Monday, 8 September 2008

Dust off that keyboard...

And my blog was going so nicely...

You know how sometimes months will pass and even though individual days will feel long time in general just slips by? Yeah, that happened....

You may be wondering what motivated me to post today, this minute, right now. Hilariously, it's this...

I just had to share this link with everyone and anyone that visits my blog. Obviously someone out there worked very hard on this, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Anyway, what else have I been up to lately? Well, I still have the same job (even though I'm looking to change that), still live in the same place (not looking to change that), and have added several countries to my 'Visited' list.

My parents arrived in London mid-June. Malcolm and I met up with them there and spent the day seeing the sites along the Thames. The next two weeks were a blur of oceans, ports, bus rides, priceless art pieces, meals, and drinks. There were some bad times, but I'll just list the highlights:
-Seeing the 'Sacred Family' cathedral in Barcelona

-All of Florence
-Touching the Colosseum

-Walking through the Vatican and Sistine Chapel
-Laocoon Statue

-Pieta by Michelangelo

-Walking through the market in Nice
-Seeing Pilgrims arrive at Santiago De Compestella

(One pilgrim left their shoes tied to the church fence)

-Leaving Gibraltar
-Spending two weeks in a penthouse suite overlooking the back of the ship (and having our own butler)

Once we returned to dry land we drove up from the south coast of England to central Scotland.

My parents spent a week in our flat, and the last day we had an awesome Fourth of July party at my mother-in-law's house. Overall I loved (almost) every minute of the trip, but was glad to get back to real life.

My next traveling adventure is planned for next month. I will be returning to Chicago to visit with my parents, brother, sister-in-law, and nephew.

More recently I spent a day at the Zoo (fun), and am in the middle of getting my UK licence (tedious). I feel like I really do live in the UK, whereas before I felt like I was just waiting to go home again. Yea for permanance (or as close as I've come in a while)!

Wish me luck with finding a new job, and being more motivated with keeping up the blog. Don't forget to see all of my pictures here. Yes, I know you have to create a username (ug), but just do it. It's worth it to see the literally million pictures.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Just Ordinary Life

Dunfermline Museum

I've been working for about a month now, and I feel like life has finally gotten into a steady, happy routine. I work every day Monday - Friday before school and after. This means I have get up earlier than I have in years (since I was in High School, acutally) and drive half an hour to the school to draw sleepy pictures with sleepy children. Once the bell has rung the kids run off to class I drive home, cook breakfast, check e-mail, then go back to bed for a few hours. Around 2pm I drive back to school where the children have been binging on sugar all day and are ready to destroy, torment, and deconstruct everything in sight. They're lovely....

The worst part of the job (other than the unholy wake up call) is the environment destroying commute. I have to drive two hours everyday for four hours of work. To remedy this situation Malcolm and I have decided to move closer to Dunfermline, the town we both work in. Last weekend we went house-hunting, and viewed only three properties before we found our new home. The first rental was a detached house that was a charming bungalow on the outside and a dated, ugly mess on the inside. I've wanted to live in a 'bungalow' ever since visiting my Aunt and staying in her perfect Pasadena bungalow. The property we viewed lacked the charm and character of it's SoCal counterpart, so we moved on. The next property was much more modern, but tiny. It had a nice back garden, but one that looked onto the adjacent 17 houses. No thanks. Lastly we looked at a new flat only minutes away from my school. It wasn't a house (what I really wanted) but it was spacious, modern, and had an en-suite master bath (something both Malcolm and I really really wanted). We move in next month, and I really look forward to the shorter commute but am dreading moving all our furniture up three flights of stairs.

Also, my parents are coming for their first 'European Vacation' in June. We've just booked a cruise that'll take us through Spain, Portugal, France, and Italy and I'm SO excited. June come quickly!!!

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Welcome to the world, Brayden West!

Snow in the backyard, Naperville

Recently my brother and his wife brought another little life into the world. And they called him Brayden... I was so excited to meet the little boy that I flew back to Chicago for 10 days.

Of course I relish any trip 'back home'. After a long long long flight from Glasgow (via London) I felt like applauding when the plane finally landed. That night as I moved throught a fog of jet-lag I finally got to hold little Brayden for the first time. Not having held a baby since my own brother was little (about 20 years ago) I was quite unsure of exactly how to do it. Eventually I got the hang of it and the baby fell asleep in my arms. Just in time to watch the next episode of Lost; can you believe Aaron is with Kate? Me neither!

Two days later my parents held a party for Matt and Jacqui and Brayden. We were celebrating their wedding, the birth of Brayden, and saying goodbye to Matt who will be leaving for Navy basic training at the end of this month. My uncle flew in from DC for the occasion, and a good time was had by all.

Later in the week my parents, grandma, and I all went to see Wicked, a play about the Wicked Witch in Oz. I was so excited to go to a play, and have a fun and fabulous night out in Chicago. Having read the book the play was based on I kind of knew the basic story, but I was blown away by the production. The songs, costumes, and sets were just amazing, and I recomend Wicked to everyone. My grandma loved it as well, and raved about it the whole trip home!

My last few days in the US were mostly spent relaxing, hangin out with Matt, Jacqui, and Brayden, and shopping. Every time I come to the States I end up carriying an extra suitcase home full of 'American' stuff I miss or is too expensive in the UK.

I was sad to finally leave but excited to get back to Scotland. I had found a job in December and was just waiting to start. Three days after I got back from the US I started my new job as a 'Playworker'. Basically day-care at a school in the mornings and afternoons. As of today I've been there a week, and I really enjoy all of the staff and kids that I work with. The hardest part is waking up at 6am after months and months of sleeping till noon! Oh, well. I'm happy to finally be a productive member of society who is earning a paycheck (or cheque). Woo Hoo!!!

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Let it snow...

The road to GlenShee

One of the great things about living at the same latitude as Alaska is the great winter weather. Malcolm, true to his Jamaican heritage, has rarely seen snow and gets very excited about it. A few times he has walked in the door from work with a snowball in his hands because he loves playing with it. When he heard that there had been a great snowfall just a few hours north of us he started to plan for the following weekend. Off we went to GlenShee for a day of skiing.

I should stop here to mention that Malcolm had never been skiing on real snow before. Once, he kept mentioning, he had skied on a 'dry slope' whatever that was. I, on the other hand, had began skiing in childhood, and had traveled to Colorado to ski every winter for about ten years. We were definitely at different levels. I told Malcolm that he didn't need to take a lesson as I would teach him the basics of skiing.

The day arrived and we woke very early. We drove mile after mile anticipating snow on the ground (where we were living it was just frosty, but no snow). After about an hour and a half we crossed a bridge and it was like we had entered a magical winter wonderland. One side of the bridge was bare ground and on the other there was snow two feet deep! We had arrived in winter.

We rented some equipment and bought our lift tickets and headed to the flattest beginner slope we could find. After I told Malcolm the mysteries of proper skiing (weight on the downhill ski, shifting his weight to turn, and so on) he looked properly confused. What followed was two hours of frustration, exhaustion, both of us falling, and finally a light bulb moment for Malcolm (after he had stated he would just wait in the car for me, but I wasn't having any of that).

Malcom the skiier

We practiced again and again, and he was improving every time. After an over priced lunch (of course) we headed to the real skiing. A few hours later Malcolm was confident and I was challenging him to harder and harder runs.

By the end of the day we were sweaty and tired, but happy. We decided to call it a day and walked the mile back to our car.

Me on the mountian

We finally got back to the car sore and exhausted, but satisfied that we had a new hobby to explore together.

Exhsausted at the end of the day, but happy to take the ski boots off!

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Holiday Season

Our holidays really began when Darius, my old Peace Corps friend, came to visit for a few days. He's an American also living abroad, but just a little further south. Lets all wish him luck as he works towards his Masters degree in central England. He arrived in Edinburgh just a few days before Christmas, and stayed until Christmas Eve day. We had a lovely time playing poker, watching movies, and talking a long walk through the park near our house.

Malcolm and Darius sporting Christmas Crowns

After our house guest departed Malcolm really started eyeing all of the presents under our tree. Earlier in the month my parents had sent a huge box full of wrapped presents. We also had been receiving packages they had sent from Amazon. When we had added our presents to each other to the pile became substantial. Malcolm had asked me for several nights in a row 'can I open the presents now?' and I finally let him open one on Christmas Eve.

After the brief satisfaction of one present we went to bed, only to be woken up again by the sunrise on Christmas morning. Malcolm and I opened the rest of the presents, and had a nice breakfast while playing with our new toys.

Opening the present with a spoon

Malcolm opening his new helicopter

After breakfast we headed over to Malcolm's mom's house, where we opened even MORE presents. Then we all went over to his Aunt's house where we had MORE presents. We spent the rest of the day at his Aunt's house eating a delicious dinner and spending quality time with family.

New Years Eve followed quickly and this time we were headed to the house of a family friend. Malcolm drew the short straw and was the designated driver while I got to ring in the New Year with a glass (or three) of Champagne. We lit off fireworks, played games, and generally had a good time.

Best wishes to everyone for 2008....

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Back in JA

Sunset at Doctors Cave Beach in MoBay

Leaving Jamaica in March was one of the hardest things I've done. As the plane lifted off from Montego Bay airport I looked back at the island and cried, saddened by leaving my friends, apartment, and accomplishments (not to mention a steady pay check) behind. At the same time, though, I had mentally prepared myself to leave. Day after day, life in Jamaica had reminded me why I was ready: violence, poverty, lack of infrastructure, and witnessing 'sufferation' basically everywhere I went had began taking a toll after nearly three years. I was ready for a little comfort and the stability that living in a first world country offered. But I knew that Jamaica would always be a part of me and that I would be back several times in my lifetime. My husband was born in Kingston, and parts of his family and many of his friends live there. We would never be able to put Jamaica behind us forever, and I liked that...

I never realized that I would be back so soon. Shortly after our own wedding in September Malcolm's father told us he too would be getting married before the year was out. We booked our tickets back to Jamaica and returned to the country at the end of November. Although we would only be there for five days, Malcolm and I were determined to make the most of our short time there.

As we landed in Kingston I began to feel nostalgic for my life in JA. I said 'Lets move back here' to Malcolm, and he rolled his eyes (we had worked pretty hard to begin our new life in Scotland, and he knew I was only being half serious). Mentally I tried to put myself back into my old mindset and began remembering all of the lessons I had learned over the years. No small feat as everyday for three years I had learned something new.

We proceeded to collect our bags and make our way through customs. Unfortunately my bag had never left the UK and I was frustrated and angry. We had to wait two hours to get through customs, and enduring the heat and never ending line reminded me of the reality of this place. I realized my nostalgia on the plane was mostly fueled by memories of the good times I had, and the small irritations and annoyances of everyday life in JA had been quickly forgotten after I had left.

This lesson was basically non-stop the rest of the trip. As we made our way through Kingston and up to Malcolm's old house his father kept up a running commentary on how the latest hurricanes and tropical storms had ruined the roads and created deadly mudslides.

The next day Malcolm and I went shopping for a new wedding outfit and clothes as our airline told us that my suitcase wouldn't reach the island until after the wedding (and only two days before we were leaving). After finding some clothes and a dress that worked we drove up to the north coast where the we would all be staying, and where the wedding would be held the next day. The drive was beautiful, but we had a slow start as the gas station attendant somehow forgot the amount of gas that had been pumped into Malcolm's car, and no record is kept in the station. After a half an hour of standing around not knowing what to do the station manager took a random amount of money from us and let us leave. Another mental tick in our minds against JA and another reminder of daily life.

We finally reached the villa where we were staying for the duration of our trip, had a relaxing meal, and went to bed.

View of the ocean from our villa

The next morning I had a nice massage near the beach, took a nap, and got ready for the wedding. It took place at sunset in a gazebo overlooking the beach. The light was so pretty as the sunset and the bride and groom were very lovely, as was the ceremony. Dinner was served afterwards on the porch, and after the speeches was dancing. I went to bed early as I was still suffering from jet-lag (and a few drinks).

Wedding party, family, and friends

The next day people woke late, and Malcolm and I decided to go for a drive. We returned at lunch, and headed out again. We traveled to Montego Bay to spend the night with some of our old friends. The drive from Ocho Rios to Montego Bay was beautiful, and the highway that was under construction when I left was mostly finished. The only incomplete section was at the entrance to MoBay, and held us up quite a bit. The road had been moved about a quarter of a mile inland, and now flowed so slowly that Malcolm and I were baffled by the changes. Malcolm speculated that now the government would be able to sell the old road land, which was conveniently ocean-fronted.

We finally reached our destination in MoBay: Doctors Cave Beach. As we walked in I kept expecting to see all of the 'usual' people around every corner! Of course, most of them had left the island, but we did meet up with the few remaining ones and had drinks as we watched the sun set.

Standing on the peir at DCB

After drinks on the beach and dinner at our favorite restaurant we headed back to Drew's place for a night of Texas Hold'em on the veranda, something we had done countless times while I had lived here.

All the players around the table

Me and my chips

This night, for me, had been the highlight of my trip. Not only did I get to spend some time with my friends back in my favorite city in JA, but Drew and Jenny had surprised me with a birthday cake!

Happy Birthday to me!

The next day Malcolm and I had lunch at Drew and Jenny's then headed back to the Villa in Ochi. We relaxed, shopped for souvenirs, and enjoyed a quiet dinner.

As we were all getting ready to watch a slide show of pictures from the wedding there was a commotion near the front door. Malcolm came upstairs to where we were waiting for the pictures and whispered in my ear 'Go pack your suitcase, I'll be in to tell you why in a few minutes'. I went to the room and began to throw things in my bag (which had arrived the day before), and waited for the mystery to be explained. Finally Malcolm came into the room and explained what had happened. Apparently a car had driven in the gate of the Villa (after it had been opened for the photographer so he could drop off a CD of pictures from the wedding), the two men in the back of the car got out and had asked for someone. When one of the villa staff had told them no-one of that name was at the villa, the men changed their story and said they were looking for a villa to rent (this was around 8pm on a Sunday night) and began looking through the door into the house. Finally they left, but they had frightened some of the guests and staff of the villa. The men had been dressed in a very 'ghetto-ish' style, and one of the men had his hand under his shirt the whole time. After the men left the police were called, came to get the details of the men and the car, and left.

We all gathered upstairs to discus what to do. The consensus was the men had been 'casing' the house and would be back later to rob us. This was bad... in Jamaica recently violence had escalated, especially violent robberies resulting in the murder of the victims. We all decided to drive back to Jamaica in a convoy (there were four carloads of family and friends of the bride and groom staying at the house, including Malcolm's grandmother). As we drove slowly back to Kingston we kept the cars and SUVs together in a small pack, with Malcolm and his father alternating leading the group. Anyone that knows Malcolm will know that driving slow while people drive slower behind him is not one of his favorite things. But he delivered us safely to Kingston with no incidents. We all fell into bed as it was now the middle of the night.

The next day we left Jamaica, after we had lunch with Malcolm friend who lived in Kingston. As we were waiting in the airport Malcolm and I discussed the reality of living in Jamaica compared to our whitewashed and time altered nostalgia. We were both glad we had returned, if only for a few days, but we were also looking forward to returning to our lives in Scotland.

Enjoying cracking some nuts. Bowl and nuts birthday presents from Malcolm.

Monday, 12 November 2007

Remember, Remember.... to bring some gloves

...And a hat, and a scarf.

Recently it was the 5th of November, and here in the UK that can only mean one thing: Guy Fawkes Day! People celebrate by shooting off fireworks and going to bonfires. Around the middle of October all of the grocery stores started selling all kinds of fireworks and soon after every night was punctuated by little Pop Pop's and flashes of light. Malcolm and I felt like we were back in Jamaica, except the gunshots had been replaced by harmless lights in the sky. We decided to get in on the action and bought two shopping bags worth of fireworks.

Once Guy Fawkes Day arrived I was excited to shoot off our very own fireworks on the beach near our house. First, though, we decided to go to a bonfire in a community near our house. We arrived around 7:15 and the bonfire was finally lit around 7:45. Now, half an hour may not seem like a long time to wait, but it was FREEZING! I said to Malcolm 'now I appreciate that America's big firework holiday is in the summer!'. We waited and waited, huddled together outside the barrier that was keeping people about 50 feet away from the actual bonfire. It was a huge pile of pallets and wood about 20 feet high with an effigy of Guy on top. There were about a thousand people waiting for the fire to start. Slowly we began hearing bagpipes, and eventually the pipers walked past us and the fire started. Hearing the pipes and watching the bonfire burn was very cool; it was a totally authentic Scottish moment.

As we watched the fire burn everyone around us was commenting on it: 'Oh, Guy is on fire now' 'There goes Guy!' 'He's done for now!'. I realized that years ago people would have stood around a similar fire and watched a real person burn! Maybe even right where we were standing! Bizarre.

Malcolm and I left as the fireworks show began. We both had frozen feet, and we were ready to light our own fireworks. After a quick stop home to warm up we headed down to the beach. As we got there we noticed a bunch of Neds (Non Educated Delinquents) standing around their own 'bonfire' (really a pallet that gasoline had been poured on). We picked our spot well away from them and headed down to the beach. Instantly we were frozen again, and it was so windy we couldn't get anything lit. We moved back by the car and decided to light things in the parking lot. Meanwhile all the Neds had left and the fire department had come to extinguish the pallet. We set up and began shooting off fireworks. It was lots of fun, but I couldn't feel my fingers after a few minutes.

After shooting off most of our fireworks we decided to call it a night and go home. We drove past a few other people shooting off their own stash.

Once home we turned up the heat and huddled under blankets. All night we heard fireworks, and it hasn't stopped since. Every night I hear a few pop's....