It's been almost three weeks since I moved to Scotland, and three weeks exactly since a packing crisis that lasted for multiple days. The first week here was the warmest week St Andrews (and likely the whole country) had experienced across the entire summer.
A whopping high of 75º for about a week and a half. Not enough sun to do much more than sweat on your way to a seminar. Unless you're me. Then you sunburn. Twice. How I managed that at this latitude, I'll never know. It's now in the high 50ºs/low 60ºs, windy, and rainy and drizzling half the time. It feels odd to know that everyone back home in Georgia is still in the thrall of summer weather, but at the same time, I've always thought Septembers should be filled with the oncoming chill of autumn.
Life here in St Andrews is full of new rhythms. I've exchanged my typical skipping of breakfast for buttered toast — sometimes with jam and sometimes accompanied by a full breakfast — every morning with my coffee. I now have to walk to the grocery store, so trips are now games of strategy: how much can I carry on my 15-20-minute walk home, and was it really wise to buy flour, sugar, and milk on this trip? Debatable. I walk everywhere now. I live within a mile of everywhere I need to be and miraculously haven't been late to anything yet. One of our three beaches here is only a ten-minute walk away. I keep finding myself wandering down to East Sands around sunset and spending an hour walking the beach or coastal path and climbing a rocky outcrop or two. The frigid water of the North Sea isn't for the faint of heart, but that hasn't stopped me from jumping in once (just to say I did!) and one of my classmates from taking a regular dip in the waves.
Mornings are slow and quiet. My only commitments are weekly lectures and classes, so it's nice to move at a slower pace than I've moved in the last few months. It's become routine to be a Yes Man, to say an enthusiastic yes to (almost) every social opportunity or optional seminar. I keep reminding myself that the social exhaustion of meeting new people and making new friends will surely end soon, and that every interaction is worth it in the long run. The people I've met make that easy. The church and Christian communities here are so united and supportive of one another. Women have gone out of their way to check in on me and make sure I'm doing all right. My cohort is delightful, and I'm really looking forward to researching alongside them as the semester progresses. I know we'll each develop an interesting niche for our dissertations due next August.
New rhythms also include living with four other women, three of whom are also postgraduates. Our house is fairly spacious, outside of the five feet of counter space that contain both the sink and the oven wedged into a corner. Conversations about anything and everything at the kitchen table have become regular and necessary to figuring out our new lives here together. We talk about theology and tradition, books and music, our classes and lectures and daily adventures. We drink far too much tea, but most of it is just to stay warm in this land of no central heating/air-conditioning. I discovered just a short while ago that we don't have a teapot in the house. I'll remedy that soon, but for now, the French press is doing a decent impression.
I like how slow life has become since arriving here. Maybe it's the juxtaposition of how insane my pace was prior to leaving. The time difference has made me feel a bit off the grid. I'm not constantly on my phone anymore other than to take pictures of every building that I think is beautiful (which is all of them). My brain hasn't caught up to my circumstances; I haven't fully realized that I'm here for longer than a few months. I'm here another year, but I feel like I've been tricked somehow, like I'm at some sort of cold and wet summer camp where I get to pursue research and write and drink coffee and tea and eat scones to my heart's content.
And then I exhale. Remind myself that I can rest even as my studies pick up their paces. That a dormant part of me can come alive again in the stretching and growing and searching that comes with the curiosity of learning. I remind myself to write both for fun and to chronicle and process. Three weeks have gone by in a blink. I'm determined to enjoy every minute of my time here. Off now to a lecture on some sort of violence between the Norse and Scots in medieval Britain. Exciting! There's always something new to learn about each week here. Time to down the rest of my tea, throw on a coat that I hope is warm enough after the sun sets, and scramble out the door.