Before coming to Scotland, I had never moved in my entire life. I hadn’t even travelled before. Ever. It seems almost strange to think that I had lived in my childhood home with my childhood pets for so long – and then, after high school and two years of community college (where I pottered around trying to decide what, exactly, I was going to do with a music degree) came the ordeal of choosing a real university. Long story short, I applied to the (then) Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama on a whim and was, miracle of all miracles, accepted.
(I downplayed that a bit. I worked very hard, and was nevertheless floored when I received my acceptance letter.)
Obviously, the RSAMD won over all my American choices.
A few months and one successful visa application attempt later, I found myself in Scotland, knowing no one. I loaded my two suitcases and my viola into a taxi, and the very kind driver let me use his mobile to ring student halls’ security because I didn’t have one.
The taxi unloaded me outside an alleyway that apparently led to halls. I was already lost. Thankfully, the security guard was there waiting for me and took me up to the building (which, yes, actually was through the alley). On the way, I bumped into my now boyfriend, O. – quiet literally. We introduced ourselves, chatted for a bit, and went our separate ways. I thought nothing more. Little did I know, a short time later we’d become good friends and start dating. Plus neither of us realized that I would also convince him in a year’s time to let me adopt a canary or two. Those two sweet canaries were what I call gateway birds, leading me somehow into parrot rescue, animal-welfare blogging, and a state of constant financial crisis (because I needed to buy parrot food and toys and vet care and–).
I got settled into my room shortly after bumping into O. It seemed so foreign and empty. I also got my first taste of Scottish weather: When I arrived it was grey and drizzling; when I made it up to my room it had cleared off and was blazingly sunny; and when I went out to buy bed sheets and a pillow thirty minutes later, a cold wind kicked up and it began pouring as if to never let up. And it didn’t, then, for the next week.
Ahh, the Scottish autumn: brief and vicious, ceding into harsh winter rains.
But there’s nothing to charm you more than a sunbathed Scotland.
I fell in love with Glasgow as I battled my way through what I consider the toughest years of my education. The RSAMD (now Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, though most people still call it ‘the Academy’) has its prestigious reputation for a reason. There is no coasting through.
In all of this, there was something missing in my life. I moved out of halls, got a flat, and enjoyed being on my own – but something was still missing.
I’ve always had pets… Cats, horses, dogs… My life was empty without them. I needed the routine and the simple pleasure of animal companionship that I’d had all my life before. I was overjoyed when I could finally buy Charlie and Pip, my sweet canaries. Such cuties. They were the thing to cement my love of birds. There is nothing to hate about canary ownership!
Mishka the cockatiel came along shortly after, followed by Ptak, my spunky parrotlet. They filled my house with their happy noise and gave me something outside of music to concentrate on. It definitely gets loud when all four of my flock decide to regale me with their best singing voices (I think they want to impress the neighbours, too) but I could never give them up. I ended up adopting both Mavi, Senegal, and Bobo, umbrella cockatoo, because what’s one more bird!
Scotland is still incredibly beautiful. Winter is miserable (not even the Scots like Scottish winters) but every once in awhile, you find yourself looking over a landscape like this.
Honestly, there is a lot of beautiful scenery to take in.
Then, after all your travelling, you come home to your birds safe and cosy in their cages, eagerly awaiting attention, and you realise that despite the trials of living so far from your family and friends, in spite of seeing weeks go by without sun, in spite of the vicious winds that are the hallmark of a Glasgow winter… I wouldn’t change a thing.
Well… Fine. I could wish for more sun.