Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Line-Dancing Cowboys and the Snake-Charmer

It has been just over a month now since Christmas and it has taken me that long to process some of the things that I experienced then.  

Christmas here is a bit more low-key than it is the U.S.  There is still a great deal of shopping and activity, but it was quieter overall.  I have been told that up until a few years ago, Christmas was still a workday for many people.  It just wasn't "done up" like I have known.

That being said, there were some very familiar elements to be had, especially when it came to church life.  More about those in a bit.  But first...

The relationship between church and schools here is much closer than it is in the States.  The parish minister is considered to be the chaplain for the local school as well, and if the head teacher (think principal) is willing to have the minister come in, she is invited to do short assembly times each week with a religious theme.  I will be leading my first one this coming Friday.  I can only hope they can understand my mongrel accent.

Anyway, just before Christmas, each school presented a Christmas program and most of them had a Nativity play of some kind or other.  Because MaryAnn, our parish minister and my supervisor, has a daughter and son who are in another school in our parish, I went to the one where I will speak on Friday so that she could be a mom that day and be with her children.  

The sounds in the large gymnasium/assembly hall were much the same as many others I have heard.  Parents and younger children rustled in with their winter coats, cameras of every variety adorning their necks and pockets.  As each family jockeyed for the best viewing position, a very serious young man from one of the older classes handed out programs and reported anything needful to the teacher who was organizing things.  I watched this all from my seat of honor as the parish minister (and yes, I was wearing my clerical collar so they would know what I was).  The decibel level rose with every family that entered the acoustically challenged room.

What followed was really a cute play of the Nativity with all the usual characters, the story line we have memorized through the years, and music that was both traditional and new.  There were only a couple of things that I didn't recognize from the original text.  They were the line-dancing cowboys and the snake-charmer.

Yes, you read it right.  Line-dancing cowboys and a snake-charmer.  In a Christmas play.  Noticeable, to say the least.  And there wasn't a shepherd in sight.

The cowboys were cast as the modern-day shepherds -- though to be truthful, in a land like Scotland where there are a WHOLE lot more sheep than cattle, I would have thought shepherds would have been appropriate, too.  Then again, I have never seen a shepherd even attempt a line dance.  That may be well beyond their job description.  Once I got past the shock of small Scottish children in cowboy hats, I was all right.  They were quite good at what they did.

The next surprise came when the snake charmer made an entrance.  It wasn't a real snake (which was probably a good thing).  It was a stuffed snake attached to the charmer's wooden flute, rigged so that when the flute was raised, the snake came up out its basket.  Why a snake charmer, you may be asking?  Well, it really does make a bit of sense.  You see, the charmer was accompanying the Wise Men from the East, and it makes perfect sense to me that they could well have HAD a snake charmer with them.  It's just that that particular detail had never quite made it into the biblical account of Jesus' birth.  Of course, neither did the fact that the baby Jesus would have had dirty diapers and SOMEbody had to change the holy nappies at some point.

Perhaps the best part of all this, upon reflection, is what it says about the coming of Jesus.  In a time when we absolutely must become aware that no one nation lives in isolation from any other, the children in this school widened the story of Jesus' birth to embrace East and West in new ways.  "For God so loved the world" we proclaim -- and here they made it clear.  

I think I rather like having line-dancing cowboys and snake-charmers in the Nativity after all...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Language Lessons

This first year in Scotland is my familiarization year.  It is a year of grace in which I have the opportunity to settle in and learn about the culture and church before taking on a parish of my own.  

Part of this familiarization has involved learning how things operate and how to operate myself within this culture.  It has also included unintentional language lessons -- those times in conversation when I have looked at someone in clear confusion as I tried to interpret what they just said.  I have, of course, returned the favor (one conversation included the phrase catty-cornered, which caused great amusement).

So, I now share with you a variety of new words for your edification, in no particular order...

Dreich, mingin' = gray, rainy, dreary.  Apparently, dreich is a bit "nicer" way to say it

rammy, stooshy, stramash = argument.  These are all about the same in terms of intensity, from what I understand.  A stramash can also be a disturbance.

bidie-in = your significant other with whom you live, without being married

dear = expensive

stocious = drunk 

chuffed = pleased about something

brass-necked = arrogant

bamboozled = confused

kerfuffle = confusion.  You can have a kerfuffle in a situation or your papers and things might be in a kerfuffle

dingin' doon = pouring down rain

to grass someone out = to rat them out

skip = dumpster

teuchter = a country person

waistcoat = vest

vest = camisole

braces = suspenders

wool = yarn, be it wool, cotton, or acrylic, or anything else

suss out = figure something out, work it out

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Watch Out, She's on the Road

December 19.  That was the day that driving in Scotland changed for a number of people.  That was the day that Ouiser (say Weezer -- she is a wee car) hit the road with me behind the wheel.  Any defensive driving courses they have taken have been well-used since then.

Ouiser is a 2004 Fiat Panda.  She is very small, especially compared to Minnie Pearl, my four-door truck who is now living in Arkansas.  She had only 15,000 miles when I got her -- I have probably put more miles on her in two weeks than in six months in her previous life!

Thus far, I have stayed on the correct side of the road.  I figure that as long as I don't see cars heading directly at me, I am probably on the right side of the road.  It has actually been easier than I had imagined it would be.  Of course, I look like a complete idiot as I go along because I am still talking myself through each turn and move.  I have apologized to a number of people, though they couldn't hear me.  Some of them were busy waving at me with one finger to hear any remorse....

The good part about a very small car is the maneuverability.  I had forgotten how small a space a car could fit into!  And the insurance costs are a LOT less.  My insurance was purchased through the Post Office.  It still feels a bit odd to think about the Post Office providing car insurance, but they do -- as do a number of other retailers.  One of those things that makes a body say hmmmm.....  

Anyway, my new friends Helen and Justin took their lives in their hands on December 19 and took Ouiser's maiden voyage with me.  We made it quite well -- until the briefest, most intense blizzard hit Edinburgh at 2:00 p.m. (such that everyone talked about it the next day) while WE WERE OUT IN IT!  Bless them.  They are very brave.

Time Flies When You Get Older

My parents used to tell me when I was a child that time would go much faster when I was an adult. I didn't believe them. I should have. That, among many other things, was one of the grown-up truths that I simply couldn't understand. Sigh -- they were right.

We have entered 2010 with a swiftness that belies my sense of belief. I have noticed (as others of you undoubtedly have) that it has been a long time since I have added to my blog. Well, it is a new year now, so here you have a new post.

It was summer when last I posted. There is now snow on the ground and it is all of 27 degrees outside. The days are very short. I have never before in my life prayed for the winter solstice to come like I did in 2009!

A brief summary of the past few months...

My boys -- Asher and Joseph, the miniature dachshunds, and Timothy the cat -- arrived safely on September 10. We were all overjoyed to be together again. On September 27, Joseph died unexpectedly, a victim to some kind of unidentified virus or bacteria to which he had no immunity. I was devastated. That is really the only way I can describe it. He was my clown, an affectionate little guy who never met a person he didn't like.

My work at St. Anne's Parish Church in Edinburgh has gone exceedingly well. The members have made a warm place for me in their lives. I have performed two funerals and assisted in one baptism, as well as led an informal communion service. I led a three-session Advent study on particular Christmas carols, participated in a whole host of Christmas activities, and have taken the past week after Christmas as holiday time.

On Monday, December 28, I drove to Yorkshire (yes, I have a car and I know how to use it) to pick up a little girl long-haired miniature dachshund who is now named Anna. She is a cream color and is simply beautiful. We have spent the week getting acquainted -- and finding each other. She has escaped from me twice and gone barrelling off down the road (and it is a busy road). Some new friends, Helen and Justin, have been more than kind in helping me find her both times. It is a rather heart-stopping way to begin a relationship with a new family member! While she is sleeping peacefully on the sofa beside me right now, she will be on a lead securely fastened around my wrist in a few minutes when we go outside...

I begin 2010 still somewhat surprised that I have begun it in a new country. I have been 5 months in a church and will leave it with sadness at the end of January to begin the next steps of my familiarization. I have no doubt that the people I will meet there will be as lovely as the people I have come to know and love already.

There will be more frequent posts forthcoming -- promise.  There are some quandaries, some observations, some language lessons -- oh, just all sorts of things.  In the meantime, I have a trip to Asda (translate -- Wal-Mart) to make...