A different language, the other side of the world and a bunch of people I had never met before, made going to Scotland quite a daunting experience. Luckily I eventually managed to understand what most people were saying, that’s not to say they understood me! Once the language barrier was sorted I found myself having the experience of a lifetime.
Before I left for Scotland the two comments I got from most people were: “It’s just like New Zealand”, and “You’re going to freeze!”
It turns our that I managed to avoid hypothermia entirely. I also discovered an amazing country which, being in the Western world does have similarities to New Zealand, but if you take the time to explore, it can give you many different experiences.
The place in Scotland where I was volunteering was quite isolated. Isolated, that is, from the big cities and crowds and other effects of human population. However, it was surrounded by natural beauty and many hidden wonders. I once spent an evening clambering through heather, a bog and probably lots of deer droppings to find the perfect place to view the sunset. Apparently, you are free to wander the Scottish countryside as long as you don’t disturb any livestock. I took advantage of this rule and was able to see some amazing scenery. There was often a small loch, a fox, some wild deer, or just new friendly people to be found around the next corner or beyond the next hill.
The work I was doing was quite varied so some days I was leading kids on a expedition up Kindrogan Hill, instructing them on a ropes course of having fun with roleplays. I didn’t realise that coming from New Zealand would make me instantly interesting but I definitely enjoyed teaching schoolchildren in Scotland how to say “Kia Ora bro”. There were also a few impromptu geography lessons involved and hopefully they remember that New Zealand is not a part of Australia…or England!?
The environmental education centre which I worked at also catered for adult groups. So not only did I need to the confidence to instruct a group of ten year olds I needed to be able to instruct a group of adults. This was one of the challenges but it didn’t turn out to be entirely disagreeable to tell adults what they could or couldn’t do.
The Highland Games, a bit of whiskey drinking and as little bagpipe music as I could manage to hear helped give me a Scottish experience. Someone- someone Scottish I should point out- told me that the Scottish are the friendliest people in the world. After spending six months there I don’t think I could really argue with that, the people I met were definitely the best, and most important part of the experience.