Jonathan- Costa Rica Reflections

Thairis air an cola-deag a bha sinn thall thairis chunnaic mi torr rudan iongatach is mìorbhaileach is bi na rudan sin anns an cuimhne agam gu bràth ach se nuair a bha mi cluich na phiob agam a chord ruim gu h-àraid. Chord e ruim airson chan eil moran de dhaoine air cothrom seo fhaighinn. Nuair a bha sinn ann an Boruca ionnsaich sinn faclan anns a cànan aca fhein is se an facal aca airson damh a chordadh ruim airson cha robh fhios agam gun robh feidh aca ann an Chosta Rica! Nam robh mi airson rudeigin a toirt air ais dhan t-eilean Sgithanach, tagh mi an dòigh a bah iad ag obair anns an coimhearsnachd aca airson bha iad uile a cuideachadh a cheile !

Beach sunset 

Over the two week exchange in Costa Rica I experienced many unique and amazing things, from the thrilling zip wire across a valley to a toucan chewing my arm. I feel soo grateful to have been selected to be part of this wonderful project and I can’t thank the people who made this possible enough. It lived up to all my expections and more.The things i saw, the memories made and the friends I met will stay with me forever and it was so hard to choose just one favourite memory, but in the end I decided to choose my BagPipes! I feel very privileged to have been given the opportunity and play my bagpipes in Costa Rica as I doubt many pipes have been played in the rainforest! It brought me much joy to play my national instrument along with Charlotte to the Borucan and San Vicente people as it was the first time

Margarita having a go! Boruca

most of them had seen them and in fact i think it came as a bit of surprise to them as when we finished playing them for the first time i turned around to notice that half of the village of Boruca had come around to investigate the strange noise coming from their hall!  The pipes showed me how a even a simple instrument can unite people and was so humbled at one point when an elderly man can up to us in tears to thank us as he had always hoped he would hear and see the pipes one day. It made me so happy to see the joy that our music brought to the people and the amount of interest they had in them, I was even stopped in airport security in Liberia airport by a security officer asking me to play them !!


Charlotte and I playing our pipes.

While in costa rica we also shared Gaidhlig with the Borucan Kids and they shared their local Borucan language with us. One of the Borucan words that caught my eye (or Ear) was Suturi as this is the word for Stag. It was one of the few animals we had both a borucan and Gaidhlig translation-with Dàmh being its Gaidhlig word- as we unfortunately do not have words for toucan and armadillo! I was so pleased  to see that they had an animal that plays such key roll in our highland identity was shared with the people over there. We also regularly visited the community museum where we learned about the local history, cloth making (which was surprisingly similar to the old highland way dyeing wool) and stories such a the story of Quasran who is said to protect the village and about the dance of the devils which takes place around new year. We became very close with the kids in Boruca and it was very emotional to say good bye to them but we continue to stay in contact through the internet and we will hopefully see some of them up here in Skye next year! 🙂

Hallie ,Charlotte and i outside the museum with the Portuguese and Borucan kids 

Though many miles lie between them and us we all are brought together through our shared passion for music, dance, art and community spirit.  The exchange changed me as a person in so may ways. It made me proud of my island background, improved my confidence and gave me skills which will stay with me forever. I never thought I would ever have had the nerves or confidence to travel to another country let alone go across the Atlantic to Central America!  I was to bring anything back to Skye it would the sense of community and belonging in which I experienced within the villages. All the people, young and old, work together with respect for each other,to get things done. Everyone i meet was so open warm and welcoming which was so nice to experience as we in Scotland can be quite cold and keep our selves to our selves and i think its shame.  They are all proud of their local culture and I felt so honoured to have been able to learn the history of the people and to also share our culture with them.

Catherine with the Toucan!

I will let you some of the other things we got up to 🙂

After arriving in playa hermosa on the first evening we went on a short walk to beach and us tourist decided to go swimming. When i ran into the sea instinctively braced myself to hit by the cold but i was pleasantly surprised! I’m used to the freezing cold Atlantic which usually makes you turn blue with the cold within two minutes but this water was warm!( The only place i had experienced warm water was in a bath!) Another interesting thing about the beaches is that the sand was black! Im also not used to black sand either so took it home and I later found out the sand was black as it is volcanic. Yet another thing I noticed at the beach that first night was that Catherine (or chatherine as I called her) was walking strangely while in the sea. I just thought it was her being daft -because she’s American you see- but it turns out she was doing a ‘sting ray shuffle’. Unfortunately the sting ray shuffle isn’t some kind off cool dance move but a technique to scare the sting rays away! On the second day we went on a trip to Diamante echo adventure park where we got to see sloths, butterflies and many more exotic animals. While in the park we also did a zip wire and Costa Rica doesn’t have your average zip wires but ones that go from one mountain to another… 60Mph!! Im not really an adrenaline junky so to say i was scared as i was getting roped up is an understatement. Now i think about it though, the zip wire wasn’t all that scary, and now that I’ve done it it’ll give me the confidence to do other things of that sort. The scariest thing of that day was in fact the dodgy van that took up the really, really steep hill to the zip line !

View from the waterfall.

In Boruca and  San Vicinte we also got up to some interesting things. We took part in dances, shared photographs, made pottery and they took us on walks around the village to places like the school and a sacred waterfall with beautiful view! I even saw pig wrestling which i will leave to you to figure out!


I really can thank all those involved in the project throughout the world enough for making it all possible, and to especially Jamie, Karen, John and Catherine for the great banter we had and for also keeping us safe and healthy at the same time ,i couldn’t have asked for better . Costa Rica will always stay in my heart and  will shape the way i am as person for the better. Role on the next part of the exchange and thanks for reading!




Hallie, Catherine and I in the waterfall, Boruca


“I left with friends and came back with best friends”


Clootie Dumpling

In this blog i’ll try and show you how to make a clootie dumpling. A clootie dumpling is a traditional Scottish pudding which is cooked in a cloot (a cloth) and is usually eaten at new year or Christmas. My granny usually puts one on hogmany so that it will be hot for the first footers when they come and visit. This is one my mum and i made using Granny’s recipe.

Anns an blog seo tha mi a dol ag innse dhut beagan mu dheidhinn an bonnach-praise agus ciamar a fhaodas to fhein fhear a dhenamh. Se ceic traidiseanta Albanach a th’ann an bonnach-praise agus bha mo sheanmhair agam fhein a cruthachadh fhear gach Oidhche Challainn.


  • 4ozs self raising flour
  • 2 cups raisinsIMG_1006
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • few spoons of spice and cinnamon
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5ozs margarine
  • 2 tablespoons syrup
  • 2 tablespoons treacle
  • 2 eggs
  • milk

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Jonathan: Professor Norman Macdonald An t-Ollamh Tormod Domhnallach


Airson an agallamh agam choinnich mi ris an t-ollamh Tormod Domhnallach. Rugadh e ann an baile beag leis an t-ainm An Droighnech anns an sgire Minginis anns na 1940’an. Dh’inns e ruim gun robh croitaireachd a riaghladh a comhairsneach anns laighean sin agus bha a h-uile daoine ag obair air na caoraich aca airson a cumail beo. Nuair a bha e na b’oige bha oidhche shamhna a chordadh ris. Bha na clann a cuir aodach seann orra agus bha iad a dol mun cuirt a bhaile airson suiteas is buntata fhaighainn. Bha feum aige air rannan a leughadh gu na nabiadhean airson na preasantan seo fhaighainn. Tha e ag radh gu bheil feum aig oigridh san latha an duigh bannan a’lorg eadar an beatha aca fhein agus an t-seann ginealach airson an cultar is dualchas an sgire a cumail beo.

Introduce themselves (When were they born? Where did they grow up?)

“My name is Norman Macdonald and I am of that generation whose parents met during the second world war and married as soon as it was over. I was born in 1947 so was very much a war baby in that sense. My family connections are Skye, here where my mother is from and Harris and North Uist where my father’s people where from so I’m a mixture of people from the islands. I was born in a little village in the Parish of Minginish called Drynoch which is in the west cost of Skye and thats really the area where I spent all my years until I came to the high school here in Portree when I was eleven. I went to the primary school in Carbost and it was a very happy place. My mother was a school teacher and my father worked on the croft and worked in the Talisker Distillery in the neighbourhood which was kind of an additional thing for people in my community as it is the only distillery here on Skye”.

Describe what your community was like when you where growing up. Has it changed or is it the same?

” Well the community was all about crofting and cattle and sheep and horses.  We had a horse when I was young. Most of the work was manually done, just as tractors where about to come in. Cows were a big thing because we were lucky in the community that we were in because the crofts were rather large so families such as ours would have 30 or 40 head of cattle. We also had a huge hill where we had a sheep stock club where all the crofters clubbed together to look after the sheep. The number of sheep ran into the thousands and thousands and the work of the year surrounded looking after cattle and getting feedstuffs ready for them and planting oats for corn and potatoes for the family and hay of course. Haymaking was a big operation and the weather and horses had to be good for that. The way which things are different now is that the community aspect of that was very important because everybody worked together. Not everybody would own a horse but they would share it and the other guy might have the plough and could exchange that. While 50 years ago the business of subsistence farming was almost enough to feed a family it is not like that anymore. While some people still work the land, its no longer anywhere near as important in people’s lives as it once was. The communities still bare some similarities in that most of the families are still their a generation or two on but the way they spend their day is different.”

What community traditions and festivals where they part of ? Or still part of ?

“We always used to look forward to different times of the year but it was Halloween at the end of October which was one of the most important. As children we liked Halloween as it meant dressing up and going round entertaining neighbours and expecting little gifts and food. It marked the end off the Autumn and harvest and the beginning of Winter. I remember one of the verses we had and the idea was to say something indicative of the festival itself and it went something like this;

Bogaidh, Bogaidh,
Peile buntata,
Dh’ithinn mo chorag
Nam faighinn a dha dhuibh.
Bogey, Bogey,
A sack of potatoes,
I would eat my finger,
Should I get two of them.

“You had to knock on the wall of the house and had to walk round the house three times making noise so the people inside would hear you. The verse was an idication to the person inside the house that you wanted something to eat. Nowadays when kids go around houses they expect sweets but back then getting a potato was actually quite good as my mother would be pleased when i came home with lots of potatoes.”

“Bringing in of the new year was also an important time in my community on Skye. The term that we used for Hogmanay was Oidhche Chalainn. The whole tradition was always associated with having the house clean at the beginning of the new year so everything was cleaned and I remember the last thing my father would do in the old year was to open the front and back door of the house to let anything that was in the house from the old year go. I doubt many things like that happen nowadays.”

What role do you think museums have in communities?

“One always has to be careful with museums because What are they for? Who are they for? What do you represent in it? A museum itself reflects the ideas of the person who created it and it has to be done very carefully. I like museums that know what they are doing in the place they are situated so to speak. I think that museums that attempt to tell the history of a community are much more fraught with danger as their are different ways of seeing the history of a community. There is an interesting museum in Kilmuir in the north end of Skye which is built around a traditional Clachan or township of old houses which works well as the people who run it knew that it had to reflect the specific material culture and story of the community.”

What advice would you give to young people about preserving traditions and the community’s way of life ?

“Unless a young person can see a thread between his own existence and those that have gone before he is in big trouble as it is the most important thing in the world to understand where you came from. This simply means finding out how your ancestors lived and how they lived and in order to get a sense of rootedness in a young person’s life he or she has to grasp that. When i was young it was something we didn’t have to make any effort to grasp because it was just there,and sometimes you would wish the old folk would stop talking! This is also the basis of history and history is a very complex thing as it involves interpretation but the root of it is in how people in the past related to community and the various tensions and struggles that existed there. I think the history of ordinary people such as the crofting people in Skye is much more fundamental and gives all of us a far better picture of who we are and how we belong here. Of course, some people might not enjoy belonging here and might just want to go away and far to many people, though they enjoy belonging here still go away as they feel they have to find work which is a real shame.”

Jonathan :The role of museums in our comunity. Taighean -tasgaidh anns an comhairsneach again.

Tha taighean-tasgaidh gu math cudromach dha na daoine anns an coimhearsnachd agus tha sinne gu math fhortanach oir tha dà diofar seòrsa taigh-tasgaidh again an seo! Tha taigh-tasgaidh traidiseanta againn agus ‘Eco museum’ leis an t-ainm ceumannan. Anns an taigh-tasgaidh tradiseanta tha torr rudan eadar-dhealaichte bho seann innealan gu ceumannan dineosor agus tha e air a  shuidheachadh ann an sgoil gaidhlig bho na 1800s. Chan e taigh-tasgaidh abhaisteach a th’ann an eco museum agus tha 13 diofar pairt dhe air feadh Tròndairnis.Tha na taighean-tasgaidh seo feumail airson a teagaisg daoine an sgire agus lucid turais mu eachdraidh an Eilean.

Museums play a key role in our comunity here and we are lucky enough to have two differant types of museums in this area. One of the museums is a traditional museum with many things such as old tools, cave man arrows to dinosaur fossils. Other museum is the staffin ecomuseum which is differant as it is not a building but 13 differant sites along  Trotternish. These site can range from fishing jettys to dinasaur footprints which is maby why they called the museum ‘ceumannan’ which means footsteps in gaidhlig. Museums are important for the community as the keep things that mean things to people and protect areas that are valuable to the community. These museums also educate people on the local history of the staffin area. Here are pictures of the staffin museum and the dinosaur footprints at staffin beach.

Jonathan: An t-àite as fheàrr leum My favourite place

imageIs e Beall, mu dha mìle tuath air Port righ,an t-àite as fheàrr leum. Cho mhòr a h-uile oidhche anns an t-sámhradh bhi mi is mo charaid Eoin a dol a mach a sealg le gunna neo neas.Se aite gu math bòidheach a th’ann an Beall agus faodaidh tu beathaichean mar iolairean is sionnaich fhaicinn.

My favourite place on Skye is Beall which is about two miles outside Portree. Near on every night after school in the summer, me and my friend Eoin Urquhart go out to Beall to hunt or help out the crofter that owns the land. Eoin has a pet ferret which we use to catch rabbits that are making a mess of the crofters land. Rabbits are accually very tasty and we usually sell them to people on the walk home. If the weather isn’t very good for hunting we either go exploring the hills or up to the crofter Andrew Banks or ‘Banksy’ as we call him to see if he needs some help on the croft. Banksy has lots of sheep, cows and chickens on th croft aswell as many sheep dogs to help him out. He also has tractor and a quad bike which are fun to drive around the fields.Its not  farm animals that are in Beall though. We often see Eagles,frogs,ducks and pesky Foxes while we are out on the hill. Here Is two pictures I took of the view we see while we are in Beall.



Jonathan: Winter A ‘Geamhradh

Winter means many different things on Skye. I means lots of wind, even more rain and one or two days of snow. But for me, my favourite part is the sunrise, èirigh na grèine . Near on every morning when I open the curtain I am met by a sky of many amazing clouds and colours which light up the whole room with an orange glow. Here is a picture I took off the hill called  Beinn Tianabhaig from my bedroom window early morning last week.

Jonathan: My hopes and fears Mo dhòchais agus feagail

Like the others have said we all have many hopes and fears for this trip,  some more than others. Since I’ve never traveled very far before (Furthest I’ve been is England 😂) , the idea of going so far from home can be quite scary for me. I’m used to Skye which unfortunately for me is very different to Costa Rica. It is the unknown which is my biggest fear. Will I like the food, will I be able to speak Spanish well enough and how will I find the long journey there. There Is also lots of sun in Costa Rica which will be difficult for me as I find it hot when temperatures go above 15 degrees here! But difference is not always a bad thing . I might love the heat , I might love the long journey and I might find out that Spanish is my new talent !(but I’m 99.9 % sure it won’t be) . I hope this project will help me get over these fears I have and I also hope that it will help me understand other cultures and ways of life that I haven’t experienced yet .