I should have included this in the first entry on Scotland which, looking back, has little substance, but let’s be honest, this is my first blogging experience and I’ll learn. Plus, without The Company, my trip would have been a completely different trip. Every detail of travel ties intricately together in the story — that’s why I carefully labelled Edinburgh as my favorite city but not my favorite trip because my favorite trip considers so much more, it considers who I spent my time with, the purpose, what I was able to experience. But I digress…
I signed up for the trip to Edinburgh through my guest university’s International Society. It was the first trip I’ve planned with them. I knew nobody, but come on, I couldn’t miss out on the chance to visit another country. On the day of the trip, I still knew nobody, but I spotted a few other girls in scarfs (man, has putting it on helped me spot people), swapped salaams (or peace), and in the end, asked to tag alone with them once we arrived at our hostel. This is new for me — I’m quiet and reserved, bashful and quick to discount myself at times — but it worked out perfectly for the trip.
There were three girls: Tasnim, Zain, and Isra. Tasnim and Zain are from Jordan and Isra is from Saudi. All three are studying Masters in translation here in Manchester. All three of them were also beyond generous, sharing stories, knowledge, and, of course, snacks! They’d packed backpacks full of gummy candies, chips, Maltesers, sandwiches, etc., all of which I was not only offered but obliged to eat — I’ve learned with my own Albanian family not to turn down what’s offered out of kindness (though Isra paying for our pizza dinners at the fancy Italian restaurant was almost too kind!). On the first day, I tried a bit of a thyme sandwich; I’d never had thyme and I’m usually quite picky but it was great. On the bus ride home, I tried roasted watermelon seeds flavored with a bit of pepper. I learned that in Jordan, they roast them right up just as we do pumpkin or sunflower seeds.
Spending my time with these girls, I was able to not only learn about Edinburgh but about culture around the world. For example, Isra shared with me here experiences in Saudi: the way in which the government is fully funding her education and providing a salary (I wish!), her experiences with Umrah and Hajj to Mecca, how her family responds to women being banned from driving, and so on. As I beamed about the city just before we departed, she told me to repeat about her and recited a du’a (or prayer) in Arabic which is to lead you back.
We exchanged information and I sincerely hope to weekend trip with them again!
When I travel, I decided I’d much rather bring home something authentic, something benefiting the country it came home. So I originally wanted to buy a wool scarf… Until I was faced with the harsh reality that many of the tags proudly proclaimed “made in China.” In the end, I settled on a wool hat from a tweed company in Scotland, one of those traditional Scottish types that I’ll likely never wear but it serves my purpose well. Zain also bought a four pack of cookies and handed us each a box — Walkers pure butter chocolate chip shortbread. I’m still debating taking them back to the US or busting the box open right here and now. Delicious!
*potential photos soon*