Posted by: Andrea | May 19, 2008

How it all started

I realised recently that with all the blabbing I’ve done about various things in my life, I haven’t ever actually discussed how I came to be living in this little corner of the world.  As with most things in my life, it all comes down to a book.

When I was in high school, my mom read a lot of romance novels.  A LOT.  These always intrigued me.  As they do, when you’re a teenager and there are books around with pictures of heaving bosoms and naked male torsos on the covers.  And yes, I was not very with it when it came to dating or boys or anything that related to actually conversing with males of any kind.  Particularly cute ones.  I generally stayed away from them, very intimidating.  Which is probably why I was intrigued by romance novels and not out actually engaging in any sort of physical activity with members of the opposite sex, as most teenagers were.  But that is a WHOLE other post.  ANYWAY…

My mom eventually passed along a book to me, about a woman in New York who fell asleep in the park and woke up in medieval Scotland.  She met a cute laird, they fell in love in suitably amusing ways and ended up married to said laird and living in a castle.  Needless to say, I was hooked.  (Incidentally, my mom managed to pass on to me one of the only books without an actual sex scene.  It actually did the literary equivalent of the whole chick-flick-cross-fade thing, where no nakedness is actually ever seen onscreen.  It even had the fade-to-the-post-coital-bliss-the-next-morning thing.  Very funny.)

My mom’s romance novel of choice was the well loved historical romance, so I became very well acquainted with many different eras of English and Scottish history.  I read a few Old West ones as well.  And yes, ok, maybe a pirate one or two.  Whatever.  I was enjoying all these very much until Mom passed along what was to become one of my favorite books EVER.

That book was Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.  Wow, can this woman write.  She constructs the most fascinating plotlines and her characterizations are flawless.  I can’t recommend these books enough (and that’s right, I said books).  So far there are six written in the story of Jamie and Claire (more on them later) and at least two more planned.  The last one was over 1,000 pages long.  I wasn’t kidding when I said she can construct some fantastic plotlines.  Fantastic and complicated.  And also, so SO romantic.  Outlander tells the story of Claire, a nurse in World War II who reconnect with her husband, Frank, after being apart for the past six or seven years.  They’d just married before the war began and were immediately separated, so they took a trip to the highlands of Scotland to reconnect.  While there, Claire goes for a walk and passes by a standing stone.  This is a special stone though, which catapults her back in time 200 years (or so) and lands her in the middle of a battle between English troops and Scottish cow thieves.  She is rescued by the Scots and is taken with them back to their village where she hastily constructs a story of where she came from and surreptitiously attempts to get back to the stone and her husband.  

Of course, nothing goes to plan and she ends up being forced to marry a gorgeous young Scottish man named Jamie.  This is in order to protect her (it’s a long story) and of course they end up falling in love.  But what made this book so great is that it’s not your typical romance.  When I first read it I was a bit confused because Claire was in love with someone else, not to mention technically still married to him!  Jamie never seemed overly in love with Claire until the story unfolded.  It was a fantastic story because you got to see the relationship growing.  Gabaldon said later that she was never interested in the stories that stopped when the couple got married.  She always wanted to write a story about a marriage and a real relationship is like.  This book is so wonderful because she really does that.  Jamie and Claire don’t always get along.  They’re not perfect, they fight and reconcile and go through day to day life and their love grows as their marriage grows.  Of course there’s all kinds of intrigue, including a kidnapping, murders (several), a witch trial, all sorts of crazy family problems and much much more.  Plus, Jamie is just gorgeous.

So yes, I’ll admit it.  I became totally infatuated with Jamie.  For a teenage girl, he was perfect.  I actually got mad at Claire at certain points because she didn’t appreciate Jamie enough.  So what did I do when I was trying to choose where to go to study abroad my junior year?  Just a hint: I didn’t decide to practice my spanish.  

Yup, I went to Scotland.  And I know that romance novels aren’t always something to go on, but I was fully expecting to meet gorgeous Scottish men, all tall and muscly and kilt-wearing.  Ok yes, I knew they didn’t wear kilts all the time, but I hoped!  Of course, things don’t always go as you think they will.  First of all, Scottish guys are SHORT.  It’s something I noticed then and has remained true even now, eight years later.  I’ve discussed this with my friends here and we’ve decided it has something to do with lack of sun combined with a diet of fish and chips and Irn Bru (a soda the color of Fanta that tastes like the children’s fluoride my dentist used to give me).  And they’re very nice, but alas, none appeared to sweep me off my feet with his brogue and sexy kilt.

But lucky for me, I got over it.  I met my friend Emily, who had ALSO read Outlander!  Amazing!  We bonded over our love of Jamie and built a friendship that is still going today.  I learned to love beer, with a brief stepping stone on strong cider.  As an aside, I’ll totally admit that I first started drinking Strongbow because the tap at the pub had a picture of arrows on it and it reminded me of Robin Hood.  The best part?  It was so strong and I was such a lightweight, if I drank two pints fast enough, I was drunk!  I was the cheapest date ever!  It was my first time actually being able to order a drink in a bar (I was only 20 at the time) and that was a fantastic experience.  

I grew up a lot in Scotland.  It was a very difficult time for me and tested me in so many ways.  I was still very young and was still trying to figure out who I wanted to be.  I was plunked down in the middle of a whole new country with nobody I knew and had to fend for myself.  I had to make new friends, figure out how to survive there and learn how not to stand out as a tourist (such as not asking for a to-go bag when you can’t finish your meal.  Big no no in Scotland).  I met the cutest guy who lived in the flat downstairs from me but was too lame to realise that when my roommate said he ‘fancied me’ it actually meant he really liked me!  I still had one of the cutest experiences of my life, when the guy came home drunk with his friend one night and yelled up at my window to wake me up and ask me if I wanted some of his pizza.  I know, kind of lame, but for me at the time?  Adorable.

So much of why I fell in love with Scotland was how much it made me grow.  It forced me to be more independent, to take those first few steps towards becoming the person I wanted to be.  It started a process that took years to finish, but it was a wonderful way to start.  I also love the culture, I love the people, I love the scenery and the atmosphere and so much else.  There are definitely negatives about living here.  But I knew, even at 20, that I didn’t want to be a person who spent her whole life living in the same place.  I wanted to live in another country, to meet people who weren’t like me, to be somewhere that would make me grow.  Sometimes I feel like choosing Scotland was a cop out, because everyone here speaks English and it’s not a ‘foreign’ as some other countries.  But you can’t choose where your heart leads you and my heart always led me here.  

I don’t know how long I’ll be here.  I’ve been feeling homesick recently and maybe I will go home.  But even if I do, I feel blessed for having been able to live here as long as I have.  

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Responses

  1. Hmmm… I bet you’d like my mother-in-law’s books. She wrote historical romances set in medieval England and Wales.

  2. Wow, I bet I would! I don’t read many these days, but I still indulge when I’m home sometimes. My mom’s closet continues to provide some gems. If you can, email me the titles, I’d love to check out any recommendations. And recommend them to my mom too. 🙂


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