Monday, January 18, 2010

Still alive here in Scotland! The weekend was nice, Justin got to sleep in a bit and we got to go see some sites together. The weather Saturday was pretty nasty, we went out and walked around, got completely drenched in the downpour. It was raining sideways so the umbrella didn’t do much good. So, of course I got the cold Justin had after walking around wet and cold all day.
Sunday was much nicer, the sun came out and we were able to walk around more without being miserable. We found a place to do laundry and walked around a little more so Justin could actually see some things. Being a Sunday it was less crowded too. We found the Maritime Museum and checked that out; there is obviously a long history of boatbuilding and more recently the oil industry has moved in. There have a lot of artifacts found locally that date back to the Romans, so that was pretty cool, nothing that old in the good old USofA. They actually have a lot to do that is free so it’s been nice not having to spend too much to occupy our time.
We found somebody to take our picture at the Citadel, and we saw a couple of police walking down the street and Justin asked if he could take his picture with them. They asked if he was sure he wanted to do that and were very kind about it. They even wanted to see it after I took it! So, Justin got his picture taken with law enforcement here, and not in the way that most people thought he would!
I had found a little pub the other day and we stopped there to get lunch. It was where a lot of the college kids go so we figured it couldn’t be too bad. I had the best beer, Fruli which tasted just like strawberry punch. We got a great burger and beer for under £6, which is really good for the area. I was sitting there on the comfy couch, eating my awesome burger when Bon Jovi came on; does it get any better than that? Nothing like an 80’s hair band to bring two cultures together.
We stayed in the rest of the night, watched some movies and I rested some. Justin went out to get dinner and bring it back; we found a great Indian place the other day. I normally don’t like Indian food, but apparently I like the authentic stuff. Who would have thought I would go to Scotland and fall in love with Indian food? Unfortunately the Indian place was closed so he went to the store and got a “Cajun” chicken wrap and a salad. I use the term Cajun loosely; apparently when they put cayenne pepper in something it automatically makes it Cajun, even though it had more of an Indian flavor.
We are looking forward to coming home and sleeping in our own bed and we miss Maggie, and everything American! Hopefully our trip back won’t be as big of a debacle as the way here; the weather is supposed to be better, so it should be alright. We will let you know when we get home ok, we don’t head back until Friday, and get in Saturday. Miss you all!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Corner of the art gallery.

School entrance, art gallery is to the left.

Ha ha! Jewsters! Awesome name for a juice shop.

St. Nicholas church and cemetery

Not much to say today, I am really just hoping that I can some pictures uploaded. It’s Friday, and I am hoping that I can talk Justin into going to Edinburgh tomorrow or Sunday, but I’m not sure that’s going to happen. He is working at the hospital tonight, and he is really looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow. He’s still fighting his cold that he had before we left so I don’t want to push him too hard. The weather here has really screwed up a lot of the transportation systems too, so I don’t know how easy it would be to get there anyway. We’ll see about that, if nothing else hopefully he can check out Aberdeen with me, he hasn’t had a chance to see anything yet with the exception of a few restaurants! We are just taking it day by day for now.
I went to the Aberdeen Art Gallery yesterday, it was amazing to be surrounded by so many things that are not only beautiful but exuding history and being in a building that is hundreds of years old, it was just an amazing feeling. It was free too, which was surprising, but a really great experience. I still don’t get modern art, a sleeping bag on the floor isn’t really art to me, but it must be to somebody! The older paintings and etchings were incredible; I just sat in the gallery and took it all in. Every time I walk outside, I am stunned at what this place looks like. The cobblestone streets and quaint buildings just take me to another place.
So, getting back to the bacon chips, I had what was left in the bag for lunch with my PB&J and I was burping bacon the rest of the night. Tasted better the first time around!
As I am sitting here getting ready to post this, I just saw my first Scottish schizophrenic. I have never seen anybody literally have a conversation with somebody who wasn’t there. Or, they are and are invisible, who am I to judge? I’ve seen people talk to themselves, but not to another person that wasn’t actually present, or invisible.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


I’m sorry this took me a few days to get to. Yesterday was pretty cold and I didn’t feel like doing too much. I have to go to Starbucks to hop on the internet, and I wanted to check into a couple of other things to add to this before posting it. I can't get the pictures to upload for some reason right now, so I will try later to add some pictures.
One of my favorite things to do when I go to a new place is go to the grocery store. It is fascinating to me the different things you can find, and I think it says a lot about the day to day culture of wherever you are. So, of course this was no exception. The markets here are small, partly I think because it is a bigger city, so this may not be the best overall representation of Scotland as a whole. I decided yesterday to get some things at the store instead of buying lunch every day so I wandered the market for a bit.
The first thing that struck me is that they don’t have grocery carts, they use baskets. These are similar to the hand baskets in the states, but they are taller and have handles, so they can be dragged behind you, like a suitcase. The second and best thing I found is they have bacon potato chips! Yes, bacon flavored chips. How have we in the US gone this long without bacon chips when we have bacon vodka? I don’t know, but we should do something to change that. I am sure Congress will want to know about this revelation, so contact your local representative so we can do something about this. They also have Prawn Cocktail, Roast Chicken, Worcester Sauce, Tomato and Pickled Onion. In the vending machine downstairs they have a beef flavored one. I have noticed they flavor everything with meat. But, they don’t have barbeque flavored chips. Hm?
So, I did do a taste test with the bacon, the prawn, the chicken and the Worcester flavored chips so I could share that with you. Obviously, the bacon was good. I mean, can you really screw up bacon flavored anything? Most people I know would eat bacon flavored poop if they could. It almost tasted like BBQ, with the smoky flavor. It wasn’t a heavy flavor and I would imagine in the US we would want it stronger. The prawn flavor was actually really good. I didn’t expect to like it but it was sweet and had a flavor that reminded me of BBQ also. Maybe they don’t have BBQ flavor because of these others taste kind of like it. The chicken was ok; it tasted like chicken, kind of weird for chips. The Worcester was really tangy and I liked that one. Overall, the chips are less salty, which I personally liked. I would imagine that like everything else, we Americans would insist on changing that and adding more salt; if that is what’s necessary to facilitate getting bacon flavored potato chips, so be it.
As I wandered the small aisles, the first thing I noticed is that mince meat is in fact, ground beef. I didn’t know that. I assumed it was some type of magical meat that had special powers or something, but no. It’s just hamburger. They don’t have things like ground turkey but they do have all different types of sausages and wiener type meats as well as chicken. They actually have a sausage that is not refrigerated but packaged in a foil type bag, like a potato chip bag. I’m a little nervous to try that, it seems to go against everything I know about food borne illness.
They don’t refrigerate their eggs either. They are just on the shelf, which seems strange, sitting next to the bread. They only come in packages of six or ten so I am assuming they go through them faster so chilling them may not be necessary. Or maybe they have freakish chickens that shoot out rot proof eggs. I don’t know. So, next to the eggs is the bread section, not unlike any other bread section of a store, a lot of different loaves, but they have huge bread here. In the US when you have fresh bread and pastries it is in a cupboard, or in a bag; it’s not exposed to everybody who walks by or insects. Here, they are binned and open to the elements. I’m wondering if anybody here has heard of the swine flu. I have to say though that I have not seen a single insect since I’ve been here, so there were no flies landing on them or anything. But, still all I can picture is a little kid grabbing it or knocking it onto the floor and putting it back.
You can find a nice can of Haggis next to the Spam and the flavored ketchup. They must eat a lot of beans, because there are several types of what I would compare to baked beans. They even have “bean pots” for lunches. Jell-O is called jelly, jelly is jam. They don’t have much in peanut butter, just a couple different types and all in small glass jars.
I wandered to the baking aisle, such as it was. Their chocolate chips were in a tiny little bag, if it were in America, we would probably put it in our lunch. It said that it was good to put into yogurt and things like that, but it did say you could make cookies with it. I’m not sure how that would work; it was enough for about six cookies, if you use them sparingly. They didn’t have cake mix but they do have bagged icing, not in tubs. They have pre-packaged cookies, but they are all tea type cookies, not chocolate chip or what we would consider cookies, more like biscuits. They have a lot of tea; they drink more tea than coffee. Most of their coffee is dried, no fresh beans here, which is why I probably would never survive for long periods of time here! At Justin’s school, they have tea breaks. I thought he was saying pee breaks at first, not realizing they actually call them tea breaks. Ha! In fact, Starbucks closes early, before 7:30 PM.
On my way to Starbucks to get on the internet and post this, I stopped by another really small market, probably what we would consider a convenience store. I wandered around, finding the same type of items as in the bigger market, laughing to myself at the fact that I just about knocked the bin of donuts over with my backpack, thinking if I did, I would probably just put them back when I wandered to the magazine section. There, right smack in my face was a magazine with a woman bare breasted. Now, don’t get me wrong, the nipples were covered with small black blocks that said things like Oooh! and aahh! on them, so they weren’t all out there willy nilly. The caption on the cover explained that the girls in the magazine had “the biggest boobs you ever saw”. What was really ironic isn’t the fact that it was just out there on the rack for people of all ages to see, but the fact that the craft magazine next to it had plastic on it and this one didn’t. Apparently, it’s ok to flip through a nudie mag but don’t let them catch you trying to catch up on the latest cross stitch trends.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Greetings from Aberdeen Scotland! Justin and I are having a good time, he likes his class and I am enjoying just being someplace new. The weather is cold, but not too different from home, it gets dark early, about 3:30 the sun starts to go down and sunrise is at about 7:30 in the morning. It hasn’t snowed since we’ve been here, but there is still some snow on the ground. It’s easy to get around, everybody walks everywhere and a taxi is easy to come by when you need one. There are people here from all over the UK and it feels like the world congregates here, something that we aren’t used to being from America.
The trip getting here was a bit of a fiasco, it felt like our own version of Planes, Trains and Automobiles. I was waiting for Steve Martin to pop out at any time. He never did. Getting from Seattle to Newark was easy, a good flight, as was the jaunt from Newark to London/Heathrow. That’s where things took a bit of a turn. I will remind you that our flight from SeaTac left at 10:30 PM on Friday night. We arrived at Heathrow at approximately 10:00 PM Saturday night, London time. We had planned to just stay in the airport since we had a long overnight layover, and were shown to a specific area for people to stay at night; apparently it is not uncommon for people to just sleep in the airport, they even had lounge style chairs to sleep in, all of which were occupied by the time we arrived. So, we found some benches to lay on, typical airport seats, nothing fancy, but a place to sleep none the less. That was when we realized that everything in the airport was closed, not because nothing was open, mind you, but because of the incessant beeping of an alarm at the Pacific Sunwear store. Beep. Beep. Beep. Apparently, when an alarm goes off at a store in the airport, nobody really cares. So, since the beeping was driving us bonkers, we wandered up to another part of the airport to find a quieter area to rest, and vending machines to get something in our stomachs. With no vending machines in the airport, we decided to just get some sleep and wait for something to open in eight hours. Trying to forget about the fact that they don’t heat the airport at night, we tried to shiver ourselves to sleep. As we were dozing off to a happier place that would get us through to the next morning, we were interrupted to be told that there was only one place that we could stay, which was the area that we had just left for better digs.
Maybe they don’t want another Revolution on their hands, no wandering to better lands and all that, so we did as we were asked, not really understanding what difference it makes where we sleep in the airport, but it apparently matters to them so we moved. Unable to sleep due to the never ending beeping, we sat there, droopy eyed, hungry and cold. I was waiting for exhaustion to kick in so I could just sleep, and it was coming quickly, so I blew up my neck pillow (best five dollars I ever spent!) and prepared to get some rest when Justin noticed that our flight to Aberdeen had been cancelled. Beep. Beep. Beep. There is nobody working at any ticket counters in the airport, which made it impossible to talk to anybody about what we were going to do. Justin tried to call the airlines, and had no luck, since we are American and have no idea how to even call anybody in the UK; their phone numbers are a bit cryptic to us at this particular point. Beep. Beep. Beep. Justin asked a guy that works there how to call and he was kind enough to let us use his cell phone after he dialed the number for us. We were told that the flight was cancelled due to weather and we have to talk to somebody at the ticket counter, and no, they don’t know when anybody will be there, maybe between 4AM and 6AM. At this point, we are wondering what weather they are cancelling the flight for, since when we had checked the weather prior to our trip there was no inclement weather, only cold, but no snow or rain. We watched the one television they had in the airport, which was on soccer so it did us no good to watch their football. Beep. Beep. Beep. There was no internet in the airport, so we finally broke down and paid for the internet at a bank of computers trying to figure out what was going on and how we could fix it. We had to get to Aberdeen by the next morning, so Justin could make his class. Otherwise it was pointless. For those of you who know my husband, you know how much paying to use a computer killed a little piece of him; for those who don’t, he will give you a penny and expect change, not a bad thing, it’s just the way he is. Beep. Beep. Beep.
We search for other flights and find that our airline, British Midlands (bmi) is the only airline not flying to Aberdeen. How can this be due to weather if everybody else is flying there? The only weather we could find was that it was cold. Really cold. Not cold enough to have to cancel flights, but colder than it normally gets here in the UK, which surprised me a little considering how far north they are, but I don’t know much about their weather systems, so I try not to judge the situation. As we are looking for answers and not finding many, other than it was cold and not snowing, Justin had let some expletives slip in his frustration. Beep. Beep. Beep. A few minutes later, a gentleman walks up to us and says that he heard somebody say “mother f-er” and was excited to meet a fellow American. He had just flown into Heathrow from the Ukraine, where he was forced to sit in what was for all intents and purposes a loading dock for three hours in the cold while waiting for his flight that left after he was supposed to arrive. Beep. Beep. Beep.
Having found a friend, we proceeded to wonder about how a flight could be cancelled due to cold and only cold. Don’t they have de-icer? Don’t they prepare for these things? The answer is no. No, they don’t. Beep. Beep. Beep. Apparently cold cripples the UK, because they aren’t used to it and they don’t deal with it that much. As Americans, we wondered how a little thing like cold could possibly stand in the way at a major international airport, screwing up flights across the globe because it was cold. Haven’t they heard of Chicago? Beep. Beep. Beep. If Chicago can find ways to work around it year after year, it should be easy to deal with it once every few years, or less. Where is the food for all of the people that stay here for hours at a time at night? And, why don’t they do anything about the beeping? Are they trying to drive us crazy? It was working. Our frustration meter was pegged.
With our half hour of internet up, we wandered to the benches and finally fell asleep for about half an hour, until something woke us up. Beep. Beep. Beep. We tried to get as much rest as possible which wasn’t much. Beep. Beep. Beep. At about 5AM we sat in line at the ticket counter, waiting for somebody to show up. The stores were all starting to open, but no ticket agents. Finally, at 5:30 they opened and we were told that yes, it was just too cold to fly to Aberdeen. We had to ask why and we were told that it was just cold. Of course, the other airlines were still flying, but they were all full, so there was no chance of getting on one of those flights. We could, however, get on a flight to Edinburgh and find a way from there; the train was a good option. It was closer than London and if worse came to worse, we could find somebody to drive us there; it was a better option than losing the money Justin had already paid for the school and the hotel, all of which was non-refundable.
With a flight to Edinburgh and freshly brushed teeth we were happy. And wait, what was that? The beeping finally stopped! The store was open and the beeping was gone! We got some breakfast and went to the gate for our flight. This area of the airport had vending machines, go figure.
Our flight was called and we all made our way to the gate and were led downstairs into a cavernous space and led outside and onto a bus. We drove around the airport for about five minutes and came to a plane that wasn’t parked at the terminal. There was a little snow on the ground so it couldn’t pull up; and I do mean a little snow, I would have shoveled it myself if it would have helped. We made the hour long flight and landed in Edinburgh. I come out of the bathroom and Justin tells me that our bags were lost. Apparently anybody flying from Newark didn’t have bags, which is normal according to the students that were returning to their classes. He stays to fill out the paperwork and I go to the baggage carousel just in case. All kinds of bags come and go; pretty red ones, beat up black ones. What is this? Is that my suitcase? Yes! Yes it is! Two bags behind it is Justin’s, and I just about did a jig. I grab our bags and meet up with Justin who pumped his fist in happiness. He surprised the woman at the baggage counter by telling her our bags made it. Applause everywhere, streamers fill my hair…well, not really, but in my head there was a parade.
We caught a cab to the train station, which had a Starbucks just outside, so it was awesome for so many reasons. We bought tickets and were told that the train was going to Dundee, and then we had to take a bus to Aberdeen because something was wrong with the track. No problem, as long as we get there. We hit Starbucks and made our train. It was a beautiful ride, everything was white with snow. We crossed a bridge across Firth of Forth, and I am pretty sure that it was being held up by a combination of the rust and scaffolding; but a gorgeous ride none the less. We made it to Dundee and hopped on a bus. We drove for about an hour stopping in Stonehaven, a little town that reminded me of fantasy land at Disneyland. After dropping a few passengers off there, we proceeded to Aberdeen.
We disembarked there and made our way down to the train station from the street, which would have been easier if there were any signs at all. We waited for a cab for about half an hour, not too bad, but considering it was a train station, I’m not sure why it was so lacking in taxis. Starving and cold, we made our way to the hotel, half expecting them to tell us that we didn’t have a room after everything we had to do to get there.
After desperately needed showers, we headed out to dinner and a drink. We found our way to McGinty’s, a little pub/restaurant down the street. Justin tried to order a Hefeweizen and was looked at as if he had asked the waitress for her first born, which I find a little odd since they are so close to Germany, but maybe Hefeweizen is an American concoction. (I don’t know much about beer and their origins.) We had a Tenent's (beer) and a burger before heading back to the room and getting some much needed rest.
It was a rough ride but we got here on time, in one piece and still married! I will post more later; you’ll love what I found at the grocery store!