hap newt year!

yikes, another year in the books and to be honest, 2018 was pretty amazing.

Here’s my Year in Review:

January

Traveled northward once again for Hogmanay at the EUMC Bothy.  Went skiing in the Cairngorm National Park and tripped over flat ground.  Ordered a sleeping bag with arms and legs.

February 

Tuva and Erling invited me to Norway and abandoned me in a snow drift outside of a mountain hut while they went inside and ate cinnamon rolls.  Jokes aside, I got stuck all on my own.  The Beast from the East hit Edinburgh and the university was closed for a week amidst faculty strikes and bread rations.

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March

March was essay season and I sort of stared into the void for most of it.

April 

The end of third year, a trip to Berlin to see Gregor and Sophie, my 21st birthday, and the last university exam I will ever take in my life. Get wrecked.

May

I take my Theoretical Archaeology exam and run/swim away to the Highlands.  The EUMC has its 75th Anniversary Dinner and then we kick off for the Road Trip.  We spend nearly a week on Skye with no rain and about a 100,000 midges.

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Some scrambling.

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June

Dad visited, I went to London with Besty, worked on some dissertation stuff, started at Bamburgh as an Assistant Environmental Supervisor, and then back to Chester for more work in a medieval kirkyard.

August 

Flew back to America and meet the family for a well needed holiday.

September 

Roseneath came to Kansas.  Gregor’s plane was never going to Chicago and he landed in Newark.  We meet a Bud Lite corporate rep who gave us 12 free pitchers.  Returned to Scotland for the start of fourth year.

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October

Completed less work than I would have liked but went back to the Lake District one final time to see a Roman Fort.

November 

Built a model of an iron age Round House and cooked Thanksgiving for forty people. And went to the EUMC Bothy together for our last Bothy Trip.

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bothy trip year iv.

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December 

Had my last essays, EUMC Christmas Dinner, went to see Hoizer in concert, flew back to America early, spent Christmas with my cat, and flew back to Edinburgh with my sister.

I’m back in Edinburgh until term starts in the next few weeks.  Currently I’m finishing the second of my four essays for Early Medieval Sexualities, a presentation about my dissertation, and still writing and researching for the dissertation. My courses for this semester don’t change drastically.  Only ‘Architectural Archaeology’ was a semester, the rest are full year.

Edinburgh has a massive city wide party and instead of driving up north, this year the flat, some friends, and I stayed home.  My parents sent Crosby to Edinburgh for New Years here as well so my friends and I made sure she had a good time.  We watched the fireworks shoot off from the Castle in the Links and it was a pretty great start to New Years.

So hap newt years!

 

quick update for those interested.

hello friends.

a few cool things have happened the last 10 days since my last post besides only playing Skyrim in the flat.

I had a writing seminar with one of my favourite authors – Maggie Steifvater.  It was five hours of learning about her writing process which has honestly inspired me to get back more into my own writing.  She discussed plot, characters, and pacing.

I have a really bad habit of working on a manuscript and then reaching a point where I have the story finished in my head but not on the paper and I get bored.  This has happened with a 70,000, 40,000, and 20,000 word manuscript. tl;dr: I have commitment issues when it comes to writing and going to a writing workshop with one of my favourite authors helped me a lot.

But!  I have a urban fantasy novel (about 10,000) and a futuristic sci-fi (about 40,000) which I’m working on right now and I’m really excited about them.

Yummick X-mas Dinner.  This year the EUMC headed out to The Advocate for a nice dinner and then out for a evening of dancing and debauchery.  It was the last Christmas dinner with all of us together so it was a little bittersweet.  For those on facebook you can see the album there.

Hozier in Glasgow.  Ellie, Caitlin, Sophie and I took the bus over to Glasgow to see Hozier at the O2 Academy.  I love smaller venues because they make for a much more intimate show.  I’m big fan of being able to actually feel the drums through the floor and the speakers hitting your chest.  If I’m going to shell it out for a concert – I’d prefer not to be in the nosebleeds.  Seeing Hozier in a smaller venue and being near the front was incredible.  Cha girl got taken to church.

So yeah other than that I’ve been doing a bit of Christmas shopping and then it’s back to America in a few days time.

yikes, my dudes.

It’s been a whirlwind month.  November was here and just like that bottle of Dalwhinnie single malt whiskey I drank at the Bothy in the course of a single night… it was gone.

(I’m not going to comment further or defend myself, but just know that I had a great night and in the four years of living in this country cha girl has learned a few tricks about alcohol consumption and optimal pacing.)

Apologies for not posting in a month.  November hit me like a ton of bricks and between uni work, a cold, and seasonal depression because it gets dark in Edinburgh at 3 pm… it’s been a long month.

I just submitted my final essay for the semester, an lil 3,000 word piece about the appeal of sexual renunciation for men and women in the first to fifth century Roman Empire.  It’s for my Early Medieval Sexualities course.

Turning in that essay marks me as finished for first semester!

Because I am smart and only took classes with coursework, I don’t have any upcoming exams.  I have work to do over break on my dissertation… but for all official purposes I’m on holiday.

*cue crying*

Since our last meeting, a few important events have occured.

1. Democrats flipped the house and elected a RECORD number of women and people of color. Including Sharice Davids of Kansas District 3 – one of the first Native American Women in Congress!

2. I traveled northward once more to the EUMC Bothy.  The Bothy trips is (and will probably always be) my favourite meet of the year.  We filled the trip with a record high of nearly 50 Yummicks and booked it out of Edinburgh on Friday night to secure spots on the highly coveted alpine bunks.  I spent Saturday reading a few articles for my EMS essay and Sunday helping out with bits and bobs around the Bothy.  Once a Bothy Secretary always a Bothy Secretary I guess.

Saturday night was as to be expected and cha girl lived the tell the tale.

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bothy trip year iv.

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3.  We hosted 40+ at our flat for Thanksgiving.  Gregor, Erling, Tuva, and I hosted our very own American Thanksgiving and invited all our friends around for food and comas!  Thanksgiving is always a special time of year for me and I tend to get over sentimental and cry a lot.  Having spend Thanksgiving outside of America and my family for the past four years doesn’t make it much easier.

Per tradition, before we tucked in everyone had to say what they were thankful for. Me?  As I looked around at my friends I said that I was thankful for the hope that I saw sat around our living room in Edinburgh.  I was thankful for the hope I saw for the future.  I was thankful for the hope vested in my friends from all over the world.  I was thankful we were all able to sit down together for meal.  Looking to each one of them, I know, that together my friends and I will overcome the bigotry, hatred, and fear seemingly everywhere these days.  Even when things seem the darkest, I hold onto that hope I saw in my friends faces.

“Hope is like the sun. If you only believe in it when you can see it, you’ll never make it through the night.” – Leia Organa

Other happenings?  I went to the Botanics to see the Christmas lights and went to the Murrayfield Ice Rink for some Ice Princess Antics.

Other happenings coming up this week!  I’m taking the week to chill out.  I’m going to catch up on the books I’ve been reading and work on my writing.  I have three pretty major events which I’m really excited for as well.

One of my favourite authors, Maggie Steifvater is doing a surprise writing workshop in Edinburgh this week.  She’s in Scotland for a personal trip and decided to host an impromptu event.  It’s an informal event with lectures and Q&A about writing novels with fantasy elements.  I’m honestly really excited to go.

The EUMC is hosting its annual Christmas dinner as well.  It’ll be a great evening with everyone and a little bittersweet as well for most of us it’ll be our last Christmas dinner all together.

And, then the next day it’s off to Glasgow to see Hozier in concert!

I’ll be punting around Edinburgh until my flight back to America on the 17th but after all the hard work I’ve been putting in this semester, I’m glad I’ll be taking some time to enjoy Scotland this December.

okay, one last time. promise.

If you’re fed up with me using my blog to promote the 2018 Mid-term elections, rest assured… this is the last time.

Today is Election Day and if you haven’t voted yet – shame on you.  Honestly, that’s not meant as a joke either civic negligence isn’t cute.  Your vote matters, not just for yourself but for everyone around you.  I’m going to sleep early tonight with an alarm set for even earlier tomorrow morning to watch the results come in on boring as C-SPAN unless I can find a way to watch something else.  Yay, time zones.

But. Just one last thing I’d thought I’d say before this election.  America, I believe in you.  I believe you because you’ve seen this before and you’ve seen worse.  And, while it might knock you down a few times you’ll get back up.

America, I know you will.

While I was thinking about how to write this post I stumbled across this:

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This is the Columbus and its register. It was built in 1924 by Schichau Shipyard in Danzig, Germany.  It weighed 32,581 gross tons.  Measured 775 (bp) feet long and 83 feet wide.  Featured steam turbine engines with twin screw. Service speed was 23 knots. It held 1,725 passengers (479 first class, 644 second class, 602 third class) and on January 1, 1926 it arrived to Ellis Island.

Herman Meiwes, my great-grandfather, was the 21st passenger on the Columbus.  He was 24 years old.  From New York, he traveled to Chicago were he met my great-grandmother, Elizabeth Thumann.

In 1929, Elizabeth had traveled from her home in Germany to the United States of America.  She left behind her family, her friends, and the memories of her fiancée who had been killed during WWI.  Everything she owned was placed in a single wooden trunk.  In her bag was a letter from a man in Nebraska who was seeking a German wife. Like Herman, Elizabeth was also seeking a new life for herself – one away from the dangers rising in her home country.

As it turns out, the man in Nebraska had already found a wife by the time Elizabeth arrived in New York.  She moved to Chicago and worked as a nurse and housemaid.  An honest job for a clever, independent woman with limited English.  That was where Elizabeth met Herman.  The two married and moved to Kansas where they had two daughters – Annie and Sue.

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My Great-Grandparents, Great-Aunt, and Grandmother.  1946.

In 1952, Sue married Clete.  In 1958, my grandparents had their first son, Mark, in England while they were stationed there with the US Air Force .  Back in Kansas, in 1961, their second son was born, Scott – my dad.

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My Grandparents on their wedding day.  1952.

family

My mom, me, my dad, my sister, and my grandmother. 2014. (Side note: if you want to see me in the future look no further than this picture).

My great-grandparents arrived in the United States with nothing to their names but hope of a better future than the one unfolding in Germany… and through the kindness of the Americans they met along the way and their own hard work – I am here able to write this now.

And, that’s the truth.

I think about my family a lot this time of year this close to Thanksgiving and Christmas.  As their great-granddaughter, I hope to uphold the faith they had.  The faith that America would be the place to welcome them with open arms and do its best to give them the future they deserve.  The place where through hard work, they could make something.  The hope that America will continue to welcome each and every one of us with open arms and do its best to give us all the futures we deserve.  The hope that if we continue to stretch just that bit further with love and support for those around us – we can all make America the place Herman Meiwes first saw from the deck of the Columbus.

So, that’s my last election post.

I’ll see you all on the other side.

 

It’s been a week.

It’s been a week – so much so that I wrote this a week ago and postponed publishing it until now because I was *stressed.*

I’ve been busy crying over building a scale model of an Iron Age roundhouse, I got my first piece of assessment back (I got a 72 on my presentation about Roman Graffiti in my Early Medieval Sexualities course!), and I voted via absentee for the mid-term elections.

I spent the last weekend in the Lake District with the EUMC.  We stayed in the Langdale Valley and the weather was great until it wasn’t.  On Saturday, Gregor drove Ellie, Alven, and I to Hardknott the Roman fort built onto the side of a hill.

The fort was built between 183-203 CE and it’s one of the best preserved forts I’ve ever seen.  It still had the stone foundations of the granary, Principia, and commanding officers house as well as a near complete surrounding curtain wall.  Hardknott even had a bath complex and surviving parade/practice ground!  During a wall walk I discovered the still functioning Roman drainage system that would have drawn water away from the center (and most important part) of the fort.  After eating lunch in the granary, Ellie, Alven, and I walked the 10 miles back to the campsite following the path of the old Roman highway system built to connect Hardknott to the other forts in the area including the one in Ambleside.  The road was also used in the medieval period as there’s a record from 1182 of a bunch of monks in an ox cart traveling the road.

That evening we returned once more to the infamous Old Dungeon Ghyll where they have Old Peculiar on tap.

On Sunday, I had reading to do for class and Gregor had to work on his dissertation proposal so he drove myself, Ellie, and Alven to Ambleside.  The weather wasn’t super great either so I didn’t feel too guilty about not spending the day in the hills.  I had just finished a paper on early medieval monasticism when I glanced at the television and saw ‘Breaking: Kavanaugh confirmed for US Supreme Court’ running along the bottom ticker.

I stopped, put my pen down and quickly left for the bathroom where I spent the next ten or so minutes crying in frustration and then trying to recompose myself in the mirror so I could return to my work.  And, I’m not telling you this to extract your pity.  I’m telling you this so you understand.

As children, we are taught not to throw a fit in public.  As adults, we can shout and yell until our face turns red.

As children, we are taught to answer questions asked of us eloquently and with respect.  As adults, we can respond with a snarky, ‘Have you?’

As children, we are taught we have to work hard and be qualified for our jobs.  As adults, we expect to be automatically given what we want.

As children, we are taught to believe in Santa Claus and are held accountable for our actions or else we’ll get coal for Christmas.  As adults, we refute the under oath testimony of women and refuse to hold people accountable for their actions.

Why is it that we hold children more accountable for their actions then adults?

I watched the hearings, I followed the joke of an FBI investigation, and I once again had to explain to my friends why it’s still currently 1917 within the borders of the United States of America.

The confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh scares me.

It scares me because it showed me, once again, that my country does not care about women, does not believe women, and will not take the required steps to protect the civil liberties and rights of women.

It scared me because it showed me, once again, that my country does not care about, believe in, or will protect me, my mother, my sister, my aunts, my grandmothers, my cousins, or my friends.

I shouldn’t have to tell you these things to make you believe me, but just in case you want to see my credentials to speak on this subject: I have been groped in nightclubs. I have had explicit things shouted at me on the street. I have had been called ‘a bitch’ and a hell of lot worse.  I have been stalked.  I have had multiple men become angry when I told them they were making me uncomfortable.  My friends have those same stories and more.

Male readers, if that was uncomfortable for you to read then you can only imagine how I felt.

And, before you ask why I didn’t stop it or prevent it let me tell you this: yes, I have a second degree black belt and ten years of martial arts experience.  Yes, I went to the university and I went to the police – but that’s not the point.  Sexual harassment and assault do not happen when you are expecting it and are often in places you know and committed by people you know.  It’s not the stranger in the dark alley that so many people want us to believe it is.  It’s sort of like how this post started out as a gentle recount of my travels to a Roman fort and then changed abruptly…

Also, how about we stop blaming women for things that happen to them and start holding the people who actually did it accountable, m’kay?  How about instead of a reactionary culture we adopt a preventative one?

This past week has made those feelings of helplessness and fear resurface and as someone who really hates feeling helpless – it was sickening.  I watched as a man screamed and yelled his way onto the Supreme Court like it was something that was owed to him.  I watched the testimony of Dr Christine Blasey Ford as she came forward to a panel of people and recounted a horrible event in her life.  An event that, I might add, she would not lie about.  Why would she?  Why cause a fuss out of nothing?  Dr Ford has been forced to move out of her home due to death threats.  Her life has been upended because she spoke out.  With everything to lose (and as we saw little to gain) why come forward with something that isn’t true?  Why go to the trouble to get all the way to Washington DC for false allegations?

And when Kavanaugh was confirmed, that flood of emotions, frustration, and helplessness erupted and caused me to cry for ten minutes half way across the world in a restroom in Ambleside.

At this point, it’s beyond planks in a political platform for me.  I’ve already cast my ballot for people I know will care about me, believe me, and fight to protect my rights.

Things must change.

Women cannot be treated as second class citizens.

Their testimony must not be treated as ‘a hoax.’

I urge you this November, in just 19 days, to think about the women in your own life and do the same.

Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.

 

 

 

 

four years of bumbling

An update a little late for some but not for others.

It’s week two of fourth year.

This past weekend was spent in Glencoe.  I hiked the Three Sisters on Saturday (a walk I had done in first year and was keen to repeat to see how times had changed).  I ran down the trail back to the bus in boots and probably broke at least two toes.  That evening the club went to the historic Clachaig Inn and fondly reminisced about the snow and the hail and the rain and then finally the sun.  I learned boat races are not a thing I should compete in no matter how much I want to.  Sunday morning I left for a gentle ten mile jog, came back to the campsite by one, and took a nap until people returned around four.

I hadn’t been to Glencoe since first year, so I was quiet excited to return to see how I’ve improved.  Spoiler alert, three years does make a pretty big difference.  And since coming from Kansas back in 2015, I’ve learned a lot about mountains/mountaineering in general.  I’m still by no means an expert, but I would say I’m at least fairly competent.  It’s a bit odd now, if I’m being entirely honest, being seen by the new members of the club as one of the people who ‘knows what they’re doing.’  Especially if I think back to the some of the stupid tactical errors I pulled in the first three years of my mountain existence such as:

  • thinking I didn’t need a roll mat
  • putting guy lines of a tension tent in the wrong direction so it collapsed
  • having my water bottle freeze shut because it was metal and reversely trying to fix that by putting boiling water in a metal bottle the next day and burning my hands
  • forgetting. my. gloves.

A side by side comparison of my wholesome growth illustrated through my first year trip to Glencoe versus this past weekend for interested parties:

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Which, again being as honest as I can on this platform without further incriminating myself as a bumbling idiot, is pretty reflective of my time here at University.

For those unaware, I upended my life in 2015 and moved to Scotland having accepted my offer to study without actually visiting the country prior or knowing anyone who lived here.  At this point, as well, the longest I had spend away from home had been at most two weeks.  It was a bit of a snap decision really.  For most of my high school years, I had plans to attend UChicago to play basketball.  It really wasn’t public knowledge at the time, but I had actually been in the middle of recruitment process, having visited the university, spoken with the coach, and attended a few camps.  I applied to Edinburgh in October more as a long shot ‘what if’ but six days after my application had been submitted I was facing an unconditional offer.

By January, I decided to not even apply to UChicago and move to Scotland.

But, I am glad that I did it.

Really glad actually.

(My university saving and parents are as well just fyi.)

But, then to complicate matters further, instead of joining the basketball team as I had thought I went on the Cobbler day trip with the mountaineers.  And, after spending my formative years in Kansas, (a flat farming state in the landlocked dead-center of the USofA) I decided that I should learn how to rock climb and hillwalk.  It was a very steep learning curve, both figuratively and literally.  But it has allowed me to travel the country and see sites (including archaeological ones) that I would have never seen otherwise.

Which I guess is the point of this post? And the reason for the beginning anecdote about Glencoe. This year brings my undergraduate degree to a close, but hopefully opens up more opportunities for additional study.  And my typical fashion of bumbling around until something works out, it’ll probably crop up when I least expect it.

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.

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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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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day 1 on skye

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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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Some scrambling.

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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.

 

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.