflake cups! It’ll be everywhere; you thought the pumpkin spice latte needed to take a break? The pumpkin spice latte is the peppermint lattes unpopular kid brother! I love Christmas.

Unfortunately, Christmas in Japan means a bucket of KFC and some vaguely log shaped cake. Blech. I don’t know how that came about, but it makes me very sad. And the Starbucks here? They’ve been taking liberties with their menu. First – they didn’t even have the pumpkin spice, and now? They’ve replaced the peppermint latte with the snow maple toffee latte. Which, I will admit isn’t that bad, and hashtag-first-world-problems all you want, I still want some peppermint latte on the few occasions I can make it out to a Starbucks around here. (Though seriously if you hashtag at me, we won’t be friends anymore, because outside of twitter, it’s dumb, and even on twitter, it’s still dumb. Twitter is dumb.)

Back to Christmas in Japan…KFC is gross. I think everyone can agree with me one that. It’s just not good. But you have to order like weeks in advance to get a bucket of chicken on Christmas here. It’s so weird. So weird. And Santa? He doesn’t come in through the chimney, mostly because they don’t have chimneys here, but he also doesn’t leave presents under the tree. Though they do have those little fake, plastic-y, sad-looking trees in the stores here. So I guess Santa breaks in through the window and flies around on stolen tooth-fairy wings (which is another thing they probably don’t do here. I dunno) and then magically sneaks a present into your bed. I’m not sure, and I’ve in no way checked anything I just wrote, but I think that’s probably what it is. Definitely, maybe. (Which is a pretty good movie, also.)

And snowmen! Snowmen here are only two snowballs! Two! I drew one on the board the other day, and everyone laughed because there were three sections. Personally, a snowman with only two sections looks a little ridiculous to me, but that’s probably cultural. Most likely. I wish I knew why that was though. Like, who decided how snowmen would look?

If you’re interested in some new Christmas songs to listen too, instead of the same old versions of the same songs, I’ve come upon some really good ones recently. Straight No Chaser, an a capella group has some pretty funny versions of songs. There’s the 12 Days of Christmas version of their, that I’ve probably made you listen to. It’s along the lines of other 12 Days of Christmas-like songs. But it mixes in different carols and popular Christmas music – it’s good, let’s just say that. Then there is the Christmas Can-can song, which is hilarious and awesome. And the Nutcracker song, equally hilarious. Check out all three. But then realize that there is nothing wrong with Alvin and the chipmunks, and listen to that album too. Do we still have it on a record, like a vinyl record? I think we might…do that instead. That’s better, somehow.

Then go caroling and get a peppermint latte because I am STILL NOT OVER THAT!

Then send me a picture, so I can show it to a barista here while crying and maybe they’ll make me one out of pity.

Just kidding about the picture part. But really, Happy Thanksgiving to all! And to all a good night!

Oh and then totally check out the Thrilling Adventure Hour, especially the episode in which they rewrite T’was The Night Before Christmas poem for their (dark knight) batman/aquaman character – Phillip Fathom. Because (1) TAH in general is hilarious, (2) it’s written by two guys named Ben Acker and Ben Blacker, seriously, like really, that’s their names, and (3) the best way to pull through a food coma is to laugh all those calories off! Remember the average American will gain 7 pounds this holiday season! Do you seriously need any more of a reason? Ooo. Rhymes.