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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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.


(10 minutes)


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!