Saturday, November 27, 2010

Rugby and Visiting Friends

Well, I had been looking forward to it for at least two months, and it finally happened. My first rugby game ever.

I know nothing about rugby. Now, I know a little. Enough to conclude that it is a much simpler game than American football, the most complicated game in the world. But this was no ordinary game. It was a national game, Scotland vs. New Zealand All Blacks. New Zealand is the best team in the world, by far. They do the infamous 'haka' dance (if you've seen Invictus then you know, but basically an overflow of testosterone infused yelling and stomping). So that was really cool to actually see in person. There was lots of hype coming up to the game. Every time New Zealand comes, the city becomes really electric. Everyone is talking about the game.

I was lucky enough to have a good friend visit that weekend. Lautauro, whom I stayed with in Buenos Aires on several occasions for at least a few weeks. See my post from April. Anyways, Lautauro came in on Friday and left on Monday, with a friend he is working with from Uruguay.

Actually, I wanted to take a second to reflect on how great couchsurfing and also Rotaract is and how things come full circle like this. While travelling in South America, I used both of those and stayed with lots of new people. I developed lots of new friendships, some still very strong and others I can't say I haven't talked to since I left. I'm not sure why, but it is really interesting that it is possible to develop and maintain a friendship, and even strengthen it, having only met someone for one day, two days, 5 days, or 7 days etc. Of course, I suppose, it is really made more possible through the internet. I email or chat on a several times a week basis with several people, and on a semi-weekly basis with others that I met in my trip. For example, one guy I met in Bariloche in Argentina, I met for one day only, but we communicate, mostly through facebook, at least a few times a month. Someone else I met in Brasilia, I communicate with by email several times a week. And I know that in these two cases and a handful of others that we will meet again, it is just a question of when and where. So when Lautaro visited (and we chat on gmail every once in awhile), it was really great, like seeing an old great friend again. He called his visit here 'operation payback'. He was getting me back for staying at his place, haha. He'll visit me in Sweden next year and when he moves to Luxemborg in January, I'll probably go there (he lives in France now). I guess he will move to Los Angeles in 2012 for a phd. Maybe we can meet on 3 or more continents. But, in summary, I have decided that people define places, places do not define places.

Anyways, Saturday evening the three of us went with Eduardo and George to the game. George had been hyping it up for quite some time. He went all out and wore his kilt to the game to show his Scottish pride. He took us all to the golf club before the game, treated us to a round of beers, and we loaded up on haggis rolls. The game itself was fun and it was frigid outside (it was an outdoor night game, at about 35 degrees!). One thing that really surprised me was how tame the crowd was. I remember crazy soccer fans in Brazil, and just watching England Premier League games on TV here, soccer fans are a bit nuts. But as George liked to say, the expression in Scotland is 'in rugby the thugs are on the field and the gentlemen are in the stands'. All 55,000 fans were seated the majority of the game, which was tamer than even a baseball or basketball game. As expected, the rugby players really are massive guys. In the end, Scotland got crushed. Something like 49-3, although the past two weeks they beat South Africa and Samoa, which are really good, so, in conclusion, Zew Zealand rules rugby.

Fans with the Scotland Flag:

Murrayfield Stadium:

Big dudes:

The group:

George and I:

Friday night was another great evening. I was going to take Lautauro and company to a typical Scottish dance. We went alright, but this particular evening happened to be fiddle festival 2010. So when we got to the building, we decided first to check out the fiddle room, after all, it's not every day you see some fiddlers. There were about 8 or 9 sitting around a table just having a good time. So we sat down near them and the room was pretty devoid of other fiddlers and even an audience. Slowly, more fiddlers came in one by one with their fiddles (and guitars and flutes and accordions, but mostly fiddles). Pretty soon, there had to be 35 or 45 fiddlers, all just going at it. They didn't stop when people arrived. The newbies just unpacked their fiddles, sat down, and zoned out. The music was really impressive so we stayed a long time until we were surrounded by fiddlers. Luckily enough, an older guy set his fiddle down on our table, so I asked him if I could try it. Reaffirming my thought that Scottish people are so dang friendly, he said no problems, and we talked for a bit. Another fiddler came over and tried to instruct me on how to play. I rocked out and started out with my own rendition of Beethoven's Concerto No. 127.54. A natural. After a good hour or more at fiddlemania, we proceeded upstairs to the ballroom for the Ceilidh. As always, it was a blast. Lautauro also really enjoyed it, and was as suprise as I was the first time how fast paced, nonchalant, and free everyone is in the dance. Who cares if you screw up, you dance with lots and lots of people, you sweat, and everyone enjoys themselves.

A few fiddlers:

Fiddlers piling in:

Getting my first ever fiddle lesson (bear in mind I was playing this while all the other fiddlers were jamming. Good thing they drowned me out).

Close to the fiddle action:

The Ceilidh:

As a point for the weekend I decided that we should eat all Super Scottish foods. Friday night started with them eating deep fried sausages and chips (fries). It was at a fish and chip shop so quality was low and meal kind of stunk. Saturday and Sunday morning, I made a full Scottish breakfast for all. We made my first trip to the butcher for fresh lorne sausage, bacon, eggs, and the corner shop for brown sauce, rolls, a tomato, and an IRN-BRU. It was the funnest trip to the butcher ever. The butchers were all really funny & chatty guys in their late 60s (reminding me of Grandpa Frank a little!). With my American accent, the picked me out after two words were uttered, and started just chatting about what I was doing here (whilst poking a bit of fun at me for my accent).

Sunday I studied while they walked around Edinburgh. In typical couchsurfing fashion, like good friends crashing on your couch should, they came back with dinner ingredients. They cooked a nice pasta dinner for all, the only meal of the trip without meat (and quite a relief it was). Monday we had lunch, going to a baked potato shop. I went with the baked potato stuffed with haggis. As a joke gift, they bought me the largest bag of potato chips they have seen their entire lives as well as some mints, at the one pound store. Lot's of Bovril was also drank over the weekend, and now I'm not sure why I wasn't drinking it very often before, it's not that bad, especially in cold weather, quite warming.

Certainly overall one of the most fun weekends in Scotland thus far.

Full Scottish breakfast, all in one roll:

Lautauro with his new favorite condiment, brown sauce: (Note, per request, I mailed some to him in France in exchange for his Argentinian Masse jersey he doesn't wear cause all of Argentina hates him after they lost the world cup).

Massive bag of chips (more plastic than should ever be used. Mixed flavors, Prawn Cocktail, S & Vinegar, Salted, and Cheese and Onion):

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