Thursday, 25 December 2008


Holidays are a funny thing...we become so used to spending certain holidays with certain people doing certain things...then, when all of these comfortable normalcy's are either taken away or left behind, we finally begin to understand how important and cherished they have always been...

2008 is the second Christmas in a row I have spent apart from my nuclear family...and the first Christmas I have spent apart from ALL family, and America...

Christmas in London has been an experience. Both in the resilience of those who have been separated from their loved ones and the effects that family and ritual have on the power that holidays hold over us.

I spent Christmas in London, UK with my friend Darleen. We are both students, living in the UK for a Master's degree, and neither of us were able to go home for the holidays. Seeing as we are close friends, both in sentiment and in proximity, we were both glad to spend time together for Christmas. Although, seeing as we did not have other friends or family to meet up with, and 90 percent of London closes down from 8 pm on December 24 until the morning of the 27th, Christmas was not exactly the foreign holiday one might expect from seeing the movies.

We spent most of the week cooking amazing food,

watching bad Brit TV and movies, lounging around talking about our friends and family, and the Holiday traditions we were missing the most...and making a special Christmas video...

Yes, this is what happens when two twenty-something females are left alone on Christmas...HAHA!

Overall, Christmas was nice, Dar and I bought each other the Twilight book...proving once again just how similar our nerdy-ness is and how well we know each other...


Hehee...yes, I have officially fallen into the Twilight mania...

Now that I'm back in Edinburgh, And the New Year is upon me, I look on this Christmas both happily and thankfully...Dar and I never seem to bore each other, and we were so lucky to have each other this year! If she or I had gone home for Christmas, or if one of us had never come here for University, it could have been a very lonely holiday! Thank goodness for our mutual love of Brit Uni!

I loved being able to talk to my extended family on my Mom's side on the 21st on Skype...


It was a lot of fun, although bittersweet because I missed seeing so many people I never get to spend time with...But that comes with the territory of growing up, I guess. We have to make the choices that in the past were either made for us or else not even choices to consider...

Sometimes growing up is hard to do...but at least it makes you appreciate what you have in your life...the people and places and traditions that were taken for granted suddenly get thrown into stark relief against the background of their realize just how special they are, and just what they actually mean to you in excruciating detail...(or maybe that's just the anthropologist over-analyzing again...)

Holidays are a funny thing...

I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Monday, 15 December 2008

Well Its Christmas Time Again...

"Well its Christmas time again….decorations are all hung by the fire…everybody’s singing, all the bells are ringing out…and its Christmas all over again…” (i don't know who sings it, but it's a song!)

I can’t believe that 2008 is already coming to a close. This has been a very eventful year! And yes, you might be thinking

“EVERY year is an eventful year…seeing as everyday life is full of random events and happenings”

and while this is definitely true, 2008 has seemed much more eventful for me because of the TYPES of events I have had/experienced/seen, etc. whether this is because as I get older I place more importance on the mindful appreciation of different types of events, encounters, and happenings, or because I now have the time to reflect upon the differences between 2007 and 2008, I feel justified in saying that this year has been a wild ride!

But lets get to that later…I know that I haven’t written in almost three weeks…and there is good reason for that! I have jam-packed quite a lot into those three weeks, and unfortunately it was the updates that got shunted to the bottom of the list of things to do.

Thanksgiving was an interesting event…in that there were two Americans, two Canadians, and a Belgian celebrating it together…I made a great sweet potato-pecan pie…yum!
That weekend was also the National Holiday of Scotland: St. Andrew’s Day. He is the patron Saint of Scotland, and the Scottish flag (the saltiere) is supposed to represent St. Andrew’s Cross in the sky (there is a story about this, something about seeing the cross in the clouds…I don’t remember it though) Anywho, St. Andrew’s Day is the one day each year that Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, and the Edinburgh Zoo are open to the public for free! So Katrien, Tina, and I went to the zoo to see the penguins (Katrien had never seen penguins before…the Belgian zoos are apparently deficient in the penguin department)
It was nice to go for free, but it was also BLOODY FREEZING! Before we left for the zoo at 11:30 the thermometer was holding steady at 27 degrees…Fahrenheit
…that’s right folks, I walked around a zoo all day in BELOW freezing temperatures. It was intensely cold. No bueno. But the zoo was nice, although I think I would like it better in a more hospitable weather situation. Ah well, at least it wasn’t raining!
Photobucket (view from the looks COLD!)
The next week saw the beginning of the end-of term-stress-madness. Lectures over, research and papers and projects abound! I also had things like meetings for the committee representatives, Katrien’s birthday celebration, the last Mediterranean Gastronomic Society event of the term, the arrival of Darleen for a visit, and a Holiday party thrown by one of my lecturers for the Anthropology department. Whew. All in one week! And last but not least:
PhotobucketI cut off my hair! That’s right, I decided to just go for it and cut it all off. I was going to just get a trim, but in a moment of sleep-deprived insanity I got it all cut off instead. They were nice enough to gice me my hair in a clear bag to carry around Edinburgh as well...looked classy, I'm sure! I wan to donate it, so if anyone knows of a company that will take bleached (i.e. highlighted hair) let me know! (Locks of Love won’t, unfortunately)

So Dar was here for a fab reason: Coldplay concert in Glasgow! It was so fun! We went with my other friends Tina, Yara, and Wissam. We took the train into Glasgow, and after the concert we had to BOOK IT through the streets of Glasgow to catch the last train. It was literally one of those movie moments where you jump on the train 0.5 seconds before it starts moving away from the station. Oh, the drama! It was definitely an interesting way to end the night!

We also went to the Edinburgh Christmas fair, which is a combination German Christmas market/Scottish Christmas market/Carnival. Good food, ice skating, crafty type stuff, rides, etc.
After Dar left the next day, I was on lockdown to finish my two papers due the 11th and 12th. The internet in my building decided to go out, (perfect timing, right?) and I spent literally 2 straight days inside the Chrystal Macmillan Building at school where the research students have our own room with computers, internet, etc. This was only tolerable because my two Anthro partners in crime, Lucy and Siobhan, were there as well, we all had lack of sleep induced mini-breakdown/fall into insanity/too much caffeine/ridiculous “how is this my life?” moments together…its always nice to know that you aren’t going insane alone, haha!

After Friday, things got better, seeing as I was all done with papers and projects! I got to enjoy the whole weekend, with gossip sessions, wine, museum trips, and (still) sleep deprived giddiness. Not to worry, I plan to sleep next weekend when I get to London!

Tomorrow I leave for a three-day trip to Dublin with my friends Katrien, Tina, and Emilie. This should be an interesting trip, and a nice way to end the term!

Hope everyone is well, and tucking in for a fabulous holiday season!

Love, Kim

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Rollercoaster of...?

Love? Emotions? Ideas? Events? Weather?

Any of these could describe the past two weeks of my life.

Lets go in order, shall we?


No, I'm not IN love with some new, dashing Highlander who has come and swept me off my feet. Sorry guys. HAHA, by "love", I mean that I have come to appreciate certain people a lot more, both in the US and here in Edinburgh. My parents, super supportive as always; my Brother, steady and helpful as always; my extended family, sending the occasional e-mail, letter, and phone call my way to make my day special; my friends, keeping me up to date on the happenings in their respective lives, scheming trips to the UK, and still showing interest in MY life; and my friends and colleagues here, who have been the biggest system of support through the past few weeks, keeping me sane, and reinforcing my backbone when stuff gets too hard to sift through on my own...

These people remind me why humans are such an amazing species. I found a quote a few weeks ago that really sums up humanity to the core:

"The remarkable thing about man is not that he is an 'upright' ape, but that he 'stands' for some things and not for others" -Anonymous

If you think about this, it is incredibly true in all aspects of what we as humans call life. We stand for some ideals of what "life" is and not others, some preferences over others, some tastes, some passions, some religious views, some political views, some roads through life and not others.

It is our cognate ability to differentiate and choose which makes us unique, and it is that ability and the action taken from it that allows ME to have a future career as someone studying HUMANS and their similarities and differences on varied levels.

Sometimes, being surrounded by PEOPLE all the time is wearing. Especially when you are an observer to the bone, like I am. I see things and interpret things and contextualize things without consciously trying, and having your brain "on" like that continuously can lead to serious meltdown. If I didn't have the people I LOVE in my life to keep me from falling, or failing, or running away, I think life would be a lot harder to wade through.

Segueing into Emotions:

As you may have noticed, it has been an EMOTIONAL last few weeks. After being sick, returning from London, watching the world's reaction to the next US president, and realizing that my first term at the University of Edinburgh was quickly coming to an end, I had a serious crisis of representation in relation to my research and my future...

LONG story short, I am changing my research project. If I am going to spend the next four years of my life on one project, it needs to be something that I really, really enjoy and can realistically accomplish. I am thinking of something along the lines of Food and Identity, especially from an international, immigrant perspective.

I love food, I love looking at how identity is reinforced or altered through the symbolic act of cooking, eating, and food rituals. So there you go, new topic! (Plus I really have NO desire to do the traditional anthropological rite of passage in which I live in a mud hut in some jungle, learning the language of some unknown [albeit fascinating] indigenous group for two years)

Deciding to do a complete 180 turn from my old topic was HARD, and emotional, and scary! This was literally me saying:

"I am not that person, I am this person, and this is what I may well be known for for the rest of my life" Bit intimidating, yes?

If not for the support from my family and some key people in my program (Kudos to Lucy L., Siobhan, and Richard B.) I may have just ran off into the wilds of Europe to be a beatnik writer for the rest of my life! (which, really, is still possible, but that reality can wait until I have a PhD HAHA)


This was really summed up in the "emotions" section, with my new research proposal. Although with that shift, I begin to look at the things in my everyday life more closely in relation to food. Living in an international residence is really a much richer, complex, dramatic, inspiring situation that I would have ever thought. The people I live with give me ideas, thoughts, and random anecdotal happenstances everyday.

If you want to know what life is like in a university residence hall, just imagine a season of "The Real World" on MTV. My life would be "The Real World: Richmond Place". It would get top ratings, no question about it!

Events and Weather:

Its been a busy few weeks, probably only get worse now that finals and the holidays are here. Last weekend was the second event for the Mediterranean Gastronomic Society. I was leader of team France, we made a veggie cassoulet, Goat cheese and tomato tart, and cinnamon palmiers. good stuff.

Then there was the Death Cab for Cutie concert, which was awesome! I saw them in Cali over the summer, but in a smaller venue, they were even better! And I loved seeing how Scots reacted differently to songs than we would have in the US. Shows how deeply ingrained the importance we place on specific things really is. We may be very similar, but we still are from cultures with very different pasts and different moral and idealistic groundings.PhotobucketBen Gibbard...amazing lyricist!

Last weekend was also the Scotland vs. South Africa National Rugby game. we walked 2.5 miles to the stadium for the game, along with thousands of other fans. the game was great (S.A. won) then we all walked home, and proceeded to party well into the next morning. fun!
Photobucket Jessie and I
Photobucket The girls going to the game sporting our colors!
Photobucket walking to the game
Photobucket RUGBY!
Photobucket! I love Rugby!

Then there was the Mediterranean Night we had as a society fundraiser. hours of Mediterranean music, dancing, and revelry. I got some dance lessons and met a lot of fun people. Some of them invited me to a birthday this last Friday at the VooDoo Rooms, a great restaurant/bar/club here. the Ambiance is very Moulin Rouge-meets 19th century New Orleans with some Caribbean style thrown in. The aesthetics alone made the place worth it, and I (again) got to meet some fab new people from all over.

And it snowed. on Friday. Twice. yes, it has already begun. the past week has been wicked cold and the high next week is a balmy 44 degrees. HAHA. Its funny having a real fall season... at least i'm getting use out of my sweaters!

Tonight my house had an American Thanksgiving potluck. I made a pecan pie and a sweet potato pie from scratch (crust and all...a first for me)! It was fun, and everything was good. Turns out you can't buy canned pumpkin in the UK. They just don't carry it. Who would have thought?!?!

I also got to attend to opera today! La was AMAZING! There is a theatre literally 2 minutes (walking) from my building, and students get great deals! Needless to say, I plan on taking advantage of teh arts as much as I can while I'm here!

Photobucket Sunset out my window

(Disclaimer: for some reason Blogger won't resize half of my pics, just open them in a new window to view the entire pic)


Saturday, 8 November 2008

The Wackness of Britain and Wisdom Partners

The past two weeks have been really interesting, for various reasons. A lot has happened, and it feels like I haven't written in forever...

After being sick almost continually for two weeks, I headed down south for a 4 day London ROFL-fest with Darleen. I took the bus, which was an overnighter (i don't recommend this form of travel unless you want to inflict some self-punishment). On the way to the bus station I saw this sign:

So who do you follow? the man or the arrow? Without going to philosophically extremist, (which I could do...some sort of nature vs. culture symbolic interpretation a la Victor Turner and the French theories of agency, power, and Marxian praxis?) I just say "Oh, someone is confused in Scotland" and keep walking. HAHA, I mean, really, who approves these sort of signs for public use? There are many less intelligent people running around Edinburgh who probably won't understand that they should follow the arrow (which was the intended message of the sign).

Anyways, this sign made me start thinking of some of the other things here that seem to make no sense, but which amuse me in their quirkyness...such as:

Soooo...if you have reduced the sodium in my salt, which is a chemical compound of SODIUM and CHLORIDE then what exactly makes it salt? Am I now ingesting an overabundance of chloride ions when I season my food?

And on the website for my local Tesco (grocery store) I was filling out my profile to set up my account and I see this:

so funny...I can't wait until questionnaires in the US start asking people if they are teetotallers!

Those are just a few examples of the funny random things I see here on a regular basis...on to London

I had a lot of fun with Dar...We got to experience the Brit version of Halloween, (much less trick or treating, much more costume-themed party events) the British Museum including the Rosetta Stone (so freakin cool) and an amazing South Asia art collection, which included the Dakinis, which we couldn't get enough of:
Dakinis: fierce minor goddesses, more revered than their male counterparts, the Dakas. Their Tibetan name translates to "walking in the sky" which indicates their sphere of activity. Their fearsome weapons are the skull-cup filled with blood, and the skull necklace. Her hair is usually wild and hanging down her back, and her face often wrathful in expression, as she dances on top of a corpse, which represents her complete mastery over ego and ignorance.

Needless to say, these are the coolest female deities that I have ever seen...and the fact that they are stomping all over male corpses, which as stated above shows mastery over ego and ignorance is a great example of how feminism was alive and well long before it became active in the west. So if anyone is in Tibet anytime soon, feel free to pick up a few Dakinis and send them to Dar and myself, we would greatly appreciate it!

Also at the museum, we came across the term "Wisdom Partner" as a synonym for a sexual partner within Hindu religion...I think that this is a much better term to embody the person one chooses to share their life and body with. In my mind, this connotes an acceptance and celebration of the mind, body, and spirit of a chosen partner, and how this acceptance and celebration can bring wisdom, pleasure, and completion to both halves of the pair. Much more sophisticated than just sleeping with someone for the raw physicality of the act, isn't it?

Seeing as this was the weekend before the US election, everyone in Britain was talking about the upcoming event (which is interesting in itself...when was the last time there was large coverage of an election from Britain in the US?) Some Londoners showed the tone of the election in a demonstration at Trafalgar Square:

I love seeing outsider views on events that I as an American view in a specific culturally constructed gives you perspective that you may not have considered before.

Overall, London was great...and I'm SO glad that Dar is here so close (in relation to everyone else from home) and I have her to understand the crazy, silly, weird, amusing, and annoying aspects of life in Britain with me!

THis last week saw me having my first exam here. Statistics. ew. I got a 76...which apparently here is really good, like an "A" me, 76 is average, and I feel like a high school math student again...but all of my Scottish friends assured me that anything above 72 is "first class" so who am I to argue with that? I have also been thinking a lot about the direction I want my thesis to go in, and right now things are very up in the air...the double edged sword of research degrees is that you GET to discover things for yourself and motivate yourself to work towards a goal...but you also HAVE to motivate yourself, and work through discoveries on your own...which can be REALLY annoying when you have no direction and have a very wide interest base...Oh, Anthropology!

Went on a long walk yesterday and happened upon this street:
Fall here is so pretty, and I love finding random streets like this on the edge of random parks!

So life keeps on going, through politics, holidays, trips, and tests...

La vie c'est belle...

Monday, 27 October 2008

The More Things Change...

... things just change, right?

Everything has the capacity to change, whether animal, vegetable, or mineral. Today as I was walking home from uni in the cool (ok, frigid) air, I found myself thinking, as I passed by a somewhat-seedy looking man on the street:

"He looks quite dodgy"

Now, the man himself is not the interesting thing here. No, the fascinating part (at least in my opinion) is the fact that I actually THOUGHT a British the cuff, without forethought!

Now, it is easy once habitation in a new area has rooted one to a culture to MIMIC the accent, cadence, jargon, syntax (if applicable) and other cultural norms that one sees exhibited on a regular basis. To offer another personal example: yesterday, on a walk down Princes St. with my friend Tina, I adopted a Scottish brogue in reference to a hat she had just purchased:

"Och, lassy, that hat o' wool will keep yer hair o' lambswool dry, now"

(fyi, this was really an inside joke in reference to the fact that a Scottish rugby player had told her a few weeks ago that her hair was "like lambswool" a.k.a "really soft" and we had since joked about this, because it sounded so funny)

This happened to roll off my tongue quite easily, after a second's mental preparation in which I framed the sentence in my head before attempting the verbal correspondence of my joke, which was a jibe at the Scottish-ness of the wool correlation. First of all, I actually pulled the accent off, which surprised me, seeing as I have never been able to do a Scottish accent before. Secondly, I now see that by mentally prepping myself before elocution I was drawing from gathered local experience to IMITATE the culture I have embroiled myself within. Imitation is often done in order to garner a response or reaction, not in order to try to nestle oneself into the blanket of "insider" idea(ls) to which any culture group will hold itself in contrast to the existence of "outsiders" within their boundaries.

Now, in contrast to this example, do you see why it so surprises me to learn that I am not only using British/Scottish colloquial terms, phrases, and differences in syntax in my outward, SPOKEN interactions with people I talk to everyday (because I started noticing that I do that about three days into living here), but that I have evolved into actually THINKING in Brit-speak?!?!

The mind is a complex, personal entity (I say entity without question, because without our conscious mind, what are we beyond a fleshy shell?) and it is one that I had assumed would still draw on the implicit and well-ingrained cultural norms stemming from my previous 24.5 years of life in the western region of the United States. It is a little off-putting, like having a window into my thoughts (begrudgingly) left open by an invited guest. I liken this to dreaming. When someone speaks multiple languages, will their subconscious mind not still dream in their mother tongue for a period of time WELL BEYOND a move to a land that speaks a foreign language predominately? So when did it happen? When did I cease to think in completely American English and begin to form thoughts in the jargon of my current locale?

This question could have many answers. The most simplistic would be the idea that since I am being TRAINED as an Anthropologist-in-the-works to not only OBSERVE the culture around me, but to also PARTICIPATE within said culture, I would naturally begin to participate by altering my normal verbal patterns.

Another possibility is the fact that as I have always tended to pick up accents in imitation and use quite easily, this is just the next step within the acclimation process, and as I have never moved to a place with highly varied speech from my home, I never considered the possible vocal-mental connection.

Lastly, perhaps immersion really IS the most potent method of language transmittal-not only for communication, but also for mental processes. Immersion courses are supposed to be the most successful means of adopting a new language. Clearly this is true, seeing as everyone from Anthropologists to CIA agents use immersion to gain real fluency in new languages. Although in my case, seeing as Scots English is still ENGLISH, I didn't ever think about how quickly I would begin to THINK in the native dialect.

Overall, I believe this is only the tip of the iceberg in reference to the changes that I will continue to see in myself over the next few years. I anticipated a change in some areas of myself, mostly visual, such as clothing choice and preference (based on environment and culture) but other I had given no thought to at all.

This begs the question...what next? Will I find myself craving deep-fried Mars Bars and deep fried pizza? (Ugh, I shudder at the thought of this possibility-a good sign!) Or will I continue to amass countless Scottish and British cultural cues and personal traits, unnoticed, until I next visit America and can then see myself in comparison to my PAST SELF through the mindset of my PRESENT cultural self-metamorphosis?

Globalization may prevent things like this in the future from happening...with technology and the undying human interest in the "Other" to keep us moving, adopting, and changing our own and other cultures; we may find ourselves one day with a vast, "Earth" culture...a compilation of the hundreds of cultural groups, millions of cultural idea(ls), and TRILLIONS of cultural possibilities that exists upon our planet. That is a SCARY thought! (yet also image-provoking) What would the world be like it everyone was so similar that culture/language immersion was a theory of the past? An archaic rambling of Anthropologists long gone?

Interesting, no?

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Sweater weather, and other Fall Traditions

I have always felt that September 21/22 was too early to end the Southern California, summer stretches right on into November, and only technically ends when you start hearing Christmas music on the radio. But here, Fall is in full sway. The leaves are changing, the wind is blustery and cold, and the random spots of sun through the clouds make for a welcome respite, a few seconds pause, in one's daily wanderings about the city.

With fall comes many things in Scotland. Christmas goodies are already out in the stores (I have already developed a semi-addiction to mini-stollen), warm drinks are on everyone's mind, going out is sometimes hindered by the rain (this is mostly for the internationals, though...the locals barely notice), thoughts of holidays past creep up on everyone in the form of story exchange, "at our house for Christmas we..." "oh, for Thanksgiving we go to...", and of course, the cold germs are running rampant through the close quarters of the mostly-indoor lives of the Edinburgh crowd.

Yes, I'm sick as I sit here writing. Just a cold, but an annoying one. And that is one of the reasons I didn't write last week.

"What else have you been doing, Kim?" you may ask

the answer is: a lot of cooking/bonding/trip planning/general merryment with a bit of studying thrown in for a subtle contrast!

For starters, last Sunday saw the coordination, preparation, and consumption of a Thanksgiving feast, the likes of which I'll bet my kitchen has NEVER seen:
PhotobucketTina and I cooking
Photobucket The whole group

By the way, this was, in fact, Canada's Thanksgiving...apparently there is no REAL significance for this holiday a la Pilgrims and Native Americans, but its an excuse for a holiday. I wholly support holidays in general, and any excuse to cook and eat holiday food is most welcome!

Later that week, we happened upon a great deal at Bannerman's, an infamous pub for students in Edinburgh...three snakebites for the price of two! What else could we do, really?!?!

The next day saw the beginning of my germ-fest, so I was down for the count until TODAY. But I did manage to get it together to cook one more time. This time, for the Mediterranean Gastronomic Society. What this means, in a nutshell, is that six times a year, groups of 5-7 people get together in whatever kitchen is available, cook a starter, main, and dessert from an assigned Mediterranean country (including Northern Africa and the Middle East on the Med.) then all the different groups/countries come together (around 50 people in total) eat each other's creations, vote, and have a good time overall.

As I can offer both kitchen and a common room big enough for cooking and meeting to eat, I by default get to be a kitchen leader and responsible for the whole society having a place to meet. And you all know how I HATE to be in charge (sense my sarcasm). HAHA!

Anyways, that was a lot of fun, my group had Italy. We made Prosciutto di Parma-wrapped figs with soft cheese, Pollo Gorgonzola with rosemary roasted potatoes, and Balsamic Strawberries served a la mode. Good stuff, good stuff!

I also reserved flights this week for a girl's jaunt over to Dublin in December after the term ends with Tina and Katrien. Should be a nice way to wind things down (or up, seeing as Christmas and Hogmanay will be close behind). And at 20 pounds roundtrip, who could resist such a trip?!?!

Lastly, On Friday last I was elected, by virtue of no one else wanting the job, into the position of Ambassador/Representative for the Anthropology Master's by Research students for official school business (like meetings, conferences, etc.). So that should be an interesting experience, and a good way to see and be seen around the University and all its political avenues.

It has now been over a month that I have lived here, and my whirlwind affair has steadied into a true love for this city and some of the amazing people and things I have had a chance to encounter!
Tha gaol agam ort! (I love you)

Monday, 6 October 2008

Scottish Culture, Colloquialisms, and deep fried Pizza

"Why Scotland?"
that's the question everyone I know, at one point or another, has asked me.
"Why Not?"
is my answer of choice.

Mostly, "Why Scotland" is because I had previously visited here, and loved the country. Also, in Scotland:

a) English is the native language (score one for my lack of bilingual-ness)
b) the city of Edinburgh has its own castle. Not many University towns in the US can boast the same
c) I always wanted to travel abroad as an undergrad but never had the chance
d) the close proximity to the rest of Europe
e) the fact that I will finish my degrees in exactly ONE HALF the time required in the US...and
f) the culture, while similar enough to that within the US, has its own quirks and charms that make it worth the trip just to get the chance to experience them all

On that last note, I have compiled a few striking differences between Scotland and the US that have yet to stop entertaining me:

1) there are NO laws about jaywalking here...if the road is clear, just go...if you go a bit slow, you won't get hit, because drivers stop for you...if you somehow manage to get hit, it was probably your own damn drunken fault!
2) speaking of drunken...there are no container laws pertaining to alcohol either. You can totally walk the streets with an open bottle, no conspicuous paper bag required, and its all good.
3) because of this, on Mondays there is broken glass all over the cobbled streets and sidewalks. sandals are therefore not wise
4) the streets are still cobbled. so are some sidewalks. interesting for heels.
5) when a Scottish person bumps into you, or even if you bump into them, they immediately offer up a "Sorry", no matter what. Sometimes they will even follow you to make sure you are ok after said run-in
6) Chips are Fries, Biscuits are Cookies, Rocket is Arugula, Bangers and Mash is sausage with mashed potatoes, and Neeps and Tatties are mashed turnips and mashed potatoes.
7) The Scots love deep fried ANYTHING. Scotch eggs, (hard boiled egg covered with ground beef, breaded, then fried) Fried Mars Bars, and even fried Pizza (what the point is, i really don't know)
8) People eat while walking ALL THE TIME...but apparently it's still weird to walk with coffee
9) when it's going to rain, it rains like clockwork: clouds roll in between 2-4 pm, rain begins between 4:30-5:30 pm, rain ends around 8 pm. The next day, you wake up to clear skies and the whole thing happens again
10) a cell phone is a mobiile. every time i call it a cell phone, i get weird looks.
11) people don't wear enough deodorent
12) you can walk around at 2 am and be almost 100% safe...this city is ridiculously safe, actually
13) pepperoni is the word for peppers. not spicy sausage-type stuff. Apparently its just the North Americans that call the pizza topping "pepperoni"
14) "getting a pint" will solve all your problems
15) modern architecture is not overly appreciated (this one I agree with)
16) every store asks you if you want a bag for your purchases, some stores charge you to use a plastic bag. Most people carry their own cloth bags
17) the rules about being PC, and the attitudes on issues that are taboo in the US are way less oppressive. Makes one feel more capable of creativity, really

Overall, these may not seem terribly weird, but when you live in a new place, even one that has many similar home comforts, random things like this pop out at you.

But personally, I like them (bar the deep fried everything and the broken glass).

So after three weeks, life is good, the weather is definitely COLD, I finally have a MOBILE, new friends are becoming closer and school is getting harder. I actually wonder sometimes how i would ever fit a job into my life here. there just doesn't seem to be any time for it. Adaption is fun.

Pic from the Piemaker, I just think this is hilarious

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Feeling Peoplesick, Sappy and Sad

Well, here it is...the first of October, 2008. It is presently 9:18 am and a brisk 45 degrees in Edinburgh...

I was just perusing the Facebook in memory of Devin Mellinger...and man, I almost lost it. Add to this the fact that I am listening to sappy love music a la "Almost Lovers" by A Fine Frenzy and "Feels Like Home" by Chantal Kreviazuk.

Both combined made me feel melancholy for the first time since I have moved here...I miss knowing that Devin would randomly be at RIck and Jamie's house for the odd occasions that I happened to be there too... Christmas Eve, Birthdays, Going-Away parties, etc. I watched that man grow up from an energetic kid, running around with my brother, to a skinny teenager, to a great young man who I was always happy to see and who really did feel like a member of my extended family.

Remembering now, the past, and the horrible time surrounding his death makes me want to cry, and it makes me want to find and hug his whole family...I saw Clint before I left, but I never got to see Rick and Jamie...I wish I had.

And I wish that I could see a few key friends in California. I'm not exactly homesick, but I'm peoplesick, I guess...

No matter how great technology gets, you just can't get the warmth of a good friend's hug over the internet.

Ugh. now I AM crying. Come visit me.


RIP Devin

Sunday, 28 September 2008

From Scenes Like These...

After two weeks in Edinburgh, life is starting to come together. That knitting of pattern into the framework of one's life which dictates what you do, where you go, when you go, etc. As a student, a lot of this is decided for me, but as a Grad student, a lot is left to my imagination. 

One week into school, I am jumping headfirst into my research, as I was set a 3,500 word research proposal last Thursday, due this Tuesday (yes, five days to write the whole thing, plus literature research). Turns out this isn't as daunting as I anticipated, since my pre-set research nerd skills and the passion I have for my research lend themselves quite nicely to banging out hundreds of words an hour when asked to explain what I want to do and why, exactly, it is important. All of my classes revolve around of them is actually nothing BUT work on my research proposal/Master's thesis, which is due next August. So even though some of them are redundant and boring, they all have relevance to my goals, and that makes them tolerable :-). 

Beyond class, I have met with both my PG Advisor and my direct Supervisor, and I like them both. The other students in my program (maybe 9 of us all together) are all interesting, fun, and friendly (as all good Anthropologists are, haha). One girl is a bit odd, she attacked my thesis without having any idea what it is about, and she seems like an all-around land-mine, and I'm sure all my actions will annoy her all year. Good thing I don't give a shit. HAHA!

Outside of school, I've been going to the gym when I can (less than at home, seeing as I walk EVERYWHERE) the one here is SO nice and clean...brand new equipment and such. Hanging out with friends from my residence hall (the Res), chatting to my loverly American friends when I can :-), and of course studying when needed. 

Yesterday a group of us took the bus to Glasgow, about 75 minutes from here. We went to GoMA (Glasgow Modern Art Museum...I don't get the name either), then wandered around a street festival that had AMAZING food, live music, stuff for sale, etc. We then happened upon the wonderous Primark store....think super cheap Target prices on REALLY cute clothes, shoes, accessories, house goods, etc. I bought a lot of stuff I needed for my Edinburgh life for much cheaper than anything I've actually found IN Edinburgh...totally worth the 8 pound bus ticket! 

Last night we went to Frankensteins, a mad-scientist-themed bar thats been around forEVER and Revolution, a three storied bar/club/more bars place with fun music and good deals on drinks if you buy the student card (actually, Frankie's has that too). Last week we met a fun team of rugby players there, and they literally have any type of Vodka you could think of (their Logo is I heart Vodka) So its a fun time, although we had a bit of Res drama last night that hurt the vibe of the night...I guess thats to be expected when you live with all of your friends...Ah well! I'm still involved in my e-mail flirtation with the Lebanese PhD student...oh, how random my life is...

So things just keep getting better, and I hope that they will continue that way...The juxtaposition of the wild lowland hills silent and watchful, and the ancient city buildings so alive with humanity continually enthrall me...the unexpected shot of bright green seen through a side street, or the happening upon of a building so wrought with craftsmanship the likes of the 21st century have never seen, that you know it has seen more years than you can even imagine....these things still make me smile. Although it IS getting colder, and my heater is a little less efficient than I would like. :-) I'll post some pics soon, my camera isn't working but my friends have some great pics from the last week. 

In the words of Robert Burns:

"From scenes like these old Scotia's grandeur springs."


Friday, 19 September 2008

Life in the Land of Kings and Kilts...

Although I have now been in Scotland for about a week, I have yet to gather my thoughts to write anything more than mini-blurbs in e-mails and the random message...This city is many things...In fact, it IS more than it is NOT...

Young at heart

and that is only a small sample of the things I see, feel, hear, smell, taste whenever I step out my door or look out my window onto Nicholson Street, Midlothian. 

After arriving sans luggage, walking the city, meeting many freshers and International students, bonding over beers and accents, tours, school-sponsored events, and realizing just how cool Anthropologists are all over the world, I can honestly say that I am SO unbelievably happy that I chose to come here...Edinburgh already is feeling like my third home (the first two being Simi and Seattle, respectively). 

I love walking here, just can do it for hours and never see an ugly part of this town...although my love of Classic, Victorian, Medieval, and Georgian architecture may make me a tad biased...Put on your I-pod, a good pair of shoes, and grab an umbrella and you can literally wander forever (I say umbrella as this really is a necessity here...I was literally soaked when a storm snuck up on me yesterday). Everyday can bring a new pub, new friends, new experiences. I'm sure I sound like I'm romanticizing the place, but I can't help it, I'm in love with this city!

Beyond that, I've met people from all over the world...South Africa, Lebanon, Belgium, Protugal, Croatia, Canada, China, Taiwan, India, Costa Rica, and of course the manifold Americans (even two from Ventura and Moorpark....weird!). 

Overall, this may be the beginning of the greatest love affair of my life...And I'm quite ok with that!