Today was a bit of a whirlwind of date being shoved into an admittedly already confused brain.
For our 'general knowledge' portion of this general graduate studies module (aka class for my American readers) we are required to take, our course leaders have handpicked several visiting speakers and seminars for us to attend. I'm not sure if this module is specific to the University of Stirling, UK universities, or all postgrad programs, but I'm not sure why they would start trying to make us well-rounded students now. Maybe someone will explain it to me one day. Anyway, our visiting speaker slot was filled today with Andrew O'Hagan speaking about civic memory and Scottish culture, put on at the Macrobert cinema/theater thing on campus.
When I tell them about coming to school here, so many people ask me "Why Scotland?" Generally, I'm torn between two reactions to this question. The first is an uninformative, sarcastic answer of "Because I wanted to."
and the other is a full monologue extolling the history and culture of Scotland. Both of those answers are accurate, but not completely true. And Andrew O'Hagan pretty much nailed my reason int he presentation today in a rather eloquent, author-ly way. I came back to Scotland for one simple reason - the people.
Scotland has this somewhat unique relationship with their country. Each person here identifies with their particular region. As O'Hagan put it, they belong to Scotland (only he was talking about his parents' relationship to Glasgow). In all the places I have traveled, this identity, this ownership of origin has never been rivaled, with the possible exception of my own state. The idea of Scotland is less of a place and more of a sort of state of being, like a living, breathing thing central in the hearts of all of the people here. In that way, the people here have made it a true home, and they never really leave Scotland even if or when they move to another country. This aspect of O'Hagan's talk was the part that struck me the most as something I was able to see upon setting foot in this country, and it's one of the reasons I decided to come back.
O'Hagan described a lot about the atmosphere of Scotland. This country is full of 'characters' and wrapped in a sort of lovely blanket of fiction, which I find absolutely delightful. There was a funny little remark in there about how hell, most of Scottish history is somewhat fictionalized. There's a story to be told everywhere here, whereas other places I have been have a lackluster approach to having any sense of community. I love Scotland for it's ability to enrich any conversation with a quirky, hilarious anecdote or fun fact that oftentimes isn't actually fact. And, more often than not, the people here gather you into their stories and welcome you to take a glimpse at their lives. There are people here have made me feel as if I were a part of their lives after sitting next to them on the train between Stirling and Linlithgow. I've met people who open their very homes to me, like my landlady Susan who offered me a place to stay if I ever traveled down to the Isle of Arran. This is not to say this warmth is primarily a Scottish thing. I have met several people here from all over who have made me feel equally welcome, but it seems as if I have encountered this feeling in every corner of Scotland I have explored.
At the end of the presentation there was a bit of a Q&A session in which I felt completely idiotic. Some of these questions were ridiculously in-depth and intellectual, but one question from a Canadian woman was "Who is a Scot?". What is the thing that makes a Scot, a Scot? Is it simply a matter of location, or something else entirely? O'Hagan's reply was that he identifies a Scot as someone who view Scotland as central in their mind. He said a Scot is a person who, regardless of what it says on your birth certificate, imagines Scotland as the only place they want to call home.
The rest of the day passed with more of a busied, information-jammed flavor. We've been split up, again, into two groups to accommodate for the size of our designated computer lab, so we took shifts on library information presentations and InDesign workshops for class. Seriously, we've probably got 4 different groups going at once, and they will be switched around again for the next set of assignments. I might request a large poster telling us what group goes for what module. It's confusing as hell. Anyway, everyone was talking out about the 'record-breaking heat' today (it's 73 degrees Fahrenheit, by the way), and we had a library information presentation in a stifling hot room right after the O'Hagan event. Then we moved on over to our first class on InDesign, where I fake a tech-savviness I do not actually have and managed to convince myself and my teacher. We'll see how long that lasts.
Today I have absorbed way too much information, eaten way too little, walked around in short-sleeves n Scotland at the end of September (who knew?!), and managed to settle into my idea for my publishing project with a bit of comfort. I actually had a couple of people in my group tell me they would like to read it! So that's a bit exciting. Tomorrow is another busy day full of marketing, visiting speakers, and IT classes, followed by Friday, which is pretty much a catch-all day for various things I have to have settled. Internet comes (hopefully) Friday, so yay for that! I will actually be able to blog from the comfort of my own how and Skype with my parents for the first time in a couple of weeks. Don't be too sad for me on that one. I have been calling and sending them emails pretty regularly. But I will be able to Skype with the rest of you! then Saturday, I will take a nice, relaxing climb up Dumyat, where I vow I will NOT fall in a bog again. We'll see...
Until next time,
P.S. - When I finished writing this, I somehow hit the back button and deleted everything. Thank you, Blogger, for autosaving.