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!"


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
-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!