It has finally, actually happened -- and there is still a part of me that is in utter disbelief.
I am sitting in a third floor flat (translate - apartment) in a complex used for Church of Scotland missionaries on furlough. I see trees and buildings -- and what you should have seen was me trying to get three overstuffed American bags up three flights of stairs! Getting them back down should be easy. I think I will just drop them down the stairwell.
I left Atlanta on Thursday, July 23 amid a rush of activity. The house was packed up, most things in storage, and I had said a teary "see you later" to Asher, Joseph, and Timothy. They are in three separate homes for the moment until I can find a pet-friendly flat here in Edinburgh and return for them in September. I miss them bunches already. Then again, it is probably a good thing that they are in a settled place while I get settled here.
One of the great sadnesses of leaving, and probably why I had blogger's block for so long, was that I had to say goodbye to HRH the Princess Gretchen Marie. Gretchen was my baby girl, a long-haired red mini dachshund who had taken over my heart. I love my boys, but Gretchen was something special. Two weeks ago today, I held her in my arms as the vet helped her go to the Rainbow Bridge. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. It seems that each time I thought about writing, it meant that I was one day closer to having to release her. She was 16, blind, and having doggie dementia. I realize that being separated would have been sheer trauma for her -- but that doesn't make it hurt any less.
Now I am here, and life begins anew.
As I said, I arrived Friday afternoon and was met at the airport by Mary Ann Rennie, the pastor at St. Anne's Parish Corstorphine (www.stannescorstorphine.org.uk), where I will spend my first six months of my familiarization year. Mary Ann is very pleasant and I think we are going to get along great. We arrived at my temporary flat about 3:00 p.m. At 7:00 p.m., I met some Clan Gunn folks for dinner. It was the night before The Gathering 2009 began, that huge celebration of Highland games and Scotland in general in honor of Robert Burns 250th birth anniversary. We had a great time getting acquainted.
At the end of dinner, they had asked what I was going to do about getting into the Games on Saturday. I had planned to get day tickets. A moment after we walked out of the restaurant (and I was "a-salted" by one of the waiters, who - for some reason I don't recall - put salt in my hand), a woman crossed the street and asked if any of our group needed passports to the Gathering events. After we looked at one another in astonishment, I said yes and paid 20 pounds for something that would have cost 60 had I bought it earlier. Not only was I able to get into the Games for both days, I was also able to march with my Clan Gunn in the Clan March on Saturday night and to attend the big event in the Esplanade of Edinburgh Castle afterward. It was right at the end of the march that I spotted Diana Gabaldon, one of my favorite authors, taking in the march before the program. What a thrill!
On Saturday, I was a bit groggy in the morning, but got out that afternoon -- a beautiful sunny, no-rain day -- and met up with friends I had met through my Outlander Gathering online group. Sam and Scot were meeting Conny and her mother Iris, who were going on Sam's and Scot's Jamie and Claire tour. Conny and Iris are just delightful! While Scot did a turn at storytelling for some folks, Sam, Conny, Iris and I rambled about the Royal Mile just enjoying each other and the weather.
I traipsed on down to the Games field and caught a concert by Highland Heartbeat after that, breezing through the gate with my recently acquired passport. And yes, there were a load of men in kilts to admire. There was also a band named the Red Hot Chilli Pipers who are now on my favorite list. Talk about being able to rock a bagpipe! I found my Clan members on the way back up the Royal Mile and hooked up with them for the March.
While we waited for the March to begin, I looked up and saw two familiar faces coming toward me. John and Charlene Earl, who had been members of the church I served in Canton, GA, were headed my way. You might be able to imagine the shock we all had at seeing each other amongst the thousands of people massed for the March! Walt Disney's song "It's a Small World" keeps running through my head....
We marched, we waved, we visited, I got a proposal of marriage from the sidelines, and we experienced a late evening extravaganza all about Scotland. Proposal? Yes, that's what I said. A man in the crowd at the March called out, "Marry me! I'm rich!" My response? "What time?" I
never did hear an answer. We had marched on by this time. Still, a tad bit of flirtation and a marriage proposal all within 36 hours of arrival does a heart good.
I did take some pictures and I promise that they will be posted as soon as I find my card reader. It is in a bag that has not yet been unpacked. There is much more to tell, but I will do that in a separate post very soon. Promise.