Sunday, September 19, 2010

A bit on the City

Usually when I meet a new person here, one of the first questions they ask is 'Do you like Edinburgh'.

It's actually a hard question to answer. It's been just over a few weeks here, so I still have plenty of time to explore and get to know the city and formulate my opinion. But, I can't usually unequivocally and emphatically answer 'YES', to that question. So far, I like the city, but am certainly not enamored with it.

Possibly because it is a little familiar. The foods are different, but not in a strange or exotic way. Of course, they speak English, of which I understand 80-90% of the time (I find myself having to ask people to repeat themselves sometimes). The city is a mixture of new and old. Mainly, the center of the city is very historical, but once you get outside of that, It is all fairly new.

After the first few days here, though, I thought that it was not a very diverse city. But my opinion is changing after a few weeks and learning more about the city. If I walk down any random street here, it is true, chances are I will not see a black person or a hispanic person. And that is something that is very different from the bay area or Chicago. However, there are a large amounts of people from India, Bangladesh, the Middle East, Poland, China, and Southeast Asia. The thing about the diversity here, and I think this is how it should be, is that everyone together makes up the society as a whole. There is no China town, little italy, SF mission district, Chicago Devon St, etc. Everyone, on the surface at least, is part of society. That implies learning English, not living together in blocks and communities, and generally being part of the 'normal' culture (adapting). While Chicago is probably one of the most diverse cities in the US and even world, the fact is it seems that there is a neighborhood pecifically set aside for every race, and when everyone just withdraws to their own mini country within a country, it really isn't actually that diverse. So anyways, I think the spread of diversity here is less than in the US, but the integration is much better. I'd like to look into why that is cause I can't really say (immigration laws & programs, how housing is structured, attitudes towards illegals, borders, etc).

Let's see.....I have decided I am not a huge fan of the beer here. The average Scottish beer is better than the average US beer (taking budweiser as the 'average' American beer'). In that regard, it is because they have a bit more flavor. But I went to a beer festival the other day with Brecht and Karliss, and was actually really disappointed...but that is mainly because I am simply not used to the beer style. I felt like all the beers were flat. In fact, one of the brewers said they don't carbonate the beers very much. So that leads to very little foam, not many bubbles, and a thin, almost watery flavor in my opinion. They were also not very cold. Not sure if that is normal or not, though. Anyways, at the moment, I'm not a huge fan of the general beer style.

Friday night I went to a traditional Scottish dance called a Ceilidh (pronounced 'kay-lee'). Basically, a band played very upbeat, traditional folk dance music, and led people through the steps to many different dances. I think it equates to something like line dancing on super steroids. Anyways, there were about 300 people in the hall. There were people of all ages as well (though as it was hosted near the University, there were a bit more people in their 20s). Anyways, basically, you have partner dances and group dances. In some of the group dances, everyone ends up dancing with everyone. It is very fast paced, not much stopping, and even sometimes in groups the men end up lifting the women up (which leads to an extremely sweaty, stinky room after only a few dances). Occasionally, it can be hard to follow the guy shouting the steps on the microphone over the band, but here, many people did not know what they were doing, so I fit right in. Of course, only about 10 or 15 men were wearing kilts, so you can tell the % who were actually Scottish. The high tempo of the dances really created and environment where everyone was having fun, everyone was dancing with everyone (no machisimo), and it would be hard for someone to not enjoy themselves. I myself had a blast, and anyone reading this knows from a few blogs before I STUNK to the nth power at the Tango and Samba.

Last dance took about 20 minutes (women on one side, guys on the other. Each partner goes down the gauntlet and goes in a circle with arm interlaced around each man or woman. Quite the sweat fest):

Pair dance:

Edinburgh is generally a very safe city. I live about a 35 minute walk from the city center, and have had no problems walking home at night on occasion (George told me it is very safe anyways). There is a neighborhood north of the city called Leith, near the waterfront, that seems to have a reputation for not being the safest place at night, but that seems to be about it. But if I don't want to walk home, the bus service is really good. It is 1.20 pounds per ride (something like $1.80). Plus, they are double deckers, so that's just good fun being able to walk up a set of stairs on a moving bus.

Since George is a walking encyclopedia on UK history, I'll have to post a blog sometime on history. I find it pretty interesting. As well as the relationship of Scotland to England and Scotland to the UK in terms of governance. When talking about history here, it's impossible not to talk about religion, so need to write about that (if only for my own memory). Plus, more food blogs. Prawn Cocktail, Worchester Sauce, and Roasted Chicken flavored potato chips anyone?

Other than t

Brecht (Belgium) and Karliss (Lativa), having our first Fish and Chips:

A picnic just outside/above the city with Hernan (Argentina), his wife, Karliss, and roomate Eduardo (Mexico City). Good Spanish practice!:

Having Chinese food at our place with Eduardo and George before watching Manchester United play the Rangers (a Glasgow team).

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