Thursday, February 14, 2008

Scotland and Our Return South of the Border

Having been in the US now for three days, I thought it might be wise to wrap up this blog and post before distant friends began wondering about my whereabouts. After Cardiff, I felt rather euphoric about Team America’s performance and my prize winnings. The eight hour train ride to Edinburgh was a great way to relax and see some of the country side. As we rolled into Edinburgh, we were greeted with a thick layer of fog that made it nearly impossible to see further than 20 feet. We met Rob Mars, the ultimate Scottish tour guide, at the train station and we were immediately assured that there was indeed a castle that would be visible if the fog ever lifted. Our hotel was in Old Town right off the Royal Mile and approximately 10 feet away from a pub called ‘The Tron,’ which brought back fond memories of my days at Tryon as an undergraduate and the awesomeness of ‘Tron,’ the best movie from the 1980s. Random references aside, with Rob’s assistance, we navigated our way to Edinburgh University to participate in the debate team’s evening practice session. After picking up a pint from bar downstairs, I prepared to debate the resolution, “This house would prefer environmental protection over economic development.” Rob judged the round and assured us that we performed quite well as the first opposition, although our arguments in favor of the Kyoto Protocol did not go over well with the Scots, who were skeptical of any American supporting the treaty. After watching the next round about the Archbishop of Canterbury’s statement regarding the adoption of Shari’a law in the UK, we socialized for a few hours and then headed back to our hotel.

Darryl and I both firmly believe that if Rob is unable to make a career of debate, or law as his mother apparently pushes quite often, he could easily become a tour guide in Edinburgh. Thankfully, the fog lifted and we were able to see the beautiful architecture and city views. Our tour began by strolling through the Princes Street Gardens up to Edinburgh Castle. We had wonderful panoramas of the entire city and could see the private school where Tony Blair was educated, and in the general direction of Fife, where Gordon Brown hails from. Rob also pointed out the luxurious castle where our friend Alex was educated. The labyrinth that led us to the crown jewels was very educational, and Rob supplemented this with his personal knowledge of Scotland. My favorite thing displayed with the crown jewels: the stone of destiny. This stone was stolen by nationalistic college students from Glasgow. Luckily, our visit was timed such that the cannon blasted as we were leaving. Apparently, the city is reminded that it is indeed 13:00 every day. Very kind, and thoughtful. The rest of the day included a visit to a retro restaurant called ‘Monster Mash,' a thorough tour of the Royal Mile, a glimpse at her majesty’s royal home in Scotland and the newly redesigned Scottish Parliament building. We ended our evening by enjoying the company of John and Jon from the ESU Scotland at a pub in the New Town. This pub was equipped with the ‘ring of destiny’ (as I like to call it) to assist locals or foreign travelers with their whisky selection. Seeing as I love spontaneity, I chose the path of the ring of destiny, and hereby pledge that if it is ever taken from Scotland I will go to great lengths to return it.

Our final day in Edinburgh was a bit rushed, as I realized there was still so much to see in the city and not much time to get to everything. I did enjoy the National Gallery and the Modern Arte Gallery before meeting up with Darryl for some fabulous Indian food. Edinburgh won my heart after having the best Indian food I had on the entire trip, as well as falling for the gorgeous architecture among many other things. I am proud to announce that Darryl and I won our public debate at the ESU that evening by receiving 75% of the vote, including the vote of the ESU Scotland Board Chairman, Jon. The resolution was “This house would give the Republicans four more years.” Darryl and I spoke in opposition of the resolution, and must have reached out to Obama and Hillary supporters out in the crowd.

The 2008 Tour of the UK came to an abrupt end in London the next day (the south of the border referenced in the title of this post, not Mexico). We checked into the ever familiar Holiday Inn near Victoria Station, and prepared to meet up with friends. I followed the recommendation of a friend made on the tour and visited Karl Marx’s grave, and then proceeded to Hamley’s to buy a Scrabble board for one of our hosts in London. I love performative contradictions (as well as making random American parli jargon references). It was particularly bitter sweet parting with good friends made on the tour—shout out to Tarit, Kallina and Patrick for joining us until last call. The flight back to the US went smoothly for me, and I was greeted at work today with 482 emails, a fake rat in one of my desk drawers, and a cabinet full of ping pong balls that fell all over my person and cubicle after deciding to investigate for further traps. The office pranks have begun, and this may very well be my first war of attrition. I will say that I feel more plugged into the American primary season being back home, and I can’t wait until Oregon’s primary (which might actually matter this year—register to vote by April 29th if you haven’t already!). I hope to return to the UK sometime soon, particularly Scotland. Darryl and I are also interested in taking names and crushing dreams at World’s (Cork or Turkey, who knows). A sincere thanks to the English Speaking Union for graciously hosting us during the tour, and each person that made everything run so smoothly. This was an amazing program, I made many friends and learned so much about the UK and the debating style on the other side of the pond. If any friends ever visit the US, please get in touch as I would love to show you some fabulous sites or get you in touch with someone who would be able to fill the void for me. I have a few pictures to upload to this post, but Blogger is acting up and I have other work to finish tonight. I will try again when I get a chance.

Best regards,


1 comment:

deb said...

Gee it was fun to follow along on this trip. Thanks for writing about it. I learned a lot.

And, in spite of what my relatives may have inferred, I think I behaved with the utmost decorum. Just as you did. :-)