First of all, what is a homestay? Well, on my study abroad program, one of the things you do is you go and spend the weekend living with an “authentic Scottish family” somewhere other than where you’re studying. Well, some people went to a place in northern England, so it wasn’t all Scottish. I went to Stirling, about halfway between Edinburgh and Glasgow and a little north. Read on.
The uneventful bus ride took about 45 minutes. We got there, and the coordinator lady divvied us off to our host families. Mike (my roommate for the weekend, from Tufts/Westchester) and I were the last ones there. Apparently, our family had the flu or something, so we were staying with the coordinator and her husband instead. Her name’s Mary Napier, and she and her husband are in their late 60s or so. Most of the families were about that age, I think. Her husband, John, is a retired taxi driver, and they have 3 grown kids, who all still live in the area. It smelled like cigarettes in their house, though I never saw either of them smoking. Our dinner was very processed, as we watched a coastal rescue show where none of the people (and a dog) being rescued really seemed to be in too much danger. Turns out Mike is a Philosophy and Environmental Studies double major; I can see why they put us together. Our family has a startlingly large collection of new DVDs, and movies that were surprising to find, as they are more aimed at younger people (Alien vs. Predator, The Descent, etc.) Mike and I watched the Davinci Code that night. It was better than horrible.
Saturday we all went on an open-topped bus tour of the city. First we went to the Bannockburn Memorial, and learned all about that famous battle between Robert the Bruce and Edward II of England from the tour guide. We went to the castle, but didn’t go in. We stopped at a museum for lunch, but the lady in the little cafe said we couldn’t eat there the lunches our host families had packed for us. That made me angry; I hate it when people don’t let you do things for silly reasons. Some of went outside, but it had gotten really cold, so before my lunch was over, I came back in. In a slightly rebellious act, I went back into the cafe, and semi-sneakily ate the last half of my sandwich. It felt good, but a lame gesture. After that, we went through Stirling University to the William Wallace monument. We went up through there, and saw things, most notably Wallace’s actual sword, and the view from the top. I finished a lot quicker than everyone else, and came back down and had a cup of hot chocolate in the coffeeshop while people finished. Then we walked back to the bus, and then finished the tour. Oh, on the way to the monument, we’d passed the spot on the River Forth where Wallace’s Battle of Stirling Bridge occurred. Turns out that was the only battle that Wallace won, and Bannockburn was the only other battle the Scots ever really won against the English. Bannockburn was big, Stirling bridge was small but significant. Culloden and Falkirk were both big defeats, I guess.
Saturday evening we went to a pub, which was full of drunken under-20 and over-50 people. Sat around for a while, taking it in. I didn’t get a drink, but instead ate a lot of the crisps Mary had bought for us all. At one point an older guy fell asleep on the bench next to some of our people. After a while, some sorority, plasticky (in the Mean Girls sense) girls forcefully suggested that we go find another pub. People said whatever, and we all set out. The girls were sorta vague about where we were going, and some of us rebelled, and turned back, to go to the pub right across the street. This pub was mellower, and we sat around there for a while, and I had an Irn-Bru. Apparently, though, there’s some possible carcinogen in it, and that’s why it’s not sold in the US. Sad. But after a little bit, the other folks came back; apparently they had to walk really far, and the place they had found was rubbish. I smiled; my judgement was right on this count. The Vicar of Dibley and then Mishal Hussein (newscaster) were on the TV in the second pub, ice dancing and Star Trek: First Contact had been on in the first one. I have difficulty not watching if there’s a TV on in the room. That night, after getting home, Mike and I watched Superman Returns.
On Sunday, Mike and I walked into town. We went to the castle, but didn’t go in (it cost 10 pounds). Took lots of pictures of all sorts of stuff, and browsed the shopping mall. Came back, got on the bus, came back to Edinburgh. I’ll post those pictures sometime.