Saturday, 31 December 2011

Reflections of 2011

The year is taking its last breaths. The light of the future is starting to shine through the gaps in the tapestry of time. Again, we begin to reflect on the past year and make promises with ourselves for the upcoming 12 months.

This morning on my way to the gym I heard "Hey Jude" on the radio. Suddenly I felt an emotional surge at the sound of the familiar chords and lyrics. I love this song, and I have a few key memories surrounding it, and the Beatles in general. But today, the Lyrics "Hey Jude, don't make it bad take a sad song and make it let it out and let it in, hey Jude, begin, you're waiting for someone to perform with. And you don't know that it's just you, hey Jude, you'll do, the movement you need is on your shoulder."

This is such a perfect example of the power we all have to look back at our lives with gladness instead of sadness, and to look to the future with a power that is all our own and not dependent on outside sources. 2011 was, overall, a hard year for me. I struggled a lot this year to wade through some severe personal downs and a soul-sucking, coma-inducing job. I lost my last paternal grandparent and I gained 15 unwanted pounds. I had moments of disillusionment and anger, lethargy and apathy.

But when I look back, I also realise that 2011 was a year filled with some amazing highs as well. I ushered the New Year in with a bang in New York City with some wonderful people, I visited new countries and caught up with old friends. I celebrated the wedding of a beloved cousin, the engagement of a close friend, and became more open with my thoughts to those around me. I cooked delicious food and saw amazing things. I visited new parts of Scotland and made new friends. I learned to deal with my problems in a constructive way and I finally grasped the thread that will lead me into the next stage of my life.

Because of all these things, I cannot look back in anger on the year that has been. I can only take my song and make it better, which I what I am working towards for 2012. I have decided to return to school to undertake my PhD in Anthropology. Specifically, medical anthropology-I will be studying the effect of a nationalised standard of bioethics on traditional health care systems in Mexico. Presently, I am waiting to be accepted at the institutions I have applied to. All are in the UK, so I am planning to spend a few more years across the pond. But due to visa restrictions, I will be staying in California from now until I return for University in the fall.

This brings with itself a new host of challenges and opportunities that take me to the second bit of lyrical wisdom that John and Paul offer. The movement I need to get where I want to be is here, with me. I will be accepted into a University, and I can get funding to pay for my research. I will take the time I have in California to re-connect with friends I have not seen and to spend more time with my extended family. I will take the time to write more, and practice my Spanish for my upcoming time in Mexico. I will get back into shape and I will find a job that allows me to do all of these things while I'm here.

I feel like I'm at the edge of a great precipice, but instead of feeling frightened of the fall, I feel enthused and empowered to take the leap and arrive at the next stage of my life with a proud stance and a happy heart. There is no room for fear when you have pure intent and confidence in your abilities. I might not get through 2012 in perfect form, but next December 31 I will look back and take the good with the bad, and hopefully the song of the year will be just a little bit sweeter.

Remember to look back at the year that has been with an open heart. Regret is a useless feeling and a terrible thing to get stuck in. I will look back at 2011 and remember the lessons learned, the laughs shared, the love felt, and the pages turned in my own story. I hope the same for all of you, and I hope that song of your year has some sweet and soothing lyrics to carry you into 2012.

<3 K

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Remember, Remember the month of November

"So dull and dark are the November days.
The lazy mist high up the evening curled,
And now the morn quite hides in smoke and haze;
The place we occupy seems all the world."
-   John Clare, November


I cannot believe that it is already November. Not to mention the fact that it is almost the MIDDLE of November! 2011 is passing so quickly, it seems like last week I was wandering the streets in sandals, whereas today I find myself thinking about my menu for Thanksgiving and pulling on my boots in the morning for warmth. The leaves started turning weeks ago, and now they are layering the ground like a springy carpet. You won't find any crisp leaves primed for crunching in this country. There's too much moisture in the air thanks to both the rain and the infamous Edinburgh Haar. According to Lonely Planet, "A distinctive feature of Edinburgh's weather is the 'haar', a dense, chilly fog that often blows in from the North Sea when the wind is in the east. " Yeah, that pretty much says it. The haar helps Edinburgh keep up her mysterious je ne sais quoi. 

Edinburgh Haar, Picture courtesy of Edinburgh Spotlight

Autumn has always been my favourite season. I love sweater weather, fall colours, the smell of winter and smoke in the air and the magical feel that the shift in the seasons seems to infuse into the everyday mundane. It's easier to smile when the world around you is so colourful!


Edinburgh is a city that thrives in the Fall. The bright blue sky contrasts with the fiery leaves, the gray stone buildings seeming to pull more character from the overcast skies than fading into the backdrop of the city. The air is crisp and the wind is brisk, necessitating the use of layers and the return of rosy cheeks and cold noses! 

The Balmoral Hotel and Register House seen from a bus on Leith Street
National Archives of Scotland

I know that some people find autumn to be a bit depressing-a reminder that the year is coming to an end,   life in someways is coming to an end, and the sun will be moving farther and farther away from us until midwinter passes. But for me, autumn is the time to start celebrating the beautiful things that the end of the year brings us-different foods, different fashions, trips to see friends and family, and the best of the yearly holidays! Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year! 

If I had my way, Fall would last much longer each year-I'm sure no-one would mind shaving off a few weeks of Edinburgh's sad excuse for a summer and brutal winter in order to spend a few more weeks walking through an autumn wonderland! 

<3 Kim

Sunday, 23 October 2011

What Sundays Are Made For

Sundays are my favourite day. They're lazy and quiet and open to all opportunities for doing whatever you want. To me, Saturdays are the day to clean and do laundry and go grocery shopping. On Sundays I get to do fun stuff like:

lay in bed
lay in bed and drink coffee
lay in bed and drink coffee and do the Los Angeles Times Crossword online
go to yoga
lay on the sofa and watch random movies
talk to my parents (still laying on the couch here)
bake new recipes
cook things that take more than 30 minutes to make
paint my nails
go hiking (thats one I only do in Cali)
read a book

Ahh, Sundays! Today I did 5 of the above things. I started the day feeling very lazy, and as the sun is not shining on Leith today, I decided to lay in bed drinking coffee and doing the LA Times crossword until almost 11 am. Due to this, I missed yoga so just did some incline walking instead. woo-wee! This afternoon, I decided to conquer my new food processor and a recipe I've been wanting to try for ages: GOLDFISH CRACKERS! Oh, the Pepperidge Farm Goldfish cracker. a feat of snacking engineering and one of the only food items from the US that I really miss. Problem is, I do not have a fish-shaped cookie cutter so I made cheesy heart crackers:

the dough is sooo easy to work with!
Baking up some cheesy yum!
Tasty and cute! They turned out really well, and I know I'm definitely going to make these again!

After chatting to my parents and baking the hearts, I needed to use some pumpkin puree I had leftover so I decided to try a recipe I found for pumpkin cornbread. I know, it sounds a bit weird, but it is SO good! And it makes for a really nice and moist cornbread. I ate it with homemade vegetarian butternut squash chili, while watching Toy Story 2 on TV. And the girl was happy!

Almost ready

Sundays...just the thing I need to recharge after one week, and just the thing to ease me into another boredom-filled week at work!

Ok I'm off to go read a book-might as well get as much as I can out of the last few hours left of my Sunday! Happy Week everyone!


Sunday, 16 October 2011

Fête des Vendanges

So I have this friend named Chris. Chris is from Simi Valley, but he lives in the small city of Neuchâtel, 
 in Switzerland. Chris has visited me in Edinburgh three times since I moved here. Not specifically to see me, but because he loves Edinburgh. And after meeting his girlfriend Stephanie in Edinburgh on New Years Day 2009, the city continues to hold special a sentimental spot in his heart. Anywho, Chris has been asking Adam and I (who he also met New Years 2008/2009 through me) to come visit for aaaaaages. So this year we finally did! 

Over the last weekend of September, Adam, Emma and I flew to Geneva on Friday afternoon and spent a few hours walking around there before heading to the Neuch. A giant jet of water spewing up in Lake Geneva is the city's only claim to fame. The excitement was palpable. not really. Geneva is the quietest city I've ever been to. And as I later found, the Swiss in general are a quiet people. 

Trying to be excited about the Geneva Jet, as I like to call it. Adam isn't feeling it. 

After a while we jumped on a train and headed for the Neuch. Trains in Switzerland, like clocks, are efficient and always on time! It was a nice change from the UK where random breakdowns and delays occur far too often. 

Every year Neuchâtel hosts the Fête des Vendanges, or the Wine Festival. It's a huge event, people come from all over to drink wine, eat food from street stalls, buy random souvenirs, listen to live music, and dance the night away under a shower of confetti in the middle of the street. For the stoic Swiss, this is the time to let their hair down. And indeed, they do. 


 People fill the streets from 8 pm until 3-5 am on Friday and Saturday nights. Wine is sold in plastic cups, and what with all the people around and the random confetti-bombings, you better drink fast or else your drink will be either 1) all over you or 2) filled with confetti. Neither option was desirable, so we just drank fast.  Chris here demonstrates the only way to save one's drink:

Chris, Adam, Stephanie, me, Emma (and top of random guy's head)

Once the confetti started raining down we got down to some serious dancing. It was an insane, hilarious, magical event. Confetti falling everywhere, people moving everywhere, the beat of the music defying anyone to not dance-it was like taking a step out of reality into a universe where rain was made of paper and glitter.

Once morning dawned, the Neuch was a different place. Quiet and sleepy streets winding across the landscape, butting up into Lake Neuchâtel. The buildings are quintessentially continental European. Rising taller than they are wide, painted in vivid colours with eaves and shingling that you would expect to only find on a gingerbread house. 

This part of Europe has given the world so many images of a time and way of living through literature and art. I still love seeing it for myself. 

On Saturday, while the other Fête revellers slept, we toured the town, breakfasting at a cafe in the square with delicious pastries and visiting the castle, a lovely church, and generally taking in the view.
Pondering my ethnographic future...

View of the Neuch from the Castle
 What a happy building! 

Saturday night, we had a traditional Swiss dinner at Chris' flat-Raclette!  Raclette is a type of cheese, and also a dish indigenous to parts of Switzerland. The way it is often served involves an electric table-top grill with small pans, known as coupelles, to heat slices of raclette cheese in. Generally the grill is surmounted by a hot plate or griddle. The cheese is sliced, accompanied by platters of boiled or steamed potatoes, other vegetables and meats. These are mixed with potatoes and topped with cheese in the coupelles that are placed under the grill to melt and brown the cheese. It was AMAZING! And a really enjoyable way to start the night! 
 Ready for Raclette!

On Sunday we went hiking in the Jura Mountains to the Creux du Van, a beautiful natural rock formation. The mountains lie between France and Switzerland and although the Jura aren't as high as the Alps, that hike was HARD! Probably the steepest hike I've done, and slippery ground to boot! But there were little amusements along the way...
 Goats just chillin' on the trail
 Creux du Van
 Doing ballet on top of the Creux du Van
 France is over there

After a the hike, and a filling but delicious dinner of fondue, I was well and truly wine and cheese-d out. After a relaxed last night, Adam, Emma and I headed back to the UK on Monday. As we walked through the town, vestiges of the festival were still present, slowly being torn down for another year. 
 As Stephanie and Adam waved us off (he left a few hours later) Emma and I settled in for another efficient train ride back to the airport. 
One more vacation over, summer behind us, and good memories to hold onto until Christmas! Viva la Suisse! 

<3 Kim

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Aphrodite's Isle

Summer 2011 was full of vacations for me. Being so close to so many places, and with a job that gives me 6 weeks paid vacation plus national holidays, how could I resist? Now, before you all start hating me for getting that much vacation time, let me remind you that my job is really VERY unpleasant, and without a chance to escape for long weekends, I might have gone insane by now!

So this year, as the mania of the Edinburgh festival was winding down, I flew off to the Island of Cyprus for 4 days of sun, sea, and Yara time! 
On Aphrodite's Beach

The first thing you must know about Cyprus is that it is FAR away from the UK. Context: Cyprus is closer to Lebanon than to any part of Europe. Yet, when you step off the plane and start driving across the small island, you immediately feel like you're in Southern California. The terrain is SO similar to Simi Valley, it's kind of disconcerting. Especially because the climate was so different. Hot, just like I had expected but also very humid. Walking outside was like walking though a bath. Definitely conducive to a slow island lifestyle! 

But Cyprus is also very Greek. The Greeks and the Turks, amongst many other civilisations, have fought over Cyprus for centuries. The Northern part of the Island is still under Turkish control, while the southern part is part of the European Union. There is so much history in Cyprus, so many old ports, ancient roads, and crumbling ruins that when you walk around you can actually feel just how powerful the ancients were, and just how devoted they were to this tiny island and it's claim to fame: Aphrodite. 
Aphrodite's Rock

According to Greek mythology, Aphrodite (the Greek Goddess of love and beauty) was born when Cronus cut off Uranus' genitals and threw them into the sea, and from the sea foam (aphros) arose Aphrodite. According to the Cypriots, this sea foam was off the coast of Cyprus, and they claim their land as her birthplace. There are temples to Aphrodite all over the island. 
Aphrodite's temple in Limassol
Such posers!

I had such a good time visiting Yara and meeting her mom and sister. They were so welcoming and generous, and Yara's friends were a lot of fun. We lounged around by the beach, visited ruins and mosaics in Limassol and Paphos, ate delicious Mediterranean food, and tried not to move too quickly until the sun set each evening! 
The view from Yara's flat
Paphos Mosaics
Climbing the ruins
It was such a nice way to spend bookend the summer, especially since Edinburgh experienced the WORST summer ever this year. It's nice to know that I'll always have the Mediterranean to save me from the rain and cold! :-) 
<3 Kim

Sunday, 4 September 2011

The Summer That Was...

Photobucket Sunshine over Edinburgh

Summer is coming to a close up here in Edinburgh-and the summer of '11 has been full of adventures, goodbyes, and schizophrenic weather. As is the annual fashion, there was some gorgeous weather in May and June that lulled the residents of Edinburgh into a false sense of security that THIS summer might be better than last year's...So we took advantage of the weather with a picnic in the Meadows.

Sylvia was very proud of her Tabasco
PhotobucketToo cool for school
Photobucket Smiles

We basked. We gossiped. We ate. I even got a bit of colour on the half of my body that was facing the sun. It is these memories that keep one going when the rain comes pouring down for a week following three days of sun.

July brought the graduation and inevitable leaving party of my friend Tanya. So we toasted her leaving Edinburgh for the next stage of her life at a gorgeous cocktail bar called Dragonfly.

Photobucket Cocktails!
So a Mexican, American, and Kenyan walk into a bar...

August brought the Edinburgh Festival. I did theatre reviews this year for the Edinburgh International Festival. Including this amazing opera, Thaïs. All music and singing-no acting. Definitely a different opera experience. You can see my reviews at

Á l'opera

August also brought the worst possible weather one can imagine for summer. Climate change is really not doing Scotland any favours. Except maybe ensuring that there will never be a drought on this waterlogged island. anywho...

I have almost lived here for three years, but I still find new things around Edinburgh that make me smile...

Photobucket Random alleys always make me smile...

It is these random finds, the small intricate details in the architecture, the new angles and small closes off the main streets that allow Edinburgh to maintain an air of mystery and magic centuries after being built.

Sunset around 11 pm

So now summer ends, the sun sets a bit earlier, and even though I know the fall will bring hurricane-like winds and rainstorms that strike like ninjas,  I also know that there will be a few more new discoveries, and maybe an indoor picnic or two! And so life goes on...

<3 Kim