Eleven Americans in Bathgate

This past Friday included an event so marvellously adventurous, entertaining, and a wee bit irresponsible that it cannot escape as blog content.

Rewinding back in time to the evening of Friday, September 18th, a group of eleven Americans gather around in the living room of a small flat in Edinburgh, merrily watching the GOP Debate. Most of us were also under the influence of alcohol. Parents and relatives: be warned, for the future material of this tale does indeed involve myself and others participating in the drinking aspect of Scottish culture.

One of my fellow interns, Byron, told us all earlier in the week about the opportunity to go to a Ceilidh, a traditional Gaelic event, in Bathgate where his MSP’s assistant would be playing in a band. We all lacked the experience of a Ceilidh, and with the one UCEAP promised to throw weeks away, we decided that learning what one entailed a bit earlier would be a great way to spend our Friday evening. With the guarantee that a night of music, dancing, food, and most certainly drinking existed in our near future, we aimed to make it an epic adventure.

As previewed, going to a Ceilidh was not quite enough of a Friday night extravaganza: we wanted to watch the GOP debate too. However, with a plan that most certainly was not of my idea or approval, it somehow got proposed to “pre-game” the night with the debate, turning all the ridiculously things which occurred over the course of the many republican candidates arguing into a drinking game. Hence when Friday night rolled around, all eleven Americans intently monitored the debate until someone would shout: “Trump mentioned Mexico! Drink!” and other such remarks.

Needless to say, it only took about twenty minutes before smiles crept onto everyone’s faces, and our going to Bathgate included a clumsy walk to the train station.

Now, I don’t want to give off the wrong impression of anyone. At this stage no one was dangerously intoxicated. In fact, only myself and another girl were even noticeably affected due to our very low tolerance levels (ie: literally one drink) and did in fact end our participation then. Moreover we are all excellent students, incredibly driven and passionate interns, and overall superior human beings who exert an insane level of responsibility 99% of the time. But you know what they say: Work Hard, Play Hard.

A train ride and short taxi excursion later, a group of loud and giddy Americans burst into a small church and proceeded to be stared down by a large group of Scottish people. I cannot speak for the other interns, but I am pretty confident we all felt the same emotion in that moment: awkward and a fear of being the annoying typical American abroad. However that fear soon faded, as we were immediately welcomed into the Ceilidh, handed drinks (to those of us that wanted them), and pulled onto the dance floor.

Ceilidh dancing is incredible. Imagine the energy of a middle school sock hop, the coordination and choreography of line dancing, and the participant skill level of an advanced dance class, and that embodies the spirit of it. Being the silly and fun-loving person that I am, I proceeded to launch myself to every single dance that evening, dragging up other people with me so that I had a partner. Due to my lack of coordination and overall inability to dance, I struggled, but I also had more fun that I had in ages. As people who know me outside of this blog are aware: I love dancing, despite my low skill level. I went to every dance from middle school through high school, and even a few in college. I would dance and be ridiculous no matter where I was. Needless to say I have had many dance experiences in my day, so what I am about to admit is quite remarkable: the Ceilidh trumped them all.

Perhaps it is the fact that I had not been to a dance in a while. Perhaps it is because I finally was with a group of people who danced with me and shared my level of enthusiasm. Perhaps it is due to the friendly nature of the Scottish people I was with. And perhaps it is because I was more than a little drunk for most of the night. No matter the reason, I will never forget or regret anything about that Friday night.

Not only was the dancing spectacular, but the food at the Ceilidh proved memorable as well. Who would have thought that Scot’s pie and mushy peas could ever be so delicious? Spoiler alert: It is one of my favourite things I have consumed while abroad.

Once the evening closed down and we helped clean up, another taxi ride brought eleven Americans, many of whom were now even more intoxicated (not me though, calm yourself family members), to the train station. But to our dismay, there were no more trains running. My now sober self proceeded to use all my emotion masking techniques to hide my fury at this lack of planning, and instead try to advocate for a responsible alternative. With four very loud drunks trying to convince the rest of us to make an adventure of it and all share a hotel room somewhere here, the seven sober people gathered to create a more realistic and fiscally responsible plan, while also making them sit down, drink water, and stop talking. Finally, we realized our only choice was to cut our losses and take an expensive taxi ride back to Edinburgh. So crowding into two cabs, eleven Americans said goodbye to Bathgate and made it back safely to our adoptive homes.

I cannot stress enough how wonderful the Ceilidh was; the opportunity to be a part of traditional Scottish/Gaelic culture was fascinating, memorable,and truly unique. And getting the chance for personal conversations and interactions with Scottish people was phenomenal in its own right. They were so kind, funny, and welcoming. They accepted us into their intimate event, and treated us as family, not letting the fact that we were American and unaware of many of the traditions and customs of the event create any prejudices. They were willing and happy to be patient, and guide us through the ways of this cultural experience. For that, I am eternally thankful.


The Travelsmith

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