Irn-Bru I Love You!!

I don't drink coffee, can't stand the stuff actually. I drink a lot of tea and a lot of Diet Mountain Dew, those are my drinks of choice. When I was living in Scotland I couldn't find Mountain Dew, diet or otherwise. A lot of people there had never even tasted the drink which surprised me as it's so popular here in the United States. Yet another good reason to get out and travel a bit in the world, it knocks your assumptions right out of you.

So I had to find an alternative, and I quickly settled on a funny looking orange drink with an indescribable taste called Irn-Bru. Manufactured in Glasgow, it was everywhere and I was hooked.

It's an incredibly popular drink in Scotland and the company is also known for their quirky advertising campaigns:

It's a very difficult drink to come by here in the United States. In fact, the only place I've found Irn-Bru in the US is at Scottish fairs. So I went to a Scottish fair last weekend looking forward to getting my Irn-Bru fix, and, much to my dismay, they ran out of it!

Frantic over my missed opportunity, I finally broke down and ordered some from Irn-Bru USA. I've been meaning to try this company out anyway, so it was a good excuse. Within the week I found my two cases of Irn-Bru sitting on my doorstep. As carefully as I could, I hauled the 30 pound package into my house.

I know it might see crazy to some people, but it was like opening a birthday present filled with something that brought me back, if only for a moment (or a few moments depending on how long I make it last!) to when I lived in Scotland, a time in my life that I have enjoyed like just about no other.

So now comes the tricky task of rationing it out.

But at least I know where I can get more. It's expensive and it might seem foolish to some, but even if I only order it once a year, that connection with a country and an experience so important to my life is totally worth it.

Pipe on!


Travel for the Soul

In case you haven’t figured it out (American blogger writing about Scotland), I love traveling and learning about other countries and cultures. I lived and worked in Scotland for 3 months towards the end of my college career and that’s really shaped my life and who I am today. I thought about joining the Peace Corps for a period of time, but the 2 year commitment really threw me off. Who knows, maybe I will still do that sometime.

I’m sure there are all sorts of travel and volunteer opportunities out there, but I found one really neat volunteer program called Twin Work and Volunteer Abroad. It's a UK based program, but most of its voluteer programs at least, look like they're open to anyone.

The thing that I like about this volunteer program is that it offers something for everyone. You can work, do an internship, volunteer or learn a language abroad. The best thing is that there isn’t a two year commitment. You can teach English in Nepal for 2 weeks or 5 months. Or, you can help out the zookeepers in Songkhla, Thailand for 5 weeks.

Another really neat component is that whatever you’re interested in, you will probably find a volunteer program for you. You can be a music master in India or support elephant conservation in Namibia. If you’re looking for travel, flexibility, and variety Twin Work and Volunteer Abroad looks like a great opportunity. I can’t speak highly enough of my own experiences living and working abroad in Scotland, so whenever I see something that might help others do the same, I’m happy to spread the word.

Pipe on!


My Pre-St. Patrick's Day Fix

St. Patrick's Day is less than a month off, I can't wait! This past weekend I got to go and get a bit of a pre-St.Patrick's Day fix in the form of an indoors weekend Scottish fair. There were lots of great vendors selling everything from swords to fine china. I picked up a nice Scotland themed t-shirt. There was Celtic music, Scottish country dancing, and Highland dancing. Various clans also had booths set up advertising their lineage.

There was also a good sampling of Scottish food including one of my favorites: meat pies. Oh my gosh, I am just in love with Scottish meat pies. When I lived in Scotland I would have one for lunch every single day and if they sold them here, I would continue having them for lunch. They aren't like an American pot pie, it's just really, really ground up beef wrapped in the tastiest pastry you've ever set your taste buds on. The only time I get to eat them now is at Scottish fairs like this.

The other thing I really look forward to getting at Scottish fairs is the Glasgow manufactured pop called Irn-Bru. Unfortunately, they ran out of Irn-Bru, I was so disappointed. But on a positive note, my Irn-Bru deprivation compelled me to buy two cases of it from a US based company. It's just like the Scottish stuff, minus the FDA banned carcinogenic colouring Ponceau 4R and Sunset Yellow FCF.

Towards the end of the day I got to sit in on an open rehearsal of a local competitive band. The day was topped off by a performance by this same band who had a particularly impressive drum corps.

St. Patrick's Day is in sight everyone!

Pipe on!


Human Bagpipes?!

Human bagpipes. Very, very bizarre. I never in my life would have even conceived of something like this. But apparently a lot of people did. There are all sorts of videos on youtube featuring people who proclaim themselves to be human bagpipes. They sound a little bit like those throat singers, and a lot like people who have way too much time on their hands. But since they have all of that time, and even more time to tape themselves and post it on youtube for all the world to see, we might as well take a listen.

So, call it the poor man's bagpipes, call it strange, maybe you won't be able to call it anything at all because you're laughing or speechless, I present to you now, the human bagpipes:

Pipe on!

When is St. Patrick's Day 2008?

I know it might seem a little eary to start talking about St. Patrick's Day but we're really only just a little more than a month away from it. Because I'm a novice, non-competitive piper, to me at least, St. Patrick's Day is the premiere bagpiping day of the year. And I suppose the fact that St. Patrick's Day 2007 was the first time I played publicly with my band also cements the importance of the day in my mind.

My band is confirming their calendar for our annual St. Patrick's Day pub crawl and we found out that the actual date of St. Patrick's Day 2008 is a bit of a debatable issue.

It turns out that Monday, March 17, the day that is typically celebrated as St. Patrick's Day, falls on a day that is holy to the Catholic church. It's the week between Palm Sunday and Easter so it's also a week that is holy to all Christians. So the Irish Bishops wrote to the Vatican about the conflict and the Catholic church officially moved St. Patrick's Day to Saturday March 15.

Interestingly enough, this is the first time the day has been moved since 1940 and there won't be another conflict with the date until 2160.

So what does this actually mean?
It means that any religious services connected with honoring St. Patrick will be held on March 15.

But what does it mean for you and your St. Patrick's Day festivities and parade plans ?

Glancing over US parade dates, it looks like most US cities are using both the draw of the weekend, and the conflict with the Holy Week to hold their parades on the 15th as well. Atlanta, San Antonia and San Francisco for example, are all holding their parades on the 15th. Chicago is also holding their parade on the 15th, but information on their web site says that they always hold it on the Saturday before St. Patrick's Day. Washington D.C. and Boston are holding their parades on the 16th.

The only major US city that I could see that is holding their parade on March 17th is New York City.

Internationally, London and Sydney are holding their celebrations on the 16th.

But, let's look at the really big St. Patrick's Day show: Ireland. Belfast, Cork, and Dublin are all holding their parades on March 17th. According to statements made by Dublin organizers, the actual day and parade are such a huge tourist draw (they expect 600,000 people). They also wanted to just simply avoid confusion, so they kept it on the 17th.

So what did my band decide to do? Well, none of us are Catholics, so, with respect to all Catholics out there, orders from the Pope don't mean a lot to us. In case I haven't mentioned it before, most of the people in my band are of Scottish descent, so lots of Presbyterians. It really wasn't a debate at all, someone read about the change in dates and mentioned it to the band but we all wanted to keep to the traditional date of March the 17th, and that's what we're doing.

Pipe on!
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