27 March 2008

More Photos of Our Trip

The Other Side of Scotland

On the other side of Scotland (that's the west coast since we are on the east, for those of you interested) you get to see the other side of Scotland (that would be mountains since the rest seems to be rolling, green hills).

Friday our journeys continued southward towards Fort William. The day started out crummy and the first 30 minutes of our trip I was praying the Lord might allow us to see some sun to better enjoy His creation. What a loving Father to answer shortly thereafter! We stopped at the Bridge of Oich and walked across the swing bridge (like a draw bridge, only it swings) to get the lovely shot that is now our banner for our blog. Little did we know that we'd get to see the bridge in action, which meant standing in the freezing, blowing wind for a good 10-15 minutes while two boats passed. It was soooo cold, but thankfully the sky was blue in a great big circle over our heads :)

Back in the car we were in awe as we saw more and more snow-capped mountains lining Loch Lochy (isn't that the coolest name?!). The further south we drove, the more mountains we saw. We knew that there were some munros (mountains over 3,000 ft in height) in western Scotland but didn't realize exactly how tall 3,000+ feet were. These were definitely mountains! Finally we got to Fort William where Ben Nevis (tallest mountain in UK) and the Nevis Range loom over the town. As we drove closer to the mountains it started to snow, we saw highland cows (I love their shaggy look! Can you see how it looks plastered to his face? Yeah, that was the wind!), a sheep with legs that looked like they had been transplanted from a Dalmatian puppy, and lots of beautiful mountains!

After a quick walk through the quaint pedestrian area of Fort William, photos of the old church/cemetery, a pit stop, and lunch in the car (the cheap way to see Scotland and so I could eat my "safe" salad I'd brought with me), we were ready to head west towards Isle of Skye. Unfortunately, Road Works (i.e. the construction crew) had started a small project which only allowed our lane of traffic to go for about 2 minutes every 5 minutes (I timed it). So, we saw more detail of Fort William than we cared to because in about 40 minutes we went maybe 2 miles. Finally, though, we made it passed the area they were working on (by the way, they finished just after we passed....how annoying!).

The wait was worth it for what we got to see next :) We drove along the Glen Sheil Ridge that gave a spectacular view at the summit of the drive. It was so lovely I could have stayed if it weren't for that reoccurring theme of wind and cold! So onward we pressed to find lots of deer hidden in the rocks and brush as it snowed. We even stumbled upon another picturesque castle: Eilean Donan Castle. We eventually ended up at Kyle of Loclosh (click to see webcam) which looks onto the Isle of Skye.After tea to warm up, a quick trip to Skye, more photos (I was glad my brother was tired of taking pictures and let me use his camera since my batteries were dead) and dinner we decided we'd better head home while there was still some light in the sky...but not without first seeing the sun set over the water and mountains :) What a full and wonderful day we had touring this amazing country!

26 March 2008

I am Blessed

There are a multitude of ways that I/we are blessed each day, but since my brother left yesterday I have been thinking about how blessed I am to have such a great brother! It's been so quiet here without him and I've been missing him since he left. As Todd pointed out, aside from a week of family vacationing this summer and a few additional days at my parents (during which time we were both frantically preparing for our lives overseas so it wasn't the greatest time in our relationship...) we haven't spent 8 days together just hanging out in who knows how long! Definitely not since I got married. It was a blast to tour the country together and be silly together like when we were growing up. My brother and I have never had a hard time being weird/silly together. Poor Mark :)

I know not everyone gets along with their siblings, but I praise God my brother and I have a good relationship based on both of us knowing the Lord as our Savior. What a joy and blessing to have you as my brother, Todd, I love you!

24 March 2008

Can Anyone Explain This?

How does this work? Just wondering if anyone else knew......

23 March 2008


What a joy to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus today! It is so easy to take for granted the fact that we serve a Lord who has died for our sins and now LIVES again. We long to live for Him each day. Reflecting on His death and resurrection reminds us what a privilege it is to serve a living God!

But today has not been a very traditional Easter other than reflecting on these core truths of our faith (which, ultimately, are really the most important parts of Easter). We woke up to sun and snow covered rooftops, grass and cars. It melted shortly thereafter, only to come down again in huge flakes. Once again, it was back and forth throughout the day.
Todd got to experience a lovely Scottish Sunday lunch at Ian and Isobel's house with us. It was not a typical ham dinner (well, that's what we grew up with for Easter lunch anyways), but seemed much like the other meals we'd been served on other Sundays. Not bad, just different!
As we left their house, the snow was coming down thick and beautifully! What a Christmas....er, I mean, Easter!

22 March 2008

Where to Start?

Where in the world do you start trying to post about the sights, experiences, and fun had in a two and a half day, nearly 500 mile car trip with your husband and brother? I've been contemplating it and haven't come up with any good ideas yet. Guess I'll just have to type and see what I come up with.

The weather was typical Scottish weather, mostly grey, off and on rain, with bits of sun peaking out at random times as we drove towards Inverness and then south to Loch Ness and our hostel on Thursday. If I could guess the number of times we said on this trip, "Oh, it's raining again." (15 minutes later) "Oh, yah! The sun!" (15 minutes) "Oh, there's the rain/snow again" (15 minutes) "Oh, how happy, the sun!" etc, etc, etc it would number in the hundreds....no joke.

Inverness is known at "The Capital of the Highlands" because it is the biggest major city in the North and East of Scotland. It was a lovely scene to drive into the city and see the "firth" (bay) leading into the city. Once in the city we just drove randomly until we came to a bridge, looked down and saw a river with a nice patch of green to stroll on, and decided we'd go there to stretch our legs. After the biting wind did us in, we jumped back in the car journeyed on southward to Loch Ness. We came to Urquhart Castle right on Loch Ness just outside of Drumnadrochit (we are still trying to figure out exactly how this is pronounced!). Since the clouds broke in a large circle right over us, we decided to go ahead and pay the fee and go check out the ruins for ourselves up close.
Just as we were finishing up our self-guided tour of the ruins dark grey clouds threatened to dump their rain on us, so we quickly headed for the car. We had about an hour and a half until we could check into our hostel so we took advantage of it being "tea time" and visited a local cafe in Drumnadrochit. Finally we decided to go and find our home away from home for the next two nights, Loch Ness Scottish Youth Hostel. Neither Mark nor I had stayed in a hostel before so we weren't quite sure what to expect. It reminded me of camp. Smelled like camp, especially. You know, that musty, "campy" smell? This hostel was chosen because of their superb price on a 3 person room. The boys took the bunk bed and I got the single bed. It was a tight fit with luggage and lots of warm clothes and food, but it really did work out well.
When we called to ask about what bedding was provided and they said "pillow, sheets, two duvets" we should have been clued in that maybe there wasn't heat in the room and it might be a tad chilly! Ha! It maybe wouldn't have been so bad in there hadn't been the stiff wind and snow. We all survived, though, and chalked it up to the whole hostel experience!
One of 4 or 5 rainbows we saw on Thursday. This one is just outside of the annex where our room was located at the hostel. That's Loch Ness. It was so windy there were white caps on the lake and we were lulled to sleep with the waves crashing on the shore (all of about 15 feet outside the window).

So that is a brief summary of our first day's travels. May you sleep tight and dream of Nessie knocking at your window as I did....or was it a dream?

19 March 2008

Back for More

My brother, Todd, made it safely to Aberdeen late Monday night. We've definitely been enjoying this time together. This afternoon we ventured to Stonehaven and Dunnottar Castle. Someone just can't visit you in Aberdeen and you not take them there!

I was chatting away (can you imagine?) on the drive down, missed a sign and somehow ended up headed North to Aberdeen again. Thankfully we realized this mistake almost instantly and found an old country road to turn around on. The country road also happened to give us a great view of the city so I just pretended I just wanted to show him the great view! It was fantastic because the sun decided to come out shortly after we arrived at Dunnottar, and there were so few people there this time. I'd love to share the video I took, but maybe another day. For now, I'm off to pack! We are headed to Loch Ness tomorrow through Saturday! Mark and I can't wait to explore some more. It will be our first night out of Aberdeen since arriving here.

15 March 2008

A Day in the Old Town House

I don't usually have to work Saturdays but my department at work is repsonsible for staffing The Old Town House Monday through Saturday. I am on a "rota" to help cover Saturdays when the usual staff member is off for the day. Despite the number of pictures I took I really did get a lot of work done :) I finally have caught up on some of my work. The past 3 weeks I have been organizing campus visits for prospective students. Apart from having to chase down professors to see if they can meet with students at the times I have requested, and occasionally dealing with an upset parents, I've really enjoyed this work. I have taken over the job on a temporary basis for someone who is on medical leave and should be back at the end of the month. I have decided, though, that she conviently broke (and had to have surgery on) her finger during the busiest times of the year for campus visits (because of Easter/spring "holidays") leaving me with a mess of visits to organize! Even still, I think I will miss it.

So here are some photos of this building built in 1721. (Correction! This plaque was taken from the old, old town house and reused in the current old town house, which was built in 1788--still pretty old! Should have done my research prior to writing the post!)

This is the emblem above the front door. I believe that the fish on the vase is the coat of arms/symbol for Old Aberdeen....might have that wrong, though. It's also in the coat of arms for the University, which I have accidentally cut off in the photo below.

Gotta love the refurbishment/upkeep is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund

A very costly model of the new gazillion (or so) dollar library being built on campus in the next several years.

The sky really was that pretty blue this morning :)
The old jail cell that housed the last person hung in Scotland, which was, I think, in the last 50 years. See the little window in the middle of the door? Guess that was to talk to the prisoner.

The bolt on the door is massive!

Also found this key today. It was also rather massive!

13 March 2008

BBC to Me!

A friend recently discovered that you can watch BBC channels on-line via streaming feeds using iPlayer. This is important because then technically you aren't breaking the TV License laws. We've chosen not to have a TV during this time because you have to pay £135.50 per year (about $270 US) for a color TV, and for just a few channels we think that's pretty steep on our limited budget! But thankfully it's still legal to watch a program as long as it isn't being played on live TV at the same time. How nice of BBC to make their shows available to us.

While I really haven't missed having a TV these 6 months, every now and then I do miss watching the weather (after all I am my Daddy's girl) or seeing the news. Now I can...just a few hours after it's played. Maybe you'd like to watch some British shows too. Just go here.

11 March 2008

In Need of Green - Part 2

Now that we have a faster connection I can ramble some more about our adventures on Saturday! I have decided to show the photos in a new way to see how it works out. I think you can get a bigger size if you click on the photos.

After leaving the stone circle we headed for the grocery store for Mark to get something for lunch (I had brought a salad since it's hard for me to grab food other places). Along the main roadways here they have lots of pull-off spots. Must be for all the tourists who bring lunches and just in general so they have somewhere to pull over and take photos. We had a beautiful view while we ate in the car (see top middle photo).

Once we headed for Huntley again we found a fishery so we stopped by to see it. Mark's still hunting for a good place to get some fishing in. This one was promising and beautiful! One of the small lakes is Lake Insch where I was delighted to find a swan to photograph while Mark talked fishing with the men. The swan was busy doing his own fishing (just see photo where his tush is in the air!) and I enjoyed watching him. We found a random old British-style phone booth in the middle of the two lochs. Not sure what that was all about.

Back in the car towards Huntley. This time we found huge windmills that were perfectly placed to catch the ever blowing Scottish wind. We couldn't take our eyes off of them. Maybe because they are so huge and out of place? Still, they were rather graceful to watch. You can see how big they are compared to the trees. I also found what I think is a speed camera. It also looked like it was powered by wind. Good, economical way to catch speeders.

Finally we arrived at Huntley! It was a quite little town that we drove through until we finally came to Huntley Castle. It was all very beautiful and sort of hard to describe. This, like most castles here, were still closed since it isn't quite tourism season yet. I enjoyed seeing more crocuses en masse. The most unique thing about Huntley was the hand dryer in the public toilets. I first saw it and was like "what is that?" Then I figured out you press the green button and put your hands into the blue chamber where the air comes out. Kinda scary and didn't much care for it! (I know, what a freak, taking photos in a bathroom. I'm hard core. I made sure no one was coming in!)

Not sure what else to do in Huntley we got back in the car to head home. Mark suggested taking a different route home. Why not?! Out came the map and we started on our way. We were headed into some clouds and the rain started back up, but not for long. A rainbow came out and made for another great shot (and Mark was so kind to pull over so I could take it!).

We drove on and eventually arrived at stately Fraser Castle (also closed). We think we'd like to go back and tour the inside of this one. I found the small shed (?) on the estate very adorable and the lime green moss intriguing. Along the way I also encountered new flowers I don't know the names of. I'm going to have to research that.

There will be no adventures this weekend since I have to work on Saturday, but we are so excited to have my brother visit from Israel next Monday through the following Tuesday! We are all going to journey to Loch Ness and the western coast for a few days. Can't wait for the mini "holiday!"

Back in Business

Wow. I am for once thoroughly impressed with telephone/internet service here. We were told it would take 20 days to get our broadband up and going. It took 7! That still sounds kinda long for something that probably shouldn't take that long, but after the nightmares we've had, we are thrilled!

10 March 2008


The Title of this post is an example of what I learned at work today. It would be a qualification for a certain degree course to be able to study at Aberdeen University (Undergrad, that is). I sat in on a meeting with two other Americans to learn the system of education here, specifically what the Uni is looking for when they look at applications. Many things I have heard repeatedly from someone else in my office who is talking on the phone to a prospective student. Now I have a better idea (though maybe not understanding) of what they are talking about!

I learned that Primary 1-6 (or was it 7?), also called P1-P6 is like our Elementary schooling. From there they go to Secondary 1-5 (S1-S5; like our Middle/Jr. High and first part of High School) with the option to go on to 6 (like 12th grade probably). They sit "Standard Grade" exams during S5 and can surprisingly enter Uni then...at age 16 or 17! Though most go on to S6 and many also then go on to do "Highers" or after that "Advanced Highers." The "AABB" would be an example of the marks received from the Highers exams.

To make it all a bit more confusing, the English have a separate Education system and I think Northern Ireland and Wales differ slightly as well. Then there are also EU students who come to study with even different qualifications. It's all a bit mind-boggling. Thankfully, I usually am just required to pass such qualification "queries" on to others who actually know what they mean and who probably won't lead the students astray like I would!

There is also a difference in the terminology for what a "school" is called. In the US "school" refers to anything related to education, no matter the type. Here, "school" specifically means lower grades--Primary or Secondary. "College" means Community College or Tech School or Associates-type degree programs (which I think is also the Highers/Advanced Highers schooling?). "University" is only used when talking about Undergraduate/Postgraduate programs. I am forever still using "school, college and university" to mean the same thing. I need to be careful, though, because here they all mean something different.

I hope you've all learned something new today too!


In other news, I was told today by AOL our broadband should be up and running tomorrow. Wouldn't that be a fantastic treat?!

09 March 2008

In Need of Green - Part 1

In the middle of last week Mark came home one day saying he needed to see green again. He asked what we could do on Saturday to help fulfill that "need." Sure we see snippets of green around the city, but we both love the country-side too much to go so long without seeing large amounts of it! So I scrapped my plans for the day of continuing to unpack and organise the flat. I figured it would still be there this coming week :) I think we are both glad I consented to a day out of the city because it was fantastic, beautiful and surprisingly refreshing for only being gone about 6 hours.

Thanks to a tip from a friend (thanks Rachel!) we decided to head out to Huntley in Aberdeenshire. We didn't have too many plans, just drive and see where we ended up along the way. I like that way of travel, especially after yesterday's success using that "plan."

Only a few miles into the trip it started pouring rain. You know, the kind where you can barely see out the window? Mark even said "should we go back?" I said we should press on and see what happened. So living like the Scots would (going on with life as if the rain weren't falling), we saw a Historic Scotland sign showing the way to see a Stone Circle. I had read a book shortly after coming here about the early settlers in Scotland and how they lived. It included a section on stone circles and their significance in their lives back then, so I wanted to see one in person. We got out in the (thankfully) lessening rain and were encouraged to see glimmers of blue sky in the distance. And as is often the case, the weather can change very quickly here, so by the time we hiked a few minutes up the path the the stone circle and headed back down it has stopped raining. Not more than an hour later it was sunny with blue skies. We were glad we didn't turn back!

The particular stone circle we saw, Easters Aquorthies Stone Circle, was a recumbent stone circle found mainly (only?) in the Northeast of Scotland.

Nothing too impressive, but history nonetheless. We actually passed signs for others which I wouldn't have minded seeing, but Mark had had his fill of rocks for the day. Maybe even for our time here! Ha, Ha!

Well, I'm afraid you will have to wait to see more photos until we can use a friend's wireless connection. I forgot how painfully long it takes to upload pictures with dial-up! So we'll save more photos and stories for another day.

05 March 2008

6 Month Anniversary!

Believe it or not, we arrived in Aberdeen exactly 6 months ago today! Hard to believe.

I am happy to report that BT made good on their promise to get our line hooked up yesterday! This was huge :) We appreciate your prayers on our behalf! We also have use of our "free" dial-up now. It's better than nothing.

The move went well. We are half settled, but more so every day. I think we must be rough on flats though, because I've already discovered a leak under the sink. Ah well, it's barely phased me this time. Must be getting used to this!

In light of this anniversary, we thought we'd post some things we've learned in the past 6 months about life here.

1. Heat is a beautiful thing! We love having heat (other than small space heaters) in our new flat! It is much warmer and makes me especially grateful for warmth.

2. There are at least 5 stages of drying clothes here: 1) Not dry--didn't I take that out of the washer a day ago?; 2)Slightly dry--I'll turn it over and help it out some; 3) Almost dry--getting there, but not there yet; 4)Still not dry--how much longer?; 5)Dry enough--is this wet or just cold? Guess it's dry enough to wear!
*Note, we've already noticed a HUGE difference in how quickly clothes dry when you have heat pumping out all the time, so the above stages may not actually apply for our next 6 months here.

3. When driving people WILL drive in your lane coming in the opposite direction. You may feel like you will die, but they almost always move and if they don't probably your reflexes will kick in and you'll quickly jerk the opposite way to avoid any collisions. Also related, you may not think that you car can fit there (or get out of there, esp. when parking) but you somehow always can. Millimeters are all you need to squeeze by :)

4. Do not stand on the edge of the "pavement" (sidewalk) when waiting to cross the street. A bus will almost certainly run you over. (We learned this VERY early on when I almost got my toes/nose and Mark his head clipped by a bus zipping past as we stood to wait to cross the street. There is almost no shoulder and because the lanes are small, buses are rarely within the lines and usually they drive in the 3 inch shoulder area.)

5. Pedestrians have their own "green light." This is a fantastic thing about living here! Because so many people walk the pedestrians have their own cycle on a stop light when all cars in all directions are stopped. The best part is you can even cross diagonally!

6. Aberdeen is sunnier than you'd think and windier than we'd like to admit. Not sure if we've just gotten lucky these first 6 months, but it has rained a lot less and even been a lot less grey and "blah" than we expected.

7. We've learned a new vocabulary. Just this week an older Scottish gentleman I work with taught me how to compliment a chef on his/her cooking. All I have to say is "It'll go round my heart like a hairy worm." YIKES! Doesn't sound like a compliment to me! But he was completely serious that this is what you say to a cook. I dare anyone to try that out (with the Scottish accent, meaning "heart" sounds more like "hairt") :)

8. And we've no doubt learned that the Scots are great people and we are grateful to be here!