Week One: Scotland and Aberdeen

I first started drafting this in an Edinburgh hostel, halfway through our first weekend trip – first to Edinburgh and then to Glasgow. Now as I’m waiting for my Aberdeen to London flight (after which I’ll be doing some travel around Europe), I’ll try to finish this post up – since my flights been delayed almost 3 hours :(.

I’ll give an overview of impressions of Scotland and Aberdeen and my host school. This was eventually one long post but I’m going to split it.

Scotland and Aberdeen

Aberdeen is located in Northeast Scotland – and it is is *really* north. It lies just above 57 N, placing it just at a higher latitude than Kodiak Island, and just around the northern border of Newfoundland and Labrador – (thanks Wikipedia). It’s industry is quite reliant on the North Sea oil and gas industry – you see this as soon as you land in the ads for random oil/gas industrial services as you go to baggage claim.

Aberdeen is the 3rd largest Scottish city by population, behind Glasgow and Edinburgh (“pronounced edinbruh as I figured out”). People from Aberdeen are called Aberdonians, similar to the Dundonians of Dundee to the south, and different from the Glaswegians of Glasgow. I asked one of the CS teachers what Edinbrugh-ians? were called and she didn’t know :P. Update – wikipedia says “Edinburgher”.

The first thing I noticed about Aberdeen was that it was really gray (sorry, grey). Scottish weather seems to oscillate between clear + sunny, and damp + drizzly. And it always feels just slightly damp here, so it seems like winters here are very wet. Aberdeen in general is surprisingly several degrees C warmer than Boston, despite being 15 degrees north. The architecture in Aberdeen has grown on me! It’s quite pretty – even though the gray Aberdeen granite is a bit lacking in color (see pics below)

Union Street – the main shopping street in central Aberdeen. Belmont Street on the right has pubs, a movie theatre (saw Mary Queen of Scots there), and restaurants. At the end of Belmont Street is my school!
Looking down Belmont towards my school

Random fact: HTML <center> tags throw off British people because here, it’s spelt <centre>. My host teacher has actually converted to defaulting to the American spelling because he uses these so often. Same goes for stuff like color vs colour. Hmm I wonder how universally US/English-centric programming languages syntax is. I wonder if there are any examples of non-English/non American-English syntax programming languages. If you’re bored check out the wikipedia page on esoteric programming languages: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esoteric_programming_language#Examples. And I just realized I should have done a lesson in one of these. But Lolcode tho:


And regarding food – according to my host teacher – Scottish food is very “stodgy” (read: unhealthy but filling). Stuff like butteries – which are like really lard-y/salty croissants, haggis, meat pies, sausage rolls, etc. I’ll write more about food later! I’ll leave you with some food pictures from my first week.

Unfortunately I did not get a chance to try this 😦 – I did try a blackcurrent juice drink and blackcurrant jam! It was very… berrylike. Kinda a generic berry-y flavor somewhere between blackberry, blueberry, and grape jelly? I think all jams taste kinda similar, so probably didn’t get the best sense of blackcurrent.
Found haggis in the convenience store down the block from our apartment! :O – did not end up buying
Sasuage roll (pork sausage wrapped in puff pastry) + british crisps bought from the store right outside school gates for less than £2!

A Very Late Travel Post

(lol so I started this like 3 weeks ago but got hosed, so here is it is).

I’ve been shamed into finishing this – so I’m just going to try to push this out while I’m eating dinner. For reference this is my dinner: a steak pie from Morrison’s – the cheapish local supermarket, tomatoes and sugar, leftover stir-fried pork belly, and a pita (8 for 50 pence!). One thing that struck me is how almost all of the meat and produce is locally sourced from the UK – surprising because it’s still quite cheap.

=== back to the original post ===

It’s 20:39 GMT in Scotland right now, and I’m typing this from my hotel room in Aberdeen.

Today was our first day at our school placement, but not the first day for the students. Their semester starts tomorrow, and so today was a professional development day for the teachers and staff. So we got to meet a lot of people! For this post, I’m just aiming for a semi-organized photo dump and travel log of how we got there – since I gotta go and work on a presentation we have scheduled tomorrow.

On to travel!

Transit modes in order: car, subway, train, moving walkway, jet plane, single decker bus, double decker bus, single decker bus, turboprop plane, taxi.

That’s 8 unique modes of transit!


Boston on the car ride in from home!

At MIT, I met up with my GTL placement partner and we took the Red Line to South Station.

If you squint, you can see our train to TF Green Airport (to Wickford Junction, 3rd row from top).

We arrived at TF Greene, rode some moving walkways, and got on our flight to Dublin. I slept maybe like 4 hours.

Waiting to push back from PVD. Overall, pretty small airport.

Landed in Dublin for 24-hour layover.
Our ticket into the city!
Fried tomatoes, beans, sausage, fried eggs, black pudding, white pudding, fried potato…
Outside the Dublin Pub
Ireland to Scotland
Day 2 in Aberdeen – a look at a fairly typical street. On the left is probably the most common Aberdonian building – local gray granite.

Okay, this was rushed – but at least I’ve got one post out. Hoping my next one will be more reflective and have more narrative in it.