Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Glimpse

Not only do I want to capture special events, accomplishments, milestones, and travel on this here blog,  but I would like to remember just a glimpse of what daily life held. So, divided up into categories, here goes, in no particular order:

Daily Commute: Our two feet are our transportation. Garrick works in the Roundel, about a 30-second walk from our sea-side flat. I work on Union Street, about a 3.5-minute walk. Compared to a 40-minute drive down Highway 9 in traffic, we're not complaining.

Groceries: We don't have a lot of options in a 3-street town, but Tesco is our most convenient grocery store. With 6 aisles it leaves much to be desired, and it's the most expensive Tesco in Scotland. When I'm organized, I order groceries Tesco online to be delivered, and if I'm feeling particularly motivated, I'll trek out to the large grocery store at the edge of town, Morrisons. They have a not-so-classy cafĂ© to stop at while shopping, and their lattes are drinkable.

Work Days: We maintain a 9-5, Monday-Friday work week. Of course Garrick reads and studies his many languages on the weekends and evenings, but this is generally our structure. Working so close to one another, we often meet for coffee, lunch, or a brief chat during the day.

Weather: June in Scotland. I'm not quite sure to describe this, but maybe just explaining yesterday's weather will help. We woke up to pouring rain, by noon it was cloudy and muggy, and the afternoon was beautifully sunny and warm. Put this on a daily repeat, and there you have it.

Friends: We don't lack them. We're blessed to know some of the finest folk from all over the world, well, mostly North America (shout out to our Canadian friends!), and a few lovely Scots. Often we have people over for dinner, games, or bonfires, and likewise, we receive similar invitations. Sometimes we even leave Fife and sightsee together.

Down Days: Despite how it may appear, we don't spend all of our time exploring ruined castles and drinking coffee. Expat life is not always easy. It's difficult to miss your family and friends. And sometimes you just want to go to Target. I've found that living in a different country exposes your character in ways you may not like. Growth is not a choice, it's demanded. My relationship with God grounds my soul. Garrick's ears are probably worn out from all of my much needed verbal-processing. Friends here become family. You feel weaker than you ever have, and then after you've made it through your first year, realize that you are actually stronger. The choice to leave our home and move here is undoubtedly the best decision we've made.

Hobbies: We love to read, cycle, beach comb, sit around bonfires, bathe, listen to music, play cribbage, bake, cook, eat, drink French press coffee, blog, play the piano, clean, watch the Simpsons, attempt to knit, and be social. Obviously, a few of those are specific to one of us; I'll leave it to your imagination.

Anything else you'd like to know, just ask. As always, thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Two Allen Updates

Garrick: He passed his GRO, or General Research Ordinance, and can now be referred to as Garrick Allen, PhD Candidate! This is the compilation of all of his work from his first year of PhD and has to include at least one chapter, a bibliography and an outline of his dissertation. If this is not submitted, or is deemed inadequate, than continuation in the program is uncertain. Garrick puts in a lot of hours makes the most of every opportunity, and in turn I feel appreciated for my efforts in working and moving across the world. We are a team!

Andrea: I got a 4-week contract for the month of July in Finance Department at the University! As a term-time employee, I thought it would be difficult to find work over the summer holiday. As we'll be in Paris this August, that made a month-long job seem even less likely. Well, thanks to networking, I got an email from the Head of the Finance Department while we were in the Low Countries letting me know about the temporary post. I attended what I thought was an informal meeting, which turned into an interview (fun!), and got the job.  Anyway, God always provides, and we are thankful.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Our Adventures in the Low Countries!

We took Rick Steves', new sunglasses, and our camera on an 8 day trip to the Low Countries: The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany. Because we both turned 25, we rented a car for the first time and found the freedom and convenience very enjoyable. We had a great time and would like to share our adventures with you. Enjoy the ride!

Day One - St Andrews to Haarlem, Netherlands:

After a bus ride and a plane ride, we walked through the Amsterdam airport and picked up our wee shiny red Citroen:

Can you believe there are four doors? After plugging in our hotel address to our GPS, we enjoyed the beautiful drive to Haarlem. We explored the Grote Markt (Market Square) and ended up at a local restaurant to relax and people watch. Everyone cycles, often with a friend sitting on the front or back of the bike!

Days Two & Three - Haarlem, Netherlands to Bruges, Belgium:

Breakfast at Anne & Max included lattes, pastries, meats, cheeses, fruit, hard-boiled eggs, and juice. Not to mention delicious jams and chocolate spreads. After a brief peek in the Grote Kerk (Church), we were back in the car to Bruges!

With canals, chocolate shops, frites, and the best beer in the world, this town is not shy of tourists. We immediately realised that it would be a crowded two days. A highlight was our cycle through the Belgian countryside to nearby Damme, and a tour of a working windmill. Also noteworthy, the Groeninge Museum, home to fine collection of Flemish art.
Day Four - Bruges, Belgium to Brussels, Belgium: 


We found Brussels intriguing. The city centre was not a place we'd like spend a significant amount of time as it is, big, loud, and at times, seedy. The surrounding areas, however, were great! We stayed in the Art Nouveau neighborhood, and the architecture and restaurants exceeded our expectations. We sampled a chocolate shop, toured the Grand Place, stumbled upon a peaceful protest, explored the Margritte Museum and the Musical Instrument Museum, and concluded the day with dinner out and cribbage on the patio at our hotel.

Day Five - Brussels, Belgium to  Bacharach, Germany via Luxembourg:

Another early morning, and we made good time to Luxembourg City, Luxembourg. After a brief stop and photo shoot, we eagerly continued to Germany, specifically, the beautiful Rhine River Valley. Mid-afternoon, we hiked to our hostel, an old castle overlooking the Rhine. The outside was better than the inside. Our room consisted of four bunk beds and a sink. We dropped our backpacks and enjoyed exploring the quaint Bavarian village, Bacharach. Garrick even had a short conversation in German while making our dinner reservation.

Day Six - Bacharach, Germany to Cologne, Germany:

Honestly, we could have stayed an extra night in Bacharach and will definitely be back. As we dove through the valley to Cologne, we noticed many robber-baron castles, built by rich 'kings' to charge tolls to passing boats. We even stopped and took a closer look at Rheinfels Castle. Once in Cologne and Starbucks in hand, we sat on the steps leading up to the cathedral and enjoyed the city. After spending about an hour touring the massive cathedral that took over 600 years to build, we strolled through the city and had an early night at our B&B. Our fast pace caught up with us!

Day 7 - Cologne, Germany to Amsterdam, Netherlands:
Last stop of our adventure, Amsterdam! A cycling and pedestrian city, we dropped our champ of a rental car at the airport and took the bus to our hotel. The Jordaan District, an easy favorite, is where lovely cafes and shops are surrounded by canals and colorful, picturesque houses. We toured the Anne Frank House and Rijks Museum, and also took a canal cruise throughout most of the city. We'll fondly remember the extremely rainy and long walk to our B&B carrying a stack of Stroopwaffels and milk to enjoy that evening.
Day 9 - Home to St Andrews:
After a fast-paced, adventurous, and fun trip, we were ready to get home. Walking down the lane to our flat, we were practically giddy. There is nothing better than plopping down on your couch in a clean room after crowded flights and touristy areas. We're so thankful for the opportunity to travel and also experiencing new places together. Teamwork is a must!