One year ago, I backpacked my way through the beautiful city of Edinburgh. For 3 nights, I stayed in a 14-bed co-ed hostel room, and during my stay I had the most bizarre encounters with strangers. After all, my timing was impeccable – it was The Fringe, when people flocked into the city to attend the world’s largest art festival. One time, I was fixing my clothes when a group of five large men, all of whom were big enough to be sumo wrestlers, barged into the room and stripped their clothes off, save for their briefs. At 12 degrees it was strikingly cold, but these guys didn’t mind one bit!
For my first day, I booked a tour to the Scottish Highlands. The trip was inspired by my slight obsession with Mary, Queen of Scots. I wanted to see the land she ardently fought for, and so I ended up in a bus full of senior citizens with their canes. There were also Italians who refused to speak in English, Australians who travelled with their babies, and American boys who didn’t talk, but I managed to make friends with this middle-aged Indian couple who had just come from Iceland, and told me about the most expensive cup of fried rice they’ve ever had. (It cost them 29 USD; roughly around 1500 PHP!)
During one of the stops I saw a woman knitting freshly cut sheep wool, and she was nice enough to let me touch them. We traversed through the Scottish moors, and as I sat by the window I saw an abundance of purple heather sparkle under the sun.
My second day was spent exploring Edinburgh by feet. The streets were filled with writers, performance artists, musicians, and souvenir vendors. All over town they were giving away fliers for their upcoming shows. Scottish bagpipe players joined in the fun, and played for people’s amusement. Then I chanced upon a man dressed as a Viking, and we ended up talking about ancient war weapons, George R. R. Martin, Lord of the Rings, and the War of Roses. There was also a strikingly large woman in red lipstick, who offered to write a whole page of an erotica essay based on my character. She said that she needed only 5 minutes of my time to talk, and when I come back, she would have written a really accurate narration of my fantasies.
Shortly thereafter, an American lady approached me and asked if I would be so kind enough to see her one-woman show, a dark comedy act that she called Cheeks. I agreed. The venue was in the basement of a hidden bar, where a handful of people sat in the dark. I stayed in one corner and ordered a beer, as I watched this woman perform her heart out – 4,231 miles away from her home.
Back in the hostel, I met the girl who slept on the top bunk of the bed beside mine. She told me how she’s been in the IT industry all her life, but braved The Fringe, in the hopes of changing careers and one day directing sci-fi themed theatre plays. Then at around 12 midnight, I was prepared to sleep when this American-Spanish couple from across the room came up to me and asked if I wanted to go with them and see this play they had promised their friend they would watch. Feeling the stark cold breeze of midnight Edinburgh, I told myself there was nothing to lose and everything to gain. So I grabbed my jacket, my gloves, and headed to the nearest tram station in my pajamas.
The couple came not for the festival, but to try and find ancestral connections. They had just discovered that the guy was of Scottish descent, and this trip was their way of trying to find his place in the world. They are both pre-school teachers who met on YouTube way before it became a big thing; the girl asked the guy to move to Spain, and the rest was history.
For 2 hours we watched ‘Our Christian Nation’, and though I almost fell asleep – it was a nicely put social commentary of how life would be like in the USA, had the Christian Extremists got everything they wanted. The play was composed of only 10 people who played for 40 characters, and it was done in the most casual set-up I have ever encountered.
It turned out that half of the cast stayed in the same hostel as we did, so we all ended up getting on the same tram together, talking about their craft and where it has brought them over the years. It was a tiring day, and I had to leave extra early the next morning because it was a 13-hour bus ride back to London. But I left my newly found friends thank-you notes on their beds, and prayed for them on my walk back to the train station.
I had a lovely, lovely time. This one’s hard to top, but I can’t wait for the next one. Happy Anniversary, Scotland! 💕