My first paper for ENG 101 [Friday, Sept. 24, 2004, 5:40 pm]
Scotland. Sometimes I wonder what people first think of when they hear that word. Perhaps they think of rolling hills of heather, bagpipes, or Scottish accents. Maybe certain people come to mind - Mary Queen of Scots, William Wallace, Robert the Bruce, or even Sean Connery. But for me, Scotland is what I referred to as Ďhomeí for five years of my childhood.
Scotland is a beautiful country. My family lived in a small town called St. Cyrus, just a ten-minute walk from the North Sea. My dad worked at an American military base nearby. Even though I was homeschooled, I was still able to meet and play with many of the neighborhood children, and thus experienced a foreign culture as only a kid could.
One of my favorite things about living in Scotland was the incredible amount of history that the country contains. Throughout the five years we spent there, my family visited ancient rock circles made by the Picts, old villages built by the Anglo-Saxons, and, my favorite of all, the ruins of old castles and monasteries. It was amazing to tour buildings that had been inhabited by kings, dukes, and military leaders, centuries before.
We also got to see some genuine Scottish highland games, involving bagpipers, highland dancing, tug-of-war, and other competitions, which were very fascinating to an American kid like me. We sampled some foods of the culture as well: Fish ní chips, which was wonderful, haggis, which Iím afraid I canít recommend, and unhomogenized milk.
But besides the food, tradition, and historical sites, friendships with some of the Scottish people are also impressed on my mind. And they are all good impressions. The people that my family got to know were extremely friendly, and in most ways, the children I played with were just like the children here in America, only with Scottish accents. The fact that I was American didnít bother them at all. In fact, most people were curious about it.
I remember that one of our next-door neighbors seemed a bit cross after our first encounter with her, but she soon became one of our dearest friends in the town. I also remember the times that my dad would come home late from the local convenience store, because heíd been chatting with the owners and lost track of time. It was definitely hard to leave that place. Our last days in Scotland marked the only time that Iíve ever seen my mom cry.
After living here in America for the past eight years, Iíve been noticing an idea that seems to be indirectly promoted in a lot of popular media. The idea that everyone who isnít American, hates Americans.
Now, I donít know where these people get their data; some of their sources may be reliable. But I can say without a doubt that I have no memory of any Scot treating my family with anything less than complete kindness. They accepted us and we accepted them. Because we werenít arrogant. We were simply Americans who were genuinely interested in discovering more about the country we happened to be living in.
I think that, even though I didnít realize it at my age, my time in Scotland taught me a lot about my roots. Exploring the country gave me a small link with my ancestry that I never really thought about or appreciated until I was much older. And while Iím still proud to be an American, Iím just as proud to have had this opportunity to make an unconscious connection with this part of Americaís origin. Because I love the culture of the place, and the Scottish people are wonderful - even though they donít homogenize their milk.
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