Thursday, 12 February 2009

What To Post?!

I have been debating for a while, trying to come up with the perfect post for this-- my 100th. And I came up with... nothing. Which is why I haven't updated this in more than a week now. Instead, I decided to turn it over to the visitor I've been hosting for two weeks-- Flat Stanley.

Let me introduce you. One morning a couple of weeks ago, I was greeted by a brown manilla envelope in my letterbox. When I opened it, out popped this very happy little man. He introduced himself to me as Flat Stanley (thanks to an incident with a bullitin board, if I remember right). He had come from Texas, at a suggestion by my friend Barb to her young friend Abigail. I was surprised and very pleased to have company, and to show him around my city-- Aberdeen-- and my adopted country-- Scotland!! So, without further ado, I give you... Flat Stanley.

Hi everyone! I'm Flat Stanley. I've been having a great visit here in Scotland, and I'd love to tell you a little bit about it...

This is me, re-enacting my arrival at Amie's place on King Street. When I first arrived, I was securely wrapped up in an envelope... so this is just for fun. Because I thought this was a cool way to get the post. More exciting than just a plain old mailbox, anyway.

Along with my new friend Amie, I've been getting to know the locals. This is Dillinger, but his friends call him Dillon. Amie calls him Dill-Weed. He's a bit of a handful, but we get along just fine. Until he steals my seat on the sofa, that is. When I leave, I'll fly out from a post box much like this. So I guess you could say this is my airport. I like the red. Makes a change from the boxy blue ones I'm used to.
One of the places I've spent most of my visit has been with Amie on the campus of the University of Aberdeen. She's a student, and she works there-- taking notes for students with disabilities. I've learned some interesting things about Scottish law, helping her take notes. Anyway, we've also been lucky (?!) enough to get snow while I've been here. This is me, looking over the playing fields at King's College, just off University Road.
This is Powis Gate, and is also on the campus. There's a gold star for the first person who can name the Biblical character I am imitating. =D There is a nice coffee shop through these gates, where Amie has taken me to meet some of her friends. I hear there is a nice bear, Inca John, who is well-traveled like me. I haven't met him yet, but I hope to tomorrow when we come back for coffee again....
It was cold, but I braved it, even without a coat or hat, to play in the snow a little. From what Amie tells me, Aberdeen doesn't usually get snow, and even rarely this much. I prefer it to the rain that I hear is more typical.
I'm thinking about applying here, so we stopped in to registry. There was a long line, though, so we didn't stay.
Here I am, chillin' on campus. Literally. That's the King's College Chapel behind us, with the crown on top. It's one of the most-recognised buildings in Scotland. Pretty cool, huh?
Here it is again, the King's College crown. I'm standing under the arches of Elphinstone Hall, to get out of the snow for a bit.
This week, I got a special treat. I wasn't expecting to get out of Aberdeen on this visit (which is okay-- there's a lot to see here), but Kenny was going to Glasgow for a day and offered to take me along! He was a wonderful host and traveling buddy. We caught the train early, and had a nice Scottish snack along the way-- tea, of course. Hot.

We arrived and departed from the main station in Glasgow... where things are not just written in English, but are also written in Gaelic! I couldn't even begin to pronounce that....

We stopped in at the Tourist Information Centre, in George Square. It is one of the most famous places in Glasgow-- the Square, not the Centre. It is a large square full of statues to famous Scots. Very cool.
This is Amie's favourite picture, and while it's cool, it didn't mean quite as much to me. At first. That blue box is an old fashioned police call box, that people could use if they needed the police. But what makes it special to Amie is that it is also known as the Tardis, and is the home and transportation for the Doctor. Once she showed me an episode of Doctor Who (a classic British sci-fi show that is in its fifth season of the 'new' version), I understood much better why Kenny suggested this photo.
There are kiltmakers in every city and town, because men really do wear them! I'm still hoping to get my picture with a man in a kilt, but for now, the store will have to do.
We stopped here at the Royal Concert Hall, but we didn't get to hear anyone. We only had a short visit, after all.
Since my day in Glasgow, I've gotten to do a bit more with Amie. It hasn't really stopped snowing, and it sure has been cold! But don't worry, Amie's been taking good care of me. I've travelled in warmth and relative comfort....

Aberdeen is right on the coast of the North Sea, but even so, it was very strange to see the beach covered with snow. In the distance there you can see the harbour and the lighthouses... but not well. They are still a bit far.
While at the beach, we took in a film at the cinema. Amie tells me this is like her second home, so she had to bring me here at least once.

I have gotten to do some more things, and I have plenty more photos... but for now, I'll say good night. Tomorrow we're planning to go into the city centre, and who knows where else?! Footdee... the Harbour... Torry Battery... I'll let you know! If anyone has any suggestions of things I shouldn't miss while I'm here, let me know! I'm sure Amie would be agreeable. She's a great host. Thanks, Barb, for suggesting sending me here-- and thanks, Abigail, for sending me! I'm having a great time, and will be excited to come back and tell you and Ms. Suzy's class all about it! Tell everyone hi for me! See you soon!


Flat Stanley

Monday, 2 February 2009

My Other Favourite Day of the Week

It used to be Thursdays. Now it might be Wednesdays... or another day altogether, I'm not entirely sure yet. But the reason it's my favourite won't change. And the reason is this.

Once a week I get together with my good friends the Beckers. Carrie and Scot are the only people left who started here with me, and over the years I have gotten to watch their boys, Matthew and Adam, grow up (they are six and four now). It has been great to get to know the four of them, and we've had opportunities: over coffee, at our previous years' girl's nights, in book club, at church. But it wasn't until this year that we decided to be more intentional about spending time together. I went to their place with Paige and Kristianna for Thanksgiving, and that was when we got the bright idea to do dinner together every week. It's normally homemade soup and homemade bread, and dessert or wine or something else if I have it to contribute. Carrie is a great cook, so I always look forward to the food... but mostly to the fellowship. We eat, we talk, we enjoy our evening. We've even been known to watch films, or play Uno, or make a Christmas tree (more on that in a minute). It really is a routine I haven't minded falling into, and don't know what I would do now without it. The other gals are invited, too, but so far no one else has taken them up on their hospitality. I won't mind sharing when and if others decide to come along, but... I haven't minded getting the family all to myself, either. =D

Other than dinner at their flat, I have had the chance to do some other things with them, as well. For Carrie's birthday in December, they wound up with extra tickets to the first annual Boot Scootin' Ball here in Aberdeen. Their upstairs neighbour was playing in one of the bands, there was dinner and line dancing, and lots and lots of confederate flags (I'm still not entirely sure why...). So I got to go along, and it was a fun night.

Here's me, in my country attire:
The event was held at the very fancy Beach Ballroom:
It was decked out in country-western style... with both American and Confederate flags, people in cowboy hats and boots, and a bouncy dance floor to help with the stepping. This was a line dancing demo by a professional line dancing group. Who knew?!
The entryway to the ballroom...
Scot and Carrie, taking in the atmosphere:

It was so much fun. I laughed. A lot. And brought home a little rebel flag from the table as a souvenier and a taste of home. I wish I had been able to get good shots of all the flags... there was one, on the stage, that just cracked me up. It was a rebel flag, with a seal in the middle showing a waving rebel flag surrounded with the motto 'The South Will Rise Again'. It was awesome. =D

But that's not the only fun I've had with the Beckers. Their boys are imaginative and smart, and I have a lot of fun with them. They must get that from their mom and dad. Carrie and Scot have done started a very cool tradition for celebrating advent with their family, and I've been lucky to share in it from time to time. Each day, they have a bag filled with advent goodies-- be they chocolate or nativity pieces or suggestions of ways to celebrate. Each person gets to pick out something from the bag, and then follow the directions/decorate with the item/share the chocolate. It is very cool, and a tradition I'm going to have to take with me. Since flats are small and trees can be expensive, my friends have gotten creative in years' past. For instance, they have liberated the branches trimmed from the large outdoor tree the pub in their block puts up in order to make their own makeshift tree. This year, Carrie had a brainstorm, and we worked on it after the kids were in bed. It turned out very cool, if I do say so myself. Who knew green wire and a broomstick could make a wonderful Christmas tree?

And finally, a picture that really does say a thousand words about these boys-- catches their personalities brilliantly.

So whatever the day, dinner with my friends is my other favourite day of the week. Thanks, Beckers, for letting me be a part of your family. I love y'all! =D

Sunday, 1 February 2009

London, Baby!

Do you ever wonder if people miss you as much as you miss them? If the people you think of as friends think as highly of you? Perhaps I'm just a weirdo, and a paranoid one at that, but I get worried sometimes that friends I haven't seen in a while (especially since I've been so bad at keeping in touch with people for the past couple of years) are just being polite when they say they want to get together and things like that. I worry that it'll be awkward to be around them, that they'll be disappointed in who I am now, that they'll wonder why they are friends with me... or something like that. I know it doesn't really make much sense, but I still always worry anyway.

And then, once I decide to brave it anyway, and I get together with friends-- well, I wonder why I ever worried. I should know better. My friends are my friends because they like me, and I like them. Time doesn't change that, and when I do get together with good friends it's often just like no time has passed.

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to spend a wonderful week with good friends. I got to know Abson and Lara at Asbury, and they now live in Jamaica with their two beautiful girls, Daniella and Sophie. I hadn't seen them since Daniella, who will be four this year, was a newborn and they were still in Kentucky, which means that I had never met Sophie, who is 18 months. It's amazing how time flies....

So my friends were in London for a month, in order for Abson to pass his viva (the lucky duck) and work on his corrections. And to visit me, of course. Or rather, for me to visit them. I'm sure that was a big part of the plan from the beginning. =D I would have loved for them to be able to come up to Scotland, but it was well worth the money for me to travel to London to see them for a week. I stayed with them in their accomodations at the London School of Theology, which was wonderful. A full week with good friends is something I don't get very often. And in London, no less. Woot.

I caught Megabus (always a wonderful experience. ha.) to Edinburgh, and spent one of the coldest days of my life in the capitol city. I love Edinburgh, and even though it was snowing and couldn't possibly have made it above 0*C that day. I spent most of it shopping for cool stuff to take to my friends, and just wandering around the Mile and Princes Street, sitting in Starbucks and Subway, and freezing my @$$ off in the train station. Because the sleeper train doesn't start boarding til 11pm, and everything pretty much closes by 7pm or so, I end up sitting in the very breezy train station for ages, until I finally convinced them to let me into the sleeper lounge at 9pm. It was supposed to be open, but they didn't have anyone to man it, so they didn't want to let me in. I finally talked them into it, and it was the warmest I'd been all day long. Once I got on the train, I got ready for bed and went right to sleep. Well, pretty much. We had some crazy delays, apparently due to flooding along the normal route, which meant we were awakened early and still got in late. And my breakfast? Huh. A cup of tea and two shortbreads. What kind of breakfast is that?!

Once I got into Euston, I walked from the train station to the tube station and made my way out to meet my friends. For the next week, whether we were out sightseeing or staying in drinking coffee, I didn't care. It was so great to get to catch up, to play with the girls, to just be with people who know me. I have friends here in Aberdeen, of course, but there is something special about friends who have known me before here. I guess that's why old friends really are the best... and I look forward to my Aberdeen friends being 'old friends' one day. In the meantime, I'm very lucky to have loads of other old friends from all the other stages of my life.

Anyway. I got to see a lot more of London this time, as well as spend the other coldest day of my life in Oxford, and reverse my trip back to Aberdeen on the sleeper (to Edinburgh) and then on Megabus. Whew. But in case you couldn't tell already, the best part was getting to be with Abson and Lara, and getting to know my 'nieces' Daniella and Sophie. As the photos will attest, they are cute as can be, and I dare anyone to disagree. =D Oh, and the photos are in no particular order. I'm running out of stream, so the photos will tell the rest of my story.

Big Ben, thankfully repaired after the Slytheen crashed the decoy spaceship into it

It was cold in London. Yes, that is ice in the fountains at Trafalgar Square.
The National Gallery, in Trafalgar Square
Having lunch at the British Museum
My neices at church

A little changing of the guards at BuckinghamBuckingham Palace
Cheeky wee Daniella
A good area for seeing things
Westminster Cathedral
London Bridge, not falling down. Oh, and my awesome new blue coat.
Beware the beheading!
I liked the Christmas tree perched up in St. Pauls.
On the bus. Good times.
The girls, out on the town.

The seige of Lachish, at the British Museum. Very, very cool. Cheeky wee Sophie
Christmas decorations in the city
The city at night, from the top of a double decker bus. Somewhere near Picadilly Circus.
The famous London fog, on the Thames
The inside of the British Museum, with the refurbished reading room up top
The Rosetta Stone. For real.

As good Wesleyans and United Methodists, Oxford was an important place for us. Aside from Wesley, it was important to us as fans of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, as well.
Having lunch at the pub, just like Lewis and Tolkien did.
Lara and Abson, Daniella and Sophie-- thanks so much for having me down, and for letting me invade your home-away-from-home for a week. It was wonderful getting to see y'all, and I love y'all lots! I can't wait to come to Jamaica next.... =D