Sunday, 19 August 2007

The castle in my backyard

Yesterday Malcolm and I went to our new apartment to take measurments of all the rooms. We are planning on slowly furnishing the rooms, but want to make sure our dream couches fit before we buy them.

I also wanted to spend some time exploring the area around our new home. We started by having lunch at a pub near our apartment. After lunch we went to the park half a block from our new place. Although it wasn't a very nice day (typical Scottish weather: cold rain) I could tell that the park was very nice... it had a very large green space, a spaceous playground, some pretty flowers, and paths throughout. It also had a path to Ravenscraig castle, which Malcolm and I decided to walk to. As we were walking to the castle I was suprised that we were actually walking behind our apartments parking lot. When we reached the Castle I realized that it's only about 100 feet from where we'll be living! The castle is open to the public and free to enter, there is no one there 'operating' it.

Malcolm and I walked into the castle. It was basically ruins of a smallish stone building. Once we were walking through the castle we realized that it was sitting on a cliff over looking the ocean. There were a set of stairs leading down to a lower cliff, and Malcom and I wanted to get down to the big sandy beach. We saw a very steep grassy hill that would lead us all the way down. Malcolm started to walk down, but I hesitated. It was still raining and I wasn't wearing shoes with a lot of traction. Despite my better judgement, I started down... and down and down and down. My third step downhill turned into a tumble, then a wet, muddy slide. Malcolm tried to get uphill and help me back to the top, but then HE fell, and I fell again! After a few tries we both got to the top, and were covered in mud. It was gross, and we still had our appointment with the realtor to view our apartment.

The good news, though, is that we live very close to a beautiful castle and a sandy beach. I can't wait to move in and explore further!

Saturday, 18 August 2007

It's serious this time

Just when I thought Jamaica was safe again, along came Dean. The summer of 2005 was notable for the number of named Atlantic storms. Scientist predicted that 2006 would be worse... wrong! Although I had left Jamaica before the 2007 hurricance season began, Malcolm and I still kept an eye on it... after all, I still had a bunch of Peace Corps friends there, and Malcolm's father, friends, and childhood was in Jamaica.

We saw that Dean was going to become a threat earlier this week. I was skeptical, most hurricanes that look like they're going straight for Jamaica end up turning at the 11th hour (which Jamaicans atribute to the power of their collective prayer). My tenure in Jamaica had been filled with false warnings, and more boozy hurricane parties (because we knew we really had nothing to worry about), than real hurricane damage. The worst I experienced was Ivan in 2004. Even Ivan barely brushed the south and west coast, causing damage but not catastrophe.

Dean looks differnt, though. Malcolm likens it to Hurricane Gilbert, the most infamous hurricane to hit Jamaica in the last 50 years. Much like Gilbert, Dean looks poised to sweep from Kingston to Montego Bay, touching almost every parish with it's winds and rains. Also, Dean is projected to become a Category 5 (worst) when it hits the island. Yikes....

Malcolm and I phoned one of our friends who is still in Jamaica. The US embassy has choosen to consolidate all volunteers in Kingston, deviating from the Peace Corps plan of consolidations in Kingston and Montego Bay. It may not seem that different, but remember that it is so hard for Volunteers to 'abandon' their communities during the hurricane. Volunteers that are living in Montego Bay and west may also be leaving behind Jamaican friends, pets, and loved ones. I'm sending all my positive energy to my friends and collegues in Jamaica...

On a happier note, Malcolm and I adopted a cat last week. Last Friday Malcolm and I went to the Cat Protection agency to pick up Fizz, a ginger and white cat who is of indiscriminate age (probably between 1 and 2 years old). He slipped quite nicely into our lives, and has quickly wrapped his little white paw around our hearts. Welcome to the family, Fizz!

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

New Beginings

This past weekend Malcolm and I continued our search for our first UK apartment. Earlier we had seen seven different properties in Fife county, where Malcolm works. Two or three of those properties had caught our eye, but for one reason or another we decided to wait and continue our search.

Fast forward to last Saturday... We had an appointment to see one apartment right on the Firth of Forth, the waterway that connects Edinburgh to the ocean. When we arrived, the realtor recognized us from our previous viewings. She was extreemly helpful, and queued up two more viewings for us that afternoon. The second place was furnished beautifully, but had bad feng shui (and was a fourth floor walk up, ug!). The third place was unfurnished, with nice wood floors; open and airy. It was also the largest of the three, with three double bedrooms, a utility room with a washing machine, a large kitchen and bathroom, and a good sized living room. We could have lived in any of the three apartments.

The realtor asked us which one we liked the best. Before we could make a decision, though, we asked which property would let us have a cat. She told us she would make inquiries, then get back to us. So we held our decision until she got back to us.

After our apartment hunt it was time to begin our kitty hunt. Malcolm and I have been talking about getting a pet cat for some time. We both agreed that now was the time to do it. Even though we're not in our new apartment yet, I'm not working, so I'll be home during the day to help the cat adjust to its new family. We started our search at the local Cat Protection agency. This agency recieves stray cats, rescued kittens, and cats that are no longer wanted by their owners.

Malcolm and I walked into the chaos of the cat enclosures and immediatly saw a frisky black kitten. We both looked at each other nodded. We queued up to discus our choice with the agency volunteer. Once she aknowledged us we asked about the black kitten. Sorry, she said, it has just been spoken for. She then told us which kittens were still available. All of the domesticated kittens had been spoken for, but there were some semi-feral kittens that were still skittish, but would make excellent housecats with some kindness and patient handeling. She said that she also had an older kitten that the agency guessed was somewhere between six and eight months old. It had to be recovered from its former owner becasue she couldn't afford to feed it, and it had been starved. The cat had also been let outside to look for food, but had gotten into fights and was a little scratched up.

We decided to look at the older kitten first. The cat protection agency had run out of cage space and had put the kitten in the bathroom with another cat. We walked in and were greeted by an orange a white kitty that was almost full grown. The cat was very skinny and had some scratches on its face. I started petting it, and Malcolm picked it up; it started purring very loudly. After a few minutes with this docile animal I told Malcolm that I liked the idea of giving this cat a new home and lots of love to help it recover from its early life. He agreed. We went back to the lady that was helping us, and she told us that we couldn't have it if we wanted a housecat, as the cat had been used to going outside. Dejected, Malcolm and I tried playing with the feral kittens to see if any of them were friendly or social enough for us. After some scraches (on both of us), some hissing, and a lot of skittishness we decided not to get any of them...

As we were leaving the agency Malcolm wondered aloud if the orange and white kitten really needed to go outside, as it seemed content in the small bathroom. I agreed. All night we talked about how we really liked the orange cat....

The next day we went back and told the lady that we really wanted the orange cat, and would be flexible with its needs. She said okay, and told us we could pick it up next Saturday, as it was scheduled to get nuetered on Wednesday. WooHoo!

On Monday the Realtor contacted us to say that the two of the three apartments would let us have a cat. We decided to go for the unfurnished three bedroom.

Now we get to buy furniture, and plan for our new cat! His shelter name is Fizz, but we're not sure if we'll keep that name or change it to Hobbes. Malcolm and I are both excited about our new cat and our new Apartment!