Make new friends, but keep the old

This week I thought I’d focus on friendships – the title of the post is taken from a campfire song we often sing at Girl Guide camps:

“Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.
A circle is round, it has no end, that’s how long I want to be your friend.
You have a hand, I have another, put them together and we have each other.”

It’s pretty simplistic, but kind of sums up the thoughts I’ve been having lately. The last week or so has been tough for me for a multitude of reasons, and often I find myself cursing the inconvenience of the 8-hour time difference. I’m trying to maintain friendships at home, but it’s difficult when, unlike my mom, my UBC/Vancouver friends can’t just Skype me at any convenient hour. Still, it’s nice to hear from friends at home and makes me feel like I’ll be welcomed back with open arms in a couple of months.

Despite my initial concern, I haven’t found it particularly difficult to make friends in Edinburgh – not only did I get lucky with my flatmates, but I have also had the opportunity to meet people through a cappella, yoga, women’s choir, various classes, and residence. Everyone I’ve met has been so nice and I’ve had many a conversation about travel, exchange, classes, and the differences between Scotland and Canada.

One of the most surprising things for me has been the kinship I feel to anyone North American that I meet. Having gone to university in my hometown, I can safely say that the last time I felt like I was truly an ‘outsider’ was when I went to primary school in Edinburgh (2002). At age 6, I had far less self-awareness, but now at nearly 21 I can sense the subtle differences in me – my love of plaid and Lululemon leggings, my lost-ness in classes, my discomfort walking on cobblestones, my temperature adjustments as the weather changes (everyone else seems to think it’s ‘cold’), and obviously my non-UK accent. (Also, no one here seems to wear rainboots, whereas at home they are a necessary staple.)

This isn’t to say that the Scottish (and English) people I’ve met are unfriendly – on the contrary, it’s been really nice to chat about UK things and ask questions of locals or people who’ve been studying here for several years. In particular, having grown up with a dad from the Borders and being familiar with a heavy dialect and accent, I love just listening to Scottish accents; we don’t get many of them in Vancouver, so it makes a nice change. My sister said that if I didn’t come home with an accent, she’d send me back, so I’d better hope that some of the lovely Scottish lilts I hear will rub off on me ????

I guess the moral of the story here is that I shouldn’t have been so worried about making friends, since everyone feels the same anxiety when starting university/living with roommates/going on exchange. I was led to believe that it would be easy, and it has been easier than expected – but unknown situations like this are always nerve-wracking! I will definitely be passing on the wisdom to others that it’s easier than it may appear.

I must cut myself off before this becomes ramble-y! To all my friends and family, both new and old: you are so, so important to me and I appreciate all the support.

Wish me luck as I continue to drown in readings while foolishly travelling every weekend!

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happy thanksgiving!

This is my first Thanksgiving spent without my family and without my mom’s homemade tofurkey, so I thought I’d take a minute to reflect. I set myself the challenge this year of making an entire Thanksgiving meal pretty much single-handedly, tofurkey and all.

It’s also worth noting that Thanksgiving marks one month since I moved to Edinburgh, so this lovely Canadian holiday comes at a particularly convenient time. This is my 21st Thanksgiving, so here are 21 things I am thankful for (in no particular order):

As a preceding note, sorry that this is reasonably long; I like words (see numbers 2 and 9).


1: Tofurkey itself. When I became vegetarian (in early 2005, at age 9) I was making a conscious decision based on re-reading Charlotte’s Web, a book I’d read many times before, but the book was really just the tipping point after months of feeling guilty and conflicted. I love discovering new vegetarian restaurants or recipes, and these days I don’t find myself missing meat at all.

2: My degree program. This is pretty cliché of me to say, but there’s honestly nothing else I’d rather be studying, and the friends I’ve made because of my choice aren’t too bad either. Of course, it comes with the added bonus of never being able to read a book for pleasure without analyzing its use of language at least a little bit, not that that’s a terrible thing.

3: My flatmates here in Edinburgh. I was worried that we wouldn’t get along, but I needn’t have stressed myself out over it; they are three lovely gems and I will miss them all dearly when I leave just before Christmas.

4: Yoga. When I have my mat on my back, fully decked out in Lululemon, I might as well have a giant light-up sign saying “VANCOUVER” over my head, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I wasn’t always like this – in fact, I disliked yoga pretty strongly for years because I felt like it wasn’t giving me a good workout and was too much about breathing. When I discovered hot yoga (and later, vinyasa), all that went out the window – so I ought to be thanking Emily as well for helping me rediscover something that I now credit for keeping me sane!

5: Parents who support me in everything I do. In high school, it was more about driving me around and helping with homework, but now that I’ve moved out and learned to be (mostly) a grown up, they’re there for support, advice, university tips, proofreading, and free food, plus sometimes they let me borrow the car. Thanks, Mum and Dad.

6: My sister. I could wax poetic about this kid, but seriously, she is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Being in Edinburgh, the city of her birth, reminds me of what it felt like to wait for her, sing to her when she was still in utero, think of hundreds of names for her, secretly hope that she would be a sister and not a brother. I’m thankful for her humour, her sensibility, and the bond we share.

7: My voice – I may not be a Broadway-level superstar, but being a singer has taken me so many places and helped me meet so many great people that I’m glad I stuck with it for so many years, and especially glad that I came off a year ‘on hiatus’ and hit the ground running again this year!

8: Girl Guides – at home, being a Brown Owl is one of the things I’m most proud of, and I’m so glad I managed to find a unit to volunteer with here in Scotland. There’s something really rewarding about passing on years of Girl Guide knowledge and life knowledge to kids who are still at an impressionable age, and I love being exposed to the fresh, open mind of 7, 8, and 9 year olds; once you’ve passed that age, there’s no way to go back and think like that again!!

9: Books! This is a very ‘English major’ thing to say, but the English language is fascinating and words are such an amazing tool.

10: My family here in Scotland – they picked me up from the airport, housed me for a week, then drove me back to Edinburgh, helped me set up a phone, and have been keeping in touch via text to make sure I’m okay. It’s nice to know there are people on this side of the world who are looking out for me!

11: Cheap produce. This one is a little bit simple, but honestly, the amount of kale I’ve eaten (69p for a bag!) is just absurd. Other great things include tomatoes, apples, peppers, and bananas, and a lot of stuff here is local, so somewhat more sustainable. Also, potatoes.

12: The ease of vegetarianism in the UK – you’d think that in a culture built on ‘meat and potatoes,’ it would be harder to be vegetarian, but in reality things are much simpler than I expected; everything is labelled “suitable for vegetarians” and there’s a big green V on all the cheeses/cheese-containing products that don’t have rennet in them. Canada, take notes! Why don’t we have this?!

13: The weather here so far; I realize that soon it’ll start raining and never stop, but the month I’ve been here has been sunny and warm with only a few insanely windy days.

14: The general hospitality I’ve experienced – everyone here has been so nice and understanding, and I like getting asked where I’m from, answering ‘Vancouver,’ and having people actually know where that is! It’s kind of a novelty to not be a local for once – although often I think I’m assumed to be American because of my fairly neutral ‘North American’ accent.

15: Irn Bru. How will I ever survive without it when I go back home?!

16: Solitude – as much as I love being social, sometimes it’s nice to retreat into my room or take a walk and explore by myself. It’s not quite the same to study in the library, alone but surrounded by others; it works better when I actually feel like I am the only person present in a particular moment.

17: Music; when people ask me what kind of music I like, I tell them it’s a combination of top-40 (especially feel-good bubblegum pop, anything with a cool tune or lyrics that could be a poem), musical theatre soundtracks (Wicked, Grease, the Book of Mormon, Avenue Q, Mamma Mia, Les Mis, among others), and older stuff (‘60s and ‘70s, the Beatles, ABBA, Queen), as well as some lesser known artists. Bonus points if I’ve seen them live and loved it.

18: Romantic comedies. The cheesier, the better.

19: Christmas! Only 22 days until I start playing my pre-set playlist of Christmas albums! (And no, I don’t only like it because of its proximity to my birthday. I like it because I will forever be a kid at heart, so I love the music, the smells, the food, the general feeling of happiness that permeates the air …)

20: Travel – I’m trying to visit as many European destinations as I can while over here, and so far I’ve booked trips to Bath, the Isle of Skye, back to Hawick (where my dad is from), Paris, and London; we’re also hoping to make it to Dublin and possibly Spain! I’ve been bitten by the travel bug!

21: Being here, in this amazing place. What an opportunity! Here’s to one month of crazy and two and a half more to come ????

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