Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Kim Version 4.0

Firstly, I apologise for my long, loooooong absence from the blog scene. Ever since finishing my thesis, I have been tossed around from living arrangement to living arrangement, responsibility to responsibility, and from one event to the next like a ship in the middle of a storm. While I feel like I spent a LOT of time having nothing to do since the end of August, I also realize that there was a LOT going on, both in my life and inside of me. Plus, I haven't felt inspired, or the writer's itch in a while. And no one wants to read about my months-long work on the Kim-shaped dent in my red leather sofa, do they? So first I'll give you the basic "What is going on" stuff:

September brought the end of the Edinburgh Festival season...I enjoyed doing Theatre review for the intense two weeks I did it, then there was a major lull until just a few weeks ago when I started reviewing again. I'm hoping to do 1-3 performances a month from now on, and if you want, you can see my reviews here:

September also included the visit of my dear Family, and Auntie Peggy. We did all the normal stuff in Edinburgh, visited Glasgow, met some of my closest friends, and spent a few days in the Highlands at my friend's family cabin. It was a nice trip, and I loved being able to show them my life here AND drive a rental car :-)

Outside a Scottish Pub-Kim, Peggy, Derek, Mom, Dad
Bridge over the stream on our hike in the Culags, Northwest Scottish Highlands-Kim, Peggy, Derek
Urquart Castle ruins and Loch Ness

I have also re-entered the world of dance by taking an advanced tap class this term. It's so nice to be able to dust off my old tap shoes and get back into the rhythm of dancing. Tap is definitely like riding a bike, and I love the class! We are dancing in a show on Dec. 6, which will be my first time on stage since 2002! I'm sure my Mom is looking forward to getting a DVD of that. :-)

At the moment, I am living with my friend Yara. My good friend Lucy was our third roommate for Sept. and Oct., but now Miss Lucy has left for her PhD fieldwork, and the landlady hasn't found anyone to take the room. (Both Yara and I are fine with this, and really like living together.) She's in her second year of law school (aka she has no life outside of studying) so I am the non-law part of her life, and she is the much more logical part of mine :-)
Tres Amigas-flatmates Kim, Yara, and Lucy

I have found an internship and a paid job and I am really enjoying them both! The internship (not paid) is with an organization called Social Justice Scotland. They are a think tank that are looking at social breakdown in Scotland from five different pathways that have been seen to be major causes of social breakdown: Family breakdown, Worklessness, Indebtedness, Educational Failure, and Addictions. These include dependence on welfare, gang activity, alcohol, healthcare, etc. It's really fascinating, and I have been taken on as a Research Intern. I get to go out, interview people and grassroots organizations working in these areas, and contribute to the research report that will be sent to the government when it's completed. I have also been able to attend meetings and meet people in the shadow cabinet (part of Parliament), meet really interesting, successful people working in the public, private, and voluntary sectors, offer my idea and suggestions and have them accepted and used. Plus, this will probably lead me into a great career doing something I'm really interested in: using research in order to understand sociocultural issues and finding answers to problems.

The managing director for the Internship, Heather MacLeod, also works for Eli Lilly & Company, a pharmaceutical company that does Investigator instigated clinical research. I have been hired to do final reports on all of their clinical research projects from studies based in Glasgow (although most of these studies took place on the continent). So I do both the internship and the paid work from the same office, and my supervisor for both is the same woman. Luckily, she is lovely, and very nice, and I really enjoy working for her.

Beyond that, a lot has been changing around me as well. Three of my closest friends have now moved away from Edinburgh, making me re-evaluate both my relationships with some people and what I want to look for in mew acquaintances. The three of them leaving was really hard at first, especially because I still didn't know what I was going to be doing in the next few years, and I was worried about not getting a job (thus not getting a visa and having to leave the country), not passing my Master's (which I did, finally found out last week!), and I lost three of my main support systems. I found myself getting irrationally upset about a lot of things throughout the past few months. I feel bad for Yara and Lucy, who had to deal with most of my freakouts as they lived with me. Things are better now, I've realized that I can control whether or not certain things will upset me, and how I will react to them (yes, it took me 25 years to get this). Plus, finally finding a focus, and a purpose here has made a HUGE difference. For the first time in months, I am passionate about something, and excited to be involved with things that I'm interested in, and that I enjoy.

People keep asking me why I moved here, and when I think I'm going to move home. The answer to why is, of course, my education. And although I do not think I will return for the PhD, unless I someday work for a company that wants to fund me to do Doctoral research; the education I have gained, and continue to gain from working in a different economy, meeting new people, reacting to new experiences, and learning more about life, and friendship, and my own self is worth the 8,000 miles, I think. And that partially answers the second question in my mind. Could I learn just as much in America? Yes, I'm sure I could. Could I do good work there, and be a good friend, and enjoy wonderful things? Yes, of course. But there is something magical about Scotland that I can't really explain. It is something that draws the eyes and tugs at the heart. There is a LOT wrong here-there is pain, and suffering, and ignorance, and bigotry, and old wounds against older enemies. But there is also a history of hope, and strength, and beauty, and the passion and drive to create, and to succeed. And there is the land. And the cities. And there is beauty here that you cannot fully appreciate from a photo, or from a well-written narrative.

Scotland is rugged, and poetic, and screaming for creation, begging you to be inspired, and crying to move forward, but still clinging onto the past with both hands. Over a year ago, I wrote about the differences I saw here between America and Scotland. Now I could write an entire thesis on the differences, disparities, oxymorons and juxtapositions I have learned to notice over the past 14 months just within this land of 5 million people.

So in answer to these questions, I came to learn from a university, and I am staying to learn from a country-from its people, its places, and its energy that ebbs and flows with the times and the seasons. And hopefully, I will be staying to make a difference.For how long, I don't know. Two years, five, ten...I can't say. But I do know that to leave now would leave me unfulfilled-empty, and being here makes me feel that I'm doing something real, and it's something I love. I am choosing to make my decisions, and live my life like the following quote:

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." ~Harold Whitman

And I am lucky enough that what makes me come alive is people. Their lives-and all the good and bad within those lives is what makes them real, and shapes their culturally relative views and decisions. Here is where my inspiration stems from. To study humans, and write about them. Will I write a report that will help millions of people improve their lives? Or will I write a novel based on my experiences? I don't know yet, but sometimes it is better to not know-because then you can jump in with no apprehensions, misconceptions, or subjectivities. So here I am, the new version of me. Confident but not cocky, and ready to move forward and change the world, one revelation about human nature at a time.


Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Endings and Beginnings...

It is August 27, 2009. I have officially been done with my masters degree for one week. Its hard to believe that I have already lived in Edinburgh for almost one year. One year seems like a long time when it starts, but when I look back, it has gone in the blink of an eye. And now that the stress has lifted from the back of my mind, I now realize just HOW stressful the past few months have been.

This year was both harder and easier than the last few years that I spent in America. Harder in that, obviously, I have been 8,000 miles away from family, and friends, and the random comforts and pieces of normalcy that one never consciously thinks about until they are taken away. Also harder in that I was thrown into a full research programme that is not designed to cater to anthropology, instead it catered to other social sciences within the school of Social and Political Studies...Sociology, mostly. So there we were (I say "we" because without a few choice friends in my programme, all three of us might have fallen apart) forced to take classes that were unnecessary, expected to write and work without focus, and learning more about the limits of our own sanity than about new trends or research within our own academic field. Hmmm. Sad, in that there is so much we COULD have learned, but happy in that the degree really is SO MUCH shorter here when all of the classes and the bottle-fed research skills are removed. in essence, we taught ourselves, and each other, and learned a lot more about ourselves as friends, researchers, and people than we might have in any other situation.
Celebratory post-degree "feast" in the gardens
The Glamthropologists: Siobhan, Lucy, and Kim

This year was easier in that I found the research process easy to fall into, as it resembled my undergraduate degree quite closely. Once you fall into the rhythm of research, you are using the same format over and over, just plugging in new data. how unglamorous does that sound? but its true. also easier in that i didn't work while attending school. this has, in effect, made me quite lazy, and I'm honestly not looking forward to getting back into the swing of things in the working world...ah well, c'est la vie!

the weather has been crap this summer-very rainy, and warm (for here) meaning that I feel like I live in a rainforest. Its humid. If not for the cool winds, I would be pining for A/C everyday. the weather is also quite schizophrenic. it will rain for 30 minutes, stop, the sky will clear and it will get very warm...then the clouds roll back in and the entire thing repeats in various patterns. I'm hoping September will be better for the family visit :-)
Edinburgh 11:30 pm

I started reviewing theatre for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival the day I turned my dissertation in. Since then I have been viewing 1-3 plays a day, reviewing them for publishing on the website It isn't up and running yet, but will be very soon, so you can check it out if you fancy seeing my opinions on random performances. haha. THe festival itself is fascinating...the streets in old and new town are choked with tourists...French, Spanish, American, English...babbling and gawking and overall blocking traffic and slowing the flow of people on the sidewalks...and none of them understand our streets...although that makes sense, seeing as many streets here have different names for different sections of the street. Confusing, yes. There are kids flyering everything...and everyone for the hundreds of plays, concerts, comedy shows, street performers, and restaurants. Edinburgh in August is definitely a dream for the professional tourist and a somewhat nightmarish, yet necessary experience for the locals.
View of the crowds up the Royal Mile
Street performer

The next few months will bring a lot of change-more change to add to this already interesting year. For two weeks in September I will play tour guide for my parents, brother, and Aunt Peggy. We'll hang out in E-burgh, then head to the highlands for five days. Then, my good friend Adam will be moving to London, and Yara, another good friend, will return from summer in the Med and move into my flat. October will bring the send-off of my wonderful anthro ladies for their respective stints of fieldwork. Lucy is off to Kenya, and Siobhan is off to Poland. It will definitely be strange to not have three of my best friends here next year-but luckily, Skype is amazing, and London and Poland are quite close. And Kenya? well, I most definitely plan on taking a safari within Lucy's year abroad.

Soon, I'll seriously start the job hunt as well. Not a lot available right now, but I'm not too fussed about finding the perfect job right away. I'll also do a bit of searching for PhD funding, just to keep my options never know what the NEXT year will bring!

At least I still love this city...thats always a good sign! You can always see something new when you walk...different routes, different times of day or night...different shadows and quirks. If I keep my eyes open, I doubt I'll ever bore of this city. It isn't the culture capital of Scotland, or the home of so many inspired writers for nothing!
In the words of Alexander McCall Smith: "This is a city of shifting light, of changing skies, of sudden vistas. A city so beautiful it breaks the heart again and again." (on the side of a building in new town)

Here's to the end of life as a matriculated student, and the beginning of life as a student of the world. Take a deep breath-time to dive in!
Lucy, Me, Adam, Alicia on Adam's Birthday
25 years old...and still a poser!

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Midsummer Madness

May completely gone...and June almost over already. I literally have no idea how this happened. Well, ok, I do know...Time has been flying past me in a roaring blaze of trips, presentations,thesis writing, new flatmates, new opportunities, emotional ups and downs, parties, and planning for the future.

And thats all on top of normal life things.


After presenting my proposed research for the entire Social Anthropology department in May, I was able to really get going on writing the bloody thing up. 15,000 words of proposed research (that I am most probably never going to do) due August 21. Its a bit hard to get motivated when you know that the project will never come to fruition. Needless to say, I can't wait for August 22nd! :-) I'm liking the process more now that I'm actually doing the writing, much more enjoyable than the research part itself.

The end of May brought sunny skies and warm weather to Edinburgh! (By "warm", I mean like high 60's low 70's) We took advantage of this by spending as much time as possible outside while it lasted. Picnics in the parks, runs, etc. Sadly, it has been rainy and overcast for the past few weeks...and warm. Bit hard to plan for outfits. HAHA.
Lucy and I in the Meadows for a picnic...Notice the SUN shining on us!

May switched over to June with a trip to Berlin with Darleen. Neither of us had visited there before, and it was a really amazing city. Full of open streets and Huge architecture, like the Reichstag and Berlinerdom. Because of the bombings during WWII, Berlin was largely flattened except for major architecture, which is why the streets are so much wider and open than other cities in Europe. It felt much more American than European, walking down streets that wide and spaces so open in front of Monuments that dwarf everything around them and make you feel like an ant. Very intimidating, but also awe-inspiring. And CLEAN! Score one for German efficiency and cleanliness!
PhotobucketBerliner Tor (Gate)
outside the Contemporary Art museum...insanely large building!
At the Holocaust Memorial...really symbolically impressive
Checkpoint Charlie-the separation between East and West Berlin. Now its a jarring contradiction of the past and present
Jewish Museum...Les Fuilles Mortes (the dead leaves) represent the victims of the Holocaust
They had bears dressed in different things all over the city...I liked Kaffe Bear!

It was a really nice trip! And a bit of the last hoorah for KimDar's year abroad...Dar left two weeks later to go back to California for the remainder of her Master's. But first, Our friends James and Justin came over to London to visit. I took the train down for a few days and visited...there was a tube strike that week...VERY frustrating! The bus takes HOURS to get anywhere, traffic is worse than death, and London is TOO big to get anywhere on foot. But we made the most of it, and had a lot of fun! the last night there was a going away party for Darleen, which was great!
Justin, Me, Dar, Adam, and James

Since getting back from London, I've been in Thesis mode to the max! I'm 8,000 words in, and I have to have my first draft in by mid-July. I've been working a lot from home, which is both good and bad. Its good because I can wear pajamas all day, but bad when my flatmates get home! My friend Yara moved in with us for the month of June, before leaving for her summer placement in Cyprus. The combination of Yara, Adam and I is quite the circus. We egg each other on and end up in hysterics, doing yoga in the hallway and end up having serious conversations until 2-3 am. This is definitely the most fun I've ever had with roommates.

I have also been offered a position at a new website that does theatre reviews for people in my generation. It isn't paid right now, but potentially could turn into a job in the future. For now, I get into plays and the opera for free in Edinburgh, and I'll have my reviews published on the website! Very exciting, and good for my CV! PLus, Edinburgh in August is literally one long unending festival, with hundreds of plays and performances to see! So I literally won't sleep all of August, but it will SO be worth it!

Note: Midsummer was the longest of the long days of sunlight...Edinburgh by summer= Sunlight from 3 am to 11 pm...with the sky only really being completely dark from midnight to 2:30 crazy!

Since Yara is leaving for two months, we took advantage of an excuse for a party and threw a surprise Birthday/going away for her last night. It was Mexican themed, and hilarious! Adam and I go all out for party we made sure to do it properly! Yes, I even dyed my hair for the occasion! (not permanent!)
Fiesta Arrrriba!
Mi amiga Yarita!
Yara, Alicia, and I

Overall I'm taking stock and attempting to plan the future as much as I can from where I am-can't look for a job until I finish my thesis, and can't apply for my work visa until I graduate. I'm not sure what the next few months will bring, but I'll be fine! I've got great friends and family, and I appreciate each and every one of you!


Tuesday, 19 May 2009

All Over Spring Like White on Rice...

Wow, I just realized that I haven't written for two months...two months that have been jam-packed with a LOT of random people, places, and events.

March went out in a whirlwind of birthday related fun...I threw myself a Tapas party here in my flat, with a lot of good friends from my University programme, my Mediterranean friends, and even my friend from home who lives in Switzerland came up for the weekend to join in on the festivities. It was a nice day, a little bit weird to turn 25, but I've grown to accept my status as part of the "Quarter Century Club".
Photobucket Adam and I on my Birthday
Photobucket Alicia, Sophie, Adam, Me, and Chris

Went to California and Washington for about 17 days at the end of March/Early April. It was nice weather, and even nicer to see everyone I got to see, although there never seems to be enough time to see everyone, do everything you want to do, and still find time to relax (I definitely missed out on the relaxation part the most). I'll be back though, so if I didn't get to see you this time, I'll definitely make sure to see you in a few months!
Photobucket Mi Familia

Recently, the University sent the Anthro postgraduates to the highland for a 4 day workshop preparing us for fieldwork. It was an interesting week, we met a lot of crazy anthropologists (apparently in Edinburgh we are the LEAST crazy of the anthro students throughout Scotland). After that, I recently presented my thesis to the entire department here in Edinburgh. It went really well, now that I HAVE a project! HAHA! In the UK there is no "general education" requirement for public speaking or anything, so I had the upper hand by having past experience in doing presentations and taking a public speaking course.
Photobucket The town of Kinloch Rannoch (Anthro workshop)

I've been spending a lot of time working on my Master's thesis and trying to figure out what I'm going to be doing in the upcoming years. I have decided to defer my entry into the PhD after this year for two reasons: one, I have no funding, and there is no WAY I am going to self-fund the entire degree and research. Two, I need to do some serious thinking to decide if I actually want to undertake the PhD. One thing I have learned this year is that the PhD process is, itself, a rite of passage that is intense, very difficult, and seems to be set up as a hurdle for those who might want to go on and be real Anthropologists in the future. AS of now, I am very much interested in my research topic, but not quite sure I need to be bothered with the entire PhD process (some of you know how I feel about being forced to jump unnecessary hurdles put in place by institutions).

I have two options for next year now: One, I can work here while I decide what I want to do. Two, I have been accepted into the Creative Writing Master's degree here in Edinburgh. This would be an intensive writing course, and it is apparently quite hard to get accepted into the programme, so I am definitely thinking long and hard about which direction I want to go in next year.

My Master's research/PhD research Proposal has finally been settled on after months of reading, reflecting, and meeting with my amazing (new) supervisor. I am looking at the Hindu migrant community within the UK, specifically Scotland; and how they are attempting to create a unified, cohesive Hindu community and identity within the UK despite the fact that within India there is no cohesive, unified "Hindu" identity. Hinduism is a broad, varied, and highly differentiated culture and religion. The fact that Hindu migrants are consciously attempting to unify themselves in an effort to differentiate themselves from other South Asian migrants in the UK through self-consolidation is a fascinating social process. I want to look at how food (a very important Hindu cultural tool) is used to bring the community together and reify the Hindu communal identity. Also, I plan to look at how the use of certain Hindu food traditions and the disuse of certain food traditions from India is used as a political tool within the community to create dominance and to uphold social and economic differentiation between members of the community. (Remember, in Hinduism, certain people can't eat with other castes or social groups, certain people are vegetarian, some can't serve others because they are "polluted", everyone prepares food in regionally and socioeconomically specific ways, etc.)

more on that in upcoming months...

I am still really loving my life here. I live with an amazing friend, Adam, who is a wonderful person to have around-full of energy and life and always up for anything, but also really focused on the future and passionate about doing what he can to help others. Starting in September, I will be living with my friend Yara, a Law student from Lebanon who is one of the smartest people I have ever met, and who has the most potential to have an impact on the world of anyone I have ever met. She will be moving into the flat here that I live in, as Adam is planning to move away from Edinburgh for a while.

The weather continues to play with my emotions...I have definitely adapted to the cold, enjoying the "warm" days when it gets up into the high 50's and I can walk around in light clothing. (Sad, but true). Unfortunately, Mother Nature thinks it fitting to bless Edinburgh with three to five days of sunlight and warmth, then proceed to throw five days of overcast, rain, and snarling wind in our direction. This is definitely a place where you are well-advised to check the weather report every morning before leaving the house!

This summer is going to see me traveling quite a bit (fingers crossed). At the end of May, Darleen and I are going to visit Berlin for a few days. Neither of us have been there, ant it is supposed to be a fabulous city to visit. In early June, I'm heading down to London to meet up with my friends who are coming over from California for a week. After that, Adam and I are in the process of planning a trip to Turkey and Israel (or perhaps Israel and Jordan, where we have a mutual friend) the plan changes on a daily basis, but think Israel is definitely going to be in the mix. I'm really excited to go to some new places, and especially someplace in a part of the world I have never visited!

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Caught up in Hurricane Life

So much has happened in the past two weeks...The last time I wrote feels like so much longer than almost two weeks...

The last day I updated was also the day that catalyzed the following 12 days of madness that brings me to today...sitting home at midnight on a Saturday because I'm so exhausted and came home straight after the birthday dinner I attended earlier.

Anywho, that fateful Monday: A girl in my kitchen asked me if I was interested in having a girl come see my room who was interested in moving into our building. My answer? "Hell YES!" I have been trying to get out of my contract there for two months...this seemed like a lucky break that someone actually would WANT to move in!

So the girl came, she saw, she liked, and she told me she would let me know her decision the next day.

Tuesday: My friend Adam texts me asking if I can get out of my contract because one of his flatmates wants to move out. Oh, the coincidence! My answer? "Actually, I probably can get out, I'll let you know". (Adam happens to have a GREAT flat...good sized rooms, great kitchen and living room, cheaper than the Res...and only three people all together!) Later, the girl tells me she wants my room! YAY!

Wednesday: The girl and I do the paperwork to transfer her into my room. Only issue? She needs the room by Monday, So I have to get on it and pack my stuff and find a place to live ASAP!

Thursday/Friday/Saturday: Pack...pack happy that I'm leaving...neglect homework a LOT...attend a Dinner party my good friend hosts for a bunch of us...pack MORE (turns out I have a LOT of crap here)

Sunday: MOVING DAY! Adam and his Mom came in two cars, loaded up my ridiculous amount of stuff, and moved me over...Because the roommate who is leaving has yet to vacate the premises (she's nuts, and doesn't communicate well) I'm staying in Adam's room, and he is staying at his parent's home in Bathgate (30 minutes away). Yeah, he's kind of an amazingly generous friend. I need to bake him and his family a "thank you" cake...

Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday: get settled in as much as possible when I can't really unpack, learn to walking route to school (now a 30 minutes walk each way...nice though, and good exercise) the local grocery store, the ways of the flat, etc. I also completely cleaned and reorganized the kitchen and all cupboards and fridge/freezer...No worries, the two guys I live with seem to find my obsessive need to clean and have things organized as somewhat endearing, or maybe just as entertaining...

Thursday: Adam and I had a few people over for a vegetarian dinner. Made Eggplant stuffed with fruit couscous topped with Halloumi, roasted veggies, and vanilla ice cream toped with homemade plum compote (a new fave of mine)...I have now done little to no homework for like two weeks...need to get on that!

Friday: Sushi night for Alicia's B-day...James made homemade sushi! Yum! Also, Eamon's brother plus six other guys arrived from Ireland today for the Ireland v. Scotland Rugby game tomorrow...That's a lot of loud, sporty Irish people in one flat...

Today: The Irish guys gave me flowers and chocolate as a thank you for putting up with them this weekend! So sweet!
My Flowers

Dinner was again for Alicia's actual birthday...and I think I'm getting sick...I also planned my birthday "party" today...Appetizers, drinks, dessert, then we'll head out to a pub or two...I can't believe I'm turning 25...WEIRD!

Thing's won't be slowing down soon either...Next week I need to catch up on some work, get stuff together for the party, and start getting things together for my trip to Cali! I can't WAIT to come home for a bit! :-)

I'll post some flat pics when I actually move into my new room and there isn't luggage from a bunch of visitors all over the place!


Monday, 2 March 2009

Back to Reality...

I arrived home this morning at 2 am from our weekend trip to the Highands. No internet, no cell (well, I just chose not to use my cell), no manic city/uni/life in general events constantly overwhelming me. Just great food, great friends, AMAZING scenery, and a change of pace that was severely needed.

Adam's house is in Lochcarron, on the west coast of Scotland right next to the Isle of Skye. The landscape is so beautiful there, it's easy to see where all the great Scottish authors have found inspiration. The mountains are much lower than the ones I'm used to in California, they remind me more of the hills around Simi Valley and the Santa Monica mountains...not too tall, and not too sharp. this part of Scotland wasn't glaciated, and the landscape feels slightly less intimidating compared to the sheer rock faces found in other parts of the island (although none of the British mountains have anything on the Sierra Nevada). There is a melange of complementary life across the mountains-gorse, heather, some evergreens, some deciduous trees, a lot of exposed rock cut through with thousands of streams rushing from the peaks into the loch (lake) below. And a lot of sheep.
While hiking the Culags :-)

There are lochs everywhere. Loch Carron is a sea loch, connecting to the Atlantic/Arctic Oceans, and the Gulf Stream on the west coast of Scotland ensures a temperate environment. It was a little damp, but not overly cold or rainy while we were there. The topography reminded me a lot of the hills around Simi Valley, actually. The deep browns, the exposed rock faces, the sparse tree covering (there has been some deforestation, apparently). The view from Adam's place is amazing. Straight out over the loch to the opposite mountains, the water constantly moving with the breeze, the clouds covering the sky giving a sense of both oppression and safety (depending on you're mood at the time, I guess). The water mirrors the grey sky, but the grey/blue of the water and the sky both magnify the smooth velvet tones of the hills, making you want to reach out and touch them, caress them like the familiar face of a loved one. When random chunks of pure sunlight cut through the clouds, exposing the pure, sapphire hue of the water you receive a small jolt of warmth that cuts straight to your heart. Those small, teasing hints at the potential color the loch hides kept me staring, staring at the scene before me for countless minutes yesterday morning. watching the small changes and the overall strong stability that the Highlands does so well. You literally feel steeped in and awed by the weighty sense of history-both of humanity and nature-that the rugged, soft, safe, sweet, challenging mountains, lochs, and valleys present.

I feel I could wander those mountains, lochs, and valleys for weeks at a time, lost in my own primordial human nature and relying on my sense of wonder and desire to explore and find my own identity reflected back from a loch's depths, hear my laughter welling up from a mountain stream, my strength emanating from the deeply rooted mountains.

The highlands are a magical place, if you open yourself to the possibility of centuries of interactions and contradictions between man and nature. those contradictions and interactions have left faint paths, stirrings of old ideas and new chances to take, if you care enough to stop for a minute and feel for them. I now understand why they are still regarded by so many as such a magical place. I can't wait to go back.


Friday, 27 February 2009

Trip tae th'Hielands!

Oh, we're off to the Highlands, the Highlands, the Highlands!

I'm quite excited! I slept in (8 am is sleeping in? how sad), did a bit of yoga (note to self:DO YOGA MORE OFTEN!), now I'm drinking coffee and romanticizing the upcoming weekend (I have some sort of Wuthering Heights English Moor in my head, but I know it won't look like that...) We're going to Loch Carron...right next to the Isle of Skye (North west coast of Scotland) It's supposed to be very secluded and beautiful, with a Munro (mountain) right in Adam's backyard!

AND I'm NOW in The Beatles place that I was hoping for yesterday! Things are looking up! Yay for mini-breaks and Paul McCartney induced Euphoria!


Thursday, 26 February 2009


the past 24 hours seem to have been tailor-made to complement a soundtrack comprised completely of songs by Ben Gibbard...

It started with a friend bonding moment that involved waxing poetic about The Postal Service and me pulling out my I-pod to allow my friend to re-discover "Such Great Heights" which she hadn't heard in years...And I was instantly reminiscing over the strong feelings this song brings to the fore of my memory...

"I am thinking it's a sign, that the freckles in our eyes are mirror images and when we kiss they're perfectly aligned..."

Later, I was living a "Lightness" moment in regard to some information I received about a certain guy who has been wreaking havoc with my mind for the past six months. I have the closure I need...I hope he can somehow find his.

"Oh, instincts are misleading, you shouldn't think what you're feeling..."

The entirety of today was wrapped up in "Pity and Fear" and I'm SO GLAD that I get to leave town tomorrow...I need a break, and a chance to both recharge and reassess a LOT of stuff...Its a good thing that there will be no internet or cell service up in Lochcarron because my addiction to the web is definitely getting out of control...

"I have such envy for the stranger lying next to me...with no words, a clean escape, no promises or messes made..."

Now I'm in a "Its only a matter of time before we all burn" mood a la "Grapevine Fires"

I am definitely crashing and burning right now...I feel bad for what type of friend and human I have become in the past few months...I've been selfish and negative and have let myself physically and mentally become the type of person I hate...

Actually, now that I think about it, I'm still in a "pity and Fear" place as well...

"A storm at sea, bow cracked and I was capsizing, I sunk below where I swore I would never go, If you can't stand in place you can't tell who's walking away...who stays, who stays, who stays?"

Hopefully when I come home Sunday night I'll be in a "Brand New Colony" frame of mind thanks to friends and fun (and sleep)!

"I want to take you far from the cynics in this town...start a brand new colony where everything will change...the sun will heat the ground under our bare feet in this brand new colony...everything will change..."

Actually, if I'm hoping for things, I hope I'm in a more "Good Day Sunshine" frame of mind come March...

"I need to laugh, and when the sun is out, I've got something I can laugh about..."

p.s. Dar I love you...thanks for listening to me bitch for the past month...

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

The Name of the Game...

...Is the Name Game

aka Myspace throw-back

YOUR REAL NAME: Kimberly Renee Sigmund

2. WITNESS PROTECTION NAME: (Mother and Father's middle names)
Kay Laird

3. STAR WARS NAME: (The first 3 letters of your last name, first 2 letters of your first name)

4. DETECTIVE NAME: (Favorite color, favorite animal)
cerulean monkey

5. SOAP OPERA NAME: (Middle name, town where you were born)
Renee Anaheim

6. SUPERHERO NAME: (Second favorite color, favorite drink, add "THE" to the beginning)
the purple coffee

7. FLY NAME: (First 2 letters of your first name, last 2 letters of your last name)
Kind (hahaha)

8. STREET NAME: (Favorite ice cream flavor, favorite cookie)
Rocky Road White Chocolate Macadamia (huh?)

9. SKANK NAME: (First pet's name, street you grew up on)
Buffy Birchfield

10. GANGSTA NAME: (First 3 letters of first name plus 'izzle')

11. YOUR GOTH NAME: (Black, and the name of one of your pets)
Black Callie

12. STRIPPER NAME: (Name of your favorite perfume/cologne, Favorite candy)
Burberry Lindt


Tuesday, 24 February 2009

I feel utterly blah today. I can't be bothered to focus on anything. Not my funding application (due Thurs.) Not my application for the second masters (how hard is it to fill in personal details?) Not my research for the degree I'm CURRENTLY in, and not the idea of dinner of the novel I'm reading. This is bad. I'm falling into a hole of dark despair, some might call it depression. I don't know what to do with myself. I need a break, but life isn't just going to stop and wait for me to pull it together. Fuuuucckkkkk...

I just want to sit here, staring off into space...waiting for something to come along and save me. Great, now I'm depressed and pathetically incapable of saving myself. How utterly Victorian-era AM i?!?!


Monday, 23 February 2009


Is starting to sound like a nice way to escape. I'm writing a short story about an agoraphobic. I am trying to understand the madness from the point of view of someone unaware that they ARE mad...Do you ever wonder what it must be like to be completely incapable of dealing with the outside world because you have so much fear of what could be out there waiting for you? What triggers these things? I think my character will have repressed issues from a stress-induces situation. possibly a rape, or an accident, or witnessing something terrible happen to someone else that she couldn't prevent. That part of the story will probably be an underlying current, referred to but never explained. Her window is literally the door into her nightmares...Since she never slept enough to have real nightmares. Fear, anxiety, the rush of adrenaline...the world outside is one never ending horror film, the kind you can't help but watch even though you KNOW something terrible is about to happen. Its a sick hobby, watching the world without interacting. Sick and fascinating.

Sunday, 22 February 2009


what a weird weekend...

too much emotional Kim...not enough logical Kim

meh. Pisces is upon us. I have a feeling the next month is going to be crazy!

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Polish Night II...

...Is tonight.

My friend Alicia is making mass quantities of Polish peasant food and a mass quantity of humans will attempt to:

A) fit inside Alicia and Tim's teeny flat
B) bring enough booze to get schnockered
C) eat the mass quantities of food
D) not break anything

Good luck to us! (Especially me...on Polish Night I I was waaaaayyyy too vodka for Kim tonight!)

Friday, 20 February 2009

My Family... kind of awesome...

When I got home from school today, there was a note in my mailbox: "Please pick up registered parcel at Office"

Parcel? I didn't order anything, nor was I expecting anything from anyone...But I LOVE LOVE LOVE getting mail so I of course dropped the "Go straight upstairs and work on fieldnotes" plan for parcel fun instead!

I finally got the box from the Office staff (I say finally because they are never actually IN the office when you need them) saw that it was from my parents, ran (aka took the lift) upstairs, all the while going over possibilities of what it might be...

...Popcorn? my fave moisturizer that they don't sell here? American Peanut Butter? But once I successfully ripped through the packing tape with my key, eagerly opening the flaps of the box, my eyes were greeted with this:

How sweet is this? Not only do I now have some sort of celebratory countdown to take me to my birthday (which is fun in and of itself), but I also have a distraction to get me through the rest of winter! Knowing that your birthday is coming up is one thing, but having physical evidence of the days counting down is another! I know it was my Mom's idea...she loves doing stuff like this (as do I, although I never seem to remember to get it together in enough time...maybe someday) And I am so grateful and overwhelmed that they would think of me so far in advance, and think so well of me to actually do it!

Even if each of the 25 gifts IS only popcorn, or peanut butter, it doesn't matter...because the fact that my family went through the effort to compile, arrange, and send this fun birthday package to me means so much more than a check would have (although the check is always mucho!

I love my family. They make me want to be a better person...a better friend, a better daughter and a better sister! I feel so indebted to them for how well they treat me, even at my age and living so far away...It makes me want to make a really grand gesture when I go home...But I feel like nothing I do could ever be enough...Until the day I can buy my Mom her Jaguar and my Dad a huge Sailboat...But I'll try, just the same...because they deserve it!

<3 I wanna go home and hug my it March 26th yet?!?!?

Thursday, 19 February 2009

another day, another...

...late blog...

what? So I did it again, forgot to blog before midnight...At least this time I had a good reason...

Mediterranean Gastronomic Society, take V.

I led Team Lebanon...and I had an AMAZING group in my kitchen, hand picked, actually. Yara, Panos, Alicia, Tim, and Louisa...We were rockin'!

starter: Lebanese Cheese Rolls (a.k.a. phyllo dough filled with a mix of goat cheese, feta, parsley, and mint, baked until golden)
main: Mini meat pies with yogurt sauce over rice (ground beef, onion, pine nuts, and herbs in hand made pastry with a sauce of yogurt, garlic, and coriander)
dessert: Lebanese rice pudding (arborio rice, milk, sugar, etc. finished with orange blossom water)

Everything we made was amazing! Our team won for best starter and best main dish...I thin the only reason we didn't win the dessert was because some people aren't appreciative of the amazing power of orange blossom water...even though its really delicate and subtle...more of an aroma than a flavor...I want more rice pudding now, just thinking about it!

(p.s. this was the first time in my life I ever tried rice pudding...and it was from scratch...nom nom yum!)

Oh, how I love cooking...almost as much as I love winning! ;-)


Wednesday, 18 February 2009

So ahead of the times...

...and by time, I mean I beat the clock! Blog before midnight! Yay me!

this is probably because I'm so tired that I can't focus on school work... stupid text messaging until 2:30 am coming up with brilliant ideas... definitely cuts into a girl's sleep! But c'est la vie... what fun would life be without random bits of inspiration and ideas to make millions?!?! LOL!

I also got my ticket to Seattle today, so I get to see everyone worth seeing in America, all in one trip! I'm excited!

Literally spent 30 minutes sitting in my window today, soaking up sun...mmmm so nice! At this time I also did a bit of writing in my journal...then looked back at some entries from like 3 years ago...its crazy how long ago that was, it feels so much more recent...and its crazy to see what things are now different...and what is still the same...tends to put your life back into context, ground you a bit when you're head has been moving towards the clouds about certain things and memories...

p.s. I'm catching up on Grey's Anatomy...and the one I watched today made me cry! what a sap!

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

so late...again

Man I suck at this...I always wait 'til evening to post, because I rarely have anything to say in the mornings, but then I get distracted by life and forget to post! OOPS!

At least tonight the distractions were in the form of some of my favorite things:

Skype video chat with my bearded child molester best bud
skype catch-up with my Fab fave Londoner
skype type-fest with my Lebanese lover
cell phone convo of the year with my Scot-Jew plus additional texting

total time spent: 4 hours
getting out of my quarter life crisis for a few hours: PRICELESS

I may have melted my entire brain with radio waves, and I definitely got NO work done tonight. But friends make it all worth while, and they make me smile, which is so much better than reading ANOTHER book about food and ethnicity :-)

I love you, and goodnight!

Monday, 16 February 2009


I happened upon this website that another blog I follow posted...

Its the most hilarious product website I have ever visited!

make sure you check out the "What is Spam" section...

I've never tried Spam, but now I'm a little

Sunday, 15 February 2009

too many thoughts...

I have so many thoughts going through my mind this weekend, that I have a hard time finding inspiration to write here...

I am not yet ready to display some of these ruminations on the internet, although none of them are necessarily embarrassing, shameful, negative, or offensive...just too tangled to relate on writing...

I need to talk to a few people...and I need to make some decisions...but luckily, the whole purpose of this month long blog exercise is to motivate me into action. Helping me figure out what I WANT, and how I can go about achieving that.

sometimes I wish the world weren't so full of choices...decisions are not easily made by those with complex, conflicting personalities...and as a woman, in a world where I have been brought up to believe that I can do ANYTHING I set myself to do, the overabundance of available choices is daunting...and decisions hard to come by and harder still not to second guess...

I hate to say it in writing...that makes it real, and evidential in a court of law (in case someone ever tries to prove me insane, that is...) but sometimes I wish life now was like it was 100 years ago...where I would already be married, with a husband who worked, and I stayed home to cook and clean the house and care for the kids...How terrible is that? Yes, I might have still been able to attend college, but I could have also been secure in knowing that I was making the right choice because it was practically the ONLY option...To be a wife and mother...a respectable position, but one that I feel (perhaps illogically) I'm over qualified to settle for...I am a product of the 20th Century, one filled with war, and poverty, and suffrage, and literature, and media, and medical and technological advancement at the speed of light...

We have it all, they say...we can be anywhere in the world in 24 hours...we can go to space, we can defy death, and gravity, and women can be more successful than men...but no one can ever have it all, and right now I feel like i'm grasping at straws, trying to find that one piece that will lock it all into place, to allow me to STAY happy...being happy isn't the problem, its being happy with what I choose and continuing to know I've made the right decisions that haunts me. Perhaps this is where my insomnia stems from...I can only know the outcome of the decisions I made in hindsight...who knows how much more I've missed out on by taking the roads I did...

...And I am missing out...I am not complete...

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Je suis desolee

I forgot to post today...i thought about it at like noon, but had nothing to write so I figured I would wait...then i completely got caught up in randomness...Text-a-thons and phone calls recounting the party (which was amazing BTW), skype date with parents, researching different degrees (as I'm having ANOTHER identity crisis...meh), more phone calls, and the world of Jane Austin a la "Pride and Prejudice"...

SO yah...The party was SUCH a success...No one was as decked out as Yara and myself...will post pics when i get some, but suffice it to say I was slutted up real a lot of fun new people...whom I had fab drunk philosophical conversation with, some not so fun people...I ignored them. Went on a midnight adventure to Bruntsfield in search of alcohol...with a driver who have literally driven 4 times in her LIFE! ahahaha! Realized that I'll always love Jack and diet...I don't care if it isn't "real whisky"! Got home SO drunk I practically FELL out of the cab at like 4 am....and woke up at 9 am...ew

And I have had Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" stuck in my head for two days...I only know like 3 lines! HA!

Happy VD!

Friday, 13 February 2009


Ok so tonight is the "Anti-Valentines Lucifer, Liquor, and Lingerie Party" That my friend's Adam, Yara, and I are throwing. Otherwise known as "3L" There will be red and black scantily-clad people. There will be booze. There will be a DJ. There will be red lighting. And hopefully there will be some sinful behavior!

Oh, how I love a good theme party and an excuse to wear underwear!


Thursday, 12 February 2009

Kim's Baked Therapy

I'm drained. It's been a LOOOONNNNGGG day.

But I got a lot accomplished, I never got around to other stuff, and I'm SUPER excited about the party tomorrow night. 'Twill be fun. And if it isn't I shall eat my cupcakes and truffles anyways! HA!

Seriously though, cupcakes are amazing. The power they have over people is scary. Cute, palm-sized cakes in individual containers with a pile of frosting. Give someone a cupcake and they're quite happy with you and the universe. This could be useful information and tactical defense in various situations. For example:

1) You forgot to pick up the dry cleaning/milk/stamps
2) You lost something you borrowed
3) You RUINED something you borrowed
4) You forgot someone's birthday/anniversary/event
5) You have bad news
6) You are breaking up with someone
7) You ran over someone's pet

OK...the loss of a pet MIGHT be pushing it, but seriously, I think a cupcake can help heal all the other situations. Call it baked let-down therapy.

I think I'll open a cupcake shop in Edinburgh. Call it Kim's Baked Therapy. The name might need work. Too bad "Sprinkles" is taken...

Wednesday, 11 February 2009


Ok so there is a GOOD reason why I am late in posting today/yesterday...

I undertook a HUGE task never before attempted in the land of Kim...

Yes, thats right Ladies and I made homemade truffles!

Chocolate Honey Almond and Chocolate Chili...Mmmmmm!

I kind of wiish this was one of those things on my "list of things to do before I die" because this was DEFINITELY an accomplishment!

I love baking/chocolatiering (what is the word for that?) Stress relief 101...make something yum!


Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Here's what I want...

I want a supervisor who actually knows how to SUPERVISE! Stop being such a pretentious old DICK and do some EDUCATING!

You work in a UNIVERSITY! A God Damn EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTION! I am not paying a ridiculous amount of money to be told over and over again to have more precise ideas, to have my own theories.

If I HAD a theory I would already HAVE A GOD DAMN THESIS!

If I KNEW how to focus my ideas better I would DO IT! OBVIOUSLY I need better feedback to know WHAT I'm doing RIGHT so that I know WHAT to focus on. Stupid son of a bitch.

I need to hit something.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Je ne sais pas...

what a weird day...

I couldn't sleep well last night (shock of the bloody century, I know), causing me to not be able to drag myself out of bed at the normal time, causing me to skip my workout today before school. Then after school I went on a ROFL-fest/jaunt through the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens (excuse me, SNOW-COVERED botanic gardens) with my friend Adam, had more ROFL-ing in the most wonderful coffee shop I've ever seen in my life, came home to do a smattering of school-related things, made a fab dinner, watched Friends, and discovered exactly HOW MUCH I love dates...the fruit...they're amazing...wished Auntie a happy birthday...more reading...and now I really want a hot bath...something I never do/desire...SO I think I shall opt for a hot 11 pm...who does that? Then I will crawl into bed with "Pride and Prejudice" because the Botanic Gardens made me think of what Pemberley would look like under the snow...Le Sigh...

Oh, Monday...


Sunday, 8 February 2009


I want you...I want you so baaaad...

lol I was influenced by the 7.5 minute video on Dar's blog...I haven't eaten chocolate in one week, which is HUGE for me! And I have been thinking of things to make for the Anti-Valentine's Day Lucifer, Liquor, and Lingerie party I'm co-hosting on Friday...

I'm thinking:

Super-chocolate espresso cupcakes with vanilla buttercream (with naughty decoration that cannot be disclosed here)
Vanilla chai cupcakes with chai-spiced frosting (same decorations ;-))
home made balsamic truffles
hazlenut truffles
chocolate dipped vodka chilies

ambitious? yes...and I probably won't get to do them all, but a girl can dream, right?!?!

Sweet Dreams...

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Nectar of the Gods...

I spent an hour and a half today sitting in Starbucks...Why, you may ask is this out of the ordinary for Kim? Doesn't she have an unhealthy addiction to Cafe Estima blend drip coffee? Well, yes I do...but I was actually there because I was doing fieldwork. Yes, I actually have a project for a class that involves me sitting in Starbucks and studying the culture there to teach me about participant observation and how to do ethnographic research...I love Anthropology!

I was supposed to have a "research question" in mind when I began research...and I tentatively did, but as EVERY Anthropologist will tell you, no matter how strong your question, and the theory and evidence behind them, most of these questions will go right out the window two seconds into your research. This, I have always found, it totally true. I prefer to have a general idea of what I want to look at then go at it, participating, observing, asking questions, meeting people, interviewing, and getting a good idea of something interesting going on that can then be theorized on and written up.

Alas, funding bodies and Human ethics committees don't see it this way...I blame medical research, which has slowly killed social research for the rest of us through the slow, choking spread of Human Subjects Protocols, Bureaucratic committees, and miles of University red tape. Damn medical research killing people in the name of research...haha I wish I was kidding!

But the point here is, I get to sit at Starbucks and write about what I see, hear, smell, taste, and do. Also, what all the other patrons see, hear, smell, taste and do...And the baristas. How fun! Plus, its an excuse to do my homework free of internet distraction...(I definitely have an addiction). Yeah, sometimes life is tough...I think I'll go make a Tazo tea... :-)

In case you're interested...I'm studying the discrepancies between three Starbucks within a mile radius of each other. For a company that has built their empire on universal uniformity, there seem to be many variations in stores depending on (I think) area and clientele...prices, offerings, extras...they aren't universal. Interesting? Maybe...we'll just have to wait and see!

Friday, 6 February 2009

February... really a shat month. Have you ever noticed how the month of February is always the coldest, dreariest, and least pleasant month of the calendar? I wonder why that is...

I assume it is ONLY so dreary in the Northern the South, they are at the tail end of summer, soaking up the last of the rays before fall sets in next month...I wonder what that's like. Sometime I would like to go to South America during February to see how the other half live...Instead of chasing wealth, I'll chase the sun!

This also makes me wonder, if the reason behind so many quirks of February is the attempt of some poor schmuck to lighten the burden of FEbruary...the dragging tail end of winter, the sllloooooowwww final weeks before the return of the sun...

Think about it...Groundhog Day-the day Americans gather around a hole in the ground to see if some poor animal will see his own shadow or not...six more weeks of winter? Winter over? Oh! The dramatic build-up! Really...a shadow? doesn't the SUN determine whether a shadow is seen? And lets be honest, it can be sunny as hell and still as cold as a witches tit! But I suppose we can still dare to dream.

Valentines Day, the day of love...what better excuse for a holiday centered around creating a sense of love, companionship, and appreciation for the people we care about than a month where the mercury is permanently hovering around freezing?!?! Just slap a Saint's name on a day...give it a Pope's sanction, and there you go! The perfect mid-month break from monotony and depression (unless you are single and jaded...hehe) to remind us about INNER warmth..awwwww!

Mardi Gras-ok, this isn't exactly the same, Its just the final party before Lent forces the good Souls into abstinance until Easter...But perhaps by giving up your vice, you can focus on how much you miss Wine instead of how much you miss the Summer...Smart Catholics...And Mardi Gras...who cares about the temp when you're three sheets to the wind?

Lastly, the 28 day month...WHERE did that come from?!?! Yes, you might say something about the Romans and their calculations of the planetary orbit blah blah...but they COULD have just shortened January and March into 30 day months, giving February 2 extra about lack of equality! UNLESS those smart Romans KNEW that February was bound to be shit no matter what, and they wanted to give hope to the masses that they only had to live through 28 days of nasty until March rode in on its White Horse, with spring in its saddle bag!

<3 Happy February!

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Its really not fair...

...when someone who is supposed to be less capable of commitment than you falls into a fabulous, happy relationship...

I hate that! And although I AM happy for my friend, I can't help but feel like I have been left behind, again. Not left behind like discarded for something better, but left behind in the race to pull my life together...This person always seems to be a few steps ahead of me in life...but is only SLIGHTLY older than me. BLAH! Their firsts always came before my own...except for one, the moving-out-of-the-parents-for-the-first-time was mine...seems insignificant when I consider all the other things they have done before me...How childish do I sound right now?!?!

I have a splitting headache...cause unknown...possibly the lack of sleep last night, possibly the hours spent staring at a computer screen (at least I got SOME writing done today), possibly the sugar withdrawls from the detox...LOL!

Anyway...I am jealous. There, I said it. Or typed it rather...I'm jealous because I'm being left behind in the one area that I can't ever seem to catch up in. I'm pretty sure that I'm incapable of actually being attracted to or attracting anyone worth my time. I am probably some sort of asexual abnormality, capable of procreating alone. I now sound like a bad emo song...what the HELL is wrong with me today?!?! I blame the headache...

The one thing that REALLY annoys me is the fact that I am so competitive with this person...because we are far too alike...its a bit scary. This makes me want to run out and pick up a random Rugby player and make him my toy...But I must face facts. I am neither that whorish or that mean. Rugby would probably be an idiot and I would make him the chew toy for my verbal abuse due to said stupidity. Le sigh.

So I'm back to the theme for blog month..Want. I want to find someone who isn't intimidated by me. Does that man exist? If so, send his CV straight to my inbox. Thanks.

This is how I feel right now:
Angry Orangutan
Angry Orangutan Funny Picture

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

its addictive...

...the books that suck you in and make you forget about everything else you need to do...

I blame Stephenie Meyer.

good night.

To make up for yesterday...

...I will attempt to write TWO (yes, count 'em, two) blogs today! I am hoping that by doing one now I can then undertake another one in a few hours time.

I was just reading an article about in taste in food. According to this author, taste is dictated to us through media outlets such as TV commercials, magazines, supply at supermarkets, and the officiating presence of mass-produced cookbooks. Now, this is quite a grand statement. To assume that taste is not, in fact, something which we develop as children and then carry with us all our lives (which has traditionally been a common theme in Social studies of food behavior). No, this article is assuming that we are so weak-minded that our taste for what is "good" or "bad" can be swayed by the media and popular culture.

I am not claiming that either of these theories is wrong...but I don't believe that either of them are independently correct either. As children, we learn culture through seeing it, experiencing it, and recreating it. We learn from our families and whatever influences our parents expose us to. This leads to patterned behavior, which in food-land, means that we develop a taste for what is yum, and what is not so yum. We also in childhood learn habits, such as eating at certain times of day, eating certain types of meals, and eating certain foods in certain ways. This is where kids (at least in America) learn that sugar= the best and broccoli= not so yum. These habits and beliefs become so ingrained within us that as we get older, it becomes harder and harder to see various ways of eating, and types of unknown products as "food".

On the other side of the debate, research HAS shown that by promoting a product in an attractive way, people will be more willing to buy it. This is especially true in regards to food. We all need it to survive. Most of us like it. So it can be quite easy to be sold on an item of food from a commercial or magazine. Of course, this is assuming that the food being promoted is not SO foreign as to be seen as taboo or inedible by the audience.

And there are always the exceptions to the rules. There are people who are always interested in new types of food. They thrive off of new experiences (culinarily, in this context), and they are always open to experience "New" tastes. Also, there are those people who never try new things, no matter who endorses it or what the product consists of.

These first people go against the former theory, and may be considered victims of the latter. The second group may be seen as champions of the former and enemies of the latter.

But in my point of view, they are both neither here nor there. Being cultured a certain way, most people will always find ways to make the unfamiliar familiar through the addition of comfortable ingredients, cooking methods, or ways of eating. They either will or will not become prey to the media's endless onslaught of ideas as to the edibility and desirability of numerous products. Others will not jump in the car and hit their nearest supermarket for the new fad food because of dietary restrictions, yet they may find ingenious ways to try new foods outside of the mediated brand names who pay for their products to be (figuratively) shoved down our throats. The things that are harder to change are habits surrounding food. When food is eaten, where it is eaten, and in what quantity. These things take conscious effort to change. Taste is much more subtle a thing.

What I'm trying (not so eloquently...i'm tired) to say is that we cannot theorize on the concept of "taste" in regards to food. Our taste buds change our entire life, and with globalization our choices are constantly changing too. Culture shifts are nebulous, and we usually cannot see how an outside influence is changing a group or society until after the fact. Hindsight is 20/20, and Heinz' sight is 360...but that doesn't mean they influence us all in the same way.

So don't assume that you will NEVER eat Escargots...or that the burgers and fries you eat are eaten by some sort of free will devoid of cultural influence. Change happens, tastes change.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Acculturation... Inspiration?

Acculturation is the act of exchange of cultural features between groups that come into continuous firsthand contact; such as a migrant culture and the alien culture they find themselves within. Original cultural patterns of either or both groups may be altered with continued contact, but one culture usually dominates the other with their norms and ideals.

This is the phenomenon that I want to study for my PhD. I want to study acculturation through foodways. Food is a dominant part of all cultures, and impacting forces such as religion, myth, folklore, taboo, ritual, festival, migration, and rules all have bearing on food choices we all make. Yes, we may not think these types of rules apply to us. But they do. We have been culturally conditioned to believe that some edible items are "food" and some aren't. Some foods are clean, some dirty, some hot, some cold, some healing, some impassioning, some poisoning.

Food inspires me. I love all types, from the raw to the cooked (there's a Levi-Strauss reference for you), from the hot to the cold, spicy and sweet. I love learning how to make new things: new regional and national delicacies, new methods of cooking, new spices, new ingredients. Because inside all the new, exotic, unheard of foods, there is always a connection. A connection to another place, another time, another people. This connection could stem from ritual significance over time, or from the use of a certain spice across the world, or from the creation of the exact same dish thousands of miles apart, known by a different name, but in essence it is the same food.

Adaption to a new culture is often done as a means to fit in, to fight persecution, and to end or diminish the status as "outsider". But this doesn't always happen. In large groups of migrants, holding on to one's home culture is a way of reinforcing ethnic identity and strengthening the group dynamic. while substitutions, alterations, and secession of certain ingredients or methods might change, the essence of the cuisine will remain the same.

To me as an American, this is an amazing concept. America has been a land of acceptance for centuries (at least of foodways, if not always the people who bring them). As such, there is NO real, indigenous American cuisine. It is an amalgamation of influences, ingredients, methods, rituals, and beliefs from all over the world. Yet we still distinguish between "Italian" "Mexican" and "Japanese" cuisines...even though the "Italian" pizza now has a Thai chicken topping, the "Mexican" taco is filled with california avocado and chinese cabbage, and the "Japanese" sushi roll comes with Mexican hot sauce on top. Fusion is everywhere in America. Especially in restaurants.

All of these ideas are the main motivation for my thesis. the blending of traditions across national and cultural boundaries through the neutral zone of a restaurant. We can be anything we want, from anywhere we please, when we eat. Food has the power to transform us through new smells, tastes, and sensations. for the traveller who can't afford to leave their home town, ethnic restaurants can be the window through which they vicariously traverse the map.

Food is inspiration. Acculturation is the means by which we become inspired.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

I Want... change a lot about myself. Why is it that humans are always striving to change things about themselves that they dislike? When did we begin to recognize the difference between ourselves and others as a possible reason for self-change? Probably two seconds after we began to string sounds together into coherent longer groups of sounds that turned into words that we used to state our thoughts and make the categories and comparisons that have come to set us apart from other animals as the "intelligent" ones...

....stupid bloody early Homo sapiens...So this month is the blog-a-day thingy...I'm not officially doing it on the website...but I will try to post something everyday as a motivation for the new changes I am starting to bring into my life tomorrow.

1) I need to get out of this residence I live in. It is literally making me crazy. Crazy being a mix of angry, anxious, and depressed. Terrible mix. I don't want to be the chick that goes crazy and lights herself on fire, running down the street in flames, and ending in the Firth of Forth in the middle of winter. The only good that comes from things like that is a news story. Self-cremation isn't for me.

2) I need to detox. Not one of those silly only drink Tabasco, water, and syrup things...but a detox of sugar, wheat, dairy, and meat. I need better eating habits if I am serious about my plan to live to be 100 years old (another reason I need to escape the Res). I am also supposed to cut out caffeine and alcohol. Really, the caffeine is impossible. I have school work to do. The last thing I need is caffeine withdrawals for a week. I'll just wean myself down a bit...and the no alcohol will be easier. I don't drink that often anyways...

3) I need to find my focus. Focus for my thesis. I need to procrastinate less. Yes, I know a blog is just another possible distraction...but I am hoping the blog will hold me accountable. I may print this one to remind me who and what I am doing all of this for:

my health
my future
my family
my friends

if that isn't worth it, then what is?!?!?

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

The Door to the Year...

"January is named for Janus, the god of the doorway; the name has its beginnings in Roman mythology, coming from the Latin word for door (ianua) - January is the door to the year" (wikipedia)

the past month has definitely been one that can be symbolized by doors. In many different cultures and religions, doors are seen as portals:

Door: Hope; opportunity; opening; passage from one state or world to another; entrance to new life; initiation;
the sheltering aspect of the Great Mother. The open door is both opportunity and liberation.

Christian:Christ— “I am the door.” The three doors of a cathedral or church signify faith, hope, and charity.

Hindu:Divinities are carved on door jambs, indicating the deity through which man enters the Supreme Presence.

Mithraic:The entrance to the seven zones of Paradise or the cave of initiation.

Roman:Janus is the god of the doorway and holds the keys of the power of opening and closing.

Zodiacal:The summer solstice in Cancer, is the “door of men” and symbolizes the dying power & descent of the sun, the Janua inferni.The winter solstice in Capricorn, the “door of the gods” is the ascent & rising power of the sun, the Janua coeli. These doors are also associated with the entrances and exits of initiation caves and with souls entering and leaving the world. In Hinduism they are the deva-yana (Janua coeli)& the pitri-yana (Janua inferni).

(Dar-Initiation caves are prevalent in "A War of Witches")

Looking back on the past month, I can see that January has definitely lived up to its name. Not only has it ushered in a new calendar year, but January has also led to new ideas, discoveries, resolutions, decisions, friendships, and pitfalls.

New Years itself was eventful...

Shawn and James arrived in London on December 28th...for Dar and I, it was a giddy, surreal moment-when two completely different planes of life come crashing together, like the layering of two semi-transparent photos together to create a new, slightly weird in its complete normality, picture of your life. this happened the to me the first time i visited Dar in London after moving here...but having Shawn and James here...two completely non-student, non-long term, non-UK kids...really brought the contrast into high relief. It was fabulous.


We all trekked up to Edinburgh that night on the bus ride from Hell...

and then the Hogmanay extravaganza began!

In Edinburgh, the celebration of New Years is still referred to as "Hogmanay" and this city does it right! Four days of events, including the kick-off of the torch ceremony, in which thousands of people with torches trek up Calton hill and light a Viking effigy, then watch fireworks to begin the official Hogmanay.


The next three days are filled with concerts, Ceilidhs (traditional dances), parties, and the big Princes Street Party to officially bring in the New Year. the entire street is closed off to allow thousands of people to wander, socialize, drink, and listen to various bands perform. Midnight brings amazing fireworks...and then the party keeps going!


I was lucky to spend this time with some wonderful people-Dar, Shawn and James of course; and also Chris Taylor, Ken, and many of my Edinburgh friends. It was definitely an experience I will never forget!


January 2nd brought the usual New Years reflections on life and all its subtle quirks and questions...what to do about my thesis, where to go for fieldwork, when can I return home to see my friends and family? will i get funding? where will I live when my lease is up? what was I doing a year ago? how can the Twilight books be THIS good? have I really lived here for four months already? ???????

all these questions and musings are doors, of course...doors into my conscious/subconscious mind...things I worry about and ponder both awake and while sleeping (I'm light sleeper, and as such I often remember my dreams). None of these things are any scarier or worse than other years, or other times, but when you find yourself facing an entirely NEW set of months over which to leave your mark and make a difference, some things just become more important and thrown into sharp relief. This IS the time to make changes, to become self-aware, and to allow the symbolic nature of this time of year to carry you to resolutions for your life. It should be called a New Life resolution....not New Year...a year, in all actuality, is far too transient.

I know I must sound strange and metaphysical...But I do believe that there is powerful potential in the New Year...we just need to find it, hold on, and be willing to go for a ride!

I have met some wonderful people these last few months, and seen some wonderful things...I can't wait to see what 2009 brings!