29 April 2008

Preparing to Leave

We had fun catching up with our former Sunday School teacher Dr. Bob Jones and his wife, Lauren, yesterday evening and this morning. We showed them around various places in Aberdeen and the surrounding area. After the rain, colder temperatures and gloom yesterday, we were all grateful the sun came out in full force today!

Since their departure right before lunch we've been making final preparations for our own departure at 4:15am tomorrow morning! We'd ask that you'd be praying for safe travels, good health and loving spirits. As many of you know traveling is always a challenge for me as I have to bring my own food. That is tough to do for a full day of travel, especially with all the airport restrictions and no microwaves, etc. Please also pray that nothing on the airplane will cause me any reactions.

In case you are interested, we fly out of Aberdeen at 6:30am (1:30am Eastern time) and head for Heathrow. We leave Heathrow around 10:50am and land at Washington Dulles at 2:20pm. And, praying all goes as planned, we land in Charlotte to the hugs of my parents at 6:30pm! Can't wait to see many of you soon in NC!

25 April 2008

That's Me FINISHED!!!

As they say here, "That's me finished" (or "that's me away") with work until Tuesday 20th of May!! Yes, believe it or not, I have the next 24 days off of work! PAID. Even better :) There are some HUGE advantages to living in Europe, such as very generous Annual Leave policies. I feel like a CEO.

I had a spring to my step walking home this afternoon with a huge grin on my face. The reality of our upcoming trip is creeping deeper into my whole being. I can't wait! But before we leave early on Wednesday, first we are excited to welcome some friends from our church in Raleigh. They'll be here Monday afternoon until Tuesday afternoon, so until they arrive we need to finish some packing and cleaning. But packing and cleaning knowing what joys lie ahead make both undesirable tasks a little more exciting!

Feeling free....
Rachel :)

23 April 2008

Another One Bites the Dust....

Perhaps you've been tracking with us on our washing machine stats as noted here and here, and probably mentioned in other places too! I'm sad to say we are now 0-3! Our "new" one, which is more just new to us since we've only been using it 2 months died today. It's had its fair share of woes since we've been here. Shortly after arriving I was alarmed the machine refused to open up to give me the clothes inside. I tried multiple cycles and various "tricks" to make it open up. Finally I discovered the latch had broken. I have since been inserting my finger behind the latch and making it manually open by pressing the leaver hidden behind the latch. I think the landlords were maybe working on getting that replaced, but now that it's been making loud, weird noises and then leaking on the floor from time to time, complete with burning smells the past two times, so they've agreed it's time for a new machine....we'll see if washing machine #4 can perform as expected. The previous 3 have not yet done so, at least not for very long at a time.

And if you haven't yet guess what I am most looking forward to (after family & friends, of course) on our trip on our trip , you might know now....a working washing machine and a dryer that dries your clothes in an hour and makes them soft and smelly! Ah, the little things in life :) I am so much looking forward to this, that it is almost making me happy that I can now have an excuse to take dirty clothes "home" to Mom's in my suitcase, rather than doing it here before leaving...since it may still be awhile before we have a new one.

22 April 2008

A Very Foolish Thing...

So last week I did a very foolish thing. I turned right out of a "car park" and you can probably guess the rest. I turned in the land nearest me, rather than going into the left lane. When I glanced right (after looking left), I quickly saw my mistake as I stared into the grill of an oncoming car. (It surprised me he was there because I know I had just looked and it was clear! Plus obviously I realized I was in the wrong lane!) I was incredibly grateful it wasn't going fast and that in a split second I was able to be safely back in the left lane. Talk about a blond/American moment! That is honestly the first time since driving here that that has happened to me. It rather stunned me, but I was thinking afterwards about why it must have happened. I think it is because it was a one-way exit, so I was already on the right side of the driveway, and I was thinking about something else and guess it is still instinctive somewhere in me to just go on the right side of the road! Especially if I am in unfamiliar places I have to concentrate very hard to drive legally. I am sure those who saw my mistake took me for a tourist, since the town I was in has its fair share of tourists :) I praise the Lord for His protection of this American!

19 April 2008

Braveheart Revisited

When a co-worker offered to let me borrow Braveheart I couldn't resist accepting. Ever since our trip to Fort William & Ben Nevis we wanted to re-watch William Wallace's stand against the English. Part of the reason is because when we were at the Ben Nevis Visitor's Centre we were told that some scenes of Braveheart had been filmed just down the road along the river. We aren't sure exactly where, but we are pretty confident it was partly in the flat area to the bottom left of the photo below (the river is just out of view).
At one point they showed a small hill, and I am convinced that is where we saw the Highland cows. Maybe not, but sure looked like it!

It had been 5 or 6 years since we had last watched the movie and living here brought new perspective to the storyline and other Scottish things portrayed in the movie. One thing Mark and I both picked up on was the name of Wallace's childhood friend and sidekick, Hamish, which is a Gaelic Scottish name similar to James. We never would have noticed his name before, but this time it all made sense!

Something else I have been pondering since arriving (and have subsequently concluded since re- watching Braveheart) is the notion that the Scots are seriously made of different stock. Have you ever picked up on how it is apparent throughout the movie that it is cold and yet Wallace always has on either short sleeves or sleeveless shirts? Not to mention his kilt. He wears this in all weather and at least once you can even see his breath.

If you walk around Aberdeen you see the modern day equivalent. It was not more than low 50's yesterday, and granted, the sun was shining, but there was, as always, a breeze making it feeling like 40's in the shade. Yet, I saw at least 3 people in shorts and t-shirts, and one in flip-flops as well (and I wasn't even outside very long or I might have seen more)! I on the other hand, had on my winter down coat, though I think I managed to leave my hat off most of my walk :)

There can be no other conclusion other than that they are of different biological make-up; they have different internal thermometers. I do have to wonder if mentally sunshine = hot no matter the real temperature.

16 April 2008

Scenes from Aberdeenshire on a Spring Afternoon

I wanted to share a short video and some photos I shot this afternoon when I was out of the city. I thought you all might want to enjoy the beautiful Scottish spring day we (finally) had. Make sure your sound is on :)

The picture below is the sheep you heard bleating in the first one. They cracked me up because as I walked up to them (from across the street in the field access road) they came right up to me. Maybe they thought I was the new farmer coming to feed them?! I'm just glad they posed for me. If only the fence wasn't in my way....ah well, I'm just happy to finally have seen the little lambs in person since I have been wanting to do that all month. Aren't they so precious?!

"Come, let us worship and bow down,
let us kneel before the Lord our God our Maker;
For He is our God and we are the people of His pasture,
the flock under His care." (Psalm 95:6, 7)

15 April 2008

An Introduction to Scottish Literature

In the fall we were speaking with a Glaswegian gentleman from our church about how I was reading various English literature books (Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Oliver Twist) and enjoying them immensely. He asked if I had read or heard of Lewis Grassic Gibbon who wrote A Scots Quair, a trilogy about a young woman living in Scotland in the Grampian area (which is the area just west of us), and Aberdeen. I, being uncultured in Scottish literature had not heard of the author or his works, so said gentleman loaned me Sunset Song, the first in the trilogy. I am ashamed to say it has taken me so long to finally sit down with it, but the little bit I have read I am enjoying. I am still in the lengthy prelude and smiling at various things written because I have personally experienced them--speaking of Donnottar Castle "and there the din of the gulls is a yammer night and day..." He also mentions numerous places of which I either know where they are located or have heard of them and need to place them on a map. I think identifying with the story always makes reading even more fascinating.

I look forward to enlarging my knowledge of Scottish literature as I work through this trilogy. I know my vocabulary, my Scottish vocabulary that is, will also be expanding. I found the author's note at the beginning inviting and playful:

"If the great Dutch language disappeared from literary usage and a Dutchman wrote in German a story of the Lekside peasants, one may hazard he would ask and receive a certain latitude and forbearance in his usage of German. He might import into his pages some score or so untranslatable words and idioms -- untranslatable except in their context and setting; he might mould in some fashion his German to the rhythms and cadence of the kindred speech that his peasants speak. Beyond that, in fairness to his hosts, he hardly could go -- to seek effect by a spray of apostrophes would be both impertinence and mistranslation. The courtesy that they hypothetical Dutchman might receive from German a Scot may invoke from the great English tongue" (L.G.G.)

14 April 2008

Our Latest Adventure

On Friday evening I found out from another friend's blog that Historic Scotland was having a free weekend for many of its historic properties in Scotland. Being on a student's income free anything is always joyfully accepted and sought after. Since we didn't have much time to plan a full day's travel, we decided to go to the closest castle we could find: Tolquhon Castle, about 30 miles away. For some company we asked along the Ellis Family.

So we all headed out mid-morning looking forward to new adventures touring a free castle...despite it being a dreich day. Our first adventure, though, came sooner than anticipated. Now there had been suspicions that Brannan and Kate's wee one, Lily, gets car sick easily....but because they don't actually own a car here, Lily doesn't ride in a car (for very long) very often. I'm "glad" to report that the mystery has been solved...she does! She held out for about 25 minutes and then, bless her heart, could contain her breakfast no longer. We pulled over so Kate could change her (what a great mom she was to be prepared with towels and extra clothes...just in case!) and then hide the stinky clothes in the trunk (in a bag)! So here's Lily, sporting her new change of clothes and a hat to help keep her from looking outside so much!
Thankfully we were no more than 10 minutes from the castle, and she made it just fine and continued to bless us with her smiley self.

Me and my dear husband with the ruins in the background.
This castle, like most, had some very fun windows. Thanks to Brannan for this shot.
The cold crew atop Tolquhon.
View from the top of the castle looking onto surrounding fields. After an hour+ of being out in the cold and wet, we all were ready for lunch in the car. There really wasn't anything around, so it was a good thing we all brought lunches.

On the way home we decided it would be a wise decision to stop half-way to let Lily get out of the car to help settle her stomach in hopes of making it home without a repeat episode. We randomly picked a residential area that providentially had a small field of miniature daffodils.
I am not sure who was happier--Lily to be out of her car seat (and the car!) or me so I could take pictures of the daffodils and Lily! It turned out to be a fantastic 10 minute break full of lots of fun photos and it also accomplished our goal...no more vomit :)
So long.....

10 April 2008

Old Glory and Other Thoughts About Living Abroad

I have noticed since arriving here in Scotland that whenever I see an American flag (which has probably always been while watching a DVD) something wells up in me. It's hard to explain that emotion, but I suppose it is national pride combined with a touch of homesickness-or longing for "home." Each time I've seen it, this has happened. It's one of those weird things you don't realize you miss or even notice that you aren't seeing it on a regular basis until you see it again--and then you see it afresh and are thankful for what it stands for and means to be an American. I remember once spending some time with an exchange student from Germany who was staying with some friends of mine. She noted how many places the American flag is flown. So many businesses, residents, restaurants, and obviously government buildings display them. Maybe that's why the absence of them is even stronger in my mind during this period away. I was used to seeing them numerous times a day and now it is maybe once a month.

Somewhat related is the realization that I am becoming more accustomed to life here. For example, I just typed "realisation" with an "s" and had to change it to a "z." I'm so used to having to use "s" at work instead of "z's" that it is sometimes hard to go back and forth when I write to Americans! But the example I set out to share was about the slight shock I got at work yesterday. I was asked to go through a bunch of reference letters and test scores (like SATs) to write application numbers on them. Most of them were from the US and therefore on US sized 81/2 x 11 paper. Normal, right? Ah, to me it seemed "weird" and looked a bit odd after working so regularly with the UK's A4 paper, which is slightly longer and more narrow. It really did startle me that I had become so accustomed to something here that something from my homeland seemed odd. I suspect that this will only be one of many reverse cultural shocks I will receive in the next month as we arrive back in the US.

06 April 2008

I'm Dreaming of a White April...

That's what Mark has gone around the house singing yesterday and today. Just like the ones he's known in Cayman and Georgia and NC, yeah right! On the other hand, I do recall a few snowy days in Ohio in April. This morning I woke up to find snow covered everything and it still coming down! I was actually quite shocked to find it! (I think this seagull seemed a bit bewildered too) It snowed off and on yesterday, but it didn't stick. The funny thing is now all the snow is melted and is sunny. As a friend said, it's like a different day out now. Ah, life in Aberdeen!

I've had a blast hanging out with friends the past 3 days. Thursday I met our across the street neighbor (whose husband is also a PhD student) and Friday I had lunch with our old neighbor, Lynne. It's always good to meet new friends and catch up with ones you don't see much any more.

Friday night 3 other ladies and I took our friend Kate out to celebrate her birthday. All of us loved being out of the house and talking non-stop for 4 hours as many women enjoy doing when they are together. I was reminded how grateful I am for my friends here! Then last night Mark and I went to a couple's house for dinner, which was also a huge blessing. I re-learned how to play Hearts and was able to put my Spade-playing skills to use. I didn't quite manage to come out on top, but maybe next time!

03 April 2008

Money, Money, Money....

So just as we have been getting used to the look of the coins here, today the Royal Mint revealed new designs! Frankly, I think they are kinda funky. Very bold.At least they have kept (from the looks of the above pic) the same colors for each coin, as well as the same size for each denomination (which is good, because that has been half the battle in learning the new money--the 2 pence is one of the largest and the 5 pence the smallest. It would help if they would just do them in order. Of course, they don't do that in the US either). In case you are curious what coins are what (and to show I do know them), we'll start at the left with the £1 (it's nice to have a coin "dollar" until you have a few of them, then it is like carrying around a few literal pounds-not to mention they seem to "spend" faster); 50 pence (from here on out "p"); 20p (note these two have are heptagonal in shape); 10p; 5p; 2p; 1p (why they still make both a 1p & 2p is beyond comprehension...). Oh, and not pictured is the £2 coin, which is also quite heavy and not used as often as the £1.

Here's the cool thing about the new designs -- they are based around the Shield of the Royal Arms (see £1 for complete picture). All the rest make up a great coat of arms. Kudos to the 26 year old designer who won the competition for this design.And while we are on the topic of money here, why not show you some "notes" as well.
The curious thing about notes is that they can be produced by the different banks, as seen by the top £10 that says "Clydesdale Bank" and the bottom one being "The Royal Bank of Scotland."
It seems from the evidence above that The Bank of Scotland must be changing the look of their £20. A close examination of the new one (top) shows they've added some extra security features (see glimmer of color on left side, to name one).

Hope you've enjoyed your lesson in Scottish/British money for the day. I just had to share because I love learning/seeing about money from other countries!

02 April 2008

4 Weeks from Today...

....we'll be back in NC! We are excited that we get to travel "home" for about two and a half weeks. Mark's looking forward to researching in a "proper" library since the one here stinks. So he'll spend about 3 days on old turf in the library of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary where we were before we came here. In addition, we'll get to see my parents who live north of Charlotte, we'll reconnect with friends in Raleigh, Mark will take a short 4 day trip to see his family in Cayman (and be with his mom on Mother's Day), get our eyes checked, have our teeth cleaned (these services are offered here in Scotland, but the care is better in the States so we've decided to just do it while we are there), have our taxes done, I'll get to renew my driver's license, and the list goes on...it will be busy, but we hope also relaxing as we catch up with old friends and our family too. I'm hoping it will be 80F and sunny the whole time :) I am ready for some HEAT, I'll even take that NC humidity to go with it!

We hope to see as many of you who are in NC as we can! See you soon!