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: 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:

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
Pumpkin Pie
Blueberry Cobbler
Apple Crisp
Whipped Cream
Vanilla Ice Cream
Mulled Wine


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:

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.


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:


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 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!