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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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!

 

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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spot cha girl

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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.

straight outta lfk.

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

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

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

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

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

Lawrence_massacre_ruins

Battle_of_Lawrence

Images from ‘Harper’s Weekly’ 1863.

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Poulton Research Project 2018

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

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

Poulton1Poulton2Poulton3Poulton4Poulton5Poulton6Poulton7Poulton8Poulton9Poulton10Poulton11Poulton12Poulton13Poulton14Poulton15Poulton16Poulton17Poulton18

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.

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.

 

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.

neither this way nor(that)way

Last night I got home and scratched another country off my scratch world map.  Tuva, Erling, and I spend the last week in Oslo the capital of Norway visiting museums, going skiing, and eating lots of fish.

For those who don’t know Tuva and Erling are two of my three flatmates.  They are both Norwegian and grew up in Oslo.  They are childhood friends with Anna and Elsa.  And, they very kindly and graciously invited me to come back to Norway with them over this year’s Innovative Learning Week, Festival of Creative Learning, Reading Week, Innovative Skiing Week? week in February with no classes.

The week was amazing.  I’ve never been to Norway, I didn’t really know what to expect, so I sort of just went with the flow.  I knew I wanted to see the ‘Scream’ and the Viking Ships but beyond that I was happy to hang out and see the places Tuva and Erling knew best.  Which I do think is one of the best ways to travel.

The first full day we went to the National Gallery to see the paintings.  I got surprised by a real and true painting by my girl, Artemisia Gentileschi, an absolute baller female baroque painter.  Tears were shed.

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After the museum, we went to a coffee shop near to where Erling’s brother went to high school and where they all spend a good amount of time in their teens.  It was very Scandi and hip and everything they say about Scandinavia I can confirm as true.  But, jokes aside, going to places of importance to the people you are with is one of the best ways of seeing the character of the city.  Cities are massive and you’re never going to see everything, but you can see the places that mean something to the people you are with.  It makes the place come alive a lot more than just ticking off the ‘Top Ten.’

The next day, Tuva worked on an essay for uni and Erling and I went to the Viking Ship Museum.  We walked there from Tuva’s flat.  The museum was purpose built for three viking ships uncovered in Oslo in the 19/20c.  The most famous of the ships is the Osberg Ship.

Seeing the ships was such a surreal experience.  I know I say this a lot, but as a kiddo growing up in the middle of the USofA interested in European History, there isn’t much to do except for read.  And, I read a lot.  I didn’t live near to massive American museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York or the Smithsonians in DC so I didn’t have opportunities to see things in real life.  Looking at pictures online or in books was what I had.  So when I see something I’ve read so much about I do tend to tear up, it’s like finally meeting an old friend you’ve only talked to in letters.  I spent so much time studying and wishing I could see things… that when I do, I get overwhelmed.   When I see artifacts in real life I always learn something new.  The ships were bigger than I thought.  The wood was darker.  The carvings more intricate.

 

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That evening the three of us saw Black Panther in the Oslo cinema.  The film was amazing and I want to go see it again.

On the third day, we went cross country skiing.  Oslo has a green belt around the city full of forests and ski tracks.  This was the second time I have gone cross country skiing and I think I loved it even more.  My knees didn’t hurt at all, I got to see some fantastic scenery, and got to ski on parts of the World Cup course (and didn’t die).  Not a bad day out.  We stopped twice during the day at two different mountain huts.  The huts were started from the old summer farmsteads for cattle in the mountains but now are places to stop and get food, water, etc.  The ones we stopped at were very traditionally Norwegian and were made of wood with all kinds of funky old mountain and ski gear inside.  They serve cinnamon rolls and waffles.  I got a cinnamon roll and cried because I love cinnamon rolls so much.

 

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The second hut was pretty much the only part of the day I really truly struggled.  Tuva and Erling abandoned me and I got stuck in a snow drift.  Tuva went looking and found me crawling up the drift with my hands with my skis dragging behind me.  Eventful.  All in all, however, I would 11/10 do it again.  Each hill I went down I fell down less and less.  I properly face planted a few times (once after I got distracted because I saw a women being pulled on skis by a dalmatian!!!), but I managed to get up quickly.  I’m an American not an American’t afterall.

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I left early yesterday to get back to Edinburgh and sort an assignment that is due Monday.  I had to do some stuff on the computer and didn’t want to leave it late because I don’t trust technology.  But, I had an amazing time.  Oslo is an amazing city, so thanks again Tuva and Erling (I know you’re reading this, either because you want to or because I made you #supportchagirl).

Classes resume soon, but the university is striking so I may have more free time.