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09.06.2004 | 1 2

People back home are always telling me how jealous they are that for the next couple of years, I get to live in Scotland.  For most Americans, Scotlandís a postcard-perfect picture of quaint romance, all castles and kilts and moody green hills. ďYouíre soooo lucky!Ē they squeal. And I know theyíre right. So Iím not asking you to whip out the violins when I whisper: Iím feeling a bit blue out here.

Iím a little embarrassed to admit this, because I know how fortunate I am to have this life of mine, and I donít want to be one of those lame people who canít cope with anything other than what they already know. But everything feels strange. I feel strange. And I canít help wondering, is this the fun Iím supposed to be having? 

The thing is, thereís a reason more Americans donít pick up and move out of that great big olí country we call home: moving abroad is a heck of a lot of work, with just a lilí bit of scary thrown in for good measure. Iím not saying itís a good enough reason to avoid ever leaving home, but itís true nonetheless.  And right now, a couple of weeks into my two year stint in Edinburgh, Iím feeling a little lost.

Donít get me wrong: Edinburgh is an utterly charming city. I love the way its cobblestone streets, big brooding castle, and fairy-tale-adorable old stone buildings play backdrop to just about every amenity you could ask for in modern-day life (barring free wi-fi Ė a convenience Iím sorely missing right now, as I shell out £1.50 an hour for the privilege of getting connected to the outside world). Thereís tons to see and plenty to do, and despite how much everyone grumbles about the weather, it's not nearly as beastly as one might imagine. People are genuinely kind, and funny, and helpful. This is a very likable city. Only one problem: itís not home.

To be honest, Iím not sure where home is for me right now. Itís sort of Tucson, the desert town I lived in for the past six years; itís sort of Boston, where I grew up and went to school. And itís kinda neither of those places too. But what itís definitely not is where I am right now, in a city thatís a vast ocean away from just about everyone I know, where Iím constantly asking idiotic questions because Iím mystified by the way things actually work Ďround these parts.

Today, I had the following brilliant intellectual debate with a girl stocking shelves at the supermarket.

Me: ďExcuse me, do you carry chocolate chips?Ē

Girl (looking at me as Iím speaking another language): Iím sorry?

Me (enunciating carefully): Chocolate chips. Or, um, whatever you call them here. Small pieces of chocolate that you can put in cookies. Do you call them cookies? Anyway, chocolate bits for baking.

Girl (now looking at me like Iíve sprouted a second head): Iím not sure? Maybe the baking goods area?

Me (confused as to whether sheís not sure what chocolate chips are, or if they have them, or where they might be; at any rate, Iíve already checked out the baking section and know for sure theyíre not there, though if I want mincemeat filling, I apparently have a wealth of options): Um, thanks.

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