Sunday, September 12, 2004


I'm an American living in Scotland. Why doesn't this feel weirder?

It's different, of course. The night before I left, my mom asked me, "What are you going to miss the most about America?" I never thought my first answer was going to be water. Until our arrival at the flat, Sarah and I were mystified as to the utter lack of available water unless it came in a tiny little bottle and cost £1, which is almost $2. We took turns scouring the airport for drinking fountains and came up with nothing. When we ate dinner out, we had to order tap water, which was never refilled. Was this a continent suffering from massive dehydration? Were there secret watering holes hidden somewhere behind trick walls? Was hydration just another silly American obsession scoffed at by the rest of the world?

No, apparently their tap water is just really, really good. End of story.

If I had to describe Aberdeen in one word, it would be "gray." There's a blue sky outside my window at the moment, but when Marianne led me on a tour through the city, it felt like walking through a black and white photograph. Even the green on the trees looked drained. I saw a rosebush and felt like I was in Pleasantville. We trekked down to the river and the water was the same color as the sky, which I guess could also be true in the tropics but I think you know what I'm trying to say.

This might sound depressing to most of you. I find it absolutely fantastic. I don't give a shit what anybody says -- there may be toastier places on Earth than Seattle, but for most of the year the Pacific Northwest is still just too hot for me. I couldn’t be happier in a city whose weather forecasts oscillate randomly between "overcast," "raining," and "snowing." Oh hell yes.

The flat is much bigger than I expected. The same goes for my room. Our building is a few blocks from Union Street, the main street in Aberdeen, where all the shops, banks, pubs, and restaurants are located. It's bigger and more citylike than I was expecting. The money, of course, is different than any currency I've used before, but mostly in the way the exchange rate constantly bends me over and does me. It's so deceptive, because although a pound is worth almost two American dollars, everything is priced so it would look totally reasonable in USD.

Oh, that's another reason the trip here sucked. To fly my luggage from London to Edinburgh, I had to pay £60 (about $100) in excess baggage fee because my suitcase was too heavy. And it's not like it was a million tons over the weight limit, it just barely surpassed it. Okay, not just barely, but I should have called the cops because this was some robbery right here. There is no way I caused those mofos $100 worth of extra trouble. Assholes.

The hardest thing to get used to is the driving on the other side of the road. If I'm going to die overseas, this is how it's gonna happen. You don't even think about it, you just look the wrong way before crossing a one-way street and run out there. Sarah and I saw a man nearly decapitated by the side view mirror on a passing bus, but that didn't have anything to do with what I was talking about. It was just really chilling.

Correspondingly, you have to walk on the left side of the sidewalk instead of the right. There are no rules about this on either side of the pond, but you'd be surprised how steadfastly your mind resists this even as you're strolling right into oncoming foot traffic.

My time on the internet is limited, so this story is to be continued again.


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