Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Twelve Differences of Christmas in Scotland

Lights adorn Market Street, "A Very She & Him Christmas" plays in our flat, and the town is deserted, as most students have gone home. It almost feels like Christmas. We recognize that we can celebrate Christ's birth anywhere, but we're a little sad to miss out on watching our nephews open gifts, eating our mom's cooking, and taking part in our usual traditions. As this is our first holiday season abroad, we have some updates:

1) Cheese plates and minced pies are all the rage. Enough said.

2) Boxing Day is celebrated on the 26th of December. Traditionally, this was a day to give gifts to the needy or to those in service positions. Now, it's become a major shopping holiday.

3) A few fairy lights displayed in the window is decorating. Chevy Chase is not from Scotland. I have seen a few lights in front windows, one small display of Santa's backside going down the chimney, and one lit tree. People do not decorate their homes!

4) Amazon and USPS make Christmas cheap and easy. They both offer free shipping and mailing! Brayden got his Thomas the Train set and our families got our Christmas card without breaking the bank.

5) There is no winter break for post-grad students. Garrick has his final paper due Thursday night, and over the break he needs to study his languages, catch up on reading, and apply to grad schools.

6) People still send us cards and gifts. Who would have thought we were worth the extra postage? It's been the highlight of our day coming home to cards on the floor of our entryway. Thank you to everyone who has mailed us something! For those who haven't, we're not friends. ;)

7) Garrick developed the talent of guessing Christmas gifts. Nothing deflates Andrea more than excitedly shopping and wrapping gifts and then having Garrick guess each one within 10 minutes.

8) Thank you, BoB. The Box of Broadcasts is an online resource available to students and has everything that has ever aired on BBC within the last decade. That means we can watch "The Santa Clause," "The Grinch," "Little Women," (Garrick watched it and liked it,) and any other Christmas movies our festive hearts desire.

9) Nativities can include meerkats, aliens, and lobsters. The Scots must be bored with the three wise men. It's perfectly normal to have strange people/animals present at Christ's birth.

10) Baking Christmas cookies eases homesickness. Andrea spent the day with three friends baking Christmas goodies: cream cheese filled snicker doodles, salted caramel brownies, chocolate covered cookie dough balls, and MORE. It was fabulous. And fattening.

11) We're spending Christmas in the Highlands! Yes, we're going further north than we already are, in the winter! We rented a cottage near Inverness with 2 other couples and are leaving on Christmas Eve and spending 4 nights. Pictures to come!

12) Merry Christmas from Scotland! We love and miss our friends and family from Washington. We hope you enjoy celebrating and being together with those you love.

Leave a comment and let us know what you're doing this Christmas!!

The Cathedral, St Andrews, Scotland

Friday, December 16, 2011

Ceilidh's = Laughter, Cardio, and at times, Rugby!

Anxiety. It happens when I think about dancing. I've even stayed home and told Garrick to go to dances without me, fearing that I'd be pointed and laughed at for my horrible moves. Well, December 10th, 2011 changed all that. I went to a Ceilidh.

Our church, Trinity, hosted a Christmas Ceilidh at a social hall near our flat. I naively wore a sweater and boots, not knowing I was in for the biggest cardio workout I've had since moving here. Garrick and I stepped out onto the floor for the first dance, and watched intensely to the demonstration. It was over too soon and the band began to play. We clumsily tried to follow, stomping, spinning, waltzing, marching forward and backward, and laughed so hard that we couldn't concentrate. Honestly, I haven't laughed myself into abdominal pain for a long time. I can understand why this tradition is still valued today: It's good for your health!

Take a look at this video. It's one of the dances we did. Pay attention to the spinning couple at the front of the two lines. Garrick was a little enthusiastic during this part and I felt like I would fly across the room at multiple points!


It was great to share this unique experience with our friends and also a great way to meet new ones. Many of the dances are group dances, which allows for quickly-made friendships! One in particular was Alex, a female student from Austria. We exchanged numbers and I am excited to spend more time with her!

Walking home that night I didn't even need to wear my wool coat. Garrick and I woke up the next morning with sore arms and feet. At church that morning. Mark Stirling, the pastor, announced that the Ceilidh had been a success. He also joked that at times, he couldn't tell if it was dancing or rugby taking place. One thing is for sure, this AG girl danced and had a great time!



Wednesday, December 7, 2011

3 Months Along

No, I'm not pregnant. ;)

I walked though town with my beautiful friend Elissa last night and asked her if she ever finds it hard to believe she lives in Scotland. She laughed and said, "All the time."

When we first arrived, we saw the movie "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" at the old theatre in town. (Garrick says it's in his top 5. He's said that about 30+ movies...) Afterward, we walked out into the night, groggy from jet lag, and both forgot where we were. And then, pleasantly remembered: SCOTLAND!

Three months later we're happy, healthy, and thankful for our new Scottish life.

Here's an update about what we're up to:

Garrick attended a conference on Monday in Edinburgh put on by the Society for the Study of Theology. He mailed in an abstract for a potential paper, it got accepted, and then he realized that he had to write the paper. Because I don't speak "scholar," I'll interview Garrick.

What was your paper about?

"It's about how John, the author of Revelation, is both a theologian and pastor. More, how this should be instructive for how pastors and theologians approach what they do today."

What was the conference like?

"There were 30 papers being presented. It was for post-graduates. The president for the Society for the Study of Theology was there. He was a good guy, very interesting. It made me excited to be in academics because there are a lot of exciting things going on right now. There is definitely a shift to a more holistic approach to theology and biblical studies. It's cool to think I could possibly be apart of that."

Where did you stay?

"We stayed in an Augustinian Friary in the west end of Edinburgh in a neighborhood called Broomhouse. It was really fun. The Friars are nice and Barnaby is a student in the MLit program at St Andrews and we stayed with him. They were very hospitable and said they were happy to never have to be up at 3 AM with crying children due to their vow of celibacy. Classic!"

Meanwhile...

I slept in Monday and then packed for a girls night with Mary Blake and Lindsay. The first snow of the year dotted the ground and I walked into town to catch the bus, first stopping by Starbucks to get a red cup! Sadly here in Scotland, they don't have peppermint flavoring...

At the bus station I waited a few minutes until the bus to Guardbridge pulled into Stance 1. The elderly male bus driver made it clear to me through his gruff voice and harsh words that absolutely NO hot drinks are allowed on the bus.

Obediently, I went to throw it away and he then yelled again that if I held onto it really tight, I could keep it.

Strike number 2 occurred when I pulled out a twenty to pay for my bus fare. He refused to take it and told me I couldn't ride the bus.

I went back into the station and asked the woman behind the help desk if she had change. She didn't, but said the drivers would. I told her I had just been refused and she said, "That was Charlie. Wait for the next driver." I guess Charlie has a reputation.

I handed my twenty to the next bus driver and was again scolded that he would not accept my money. So, thanks to the Blue Stone Pub down the street, I got change and took the THIRD bus to Guardbridge.

I didn't let mean old Charlie ruin my day.

Mary Blake and I watched Modern Family, ordered pizza, and then Lindsay arrived after work. What a fun group of girls! And the best part? We all can relate to one another because our husband's are in the same program.

Hitting the 3 month mark makes me feel feel both proud and thankful.

I am proud of Garrick for his dedication to excellence in his studies. He's in his "happy place" here and has acclimated very well.

I am also proud of myself. I thinks that's okay to feel sometimes. When we got married at age 20, I laughed at Garrick when he talked about possibly living in another country. And now look where I am! I've found strength that I didn't know I had and have learned more in 3 months than I have in the last 3 years!

And finally, I'm thankful. Thankful for things that I may not have recognized in August:

-Walking 3 miles a day
-My turquoise scarf
-Taste Coffee
-Being New
-Living in the moment
-Maisha Curry
-My strong and amazing family
-Pictures of my nephews
-Laughing
-My best friend and husband, Garrick Allen
-My new identity in Christ that does not include my salary, possessions, or status

We'll see how much we've changed at 6 months along! As always, please comment!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving Scotland Style

We had a first on Thursday. We spent Thanksgiving without our families, football, or the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I'll admit, I woke up feeling a little grumpy that morning. Garrick wasn't a saint either, so we both decided that we would make the best of our day. And we did!

Haley and I woke up early, met for coffee at Zest and carried our food and prep items on the bus to Leuchars, Scotland, to the abode of Adam and Lindsay Harger. We spent the morning converting ounces to grams, plucking turkey feathers, and listening to fun tunes, namely "Moves Like Jagger." Pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes were my contributions, and I need to take a moment and give a shout out to Paula Deen's Pumpkin Pie recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/pumpkin-pie-recipe/index.html. Cream cheese pumpkin goodness!


The boys arrived after a three-hour lecture, and of course came into the kitchen trying to sneak bites. I put a stop to this! Soon card games began, as this is a tradition for most people. Then, hunger struck...or should I say, slightly irritated moods. Again, we found out this is a tradition for most people! Finally 6:30 arrived. The bountiful table had everything an American stomach desires on Turkey Day:

Turkey
Gravy (Homemade form the turkey neck and other organs by the brave Lindsay Harger!)
Mashed Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes
Green Bean Casserole
Corn Bread Stuffing
Baked Apples
Rolls
Pumpkin Pie
Blueberry Cobbler
Apple Crisp
Whipped Cream
Vanilla Ice Cream
Mulled Wine
Coffee/Tea

Hungry?

After we couldn't fit another spoonful into our mouths, we incorporated many of our own Thanksgiving traditions. Garrick prayed before the meal. The Morehouse's read Psalm 100.

Then, we all shared what we are thankful for. Two common themes became readily apparent: First, gratitude for God's provision and guidance. And second, we all recognized that 3 months ago we were all strangers. And now, we were family. Originally from Washington, California, Indiana, Colorado, Minnesota, and North Carolina, we all sat at an oak table in Leuchars, Scotland, and shared a special holiday together.  

The rest of the evening was spent asking questions of the group such as, "Would you raise your children in the town you grew up in?" And, "What did your life look like at age 16?" By 11:00 PM we caught the bus back to St Andrews, as it was a school night. I called home and got passed around the Stevens' Thanksgiving and loved hearing the voices of my loved ones.

But guess what? On Friday night, we had Thanksgiving Round 2! With over half of the food left, we had the best meal of the year again. And what better way to conclude the evening than with Buddy the Elf? We laughed and laughed.  

Take a look at our beautiful friends, photo credit Haley Goranson:
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I would love to hear about your most unique Thanksgiving! Please comment!


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Garrick's Top 10 Lessons for Scottish Living and Studying

I've been living in Scotland for nearly three months and it has been one of the most formative times of my life. I assumed that because people spoke English the difference would be minimal, but I couldn't have been more mistaken. Also, my experience has been markedly different from my wife's which you've been reading about. Beyond adjusting to the haphazardly implemented metric system and dealing with strange accents, I've been immersed in the world of top-flight British academics. So, my top 10 is really two top 5's: the personal lessons and academic lessons I've learned since arriving in Scotland.

PERSONAL TOP 5 REALIZATIONS

5. I'm a solid Ceilidh dancer: I attended my first Ceilidh (pronounced Kay-lee) at the St Mary's College ball and found out that I'm perfectly suited for spin, stomp, yell, and clap with strangers. I'm quite aware that this might seem nerdy to those in North America, but don't judge.

4. John McKee is the best handyman is St Andrews: My neighbor John is somewhat of a local legend. The taxi driver who took us from the train station to St Andrews when we first arrived knew instantly who our next door neighbor was because of his yellow Skoda pick up truck (it looks like a small El Camino). Beyond his local mythological status, John has made us feel welcome in the town he grew up in and has even let me work alongside him from time to time. Although, all he lets me do is sand the wall skirting (I'm not much of a skilled laborer). If you need anything fixed in St Andrews give John a holler: John the Handyman

3. Indian food in the UK is unreal: Maisha!! Indian restaurant on College Street is my go to spot. I had it three times when Andrea was back in the states last month. There is nothing more comforting on a 40 degree day, when it's dark at  3pm and feels like dusk at noon, than a fresh naan bread and chicken tikka masala. The pompadon sauce is beyond delicious on top of anything. If you ever visit St Andrews, I will take you to Maisha. If you already live here, you're on your own.

2. Tv's and cars are non-essential: I have not watched a live TV show for 1/3 of a year. Although I did miss the World Series, I'm able to actually give the time to my studies and relationships. It's been good for my grades and marriage. I've also learned to live without a car. I walk to my office at St Mary's quad every day and the town is small enough that I can get to the other end in 20 minutes. I've really appreciated living in a smaller sphere.

1. I thoroughly enjoy having groceries delivered: The only real market in St Andrews is a good four mile round trip walk. So, I'm proud to say that Andrea and I have Tesco deliver our groceries. We go online once a week and select our items and the next a day a delivery guy drops them right on my kitchen counter. Living the dream.

Academically, the adjustment has been much more drastic for me. If you are planning to study in the UK, LISTEN UP! Here is what I've learned about postgraduate academics in the UK:

TOP 5 ACADEMIC REALIZATIONS:

5. Know your languages: I had taken two years of Greek before I came and thought that I was ready to do a serious study of Jewish apocalyptic literature. The first question my prospective advisor asked me was languages I controlled. When I said only Greek, he calmly, with a straight face, told me that I would probably need to learn Hebrew, Aramaic, French, German, Syriac, Coptic, Ethiopic, Latin and possibly Old Church Slavonic. Then he told me just to worry about French, German, and Hebrew this year. How comforting! If you're going to do serious postgrad studies, at least know what languages you'll be expected to be aware of.

4. Self-motivation is key: There is no hand-holding in the UK system. There are no daily assignments, quizzes, or book write-ups. The onus is on the student to work independently. Some American students I've talked to are frustrated by this, but the tuition I have to pay is motivation enough to spend at least a full 40/week hitting the books. If you lack motivation, you will not make it.

3. Have fun: While spending serious time in the office and learning the librarian's first name (Linda) is important, I've found it helpful to take some time off and enjoy living abroad. Occasionally, I sleep in and watch a few episodes of Mad Men and I definitely spend time playing games with friends on the weekends. It's important to remember that studying isn't everything.

2. Be prepared to think differently: The more I've studied, the more I've realized that my dogmatic stances on the largely evangelical doctrines are short sighted. Since being in St Andrews I've been challenged to think about the Bible and the 1st century in a different way. I've skimmed through the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, the Septuagint, and revisited sections of the New Testament that I had long since assumed I had "figured out." I've realized that the world of 1st century Judaism that Christianity was born out of, was diverse and conflicted on many levels. It is no wonder that even the New Testament writers approach the death and resurrection of Jesus from different perspectives. Be prepared to enter into uncomfortable and challenging conversations.

1. Take risks: If you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to undertake postgraduate study, you ought to make the most of it. Go out of your way to interact with other students and professors who you might not normally interact with. Hear from as many different voices as you can handle. Submit papers to conferences, try to read Jean-Paul Sartre in French, and have the courage to do give everything you have to the academic task you're undertaking. Dan Parker, my high school cross-country coach, once told me that I was afraid of failure, that I didn't give it my all because I was afraid I wouldn't be good enough. He was right. Postgraduate study is a perfect opportunity to see what you are really capable of. Challenge yourself and make the most of the experience.

I would really appreciate some interaction with this post on a personal or academic level...so LEAVE A COMMENT!!!!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

"44 Scotland Street" and "The Great Divorce" -- My Recent Reads!

A little fact about the St Andrews Aquarium: Between the months of November and April, few people brave the cold, wind, and rain and make it to The Scores, to peer at some cute clown fish and very scary 2 foot Black Tip Reef Sharks. Therefore, I am paid for 8 hours a day to greet the few guests who do find the Meerkat's irresistibly cute and to READ.

"44 Scotland Street"
Recently, I've found Alexander McCall Smith's delightful series "44 Scotland Street." Not only do the short chapters and goofy characters entice me, the books offers an honest perspective of the social environment of an upscale neighbourhood in Edinburgh. The first book in the series introduces a group of otherwise unrelated characters who all live in flats on 44 Scotland Street. From an extreme feminist woman Irene and he poor son, Bertie, to an anthropologist Domenica, to awkward art-seller,  Matthew, and old-fashioned artist Angus Lordie and his faithful canine, Cyrill, I can't help but laugh out loud. Garrick even grew irritated at my outbursts saying, "I can't wait for you to be done with that book!" Lucky him, I can read at work now!

Smith's ability to not only poke fun at the Scottish culture but to also highlight the positive aspects has given me an appreciation and understanding of my new surroundings. Because of the multi-book series, I will highlight a few of my favorite moments:

Bertie is an extremely intelligent 6-year-old. He has an overtly feminist mother, Irene and a defeated father, Stuart. Irene forces him to take Italian, Yoga, and to see psychotherapist, Dr. Fairburn. Bertie notices that his mummie chats with Dr. Fairburn for the first 45 minutes of every one-hour session. She raves about his academic acumen and wonderful personality often.  Ulysses is Bertie's baby brother, and one day during a session, Bertie blurts out that Ulysses sure does look a lot like Dr. Fairburn. Irene, fuming, forbids Bertie to ever mention this again or she'll hit him.

Matthew has never had a girlfriend. He owns an art studio and inherits wealth from his father. He spends his money on silly items, such as a distressed oatmeal sweater and burgundy trousers. Each morning, Matthew meets friend Angus Lordie and his dog Cyrill at Big Lou's coffee shop. Cyrill has long had a deep affection for Matthew's ankles. Upon seeing his ankles under the table at the coffee shop, Cyrill can no longer resist temptation and sinks his teeth into them. Cyrill's moment of divine pleasure is then shattered by his soon-coming punishment.

In all, the "44 Scotland Street" series is perfect for an easy-going, coffee shop read.

"The Great Divorce"
Re-reading is a wonderful way to understand a piece of literature. I read "The Great Divorce" during my junior year of college in my Advanced Expository Writing class with Professor Julia Young. I remember sitting in the brown leather chair in the D.V. Hurst Library, eyes glued to C.S. Lewis' masterpiece. Today was no different.

As mentioned in his preface, Lewis' goal is to provoke thought and contemplation of the after-life. I truly appreciate his style of conveying a sometimes difficult concept. He captures common hindrances in loving God and experiencing Heaven.

Upon arriving in Heaven, all of the humans turn to shadows or "ghosts" and the new environment is challenging. Unicorns run freely, the strong grass pokes the bottom of their feet, the river washes them away. Basically, they are living in an amazingly big and strong place and unable to thrive.

Meet the Bright People. These are humans who have chooses to live with God. They crush grass underneath their feet and swim in the sparkling river. They are hands taller than the ghosts, and radiate light.

A small, fat ghost meets a former colleague, in the new form of a Bright Person. They chat about their previous work in academia. The ghost, although interested in heaven,  is too concerned with presenting his paper to his small theological community he's formed and debating particulars of the resurrection. Ultimately, he rides the bus back to hell, back to his writing.

A mother arrives in heaven. She lost her son far too young, and is here to see him. Her brother, now a Bright Person, greets her excitedly. She demands to see her son. Her brother tells her she can see him soon, but first she must choose God. She asks her brother what kind of a God would come in between the love of a mother and son?  She has lived her life in the past, and as a result neglected her husband and other children. Her brother tells her she needs to love God more than her son, and she dismisses this idea, boarding the bus back to hell.

"The Great Divorce," although short in length, is dense. It's audience is not narrow, and has something for everyone.

Stay tuned for more of my recent reads!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Bonfires and Low Ceilings

It's November in St Andrews, Scotland. Obviously it's cold, but it's also dark. Dusk hovers over the town nearly all day before the sun fades away at around 4:30. By 5:00, it's pitch black. Shockingly, the magic of"I live in Scotland" hasn't worn off yet, so dark or not, I love it! This new lack of light is here to stay, at least for a while. Garrick and I have settled into "normal" life finally, and here's a peak at what we do:

Celebrate UK Holidays:

Yes, we're still roasting a turkey for Thanksgiving and will bake pumpkin pie, but we also recognize even unofficial UK Holidays. Guy Fawkes Day or more casually "bonfire night" remembers the 5th of November when the King escaped from assassination. Spontaneous and some planned firework shows and bonfires occur all over the UK. St Andrews celebrated as well, and we had friends over for games and then headed out to the beach to see the celebrations! The beach was busy with bonfires, fireworks, and people of all ages. We looked across the water and saw other bonfires dotting the coastline.


Take Day Trips:

I thought St Andrews was one of the most picturesque places in Scotland, besides Edinburgh and the Highlands. Then I went to the East Neuk! The sun shines brighter here than I've seen, illuminating the green grass, blue sky and ocean. Almost as if to say, "Sorry for hiding for the past week!" We enjoyed these coastal towns with our friends, the Morehouses. First stop, Pittenweem. Colorful terraced buildings, cobblestone roads, and charming independent shops make Pittenweem a perfect getaway. We stopped in at a chocolate lovers paradise.  The Cocoa Tree has my new favorite hot beverage: Dark Hot Chocolate. Garrick ordered Hazelnut Hot Chocolate and devoured it!



Then we walked to Anstruther.




I wanted to take the bus to Anstruther, but I'm happy my friends convinced me otherwise! Hungry, we chose the Dreel Tavern for lunch. Low ceilings, dim lighting, and funky patterned booths set the perfect pub atmosphere. Their menu was handwritten on a white piece of paper-according to Garrick this is a good sign! We had fish & chips (classic) and goat cheese and chorizo crustinis. YUM. After lunch, we strolled about and took in the scenery.





It's been a fun "reading week" as we were able to travel and spend time with friends. I've been working at the aquarium by day and enjoy socializing and relaxing in the evening. Garrick got an abstract accepted into a post-grad conference in Edinburgh in December, so he's been reading, writing, and sleeping. Tonight, we're trying out "The Lizard" (a place where students go to dance on the weekends) to have a good laugh with friends. Stay tuned for a post from MIA blogger Garrick Allen soon!


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Scottish Vocabulary 101

American English and Scottish English are almost the same. But not quite. Add an accent on both ends and fast native speakers, and there's a big difference:

Bin: Place to put garbage.
Bit: A small amount
Bits: Pulp (as in orange juice)
Biscuits: Hard cookies eaten with tea
Brae: Hill
Buggy: Stroller
Burn: River (We live near the Kinnesburn)
Car Park: Parking lot
Ceilidh: (Pronounced "Kaylee")A Scottish Dance
Cheers: Bye!
Fiver: Five pounds
Hi ya: Hello!
Jumper: Sweater or sweatshirt
Just Now: Right now
Loo: Bathroom
Meant to be: For example, "That's meant to be quite good!"
Mind the step/gap: Remember the step/gap!
Mobile: Cell phone
Quid: Pounds/Money
Quite Good: An adjective used to describe most good things, especially food
Roter: A work schedule
Sit-In: At restaurants, you specify whether you'll eat there or get take away. 
Soft Toy: Stuffed animal
Sorted: To get something worked out/fixed
Take-Away: Take-out as in food
Tener: Ten Pounds
That's lovely thanks
That's fine thanks
Toilet: Bathroom
Top-Up: Add minutes to a cell phone
Wee: Little
Wellington's/Wellies: Rain boots

Even this morning, I called a taxi driver and could not understand a word, so I said I'd see him soon. Sure enough, he showed up on-time. I find something very cheerful about the Scottish accent, and look forward to learning more common words and phrases. Cheers!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

1600 People and 2 Perfect Seat-Mates

Last Sunday, my cousin, Cam Christian, went to heaven. And then I went to Seattle.

The days in between his death and my flight home are fuzzy. I worked, booked my plane ticket, kissed my husband, and found myself at the Edinburgh Airport in a row of strangers, awaiting the call to board a KLM flight.

Anxious about flying alone internationally, I thought about my family. I could do it for them. My flight to Amsterdam behind me,  I sat in my seat on the plane to Seattle, home. I began a Sudoku, and then Susie sat next to me. After a little interviewing from the  Amsterdam security guards, my emotions ran high. I began telling this woman about Cam, my nervous stomach, and before I could finish, she told me she was a Seattle University professor for 28 years. Cam was the captain of Seattle U's baseball team.

Coincidence? I don't think so.

 Did the Lord use her to bless me? Yes.

My dad picked me up, and zombie-like, I walked into my parent's house. My mom and sister greeted me, along with the two cutest boys in my world, Brayden and baby Ryan. Then, I went to sleep!

I don't think I'll ever forget walking into the Auburn High School Performing Arts Center. 1600 people sat somberly, all impacted by my cousin. Awesome.

More than that, I watched my Aunt Debbie lift her hands in praise to God singing, "Because He Lives." I watched my Uncle Lynn read a beautiful letter to his son, now with Jesus. And I watched my cousins publicly remember their brother and acknowledge their trust in God. They are my heroes.

The closeness that occurred with my family last week is irreversible, and I am so thankful for each of them.

After kissing my nephews too many times to count, drinking Starbucks with my mom, chatting with my dad, and spending a day with my favorite in-laws, my trip ended.

I was on a plane again, sitting next to another woman, who quietly accompanied me on the 10 hour flight. She chatted with me over meals, and then napped or watched movies. After having a mentally exhausting week, this silence was GOLDEN.

Garrick walked into the airport, grinning, and brought me back to our little flat on Langlands Road. I thought I went home to Seattle, but I realize that Scotland is my new home. And I'm content.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Cameron John Christian: Christ-Follower, Left-Fielder, and Funny-Man



"Cameron died in a car accident."

I've never repeated words in my head as many times as those.

And I still don't believe it.

Just last Christmas he sat in one of the two swiveling chairs in my grandparent's living room. Always slouched and wearing athletic apparel, his eyes were bright and he laughed, head tipped back, at one of Uncle Dan's jokes. There will never be another moment like this.

Christ-Follower:

Cameron's last name suits him. It defines his life. Christian. For some, this is the only comfort in his death. He is in the presence of the almighty God, and is loving it. We are left behind, to live our lives without our Cameron.

He was blessed to be the son of Lynn and Debbie, who shared the story of Jesus with him at a young age. He made it clear that he loved God, even got a matching brother tattoo of a cross on his back with Psalm 56:4 underneath:

            In God, whose word I praise,
            in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
            What can flesh do to me?

Cameron desired to know God and to live and life in response to his son, Jesus. It's clear to me and also his family and friends.

Left-Fielder:



Cameron attended Auburn High School and was a varsity starter on the baseball team three years in a row. This year, his teammates on Seattle U's basbeall team nominated him captain.

I remember going to watch him pitch at Safeco Field for the high school state championship game in 2007.  He delivered his pitches methodically, and proved intimidating for batters.

His facebook page is a collection of memories and praises of his career as #21:

"Baseball lost a great athlete and we lost a great person. See you on the other side with cathedrals for baseball parks and sunshine every day."


"Cam you were a great coach for my brother and his friends this last summer. You were such a big part of our family. I will always remember the yearly Auburn sleepover tradition we did every year with all you guys. We all love you and miss you already."
"I'll never forget the awesome times we shared playin' ball and barn-storming all across the united states. You were a class athlete and a great friend. I am grateful for having met you. May you rest in peace. You'll never be forgotten. Much love 21, Much love."

Even his coach, Donny Harrel praised him in an interview with the Seattle times:

"He was an incredible young man who was just coming into his own." He even added that Cameron had a future in professional baseball. I believe it.

Funny-Man:



Did Cameron ever make you laugh? I don't think there is one person who could answer "no." He always found humor in everyday situations, and wasn't afraid to poke fun at himself either.  Most of my memories include finding creative ways to entertain ourselves during boring family get-togethers. Whether it be hide-and-seek, playing Barbies, (yes, Barbies,) or in our later years, filling each other in on our lives, he loved to have a good time. His friends remember his humor:

"Man, I'm gonna miss sitting next to you in class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Your jokes made my day and you were one of the most real people I've ever met. Class won't be the same without you."

"Mere words will never express the sadness that is felt after losing a great young man like Cam.  Always a smile on his face and a hug. My heart is heavy and my prayers go out to the Christian family. The Auburn community grieves with you."

"... you were someone who changed people for the better all because u told a quick joke, gave a quick smile, said hello to someone, or your more common self, you were simply nice to someone..." 

Cameron, you've left a legacy, even at 22. You're my birthday buddy, my cousin, and my friend. Our family will never be the same, and I've thought of you every minute since I heard those terrible words. I am flying home from Scotland to hug our family and to attend your funeral. I love you.  


 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Meerkat Bites and Windy Nights

That's right, there are Meerkats at the St Andrews Aquarium. Clearly not aquatic, they attract large numbers of excited patrons who have seen the Meerkat documentaries on BBC. I have to be honest, they creep me out a little as the sit on their hind legs and turn their heads from side to side and stare. Also, I don't like watching Andrew, our animal keeper, feed them dead white mice and small birds. To his complete shock, one of them bit him in the back side during a "Talk Time" where he feeds them and shares fun facts. The bite made a 50 pence sized whole in his black trousers. (Pants are underwear here.) I did not hold back my laughter and will not be going into the Meerkat exhibit anytime soon.

Why do I have a sudden interest in Meerkats? I conquered the job search. I am now a receptionist at the St Andrews Aquarium where I have the privilege of working with a view of the North Sea and the Old Course on The Scores. Yes, my four weeks of "house wife" proved necessary, but I am much happier to work with great people, and earn some quid. And yes, I do get to check out the seals, sharks, piranhas, and clown fish on occasion. As for my nerdy side-kick, he's getting up at 6 AM tomorrow to study Hebrew with a friend envies my new job.



Although the weather here is much similar to Seattle, the difference is the wind chill. My North Face fleece and jacket barely keep it away from my skin. I find that my muscles tense even to walk outside and gloves and hats are a must. As we are right on the North Sea, wind is a daily occurrence and styles my hair and dries out my skin. "Bundling up" is a fact of life here. Since we're not spending our evenings at beach bonfires, we love getting together with some of our many new friends for dinner and games. It's a great way to avoid SAD and have fun while doing it. A Scottish tour guide, in full kilt glory, came into the Aquarium with about 100 Italian tourists. After chatting awhile, he told me that his 90 year old mother lives in the Highlands and swims every day of the year in the sea. Apparently this is common. Can you imagine? I don't think I am even 1/16 Scottish. I am content to sit under my warm quilt next to the radiator and listen to the wind whistle through our gas stove.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Same Language, Different Culture

As Mark always says, "It's not bad, it's different." Born and raised in the UK, he learned this lesson a few years ago after making the trek across the ocean to marry my mother-in-law. I'm learning it now and it's not easy.

Even though we speak the same language, (with the exception of a few spellings and a few extra words,) the UK and the US are different countries. That's obvious, just look at a map. But I always considered them very similar, like siblings. Lately, I've realized they're more like 3rd cousins.

Yes, things are "less fast" here, but I think it's more accurate to say that the pace of life is different. For instance, our thermostat was original to the house, so our heating wouldn't turn on. Luckily, it was pretty hot for Scotland and in the low 60's, so we didn't freeze. A repair man came out about 5 days after we sent a maintenance request and he was worth the wait. Not only did he give us an extensive explanation about how our heating system works, he also shared about his family and life. We chatted for about a half hour and then remembered it's polite to offer guests coffee or tea. He kindly refused and left us with his name and told us to please call him if we need anything at all.

We had the pleasure of having lunch on Sunday with the Broem's. Our church service at Trinity ran late due to technical difficulties, (it's a very relaxed environment there,) and we were late. Garrick and I both were a little panicked, but upon arriving, we soon realized this was an all afternoon event. This was no 45 minute Red Robin lunch. We received a full tour of their beautiful cottage, sat down to a cheese board and drinks in the living room,  and a few hours later moved into the dining room and ate a delicious meatloaf and pear supper. After dessert and tea, we left at 6:00 PM. The conversation was encouraging, humorous, and very stimulating.

This slow pace has been emphasized in my life, as I am currently unemployed. Just to give you an idea about the job market here, there are about 80-90 people, (mainly students,) applying for every opening. Now, that will change as school picks up and students realize they don't have time to work, and as stores hire for the holidays. Meanwhile, I have a bit more time than I'm used too, but I am trying to find contentment in my new life.

On Saturday I attended a "Survive and Thrive in Scotland" group for spouses of post-grads. I made my way to one of the many beautiful churches in St Andrews and walked into a little room filled with desserts, coffee, tea, and a circle of chairs. Soon, about 15 women filled the room, strangers. But within 5 minutes, we were friends. We share a very unique bond, and many said that this group has become family. I found out everything from where to find canned pumpkin, to common health care questions, and what to do when homesickness strikes in January. Big surprise, a common observation of almost every newbie was that things just take longer here. And those who've been here a few years just smiled and said, "Yes they do."

Tonight, Garrick has the opportunity to earn some extra cash painting with our neighbor, and I am free to write, clean, and listen to any music I want! (The popular rain/wind combo is going on outside, so I'm staying indoors.)  I'm excited to incorporate a slower pace into my life, and am thankful for learning lessons, no matter how challenging.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Garrick the Post-Grad

Over and over again, we heard how different the UK university system is from the states. Well, after just three days of classes, we've noticed!
Apart from the lack of information about when and where classes meet as well as the disorganization of some of the university faculty, independent learning is a major perk of education in the UK. There is no hand-holding or busy work. Garrick received a 60 book reading lists, as well as some optional "side reading," (who would have time for that?) and has a 5000 word paper due at the end of his 5 week course with NT Wright. Overwhelmed is an understatement, but he's excited and feels at peace with our decision to move here, even though we just learned it's just as far north as Fairbanks, AK! Other students (mainly Americans) have expressed concerns with the school system, but Garrick secretly appreciates the differences,  as they are similar to how he operates!

His schedule consists of a one hour Hebrew course that meets Monday through Friday at 9 AM for the next year, and a Tuesday/Thursday class, "Origins of Christian Theology" that meets from from 12-1 PM. Other than that, Garrick spends the rest of his time reading in his dank study space. It's located up a stone staircase and then down into a little closet-like room. He shares it with two other MLit students, and it houses stacks of books, his computer, and most importantly, COFFEE. With no cell service and a slow internet connection, it's the perfect place to read. :)

It's exciting to hear him talk about class discussion topics and for him to be challenged academically. He's doing what he loves, learning more about Jesus and the significance of His words and life. We really feel this is a great place to be and are thankful for the opportunities and adventures we have here.

We chatted with some golfers from Vancouver, BC at a little Italian restaurant last night and not only did they ease some of my homesickness, they also offered encouragement to us. For as much as I can be frustrated about my seemingly hopeless job search, or the "less fast" environment of the UK, or even missing my nephews, this is an amazing experience and I have already learned so much about who God is and how I should live my life in response to Him. As a bonus, I get to see Garrick in his element: wearing black rimmed glasses, drinking french press coffee, reading the Bible, reading books about the Bible, and living the beautiful town of St Andrews.

PS: Check out Garrick and Raymond taking a ride on Raymond and Mary Blake's motor bike!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Freshers Week

Arriving early is the best decision we've made.  We explored the sleeping town of St Andrews, resting before it's loud alarm on September 17th. That's when hundreds of students and their protective parents arrived, swarming the three main streets in town. "Freshers Week" began on Sunday, with about 100 events for undergrads, post grads, anarchists, vegans, pagans, Christians, and everyone in between. Garrick, I've noted, has no interest in scavenger hunts, support groups, or bonfires. He's carefully maintaining his post-grad status, as a mature, Biblical scholar. If they only knew. :)

Thus far, he's learned about the 20 point grading system, picked up the keys to his study space, registered for health insurance, and my personal favorite, matriculated. (That's means 'register' here in Scotland.) Last night, we attended the Left Society's production of "V for Vendetta" and sat silently as we witnessed the disorganization of the unofficial president. Classic. We've enjoyed meeting a few of the other nine students also doing a MLit in Scripture and Theology. In particular, Raymond and Mary Blake, who are so cool that they drive everywhere on a motorcycle. In Scotland. Brrrrr! We look forward to a few events later on in the week, a reception in the Parliament Hall on Friday night and a BBQ on Saturday. Next Tuesday Garrick's temporary vacation ends and his real work begins. I think he's ready!

We had the pleasure of attending Trinity Church on Sunday, where John Knox preached the reformation. The service started at noon and is situated in the corner of the stone building looking out beautiful stained glass windows and at incredible carvings. We met several couples similar to us, arriving from the states, looking for work, and adjusting to life here. I'm excited to have found a church home so quickly, as the process of "church shopping" exhausts me. Garrick tells me every day how surreal this experience feels to him. I am both proud and excited as he begins his post-graduate studies. St Andrews is becoming more and more like home to us. Of course there are still things to be sorted out, but I am learning patience.

Friday, September 16, 2011

13 Days as Scots

It's hard to believe that 13 days ago we arrived late on Sunday in St Andrews. Famished, we found our way to town and stumbled upon a kabob take away, paid 7 pounds for a 3 minute phone call to my parents, and crashed on the floor of our flat. These 13 days have been challenging, relaxing, frustrating, fulfilling, and most of all, adventurous:

Argos has been a life-saver. Literally. Who knew what bright blue bathroom rugs could do to spruce a place up? The beautiful thing about Argos? It's contemporary and it's cheap. Because we only plan to be here a year, (if Garrick doesn't roll his MLit into a PhD,) we wanted stylish yet inexpensive. And Argos is just that. Ikea-like, you look through a magazine, write down your item number, and they bring it to the front for you. Needless to say, our flat is now "homey." Garrick feels a lot better, too, now that the love seat has throw pillows. ;)

On to older and better things, the town of St Andrews is perfect for young, inexperienced Americans such as ourselves. With only three main streets, we know our way around pretty well. I should be honest and admit that twice we went to dinner, however, and could not find the restaurant after passing it at least a dozen times previously. There's lots of little short-cuts and alley ways that confuse us. Thankfully, I am not shy and have asked locals lots questions. I even asked an elderly man in Starbucks how to punctuate cell phone numbers. (No dashes if you're curious.) We attended a church last Sunday that meets in the middle school up the road and were greeted warmly afterward during the tea and biscuit social. Cliff and Sheila in particular shared their story with us and offered encouragement and a few good laughs. Garrick even got the honor of being entered into Cliff's address book, to which he gave me the private fist pump. All in all, the Scots are friendly, funny, and sarcastic.

Now on to the hundreds of years of history. We've explored the castle ruins, the cathedral, the university and the golf course. Awesome. In the true sense of the word. I am sure we can never fully know the beauty of these structures, since they are mostly demolished, but still beautiful even in their brokenness. I almost feel guilty when I sit home during the day knowing I can walk 5 minutes and be standing next to history. Our favorite view, unquestionably, was St Rules Tower, in the middle of the cathedral. It's the highest tower in St Andrews and we could see the entire town from the top. We climbed the twirling staircase enclosed by a stone wall and made it to the breathtaking views. St Andrews is a place to visit, that's for sure.

Today, I write from our retro chair in front of our fireplace, staring out our rainy window at the windy trees and gray sky. We've been to town already, Garrick checking to see if our bank card is activated yet, and me, working on resumes in my usual green velvet chair at Starbucks. We have a social week next week with university events. The highlights are a bike auction and my personal favorite, a survival group for wives of post graduate students. I am excited to meet other women in my exact position, as it's easy to feel alone. We've settled in well and are just waiting to get one last important innovation: Internet. Soon enough, all depending on when our bank card is activated. Then I can finally Skype with my beautiful friends and family, whom I miss dearly.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Eating Out in St Andrews!

Garrick and I love to eat out for many reasons. We enjoy experiencing different cultures and tastes, we love chatting over a good meal, and most importantly, no dishes! Here's a few of our recent finds in our new town:

Pizza Express: http://www.pizzaexpress.com/

Don't let the name fool you. It's nothing close to Pizza Hut. Located right next to the library and the Holy Trinity Church between South and Market Street, the atmosphere is great. We sat at a little window table and people watched with a beautiful church as the backdrop. We ordered the Padana pizza with Goat cheese, mozzarella, spinach, red and caramelised onions, and garlic oil. Traditionally served in Rome, it was thin crusted and baked perfectly. Our kind waitress provided great service and we enjoyed the quaint, contemporary atmosphere.

Le Rendezvous:

Feeling a bit down on a rainy, windy day here in St Andrews, I told Garrick I wanted, more needed,  hot cocoa. Being about 6:30 on a Sunday night, we assumed most coffee shops were closed. We bundled up and walked into town, making a short pit stop to feet the hungry ducks, and found this little french bakery tucked away on Market Street. They serve pizza, paninis, pastries, and cold and hot beverages. I ordered hot cocoa with a cinnamon pastry, and Garrick ordered a macchiato. I cheered up when the cocoa came in a tall, clear mug adorned with cream and chocolate sprinkles. We walked down a few stairs into the rear of the cafe, and enjoyed overhearing the conversation of a happy family near us. I will definitely go back since there are plenty of blustery nights ahead!

The Glass House: http://www.glasshouse-restaurant.co.uk/

After watching the RAF air show from The Scores, we wandered down around the Old Course and came back on North Street. We'd heard the Glass House was good from many different publications around St Andrews and decided to give it a try. We were seated in little balcony with a cover and heat lamps overhead. We looked across at a beautiful stone church and watched a traditional Scottish wedding, complete with bag pipes! We each chose our courses from the 2 course lunch menu. Garrick felt both adventurous and obligated to try Haggis and ordered vegetable soup with focaccia, and a stone baked Haggis pizza with bechamel sauce. I did not feel the same adventure to eat lamb stomach and who knows what else, so I ordered the soup as well with venison sausage and mustard mashed potatoes. The food satisfied, even the Haggis, and the surroundings couldn't be beat.

Maisha Restaurant: http://www.maisharestaurant.co.uk/

Voted one of the top 5 Indian restaurants in the UK, we had high expectations. We walked passed Maisha many times as it's located on College Street, near the university. We headed out from our flat thinking we knew exactly where to go, and did a loop around South Street without success. Just when we decided to give up, we saw the little red sign! It's a very small restaurant, only about 7-8 tables. Just one smell and look at people eating curry and naan, we knew we'd found something good. We ordered the three course meal beginning with Poppadoms and chutney. Garrick chose potato fritters and Lamb Madras, (very spicy!) and I enjoyed spring rolls and Chicken Tikka Masala. We didn't have lots of meaningful conversation and that means the food was excellent! We both agreed it's the best Curry we've had. I do need to acknowledge Mark Grantham, however, because he makes the best homemade curry we've ever had! :) We've walked past Maisha a few more times and are tempted to go in, but want to try another Indian restaurant first and compare. They have a student take away special that we'll order often, I'm sure!

The Rule: http://www.the-rule.co.uk/the-rule/home/the-rule-pub-diner.html

We get hungry at weird times. I attribute that to our jet lag, and the 8 hours that disappeared from our lives. Then you can understand why starvation creeps up on us and we have to eat right away. This pub came just in time, and it was very typical with displays of sport times and events and a walk up ordering counter. Hungry, I craved a hamburger and Garrick wanted to try something new and had Scottish Pie and beans. Our lunch came quickly and did not disappoint. Good pub food at a good price. And for those who are curious, Scottish Pie is a pastry filled with meat, veggies, and cheese. Good and comforting.

Jenettas Ice Creamery and Italian Style Bistro: http://www.jannettas.co.uk/index.html

With over 52 flavors of ice cream, Janettas is pretty popular in St Andrews. It's been a family owned business since 1888. We didn't order ice cream, though. I need it to be sunny and at least 70 degrees before I crave ice cream. Is that weird? We went to the Italian Style Bistro next door because Garrick craved soup. He ordered a "white coffee" thinking it was what we have at home, and the waitress laughed and informed him that it's just coffee with milk. He said he'd take that! Originally wanting soup, the cream cheese and prosciutto panini caught his eye. I had the special, a baked potato with chili and cheese and a green salad. The bistro was loud and busy, but service was fast and good. We enjoyed our food and sat and talked over our white coffees for about an hour. Good memories in a cute bistro! When the temperature rises here, I don't know if it ever will, I will try the ice cream.

Well, we've been quite a few places so far, but will slow down a bit and start budgeting! Our college student bank account doesn't allow for frequent eating out, but we'll do it as much as we can. Thanks for reading and comment about your favorite restaurant!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Morrisons Cola

I had a coffee with Jack Wisemore, one of my undergrad professors who did his PhD at St Andrews, a couple weeks before we left. He had plenty of advice and insight but this is what I took away: "I thought I was adjusting well," he said leaning across the table toward me unblinkingly, "but one night, three weeks after we arrived, I had a dream I was walking down a close and before me unfolded a stripmall with a Target, Red Robin and Starbucks." He also went into detail about the only place in town to find a nice, cold Diet Pepsi (the Old Course gift shop). I assumed some aspects of life in St Andrews might take some adjustment (ie. opposite road driving, accents, carrying around 8 denominations of coins [who needs a two pence coin???!!!!] and small kitchens) but I did not truly grasp the depth of Dr. Jack's subconsious yearnings. There are many differences about life in the States. Here are a few:

A man, his wife and his 85 year old mother sat next to us today at the Marty's memorial on The Scores overlooking the West Sands and the Old Course today. We gathered to get a view of the Leuchars RAF airshow across the firth. The show wasn't mind blowing; it was raining and most of the flying took place at a distance. However, I got to talking with this fella and found out that he was on a church outing from Glasgow to visit St Andrews and catch some precision flying. His mother convinced me to go the Scottish Episcopalian Church this Sunday, she was quite persuasive: "There are some churches, but not many, where they sing old hymns and new hymns. They even clap their hands! But you should go to the Scottish Episcopalian church and ask for a booklet on the church's history."

Advertisments like this: "I've lost 2 stone and still eat at take-aways!"

I bought two liters of Morrison's value brand cola today for 17p. It costs less than bleach and tastes worse.

Electrical outlets have on and off switches.

Chinese tourists love taking pictures of Scottish weddings.

Haggis pizza with potato, carmelized onion and bechamel sause is the Barack Obama of pizza (intelligent and delicious, but a bit too scary for some people to try); Pizza Hut is the Michelle Bachman (cheap, lazy and manufactured); Little Caesar's is the Rick Perry of pies (greasy, cheap and you feel like you've had it before). Also, everyone eats pizza with a fork and knife.

If you've had any observations/stories about places you've been that are noteworthy, COMMENT!




Friday, September 9, 2011

Planes, Trains, and Taxis

Jet Lag. It's a real thing. Not only does it affect your sleep patterns, but your emotions and your clear thinking skills. Let's start from the beginning.

We arrived in St Andrews on Sunday, September 4th at 6:30 PM. It wasn't that simple, however. The jouney began with our families caravaning with us down to Sea-Tac airport at 1:00 PM on Saturday, September 3rd. Just seeing those dates tells you that we traveled for about 24 hours. No sleep, 400 pounds of luggage, and 4 security checks. That encompasses our trip. Most of my time was spent playing Scrabble on the iPad, and Garrick read the Economist. We flew to Iceland and then to Glasgow, Scotland, and both flights, my touch screen movie player didn't work. I got to watch other people enjoy multiple movies on the trans-Atlantic flights. You can only play so much Scrabble. Now I'll get to the exhausting part of the journey:

Overcrowded trains.

I think we'll have nightmares for a few weeks about this. I would like to publicly proclaim my admiration and respect for my husband, who, in Sorel snow boots, carried his large backpacking pack, a fifty pound duffel on one shoulder and a 70 pound duffel on the other. Our taxi driver thoughtfully dropped us off in the town centre of Glasgow, and we walked up a small hill to the train station. I have never gotten so many weird looks and cared so little. We bought our tickets and when it was our time to board, mobs of people fled to the train entrances. We had to take up an entire landing of one of the entrances, to the dismay of the train porter. We explained that we had to bring the luggage, and somehow he decided to have mercy on us tired Americans.

Relief came when we loaded all of our belongings in the final taxi to St Andrews. Our driver pulled up in a Volkswagen Jetta and we told him thanks, but there's no way our stuff would fit. Then he proceeded to put all our stuff in the trunk. He knew a lot about the town, even gave us a map with shortcuts from our flat to town. He pulled up to 46 Langlands Road and we were left with all of our luggage on the curb. We opened our gate, walked up the path and turned the key.

Silence.

(10 minutes)

Tears.

No, not Garrick. I started crying. Before I get to the positives of our now beloved flat, I only saw its flaws. A kitchen straight from the 1950's, no bathtub, and one musty bedroom. Garrick frantically cleaned while I sat on our love seat and cried. Then I got in my sleeping bag on the floor and cried some more. I think staying up for 24 hours and a stressful traveling experience did it to me.

Today, we're sitting at Starbucks downtown St Andrews and are in good spirits. We've made our flat "home" and really find it charming. It has a front door, and an inside door, (I think that's common here,) a large bathroom, a bedroom, a living room, a kitchen, a dining room, and my personal favorite, a hardwood sun room with cute yellow curtains. We are almost finished decorating, cleaning and rearranging and will post pics soon of the finished product. I tried to post pics twice to the blog and both times it didn't go through, so if you are interested go to my facebook page!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

So Long Snohomish!

Two large duffel bags, two backpacks, two front packs, two personal items, and one rolling suitcase.  It's weird to see your life packed up in 9 bags. Our once jammed room feels empty, and all that we own sits downstairs in the dining room. I feel surprisingly peaceful with bouts of overwhelmed and excited. I feel similarly to when I got married, planning for months and then realizing that there is nothing left to do but jump. Here is our plan of action for our departure day, Saturday, September 3rd and Sunday, September 4th:

2:00 PM: Arrive at Sea-Tac Airport with our families
4:30 PM: Depart on an Icelandair flight for Reykjavik, Iceland.
10:45 PM: Arrive in Iceland, 6:45 AM local time on Sunday
8:00 AM: Depart for Glasgow, Scotland
1:40 PM: Arrive in Glasgow, collect our 9 bags of luggage and go through customs
3:00 PM: Board the train to Leuchers, Scotland
6:00 PM: Arrive in Leuchers and get a taxi to St Andrews
6:30 PM: Arrive at our new home in St Andrews

Total travel time: Ideally 16 hours, 15 minutes

That just exhausted me. I am sure we will go straight to bed upon arriving in St Andrews! I find it appropriate to wrap up our last blog from Snohomish with some photos of the wonderful people we're leaving behind. The amount of love we have felt from them is amazing, and we are excited to see them on Skype!


 Thanks for reading and please pray for safe travels!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Flying Underwear and Tiny Rooms

I've been waking up several times a night with vivid visions of myself carrying two backpacks, wheeling a 50 lb suitcase and struggling to walk through airports, train stations, and bus depots. I even imagine myself falling dramatically with underwear flying everywhere. I expressed my concern about moving all of my belongings across the world and Garrick responded typically, "It will be fine." In some ways, I am happy this is my biggest concern. I haven't even begun to worry about being isolated, anxious, or even lost in a new place. (I think it's pretty hard to get lost in St Andrews, considering it's smaller than my hometown of Snohomish.) Lately, I can't really see past September 3rd, driving to SeaTac with our heavy luggage in the trunk.

Missing my family and friends is a given. This week, however, I've been surprisingly sad over something else: our room. After college Garrick and I moved out of our tiny, mold-infested apartment into an even tinier room in the basement of the church parsonage. Somehow, we managed to squeeze hundreds of books, a chair, a bed, a dresser, and two grown adults into this room. Recently, we moved in with Garrick's family. Again, we made one room our home. This room is across the 3 foot landing from his mom and step dad and right next door to his college aged brother. I've complained quite a bit about our living situation over the past year: "I want my own house. I want my own stuff."

Life is simple in one room. It's easily cleaned. It's contained. I will fondly remember our room. Would I live in one room again? Not a chance! But I can say without hesitation that our little room has had a large influence on my life. I learned that life is not about possessions. Because if it is, I am failing miserably. I also learned how to shower quickly, shut doors quietly, and wash my dishes right after I cook. And most importantly, I know I can live in a 14 X 16 box. My friends and family often worry that Garrick and I won't be used to such small living quarters in Scotland. But in two weeks, I'll walk up to our little flat on Langlands Road and it won't feel so little.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Travel Pro

I like to act like I’m a traveling big-shot. I’m confident that I’m no Anthony Bourdain, but I view myself as a less nerdy version of Rick Steves. I have been to Europe twice, you know. The first time I backpacked through the Old World I jumped a plane a week after high school graduation and in six weeks visited England, France, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and the Czech Republic. I stayed in hostels, rode trains and practiced my French. Despite my American confidence and supposed travelling acumen, I also cried at a pay phone at the Gare de l’Est in Paris, got scammed $100 on a cup and ball street game in Stockholm and lost my travel partner in Geneva. I was determined to learn from my youthful errors and conquer Europe the next time around, hopefully without crying in a public place.
My next opportunity for adventure came at my honeymoon. I convinced my anxious and, honestly, sheltered bride to go on a trans-Atlantic dream trip with me. “It will be easy,” I said. “I’ve already been to all the places we’re going to go.” We saw lots of London, visited family in St. Ives and lay on the beautiful Basque beaches in France. Once again, despite my familiarity with our destinations, I managed to blow it like Michael Scott in a staff meeting. I ordered sardine pizza, got stuck in the hotel bathtub and, much to Andrea’s chagrin, did not know how to translate ibuprofen en Fran├žais.
This time, I’m not too worried about having a “perfect” trip. I’ve wanted to live in a different country since high school and I thought about it every time I turned onto HWY 9 south heading home after baseball practice. After I convinced Andrea to join me at St. Andrews, I thought the trip would be a breeze and that preparing for it would be even easier. But as the day approaches, I feel more and more like I reluctantly signed up for a sky diving lesson. I know that even if I jump, I’ll land safely, but the hardest moment isn’t the choice to sign up for sky diving in the first place, but the choice to jump. I know I’m going to jump; I am anxious to see how I respond to the wind in my face.      

Friday, August 5, 2011

Anxiety, Goodbyes, and "Garrick, can I PLEASE bring this?"

It's Friday morning, August 5th, 2011, exactly 29 days until we board an Icelandic Airline flight and fly to our next adventure. I have 4 days of work left, Garrick has about a week.  We know it will be windy, breathtakingly beautiful, older than anything we've seen, and green, green, green. Garrick knows he is trading sleep for late nights, MLB 2K11 for textbooks, and baseball for cricket. I know I am trading comfort for new experiences, one bedroom for my own flat, and my Honda Accord for a bicycle. It's accurate to assume then, that we know little of what we are about to embark on. One thing is certain: we're excited!

About two years ago, Garrick applied to the University of St Andrews for the first time and got accepted our senior year of college. We weren't ready financially or mentally, so he deferred his acceptance until 2011. For the last year we have saved, planned, fought, cycled, laughed, sold all our belongings, and finally are prepared to move across the world. In order to move to the UK, all funding for the next year needs accounted for, we need visas, and we need a place to live. All three of these requirements are now complete. It's funny, actually that after spending hours on our visa applications, they simply placed a little sticker onto one of the pages in our passports. I was actually disappointed. On a happy note, a perk of moving to a place where the pound is worth almost double the American dollar is that I've convinced my thrifty husband that all shopping must be done before we leave. That said, I have expanded my wardrobe little by little over that past few months, all with Garrick's approval. :)

In closing, the next 4 weeks will be spent hugging our nephews, conversing with our families, and taking in all the people that we love. I sat and listened to my Grandpa play "The Old Rugged Cross" on the piano last night and felt thankful. Thankful for such wonderful gift he and my grandma are to me. The cliche saying becomes more and more true, "You don't know what you have until you lose it." Garrick and I are grateful for the relationships that we've had over the past few years with those at Life Community Church, Bruner Orthodontics, and Bellevue Baseball Club. To our friends and families, thank you for your initial surprise and now support of our move. Anyone and everyone has a free place to stay in St Andrews, Scotland, just remember your jacket!