It is surreal to travel from the dry landscape and the Latin culture of northern Chile, to the bustling, multicultural, multi-sensory, hot urban landscape of summer in French-speaking Montreal, to the lush, green, refreshing, endless wilderness of English Canada that is still imbued with Scottish tradition in Nova Scotia.
I landed in Halifax after a quick flight from Montreal to a brilliant and sunny week, where in between the academic stresses of working on an intensive residency program that kicks off a master’s program that I’ll be working on for the next year or so, I have managed to relax at spectacular beaches, take walks along river banks with wild flowers and under magnificent old ash trees, to taste freshly made oatcakes (a traditional Scottish cookie-like biscuit that are common here) from the farmer’s market and watch a musical theatre performance on the history of the settlers in the region that was partially performed in Gaelic. I also went to the longest-running Highland Games outside of Scotland on Sunday, saw some staggering landscapes on Friday and met some charming and very welcoming locals ever since I arrived.
For this week’s blog post, I assumed I’d focus on my adventures in Nova Scotia last week. There is absolutely no shortage of material for a travel blog there! But as is the case so often in my life, this blog post took a different turn.
This week, I have had to focus on my academic endeavours as well as discovering a new corner of the world, and that has prompted me to reflect upon the experience of having this blog in of itself. Through the blog, I have learned to express my experiences more clearly – even the tiniest experiences, like taking a walk - which I believe in the larger picture can convey a better sense of some of my experiences in a very different country and culture.
This blog has also enabled me to connect and communicate with individuals all over the world. Your visits, comments and general support have helped shape me into a better writer and find my voice. I didn’t know exactly how a blog would turn out when I first started it over a year ago, and later I grew concerned about how to do justice to a country that no one I know back home in North America seems to know much about yet many people are fascinated by and want to know more.
I have since had very limited experiences in a very large country and continent for that matter, but I believe I have been able to find my voice as a writer through the experiences I have had, and based on your comments and feedback I’ve been able to shape my story in a way that even makes better sense to me through this writing endeavour.
I also would not be in Nova Scotia right now without my Chile experience or, indeed, possibly without my blog. I only reluctantly joined my husband in Chile last year (I felt I’d already had the “expat experience” as an American who moved to Canada and didn’t care to go through the transformation again. Also, I’d already learned French to live in Canada, why did I have to learn Spanish?)
Interestingly, I spent last summer just before going to Chile reading the fun dramatic/adventure/fantasy/romance/etc. novel series, Outlander by Dianna Gabaldon. I loved the Scottish history woven in throughout the entire series and felt more in touch with a bit of my Scottish ancestry after reading those books. I also desperately wished I could visit Scotland.
But, alas, my husband had other plans, and as you know, not even a vacation to Scotland happened, because I was instead thrown into a land that I knew very little about and I felt couldn’t be more different from a place like Scotland — Chile.
I was instructed to “make the most of” my experiences and thus built a social network there while building an online social network, central to which was this blog about my experiences, which as a side benefit also ended up being a therapeutic experience.
Then I visited Buenos Aires in October, a city that I had never visited before and knew little about. OK, I knew it was famous for tango and Eva Peron, and had been one of the “great” world cities at some point (probably still was, thanks to its reputation). By the way, I had wanted to visit Peru instead, because that’s where everyone wants to go in South America, right? Peru and Brazil.
But my husband insisted we go to Buenos Aires (gee, I need to have a talk with this guy, don’t I? First I get vetoed on Scotland, then Peru…) and good thing he did because it was then and there it all clicked in place. Ok, well, not exactly, but after a few weeks of digestion following that Argentina trip I suddenly realized I had to do more with the material I had been given and connected so closely to.
What was this material, you ask? Well, you may have wondered, if I like Argentina so much and have been there so many times, why not write a little more about the most famous and prominent Argentinean ever, Eva Peron? Well, my answer to that is, I am. My entire master’s thesis revolves around this woman and some of the information I learned while in Argentina. I haven’t blogged about it because before it could become a blog post, it simply became something much bigger. It became a whole research project and thesis.
The school and program that best met my interests for this research was based in Nova Scotia, Canada. And there we have it, I was accepted into the program this past March and arrived to begin the program just last week.
Upon arrival, as I mentioned, last week also happend to be when the whole town was hosting the Highland Games, which is an annual event that celebrates Scottish tradition and ancestry in the new world (American and Canadians travel from across the continent to compete in games, dance and bagpiping and have performances, dances, and a little bit of pub crawling).
Last week, while watching groups of men wander around town in their tartan kilts and full Scottish dress (dirk and sporran and everything), it suddenly hit me.
My superficial wish to visit “Scotland” had in a way come true… but only after I went on a year-long journey that involved Chile, Argentina, blogging, Eva Peron, reflection and a desire to learn more. What a strange circle I made this past year.
In two weeks it will be a year since I first went to Chile to stay with my husband. I may once again be reluctant because the journey is long and tiring, but if all of this happened in one year, I am intensely curious to see where this next year leads me.
*Note: I have many more Nova Scotia pictures to share that have not fit into today’s post, so I will share them on here Monday!