One of the greatest periods of my life was the year I spent in Edinburgh, Scotland, age 24-25. This was a goal I worked towards for three of my five years of college. In fact, I did not even attend my graduation ceremony, opting instead to catch a flight to the U.K., celebrate my dad’s 60th birthday traveling with him and the rest of our family, then catching a train to Edinburgh with no reservations at a hostel and no idea where I’d live or work the next year.
I was an adventurous spirit in my youth, not putting too much forethought into my actions. I did have a work permit through BUNAC and had gone through their orientation in London prior to meeting up and traveling with my family. Being that the BUNAC London headquarters were so big and supportive, I figured I‘d find the same in Edinburgh. Unfortunately their office was a small room tucked away in an alley off High Street and was closed when I arrived. The youth hostels, the only accommodations I could afford, were all full.
Lucky for me I had a very supportive, non-blood related British family, which I called upon in this moment of crisis. The Brams (pseudonym) whom I lived with for a year when going to Birmingham University, England when I was 19, are one of the most amazing families who have “taken me in”. What happened next was miraculous.
Ben, my “house brother” was going to Edinburgh Uni but was in Birmingham at the time with his family. However, his girlfriend had an extra room in her flat, and agreed to take me in for a few weeks before her roommate returned, either for free or for very cheap. This gave me the time I needed to find a job and flatmates of my own.
Josie is a young (a little older now) lass who epitomizes Scots’ hospitality and warmth. While I was living with her another flatmate from Canada joined us. She was much more organized than I, arranging her living and work situation before she left North America. I was a vegetarian at the time, and Josie decided to make a traditional Scottish dinner for us three.
Upon our plates were these ugly, gray, fat, encased lumps of something. They did not look very appetizing. We asked what we were about to eat, and Josie exclaimed, “Wa, Vegetar-rian Haggis!” When asked what vegetarian haggis was, Josie said “Wa, it’s an oats an’ bean pudding in a wee fake sheep’s stom-ach!” The Canuck and I laughed until we nearly peed our pants, while poor Josie looked on, disgusted that we would criticize both her fine dinner and accent. The Vegetarian Haggis Days were the beginning of my wonderful Scottish adventure.