Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Flushing on the Left and Other Curiosities of Living Abroad

I have never spent too much time considering flush toilets unless I have been in desperate need of one. That being said, I am a big fan of flush toilets and indoor plumbing in general, having been introduced at a very young age to the realities of an outhouse. Daddy had to do some quick talking to convince me that he wasn't kidding when he told me that little building truly was the bathroom I had to use.

Anyway, there is a curious thing about said flush toilets here in Scotland. The handle is on the left side, as opposed to the right side in the States. You wouldn't think this would be a big deal, but trust me when I say that the first few days of this was a bit disorienting. Who knew that such a simple action as flushing the toilet was so ingrained in our muscle memory? If you don't believe me, take a few moments the next time you are in a bathroom and note where that handle is!

Another curiosity to me is the lack of window screens anywhere I have looked. They are, of course, ubiquitous in the States, particularly in the South, where flying bugs can carry off your first-born if they so desire. Not so in Scotland.

I didn't think too much about it until I went to make application for the flat I will be moving into this week. It is on the ground floor (perfect for my dachshunds Asher and Joseph) but has no screens (not so perfect for my cat Timothy, since it fronts a busy street). I remembered to ask the letting agent if there were screens for the windows. I got an utterly blank look in response and the words, "There are window coverings." I had to clarify that I meant wire mesh screens to keep the cat in.

"The windows are elevated," said he, trying to be helpful.

"He is a cat," said I.

"Oh," he responded. "There are no screens."

It is not a complete loss, however. I have located screen kits online that I will have time to purchase and install with magnets before my boys arrive. And I -- I will have the only screens on the block, as far as I can tell. Won't I be special?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Some Photos for Your Enjoyment

I have shared with you tidbits from the Gathering that happened the weekend that I arrived, so thought you should see some of them.

There are pictures of some of my Clan Gunn men in their full rigs, of a presentation made by the Maori family of one of our men who emigrated to New Zealand and married a Maori woman, of one of the groups present at the Highland Games, and of me with my favorite author, Diana Gabaldon.

A Wedding, A Funeral, and A Sunday In Between

I have now been employed by the Church of Scotland for two weeks. I made my way to St. Anne's Parish Church on Saturday, August 1, to be sure I could make it there on the bus come Sunday morning. When I got there, a wedding party had gathered for a service MaryAnn Rennie, pastor of St. Anne's, was doing. I had intended to nip in and drop off my preaching robe, have a look around, and head out. Instead, MaryAnn asked if I would like to stay for the wedding service to observe.

I was a bit surprised -- then she explained to me that weddings work a bit differently here for the most part. The vows and the party are often separated by several hours. If you are invited to the party, you may or may not attend the first part with the vows. Most anyone can attend the vows, whether or not you have been invited and only some people dress up for the occasion.

For this wedding, the groom and groomsmen were all in kilts and very nice jackets. Somehow I knew I was in Scotland. The actual vows came early in the order of service and the Scripture readings and short message was done later -- just the opposite of how I have known things to be done. There was also a gift given to the bride and groom from the church. This time, MaryAnn had chosen Ma Broon's Cookbook.

Come Sunday, the day began with the 9:30 a.m. Family Service. This service proved to be a very informal time that is extremely child friendly. MaryAnn plans an activity for the service that will involve everyone who wants to be involved then does a shorter message.

Tea and cake (and coffee) in between services -- and a lot of friendly, welcoming faces who have promised me that they will remind me of their names frequently!

The 11:00 a.m. service was much more formal. Yet it was a comfort to be there, to hear voices raised in song together, to be saying prayers that were familiar. This was followed by lunch with MaryAnn, her husband Keith, and their children Calum and Aileen at the manse (church-owned housing provided for the pastor and family). Then it was off to a short service at a nearby assisted-living facility. Again, some things sound much the same in any country. Sounds of group living and words of encouragement are some of those things.

Come Monday, I was off to a funeral with MaryAnn. For the first time, I attended a service at a crematorium. Cremation is the preferred method of dealing with the body in the city areas here and so, just the way that we frequently have services at funeral homes in the States to make it easier to deal with moving the body around, here they often have services at the crematorium and the body is simply lowered from the upper level of the facility to the lower one. There were no pall bearers, only staff members who brought in the casket. There was music -- both recorded and organ. Once again -- same and different all at the same time.

It was a busy first weekend.

Friday, July 31, 2009

One Week Along

One week ago, I set foot on Scottish soil for the fourth time -- and this time I had no ticket back arranged. I made a one-way reservation with trembling heart and got on the plane one week ago yesterday. And now I am here.

The week has been full, it seems -- full of getting to know a new place, a new city. I purchased a bus pass today, one that has my photo on it, and realized that I am here for a while. I knew that before, but with this purchase, it really began to sink in that this is where I am settling.

I have visited three banks to ask what it would take to open an account. I never thought about needing a passport for a bank account before, but I will need it here as proof of identification.

Tomorrow I will make a test run on the bus system to find out how long it will take me to get to the church on Sunday morning. They have a 9:00 a.m. family service, so I may have to leave quite early to make it with the reduced weekend schedule.

My search for a pet-friendly apartment continues. I had set up a viewing for one today that probably would have overlooked the water -- but had a call this morning cancelling it because I had been beaten to the draw. Someone had made a holding deposit already. Then I found one that is situated between Edinburgh and the rural parish I will be serving during my second six months. If they take pets, the location would be just about ideal -- close to the city, but in a smaller town. I think I would like that a great deal.

A couple of observations from today:

I began the morning watching a Scottish squirrel taunt a Scottish cat. Some things look the same wherever you are. The squirrel didn't seem at all concerned -- no tail-twitching or chattering. It would come just close enough for the cat to think there was a hope of capturing it, then scamper away on the railing of the fence on which it was hanging. You may guess how this episode ended. The cat was left with hope and nothing else.

The second thought has to do with umbrellas and wind-blown hair. One should never, ever leave the house here without an umbrella attached to one's body. If you don't have one, you should obtain one as quickly as possible, because you WILL need it. It doesn't hurt to have a pair of sunglasses, either, because you will be alternating their use with the umbrella on 10 minute cycles.

As to the wind-blown hair and questionable hair-dos? All I can say is that I am glad I have short hair. The wind blows enough and hard enough here that any hairdo you have is going to be a wind-blown style whether or not you meant for it to be that way. And if it is flat, it is only because you have put a hood up to stay dry because you forgot to bring your umbrella.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Finally Up to Date

Today, Wednesday, I had my first day in. The forecast as of yesterday was for lots of rain. Instead, it was a beautiful day. The temperature made it to about 67 degrees and it was quite breezy, so I opened the windows wide while I did some laundry and finally unpacked my bags. There is just a little more putting away to do now -- and I still have to find that blasted card reader!

I finally had the brilliant thought this morning that I could look for pet-friendly apartments without going through the regular letting agents. Sure enough, I found some listed just that way and this afternoon received a call back from one of the emails I sent. I will be taking a look at the apartment tomorrow. Though it is on the second floor and unfurnished, I want to see it. It is a step in the right direction.

I also unpacked the quilt that my Atlanta Outlander group (in conjunction with the larger group) gave to me before I left. It is just the right size for when I sit and type or read and I have it across my lap now. It is a comfort to have the support and love from a lot of people all around me.

This is the first day I have cried at all -- and that was when I was writing about Gretchen. I am missing her and I am missing my boys a bunch. I know that it will only be about six weeks until I can get them, but it seems like it is forever. It will probably be a good thing when I begin work this weekend. It will keep me busy doing something besides exploring!

Monday, Monday; Tuesday, Tuesday

With the Gathering behind us all, I decided it was time to begin to settle in for real. I first went to T-Mobile to set up mobile broadband so that I could get online again. Then it was off to the main bus station office to find out about bus passes. There is an excellent public transportation system here, so I don't have to worry about a car just yet. That is good, because it means I have time to become accustomed to having cars come at me from the other direction before I have to learn to drive with them!

I have discovered that post offices here do a lot more than just post mail. They will exchange money for you and a lot of other things. That was where did my dollar exchange.

When I got home, ready to add to my blog, I found out that I had to prove that I was over 18 to access it! My new mobile broadband service automatically blocks adult-content or user-generated websites until you unlock it. So, Tuesday I was back to the store to prove that I was indeed a grown-up who needed access to her own blog. Was I over 18? Yes, only by 30 years. Sigh.

I spent some time Monday night surfing the web, trying to wind down and get somewhat settled in. Then came Tuesday.

Tuesday couldn't seem to decide whether it would be rainy or sunny, so it was both. I left the flat in the afternoon to run a few more errands, primarily to the T-Mobile store to make sure I could be a grown-up. Then I took my first major bus trip -- I found my way to the Ikea store which is south of Edinburgh. I found some lovely folks who made sure that I got off at the correct stop. I wandered around for a little while, feeling the familiarity. I made a small purchase -- a lap desk from which I write just now, a good sized glass, and a large coffee cup. The ones supplied in the flat just weren't big enough for the coffee I drink!

I made my way back into the city and made my way to Tesco, one of the major supermarkets. I spent a good bit of time there trying to figure out what could use. One thing I have discovered. Powdered cocoa and sugar-free anything are not really to be found. I did find the cocoa at one store, but not at Tesco. I miss the Trader Joe's sugar-free dark chocolate! Did you know that if you have a pay as you go phone, you can top up the balance at the supermarket check out?

Anyway, I spent a good bit of time Tuesday night looking for apartments that might accept pets. I went to bed after sending several emails, hoping that one of them would take. We will soon see.

The Gathering and the First Days

Sunday morning broke rainy -- which makes one realize why everyone here carries an umbrella. I discovered that it is true that if you don't like Scottish weather, wait five minutes and it will change! Still, I headed out early for worship at the Canongate Kirk near Holyrood Palace. They were scheduled to have a Kirkin' of the Tartan, or so the Gathering schedule noted. It wasn't like any Kirkin' I had seen -- Extremely Low-Key is how I would describe it. We sang two hymns that I knew well, however, and it felt very familiar and comforting. One was Amazing Grace, which Highland Heartbeat had done the day before with the gathered audience.

After worship, the rain had stopped and it was off to Holyrood Park for more of the Gathering. I got there in time to see a presentation to the Clan Gunn leaders here of a gift from some of the Clan Gunn New Zealand, a presentation that included traditional Maori elements. It seems that one of the Clan Gunn had emigrated to New Zealand some years ago and had married a Maori woman. He had planned to attend the Gathering, but died before that could happen. This presentation was in memory of him. It was truly striking to see the cultures come face to face and know that the world is small and related in a web that we cannot fully perceive (and yes, there is a picture to come).

At 11:00, the Red Hot Chilli Pipers took the Music Stage. Dressed in black and red, these guys know how to rock. In fact, they call their music "bag-rock." Check them out! Standing in the rain was worth it to hear them play.

There were the Heavies competitions going on -- hammer throw, stone throw, caber toss, and all the good things like that -- on the main field. As much fun as it is to watch them, I was headed for something that I really wanted to do. Two of my favorite authors in the world were speaking that afternoon in the Scotland Lives tent. Diana Gabaldon (Outlander series) and Alexander McCall Smith (First Ladies' Detective Agency series and others) were scheduled one hour apart. I had found out only Sunday morning that online reservations had been required for these sessions, but that unticketed persons would be seated after all the ticketed ones were in. As long as the lines were, I was able to get it to both of them -- and was I ever glad I did! As I expected, each one was as delightful in person as they were in their writings, in completely different ways. I got my picture made with Diana, and yes, my Outlander friends, it will be posted.

It Has Actually Happened

It has finally, actually happened -- and there is still a part of me that is in utter disbelief.

I am sitting in a third floor flat (translate - apartment) in a complex used for Church of Scotland missionaries on furlough. I see trees and buildings -- and what you should have seen was me trying to get three overstuffed American bags up three flights of stairs! Getting them back down should be easy. I think I will just drop them down the stairwell.

I left Atlanta on Thursday, July 23 amid a rush of activity. The house was packed up, most things in storage, and I had said a teary "see you later" to Asher, Joseph, and Timothy. They are in three separate homes for the moment until I can find a pet-friendly flat here in Edinburgh and return for them in September. I miss them bunches already. Then again, it is probably a good thing that they are in a settled place while I get settled here.

One of the great sadnesses of leaving, and probably why I had blogger's block for so long, was that I had to say goodbye to HRH the Princess Gretchen Marie. Gretchen was my baby girl, a long-haired red mini dachshund who had taken over my heart. I love my boys, but Gretchen was something special. Two weeks ago today, I held her in my arms as the vet helped her go to the Rainbow Bridge. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. It seems that each time I thought about writing, it meant that I was one day closer to having to release her. She was 16, blind, and having doggie dementia. I realize that being separated would have been sheer trauma for her -- but that doesn't make it hurt any less.

Now I am here, and life begins anew.

As I said, I arrived Friday afternoon and was met at the airport by Mary Ann Rennie, the pastor at St. Anne's Parish Corstorphine (www.stannescorstorphine.org.uk), where I will spend my first six months of my familiarization year. Mary Ann is very pleasant and I think we are going to get along great. We arrived at my temporary flat about 3:00 p.m. At 7:00 p.m., I met some Clan Gunn folks for dinner. It was the night before The Gathering 2009 began, that huge celebration of Highland games and Scotland in general in honor of Robert Burns 250th birth anniversary. We had a great time getting acquainted.

At the end of dinner, they had asked what I was going to do about getting into the Games on Saturday. I had planned to get day tickets. A moment after we walked out of the restaurant (and I was "a-salted" by one of the waiters, who - for some reason I don't recall - put salt in my hand), a woman crossed the street and asked if any of our group needed passports to the Gathering events. After we looked at one another in astonishment, I said yes and paid 20 pounds for something that would have cost 60 had I bought it earlier. Not only was I able to get into the Games for both days, I was also able to march with my Clan Gunn in the Clan March on Saturday night and to attend the big event in the Esplanade of Edinburgh Castle afterward. It was right at the end of the march that I spotted Diana Gabaldon, one of my favorite authors, taking in the march before the program. What a thrill!

On Saturday, I was a bit groggy in the morning, but got out that afternoon -- a beautiful sunny, no-rain day -- and met up with friends I had met through my Outlander Gathering online group. Sam and Scot were meeting Conny and her mother Iris, who were going on Sam's and Scot's Jamie and Claire tour. Conny and Iris are just delightful! While Scot did a turn at storytelling for some folks, Sam, Conny, Iris and I rambled about the Royal Mile just enjoying each other and the weather.

I traipsed on down to the Games field and caught a concert by Highland Heartbeat after that, breezing through the gate with my recently acquired passport. And yes, there were a load of men in kilts to admire. There was also a band named the Red Hot Chilli Pipers who are now on my favorite list. Talk about being able to rock a bagpipe! I found my Clan members on the way back up the Royal Mile and hooked up with them for the March.

While we waited for the March to begin, I looked up and saw two familiar faces coming toward me. John and Charlene Earl, who had been members of the church I served in Canton, GA, were headed my way. You might be able to imagine the shock we all had at seeing each other amongst the thousands of people massed for the March! Walt Disney's song "It's a Small World" keeps running through my head....

We marched, we waved, we visited, I got a proposal of marriage from the sidelines, and we experienced a late evening extravaganza all about Scotland. Proposal? Yes, that's what I said. A man in the crowd at the March called out, "Marry me! I'm rich!" My response? "What time?" I
never did hear an answer. We had marched on by this time. Still, a tad bit of flirtation and a marriage proposal all within 36 hours of arrival does a heart good.

I did take some pictures and I promise that they will be posted as soon as I find my card reader. It is in a bag that has not yet been unpacked. There is much more to tell, but I will do that in a separate post very soon. Promise.

Monday, May 4, 2009

My Newly Unemployed Life

It is Monday, May 4, which means it is the first Monday of my unemployed life. This was expected, of course, because my interim pastor contract ended on April 30 and I won't be going to Scotland for another month or so. Still, there is something odd about thinking the word unemployed. Perhaps "on hiatus from working" would be more appropriate, since I know that this has an ending soon.

While my contract ended on Thursday, I had promised one of our young people that I would help ferry things to the church for her yard sale -- which I did on Friday and Saturday. She has been selected for an international soccer tournament team in Sweden this summer and has to raise money for it. I think it is a great thing and want to support her however I can.

Yesterday was the first day that I had not been to the church -- the first Sunday that I had no responsibilities anywhere for a long time. So, my first official act was to sleep in and stay in my jammies all day. Yesterday, like today, was rainy and quiet -- an excellent kind of day for napping and such. That makes today the first Monday of my official hiatus from working and I have spent it much the same way so far. Okay, I have done some laundry. It isn't much, but it is a start! The animals in my household think this is a grand new way of life. Petting on demand, napping on the furniture, and the potential for treats at any given trip to the kitchen. Yes, life is good for them.

I have plans for this hiatus. I really do. And I plan to do them...as soon as I wake up sufficiently. There are loads of boxes to be packed after all the stuff that could go into them is sorted. There are files to be thinned. There is writing to be done -- not only on this blog but also on some children's books I want to rewrite. There are visits to be made to friends before I leave. So much to do and suddenly what seemed to be a long stretch of time out ahead of me seems not so long at all. I now understand what my parents were saying to me when I was young. They had told me that time would pass faster when I was grown up. I pooh-poohed them when I was a child. They were right.

Friday, April 17, 2009

What's Up, Doc?

It has been pointed out to me (on several occasions now) that I have been remiss in updating you on what is happening with the "Holy Land" sojourn. To tell you the truth, I haven't had anything to update! Now, however, a few things are starting to break loose that I can tell you about.

This past week, I had an email from John Thomson, my Ministry Council contact who is working to get me into Scotland and placed. What he has been able to tell me are the following things:

First, "
the Church has now received its Sponsors Licence from the UK Border Agency and can now legally employ persons who reside outside the European Economic Area (EEA). Once I've identified a placement we will then be able to apply for a Certificate of Sponsorship on your behalf, the number for which you need to quote on your visa application." We have officially entered the process of bureaucracy! This was a major first step in the whole thing. Up to last December, clergy members were exempt from this particular licensing. With crackdowns on immigration in a number of countries, we are no longer as trustworthy as we used to be, apparently.

Second, John is looking at a placement for me in the Edinburgh area. This is still very early stages, of course, so that may change, but it is at least a direction! The next bureaucratic hurdle to clear is "
what I discovered today as we began to apply for your certificate of sponsorship is that we cannot do so until we have a start date and specified post for you to go to. Additionally the certificate is only valid for 3 months by which time you must have arrived in the UK and started to work." Which came first -- the chicken or the egg? Sigh. Still, the wheels are moving with a target start date SOMEWHERE in either June or July.

My house in metro Waleska (hey -- the downtown has a 4-way stop!), beautifully situated in a wooded area lake community, is on the market (has been for a month) but has had no lookers. It really must sell. I am not in a position to keep it (nor do I want to) and I don't want to be a landlady again. I did that once and that was enough. So any prayers and positive energies you have to send for those as-yet-unknown buyers are welcomed!

And that, as they say, is that for now. I continue to look around my house deciding what to keep and store versus what to release to someone else for good use. I wait anxiously to hear more word from John so I know what the next step will be. And I have two more Sundays left in the church I have served for two years now. Endings and beginnings are always mixed like marble cake....

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Then Came Sunday...

On Sunday morning, 15 February, I decided I would attend worship at St. Giles' Cathedral in Edinburgh. It was time to really take notice of what I might be dealing with in a few months. St. Giles' is on the Royal Mile and their website says, "Also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh, it is the Mother Church of Presbyterianism and contains the Chapel of the Order of the Thistle (Scotland's chivalric company of knights headed by the Queen)."

It is one thing to attend worship to participate. It is another when you think you might be in the position to lead worship somewhere sometime soon! As one might expect, the worship in the Mother Church tends strongly toward "high church" -- very liturgical, very formal. The music was astounding! The acoustics in a large stone sanctuary are simply incredible and the choir was well-disciplined and talented. When they processed in, so did the clergy who were participating in the service. The pipe organ, with the organist on an elevated platform, filled the cathedral with sound. The hymn books -- well, there is one significant difference from American hymnbooks. In the States, we have what I call interlinear hymns printed -- the words are printed under the accompanying notes. The Hymnary (this one happened to be the older red cover version -- I own the new purple one) has only the words printed with the hymn tune named, but not printed. So...I sang one of the hymns that had a tune I knew and learned the other two in a hurry!

One of the things that surprised me was hearing the Scripture lessons read from the King James Version of the Bible. It was published in 1611 by the Church of England at the authorization of King James I of England. Interestingly, James I reigned as King of Scotland for 58 years, the last 22 years of that time also reigning as King of England. I'm not certain now why I should have been surprised. The KJV is the Bible of strong tradition and if there is anyplace in the world that has a sense of strong tradition, it seems to be Scotland! Still, there are so many versions of the Bible now that are solid translations into modern English, I wonder if there has been consideration given to any of them. Of course, I was there for one service. They may use any number of versions that I don't know about!

Once again, I was struck at the commonality of human needs and thoughts. The preacher for that day said things that I recognize I would have wanted to say about the passage. True, it was much more formally presented than I would have felt comfortable with, but it was his way. It does make me very aware that, wherever I go, I may have to be a tad more formal than I am as a worship leader now. The churches I have served in Georgia as a pastor have both been small and, while having traditional services in form, have not been exceedingly formal in tone. We have taken worship of our God seriously, but not so much taken ourselves too seriously.

That has caused me to think about the future a bit. What kind of congregation will I first serve when I arrive later this year? Will I be in one that is high church like St. Giles', or will I be in one that is smaller and less formal? Will I be placed in one that has a contemporary service? I know that some of the churches there do contemporary (less formal) services -- the Assessors and I talked about that AND I have looked at the websites of some of the churches online. How will I adapt to them? How will they adapt to me? This is one of the reasons that I am glad that my first year will be spent in a familiarization placement -- my year with "training wheels." I will have the opportunity to explore the answers so these and so many other questions I undoubtedly don't even know to ask yet, while not being able to wreck the place completely!

I took all these musings with me for an afternoon tour of Mary King's Close -- but, I think that is a story for another day...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What a Difference a Month Makes

One month ago today, I met with the Church of Scotland Assessors so that they could get to know me a bit more and vice versa. It's a good thing it wasn't today -- the Georgia Pollen Allergy Gremlins have stolen my voice completely!

Anyway, that meeting was both the end of one process and the beginning of the next. I had been dreaming of living in Scotland ever since 2003, when I had gone for a week on the tiny island of Iona for a week at Iona Abbey and Community. That was followed by eight days with the triennial International Gathering of the Clan Gunn. On the trip to the Glasgow airport, I managed to sniffle and boo-hoo most of the way because I didn't want to leave. My friend Jocelyn, who was traveling with me, offered to leave me -- though she was going on to London! My heart had been taken by the country and I began to dream. I landed in Georgia ready to go back, knowing that it would be for a much longer time.

Yet it took a while. I was serving a church and was committed to them. The dream would have to wait, it seemed. It reawakened when I left that church and went to work as an interim pastor. As an interim, I was hired on a contract basis and had a specific time frame -- as opposed to the indefinite term of a called position, as we call them in the Presbyterian Church. I had a time frame in which to work, so...

Last summer, I contacted the Ministry Council of the Church of Scotland, asking what was needed for me to be considered by the Church for ministry there. I did the paperwork in the winter and chose to meet with the Assessors at their February meeting. Why February? I had been to Scotland twice in the summertime and knew that I needed to experience it in the winter -- all the rain, wind, and cold that it usually held (well, that didn't work out quite as I expected).

Still, why Scotland? How does a person describe a pull on one's heart? I had wanted to travel to Scotland since I was very young, before I even knew much about it. My family heritage is in part from there. The skirl of the bagpipes snagged my heart the first time I heard it. Then I went -- and knew that I wanted more.

In the time I waited, I realized I wanted to know more about how the mother church of my own Presbyterian Church (USA) worked, how we had changed things, and just what the church in another country and culture looked like and acted like. I became more deeply interested in the Celtic tradition of Christianity, the backdrop against which this church developed. How is church and faith "done" in a whole different atmosphere? The best way to learn these things is to live with them -- and I want to do that.

So, the Assessors made the recommendation that I be granted that Certificate of Eligibility as I mentioned in the very first installment here. Just a month ago -- what a difference a month makes. I don't know yet where I will be placed for my familiarization year -- I am hoping to know that by the middle of next month. In fact, there are a lot of questions about my life right now for which the answer is, "I don't know yet." What I do know is that "grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home."

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Just a Couple (Maybe More) Pictures

These are all shots from Saturday's Royal Mile Walk...just for my Outlander friends (think Voyager)...

You'll notice that Jenny Ha's has entered the 21st Century...

And Then Came Friday...And Saturday

After the tremendous day I had with Samantha and Scot, I woke up on Friday morning, had breakfast -- and immediately crashed again. Apparently the jet lag, the adrenaline crash, and an oncoming cold finally converged into one day -- and in the midst of this incredible trip, I wound up staying in bed nearly all day. Now what you need to know about this bed is that it was in the middle of the living room of the self-catering studio apartment I had rented for the week. Yes, in the middle of the living room. Actually, that was only at night most of the time. The rest of the time, the bed resided in the wall. I think these were called Murphy beds at one time. Whatever they are called now, a bed that folds up into the wall certainly makes making the bed much easier!

So, after a day of lollygagging, I was determined that Saturday was NOT going to be such a bland day. The first stop of Saturday morning was the K1 Yarn Shop, where they had some really wonderful yarns from Scotland and around the world. I had to have some St. Magnus yarns, a plush mix of angora and wool for some socks that must soon be made. I had also been commissi
oned to purchase yarns for a couple of knitting friends. There is something to be said about starting your morning with an hour or so of fondling soft yarns...

The next order of the day was a trip up to the Royal Mile. My little apartment backed up to Edinburgh Castle, which I could see from the kitchen window. I walked from one end of the High Street (aka the Royal Mile) to the other, then back again. Near the Castle end of the street was a street performer dressed and made up as William Wallace of Braveheart fame. He had the kilt, the furs, and the blue warface on. He was allowing tourists to take pictures with him for a donation to the Leukemia Foundation. I didn't get a photo with him, but he was highly entertaining! With a nod to the movie 300, at one point he declared that "This is not Sparta! This is SCOTLAND!!"

Just down the street, in front of one of the many "all things Scottish" shops on the Mile, a prote
st was happening. One of the animal rights groups was protesting the use of furs for the making of sporrans (those handy man-bags that hang in front of the kilt). Why they were at only one of the shops I never did figure out -- but I did notice the rest of the day how many sporrans are made of fur, real or faux.

My exploration continued with a trip to a pharmacist for some cough drops, all the way down to Holyrood and the Scottish Parliament building, and to the World's End Pub in the middle of the afternoon. This was the Saturday that the Six Nations Rugby Matches began and I found myself there just as the France v. Scotland match began. With some interpretation from Mark and Debbie, a lovely couple from Newcastle area who were up for the weekend, I made a
bit of sense of the game. In short, I discovered that sports sound a lot alike whichever language they are played in. Cheers and moans are pretty much interchangeable. Scotland lost, by the way. It was a grim day at the World's End in those terms. Still, I got my picture made with a painting of Flora MacDonald behind me. For those who may not know, she was the person who smuggled Bonnie Prince Charlie out of the country after his return effort failed. And for my Outlander friends, I never could figure out where Jamie might have hidden Mr. Willoughby and his smuggling operation!

One lost rugby match, one great conversation with Debbie and Mark about church life in their town and the boxer dogs that are part of their family, and two lattes later, it was time to head back to my little flat. I was reminded once again that "peoples is peoples" wherever we are. We may have different languages or accents, but our hearts are much the same.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Day After the Interviews

The day after I met with the Church Assessors, I was up early and at the train station by 6:45 a.m. I was off to Dunblane to meet Scot and Samantha, with whom I had gotten acquainted on the Outlander Gathering forum. They run the Jamie and Claire Tour, based on Diana Gabaldon's Outlander. We had decided to meet even before I got on the plane to fly to Edinburgh.

I had packed for Scotland expecting it to be rainy, windy, and cold. This was the only day of my whole trip that it was all those things. After Samantha and Scot -- who was wearing a kilt in this blowy, snowy weather -- picked me up at the train station near their home, we headed off by car to Inverness. They were exploring lodging possibilities for their tours that day, so while they worked, I played by wandering around downtown Inverness. The 3.5 hour trip didn't seem to last nearly that long because we talked ALL the way. We did pass the road to Culloden -- but I was a wimp. It was cold and wet and I decided to wait until I return to visit.

They introduced me to a great second-hand bookstore, Leakey's (I think that was the name), so after a rainy afternoon looking at books and wandering around (I did have to buy a warm fleece scarf to fend off the cold), we met outside the Marks and Spencer store. I nearly had an international credit card incident there -- my card got stuck in the card reader -- and all I was trying to purchase was a loaf of bread! One thing I noticed as I sat at a window seat at a coffee shop -- Inverness is a truly international small city. I expected to find that in Glasgow and Edinburgh, but for some reason was surprised to see it so in Inverness. Preconceived notions falling into the dust...

We were off to the Blackfriar's Pub for dinner. I wanted traditional food -- and got it in the form of lamb's liver, bacon (which looks an awful lot like ham to me), fried egg, and chips (aka fries). Both the dinner company and the travel company that day were excellent. Samantha and Scot are both great story-tellers and engaging folks. I am looking forward to being able to avail myself of their tours someday soon. Anyway, before we left the pub, we had the proprietess take a picture of us together. Scot decided we needed to be behind the bar for the shot, so we did it! Of course, you can't see his kilt, but it is still a great picture.

Then, nearly all of a sudden, the day was over. They were off to present a program for Highland tour guides and I was off to the train back to Edinburgh. The psychologist had asked in my interview the day before how I was going to build a network of support when I got settled in my new place. It is a great joy for me to be able to say that there are a couple of links in that network already -- and I suspect those links will only grow stronger.
The odyssey is about to begin -- and who would have thought that a girl who grew up just outside Crane, Missouri, on a farm would be planning to move to Scotland in three months (or so)?

On February 9, I boarded the plane from Atlanta, Georgia, for Edinburgh, Scotland. On February 11, I met with the Church Assessors of the Church of Scotland. After a bit over an hour of conversing (and another hour with a psychologist), I received a recommendation from them that I be given a Certificate of Eligibility to labor in the Church of Scotland -- well, after I do a year-long familiarization placement and three classes specific to the Kirk. I am relieved -- I have a year of training wheels so that I can learn both the Church and the culture!

I didn't know about the positive recommendation until I got back to metro Waleska, Georgia, where I live now. Still, the rest of the trip was quite good...