24 August 2010

Written August 14th in Edinburgh International Airport:

I am writing this entry from a chair at Edinburgh airport. My luggage is piled on the seat next to me and despite the fact that I have done barely anything today, I am thoroughly exhausted. Every time I leave Edinburgh, I always tell myself that I will take a taxi to Waverley Bridge and save myself the trouble of walking a mile with large suitcase, duffel bag, backpack, and purse. (All completely full – one accumulates a lot of stuff when one is away for three months.) And yet, despite these promises I make to myself, I somehow always seem to find myself dragging my copious amounts of luggage through the Meadows, up George IV Bridge, and down pass the Bank of Scotland building. It is always a decision that I come to classify as ‘decidedly poor’ by the time I am halfway through the Meadows since that is around the time that the muscles in my shoulders start protesting the sheer amounts of weight that I am forcing them to carry. Today was no different. I like to think that next time I will be smart and take a taxi – but probably not. Some small part of me likes to say ‘yeah, I am that badass. I walked all of that way with this luggage. I don’t need no stinkin’ taxi.’
Such was my excitement to come home that I have been living out of my suitcase for the past week. I carefully laid out everything that I would need for work and running, and packed the rest of the lot. Of course, this meant that last night I had very little to do and so I found myself idling away the time, wishing that the hands on the clock would move a little bit faster so that I could go to sleep and then, at long last, go home to my family and boyfriend. This morning I woke at 8 (I slept in…sort of. I had been awake since 630 but stubbornly remained in bed), fixed a breakfast of 2 pieces of cheese and a few slices of tomato/yellow pepper in order to use my remaining food in the fridge, took out the trash, and then lugged my bags down the narrow spiral staircase of my building and out the door. A walk that would normally have taken me 20 minutes if unencumbered took me 45 today. I left by 9 thinking that the Fringe tourists would be out in force if I left any later. I was partially right – a few tour groups were out and about, no doubt soaking in the city in the wee hours before the masses emerged and things became crazy – but it was nothing like I had imagined. The Airlink bus had absolutely no problems with traffic on Princes Street, and the end result is that I arrived at the airport at 10:20. I have no problems with this save for the fact that I can’t check-in my luggage until 11:45. And so here I sit with my luggage piled around me and the knowledge that in 44 minutes time I am going to have to drag it back to the British Airways desk for check-in. At least then I can say bon voyage to it and not have to deal with it again until arrival in Baltimore. (Although knowing my luck, now that I’ve written this, it won’t arrive in Baltimore at all.)

My last week at the Consulate passed in a rush. The Fringe Festival, a month long cultural and arts festival, has started in Edinburgh and thousands of tourists have descended upon the city. There was no gradual increase in this transformation; one day there was the usual rush hour pedestrian congestion on the walk home from work – annoying but nothing to write home about – and the next day it was absolute madness. A walk that should have taken me 25-30 minutes took 50 and I was so incredibly upset by the time I arrived at my flat. Tourists were simply everywhere, clogging the streets, stopping to take pictures, blocking the normal routes with their tour groups. Even worse than them were the promoters for the Fringe’s more than 2,500 shows. Each show seemed to have a promotion company of at least half a dozen people and they would emerge in force, dressed in identical hoodies promoting the show, armed with leaflets to thrust at unsuspecting passerby. At first I would accept these fliers and simply bin them further on down the street. But after some rather aggressive promotion tactics by one guy, I became rather less cooperative. My strategy this week was to adopt a ‘you really do not want to mess with me’ expression upon my face and walk in a manner that suggested I had someplace that I really needed to be. Most promoters left me alone after this.

I ran an incredibly hilly 11 miles on Saturday in preparation for my half marathon on the 28th, and followed it up with a moderate 5.6 miles on Sunday. I also had to work Sunday evening since the Consulate was holding a reception in honor of the Franklin Institute. I must say, if I had the opportunity to travel back to the Revolutionary area, I would love to meet Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. The event was nice, although I spent a good majority of it running upstairs to the kitchen to refill water and juice jugs, and making trips down Princes Street to Sainsbury’s to pick up dip. Monday at work was spent working on the intern briefing book and interval training for 30 minutes on the treadmill since my legs were completely trashed from the weekend’s exertions. Tuesday was a short day for me as I started feeling sick after lunch. The erratic weather (sunny one minute and then freezing with torrential downpours the next) and lack of consistent sleep had left me with a debilitating headache, and so I was allowed to leave work early to head home and recooperate. I slept from 3pm to 7pm, woke long enough to eat something and check my email, and then slept through the night.

I was feeling much better by Wednesday. I spent the morning waiting for the plumber to show up at the Consul’s house and then worked on the briefing book over the lunch hour. This meant that I had to wait until 2:45 to take my run. I was really looking forward to it since it would be my last run around Holyrood Park and the Salisbury Crags. To end the summer on a good note, I was going to run around it one way and then turn around and do it the other way for maximum hill training, a distance of a little over 6 miles. It was on the way back to the Consulate, the second round of hills, that my day was compleltely ruined. A man was standing in one of the observation areas on the far side of the Park overlooking Duddingston. He indicated for me to stop and asked me for directions to Holyrood Palace. Happy to oblige (mostly since I actually could provide directions for him and appreciate it when strangers assist me when I am in need), I started to tell him that he simply needed to continue down Queen’s Drive and he would be able to actually see the palace. However, no sooner had I gotten more than a sentence out, he stopped me, his expression turning ugly. “I don’t take directions from dirty Americans,” he snarled, and then spit on me. I looked down at my shirt where the offending saliva had landed (had it been my face all sorts of shit would have gone down because my revulsion would have given me superhuman strength) and then took off running as fast as I could. It was a few minutes before I stopped, more out of necessity as I had used up a lot of energy in the sprint than anything else, and when I did, I simply collapsed on the grass, still shocked at what had just happened. I’ve experienced anti-American sentiment before, but usually anonymously and never entirely directed at me. It took me a while to make my way back to the Consulate and even after showering I was still shaken. My boss took one look at me and knew that something was wrong. So I had to explain and then file a security report. I still can’t believe that it happened. Still, that is just some people for you. I will probably be reluctant to give out directions in the future though.

Thursday was my farewell lunch. The ladies of the Consulate went to lunch at Amore Dogs, a funky, semi-upscale Italian restaurant in the New Town. The proprietor, who knows the Consul, gave us a complimentary round of champagne. I had a really nice, fresh bruschetta for an appetizer, and then mushroom risotto with truffle oil for my main. It was absolutely delicious. I’ve never had risotto again, usually preferring to stick with my tried and true pasta when it comes to Italian, but I think that I am sold for the future. That evening I did my last run in Edinburgh – 3 (or was it 4?) laps around the Meadows. It started to pour as I finished up and I arrived home at my flat completely soaked through.

Things I learned in Edinburgh
  • I like sweet potatoes.
  1. I also like falafel.
  2. It is possible to get all 4 seasons in one day. And it is miserable.
  3. It does thunder in the UK. Rarely, but it does happen. (Ironically it happened immediately after I had just written to my boyfriend that I miss the thunderstorms in the US because it makes precipitation events a little more exciting.)
  4. Stir-fried cabbage and red peppers can make an incredibly filling meal.
  5. When your own dinner sucks (i.e. you’ve made yourself a ‘cup-of-soup’ in a bowl because it is 5:30 and your blood sugar has plummeted), looking at cooking websites online can actually make things seem a bit better. Although it is a bit depressing to know that you would probably go crazy if you ever did make that triple chocolate-banana crepe.
  6. I can successfully make eggplant! (This is a remarkable achievement.)
  7. I can survive a run in the double digits.
  8. I will never be able to tolerate small talk and pointless conversations. This is probably why I would never be a successful diplomat – I find it too hard to engage strangers in random conversation.
  9. It is possible to miss someone so much that you feel like a part of your life is missing without him around.
  10. I am going to really miss the fall season when I leave for grad school. It is my favorite time of year and the UK simply doesn’t have the same type of autumn.

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