Lesson I

Newbie in Edinburgh

…which I slowly responded…uhmmm yeah but do you accept card payments?

“Sorry” they said, “we take cash only”.

Usually, I like to travel light and solo. I’m sui generis of a Taurus with an extraordinary taste for adventure. The affirmation comes from the response I often get when I tell people that more than 90% of the places I’ve visited were solo dolo! Trust me to say I’ve managed to convince quite an impressive number of family and friends to try embarking on individual journeys because not only is it adventurous, you get to do and achieve more. Some will disagree to that but think about being uncompromising and getting to follow your personal itinerary rather than the conflicting interests of a group. Yes, it’s fun to travel with a bunch of crazy friends you’re comfortable around but that’s for another read.

You’d agree that we live in a cashless society these days but you don’t want to travel without cash, especially when you’re visiting a ‘foreign’ country with a different currency. Knowing this, I religiously visit the forex bureau prior to every cross-territorial embarkment just to stay safe. Now would you change money when traveling within a single territory?

In February 2017, I visited Edinburgh, Scotland from London, England. To the best of my knowledge I was traveling within the UK so there was no need to change money. I arrived feeling a bit famished though the flight only lasted an hour and a quarter.

After checking in at the hostel, I decided to step out on a quest for affordable but decent food – oh yes! I was excited and looked forward to hearing more of the Scottish twang during my three days stay; you could imagine, a travel enthusiast’s expectation(s). Despite my very few exploits, I’ve managed to overcome culture shocks so I kind of get along easily. Okay… that’s enough let’s fill that stomach now…I came across an eatery just around the corner down the lane of the hostel where I lodged – it was strategically situated by the main road with a chain of shops and other commercial outlets.

I walked in and looked at their menu boldly displayed above the counter – just like the typical fast food joints, you can’t miss it! there were two ladies behind the counter -the size of the older looking one immediately prompted me how long she’s worked there for; I didn’t have to ask, I mean they had pizzas on their menu. I bet they gathered I was a newbie so they politely asked me if I’d settled on what I’d like to have which I slowly responded…uhhmmm yeah but do you accept card payments?

“Sorry” they said, “we take cash only”. Every typical Londoner will be used to this jingle but I least expected to get that in Edinburgh too. Using her index finger, the younger lady then pointed a cash machine to me, on the other side of the road. By sight, It was a bit further away due to a piece of paved land demarcated for the city outlay.

Alas! I got there and performed the cash dispensing ritual. I couldn’t believe what I saw! The cash that was dispensed made me numb for a second; whether it was a legal tender or not, trust me I was clueless. I literally had to do a 360-degree turnaround to confirm where I was. Did I get on the wrong flight? I quickly reached for my phone to check the flight details again. No, it can’t be…I checked in at the Air BnB I booked, therefore they had my details. Have I been scammed? what are these notes??

At a point, I became the definition of hallucination. I wasn’t culture shocked, I was ‘money shocked’. My last resort was to go back to the ladies at the eatery since it was after banking hours – if my memory serves me correctly, my wrist watch which was working perfectly fine had the long hand on two and the short hand on five. However, my main inertia was the thought of them getting to know that I was new in town, talk less of how silly I’d come across if the notes were legit!

Upon getting back there, they asked if everything was okay because they saw me acting confused and restless. After narrating the issue, they burst out in laughter. “we thought as much!” said the older one “It must be your first time here” she continued. “Yeah I’m here for a three day tour” I responded. After a semi-brief trialogue, they collected the cash and handed me my change (a few pence). Believe you me, the notes were genuine with equal value, the only difference is Bank of Scotland’s prints are different from Bank of England’s. Goodness me! I should have known this. A young black chap just got educated.

Moral of the lesson: always do a good research about a place you intend to visit, even if it’s within the same territory. Don’t be shy to accept who you are, for some things cannot be changed- I was a newbie!

Lesson II

A Foreigner’s dream

“My wife and kids are back home in Hanoi. I speak with them from time to time.”

I asked, “so why are you here all by yourself?”

he replied, “I want to earn some money to fund my first movie. I know how to edit videos and I direct movies sometimes.”

At the time we met, he told me he was 56 years old. Andy hails from Vietnam but has lived in Birmingham for the past eight years or so. We met at the Air BnB in Edinburgh.

to be continued…