“By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.”

Exodus 13:21

It rains a lot here, but life in St. Andrews has to qualify as traveling in the light. It’s the easy, surreal, incredible, “day” part of my adventures. After a couple days of feeling a tiny bit homesick for frozen yogurt, country music, and oversized SUVs where the left side is shotgun, I’m back to total appreciation of getting to be a student here. I’m honestly pretty sure that there’s nowhere the grass is any greener than St. Andrews (but actually…see my pictures…) and have taken extra comfort lately in my new definition of home.

I’ve realized that really, people are the same everywhere: they share the same innate goodness, same challenges (whatever form they may come in), seek the same comforts, and often make the same mistakes. Every single human has the same craving for their bed at night, detest for bad weather, appreciation of dessert, fear of bad haircuts, tendency to make mistakes, uplift from music, and fulfillment from companionship.

I learned this from my friend Lauren. She’s four.

I babysit Lauren and some other kids on Thursday mornings while their moms do a bible study. Lauren and I were sitting criss-cross-applesauce on the floor facing each other, trying to decide what our wishes should be when the clock hit eleven-eleven. She was throwing out all kinds of good ideas and I was smiling at her, listening, with my face in my hands. She mimicked me exactly and then, as I did, wrinkled her nose back at me in a kind of friendly, happy way. I almost died laughing when I realized it, because Lauren had just made Scotland a much more familiar place in my mind.

I have no idea when I started to wrinkle my nose as a sort of gesture, how weird it is or now noticeable, but sometimes I unconsciously do it as a kind of acknowledgement. Like you don’t have anything in particular to say back to someone, but you would just say, “Yeah, that’s great,” when they finish a story. I guess it’s affectionate? I don’t know. Like I said, it’s unconsciously done. But I became aware (and of course, subsequently self-conscious of…though I’ve gotten over that) this gesture when my roommate Brenna said to me last year. “Rach, what have you done to me? I’ve started catching myself doing that nose-crinkling thing to other people because I’ve been around you too much.” Huh? Luckily we had eight other roommates for her to call and confirm that, indeed, I do this, and apparently it’s enough of an oddity that they all associate it with me. And now, even though I still don’t notice myself doing it, when I’ve been around people enough–I sometimes notice them doing it back at me, not realizing what they’ve just picked up.

I noticed a little girl Neo, at the orphanage, picked it up and would affectionately wrinkle her nose and smile at me when she had nothing to say–and I was so tickled by that. And now Lauren, 14,986 miles away (THAT’S RIGHT. I’m using the metric system. Look how integrated I’ve become!) is doing the same thing. It’s such a little thing–so totally unimportant and weird to even notice–but it’s given me comfort because it shows the universality of affection and…of people. Because isn’t it just kind of nice to know that people are sort of the same everywhere?

And more than that, I’m positive that really incredible people are to be found all over the world. And I know this specifically because I’m met way too many in Edmond, Nashville, Johannesburg, and now St. Andrews for that possibly to be statistically sound otherwise. I’ve spent the last couple of days feeling really grateful for the friends I’ve found here–and honestly, a little bit shocked and greedy and amazed that I keep meeting these people who are so–just–enriching. If you think you’ve struck gold with the friends that you have…and maybe you’ve known them all your life…well, congratulations, I’m pretty sure that you’re right and I hope you continue to be thankful for them. But if you ever find yourself in a situation where you have to leave behind the familiar and great ones–have some faith, because it looks like there are more incredible people waiting for you…stashed in all kinds of unexpected places. I hope all of y’all who read this get the opportunity for yourself to go and realize just how many good people are out there.

…I’m sorry that I’ve said nothing important, or even informative, in this entire blog. I sat down to write about the great visit that I had with my parents (who crossed an ocean to see me! Now that’s love.), more about my home stay in Stirling with Mr. And Mrs. Dea last weekend, the geriatric birthday party we threw for Charmaine, Emily, and Rosie this week, Bongo Ball, and now my golf swing is finally, actually improving. I could’ve told you about my plans for next week (just to be a tease and really make you hate me, they include Brussels, Paris, Barcelona, and Florence…) or how my roommate and I have bonded. But no. I’m worthless.

…I don’t know how that happened.

I guess that means I’ll feel obligated to blog again tomorrow! Please Skype me to tell me you hate my blog: rachelxxmarie is my name, and it’s up all the time–just call. 🙂

I love you.