Friday, December 13, 2013

Six months in Scotland


Today marks our six month anniversary as expatriates. It no longer feels like we're on a lengthy vacation. We're settled in. We've spent six months in our rental house and have a contract for another year, so we'll have the same neighbors, the same playgrounds, the same walk to work, the same shops and restaurants. Our day-to-day existence feels mostly normal instead of unfamiliar. We know that sunlight is incredibly long in summer and remarkably short during winter. That finding good Mexican food is . . . challenging. That Glaswegians can be extremely friendly in an almost indecipherable accent. That a forecast of rain (or no rain) is only slightly better than a wild guess or a coin flip. That Scots politely queue by second nature but don't give a damn if they're blocking an entire supermarket aisle with one shopping cart.

Rain, then no rain, then rain, then no rain during our morning walk along the Forth & Clyde Canal? We know that trick.
Of course, six months isn't very much time. It's only slightly longer than a student spending a semester abroad. The weeks and months have flown by. Fortunately, since the move to Glasgow was such a significant event in our lives and everything has been new and different, our recall of people, places, and events is excellent. Taking thousands of pictures {ed.'s note: and writing a blog} helps a bit with the recall, too.

We have another measurement of time, and that's watching Jackson get older. He crossed the two and a half year mark earlier this week. Six months isn't very long to me, yet these past six months have been one fifth of his entire life. By next June, he'll have spent a third of his life in Scotland. I feel enriched but not yet fundamentally altered by our six months here. For Jackson, however, an important part of his life's foundation is being set. In just a few years, as he makes real friends, goes to nursery and school, and absorbs the culture, he will likely feel Scottish and not American. It's important to me to keep his timeline at the forefront of my thoughts.

Just as he is growing up accustomed to amazing technology, like the iPhone in his hands, an indelible part of his life is going to be Scottish.
We feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity -- and to have seized the opportunity -- to move to a foreign country and become immigrants. We're only at the beginning of our time here, so I'm not ready to draw big lessons or conclusions. I want to see where the trajectory takes us.

As routine as everyday life has become, it still delights me that there is so much history and art and culture to explore. I want to maximize our opportunities to do/see/learn more. Carpe diem, and all that. Yesterday, Jackson had a play date with a neighborhood boy whose Scottish mother was amazed at how much of the country we have toured in six months, while I was lamenting how little we had truly seen. To my mind, we have barely scratched the surface.

Here are some new and never seen!!! photos of our time in Scotland thus far. (If you think I put a lot of photos on this blog, you should see the thousands I haven't posted. Want more photos? Want less photos? Let me know...)

The Old Man of Storr on the Isle of Skye.
The ruins of Jedburgh Abbey.
Mattie at the Machrie Moor stone circles on the Isle of Arran.
Entry to Edinburgh Castle.
Jack playing in front of the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow.
Castle Stalker clings to its tiny island.
Raising a (plastic) pint in the officers' lounge on Her Majesty's Yacht Britannia.
Nana and Grandpa Bill at Rosslyn Chapel.
Flowers at Stirling Castle.
Ruins of Dryburgh Abbey.
Bagpipers at the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow.
Taking a break from exploring Bothwell Castle.
Hiking on the Isle of Skye.
Crossing the 700 year old Swilcan Bridge on the Old Course in St. Andrews.
In the gardens of Brodick Castle on the Isle of Arran.
Scottish flag flying in Anstruther.


  1. Courtney Dunstan (can find on FB)February 19, 2014 at 4:41 AM

    Hi! Our family might move to St. Andrews for my husband'sa PhD, so I came across your blog - in amazement! We're in Kansas City now, but I moved here in '03 from Raleigh - just a year after graduating from Meredith! So I'm interested especially in hearing from how you're adjusting as a family and as southerners! I'd love to connect if possible.

    1. I'm glad you found me! I hope at least a tiny bit of this blog can be helpful. We visited St. Andrews last summer, and it's one of my favorite towns in Scotland. In fact, it's one of my favorite college towns anywhere. Beautiful campus, charming town, some old ruins, a great beach, and fantastic golf. I haven't done a post about St. Andrews yet because I feel like I should visit at least one more time, but I expect we'll be back this coming summer.

      If you're ready to make the move, I think St. Andrews would be a wonderful place to go for a PhD. Since you're from Raleigh, I'm sure you're familiar with Chapel Hill. I think Chapel Hill is a great college town (which pains me to say, as a Duke law grad). But I think St. Andrews is a better college town than Chapel Hill, though without the big-time athletics. Of course, I've only visited St. Andrews for a couple of days, so take that for what it's worth.

      If you send me an email, I'll be happy to try to help you with any more specific questions or concerns you might have. Good luck on your decision!