Thursday, August 09, 2007

Twirling kilts, fiddlers and midges

Yesterday my Gaelic class took a field trip to Portree. It was finally sunny after days of heavy rain and wind (on and off). I went up to the Skye Games (of the Highland variety) with Kirsty from my class, whose brother was competing in the dances. I watched the sword dance and chantreuse (spelling?) competition (we had arrived to late to see the fling) as well as the "heavy" competition that was going on at the same time - that is, guys chucking stones.

To throw the stones, the competitors generally twirl around through one-and-a-half rotations (3 pi - I had a physics moment that just had to get out), which causes the kilts they're wearing to billow out. All I can say is that in the days when people didn't wear anything under their kilts, there would have been no secrets regarding what was under their kilts. A lot of flashing would have been going on.

There was actually a woman competing in the stone-throwing, although she had a lighter stone by the looks of it. We were informed by the announcer that she was from Ontario and competed in the women's Highland Games circuit in Canada, which I've never heard tell off. She was one big woman, but she still couldn't throw the stones any where near as far as the men.

Classes are going along alright this week. I can now describe things that I'm doing or have been or will be doing, but it's harder to speak it on the spot since there's lots of new vocabulary and grammar.

One thing I'm not liking as much this week is the atmosphere in the college. There's over 120 fiddlers here for a fiddle week, and there's only 8 of us learning Gaelic. So first of all, we're hearing no Gaelic outside of class, unlike last week. Secondly, I find many of the fiddlers to be very cliquey. I've chatted well with some, but with others the banter is atrocious. Since they don't know me they won't bother to talk to me at the ceilidhs in the evenings, or if they do talk to me once they find out I'm not a fiddler I'm sort of shoved aside. As one girl put it, "Oh, you're that Gaelic one". So the music has been good, but the friendliness of last week has been lacking.

Also, since many of the fiddlers are teenagers, and some of the fiddlers who will talk to me are around 18 or 19 years old, but hanging out with the younger ones, when I have gotten some conversation I've also felt like I'm crashing a summer camp.

I've been getting to experience the delight that is midges this week, although they haven't been too bad (from what I've heard). First of all, I'm not sure exactly how you pronounce "midge". The folks I worked with at the Coylet tended to say "midg-ie" so that's how I say it, but I think I've heard other Scotsfolk saying it without the final "ee" sound.

Anyway, I don't generally notice that I've been bitten by a midge until well after the fact. I can see them about but I've never seen one on me when it's biting, and I never feel it like I would with black flies or mosquitoes. I do notice the bites afterward, as I react a little bit to them - some of my bites swell a little bit into something like a hive with a dent in the middle of it. And they itch, of course. I won't complain about them too much though, as they haven't been that thick here and I've had far worse experience with mosquitoes.

I might get some photos up soon as it's been a while.

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