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.

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spooky haunts with the bestie from the westie.

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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.

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I'm standing on my toes.

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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.

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hi mom! i forgot sun screen.

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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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Lads hit London. (Feat. Bong bong bong.)

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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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⚫️✖️🎋⚫️®🌓

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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).

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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.

 

lunch

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.