9th January 2012

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From the first moment, I thought everything had already been prepared as if someone had taken the effort to organize my welcome, which was different from what I had been expecting.

If in the future you have to prepare a trip to Scotland, everyone would advise you to take an umbrella and a good weatherproof jacket. I was wearing both on 9th January 2012 when I got off the plane that had just landed in Glasgow´s International Airport. But it was not necessary. That beautiful country welcomed me with extraordinary sunshine, brightening everything around. The stunning reflection in the puddles of rain from the previous night aroused a positive feeling in me towards this new period of my life.

The Easyjet flight had taken off an hour ago from London Stansted Airport and it was the first flight in which I really got the feeling of being enmeshed within British life. The previous night, I had arrived from the continent and the mixture of languages did not make me to feel any different from the atmosphere you can find on any street in any metropolitan city.

I spent the night in one of the hotels close to the Airport and I recall that the first thing I did in my room was to switch on the BBC News Channel to get the sort of information that I was going to listen to during the coming year. Or at least that was what I thought at that time: just one year.

That night, I saw the first sign. What are the odds that a person about to live in Scotland and on the very first night he lands in UK, he hears in the media that the British and Scottish Governments have agreed to have a referendum on Scottish independence in 18 months’ time? I do not believe in coincidences, but consider for a moment how I might have felt. I was going to live in a new country and I was going to participate in a momentous political event in the coming months.

I could not take in that thought as I was making my way carefully down the stairs from the plane. In fact, I got distracted and would have fallen had I not grabbed hold of the handrail. Here was the second element that I was going to have to cope with during my Scottish adventure: the wind that, in that precise moment, almost threw me to the ground.

I must confess that I like it. I enjoy when it hits me in the face. I like to close my eyes and feel my hair moving. It is a feeling that is always welcome, especially in cities. When it blows, pollution disappears. In fact, I recall that I did not encounter pollution in any of the cities I had visited during my time in Scotland in the following months. The air is clean and if you open your lungs fully, you can truly feel it.

And I felt it. I will never say otherwise, because what I felt was very cold and humid air. I knew that, at that time of year, temperatures were low. I have learnt about the humidity, but, even though I was warned, the combination of the two was something that, I must confess, I had not expected. How cold I felt! Here, where you live, when temperature goes down you got dressed and it is enough. But in Scotland, how warm you feel is very much determined by the humidity, so much so that even if you have on a lot of clothes, you cannot get away the cold feeling seeping into every bone in your body.

My fondness for mountaineering should have prepared me for that cold in that city, but I had to struggle to cope with it… in fact, the second winter I spent there, I realized that I had not overcome it even with a lot of clothes.

What had the greatest impact on me when I first arrived in Scotland? I am surprised that you ask me this question. People normally ask you about what you liked most or how did you enjoy it, but few people ask what you have just asked me. I am sure you will surprise many people in your future because those questions are not normally asked by an ordinary person.

Let me think about it because there were many things that had an impact on me, and so I have to choose. I will continue the next day.