2014 Spring Brianna Fonti External Programs United Kingdom

A Birthday for the Books

So this past week in Scotland was one of the most hectic, but most incredible ones thus far.  I combatted my first cold, rang in my 21st birthday abroad, went on a 5 hour hike up Scottish mountains, and as if that wasn’t adventurous enough, I stepped outside my comfort zone and consumed the traditional Scottish delicacy that is haggis.


The orange thing is neeps (turnips) and the white is tatties (potatoes), the two traditional accompaniments to haggis.

The week started with a simple and single sneeze, one that is common around this time of the year.  Then came the stuffy nose coupled with an aching body, and then the uncontrollable proliferation of sneezes; I knew that my immune system was about to take a beating.  With determination to be 100% for my upcoming birthday, I rushed to the medical center where I was treated rather quickly and prescribed some medicine, which as a pleasant delight, turned out to be free (perk of a the UK public healthcare system).

On Thursday night the birthday festivities commenced! To be completely honest, I was initially bummed that I wasn’t able to celebrate this momentous milestone back home.  However, the night turned out to be one for the books.  I celebrated with my friends from all over the world and in that moment, truly realized how blessed I was to be able to participate in such a positive life-altering experience.  The diversity I have encountered, the nuances between all the different English dialects, and the understanding of different cultures is something I am so appreciative of.  Not to mention that we got to attend a free concert performance from the Vengaboys, the Dutch one hit wonder band that created the magical and slightly overplayed song that the jubilant elderly bald man danced to in the Six Flags commercial.


Once the weekend rolled around it was off to the Firbush outdoor activity centre, a log cabin facility offering kayaking, canoeing, and hiking.  The scenery was absolutely breathtaking, reminiscent of the beautiful upstate New York area.  We were told that we were to go on a leisurely hike, one that people of all skill levels could participate in.  However, the hike turned out to be 5 hours long, and even though our guide ensured us that the terrain wasn’t too steep, I struggled climbing what seemed like some 90° hills.  With my worn down immune system, there were numerous times when I contemplated engaging in a dramatical performance where I told everyone to go on without me.  But I trudged on and made it to the apex of a snow-engulfed Scottish mountain.  And I have to admit the snowball fight that took place, made the treacherous hike worthwhile!



On Saturday night, I participated in my first traditional Burns night.  Even though the occasion is traditionally held on January 25th, the Firbush center entertained its guests with an amazing night filled with laughter, performance, and food.  An adorable and eloquent speaker named Colin was responsible for blessing the Haggis.  He recited the famous “Address to Haggis,” but was alarmed when he was informed that there were vegetarians presented.  For that he delivered a hysterical poem depicting his disdain and aversion towards this vegetarian haggis, a  so-called disgrace to the haggis family.  Since I absolutely adored Colin and secretly yearned for him to be my adoptive Scottish grandfather, I decided to put on a happy face and convince myself of my predilection for haggis.  But once I actually took a bite, it wasn’t half bad.  Would I eat haggis regularly, probably not, but I have to admit it was quite tasty.

The second day of adventures we canoed around Loch Tay.  How my body was still functioning after the 5 hour hike from the previous day was an absolutely mystery, but I made it for a full 2 hours of canoeing.  Granted, my partner Kelly and I were moving at snail pace.  From observation our technique was on point, so why we barely got any momentum in the water is beyond me.  Regardless, the weekend as a whole was incredible!


On an unrelated note, I learned an idiomatic Scottish expression this week, one that I intend to carry back to the states with me.  Whenever someone is upset or disappointed about something they say that they are “absolutely gutted.”  To use this in context, my Scottish friend said this when she realized she was unable to attend my birthday party, “I am absolutely gutted to be honest, but I have so much work that I can’t make it to the party.”  Why I am so particularly fond of this little colloquialism, I cannot say, but I plan on incorporating it into my everyday speech.


    1. Hi thank you so much I was under the impression my parents were the only ones actually reading my blog! And hmmm how to put this eloquently, haggis is a conglomeration of sheep parts mixed with onion, spices, and oatmeal. The Scots label it as a pudding of sorts, but it definitely has no relation to the rice or bread puddings were accustomed too! Thanks again for taking the time out to read my posts it means a lot!

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