James Johnson has Canadian blood coursing through his veins, but a piece of his heart belongs to Scotland.
Three years ago, the Langley teacher along with his wife Kim and children Emma, Sophia, and Isaiah relocated to the suburb of Currie, 20 minutes out of Edinburgh, as part of a work exchange.
Johnson taught P.E. at Craigmount High School in Currie, while a teacher from Craigmount took his place at Langley Fundamental Middle and Secondary School.
The 2009/10 school year was equally memorable and eventful.
"Over there, I had some hilarious moments where it was like, 'Okay, how could that possibly happen to me?'" Johnson related.
Like the time Johnson rode his bike to school and took a wrong turn off a busy roundabout, which put him on the Edinburgh Bypass, the region's version of the freeway where cycling is strictly prohibited.
"Somebody honked at me, so I thought, that must be somebody from my school! Then I'm going along and someone else honked at me and I'm like, 'Hey, how are you doing!'" Johnson said.
By the time he heard a fourth car horn sound, Johnson realized that he had lost his way. "The traffic was so fast, but there were no exits," he said.
Behind him, Johnson heard the "mee-mah, mee-mah" of a police siren. A rather stern-looking officer pulled Johnson over, then proceeded to drive behind him as an escort while Johnson pedaled to school.
Tomorrow morning, Johnson will use transport of the four-wheeled, motorized variety as he heads to Vancouver to take part in a world record breaking recitation attempt for Robbie Burns Day, Jan. 25.
One year after establishing the world record for the longest recitation of Robbie Burns' poetry, Simon Fraser University's Centre for Scottish Studies will attempt to break its own mark of four hours, nine minutes and 24 seconds at SFU's Vancouver campus.
The record-breaking attempt runs from 9 a.m. until about 4 p.m. at Harbour Centre's Teck Gallery.
Scheduled readers include Johnson, Bard on the Beach artistic director Christopher Gaze, Vancouver Writers Festival founding artistic director Alma Lee, Teresa Margaret King, a distant relative of Robbie Burns, as well as singers, actors, and international guests joining in the fun via Skype.
In 2012, the SFU Burns event saw the record set. Although poetry recitations are not recognized by The Guinness Book of World Records, they are recognized in academic circles around the world. Last year, about 250 people attended the event locally and on Skype.
This year, Johnson plans on getting into the spirit by donning his kilt and using his best Scottish accent.
He estimates that he'll be reciting sometime between 11 and 11:30 a.m.
"I'm going to put a full 100 per cent effort into it," he said.
Along with the marathon, there will be bagpipes, haggis, dance, and performances by the Fraser Academy Children's Choir to commemorate the popular Scottish poet.
Johnson didn't attend the 2012 marathon but from all accounts, the response was overwhelmingly positive.
"Everyone loved it," Johnson said. "School groups came in and recited as a group of children, they had people from Scotland through Skype. They thought, 'We're going to fine tune this, we're going to do this again.'"
Johnson saw a clip from last year and said it was quite entertaining to watch.
"You have some people who get in there and are so dramatic, and then some people who are from the different areas of Scotland where it's like, what language are they speaking?" Johnson said.
An SFU alumnus, Johnson has a degree in English literature and admires the works of Scottish wordsmiths and poets such as Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Lewis Stevenson.
He and his family have also fallen in love with Scottish culture.
"We love the stereotypical things, the bagpipes, the kilts, the tartans, the accent, and the Highland cows," Johnson said.
Johnson contacted the organizers to throw his hat into the poetry ring, as well as sponsor the event. His tour company, Auld Country Tours Inc., offers guided seven to 14 day summer tours of Scotland, England, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland. It is the local business sponsor of the attempt.
He'll be part of the attempt because of his passion for a place that became a second home for him during his stay there.
"It was amazing," Johnson said, of his experience. "My wife and I talked about it for six or seven years, and finally my wife said it's time to put up or shut up."
Johnson had an offer for an exchange in Brighton, England, as well, but opted for the small community near Edinburgh because his Scottish counterpart matched his job skills to a tee.
Currie was a perfect home for him and his family, Johnson said.
"There was this small town feel where you walked to everything, and you get to know your neighbours," Johnson said.
All three of his children went to school in Scotland. Emma was 13 at the time, Sophia 11, and Isaiah nine.
"It was a year that really struck a chord pretty deeply within us," Johnson said. "We had friends, in one year, that we'll continue to know, and we'll continue to be deep, lifelong friends with."
@ Copyright 2013