Under The Streets of Edinburgh

The morning was calm as we all greeted the morning on our own terms. Sarah, Rachel, Elizabeth, and I enjoyed a lovely brunch on Grassmarket before strolling across the Royal Mile. While walking down the main road, we stopped to watch a boisterous street performer. He captured the audiences attention with his sense of humor and his magic tricks. I was intrigued by his statement about his way of living. He is a man against the system, paving his own way to work an honest living. The tattoos across his body showed his statement that he creates his own world by being the man in his own arena. Tattoed on his arm he also had the words “love all”. He has seen many cultures, traveled many places, and is passionate about his work. His work meant something to him, and it showed in his love for entertainment. I wondered what the world would be like if more people were passionate about what they do. What if everyone chose to work hard for the things they love. What if rather than touring cultures we chose to see them. To see beyond the show and display to see a life, a passion, and a living rooted in traditional rituals in which the origins have long since been forgotten. As I watched the street performer, I pondered the life people choose to live based on their culture, country, and circumstance. I thought about what brought me to this moment. Looking at my girls next to me, all of us laughing at the jokes presented, I thought about how lucky I am. What a beautiful blessing to be on the streets of Edinburgh on a sunny day, with people who know my heart.

As the clock stroke half past one we ventured to Mary King’s Close for an underground tour. The guide showed what rooms would look like in the 16th and 17th century. The walls still preserved because the government simply built on top of the old city after the plague. One room had lifelike figures showing what life in a room with the plague entailed. In the corner was a tired mother with a crying child in her arms and a little girl curled up near her. I imagined what it would be like to be that mother. To desperately be sick and having to reassure your children and comfort them, even though everyone around them is dying. It was awful. Even the walls contain an old smell and the feeling of death. Some say the close is haunted, but all I saw was heartache and misery. Life back in the 16th century was unbearably harsh in the city. The purpose of the tour was to imagine the past and what it would be like to live in the close, but it is curious to me how people think that these harsh living conditions are only a thing of the past. The environment during that time period differs little from slums, refugee camps, or AID/HIV communities. Today there is advanced medicine, but it does not always reach who it needs to. I appreciated the underground tour for its insight about the history of Edinburgh and how it was not always a thriving city. I just wondered if people knew about other suffrage in the world.

As we returned back to the modern street level I let the sunshine soak in as we walked to Calton Park. We climbed up a half finished monument and people watched for awhile before walking back through town. We enjoyed a lovely dinner with our professor and finished the evening with a non-alcoholic pub crawl, dancing to our own beat, and laughing about funny cultural experiences. Edinburgh is a wild city, but despite its past suffering that is hidden under the streets, it holds a beautiful balance of historical understanding and international diversity.


Bethany Jane


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