Every single trip I have taken out of the U.S. has been specifically to collect insects.
I think I have been on expedition to 19 different countries,some of them many different times, with most of them in Central and South America, but also a couple in Africa and even one to Eastern Europe. While I never thought I would go there, let alone enjoy it, that trip to Serbia in 2016 was actually pretty incredible. After a couple of weeks running around with my bug buddy from Belgrade collecting insects, I swung by Scotland on the way home and met up with my wife in Edinburgh. The Scotland leg of this trip was not to collect insects, though I mysteriously ended up a few bumblebees, but was to accompany my wife on her very first trip across the pond. This trip inspired a wanderlust in her that has yet to be satiated, and someday I hope to take her back. We simply did not allow enough time as we tried to cram in as much as possible, exploring the countryside from our own in rental vehicles. We saw Loch Ness (but NOT Nessie), rode the "Harry Potter" Train (a neat experience), walked the Culledon battlefield outside of Inverness, and I even halfway skinny-dipped in the icey streams of the fairy pools on Skye Island! By halfway, I mean I still had my shorts on, but the water was cold nonetheless. We began our journey with about three nights in Edinburgh, where I received a ticket for driving in a bus lane, but I didn't even know it until I got it in the mail after our return home. Edinburgh is a beautiful city, and has a particularly soft spot in my heart, for it was there, on a hillside just outside of town that Eric Liddell, in the movie "Chariots of Fire", told his sister Jenny "Jenny, I believe God made me for a purpose, and that purpose is China, but He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure!" I took a little time by myself to find that exact site, and as I stood there looking over the town of Edinburgh, I could not hold back the tears. That single line in the movie hit me like a lightning bolt when I was sitting in the movie theater in Waco, TX in 1982 (I think) as I watched it on the big screen. I instantly knew exactly what Mr. Liddle was saying, and I wanted to jump up and scream in the theater "That's it, that's exactly how I feel when I am drawing!" Up until that very moment, I never knew how to explain the "sensation" that I feel as I draw. Now I know. It's a lot like an old turtle on a sunny day in early Spring that has crawled out on a log and is trying to get warmed up. He stretches his neck out as far as he can, and his legs stick almost straight out, trying to soak up all the rays. That is how I feel, just basking in the rays of God's good grace and feeling him smile when I am doing exactly what he created me to do. There is no other feeling like it in the world, and I hope that you are utilizing whatever it is that He gave you to do, and you are experiencing His pleasure in your life as well. One of the most fascinating things about Edinburgh, besides the incredible history and beautiful old buildings, is the street entertainment. It is everywhere! There is no need to pay silly sums for expensive concerts if you just want to hear some good music, and a wide variety as well. We saw everything from an old lady by herself playing a violin, to small little ensembles that set up and play for tips. On almost every corner there is something different. My wife and I were shopping, actually SHE was shopping and I was following along, and I ended up looking up at a large statue that I think was King George? Anyway, it was an impressive tribute to some important person, when I heard some music start playing from something that sounded to me at the time like a piano. I thought this was rather strange, because these street musicians usually just carry their instruments around until they find an open spot on the sidewalk, and I couldn't imaging anyone pushing a heavy piano up and down the hills of the town. As I listened closer, I realized it wasn't piano music after all, but something different - something I could not identify. I walked around the massive base of the statue to see if I could see where the sweet melody was coming from and I found a young man playing an odd-looking instrument I had never seen before. It reminded me of an Indian sitar, but there was no resonation chamber at the bottom, only a neck with 12 strings. The music coming out of this instrument was really unique, and as I watched him play, I realized he was not chording the strings against the neck and was not plucking or strumming the strings, and he seemed to be playing about 4 different voice parts at one time. He played it effortlessly, but I knew better. When he stopped, I couldn't help myself and had to ask "What the heck is that thing you are playing?" I visited with this young man for a little bit and I bought one of his CDs that he had laid out before him on a towel with a donation box beside them. His name is Mark White, and as I looked at his CD cover, there was a picture of a statue that looked very familiar to me. I asked him where he was from and he told me Austin, TX, and yes, that statue in the picture was the same statue I had seen along the Colorado River in downtown Austin, just a bit from the Palmer Event Center. It was Stevie Ray Vaughn, one of his musical influences. He told me the instrument was called a Chapman stick, and that's all it was, really, just a stick or neck with the strings and tuning machines, and a plug for an amp. He told me about the guy that had invented it, and how he (Mark) had learned to play it. I asked him how a guy from Austin had ended up in Edinburgh (and I guess he could have asked me how a guy from Waco had ended up in Edinburgh) and he told me he wasn't ready to settle down yet and wanted to see the world. So, he was traveling all over Europe with nothing more than a suitcase of clothes and his Chapman stick, earning his keep with his music. If you would like to hear him, just look him up on Youtube: Mark White,
Chapman stick, and you should be able to find him. The music is hauntingly beautiful, or beautifully haunting? Another type of music you might expect to find in Scotland would be bagpipes, and you would not be disappointed. However, We came upon one trio of guys who called themselves the "Whirling Blowfish" and while they had a bagpipe, it was not traditional music they played. This was their own music, and it was foot stomping and hand clapping stuff that you might not normally associate with bagpipes. I have included the one video clip that I took on my iphone, so that you might enjoy it for yourself. However, I am not 100% certain of the name of the group, so I am not sure exactly how to credit these guys, but here they are - hang on to your hat! (Sorry, but I turned my phone sideways to catch all the action - they are all over the place!)