Sunday, September 20, 2009

Scotland and Church

"If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live." --Lin Yutang

I was online Thursday afternoon when I received a message from an acquaintance, “Hey… I met you in line the other day. I know we don’t know each other, but do you want to go to Scotland with me this weekend?” We planned our adventure and determined we would leave just 8 hours later, at 3:50 in the morning. I referenced the upcoming trip in my facebook status and another acquaintance who I met at the Christian Union asked if she could join. The four of us met up early Friday morning in the courtyard of our flat complex, introduced ourselves, and started walking through the night to the bus stop. The formation of our relationship was so beautiful, I want to live in a world where strangers can trust each other to travel together. The friendships that I have created in England are so different from my friendships at home; here we are all “strangers in a strange land,” we have been thrown together and must grow from each other.

We arrived Friday morning in Glasgow, Scotland where we wandered for a bit and then took a train to Edinburgh. In Edinburgh we walked through the Edinburgh castle, stopped in a few shops, and went on a walking tour of the city. I have discovered a tour company called “NewEurope” which offers tips-only tours in every major city. I have found these tours to be incredibly informative and plan to engage in these tours throughout my travels. The tour showed us several locations that were critical in the formation of the Harry Potter book series. We had lunch at “The Last Drop” which is the location where those about to be executed would enjoy their final meal and drink. That night we had dinner together in a pub and stuck around a bit to meet people in the pub. We ran into some Australians who are in Scotland on business, Irish celebrating a bachelor party and birthday, Irish on holiday, and some Scottish advertising executives. I believe that I have learned more from talking with people that I meet in pubs than I have learned from city tours and classes combined. Everyone has a story and tales of living in Europe and it is easiest to hear a more organic version of those stories when people are feeling “socially liberated.” The next morning we took the 6:30 am train to Inverness. We had some difficulty getting our tickets as the credit cards on which we had purchased our tickets did not contain a “chip and pin” which is commonplace in European cards. It is amazing how many technological differences exist between the United States and Europe. The US is quite far behind!

Inverness was truly amazing. I have always been interested in the legends of Loch Ness and had dreamed of traveling to the Loch. As I stood on the shore of the Loch I felt a sense of accomplishment, that I had sincerely wanted something and then had done what was necessary to accomplish that goal. In the rush of the waves I felt so in control of my life and its outcome; I believe I can craft myself into the person that I want to become and I believe I can shape the world into a better place.

For about an hour I sat on the bank of Loch Ness. I felt the warm sun on my face in the cold morning and watched each wave ripple and fall against the shore. It was quite lovely. My brother Samuel would have loved the Loch. The splatter of the waves was both violent and peaceful. I really love the pictures of me at the Loch. The pictures from the Loch capture a version of myself with whom I am not strongly acquainted; a “Judith” who is organic, grungy, happy, and natural. I like who I was at the Loch. In the afternoon we went on a cruise through the Loch and then toured a Jacobite castle. The castle was amazing! We saw a traditional Scottish wedding at the castle.

So much of the world, and many members of my own family, will never get to experience Scotland. The challenge that I have is conveying to my family these things that they have not and perhaps will never experience. Pictures are helpful, and I can draw many analogies to experiences that I shared with my family in the USA, but holistically- I cannot convey the grandeur of Loch Ness in words. I can’t justify why I should get to have these experiences and so much of the world not. I do believe that I have been commissioned to at least make an attempt to convey my perceptions of the world to those that I encounter, but also to use my time in Europe to learn how to live “the good life.” I will use my spiritual rejuvenation and new understandings to make my world at home a better place. What a huge and fulfilling goal!

That evening we took the Megabus from Inverness to Preston. The bus was full of grumpy old men and young people returning from a football game. We happened to sit next to some quite drunk Scotsmen who entertained us the entire ride. The boys led a sing-a-long on the bus and told us about hating the Killy. One of the boys thought my friend Sabrina looked like Katie Holmes and consistently referred to her as “Katie” and the rest of us by the states in which we reside. We switched busses in Perth and one of the boys was accused of “being the ring leader and stamping his feet.” The boys walked throughout the mega bus to inquire if anyone was from Killy and to do a survey of who hated the Killy. One of the boys “married” my friend Vanessa on the mega bus and a business man traveling a few rows back was commissioned to be the ring bearer for the wedding. Those boys were completely obnoxious, but so funny.

This morning I went to church at the “Freedom Centre” and attended a student luncheon afterward. The church was quite different from my church at home, praise band music was the norm and the theology was not as progressive as I would appreciate. I found the people to be genuinely warm and welcoming, I felt like a long-term member during the service. I didn’t feel an awkward presence as a visitor. Though church in the parts of England in which I have traveled may be conservative, I have found church members to be so genuinely compassionate. The Christian Union (campus ministry) on the University campus made very developed meals for any International student or Freshman every night for two weeks. I can’t imagine committing the heart and the time to providing for new students in the way that the Christians on this campus have! There is a sense of generosity, genuine interest, and compassion in the Christian Union that I don’t often find in the States. I hope that my continued involvement in religion in England will make me a more compassionate and generous person. I see the friends that I have made in the Christian Union as being inspirational and Godly people.

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