An early awakening and breakfast at the hostel leads us into the day. The class packs up their items and Dwight and company meet us at the entrance of the hostel. We make our way around the corner to Waverly Station and restlessly await the departure of our train to Aberdeen.
I find myself anxious to depart on our journey for the fact that I might learn more about the natural landscapes and rural life of Scotland. After a short wait, the group makes its way toward the train and shortly thereafter, the train leaves the station. I must say that the travel accommodations are much better and more spacious that any of our previous means, and that, for a tall person much like myself, comes as a relief. The ride is enjoyable and as we make our way out of the city, I find myself more intrigued by the passing scenery.
The city is built in an old style and all of the buildings remain that way. The architecture of the city is consistent and one must search to find a modern looking building. All of the businesses have adapted these old buildings to meet their needs but the exterior of the buildings are remarkably ancient and ornate. Row after row of buildings pass by, both industrial and residential, tearing through the city on the rails. A short duration elapses and I find myself observing the life of the Scottish Highlands. The scenery is remarkable. Miles upon miles of rolling hills, low-lying simple houses, and fields upon fields of blooming flowers and green pastures. The vegetation seems to be a more hardy variety then you would find in the fields of Indiana, that is if you could find a natural pasture not previously marked by agricultural production. The brush grows in small clumps and the trees scatter the landscapes, a few here, one here, one there. The natural contour of the land seems to roll itself. The curves of the hills are flowing and moving. Even if I were not in the train rolling by, the hills themselves would give me a feeling of movement, a natural and even calming motion.
Small communities are viewed along the way but it seems that these folk live in their own little areas. Flocks of animals can be seen grazing the open pastures of this beautiful land as we follow the coast of Scotland on the other side of the train. I do not have much of a view of the water from my seat but I feel that the view I have been afforded on this side of the vehicle is much more representative and fascinating. All of the remarkable scenery, the flocks, green, colour, houses, trees, brush, hills, and the rocking of the train rolls me into the trance of sleep…
Three days in and survival has become my utmost concern. The dollar does not do well in translation to the pound, and the prices pound that point home. The language barrier seems to be a slight hindrance that borders on risk if conversation is taken in a ‘pissed’ state (especially on the brink of sports and soccer). I have adapted and have only the highest outlooks regardless of present condition.
This morning I awoke to the click of the tower clock at 7:54. My sense have heightened in the absence of an alarm clock or any time system. I packed my gear and trudged to breakfast. I stocked my belly with tea, toast, and cereal, the delicacies of a free meal earned by staying at the St. Christopher hotel. Our party set out for the train station and Aberdeen against the backdrop of sunny skies. This happens to be the greatest threat at the moment. Rumors and reconnasaince brought me to the understanding that the country was under a continual fog , overcast skies, and drizzling to pouring rains. Now I am exposed to unforeseen weather, barely avoiding exposure and heat in the upper 60’s on a clear sunny day. Bloody hell.
The train ride left no hope. I began by observing the country side slide by. Astounding cliffs gave way to rolling meadows and vegetation of the most magnificent kind. I kept a keen eye out for unicorns and the Loch Ness monster but the noisy train gave away my position. I turned to reading some survival material but soon became aware of spy. A Sean Connery impersonator constantly eyed me as he used his technological splendors. Should he shupposhe to shee what I wash doin he should report my shupishious activities. Well I made shure to back track and erase my path upon my exit.
A brisk tour gave us a means of familiarization (and the introduction to magnificent King’s kirk) and then we were left to fend on our own. I escaped the economic traps of the Consumeristic regime and found myself deep in the heart of the woods. I realized the end was imminent so I began to formulate plans of survival. Much needed rest brought me into a deep sleep. I awoke to a beast breathing down my neck. I knew the best thing to do was play dead. Luckily its master soon called it back and the beagle narrowly avoided my next move which would have dehabilitated it beyond a chance of survival. Hunger began knowing my stomach and I knew I had to find a cure.
That had to wait as our group met up with an acting group of the college. Center Stage treated us to a very productive theatrical session in which we intermittently acted out plays and scenes. They tried to hypnotize us with their weird dialects, yet my extensive training left me un phased. Regardless of their efforts, I followed them to the local watering hole where we were lectured on the secretays of Scotland. None of which can be written here and now. Just remember though that goats of uneven legs form the greatest Scottish meal of ‘haggish’.
I now found myself penceless and exhausted after saving a Queen that was not my own and avoiding the enslaught of vocal assimilation. My English remains intact and my inflection is as Midwest as it can be. Scotland is not a place for the unprepared!
Tuesday marked our trek to Aberdeen, we woke up and gathered on the main floor of our hostel before leaving for the train station and boarding a train on our way to the University of Aberdeen. Once we arrived at the school we embarked on a lovely tour of the beautiful campus. Later in the evening we had a writing workshop with the Center Stage Theatre Group here at the University. We read some plays of their writing, some of ours, and we finally ended the day at the Bobbin, a small pub a few blocks from campus. This morning, after thinking about the train ride to Aberdeen, and the poem "From a Railway Carriage" by Robert Louis Stevenson, I wrote the following piece of creative writing. Enjoy!
The Train Kept Moving
A Narrative By Nick Kraynak
On Tuesday we took the train from Edinburgh to Aberdeen, where we would be staying for the next few nights at the University of Aberdeen, home of the 2006 Word Festival. The train ride there was an entirely new and different experience all its own. Now I am by no means a stranger to rail travel, but I had always before had some inane way of distracting myself from the outside world that was passing me by with every blink of the eye. This time, though, something was different. There seemed to be fewer distractions, fewer ways to avoid paying attention to the passing scenery, but the train kept moving. I tried sleeping, but the frequent passes of the ticket checker and the snack cart quickly dashed those hopes. At that point I started to look out my window, where I saw a number of sights, much more impressive than I truly expected, all flying by before I really got a chance to see them, before I could think about the fast moving objects and understand them, where they were, and why. Now that I think about it I guess they weren't really the fast moving objects leaving me, it was me traversing their expanse as quickly as the train would carry me, and the train kept moving. Graveyards, small towns, great cities, fields full of farm animals, and short stone walls dividing it all up, deciding where one man's reign ends and that of another begins, the ultimate adjudicator. The stone walls were my favorite part; they reminded me of Frost's "The Mending Wall" and all throughout the trip parts of that poem crept silently into my subconscious, and periodically I would think aloud, saying "Something there is that doesn't love a wall." and "Good fences make good neighbors." And so it went, until we neared Aberdeen, something would catch my attention and draw me in, get me thinking, really deeply thinking about it, and just like that it would be long gone, almost as quickly as it had appeared, and the train kept moving. Never again would I see the same things in the same way, this I knew. Much like Thomas Wolfe's idea that "You can never go home again" because your perceptions are constantly changing, I knew that even a few days later on my return journey I wouldn't have the same ideas about many things as when I arrived in Aberdeen. I didn't know what I should think about all they beauty, everything passing me before I could thoroughly see it, but the train kept moving, leaving me with less and less time to see, so bewildered, I gave up. I just stopped worrying about analyzing it all and just tried to enjoy the view. And the train kept moving. Each day brings with it new fun activities. We were really glad to meet with the Aberdeen theatre students, they were really fun to hang out with. Tonight they have invited us to their rehearsal of Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None" the which, if you will excuse me, I am planning on visiting currently. Have a lovely day!
To get things started off right I have a message for someone very special across the Atlantic. Mom, I’m okay. Stop worrying, seriously. I’m fine.
Okay, now on to bigger and Scottish things. Our third day in the land of haggis was a very exciting one. It kicked off with a lovely two-hour train ride out of the historic and awe-inspiring Edinburgh to King’s College in Aberdeen. I personally caught up on some much needed sleep after all those crazy Edinburgh nights, but what I did see of the local landscape was quite beautiful. Upon our arrival, we checked into our rooms, which are quite like nice little hotel rooms. In fact, we’re staying in a bed and breakfast they have for guests. Think about that Wabash.
I bummed around most of the day with Jack looking for some cider and trying to meet people. We were fairly unsuccessful in both respects. The evening took us to meet the Center Stage Theater Company — the acting troupe on campus. They’re a great lot. We bounced some original works between the two groups and performed some short plays for each other — in short we got on famously. After all that excitement we headed over to the pub for some late-night debauchery. We discovered a bit about what a British drinking game is like. If someone drops a pence into your pint, you’re required to retrieve it immediately — I think we all know how that is done. This game has been appropriately named God Save the Queen. We stayed at the pub for a good three hours and got to know each other a little bit. Even after the barkeep threw us out, we stood around for nearly half an hour chatting uproariously.
Scotland so far has been really great. The people are very approachable and quite friendly. They’re loud in the pub and mice on the street. This place a very similar feeling to that of the hospitality found in our own south, and the people are about as difficult to understand. That isn’t to say you can’t understand them at all; you just have to work at it a bit. The woman here are quite beautiful. But coming from Wabash, any woman at all is a welcome change. Adjusting to the pound has been easier than I thought, and I’ve actually grown to prefer their currency. The pound and two pound coins they have finally made carrying loose change worth it—something that has bothered me about American money for quite some time now. The Scottish dialect is quite invading. I feel the twang of it slowly taking over my own speech patterns. I think I’m okay with that, though. Their slang is ace. I love the way these people talk to each other. Everything is so new here and exciting. I hate that I have to leave and can’t wait to come back. Scottish food is interesting as well. My vegetarian inclinations has kept me well away from haggis, but I’ve enjoyed other, more meat-free Scottish delights. International cuisine is very popular around here. So I’ve mostly been eating Indian food and other such delights. Well, after spending all this time trying to get something to throw up on the webpage here, I think I’m going to get and find some trouble to get into. I send my greetings to everyone back at home and hope everyone is enjoying their days as much as I have been. I send my love into the world as I venture out to greet it. Cheers.