30 July 2008

All Smiles :)

I am grateful to report that we BOTH passed our theory tests today! Yeah! Thank you for your prayers. What a relief to be done and to have passed! To celebrate, the sun has been out all day (after fog off and on for a week, it has been very welcome) and we are going to Edinburgh bright and early in the morning to get away until Friday night. We are looking forward to a short break in Scotland's capital that we hear is a wonderful city to visit. I'm sure you'll get the full report when we are back :)

29 July 2008

Stay Where You Are!

The title of this post was the title of our pastor's sermon on Sunday from 1 Corinthians 7:17-24. What an encouragement to be content in the circumstances of life and where God has us at this moment, not longing to be elsewhere or be someone else. We just thought we'd pass the encouragement along--if life is unusually dull and making you long for something more exciting, or if life is a little full of too many surprises right now and you're desiring peace and quiet; or if there are aspects of life you'd really like to change in the belief that things would magically get better if you were elsewhere--then take the 30 minutes or so to be encouraged to press on and remain (contentedly) in this spot God has you for now--it's for a reason! Click here to hear sermon as a streaming audio file or download as an MP3 file.

27 July 2008

Haardy-haar haar

The lovely see mist/fog, or Haar as it is referred to by locals, has been here a lot this week! Usually found upon waking in the morning and looking out ones windows a thick fog is seen when looking towards the coast. As is the case with other things, because we are situated higher up we have a fairly good view of the haar coming our way. Sometimes the haar will roll in in the afternoon and we can watch it get closer and closer to our flat. It's kinda sad, though, that there are days that would be sunny or mostly sunny except for this fog that covers the sun. My favorite days are when the sun wins out and melts the haar away! (Too bad that hasn't been the case today. Though the haar is lessened from these photos taken this morning, it is still not very clear.)Here's what it typically looks like (minus the rainbow!) We have at least a 2 mile visibility. Maybe more.

25 July 2008

Can an Old Dog Learn New Tricks?

....We have our doubts after our first two hour driving lesson with an instructor this afternoon!!! If we get our UK license, it will indeed be by the grace of God! I am starting to think it is easier to get a PhD than a license here.

Needless to say, we have lots to work on. I would have failed my test before we even left our street. You absolutely CANNOT put your gear shift into neutral and coast or you fail. I think between Mark and I we violated that rule at least 50 times in 2 hours! Did you know when driving a stick you can stop from 3rd and 2nd gear? (Of course, you have to remember to push the clutch in at the end or you will stall!) In fact, are required to do so. As the instructor said, 1st gear is for starting off. We also discovered that there are few stop signs, mainly just "give way" signs, meaning you can slow down, look and pull out onto an intersecting road. No stop sign means, no complete stop. I remember that was big when I took my test at the young age of 16--coming to a complete stop. She kept wondering why we were stopping so much!

Whew. How humbling is it to have nearly 15 years driving experience each and be constantly told you are doing something wrong!? We may be taking lots of excursions in August just to practice our driving.

19 July 2008

Traffic Confusion

The BIG day is coming soon. A week from today, in fact. That's the day we take the first part of our driving exam--the theory part. Please be praying with us about this! There are 50 multiple choice questions for the first part of the test, then a hazard perceptions part, which at this point is utterly confusing to me. They show you a clip like you are driving down the road and you have to click the mouse when you see potential hazards. Can't click the mouse too soon or too late or you won't get full credit. And some of the hazards progress/change and you have to know when to click again. Sounds confusing, huh? This afternoon I'm going to practice with a DVD we bought on-line to help you learn how to take hazard perceptions part and do well. Let's hope it works.

So we've been studying for the multiple choice portion of the test for at least a month now and are feeling more confident, but at the beginning we were also confused the terminology they use for various things. Here are some names/words/phrases I jotted down each time Mark and I were studying and looked at each other and said "What in the world is that?"

Level crossing - railroad crossing
Motor slipway - exit and entrance ramps to the "motorway" (i.e. highway)
T-junction - dead end road, have to turn left or right (this one makes sense!)
National Speed Limit - well, it's obvious what this is, but the sign is just a white circle with a big black line/bar through it. Not very informative. Plus, the speed limit changes according to what type of vehicle you are driving and what road you are on (the chart contains 20 different possibilities)
Dipped headlights - We had to ask "the locals" about this. They must have laughed when they left our house! These are just your average lights you use at night, low-beam, I guess is what we'd call it. "Dipped" from "main beam" (high-beam).
Side lights - Again, asked about this, we think we've understood they are parking lights, the lowest setting of lights.
Central reservation - the median, or middle portion of the road between the opposite lanes of traffic.
Lay-by on road - still don't know what this is! Maybe a side road?
Clearway/Urban clearway - Also trying to understand exactly what the definitions of these are and how they differ from all the other type of roads.
Amber - yellow, as in Red, AMBER, Green. :)
Box junction - Cris cross yellow lines on the road in an area where you aren't supposed to stop when traffic is backed-up (so that pedestrians can cross if the light changes colors)
Single (or dual) carriageway - 2 lane road (or 4 lane road)
Ring road - bypass or loop around the city

Number of crossings they have: 4 -- Zebra, pelican, puffin and toucan. Not sure what's up with the animal names. Wish they would just have one name and one type. Still don't have these all the way memorized yet. VERY confusing to us!

Our favorite word used to describe being blinded by on-coming lights when driving at night is "dazzle." ("You must not use any lights in a way which would dazzle or cause discomfort to other road users") Dazzle is fairly descriptive, isn't it?

Believe it or not, the two signs shown here do NOT mean the same thing, as one would think. The round one on the left means "ahead only" and the rectangular one on the right (sorry, couldn't find a better photograph!) means "one way." Slight difference...enough to warrant two similar looking signs. The "no waiting" and "no stopping" signs resemble each other too, but I'm pretty sure both mean "no parking."

If any doubt lingers in your mind that the driving standards here are a bit more rigorous or the tests more thorough, I give you this story, a 62 year old woman who took 27 YEARS to pass her exam! Do you see now why we need your prayers?!

Just For Fun

I used to be a photo purist...thinking photos should stand on their own and not be messed with. This year I have gotten over that by realizing most images we view in magazines and on-line have been digitally manipulated or enhanced. Yes folks, it's true. So, rather than miss out on all the fun, I've chosen to join in it! Here are some selections of this week's Picasa editing fun. You might notice a theme. Let's just say I like to stare out the windows and look for photo ops, especially around sunset or when the seagulls are particularly amusing me with their graceful floating on air. (Or annoying me with their squawking and I'm trying to see why they are doing this!)

I'm still trying to get a good shot of a seagull flying. Very hard to do!

Any favorites? I am not sure what mine is. Maybe number 3?

17 July 2008

Rest of Flat Photos

As promised, here are the rest of our photos showing the front half of the flat.
Our living room. We spend most of our time in here, so I am grateful we are overall pleased with it. All of the decorations (right down to the plant!) came with the flat. Some flats are like that here--when they say furnished, they also mean decorated! It's good and bad. Nice that we don't have to buy our own for the short time we are here. Not so nice if we don't care for something. Thankfully most things in our flat we are willing to live with (or have boxed up and put away).On to the kitchen. There is a door connecting it to the living room, but I don't have that angle in a photo. It's behind the couch shown above. We also have a small table near the door to the kitchen.Here's part of the kitchen. Also haven't photographed the left side of it. Don't worry, not missing much there, just the sink and washing machine and usually clean dishes piled in the drainer. Not crazy about the blue & maroon tiles, but what are you going to do?!Here is the fridge/freezer--freezer is on top. We are grateful for the freezer, otherwise I don't think we could live with just this little fridge. This fridge is normal for Scottish households. You can see how jam-packed it usually is. It is so low poor Mark struggles to find anything since his knees are bad and he just bends at the waist rather than squatting down! It took some getting used to using this small of a fridge, but I have to say we've learned to manage. If I plan ahead and plan correctly (i.e. remember to buy what I'm supposed to!), we don't have to go to the store more than every 5 days or so, which it seems we were doing anyways, so it really isn't a problem.

16 July 2008

Progress Report (Year One)

Well if "[i]t has been a long time since we've done just a general update of our lives," it has most certainly been even longer since I've posted something. So long in fact that I cannot remember if I have! Anyway, I have been thinking for awhile now that I should let our (really Rachel's) faithful readers know how my studies are coming along. So here goes.

A major accomplishment for this year has been determining exactly what I'm going to argue in my thesis and how it will help the "academy" and the Church understand the Bible. As to what that is, since originality is a MAJOR requirement for a PhD, I really shouldn't say specifically in such a public forum. For now, I will say that I'm looking at an aspect of the Letter to the Ephesians. If you're just dying to know, feel free to email us:-)

Since my program is all about writing a 100'000 word thesis, I will also say that thus far I've written a little over 26'000 words. That works out to a little over 70 pages. My supervisor has seen about 2/3 of this and seems to really like what I've put together so far. Hopefully I'll be able to submit something to him soon that will show him where I'll actually be going in a good portion of my thesis.

As far as what I've actually written, most of it has been an analysis of various books (mainly other dissertations/theses) that examine my research topic. I have also explained the primary methodology (something from literary criticism called "intertextuality") I will be using to examine the texts that will hopefully help me prove my argument. Finally, I am somewhere between 50%-60% through my second chapter where I will be looking at Genesis 1-2 and some other texts in the Pentateuch (the first five books in the Bible). On the one hand, I do really wish I were a little further ahead and probably would be if my German were better (way too many Germans have already written on my topic). But, I really am thankful to God for giving me the strength to be where I am at as I am still ahead of schedule!

I've also spent some time improving my German, relearning Hebrew, reading Jewish stuff like the Dead Sea Scrolls, reading stuff about Paul, and various other things. But, the vast majority of my time is spent working through my thesis and I very much make this a priority. I've also written a book review and may get the chance to present a paper at the conference in Providence Rachel mentioned in the previous post.

In short, my first year has gone pretty well overall. I have a topic that I am excited about and words cannot describe how important that is. My goal is to write 1000 words a week, which works out to about 2.5 pages of solid material. This doesn't sound like much, but it is a reasonable pace that will allow me to stay on track. I would covet your prayers in this regard.

God bless,

P.S. Glad you have the update from his side of things now. See what I mean he is cut out for this!? Rachel :)

15 July 2008

This and That

It has been a long time since we've done just a general update of our lives, and this being the one year anniversary (!) of when we left our home in Raleigh, it just seems fitting.

We'll start with the reason we are in Aberdeen--Mark's PhD work! I tried to get Mark to do the update on this, but doesn't sound like there is much to report. He is researching and writing consistently. I think he is doing a fantastic job, though he would be a bit more cautious in such an assessment. The longer I watch him pursue this degree (and those previous) the more I convinced he is perfectly suited to be in this field and some day be a professor. He simply amazes me! He is looking forward to a British New Testament conference in Durham (England, that is, for all you NC people!) in early September, as well as ETS in Providence, RI the week before Thanksgiving.

We still very much like Aberdeen as a city, though I personally could do without the cold summer days, or winter days for that matter. But, I am loving the light that being this far north brings. If only we weren't already heading back the other way...to the darkness winter brings. Aberdeen is a perfect blend of being a city that offers most of what you want, yet is small enough that you don't feel lost. We are thankful the Lord has brought us here for this time in our lives.

I also am still enjoying my job. I couldn't ask for anything more at this point. I enjoy those I work with and am still learning great Scottish phrases to teach Mark :) At work we are about to enter into the busiest time for Admissions. I hear all sorts of stories about the madness that ensues during the months of August and September, so I am holding my breath!

A couple days ago I (finally) finished Sunset Song. It took me a little while to get into, especially because of the difficult older Scottish vernacular it was written in. However, I am so grateful I persevered! It was well worth it for the glimpse into the culture. I have already been able to have multiple conversations with people because of having read this book. I look forward to reading Cloud Howe and Grey Granite to finish off the trilogy.

My health is definitely improved over what it was when we first arrived, and probably even from the winter/early spring. I would say it is good, with the rare days that still trouble me (like half of today). I can't seem to find any patterns, which can be slightly maddening at times. I still praise God that I am in general doing great, as well as have energy to work and be the wife I need to be. I am trialing new foods some with the hopes that I can someday maybe add foods back in that have bothered me previously. This is something the doctors are pushing for and I am more reluctant to do (especially after feeling crummy on days like today). We continue to trust the Lord in all matters related to my health asking that He heal me.

We are also still very much enjoying our church family here. They have welcomed us warmly and continue to feed us :) (even me who can be a bit difficult to feed at times!) We are praying for wisdom about where to get involved in ministry. I think we are both looking forward to hopefully becoming even more involved this next year.

Hotel MO & RO has done great business this year with visits from: Mark's sister (twice), my parents, my brother, friends from our old church in Raleigh, and my friend from college and her husband (and their friend). We currently have no more bookings (well, maybe one potential from incoming students in September) so we'd like to advertise by showing you photos of our place. If you are in the area (ha, ha) please stop by for a visit :)

Perhaps no where else can you be offered the master suite of such purple proportions. Mark loves our room! :)
Looking out of our bedroom door down the hall, to the left you see the door into the "lounge" (i.e. living room and kitchen. I'll try to post those photos tomorrow. To the immediate right is the front door to the stairwell leading outside. The middle door on the right is to our large "cupboard" (i.e. closet). Far down at the right is the guest bedroom (see below) and straight ahead is the bathroom (also see below). On the left is our much used coat hangers. Also on the wall are the two wedding photos we brought with us.Here is the little bedroom, or guest room. Usually has a drying rack in it, but I took that down for the photo :)
Our lovely bathroom. I adore the window! I usually tell people that it has no curtain, but not to fear because no one else has a window nearby to see in!
It's kinda sad there is no bathtub, but for now it is okay. Below is my attempt at capturing the beauty of the window when the sun was setting late one night.Finally we have another artistic impression of the view when you open the window and stare down 3 stories. For some reason I really like the view!

Well done if you have made it to the end of this lengthy post!

12 July 2008

Glimpses of God's Goodness and Glory

Free-cycle strikes again. I love it! I have been wanting a pair of Wellies since I found out about them shortly after arriving. These waterproof boots are great to have in an often wet climate.

The pair I got isn't nearly as stylish as ones that can be found on sites like this but hey, they worked for traipsing around the grounds of a castle today. And they will probably come in handy some day when I need to weed our garden out back again.
Since we had to pick the Wellies up about 30 miles outside of the city we decided to go 10 miles more to see Fyvie Castle. Too bad it was miserable weather this morning.
I think this is one of those castles that we definitely want to go inside while we are here. And after walking around their beautiful gardens I'd like to go back....preferably not while it is cold, wet or windy. Could be asking for a lot, though, I know!Gate leading from the castle to the garden area. The sign on the gate says there is a wedding there today. What a horrible wedding day, but great location!

Close up of the gate
Path the was just lovely to walk down, even in the rain!
Flowers on the path
More of God's glory in His creation. I just love these flowers!
See the raindrop on the right hand flower?
Praise God for His glorious creation that tells of Himself each new day...even rainy and cold days in July!

09 July 2008

Sweet Success!

A few Friday nights ago we had some friends from church over who were Northern Irish and Scottish. I had a request for a sample of something American as part of our snacks. Cookies in their soft, chewy yumminess don't really exist here unless it has "American" as part of its name. Since most cookies I make are altered to fit my diet I hopped on AllRecipes.com to find a suitable one. I ran across the most delicious-sounding Snickerdoodle recipe and thought it was worth a try.

Overall the cookies came out okay, though not as perfect in shape/look as I would have liked. Regardless, they were a hit and we sent them all home with a few for later.

Monday night I hosted our Aberdeen Women's Fellowship (incidentally, if you click on the link, you'll see the blog we've been busy setting up for incoming student American families) at our house. We are a group of mostly American (mixed with a few other nationalities) women who meet once a month to get to know and support one another as we live away from our various countries/homes. As I was thinking up snack foods to serve I thought I'd give the Snickerdoodles another try, this time using all butter. I was not disappointed (nor were those who ate them)! Since the recipe made so many cookies I took a plateful to work and have another plateful in the freezer waiting for more company on Friday night.

I think the Scots are cookie deprived because they raved about the cookies! I don't think it had much to do with the cook, but this amazing recipe! I had my manger come in today telling me that she heard about the cookies but they were gone before she got one, so she expects to see them again sometime....I may have started something I might regret! The recipe so good I want to share it. It's called Mrs. Sigg's Snickerdoodles. Hope you can try it out some day soon. If you do, be sure to read some of the comments so you know how to get them to come out delish! Also, the recipe link may come out using metric measurements. You can change it to US and also change the amount you want it to make.

Now, if only I can adapt the recipe and give the gluten, dairy, soy free world a chance to savor this treat....

P.S. I did learn that it takes nearly twice as long to bake cookies when using cookie sheets that are half the normal US size, along with an oven also half the size!

08 July 2008

On Our Radar

Well, we've found something we'd like to compete in next year. Now we have something to look forward to thru the long winter months. Go here to see what it is (watch the video). Do you think we have a chance to win? Maybe we can train in our stairwell.

06 July 2008

This Day in History

It was 20 years ago todaythat the world's worst off-shore oil disaster occurred, killing 167 men and injuring many more. The oil platform (Piper Alpha) was located in the North Sea and its explosion greatly impacted Aberdeen, since it is often known as the "Oil Capital of Europe." There is a memorial in Hazlehead Gardens commemorating those who died. Here is BBC's short video of the remembrance that took place there today.
The oil industry infiltrates many parts of Aberdeen: family life (with men being away off-shore 2-3 weeks at a time), housing market, flights (we've heard rumors about direct flights to Houston), social status (many very wealthy versus the many who rely on the government for support), etc. I have found it fascinating to learn about this unique part of Aberdeen life, as well as more about the oil industry in general. So many facets make up actually getting the oil out of the ground and beyond. Not that they should charge as much as they currently are, but a lot does go into us being able to put "petrol" in our car!
I am thankful there are men (and women) who are willing to spend their lives in dangerous jobs so we can have petroleum. Our world would cease to be our world without it!

04 July 2008

Teaching American History

One of the joys of living and working in another culture is learning about differences from American culture. And, I learned this week, it can also be fun to teach American culture/history! I mentioned to a co-worker on Tuesday, July 2nd, how it was a bit strange to be in the country Americans were declaring independence from on that day years ago. (Never did realize the "legal separation" occurred on the 2nd rather than the 4th.) That led to a brief discussion of America's history about declaring independence from England. One co-worker then said "why don't we have a day like that? (It took me a second, then I then realized she was speaking about Scotland, not Great Britain as a whole)." To which the other co-worker replied, "We haven't been able to stay independent from England!" Not all Scots desire independence, but there are some who do!