Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Headed Home

A trip to Scotland would not be complete without getting caught in the rain.  We were up at 6:00 am to catch our bus and airport shuttle.  It was not drizzly, it was raining pretty hard.  Thank goodness the bus came early, but 12 people getting on with suitcases is disruptive.  We made it to the airport shuttle (after getting on the tram by mistake – different ticket needed), and then to the airport with just enough time to spare to take off long johns and other warm layers for the return trip home.

It was sad to say goodbye to Axel, our Swedish exchange student who had met up with us in Edinburgh.  The group enjoyed training with him in Wichita in the Fall, and wishes they could find a way to visit him in Sweden!

Finally Seeing the Sites

Woke up to rain that had finally washed away nearly all of the “Quik Trip Slushy” that we had been walking through for days.  It was a good start to the day.  The Castle was open.  We started our day there.  Then headed down the Royal Mile (stopping for more shopping along the way).  We found a great, quiet pub on the way and nearly the entire group ordered haggis, neeps and tatties.  From what I could tell, there were two items on the plate (meat and potatos).  I wanted to know that the Neeps were.  The server said they were mashed turnips mixed with the potatos.  We eventually got to Holyrood Palace.  After that the students broke into smaller groups, with some going to Mary King’s Close, some to the Museum, and others for more shopping.

I was determined to find one more bottle of specialty scotch that a friend had requested.  I finally located it, after stopping in the same shop three times.  The first time was with the students on the first day.  It was a small shop and I didn’t think about asking them if they knew the brand.  The second time I returned after some of the other shops said I should try this particular one, but my photo wouldn’t pull up and I couldn’t remember the right name.  After getting to a wifi zone, and saving the photo, I returned once more and the very helpful man had what I was looking for – success at last!

All my travel finally caught up with me on the last night.  With a scratchy throat, I decided I’d better not go out again.  I stayed in, packed, and went to bed while the group enjoyed one more team dinner.

Further explorations in a Wet City

Committee on the second day was unfortunately not improved over the first day, there were a number of no shows, no doubt related to the social the night before.  Our group did their best to move discussions forward in a productive way in their committees, but some delegates were simply there to goof around.  Their behavior really ticked off my students who had worked so hard to be prepared and professional.  

Several of the delegate earned nicknames:  Marajuna Man was a high school student from Poland who had matching pants and tie with giant canabis leaves on them.  And Salmon Suit Guy was a delegate from France.

I arranged to meet up with another faculty advisor from the US and we spent the day exploring/shopping.  I had several different kinds of scotch that I had been instructed to find, so we began with that quest.  It was funny to go into the different whisky shops.  Not being a drinker, I’m not very familar at all with descriptions of the tastes of different whiskies.  But each salesman would engage us in a detailed conversation about their different makes and such.  One went above and beyond in being helpful by giving us directions to a specialty chocolate shop that I wanted to find.

I was told the was a shop out near my B and B, so we decided to head that direction.  We found the chocolate, along with some really nice cafes.  Had lunch, then set off for the Polish grocery store that I had discovered on the first day.  My family has a few Polish food items that they love, and it would be fun to bring those back for them.  We were successful in our hunt.

We took the bus back toward the university and decided to spend our last few hours before the end of the conference at the Scottish National Museum.  It is a wonderful museum!  We opted to go through the Scottish history exhibits, although they had a lot of other choices, including a cool kids musuem section.

We returned to the University for the closing ceremony and my students were about to explode with frustration from how their committee work had degraded over the course of the day.  They had a Chair pretend to be a delegate from Haiti and bring in a sack and ask for donations on the floor of the General Assembly.  Completely disrespectful.  At the closing ceremony, one of the staffers made a comment about just ‘winging it’ the whole time and it ‘turned out ok’.  Not the kind of comment to instill confidence or a desire to return.  The only redeeming outcome was that 4 students won awards.  Excellence recognized, even in an environment that was not what we had hoped.
University of Edinburgh

University of Edinburgh

Having scouted out the good cafe at lunch near our B and B, we decided to return their for a delegation dinner.  It was great to debrief and unwind.  I didn’t know yet if the castle or palace would be open for sightseeing the next day, but went to bed with my fingers crossed.

First Day of Conference

We were able to take the bus into the University and found our committee rooms without a problem.  I was able to get on wifi (which had been very spotty at the B and B), and get some work done.  The students were surprised when their rooms took a 30 min tea break in the late morning.  Things were a bit rough in committee with lots of people missing, including a number of experienced Chairs, not everything was being run professionally.  We hoped it would calm down a bit on the second day.  The students got lunch with their committee members and finished out the afternoon.   We returned to the B and B to change and get ready for the club social that night.

We got off a few stops early to look for a place for dinner and eventually found a good one – Biblios.  More haggis was ordered.  We then found our way to the local club which was a very old converted storehouse with old arched stone walls and ceilings, cozy sitting areas, and a good DJ.  Some of the group decided to catch the last bus back to the B and B, not wanting to trust the taxi companies again.  The rest of the group stayed and took their chances.  Two cabs were called, only one arrived.  The other half walked about halfway home before being pick up by another cab.  Tough way to end the evening.

Opening Ceremony and Social

Knowing that the group would be dressed in their nice clothes, not their trudging-through-the-slush clothes, we ordered cabs to the formal and requested return service later in the evening.  Since none of us had phone service, this was arranged by our hostess. 

At registration they told us that because so many delegates were stranded, they had had to combine several of the committees.  My delegates, who were very conscientious about being well prepared, immediately panicked that they didn’t know anything about the other topic areas.  They planned to cram a bit in the moring before committee. 

The social started with a reception in the museum, then moved on to dinner, with people seated by committee.  I re-discovered what I already knew, which was that European schools do not travel with faculty advisors at all.  I joined a member of my group and we met some nice delegates from France, Germany and the UK.  It was a bit loud, so conversation was limited, but the dinner was good.  After dinner, there was a traditional Scottish band and the locals taught those who wanted to learn some Scottish dancing.  I tried one round myself, but it was a bit chaotic. 

As the time approached for our taxis to arrive, we borrowed a phone from another delegate who had service and called the company.  They said they had no record of our reservation, but they might be able to pick us up in 45 minutes, but couldn’t guarantee it.  We tried another company and they agreed to come right away.  Got home safe and tired after another full day.  Ready for conference to begin!