Wednesday 26 April
Within my flat, we have come to the conclusion that Glasgow is one of the most random cities we know. And, collectively, we know quite a number of cities. Glasgow's randomness is nicely exemplified by the city's public transport system.
Observation 1: Return tickets on the train are cheaper than single tickets
My initial hypothesis was that this is a generous way for the Strathclyde Partnership for Transport to signal to passengers that they care for them and want them back. However, as very little about the Glaswegian public transport system seems to make sense, logic behind the counterintuitive pricing is seeming increasingly unlikely.
Observation 2: The forgotten cycle and pedestrian Clyde Tunnel where you need to buzz to get in or out
The part of the Clyde Tunnel intended for cyclists and pedestrians is in use, but is considered neglected enough to be listed on a website called 'Abandoned Scotland'. There is one tunnel for northbound cyclists or pedestrians and another one for those heading south. For northbound travellers, you reach the entrance by passing a garbage and recycling processing plant, turning down a dead-end street, and then take a ramp down to the start of the tunnel. Apparently finding the entrance to the southbound tunnel [pictured above] is much more difficult. Once at the entrance, you ring a buzzer and wait for the gate to be opened. At the far end of the tunnel, you buzz again, and hope that someone hears it to let you out.
Observation 3: First, Stagecoach, McGill's and Glasgow Citybus
Two friends came from Ireland this week to visit, and we had told them that they could take the number 38 bus to where we were going to meet. But – classic mistake – they took McGill's 38 bus, not the First bus service, and we ended up on different sides of the city.
Observation 4: Inner Circle, Outer Circle – the Glasgow Subway
It is impressive that Glasgow in 1896 became the third city in the world with a subway system. However, in contrast to most other subway systems, it has never been expanded.
Thursday 27 April
I receive a phone call from an unfamiliar number. I pick up and hear the woman on the other end say, 'Hello, I am looking for a nanny.'
Did she really say that? Did she not say, 'I am looking for Nannie'?
'Yes...' I reply, and it turns out that the call is regarding an opportunity for childminding.
I am unsure whether the caller knew that I had experience working with children, or if it was presumed. I begin to wonder if my parents named me Nannie in order to secure my future employment.
Saturday 29 April
Saturday could have been the plot of a film, but it would have had to be less eventful for it to have been realistic.
At 11am I sit down in the cafe of a college to start writing this piece whilst waiting for a friend. Five minutes later, the fire alarm goes off. I was led out of the building together with hundreds of children attending their weekly Chinese language class. The fire wardens count the people there, and are perplexed upon spotting me.
Later, at an event for refugees, asylum seekers and new migrants, a Kurdish woman collapses. A volunteer runs around to ask the attendees from Iran, Iraq, China, Poland, Syria, etc., if anyone speaks Kurdish. Of more than 100 guests, I am the only one – other than the collapsed woman – who speaks any Kurdish.
Working in the children's centre and legal team in Dunkirk refugee camp in France, where the majority of residents were Kurdish, I learnt Kurdish phrases that would help me in my role. I can ask a child if he or she wants to go on the swing. I know how to say that it is lunchtime and, a few hours later, that school is over. In the legal team, I learned how to ask someone in Kurdish if they have fingerprints in Italy and if they have a lawyer.
On Saturday it becomes apparent that I don't know how to ask someone if they take medicine or how to tell them that the ambulance is on its way.
When the woman had regained consciousness I asked, Chony bashi? Naxoshi la kuey? How are you? Where does it hurt? She answered with what I presume was her medical history, very rapidly, in a dialect of Kurdish that is different from the one of which I know little.
Eventually the ambulance arrived and the woman had enough strength to call a friend who spoke both Kurdish and English, to translate between herself and the ambulance personnel. She would be fine, but would go to the hospital for a check-up.
We realised, as organisers and volunteers at the event, that we had assumed that all participants would share at least one language with someone else attending. At the same time, we want to encourage anyone who is an asylum seeker, refugee or new migrant to come. Having an event to attend on the weekend is probably more important if you are alone than if you have an extensive social network in Glasgow.
But the Kurdish woman who collapsed hadn't come alone. She had come with two friends – they just didn't speak the same language.
To finish off the day, we realised as we were about to leave that we had been locked in and front desk security had gone home. We scaled the padlocked front gate, threw our five bulging bin bags across, and had curry and bin juice explode over us. The project manager was going to give us a lift home, but security had locked the gates to the parking lot and his car was locked in. The skips were also inside the parking lot, so we walked around the area to find small Glasgow City Council bins to squeeze our overflowing and leaking bin bags into. We decided we had to get away as quickly as possible, and called a taxi.