It would seem I may as well live here, in Scotland. My kilted ancestry lies here, one of my best friends lives here, and I always seem to come back. If the weather turned itself up to a better temperature, then hello…. I am your woman.
I left Milano like I entered it, on a wildly weird journey. I got to the airport in good time and checked in just fine, speaking in a mix of ‘I’ve forgotten my proper English tongue’ with a peppering of ‘check out my new Italiano vocabulary’. My breakfast was a sweet pastry and un caffe espresso from a man who told me that I had very dangerous eyes.
Surprisingly I was issued the exact same seat, centre left back row. This time it wasn’t an Italian male brass band who’d just won a championship, but a ten year old Scottish boy’s rugby team, that I was thrown into. It was an early wake up call, so I tried my best to grin and bear it through the boisterous boys with their unphased caregivers. This was ok up until my teacher’s voice nearly jumped when the young fullars decided to release some energy and wrestle each other in the aisle and in the row of seats in front of me. Nobody seemed to care except for my teeth grating against each other and my grip firmly turning the pages of my book.
When we landed, the boys were quick to jump up and jostle their way to the front. I sighed, hoping to improve my mood by purchasing some duty free wine.
My queue through immigration was bustling with ajuuma and adoshi, on a guided holiday. I managed to find a gap, before being engulfed by them. The scene started to get a bit pushy, but I stood my ground. One woman tried to grab someone from behind me to bring them in front. I shook my head and said “Aneeyo!” She looked at me, indifferent, realising that I wasn’t going to give up my spot. Then she grabbed my shoulders and moved me in front of her. I could feel the toe of her shoe resting on the back of my archilles. My fingers curled tightly around my luggage, I breathed in deeply and quietly released the steam from my ears.
From the other side of the ‘fence’, the group leader kept popping his head through the door as he tried to encourage his crew to hurry up and move forward, while security quietly encouraged him to move on. Ahead there were mobs already forming around the immigration windows, in a very chaotic way. I looked at Group Leader, gritted my teeth and said “Aneeyo! My turn. I have a bus to catch.”
Some escaped passed me. When I was next, I tried to compose my combination of weariness and lividness, and sighed when I plonked my passport down at the counter.
Immigration asked a lot of questions. The more she questioned the further her brow furrowed. She didn’t seem to absorb the details of my trip and bounced back with rapid-fire sternness.
“Where are you staying?”
“With my friend.”
“At this address?”
“Where did you meet?”
“Funnily enough, in South Korea in 2006”, I replied nodding toward the group.
Her eyes didn’t blink. The more I tried to explain my travel and living my dream, the more concerned she got. She talked about the rules and visas and that I could not work. Harder to get a visa than Italy, she reckoned. I knew all of this as I’d done hours of research and even emailed UK Immigration. Calmly telling her that I knew the rules and explaining what I knew, seemed to make matters worse. I felt like I was a male spider that was being devoured by a Black Widow.
Reluctantly, she let me in. I tried to thank her and wish her a nice day. Shell-shocked and on the verge of tears, I tossed my backpack on my shoulder and wondered whether Scotland had wanted my tourist dollars. Making my way to the luggage carousel, I passed the tour group and picked up The Beast, before theirs circled around. I walked toward the exit, without duty free in sight.
I lugged The Beast onto the wrong bus and then hurled it off again. When I was finally settled, all I wanted then was the comfort of seeing Scottish Best Friend.
We met at the bus station, where I reeled off my ‘I’m sure this only happens to NJ’ exit and entry stories. I was excited to see her and get these tales off my chest; my vigour for speaking in my mother tongue where words were falling out of my mouth at a rapid rate. Cue that with some exhaustion, and kookiness had set in. We laughed about the whole scenario. It was after all, quite ridiculous.
Our taxi driver had lived in New Zealand. He was also a victim of the recession, hence his need to taxi drive to earn his crust, when he should be retired. I think he’d reeled off a similar spiel several years previously when I’d come to visit, because it all sounded too familiar.
By the afternoon, I’d donned some shorts. I thought that this was an impossible fete in Scotland, considering I am a fan of hot weather. I also fell of the kid’s swing, when I tried to get off. My legs were twisted over the seat and my bum was scraping the ground. The six year old rolled her eyes in a ‘what are you finding so funny’ way. It was the kind of laughter that cripples you to bend in half and squeeze the life out of your bladder until you need to pee. And to add to this was SBF’s effort to perfectly time photos of this event unfolding.
So I made it back into Scotland, to laugh about another day. Having SBF there definitely helped egg the cackle on! Keep reading, as I find the Scottish version of my nana in a charity shop, where SBF and I do some soul searching, and where I find a street named Dick Place.