Monday, October 29, 2007

Allow me to introduce you to...

Stuart and Shirley

Aren't they so precious? They've been one of the biggest factors in us feeling welcome and at home in Dornoch.

Shirley grew up in Embo, the old fishing village two miles north of Dornoch, population 300. She lived most of her adult life in Essex, England with her husband Stuart who worked as lawyer. Seventeen months ago, they made their final move here, after vacationing for years in Dornoch.

They are every bit as sweet and kind and generous as you could imagine. They had us over for dinner soon after we arrived, fed us haggis, and it was actually pretty good! We're no longer surprised when Stuart pays us a surprise visit with some goodies in hand. Once it was Cadbury drinking chocolate (like hot chocolate, but better), or a meat pie from the local butcher, another time it was some tasty chocolate cookies and orange juice. This weekend Shirley let me know she had some homemade chili for us. When unpacking the bag, I found she had also stocked our fridge with fresh fruit, a big bag of rice for the chili, a huge pack of cookies, and even some salmon! One of the times we were having tea with them, I mentioned I liked her fruit flavored tea and she sent me home with an entire box.
They really take good care of us!

Even though they're retired, their days are always full. One of their weekly committments is running a Road to Recovery meeting in Dornoch for recovering addicts. We love them and are so excited to spend the next two years getting to know them even more!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Weekend in Review

-Up around 7:45
-Drove to schools, dropped of fliers for Youth Clubs to be handed out to all 450 students in the Dornoch school system
-Drove home
-Realized we didn't leave enough fliers, drove back to school to drop off more fliers
-James met Angus and Chris for coffee
-I ate breakfast, had coffee, read the Sunday School lesson
-Talked to a Scottish lady on the phone for a long time about the youth fellowship group she's starting on Sunday, answered all her questions, shared about what we do
-James returned; we drove to Angus' house
-Drove with James and Angus to Morrison's, bought all the food and drinks for youth club, and did some personal grocery shopping.
-Ate lunch at Morrison's, had a sandwich, it was tasty
-Got gas. $90 to fill up the tank on this tiny car.
-Drove back the scenic way
-Dropped Angus off at his house
-Went home, unpacked our groceries
-Got ready for Youth Clubs.
-Neighbor dropped off fliers for an Australian Creationist speaking in Dornoch next week
-Left for Youth Club, see here for schedule of the night.
-Home, ate late dinner, we were really hungry
-To bed.

-Up around 8
-Realized we were both really tired
-Read, studied
-Organized our receipts, scanned them, sent in an expense report to be reimbursed from our financial support account. (thank you supporters, we thank God for your generosity every day!)
-Cleaned parts of the house
-Got a visit from our friend Stuart, he brought us a meat pie made at the local butcher shop
-Went for a bike ride
-Made a bunch of phone calls to family in the states
-Ate dinner: the fantastically delicious meat pie
-Watched Grey's Anatomy on iTunes
-Changed the clocks back one hour
-To bed

-Up around 8
-Breakfast, coffee, read
-Got dressed to run
-Drove to parking lot where some ladies meet to go on a weekly group run.
-Almost gave up when no one was there, drove around for a minute, saw some ladies arrive
-Met 4 ladies, ran with them for about an hour
-Raced home to shower and get ready for church
-Left for church
-In worship until kids left for Sunday School, left with them to teach Sunday School
-Post-worship conversations
-Made plans for some kids to come by later, we'd walk to the beach to fly kites, if they could
-Drove home
-Ate pancakes and bacon for lunch. (Scottish bacon is different from American bacon, we miss our bacon)
-Relaxed on the couch
-Read and planned for Youth Fellowship
-Baked some cookies, they were a part of the lesson
-Kids didn't come, sorta glad, I just wanted to relax.
-Straightened up
-It was cloudy, which made it dark by 4:45
-Left for evening church service
-Chatted after the service, was given a wonderful gift of tons more food from our friends Stuart and Shirley!
-left in a hurry to get home for Youth Fellowship
-Youth Fellowship: hung out, pizza, cookies, lesson, games, hung out some more. good times
-Talked to my Mom, Aunt Su-Su, Grandmother Nanny, and two Cousins Charis and Madison via video Skype. gave them a tour of our house via computer camera.
-James watched some of the NY, Miami NFL game that was played in London
-Cleaned up the kitchen
-To bed.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

YC Details

The first Youth Club for the school year was last night. We had a blast. This is the schedule:

6:30 first age group arrives: grades P1-P6, ages 5-10
-register them (write down their names and phone #'s, collect their entrance fee: 50 pents
-played games with the kids. all kinds of board games, arts and crafts, foosball, air hockey, limbo, etc.
-tuck shop was opened: (it's what Scotts call a snack shop) they can buy crips and juice
-tidy up time
-talk time: the kids sit down and Angus talked about what and why we do Youth Clubs. sang a song, had the kids come up with the rules they'd like to have
7:45 time to leave

15 minutes to change over games for older group

8:00 older group arrives: grades P7-S6, ages 11+
-register them, collect their entrance fee
-had them sit down and reviewed rules, talked about and what Youth Clubs are and why we do them.
-played games with kids: board games, table tennis, pool, air hockey, foosball, etc.
-tuck shop open: crisps, candy bars, sodas
-older group over at 9:30
-cleaned up, put games away, went home

We met a bunch of kids who live in our neighborhood and can't wait to see some of our new friends around town!

James' Artwork

James made this flier that was passed out to all the kids Friday morning at their schools. Very nice, don't you think?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Bring on the Sun

I LOVE getting mail from home. I can't explain how exciting it is to see the red postal truck stop in front of our house (the truck means a package is coming), or see a letter that has come through the door mail slot with an air mail sticker on it (the letters come via bicycle).

As exciting as it is, I cringe when I look at the price of the postage, SO EXPENSIVE! I feel guilty that people have to spend that much money to send us a treat. But then I start opening the box or envelope and my excitement comes flooding back again.

The other day I received a much anticipated package from my parents. They were extremely generous in purchasing a Happy Light for our house. The time change is this weekend and daylight will steadily decrease to 6 hours a day. The excessive cloud cover in Scotland will probably prohibit the sun from shining during many of those hours. So there will be a shortage of sunshine, a decrease of Vitamin D absorption, and an increase of possible health issues. And I read here that "In the UK, the suns rays are too weak for a good half of the year to allow absorption adequate enough to aid in the body's production of vitamin D."

Have you ever wondered why you felt kinda blah, and then realized it might be because there have been a few dreary days in a row without the sun? I think Scottish people spend most of their winters like that.

We've heard lots of stories of people who suffer from depression in Scotland. I think these lights need to be sold in every corner store, then disorders like SAD might not be quite as prevalent!

We're using our light everyday. Yay for sunshine, even if it's fake!
Thanks Mom & Dad!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

What does your dryer look like?

This is ours:

Did you catch the sock tree hanging from the curtain rod? Oh, and please ignore the horrid curtains that came with the house, I haven't gotten around to taking them down.

I was inspired to share this with you after seeing our friends' dryer. They've just moved to Mexico City from Texas, and are missing some of the same things we are. And it reminds me of the site that Val pointed out.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Reality Sets In Slowly

We attended a funeral yesterday. It was for a member of the church who was in her 80's and suffered from MS. She was a twin. As you can imagine it's a heart wrenching time for her sister; they had lived together their entire lives.

There's something like a funeral (or a birth for that matter) that makes reality a little more real. Attending this funeral brought home a bit more, the reality of our move to Scotland.

It sounds like she had a full, challenging, and joyful life, and is now having an even more amazing eternity.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A First

On my jog today I wore...SHORTS! And I was only slightly chilly in the beginning. It was wonderful.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Scottish Vocabulary

I'm sure there will be many more additions to this list as time goes by and we learn more words.

Rubbish: trash, also used as an adjective, "the weather today is rubbish."

Bin: trash can

Boot: trunk of a car

Lorry: large commercial truck; like a tractor trailer, but smaller

Crisps: potato chips

Chips: french fries

Trolley: shopping cart

Mobile: cell phone

Keen: same definition as what we know, but it's used all the time. "He's very keen on going to the football game."

Football: actually means soccer

Pants: girls underwear

Trousers: the proper word for the things you put on your legs

Chancer: a slang word said about someone who's being sneaky, conniving, rude, etc.

Make Tracks: used often when someone is saying they need to leave, "I'm going to have to make tracks now, it's getting late."

Car Park: parking lot.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Small Town=Fantastic Opportunities

I'm a city girl at heart. While Richmond is a relatively small city, it was a bit unnerving, wondering how I would feel going from that, to living in Dornoch, Scotland. It is a town with a population of less than 2,500, way smaller than my Church Hill neighborhood.

We've committed to spending two years in Dornoch. I've found that I feel a huge responsibility to be as successful as possible during that time. It's a constant struggle of mine: remembering that I don't have ultimate control of what happens, that it's totally up to God's planning. Regardless, I feel an urge to know, and have an affect on, a huge amount of people. (I remember having the same desire when I first got to college. But that was purely for social reasons; now I have a greater desire for the people I meet.)

I've realized the size of this town is a wonderful benefit, and it's one thing that will keep me from getting too overwhelmed. I can be sure that every time I go to the "downtown" area (which is about three block's in size) I'll see someone I know or at least recognize.

Here's an example of one of those trips:
I jogged down to the main area of town on Friday, stopped at the ATM, and got in line behind a neighbor I had just met yesterday when I dropped off a carrot cake for him. Leaving the ATM, I put the cash in the wrong pocket of my jacket, it fell to the ground without me realizing it. A kind man behind me let me know, and while I was expressing my gratitude, the neighbor man drove by in his car and offered me a ride home. I declined since I was jogging (and because, even though there's virtually no crime in Dornoch, he was essentially a stranger and you never know). Then I turned around and was greeted by our friend Stuart. Stuart and Shirley are a retired couple who have been incredibly welcoming to us since we've arrived. We chatted while walking toward his car, and as I jogged off to my house, I saw another neighbor I had just met two hours before when I took him some chocolate chip cookies. He and two of his friends were dressed in their traditional Scottish kilts, headed to a wedding at the Cathedral.

I go into the shops in Dornoch all the time, most of the time it's because I actually need to get something, from the market or the hardware store. But sometimes it's just because I want to see the people, and I know I'll see at least one employee I've met before.

Our work here is mainly relational: we meet, spend time with, and get to know people. It's wonderful to be able to see, and become friends with, these people during our regular life activities. It doesn't get much realer than that.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Just Call me Paula Deen

Well, not exactly, because I can't cook like her, would NEVER want to be a chef, and couldn't use the amount of butter she does in good conscience.

But I have been baking enough this week that I wished I at least had my own cooking show so I could talk out loud and not feel crazy for doing it.

The school's two week October holiday ends this weekend, and so we've had some time on our hands since many of the families travel. I decided it was the best time to try and meet lots more people. Knocking on people's doors just to say hi would be somewhat strange in America, but it would be lunacy here.

So, I had to be sneaky. I'd use the guise of yummy baked goods to get my unsuspecting neighbors to open their doors, make them meet me, and let them think all I wanted was to give them a carrot cake or some chocolate chip cookies. hehehe. They all fell for it.

My one mistake was giving them the goodies in disposable tins. If I had used my real plates, they'd have to come to MY house to return them. Ah well, I'm just beginning to learn all the rules of making friends in Scotland.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Our New Favorite Drinks

We were introduced to these treasures when we visited a couple of years ago, and were sure to stock up on our first Tesco run. They're concentrated juices. Sounds simple, but they are YUM.MEE. They're really popular around here.

My recipe is 1 part juice to about 10 parts water. James gets a little bit crazier and goes for a ratio of around 1:7. And no added sugar, can't beat that! Well, they do have aspartame, which isn't the best, but you can't have everything.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Excess vs. Minimalism

Not only does the UK have smaller things, it has less. We were hitting up all the home improvement hardware stores for a few items and ended up not finding anything we were looking for. First it was B&Q, then Wickes, then Homebase.

B&Q looked a lot like Home Depot when we walked in, but of course, smaller and extremely quiet. None of the usual noise you'd find in one of those stores in the States. It turned out to have a lot more decorative items rather than hardware stuff. Wickes was a little more like Lowes with some lumber, but even smaller than B&Q. Homebase was more like a mix between Garden Ridge & Sears, minus the clothes.

Even yesterday's grocery shopping at Tesco, the king of UK grocery stores, left me needing a bunch more things that were on my list.

I enjoy having a minimal amount of stuff, with a few extra things for fun and entertainment. But I like to be able to go into a store being sure that I'll leave with the item I was looking for. That's an aspect of America I miss.*

*Please be assured, these are not complaints, living here is an awesome experience that I'm so grateful for. It's just that it's very easy to compare and contrast what I'm familiar with to what I'm becoming accustomed to. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Put an End to Personal Body Odor Problems for Good

Yes my first blog post will be about Brian J. Conant, President of Flat-D Innovations, Inc. and Inventor of “The Flatulence Deodorizer” (U.S. Patent-6,313,371) .

My wife found this, all credit is due to her, and her internet search powers.
My response "It's who I am, I was born this way."


Weather changes

This was taken around 11:00 on a Sunday. Oh the glorious blue sky, barely a cloud in sight.

This was taken at the same place about 3 hours later. Nothing but clouds.

Here are some more images that show how drastic the changes in weather can be.

Looking to the South

Looking to the East

Looking to the North

These are photos taken a block from our house, first you see the The Royal Dornoch Golf Course bordered by the Dornoch Firth. which flows into the North Sea. There is a bunch of cloudiness, wind, and rain, but when the weather is nice, it's incredible.
And we get to see tons of rainbows like this one!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

UK=small, America =BIG

Things in America are regular size, right? I've lived there my entire life, so I wouldn't know any different. The UK does everything on a smaller scale. Or, are things normal here in Scotland, and super-sized in The States?

All I know is it's hard to get used to things being smaller. I still look twice when I see a person's kitchen trashcan that's smaller than most bathroom trashcans I'm used to. All appliances are smaller too. You won't find washing machines like this here.

Our house came with a "normal" size fridge. We tried to live with it, but feeding lots of high school kids means having tons of ready to be cooked frozen food around. This fridge just wouldn't cut it (do you see the white rectangle along the top? that's the freezer).

So we purchased a "large" fridge freezer combo, as they call them here. That's right, livin' the posh life.

And here it sits, in our foyer closet, that's the only place it will fit.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I'm all for free range products...

but this is a little ridiculous. This is what I was greeted by when I opened my first dozen of eggs bought here in Scotland. I removed all the other eggs and let this one sit in the container for a few days; partially because I thought it might be the start of a new baby chick for the Murphy household. Apparently people enjoy seeing things like this because it proves to them just how fresh the egg is. I've been told I might also find feathers in a whole raw chicken.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

the new ride

Here's where I told you all about our new car, and now I can show you a picture! It's a Renault Clio. Are you able to notice what side the steering wheel is on? I still go to the wrong side of the car when getting in!

We actually work too. Really.

It might not seem like it from reading this blog, but since we've moved to Scotland for this two year stint, we actually have begun the work we came here to do.

The church we are working with is called the Dornoch Free Church. Free Church refers to the denomination, you can read about it's history here and here. And you can check out their website if you'd like more details. Our main focus is youth work, and there are other areas we will be involved with as well.

A couple of weeks ago we sat down with the DFC pastor, Angus, and outlined what the main areas of our ministry will be.

These items are currently in place:

-Youth Fellowship (YF): Sunday evenings from 7-9 at our house, mostly kids from the church who hope to make it a group that is welcoming to other kids in the community; includes planning monthly events with them, weekend trips, outings, etc.

-Youth Clubs: Event started by the church 2 years ago; meets every Friday during the school year; 6:45-7:45 for ages 5-10, 8:00-9:30 for ages 11+; Games, snack, place to hang out, short message; in the past they've averaged about 70-80 kids a Friday; Youth Club starts up again after the October school holiday on Oct. 26th.

-Scripture Union: lunchtime Bible Study for students who choose to come; Held weekly in schools, one in upper school (ages 11-18) and one in lower school (ages 5-10)

-Assemblies: Also held in each school and weekly; 20 minute assembly for varying ages; pastors, youth workers in the community are invited to speak on a theme that the students are studying; freedom in what we can say, unlike public schools in the States.

--James is involved in an existing adult men's outreach group that meets twice a month. One week is a speaker, the other week is a games night.

--Afternoon Tea: monthly; held in church hall; community-wide tea and desserts for elderly and retired people; also includes a talk on something or some sort of entertainment (singing, guitar playing, etc.)

These are some of the ideas/hopes/dreams we have:

-Begin a Young Adult Fellowship group: hopefully to be held in our home for ages 18-late 20's; possibly twice monthly

-I plan on working with ladies in the church to begin a group to meet monthly; time for ladies to get together, have some tea and dessert and get to know each other; would like for ladies to invite neighbors and friends from work so a network can evolve from many areas of the community

-Look into having a branch of a pregnancy resource center (located in Inverness an hour away) in Dornoch; a phone hot line, local volunteers, a resource for women to have use of or buy discounted/donated baby supplies.

-Work with church to compile a welcome packet for new members of the community (a 200 home development is in the works in Dornoch) outlining various services they offer.

Our unofficial title is "congregational support worker." It changed from "youth worker" since we're here to help out in any way we can, primarily focused on kids, but available for tons of other areas.

Here's some proof that we hang out with kids. These are the pastor's three kids, we took a walk on the beach after we had dinner with them at our house. James was teaching them how to play American football. Then one of the kids threw the ball when he wasn't looking and gave him a swollen, slightly blackened eye.

And here's me trying to injure myself.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Hiking Fun

We went for a short hike one day and had an adventure. On one side of the mountain it was windy, cold, and rainy; I was wishing for a hat and scarf.

The other side was beautiful and sunny, I ended up shedding a couple of layers.

On the way down, we couldn't find the path. We walked/slid down.

Good times.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Exactly how much does it rain in Scotland?

So much so, that my recycling bin comes with a shower cap!

(Are you able to read how they spell curb on the bin? "Kerbside")

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Murphy Family Photo

Well, 5/8ths of it anyway. Thanks to my mom, I can share another farewell photo from the airport with you!

an unexpected surprise

A few days after we arrived, a bouquet of flowers was delivered to us from a family in the church. It was a touching reminder that we are supported and loved by the people of the Dornoch Free Church. The family who sent them (James & Coral, and their teenage kids Elisha & John) are one of the families who have played a huge part in helping us feel welcome and assuring us that we have friends here! What a blessing!

Friday, October 05, 2007

First things first...

Continuing with catching you up via pictures...after Angus picked us up from the airport in Edinburgh, he had to make a couple of stops. We were in a daze and would have agreed to just about anything at that point. But it was quite a treat to be able to go to Ikea! Here is the most important purchase we made there, according to James

And wouldn't you know it, Wal-Mart has infiltrated the UK

The inside is very different from it's US counterpart, not nearly the same 'superstore' feel I'm used to.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Our Richmond Send-Off, and Scotland Welcome

Now that we have internet, I can share some photos with you! But, I have some catching up to do, so we'll have to start with the day we left, three weeks ago today.

I think I've stepped into some alternate universe where time passes at a slower rate, and feels 50 bajillion times longer than usual. It's hard to believe we've only been here three weeks. It feels like at least 3 months. But each week passes a little bit faster, so I think time will get back to normal soon.

Here are some of the people that came to bid us farewell at the airport, it was a great time.

This is my parents, my nephew, my dad's dad and his lovely wife Rose. I'm sad we didn't get a Murphy family photo!

I have very fond memories of that day. It could have been a disaster, but all was well. I remember being in line at the security checkpoint and looking back every chance I got to wave to my family and make sure I could get one last look, again and again.

And here's the first photo I took in Scotland. It's hard to tell exactly what it is, but that's James on the left and the window in the background says "Welcome To Scotland." I would've tried for a better shot, but we were more concerned with gathering our luggage and leaving the airport.

I'm so spoiled

Three weeks without home internet access and we were pulling out hair out. Seriously, I have some priority issues. But the problem has been averted...we have internet!!!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Lunch at Luigi's

I enjoyed bacon, avacado, and brie on ciabatta bread for lunch today at a local restaurant in Dornoch today. For desert I savored a mint chocolate chip ice cream cone. It was a fairly warm (about 65 degrees) sunny day, so I could justify the ice cream.

One of the employees is from New Jersey. It's so fun to be in Scotland and talk to a man with a New Jersey accent. He moved here 10 years ago and helped open the place with his girlfriend who is from here. Chris says he visited Dornoch and fell in love with the place. He hears people marvel at his story all the time, but he doesn't think it's such a huge deal. He just says he did what everyone else wants to do.

Then we biked down to one of the markets in town. It's farily small. To give you an idea, it's about a third of the size of Joe's Market on Libby Ave. in Richmond. I met and chatted with Archie for a few minutes. He's the butcher and I got to see him cutting up a huge piece of pork into pork chops. It was pretty interesting.

Just a couple of the people we've met since we've been here. We're adjusting to small town life better than we thought we would!