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  • Sonja Lembke

Goodbye – My Year in Scotland Comes to An End

The last two months have been exactly that, my last two months, at Corbenic and in Scotland. I’ve been able to take holidays and travel a lot, but what I enjoyed most was soaking up the precious time with co-workers and residents. At the beginning of August, after one year of volunteering at Corbenic, it was my time to leave Scotland and go back to Germany.


Soon after my holiday in Edinburgh at the beginning of June, one co-worker from Mullach went home. We went to Montrose beach for a leaving outing with the house, where we ate out, played football and went swimming in the sea. The weather was beautiful and we had a really good time. Nevertheless, seeing another co-worker from my house leave after many months that we spent together made me very sad. And what made it worse was that I knew I was next to go. Suddenly, it became very real that I was going to leave. The sadness of my leaving soon actually overshadowed the sadness about the other co-worker leaving because I wasn’t going to have to say goodbye to one person but to everyone who grew so dear to me over the past year.


Thanks to the loosened travel restrictions, I’ve been able to travel a lot during my last two months. In the middle of June, my roommate and I went to Balmoral Castle, the Scottish home to the Royal Family. An audio guide provided interesting information about the stunning estate and its inhabitants – without a doubt a recommendation for any fan of the Royals. Later in June, a friend and I drove to Aviemore, situated in the highlands and within the Cairngorms National Park. The nature around this small village is supposed to be very beautiful, however that was hard for us to see that day through all the rain and fog. We still made a detour to Loch Morlich and a viewpoint above another loch. At the end of June, I went to the History & Horror Tour of Dunkeld together with a friend, something I had been wanting to do for a long time. The two of us were the only people who booked the tour that evening, so we got a private tour around Dunkeld with a knowledgeable guide who told us all about Dunkeld’s dark history and spooky past, although some stories happened not so long ago as one might have wished. Between June and July, some employees had to go into self-isolation. Our house was really short, so I decided to work the days that I had intended to go on a holiday. Nevertheless, I’ve been able to see more of Scotland than I expected. I had already made peace with the idea that I couldn’t see everything that was on my bucket list because of covid from the very beginning. But in the end, I got to see the majority of places that I wanted to travel to.


In July, my roommate and I went to Inverness for a four-day holiday. While exploring the city on our first day, we went to Leakey’s Bookshop, Inverness Castle, the Old High Church and Abertarff House, built in 1593 and the oldest house in Inverness. On the second day, we went to Culloden, the battlefield of the last Jacobite Rising in 1745. We spent hours in the museum and walked around Culloden moor, standing where the soldiers stood centuries ago. The day after, we went on an Isle of Skye bus tour. Starting in Inverness, we went past Loch Ness and made a quick stop for Urquhart Castle and Eilean Donan Castle, the latter looking absolutely stunning in the mist (as can be seen in the picture). On Isle of Skye, we saw the beautiful village of Portree, the Old Man of Storr, Kilt Rock, the Quiraing and the Fairy Pools. It was a great tour: not only did we get the chance to see all these places in one day, but our tour guide also provided us with information about them and told us about Scottish history. On our last day, we took a boat trip on Loch Ness, which, after all, isn’t that spectacular. It’s really just a big loch, unless, of course, you happen to catch a glimpse of Nessie. Later in July, two friends and I got the chance to still take the holiday that we had planned to take earlier that month, but couldn’t due to the covid situation. We went for a hike in Glen Coe and drove by Loch Lomond on our way back. The next day, we went to Stonehaven, a beautiful port town on the east coast, and from there to Dunnottar Castle and the Arbroath Cliffs. Before going home, I had to take advantage of my last month of living in a country with many Harry Potter relations, so I went to the Harry Potter bridge (Glenfinnan Viaduct) again with a co-worker from my house. Although we didn’t get to see the train, it was really beautiful. The last time I’ve been there was in April, when the landscape was mostly brown from the heather, but that time of year, everything was green, which is the way it looks in the films when Harry and his friends are on their way to Hogwarts for the new school year. At the end of July, we went to another magical destination in North England: Alnwick Castle, which was used to film Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. It felt like I was really strolling through the grounds of Hogwarts, down to a Dumbledore lookalike complimenting my t-shirt. This was definitely one of my favourite days of the whole year.


Towards the end of July, I entered this weird transitional period: I wanted to stay in the moment and enjoy my remaining time, but that proved difficult because everything reminded me of leaving and frequently made me sad. Although it made me emotional like so many things the last few days, I liked the tradition of leaving outings. I had a leaving outing with the house and one with my two co-workers from Mullach. My co-workers and I climbed up Ben Lawers, which was much fun. Together with Ben Vrackie and Schiehallion, Ben Lawers makes three mountains that I’ve climbed during my year in Scotland. My leaving outing with the house was to “Uisge” in Murthly, the same restaurant we went to for my birthday, and we had a really nice time. Two days before my leaving date, I had to do a covid test at the airport in order to fly. On the same day, we had a tea break with cake, which many staff members joined although they had been off. My house-coordinator said some nice words to me and gave me a present from the house. I, in turn, gave out letters and cards as well as presents to staff and fellow volunteers. I wrote a little something for the residents, which I read to them, and gave them photos of us together. On this occasion, however, my sadness was predominant and all I could think about was that soon I had to leave my Mullach family.


My last shift was on a Sunday and I used the free time to do something special with each resident. I baked brownies with one resident, had a sing-along with another, and read a story to our third resident. That day, I tried to soak up all the joy of being together with the residents and I felt an immense appreciation for them. In the evening, after having packed and panicked about the suitcase definitely having overweight, I had a wonderful last movie night with my Mullach co-workers. The time to go arrived way too soon: On Monday, 2 August, after one whole year of volunteering at Corbenic in Scotland, I said goodbye to everyone who made this experience so special for me and I flew back to Germany.

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