Clearly by my last post, you all know I certainly felt in over my head upon arrival. And it was undoubtedly difficult, especially as someone who doesn’t know how to pace herself or when to quit. I had also forgotten I can experience things like homesickness and loneliness, for all my big talk about about traveling solo. Despite all that, after getting to know my host and hostess better—and realizing just how kind they are—I’ve hit my pace and am well-poised to enjoy the rest of this experience.
And what an experience it is! The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Fest is taking place this weekend, and my hostess and I went to a ceilidh to celebrate. I feel like Lydia Bennet when I say I danced every dance!
ceilidh /ˈkeɪlɪ/ noun 1. an informal social gathering with folk music, singing, dancing, and storytelling
The Ice House Ceilidh Band provided the music, and besides playing their music super well, they also had a nice set with just enough ballads between reels that we could all catch our breath.
Highlights of the Ceilidh
- Being asked to dance by a stranger so I could learn the Military Two-Step.
- Learning the Flying Scotsman along with everyone else, holding hands and shouting, “Chooo chooo!”
- Getting to see a girl dance the Sword Dance (which I’m now determined to learn, so now’s the time to buy stock in Band-Aids).
On the way home, my hostess said I’d really had a trial by fire, never resting from the first Gay Gordons to the final Auld Lang Syne. That’s apparently the only way I do things!
Uisge beatha [ˈɪʃcə ˈbʲahə] noun 1. the phrase, literally “water of life,” was the name given by monks of the early Middle Ages to distilled alcohol.
Last weekend I toured the Strathisla Distillery, where I was one of three in my tour group. The other two were a German couple, because I always make German friends everywhere I go. Must be my German blood, drawing us all together.
Highlights of Strathisla
- Tasting (and buying a bottle of) their excellent 12-year single-malt.
- Sharing stories and drams with the German couple after the tour, who had driven their camper up through Amsterdam, taken the ferry across to Newcastle, and then continued through on their vacation through the Highlands. (Bucket List, consider yourself warned.)
I’m pretending the exchange rate between GBP and USD is 1=1 so I’m not too upset about the price of the bottle.
Cooper /ˈkuːpə/ noun 1. a person skilled in making and repairing barrels, casks, etc.
My hostess and I took the Keith and Dufftown Railway in to Dufftown today (which is, incidentally, near Hogwarts, according to some sources). The ride was lovely, past Drummuir Castle and through pastures full of rascally lambs, and because of the Whisky Fest, they served drams of Glenfiddich and bits of Walker Shortbread each way.
Highlights of the Whisky Fest
- Watching the barrel races. You haven’t lived till you’ve seen a man in a kilt on a windy day race a whisky barrel.
- Tasting ice cream made with Glenfiddich and Aberlour whiskies.
- Picking up a few postcards in the newly-opened The Ginger Coo, a lovely shoppe with local goods and two of the friendliest people.
Scotland knows how to celebrate a thing right.
croft [krawft, kroft] noun 1. a small farm, especially one worked by a tenant.
And of course, during the weekdays, I’m lending a hand here on the croft. And it’s really been kind of fun for all its hard work. Now that the weather’s warming up and the clothes I brought are more seasonal again, I’m looking forward to each new day.
Highlights of the Croft Work (so far)
- Taking the black lab for his walk. It’s about a mile through the woods and along foresters’ tracks, and it’s incredibly recentering for this particular introvert.
- Gathering eggs and feeding the chickens and ducks in the morning. I always keep a little barley in my feed bucket so I can spoil the sheep on my way back. They’ve learned to come running now when they see me.
- Baking and cooking on the Aga. After starting and deleting several sentences to go here, I’ve decided I’ll just have to devote a whole post to the Aga sometime later. (May 7th edit: Posted as promised.)
All told, it’s a good experience, and I absolutely appreciate all the kind words of encouragement so many of you have sent along in response to my earlier distress. As my BFF reminded me this morning:
You’re on your own, adjusting to a new living space, with a different family, in another country, doing a brand new job, and that is tough to handle even if everything is fantastic … Most people avoid these issues by never doing anything cool or risky, and that is lame…
Here’s to a lack of lameness in all of our lives. Slainte!