shetland

This past week, Ben, Alven, and I took the train from Edinburgh to Aberdeen and then the overnight ferry from Aberdeen to Shetland.

Considering the events of the week before which included learning I’d lost a friend I’d known since childhood, my parents calling to let me know my faithful dog of 12 years was gone as well, and then deciding to move back to America this August for a Masters – getting away seemed like the thing I needed to do.  The trip was planned quickly, with ferry and train booking happening Thursday to leave Saturday.

Shetland, if you are interested, are the northernmost islands of the UK.  The islands are very close to Norway and have a very strong Norse heritage with plenty of archaeological sites.  One of the really significant ones is Jarlshof which has everything from Bronze Age, Iron Age, Viking, Early Medieval, and Late Medieval on one site.  If you’re interested in the complete history here’s the Wikipedia page.

But, anyway.  We spent the week traveling around the Mainland and working on our dissertations.  All three of us brought work with us, so it wasn’t a total escape.  But the change of scenery was something I dearly needed.

Instead of a normal blog post I decided to make a video to attempt to capture the week.  The video is at the end of this post because I want you to read everything first.

I’m going to be honest here, I fell in love with Shetland.  Everything from its remoteness to rainbows created by the crashing waves to the ancient stone brochs and finally to the long roads to the edge of cliffs.  It felt like there was something familiar about it nagging at me the entire time.

Back in August of 2015, I began the long process of packing up my life and moving to Scotland.  That process included picking and choosing what parts I wanted to take with me and what parts I would decide to leave behind.

Maybe I am a sentimentalist, or perhaps that is just a nice way of wording Kennedy-is-a-hoarder, but one of the things I packed and moved across the Atlantic with me was a worn copy of Selected Poems of H.D. and a typewritten note by one of my English teachers.

A portion of that note reads:

Dear Kennedy,

In his poem ‘Tollund Man’ Seamus Heaney writes:

 Out here in Jutland // In the old man-killing parishes // I will feel lost, // Unhappy and at home. 

I would never wish you unhappiness, however, I know that desire is in you to find a home in the lost places, in history, in poetry, in the bog, in the ruin, amoung the relics.

So my wish for you is an unending quest often satisfied but never for long.

If you’re a nosy reader of my blog here you’ll probably recognize those verses from my About page.  They’ve been there since the beginning.

The book is one of the few I keep close within arms reach next to my bed.  The others, if you’re curious, are Tomorrow is Now by Eleanor Roosevelt, The Art of War by Sun-Tzu, The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

I have thought of those words often, I’d admit.  When I received them at age 18, I knew that it would be something that would plague me for years and I think my English teacher knew that as well.

Living in Scotland these past four years has become that ‘unending quest.’  And truthfully, my English teacher was right.  It has been satisfying – but at each turn I make, I discover something new and once again I am… on another unending quest.  Traveling to remote places, exploring in wet and windy weather could make someone feel lost – but again, and not to sound like pretenious piece of shite, I have never felt more at home.

I am so close to finishing my degree with only two essays and my dissertation left.  Especially after the events earlier this month, going to Shetland this past week allowed for me to escape everything and find my next move.  It also showed me a place I would happily return to and live unbothered.

 

 

 

 

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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⛷⛷⛷

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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.

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.

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.

 

amigas, cheetahs, friends for lyfe.

It’s always nice to see your friends – especially ones you haven’t seen in over a year.

This week, the down week between me getting back from Bamburgh and then jet setting it off to Italy to hang out with dead people (re: I’m taking an Osteology Course near Pompeii), I had one my best friends from American come and visit.

Mallory and I had suffered through *American High School* together so we’ve been through a lot.  She had been in Ireland this summer working at the Trinity College Library in Dublin.  She’s a pretty cool person doing European Studies with a focus on Museums at University right now.

She arrived late on the 22nd and I walked down to meet her at Waverly Station.  After that I spend the next week showing her around the lovely city of Edinburgh.  We went to lots of museums: The National Gallery, Portrait Gallery, and the National Museum.  And drank a metric shit ton of coffee.  One of our favourite activities is to sit at a coffee shop for prolonged periods of time and drink enough coffee to feel our hearts palpitating.  Great fun.

We also explored plenty of *creepy* graveyards and went to the cat cafe where Mallory harassed a hairless cat wearing a hoodie.

And brunch! We went for brunch on multiple days.  Brunch is one of our favourite activities.

Basically we’re already old ladies.  We actually discussed the ‘Are you a Twenty Something Grandmother’ Buzzfeed quiz where we had both scored over 80%.

We also went to the Royal Botanical Garden on a particular sunny day.  I’d never been before, having attempted multiple times but always getting lost and then somehow ending up in Leith with blistered feet… long story.  The garden stretches over 72 acres and features a variety of plants.  Some are very big.

On one of the rainy days we went to go see the new film Dunkirk.  Mal and I sat in the corner and cried for the entire duration of the film.  We are also both very frequent criers, especially if the topic includes anything historical.

But anyway, we had a great time.  Not to be sentimental, but living abroad has really made me understand that I make friendships with people in different ways now.  Since I don’t get to see many of my friends on a daily basis, I mostly communicate with them via social media or sometimes when I’m feeling really elderly I’ll send letters.

But, just because I don’t see a person as frequently as others doesn’t make that friendship any less important to me.  It’s actually really incredible when I do go online and get to see what cool things my amazing friends are up to all over the world.  It makes the world a much smaller and connected place and it just means that when I do get to finally see a friend it’s all the better. ❤

 

yummick road trip 2017

Hello friends it is I, your local hermit.  I just got back last night after a whirlwind tour of the UK.

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sound on.

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It all started right after my last exam on May 23.  I finished my exam at 4.30 pm and then headed right north to the Bothy with a small crew to finish renovations and spend a few days there.  I’ve officially taken over as Bothy Secretary for the EUMC and the place looks fantastic.  The kitchen is now fitted, doors are hung, the fireplace is filled in, and we even got a fantastic day out on the hills for some sunny walking.  We walked the Five Sisters of Kintail, a ridge line with five peaks and three Munros.  I got terribly sunburned during the walk and basically both of my arms  have peeled off.  On May 26, it was back to Edinburgh.  I spend May 27 airing my kit and repacking.  It was a quick turnaround as we left again, early, on May 28 to head south.

Ali, Ellie, Tuva, Erling, and myself all crammed ourselves and our kit into Ali’s parent’s car and began our week long adventure across the UK.  We first headed south to the Lake District to avoid the bad weather up north in Scotland.  We may have had a mild SNAFU with the bouldering mat whilst driving the M-6.  For the first two days, we stayed at Ellie’s grandparent’s cottage in the Lake District.  The building was built in 1725! We spend one day climbing and the next day we went for a nice 17km stroll.

Then we packed up again and headed further south into the Lake District. We arrived in Great Langdale for a rainy afternoon.  We pitched our tents and I made sad sausages in the rain on my camping stove while Ellie held an umbrella over my head.  To wait out the rain we all headed to the pub.  Later that night, more Yummicks joined us at the camp site.  The next day we headed over to Shepard’s Crag for a day of climbing in the sun.  I got sunburned again.  I lead my first pitches in a right long while and it felt really good to be back out climbing.  The next day, Ali, Ellie, and I headed to the Langdale Boulders.  I saw the Neolithic rock art carved into the sides of the boulders and pitched my hammock and take a nap.  Tuva and Erling went climbing at the nearby Raven Crag.

The next day was a long haul drive from the Lakes up to Oban.  Oban is a port city on the west coast of Scotland.  We caught the ferry over to Mull from Obam.  Once on Mull, we put the party bops on and jammed out as we drove across the island to reach Fionnport.  We stayed the night at a campsite in Fionnport.  The sunset was incredible.

The next day, while many stayed on Mull for some climbing I packed up my things and caught the early ferry over to Iona.  Iona was the location for the Dinner Meet on Saturday night, a dinner of general shenanigans and debauchery.

However, Iona is also an island of significant historical importance.  In 563 AD Columba landed on the island with 12 monks and established one of the more important religious sites in Scotland.  The Abbey on Iona is famous throughout history.   And, a link to my upcoming excavation at Bamburgh Castle, when King Oswald was a boy he spent his exile in the kingdom of Dal Riata (modern day Argyll and parts of Ireland).  Iona was the religious center for Dal Riata.  When Oswald converted to Christianity, he would at some point visited Iona.  And later when Oswald returned to Northumberland and took back his rights as king of Bamburgh castle, he brought with him a new sense of Christian ideals.  It was Oswald who granted Aiden the land for Lindisfarne and strengthened the connection between secular kingdoms and the church.

So anyway, I spend the day on the island by myself.  I went for a run around the island to explore the sites.  It was fantastic.  The weather was amazing as I explored the Nunnery and the Abbey.  While I was listening to the audio guide at the Abbey, I heard what I thought was a crack of thunder.  At first I just thought it was part of the guide’s music but then I looked outside and saw that the sky had opened up and there was actually a small thunderstorm!  I waited in the 13c Benedictine cloisters for the storm to pass.

That afternoon, more yummicks made it to Iona and we headed down to the beach.  I jumped into the ocean and had a good swim around in the cold, but-not-too-cold water.

Iona was definitely an island where you could feel the sense of history.  It cloaked everything on the island with a sense of mysticism.  When I took the ferry over from Mull and caught site of the Abbey from the water, I could understand why for over 1000 years people have been coming to this island.

That evening, everyone finally took showers and we headed to the restaurant for the dinner meet.  It was a really nice time and I got a chance to see all my friends again before everyone leaves for the summer or in the case of a few for exchange the next year.  After dinner, we headed back to the campsite to change and then headed back down to the beach for a bonfire.  I roasted s’mores and then taught a lot of my friends how to make them as well.  I was shocked to find that the quintessential camping food was just an American thing.  We hung around the bonfire singing songs, telling stories, and drinking a lot of alcohol.  Lol, what did you expect?  You put 40+ twenty somethings on an island after a week of walking, climbing, and camping.  We finally got pushed out of the beach by an onset of rain around 3 AM.

The next day was a slow pack up and then ferry back to Fionnport.  From there we drove back around Mull to catch the ferry back to Oban.  The drive was long as we arrived back at the flat around 9.45 last night.

All in all it was a fantastic trip out with lovely people and a good start to a summer I know is going to be stellar.  The only downside is that it’s over and lost pretty much all the skin on my arms.

I woke up late this morning to air out my kit and write this post.  I’m just back in Edinburgh for a few days now.  I’ll be heading south soon again to start my five week excavation at Bamburgh Castle!

 

lads hit london town

It was a spontaneous trip planned through a group message of mostly cat gifs and pictures of Ryan Gosling.  It ended with me crying over old things, dropping my toothpaste down the toilet, and hitchhiking pigeons.

*drum roll please* Welcome to the recount of ‘Lads Hit London Town.’

On Saturday, I booked a cheap flight down to London to meet up with Ellie, Caitlin, and Sophie.  All three of them live around the area.  I flew into Gatwick by 4 pm, hopped a very humid and crowded train to Victoria Station to meet up with Elie and Caitlin.  From there we walked past Buckingham Palace (Yes, the Queen was in.) through Trafalgar Square to Chinatown for dinner.  It started to drizzle while we were walking.  By the time we got to the restaurant, we were soaked.  I had a huge plate of noodles, devoured them all, and felt much better.  After dinner we walked to past Big Ben, Westminster, and the Houses of Parliament, then to Waterloo station to catch a train out of London to Caitlin’s.

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The next morning we started bright and early as we had planned to go to Oxford to meet up with Sophie.  My morning started extra exciting as I dropped my toothpaste in the toilet pre 8 AM. We took the train back into the city and grabbed the Oxford Tube (a bus not as the name would suggest a train).  Unaware that ‘no hot food’ does not include ‘hot drinks’ like it normally does in America, I forced myself to down a large latte in five minutes before boarding the bus.  I later learned that you could in fact bring drinks on the bus and I hated myself for the entire hour and half ride.

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By the time we got to Oxford I was glad to be on cold, unmoving, ground.  Sophie picked us up at the bus stop, we stopped briefly at her house which was built in the 16c (and omg it was so cool).  I rushed to the bathroom because, again, I was stupid and downed a large coffee in five minutes.

We then travelled into Oxford.  Oxford is such a pretty town, and is definitely dominated by the University.  We went to the original Blackwells bookshop and then trekked over the Pitt Rivers Museum.  The Museum had shrunken heads and swords.  After the museum we stopped for tea and snacks at one of the older Church buildings in Oxford, boasting to have been used since 1230.

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That evening, we returned to Sophie for dinner and watched the new iTV Victoria series.  We only intended to watch an episode or two, until we realised that actual bae Albert did not appear until episode five… so we marched on.  The next morning we took the Oxford Tube back to London.

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Back in London, we took the underground to visit the British Museum.  I was especially excited about visiting, as it has been a place I have wanted to go for a few long time.  It’s a bit silly, but I’ve got this old postcard from the early 1900s featuring the exterior of the Museum.  It has people walking in out of the museum on it with horse and carriages waiting like taxis in front.  I’ve kept this postcard with me for a while, keeping it on my desk next to other old postcards of places I would like to go or places I have been.

Walking inside of the museum I was overwhelmed.  I knew the museum was large, but it never really dawned on me just how spectacular the collection is.  The first gallery I entered was the Egyptian gallery and I was greeted by the giant bust of Ramses II.  The Rosetta Stone lay just beyond.

Another reason I was so keen to visit was that the British Museum has, in it’s collections, many artifacts taken (or stolen, depending on your viewpoint) from building on the Acropolis in Athens, Greece.  When I visited Athens back in March of 2015, I had given a report on the Temple of Athena Nike (a small temple located by the Propylaea near the entry of the Acropolis which was dedicated to the goddesses Athena and Nike).  However, many of the original friezes and stonework were not located in the New Acropolis Museum in Athens.  While I had seen the building and some of the more famous pieces such as ‘Nike attending her shoe,’ I had not seen the major friezes that has adorned the exterior walls of the temple.

In the British Museum, I actually stumbled upon them rather unexpectedly, but was glad that I did.  While, to be fair, I wish that I had been able to see the pieces in Athens with the rest of the structure, I was glad to have been able to see them at all.

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This sentiment could also be said of the Parthenon Marbles.  Two years after visiting the Parthenon in Greece, I was able to finally see the surviving friezes and metopes.  The marbles had been taken by Lord Elgin in 1801.  Seeing the marbles in London was more than a little controversial for me considering the circumstances that surrounded their original departure from Athens.

As an archaeologist, I have always felt that it is my duty to uphold and respect the cultural heritage of the cultures I study.  This extends to the rights of autonomy over artifacts.  However, I do understand that at the time of their removal, Greece was on the cusp of their Wars of Independence.  The Acropolis was severely damaged over the following decades, with the Parthenon itself taking heavy hits from cannonfire.  It cannot be certain, what the fate of the marbles would have been had they remained in Greece… but at least, then, having them removed and taken to London seemed to be the best option in the sake of preservation.  Now over 200 years later… it has become a point of contention between Greece (who despite being facing economic collapse, has spend large sums of money developing and building a new museum to house the marbles) and the UK.

While personally, I would like to see the marbles return to Greece… I can understand the worries of the academic community.

Other highlights of the Museum featured the famous Sutton Hoo ship burial which many people relate to the time of Beowulf and the Lindow Man.  The Sutton Hoo burial is an Anglo-Saxon ship burial dated to around the 7c AD.  It was a truly incredible find as it links fact to fiction, archaeologists were able to lift portions of Beowulf that correspond to finds in the grave… drawing into greater question the text’s legitimacy as a historical source and not just an epic poem.

Lindow Man was one of the Iron Age bog bodies discovered in England.  I’ve written quite a bit about him through essays, high school science projects, and on exams.  This was again, a situation where I had turned the corner and stumbled upon him.  It honestly took me a little bit by surprise to see him there before me.  I had looked at plenty of photos of Lindow Man but to see him in person… I could still see the red of his hair and the stubble of his mustache, arms twisted in a sleeping position.

Like I said, the British Museum was a little overwhelming for me.

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From there we said goodbye to Sophie and Caitlin.  Ellie and I traveled back to her house for dinner.  The next day, Ellie and I travelled back into London for a day of shopping and more site seeing.  We ate lunch and then hiked up to the Royal Observatory.

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The next day was back to Edinburgh.  Ellie and I caught the 11 AM train from Kings Cross to Edinburgh.  The train ride was very calm and honestly, so much better than flying.  The train did a brief stop in York… and then about twenty minutes later, the train conductor announced: ‘Could the person who brought the crate of live pigeons with them please return to Coach D to collect your pigeons.’ You could honestly hear the collective WTF across the train.  I assumed then that the situation had been taken care of… until two train attendants said that no one had come to collect the pigeons and it was assumed that they had been placed on board the train in York.  A crate of live pigeons was left unattended on the train.  The conductor called ahead to Newcastle, however the station was unable to take the pigeons.  We continued onto Edinburgh (passing Bamburgh Castle…more on that site to come) … where I am assuming the pigeons were taken from the train.

And that was the end to my trip to London.  It was really wonderful to see my friends and have them show me some of their favourite places in their hometowns.  Also a big thank you to Ellie, Caitlin, and Sophie’s families for allowing us all to stay at their houses along our escapades.

I’m back in Edinburgh relaxing after my yoga class ready to get back to University on Monday.

A Break from Studying

One of the many blessings of studying archaeology in Scotland… is, well, being in Scotland.

Today, I decided to take a break from my Archaeology revisions and go out and visit a real archaeological site.  And, not just any site… a 14th century castle.

** HIGH LEVELS OF GEEKING OUT BELOW. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED **

Normally, back home if I wanted to look at a medieval castle I would have go online or look at pictures in books… this morning I walked 2.5 miles from my dorm room and was at the foot of Cragmillar Castle, a castle with its foundations in the 14th century but had been built on until the 17th.

I met up with two friends from Mountaineering, Gregor and Felix, at the entrance to Holyrood Park around 11 AM this morning.  From there we walked the 2.5 miles bike path that lead from the park to the castle (you know because Mountaineers don’t need the bus).  It was a really nice morning as well, and quite unusually warm for December.

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CASTLE. YASSSSSS.

This was one of the best castles I have ever seen.  It was so well preserved and we basically had the entire place to ourselves.  There were a few other people around but only toward the end of our visit.  And also, this castle was basically completely open.  You could go everywhere, up stairs, down stairs, on the parapet, through tunnels, into rooms… barely anything was blocked off.  I cried on everything.

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The castle was build in three layers, the innermost Tower House was built in the 14th century, the first layer of walls was 15-16th, and the outermost walls were 17th.  The castle has a long history, Mary Queen of Scots was even rumored to have stayed there!  It was also surprising navigable.  Many of the room connected into one another and because of the openness of the site, you really got a good feeling as to how people would have moved around the castle during their day to day life.

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on da roof.

We started outside and worked our way around and then inside.  Everything was there… chamber rooms, fireplaces, a great hall, TOWERS!! even a dungeon en-suite prison cell (more on that later).

(click through the slideshow to see more pictures)

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in the dungeon prison cell contemplating my escape on the ensuite toilet. #theusual

The castle was bought by the Preston family in the 1600s and they decided they wanted to buliding a pool in the shape of a ‘P.’ You know, what else do you do with your extortionate amount of money… build a name pool right next to your castle!

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the infamous p pool

Parts of the castle even showed evidence of being two or three stories.  You can tell this from the post-holes of the sides of the walls where the wood floor boards would have been or when three fireplaces line up along the wall… often times the chimneys would be connected over a few different floors.  This would have made the middle levels quite toasty during the Scottish winters.

(Also, geeky side note on the fireplaces… you could still see the smoke and soot staining in a lot of them.  I recognized it because the marks were really similar to the fire marks I saw in Knossos in Crete this March.)

Just so you can see how close the castle is to the center of Edinburgh… you can see Edinburgh castle in the middle of this photo taken from the top of Cragmillar. The university is right below.  My dorm is just below the Crags on the far right.

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party on the parapet.

After the castle, we stopped by Black Medicine Coffee (which fun fact is owned by JK Rowling’s brother in-law) for a late lunch and coffee. A few more friends stopped by, everyone is sorting out plans for next week.  A lot of my friends are leaving in the next few days, but there are a few that are sticking around as long as I am.  They are looking to go out and see a bit more of Scotland.  I have four days after my last exam, so I’ll see what sort of other ruins I can find.

It was truly a fantastic day.  And it made me realise just how lucky I am to go to University here.  If I had chosen to stay in the states visiting an archaeological site, let alone a castle, would have never been possible.  It really adds a new element to my studies, just the other day I was reading about medieval castles for my exam and today I went out and actually got to visit one (read: cry all over).

Okay, I’m back to studying for my archaeology exam but I will leave you with this picture of me failing at cartwheels in front of the castle.

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cartwheels!

A ‘Merican Thanksgiving in Scotland

I ate so much turkey and I have no regrets.

Moving to Scotland, I knew that there would some uniquely American things that I would miss out on.  I already missed the World Series, but I was not prepared to give up Thanksgiving.

Around October, my mom emailed me asking what I was planning to do for Thanksgiving.  I thought about going out to eat, or maybe even joining the North American society… but neither of those options really seemed right.  Thanksgiving was always a time back home to celebrate family and friends.  So I emailed her back saying that I didn’t have any plans and asked to see if she wanted to come over and visit.

So, typical Mom booked a ticket the next day.

Dad kept emailing me about how excited she was to see me, and truthfully I was excited as well.  The longest time, until now, that I’d been away from home had been two weeks… it’s been three months.

Before she got here we planned out a proper Thanksgiving for Friday, November 27.  I invited a small group of friends I had gotten to know really well over the semester to celebrate – none of them were American and had NEVER celebrated Thanksgiving or more importantly made hand turkeys.

My mom got here on Wednesday, November 25.  I had class at 10, but after I dropped by Starbs and grabbed two coffees and headed over to the flat she was renting for the weekend.

My mom knitted me a blanket, guys.  Like a full sized blanket brought all the way from Kansas.

And she brought me White Cheddar Cheezits.  I actually cried while eating them.  I wish was joking.

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I had the rest of the afternoon off, so we headed out to Asda to pick up all the things that we would need to cook a proper Thanksgiving meal.  We pulled out all the stops.  Turkey.  Mashed potatoes.  Sweet potatoes. Dressing.  Kuga.  Even a batch of vintage Sleepy Jean’s caramel.

That evening I took my mom to the Boozy Cow, a great burger joint just off Princes Street in New Town.  It’s seriously LFK in a restaurant.  Everything is serves on big platters and the walls are covered in artwork.  The TVs play Marvel movies 24/7, Captain America: The Winter Solider was playing in back and Guardians of the Galaxy was playing front.  The music is 60s, 70s, and 80s Classic Rock.

Thursday I got up early and worked on the last of my six essays, an Archaeology essay on methods of dating artifacts.  It was due today and so unfortunately, I had to work on it while she was here.  That afternoon we went shopping on Princes Street (my mom is amazing and kitted me out for climbing… stay tuned) and then to the Christmas Market.

Just a bit on Edinburgh Christmas… it’s absolutely fantastic.  Princes Street Gardens turns into a huge marketplace with a ferris wheel, skating rink, and a lot of food.  My mom was really excited to see the market and all the decorations they have been putting up all over town.  There are trees and lights everywhere – and especially in New Town it looks like the typical Georgian Christmas (probably because it actually is).

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Friday was the big day.  I had my last 9 AM of the year and then ran back to my dorm room to grab my Christmas sweater.  I got back to the flat where my mom was already busy with the turkey.  Friends starting coming around at 1 PM to make hand turkeys, cook, and listen to Christmas music.  We even decorated a small tree.

All afternoon everyone shared stories and made hand turkeys.

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I didn’t really think about it until my mom mentioned it later, but just how amazing our Thanksgiving was.

Living here and living in a more globalized world, sometimes I take for granted that I can speak with and see people from all over the world every single day.  We had seven different nationalities represented Friday with 6 from England, 3 from Scotland, 2 Kansasans, 2 Norwegians, 1 Austrian, 1 Lithuanian, and 1 from the Canary Islands!

But, I didn’t even think about that, to me they were all just amazing friends that I gotten to know over the semester.  But I guess, less than 30 years ago having people from seven different countries come together to celebrate an American Thanksgiving would have been unheard of.

It gives me some hope for this world.  That people are still able to come together, share holidays, learn about each other’s cultures.

That’s what it’s really about – understanding.

To see that we all aren’t really that different.

#ThanksgivingMiracle

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Okay now, that I’ve sufficiently explained the true meaning of Christmas… my mom and I had a great weekend.  I showed her around Edinburgh both Saturday and Sunday.  We did more Christmas shopping in the Princes Street Gardens Market, stopped at Elephants and Bagels for a snack, and went to the Doric, the oldest gastro pub in Edinburgh, for a proper pub lunch.

 

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I said goodbye Sunday night.  She had an early flight Monday morning.  It was really nice to see her and show her how I’ve been living in rainy no-sun land.  Apparently, I’ve even picked up a bit of an accent??

Dad was jealous and is asking me nonstop about my free weeks in March or April.  Yes, Dad totally come visit.  Everyone is curious about peanut butter pop-tarts.