i wrote a thing and return to scotland

hey pals!

Sitting in Chicago O’Hare waiting to board my next flight back to Edinburgh to begin my last year of my undergraduate degree at the University of Edinburgh.  I say last year of my undergraduate because we all know that I will attempt to prolong my eventual exodus from Academia as long as possible.  Gotta keep my student discount at the cinema people!  I’m writing from a chair this time instead of sprawled on the floor – so maybe this is the uneventful, lackluster evidence of my passage into adulthood we’ve all been patiently waiting for?

But anyway, this past week was spent in Lawrence showing Gregor, Tuva, and Erling the old stomping grounds.  And of course, it had to be the only week out of the entire year that it rained for 5 days straight.  I mean, it was good for the soybeans at least? Either way, I hope that the three of them had a great time!  I showed them Downtown Lawrence, Clinton Lake, we went to the Grinter Sunflower Farm, and got smothered by corporate love by a Bud-Light rep at the Bull who upon finding out that 2 Norwegians and 1 Scot were outside with a bunch of Lawrence Townies proceeded to give us 8 pitchers of Bud-Light on the house (in addition to the three pitchers we already had).  And yes, before you ask, we finished it all because we are not going to leave any soldiers on the field – just who do you think we are?

Other happenings… I got an op-ed published!  It’s all about youth in History and today’s political landscape.  I wrote it for REEK Perfume, a local perfume company based in Edinburgh run by a mother and daughter who create scents in honor of Historical Women.  Their perfumes are ethically sourced, cruelty free, and their ad campaigns aren’t retouched!  I’ll link to their website hereI copied the first few paragraphs from the article so you can get a sense of the piece, but please go to their website to read the full thing so they (and I) get the traffic and reading numbers!  Constructive feedback and nice comments always warranted as well!

Writer Kennedy Younger Dold looks at the phenomenal success of youth activism in politics today through the lens of history… 

All over the land, the kids have finally startin’ to get the upper hand.
They’re out on the streets, they turn on the heat,
And soon they could be completely in command.
(Sweet, 1974)

Museums and galleries are quiet places. The stern, official portraits of historical figures make it all too easy to forget the vitality of the stories on display. But, those tales demand to be told. They are the stories of the young, the restless and the rebellious. History tells us stories of many young people who achieved notoriety.

In 1777, Sybil Luddington rode twice as far as the more famous midnight ride of Paul Revere to warn of attacking British regulars during the American Revolution.  Not only did she ride twice as far, but at 16, she was half his age as well. Joan of Arc was 17 when, leading from the front, she inspired the French army to victory after victory during the Hundred Years War with England. Henry V was 29 at the Battle of Agincourt.  Flora MacDonald was 24 when she helped Bonnie Prince Charlie escape after the 1745 Jacobite Uprising. Victoria was 18 when she became Queen. Alexander the Great conquered and created an empire at the same age. Mary Shelley, at 20, published Frankenstein.  At 23, Nellie Bly was exposing inhumane conditions in American asylums.  To pile on even more extraordinary achievement, she traveled around the world in 72 days… just to beat the fictional record set in Jules Verne’s classic Around the World in 80 Days.  Flash forward to the 20th century and the rise of the self and culturally aware teenager.  In 1977, Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia (age 19) (although fictional) brought hope to a galaxy far, far away. Young people shaped the post-war years: staging protests, fighting for civil rights, and writing pretty incredible music.

(Click to Continue Reading Here)

Classes this year are going to be pretty awesome and I’m looking forward to them.  I played the system and don’t have any exams – so my exam anxiety is over and I’ll actually feel like I’m researching and learning something new versus trying to memorize a bunch of facts that I’ll forget once I flip over the paper.  That and my professors will actually be able to read my essays instead of trying to deceiver my left-handed, I took Ancient Greek disaster script.

I have a full year course for my Dissertation on the Architectural Archaeology and Cultural Heritage of the Botanic Cottage the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, a semester in Architectural Archaeology (to help with the dissertation), a full year Archaeological Fieldwork course, and a full year history course on Medieval Sexualities 500-1000 AD.  That last course will focus on the post-Roman world, Monastic structures, and early medieval female leaders (and fingers crossed for some warladies thrown in as well.) It was this course or one on Early Medieval Botany but the botany course had a three hour exam so f*** that.  I’d rather write longer essays.

I’m still kicking around the Mountaineering Club, and there’s Fresher’s Week to help out with when I get back.  I’m quite excited this year as I plan on hiking up to Hardknott when I’m in the Lakes this October.  Hardknott is a Roman Fort up on a mountain side in the Langdale Valley.  From it’s position it probably served as a defensive outpost for the other fort located in Windermere.  It wasn’t occupied for long – probably because it’s up a mountain and it also is very well preserved (again because it’s on a mountain side so limits the visitors.)

But, that’s about all at the moment.  I’m sure you’ll hear from me again soon. But until then…. with tolerance and respect. byeeeeeeeee.

straight outta lfk.

Hey pals!  It’s me, writing from the authentic and original Lawrence, Kansas.

I’m in America until term starts in September.  After a short holiday with my family, I’m finally back in Kansas.  *Cue Wizard of Oz joke.* I have bit to myself to relax and write before Tuva, Erling, and Gregor show up to stay with me.  I’m really looking forward to showing my flatmates my hometown.  Lawrence isn’t as big as Oslo or as old as Crieff but I hope they will enjoy their time here.

For those unaware, Lawrence was founded by an abolitionist group from Massachusetts in 1854.  It sits on the border between Kansas and Missouri.  Prior to the official beginning of the American Civil War, Lawrence was a central part to the period known as “Bleeding Kansas.” “Bleeding Kansas” was the struggle between pro-slavery factions who wished the see the Kansas Territory enter the Union as a slave state and abolitionists who fought to see Kansas enter as a Free State.  The Kansas Territory was the hot ticket at the time as it would tip the scales (Free States to Slave States) either way it went – so there was plenty of fighting within the territory as well as external groups such as the one from Massachusetts establishing cities to gather support and abolitionist votes.

In 1855, John Brown visited the territory in support of the abolitionists and aided Lawrenicans known as ‘Jayhawkers’ to help free slaves across the Missouri border and take them to Underground Railroad stations.  The Underground Railroad was a system of safe-houses leading from the American South to the North and finally to Canada to help African-Americans escape slavery.  Because of Lawrence’s involvement in both of freeing of slaves and the setting up of a provisional abolitionist government headquarters it was attacked by Sheriff Samuel J. Jones in 1856.  Jones and his men burned many of the buildings on Massachusetts Street (the central street in Lawrence), including the Free State Hotel which had served as the abolitionist headquarters.  Lawrence rebuilt and continued to resist the pro-slavery factions based in both Missouri and nearby then official capital of Kansas, Lecompton.  Between the period of 1858 to 1861, Lawrence became the ‘people’s capital of Kansas’ and the rival to Lecompton.  Finally, in 1861, Kansas was admitted to the Union as a Free State.

However, in the early morning of August 21, 1863, Lawrence was attacked again by pro-slavery forces in the form of William Quantrill and his band of about 450 Missouri Bushwhackers.  Quantrill and his men burned Lawrence, including the rebuilt Free State Hotel now called the Eldridge Hotel on Massachusetts Street, and murdered 200 men and boys.  The attack had been systematically planned over months and orchestrated with Quantrill compiling a list of known abolitionists to kill and buildings to burn.  It wasn’t just a spur of the moment decision.  However despite it all… Lawrence rebuilt and aided the Union throughout the American Civil War.  I’ve included engraving from Harper’s Weekly below to show the destruction from the raid.  Harper’s Weekly was a national newspaper at the time and Quantrill’s Raid for sure made national news.

Lawrence_massacre_ruins

Battle_of_Lawrence

Images from ‘Harper’s Weekly’ 1863.

After the American Civil War, Lawrence continued to be a liberal hotspot in Kansas.  Our city seal is even of a phoenix rising from the ruins of a burning building, a remembrance of the two raids that tried to destroy Lawrence.  Into the twentieth century, Lawrence acted as a halfway point between New York and San Francisco.  As such, it was a hotbed for the Civil Rights Movement and protestors of the Vietnam War.  There were sit-ins and protests such as the one held by 50 black students at the very high school I would later attend.  In April of 1970, the Student Union at the University of Kansas (the university in the center of Lawrence) was set on fire in protest.

In today’s world, Douglas County is one of the few consistently Democratic counties in the state.  The one time there was an Alt-Right rally in Lawrence a few weeks ago, 750 counter-protestors showed up against the Alt-Rights’ 8.  The most recent city wide protest is the protection of art as the voice of the people.  So, if you’re wondering where I get my politics from, it has a lot to do from where I grew up.

Coming back to America is draining for me both physically from the flight and mentally with all the batshit politics.  But, at least being back in Lawrence, I see people who continue to speak out and stand up for what’s right.  And, maybe Kansas isn’t the top of the list for visits to America but I’m pretty proud to call Lawrence my hometown.  Especially now because, admit all the current bullshit, we still remember our history and try each day to do the right thing.

And, I hope when the rest of Roseneath visits they’ll be able to see that too.

 

 

 

 

 

Poulton Research Project 2018

I arrived back in Edinburgh on Saturday after spending the last two weeks in Chester working on site with the Poulton Research Project.  This is my second season back at at the site, which if you’re a keen reader of this blog you’ll know to be a 13-15c Medieval Chapel with surrounding graveyard (read about my first season here).  The excavations focus on the medieval burials – but there is plenty else around the site from Prehistoric, ‘Celtic’ Iron Age, and Roman.

I’ve scanned in my excavation log for your reading pleasure and for an extra challenge of reading my smudgy handwriting. Enjoy.

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Bamburgh Castle Excavations 2018

I just arrived back to Edinburgh last night from working excavations at Bamburgh Castle.  The castle is located south of Edinburgh, across the English border into Northumberland.  While it was largely rebuilt in the 1890s, the foundations are those of a large Anglo-Saxon coastal stronghold with close connections to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne (the site of Viking raids in 793 CE).  The excavations are focused in the outer-ward of the castle (roughly the 6/7c CE) in an area of metal working and industrial activity. If you want to read more about the site check out this article from Archaeology Magazine.

I was on site working as an Assistant Environmental Supervisor, in the role I oversaw and taught students the process of floating samples taken during excavation, drying, sieving, and sorting.  I also completed my own admin tasks helping out Alice (Environmental Supervisor) and Tom (Post-ex Supervisor) to make sure all the paperwork was complete for Graeme (Site Director).

An aside: flotation is a process by which soil samples from the trench are put into a tank of water and broken up by hands and jets.  This allows for the organic material like charcoal and seeds to float to the top and be collected in a flot bag and the heavier, inorganic material to sink to the bottom to dry and be weighed and sorted.  It’s really great for recovering information about what people were eating and growing as well as what sort of wild plants grew in an area.

If you remember, I attended Bamburgh last summer as a student.  They must have found my jokes funny, as this year I was invited back as staff.  While it was the same site, it was totally different experience and gave me valuable time in a supervisor/management role.  I am so grateful for the team at the Bamburgh Research Project for the opportunity!

Just having turned 21 and still in my undergraduate studies, I was the youngest member on staff.  Truthfully, at first, I was worried I wouldn’t be up to par for the job or that trying to teach students who were often older than me would be a little difficult.  It reminded me a lot of my time practicing tae-kwon-do.  Since I earned my black belt at 8, I was simultaneously the youngest but also one of the senior students.  This meant that despite my age, I had a leadership role.  I learned how to teach a variety of ages and experience levels.  And honestly, as I’ve learned, if you can teach a class of 10-year-olds how to spar correctly and safely you can pretty much do anything.

But anyway, back to the archaeology.

Keeping those lessons in mind, I moved quickly into my supervising role.  In a passing comment from other staff members, I ‘turned flotation into a well oiled machine.’ We quickly moved through the sample backlog from years’ past and put the Enviro team in a really good starting place for next season.  And while I wasn’t the one actually doing most of the work this year, I learned just as much about archaeology as I had the year before.  Teaching a skill really does imprint it further.  Likewise, taking part in the ‘behind-the-scenes’ aspects of the excavation connects all the separate pieces together.

And while it made me realize how much I actually did know about my chosen field of study, it revealed what I also didn’t know.  And that was okay.  One of my biggest pet peeves of any leadership is when a leader refuses to admit they don’t know something.  As I experienced, it’s okay to admit you don’t know something.  A good leader learns just as much from their students as a student learns from a good leader.

I also learned how to quickly adapt to challenges.  We had a large sample which was taken from a shell midden last season (oddly enough, it was a sample that I had taken myself so I only had myself to blame for the mess it created).  It was 2 15L buckets of heavy organic material that when floated broken down into fibers and blocked the mesh, causing the flot bag to silt up.  The team and I had to divide the samples into smaller buckets and mix in hot water and sodium bi-carb to break down the organics.  Then we left the buckets to sit for a few days.  After the weekend, the buckets were finely ready to float.

Besides working on the environmental side of the excavation, I also taught pottery and finds illustration.  It was really fun to teach and again really helped to further ground the skills I had learned this year in my Archaeological Illustration course.  I also got hoisted 90 feet in the air to take site photos so that was pretty neat.

I’m sad to see the season over so quickly as I truly enjoyed my time on site.  Seeing both sides of an excavation was a really unique opportunity and I glad that I was able to do my part to make this season successful.  As worried as I was at the beginning, my fears quickly went away as I got into the flow of the excavation and grew more confident in my understanding of the processes and my abilities to teach.  The rest of the staff was so supportive and because they believed in me – I believed in myself.  And as my first experience in a management role on a prominent excavation – I’m pretty proud of the work we accomplished.

Today, I’m back in Edinburgh to run errands and wash my clothes, but then it’s back down south for another excavation.  More on that to come.

a video?!

 

what is this 2016?! I haven’t done a vlog in ages and this is the least I could do after shoving my camera in my friend’s faces for two weeks.  sorry not sorry. So anyway, here’s a belated mock-u-mentary about the anniversary dinner/roadtrip conveniently edited to a PG rating and under 5 minutes.

hey nerds.

Literally everything has happened but nothing of ‘ohmygodihavetotellyouallnowonthisblogwhichprobablyonlymyparentsandgrandmareadbutimgoingtopretendeveryonedoes’ note.  And, I’m not being ~dramatic.~

Since I’ve been back in Edinburgh, I’ve continued to plod on with what I do best, procrastinating and then doing everything on my procrastinated list in a 24 hour time period.  Today I spend time at the RBGE Library working on gathering resources for my dissertation on the Botanic Cottage.  I got to spend some time with archaeological reports and even some maps of the original garden on Leith Walk and architectural plans of the Cottage drawn by John Adam.  One of the maps was dated to 1777 while the architectural plans date prior to the construction of the Cottage in 1763.

Now, if you’ve been away from the blog or my loud American mouth for a hot sec… I’ll recap.  I’m writing on aspects of cultural heritage manage and architectural archaeology using the case study of the Botanic Cottage at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.  The building was constructed around 1763 and served at the gardener’s house as well as John Hope’s lecture theatre to teach botany to medical students at the University of Edinburgh.  The lecture room was rediscovered during excavations and because most of the university buildings in Edinburgh were demolished in the 18c to make way for new ones, the Cottage is arguably the oldest and only surviving purpose built lecture theatre from the Scottish Enlightenment!  Nice.  The Cottage was in use until 1820ish when the garden moved from Leith Walk to Inverleith (current location).  Okay cool fast forward.  The Cottage was basically forgotten after the garden moved and went through a lot of awkward phases including becoming an office for a van rental company!  That was until about 2007 when the building caught on fire and then was scheduled to be demolished.  The local community decided that was not going to happen and started research the building and as it turns out, the Cottage is probably one of the best documented small buildings in Scottish history!  Why?  John Hope was appointed by George III to be the King’s Botanist in 1760.  Hope’s patron Lord Bute was also named 1st Lord of the Treasury, leaving him in charge of funding a variety of projects and stuff.  To keep the funds coming for his garden in Edinburgh, Hope documented just about everything down to pillow cases and paper about the Cottage.  Cheers John!

At the moment, I have the historical side and documents concerning the construction.  I have information about how the Cottage was saved and rebuilt.  Now I just need to move more onto the theory side of the project (eg the stuff on Cultural Heritage, the meaning of place and space) and architectural archaeology.  I’m front loading on the research and gathering of stuff now that way I’m not stressed out of my mind come actual term time.

But, I have just over a week left in Edinburgh before it’s off on excavation.  The season at Bamburgh has already started but since I needed to work a bit in Edinburgh this June I’ll be joining the team down at the beginning of July for the last two weeks.   I went down just for the first day to attend a health and safety course which renews my CPR and first aid certification for another three years and a staff dinner, but I’m excited to see what they’ve been up to since!  After Bamburgh finishes it’s back to Edinburgh and then down further south to Chester for some more work at Poulton with medieval human remains.

However, before all that kicks off, my dad is coming to visit next week!  I haven’t seen any of my family since Christmas so I’m really glad to catch up with him.  I haven’t really planned anything except to go to some new restaurants and I *still* haven’t seen SOLO which is goddamn travesty and I’m sorry Obi Wan.  After Dad leaves I get another visit from the people of my past.  Betsy, one of my closest friends from Kansas!  She’s never been to Europe before so ofc she’s freaking out.  But, not to worry!   I’m meeting her in London at the beginning of July for a few days and then we we are going to take the train back to Edinburgh and spend a few days here.  Then she’s off to Paris for her amazing study abroad which I know she will absolutely slay.

So, um, yeah.  I’ve been doing that, making banana bread, getting really distressed about season 6 of Voltron on Netflix (my trash son betrayed and played me just as I was starting to trust his character), and crying over some young adult fantasy novel Caitlin loaned me.

Oh!  And before I forget and because my mom won’t answer my calls. I got all my final marks back for the year.   I finished third year with a 68.3 average which puts me in a really nice spot to graduate with either a very high 2.1 or if I play my cards right maybe a First!  I’m super happy with my final mark in Archaeological Illustration (I got a 78) because I absolutely lovvvvveeed that class and wish I could take it again.

Okay that’s all. byeeeeee.

roadtripping 2018

Sorry for the absence, I’ve been away for the last few weeks getting eaten alive by midges.

I’ve been in back in Edinburgh for nearly a week after time at the Bothy, Arisaig, Skye, and Torridon.  It’s been just enough time to take multiple showers, postpone my laundry until I physically couldn’t stand to have it in my room, read not one! but two! trashy teen medieval fantasy novels, get the photos from the trip developed, take part in the Processions to celebrate 100 Years of women having the vote in the UK, and teach young children about worms.

A lot has happened so I’ll try to summarize it the best I can without boring you.

As per my last blog post, I stated I would be returning to the club Bothy in Kintail to do some final fixings before I officially retired from my post as EUMC Bothy Secretary.  With great pride, I can say the EUMC Bothy is now fitted with a fully working gas kitchen.  We cooked a group meal on Saturday night and I spent another weekend in one of my favorite places in Scotland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Then it was quickly back to Edinburgh to repack for the following two weeks of Roadtrip.  Gregor arrived back to the flat with his dad’s orange jeep and the four of us (being Gregor, myself, Tuva, and Erling) drove to Arisaig for the kick off of the annual EUMC Roadtrip and the 75th Anniversary Dinner.  This year was special in that the event was attended by not only current Yummicks but past club members as well.  I spoke with a few members from the 1970s and 1980s.   We arrived on the Friday night and had a BBQ on the beach.  On the Saturday, we went cragging to a nearby sport crag.  That evening we had a hog roast, a ceilidh, bottles of committee wine, and I got to meet not one! but two! very fluffy cats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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That Sunday, Gregor drove back to see his parents and I along with Alven and Tuva packed out kit into Ellie B’s car.  Erling, Oonagh, and Ben packed with Ellie Leigh.  The eight of us went to the beach near Arisaig were we discovered how quickly the Scottish tide can come in and that apparently, gin bottles explode in hot cars (?).  Then it was off to Mallaig to catch the ferry to Skye were the weather was the nicest.  No one really starts the Roadtrip with any concrete plans, we just check the weather and go.

I had never been to Skye before this week.  I had been close, multiple times.  The Bothy is just south of Kyle of Lochalsh, which if you wanted to drive to Skye over taking a car ferry is where you would find a very steep bridge linking the island to the mainland.  And the weather was incredible.  On average Skye gets about three sunny days a year, the rest of the time it’s known to be clouded in mist and rain.  The week we were there, it did not rain a single day.  Clear skies, hot weather to the point I was still sweating in just a sleeping bag liner… and midges.

The Scottish midge is a beast known only to itself.  While I pride myself for never getting ticks or mosquito bits… holy living Hell I was eaten alive.  I looked like a pox victim.  Actually, probably worse.  And since we wild camped most nights, the midges had no mercy.

But anyway, here’s what we got up to on Skye.  Ellie B and I had a nice walk from Elgol to Kilmarie.  It was along the coast and we stopped for ice cream and met a nice dog.  We ordered way too many plates of sweet potato fries from the pub in Sligachan and probably ate all their mayo as well, sorry.  All of us had the bright idea of wild camping at the Fairy Pools so that we could wake up early and see them without all the tourists, which was great and we all went for a swim until the tourists showed up… with their mechanical, whizzing drones.  I really hope when they rewatch the footage they see my kind, respectful one finger salute while I’m trying to bathe for the first time in a week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a stroke of ingenuity, we sat cooking dinner in a layby with cars speeding past.  We were all well beside ourselves having realized the speed of the cars kept the midges at bay (it’s hadn’t occurred to us how low our standards had gotten that were were excited about cooking on a layby)…  that was until I woke up the next morning to see the yellow roof of my tent covered in black patches.  In a speedy departure I thought I was home free until I fell into a bog up to my waist.  Pinned down by the weight of my base bag, my friends abandoned me to the midges while I pulled myself (and about a metric ton of bog crap) out and stumbled to the car.

That afternoon, everyone was just a little tired and split up to do different things.  Some went climbing, a few ran errands to get missing kit, and I went for a run.  Despite falling in a bog that morning the day evened out and I ran a solid 18km down Sligachan Glen at the base of the Cullins.  The sun was out, the trail was amazing, and I honestly haven’t felt that happy running in a long, long, long time.  I could have kept going… in fact I sort of did.  I only planed on maybe 7/8km max… but it was just one of those days were nothing hurt and the surrounding were beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then it was off to Neist Point for climbing by the coast.  I’m normally not scared of heights, but, ouch, did I think I was going to fall into the ocean.  But, I mean it didn’t help that the path to the crag neared about three inches to the cliff with horrid, cackling birds below.  But, the climbing at Neist was great.  The sun did not set until nearly 11 pm so we stayed out late AND! we had our first midge free night!

 

 

 

 

 

The next day, Ellie B and I met up with Sophie, Caitlin, and Urte who were all on their own roadtrip around Scotland.  However, before we went to Dunvegan Castle because tbh is it a trip if you don’t see a castle?  That evening we pitched our tents on a dubious beach spot and got a bit of a fright when we thought the tide would wash us out again.  But, it didn’t and we had a BBQ and celebrated the week as the sunset on Skye with a bottle of cinnamon schnappes.

We were all brutally awoken by Ali shouting, ‘CAN EVERYONE GET UP SO WE CAN LEAVE THIS HELL HOLE!’ at 7 am. My eyes snapped open it was wasn’t even patches of black this time, no my tent was entirely blackened with midges.  Not wanting to even think about moving I shouted back, ‘Have you tried asking them (the midges) nicely to leave?’ No one thought that was funny and with panicked screeching we packed up and got the heck outta Dodge.  However, this was not before Erling became the next victim and if it wasn’t for his socially acceptable male leg hair, he would have looked like not just a pox victim but Patient 0.

Ellie B drove in silence back to the pub carpark and I didn’t blame her in the slightest.  I even forgave her a bit for almost murdering me in my sleep.  *Apparently* I snore and the only way to stop it was to hold my nose until I woke up.

That afternoon, Ellie B drove Tuva, Erling, and Alven back to Edinburgh and Ali returned to Aberdeen.  I swapped into Ellie Leigh’s car with Oonagh and Ben and we all drove to Torridon.  We spend the rest of the time in Torridon before Ellie Leigh dropped me in Inverness and I caught the train back Wednesday night, just in time to go to the pub and see friends again before they all left for the summer.

But back to Torridon, it was finally windy and the midges met their rightful demise.  The highlight of my time in Torridon was scrambling across the Liathach Ridge.  With just the four of us in Torridon and with limited rack and ropes Ellie and Oonagh split off to do an eight pitch route while Ben and I completed the ridge.  (I’ve linked the route description above if you want to check it out because I’m a little too lazy to retype it here.)  But basically, at a few points, while clinging to the side of a rock I cried to Ben (he offered no sympathy, mind you!), why I, a meager Kansas farm child, had ever thought leaving the flat of the valley floor below was a good idea. Jokes aside, it was actually fine and I’m glad for this view.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The next day all four of us drove to Diabaig for some climbing but after a while we bailed and went for a swim instead.  Then it was off to Inverness to drop me at the train station for my train back to Edinburgh.  I left early so that I could make it to the RBGE Volunteer BBQ on the Thursday.

 

And that’s the trip.  I’m back now and I spent today at the gardens helping the education team with school groups aged 5-6.  I need to start some research, pay a few bills, and answer a few emails before heading off on excavation in July.  I keep telling myself to do things and I probably should get started.

 

long time no chat

Hey all!  Apologies for the absence.

Things have been a little busy around here in Edinburgh.  I had my last exam on Wednesday (Theoretical Archaeology) so I am officially done for the year and just awaiting some final marks.  The exam went well and unless I royally messed up, it’ll be fine.  My final project marks for my Archaeological Illustration class came back and I’m quite happy with them.

Out of all my classes this semester, Archaeological Illustration was probably my favorite as I got a chance to work both digital stuff like Photoshop and Illustrator but also techniques like ink and watercolor.  I’ve always love art and it was great to be able to use what I’ve learned in school during this class!  I’ll include pngs of my final project below if you want to see.  We had to choose an object and create two different illustrations.  I chose the wooden box I use to keep my bobby pins in.  I did one academic on the computer and one hand-drawn for public engagement.  Also for museum work and excavations learning to record artifacts is a great skill to have.

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The flat had a party last night to celebrate as it was also Norway Day (17th of May).

Plans are to go up to the Bothy soon to set the gas and do some other work so I promise to write a longer post about summer plans then.  Next week is the EUMC Anniversary dinner in Arisaig.  There will be a ceilidh, hog roast, camping, climbing, and a beach.  Then it’s off on a short climbing road trip to where ever the weather is nice and beach is close.

As for the rest of the summer, I’ll be spending June in Edinburgh working at Royal Botanical Garden Edinburgh on my dissertation about the Botanic Cottage (archaeology, Enlightenment History, and education!).  July is going to be full of excavations both at Bamburgh and back to Poulton.  August is back to America.

Byeeeeee.

twenty-fun

Yesterday was my Twenty-First Birthday.  I’m not a massive fan of big birthdays mostly because I hate planning them and secondly, I’m not a big fan of being fussed over.  I spent this birthday, like most before it, outside enjoying the weather with my friends.

As it has been on my birthday for as long as I can remember, it rained in the morning.  Sophie and Ellie came over early while the sky was still cloudy for chocolate chip pancakes.  Tuva and Erling wished me a happy birthday and hung around watching the pancake carnage.  They’re nearly done with their final essays.  Then, Ellie went to the library to revise and Sophie and I headed to the Anatomical Museum.  The University has a special osteology collection that is only open to non-medical students on the last Saturday of each month.  In this case, the date fell on my birthday.  Maybe it’s a little gross going to look at bones on one’s twenty-first birthday… but Sophie didn’t seem to mind.  She studies philosophy and she said she ‘quite enjoyed it actually.’

After, we went for coffee and then wandered around the Saturday market in the Grassmarket.  We followed the path along the castle, through Princes Street Garden to Waterstones.  I bought myself a new cookbook.  When we left Waterstones, the sun had finally broken out from behind the clouds and I send a text to the rest of my friends to meet us in the Meadows for birthday cake and gin.

That morning, my parents had surprised me with a massive birthday cake.  The delivery guy was equally confused when I opened the door in my Christmas pajamas with a ‘Who ordered this cake?’

Sophie and I returned to my flat to grab the cake, a picnic blanket, gin, tonic water, etc.  Then we set to the Meadows to find a sunny spot.  I would argue the Meadows is a liminal space.  It’s an eighteen acre park in the South of Edinburgh just shy of the main University campus.  During the winter it becomes a barren wasteland until it snows and then it becomes full of half-made snowmen.  During the Spring, and more so in the Summer, it is filled with people, barbeques, dogs, and fire-twirlers.  Yesterday it was less crowded than usual due to the rain that morning, but we found a nice dry spot close to the music being played from higher up Middle Meadow Walk.

Soon enough more friends cycled by and joined.  By eight o’clock both the cake and the gin were gone.  We headed to my flat to drop things off and then moved to the Argyll, the local just down the street.  As it turns out, the Argyll was hosting African Drum Night.  More friends came and went, all dropping by amidst revision.  It was lovely to see everyone and we all discussed plans for when we are all finished in May.  We stayed at the Argyll until late then all departed to our homes.

And so, my birthday came and went and I am so glad I spent it here and with those people.

I know it’s a broken record, but as a kid I wanted what I have now so, so, so badly.

I still remember the first day of High School, my English teacher had us read a poem by Walt Whitman.  He said it probably encapsulated what we were probably thinking:

A noiseless patient spider,
I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.
And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.
And I think it still does in many aspects.  But, at least in this point in my life I don’t feel detached or in a ‘measureless oceans of space.’  I’m connected to this city and to my friends and I life I built here for myself.  Truly, built for myself and by myself in a brand new city and brand new country.
So now, as I move forward with the next chapters of my life I’m excited.  I’ve worked hard to get where I am today and I have had a lot of help as well.  So, thanks everyone.  I hope I won’t disappoint you.
But today, as I finish writing this in the sunny shade of the Meadows I am thankful.  Thankful for what I have seen, the places I have been, and the people I have met along the way.  And I don’t know what it will be, but I am sure I will be thankful for whatever comes next.

berlin: nein/10

This weekend I went to visit some friends in Berlin.  I turned in my last submission for third year – essay for Theoretical Archaeology and then skipped town for a few days

Gregor is currently on placement in Hamburg and Sophie is on placement in Berlin.  They’re both architecture students are are working in architectural firms to learn about careers in the field and gain work experience.  But, with weekends off, they decided to put up with me for a few days.  Thanks guys!

I arrived in Berlin Friday evening after a bit of a delay in Frankfurt.  Getting to my AirBnB from Tegel was easy enough and only mildly annoying with my phone almost dying en route.  Gregor met up with me at the U-Bahn station and we joined Sophie and some of her work friends at a bar for some drinks.

Just to describe the scene a bit… the bar was located on the ground floor of an block of flats and must have been a converted shop or flat originally.  It was entirely lit by candles which cast shadows onto the red walls.  The ceiling trim was a frieze of vines and human faces.  It was a nice space of couches and chair with tall and short tables. The most incredible part was the bartender circling the room who appeared just when you finished your drink, ready to bring you another.  Not only that but he would take massive orders of drinks and bring each quickly without fault.  Incredible.  Honestly, the only explanation I could come up with was the bartender had to be Bacchus.

The next day all three of us met up for Brunch and then took the U-Bahn to see the Brandenburg Gate and the Holocaust Memorial.  Both are located in the center part of Berlin.  The Brandenburg Gate is quite famous and I’ve included a photo below.  The Holocaust Memorial consisted of raised concrete blocks which rise in height as you walk into the center of it.  The ground also rises and lowers like a wave as you walk.  It was actually really disorientating and created a true sense of claustrophobia, which I am pretty sure was the intended purpose of the memorial.

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After, we walked toward where Checkpoint Charlie would have stood (the real one was taken by the Americans and is currently housed in the Smithsonian… classic America.)  The weather was rainy in the morning on Saturday but cleared up by the afternoon.  We spend the rest of the afternoon walking about the center of the city and onto Museum Island.  Gregor pointed out the columns of the Neues Museum which still had evidence of machine gun splatter from the Second World War.

Maybe it’s just my American naivety but seeing the physical evidence of conflict really made me stop.  I grew up reading the history and I always knew about what had happened either learning from my father or in school, but I think it’s a different thing entirely to see the bullet ridden columns lining the portico of the Neues Museum in person.  However, while the scars of conflict are still there, the area around them is green with gardens and full of life and music.

On the Sunday, we visited the upstanding bits of the Berlin Wall, a few markets in the old Soviet part of Berlin, and the Altes Musuem on Museum Island.  The Berlin Wall has been turned into a canvas for public art and in one of the markets, an old Soviet storehouse and grain tower had been converted into an outdoor climbing wall and bouldering room.  Just 40 years ago, that area was blocked away and now people are creating art and climbing walls.

 

 

 

 

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Maybe it’s me being an annoying History student and reading too much into things, but I really do believe we need to understand and remember from which we came and be aware of the world around us to know what to do and where to go next.  The city also showed that from conflict can be growth, change, and education.  Gardens can grow again and walls can climbed and painted.

I am super thankful to Gregor and Sophie for putting up with me for the weekend and showing me around.