Here is how I describe to you what Scotland sounds like to me.
“Hi! What’s your name?”
The sticky air of the castle hums with the sound of building friendships. A hundred and fifteen students mill about the great room, chatting eagerly—or is it desperately?—over glasses of wine.
I smile, second-guessing my choice to go for red. It’s my favorite, and it usually returns my affection by tinting my teeth a faint purple.
“Rae,” I answer pleasantly, “Nice to meet you.”
So far, Scotland had sounded like a steady stream of small talk. Digestible in small doses, but a lot to swallow when there are a hundred and fifteen people to meet. Flashbacks to September of freshman year try to surface in my mind, but I push them away.
“Rae, that’s a neat name. Where are you from?”
“Oh, hey, I think someone mentioned you! You’re the writer girl who travelled by herself.”
“That would be me! I guess word gets around fast.”
I think about how ridiculous I am. Alright, that may be a bit of an exaggeration; I think about how little time I’ve spent being thankful for my family and friends back home. When you live in a place where you are deeply known and cared for by those around you, you forget what it feels like to not have that unconditional support. While I won’t object to being labeled as an adventurous writer, it’s still different than someone knowing the real me. That’s natural, I suppose. Real friendships take time; you have to tolerate some superficiality before delving into substance.
And substance does come. Not all of Scotland, I learn, sounds like small talk. That’s just the first movement. Succeeding that, it crescendos into a beautiful, symphonic piece of many notes.
It sounds like meeting people who share your exact same passions and goals. Like a brand-new friend attacking a can of green beans with a knife because you don’t have a can opener and he needs to get rid of flight-induced stress. As quiet as the wind through the Highland hills and as loud as seven Americans walking back from town at night, with laughter loud enough and Scottish accents atrocious enough to get deported. Like a friend offering to make you dinner and tea when you’re missing family for the first time. Like hanging on your writing instructor’s every word. Like your flat mate strolling into your room and casually asking, “Hey, do you want to go to London next weekend?”
It’s exclaiming how it’s still light out at midnight, and relishing the accents, discovering new places and laughing about getting lost. It is never being so thankful for loved ones back home or so excited to come to know people here. It’s a thousand little things that all fit together to make something beautiful. And, yes, it does sound like bagpipes too.
Lots of love and thankfulness for you,