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