Thursday, January 31, 2008

No Local News

We realized early on that local news and weather forecasts are not done here. A Scottish news report is limited to about an hour on the UK news station. We're pretty sure they don't try to do local weather because it's pretty much pointless; the weather changes all the time. The newspaper said to get ready for a blizzard, while the internet said a rain/snow mix.

One thing doesn't change from one country to another: kids hoping and praying for enough snow for school to be canceled.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Goodbye Owen

Our dog Owen died. She was hit by a car last Saturday night. We miss her more than I know how to say.

Feel free to read some prior posts about our lovely girl Owen:

This one is all about how wonderful pets are.

Poor Owen had a difficult medical problem.

This is when we were planning on bringing her to Scotland.

This is when we found out we couldn't.

These are some of my favorite photos of all three of us. Even when we forced her to make silly faces for the camera, she loved being right there with us.

One week into our time in Scotland, we were really missing both Owen and Naomi.

These are some of the last pictures we took with her, days before we left Richmond.

She loved, loved, LOVED to run. Especially when it was in a place like this. Lots of times she would remind us of a gazelle the way she would fly through the air.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

time out

uh, I'm still here, just needing a break. see you soon.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Culture Shock

Here's the thing about culture: it makes a HUGE difference in any sort of human to human interaction.

I never really thought about it much until we started the different training programs for our two years in Scotland. MTW (Mission to the World; they coordinated our training and manage our funds) did a great job of helping us see the challenges that would come with being immersed in a totally different culture that we previously knew next to nothing about.

It seems that many conflicts that occur when more than one culture is represented probably stem from failing to understand cultural differences. From the perspective of being immersed in a foreign culture, I can look back on interactions I've had with people from other cultures and see how much I didn't understand about who they are and where they're coming from as a result of our differing cultures.

So many of our personality traits are deeply rooted in aspects of our lives in which we had no choice: birth order, number of siblings we have, what country we grew up in, what area of that country we grew up in, the culture and experiences that our parents had, etc.

I was having a conversation with some Scottish friends the other day about stereotypical characteristics of various cultures. One of those characteristics I thought was universally known (and 99.9% true) they were completely unaware of.

How many of these characteristics are out there that we don't know about, but are assumed to be universally understood? How many times have we totally misunderstood a friend because we failed to take into account their culture, even if it is the culture of the neighboring state or county? And the question I ask myself all the time, "How many times a day do Scottish people laugh their faces off after I walk away because I've said something that sounds so ridiculous to them?"

Sometimes practices of other cultures are just straight up bizarre, but they're probably thinking the same thing about you.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Photos of Parents Visit

I could post a ton of pictures here of all the fun stuff we did when my parents were here, but it's lots easier just to give you the link to their shutterfly page. If you're asked for a password, it's dornoch. Enjoy! And yes, it was as cold as it looks in the pictures.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

My Brother

Today my brother Kyle turns 30. I realize I haven't talked much about him here, which is no indication of how much I think about him, he's on my mind and in my prayers constantly.

Me, Kyle, and his son, the best nephew ever, Noah

His first name is actually Benjamin, I'm glad my parents decided to call him by his middle name. Nothing against the name Benjamin, but I think Kyle really fits him, and is not all that common. Until I was somewhere around 6, we shared a bedroom. To some people this sounds weird, but it was perfectly normal to us. We slept in bunk beds and at night, when we were supposed to be going to sleep, we'd play tug-of-war with a Grover stuffed animal that had super long extremities. One day, we pulled him apart and that was the end of tug-of-war.

He is one of the most intelligent people I know. Seriously, his IQ is off the charts. He was one of those really smart kids that wasn't challenged enough and sometimes gave his teachers a hard time.

When we were younger, I always looked up to him and wanted to do everything the exact way he did. We'd frequent the candy aisle in 7-11, before the days when sugar was declared bad for you, and I'd refuse to pick something first. I would stand back calmly and patiently, waiting for him to make his choice. As soon as he did I would immediately pick the exact item he had chosen. It drove him crazy.

We fought a lot until high school. Then we moved from the fight all the time brother-sister relationship to being friends. He was super protective of me, and I loved it. I was, "Kyle's little sister" and being called that didn't bother me at all.

There's no relationship like the one you can have with a sibling. No matter what the issue, I have always been, and will always be the first one to jump to his defense, even if he's in the wrong. I know without a doubt I can be exactly who I am with him and he'll never love me any less, even with all my flaws. So many times he has been the one to comfort me during some crisis, he always knows exactly how I'm feeling.

Recently he's been through some very difficult challenges. Knowing he is hurting is like constantly having a vice grip clenching down on my heart. The worst part is not being able to do anything to help, and being separated by the Atlantic. The only consolation I have is knowing that God loves him infinitely more than I do and has the power to take care of him.

I love you and miss you Kyle and can't wait to see you!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Dornoch's New Year Celebration

All right, as requested, I guess I'll update you guy's on something other than eggs.

Even though New Year's Eve was over a week ago, I'll fill you in on how it goes down here in Dornoch. First of all, the celebration is called Hogmanay. Scots take their New Year celebration very seriously. I might even go as far as saying it's a more celebrated holiday than Christmas. They actually have January 1st and January 2nd as national holidays. I think it's mostly for the the recovery process from all the partying.

Lots of Scottish towns have their own Hogmanay celebrations in their town squares. Dornoch has had one since 2000. It's grown a lot since then, this year seeing about 3,000 in attendance. Not that significant when compared to how huge Carytown's New Year in Richmond was this year, but pretty impressive when you realize that Dornoch's population is a mere 2,500.

People started arriving in the square around 10:30, there was a band playing and one vendor set up that sold nasty-looking hamburgers. There was even an area marked off for people to do some Scottish country dancing. We didn't join in.

It was very normal, actually expected, that you bring a book bag with all your favorite libations. We saw various friends pull out full bottles of whiskey, champagne, tons of beer, mixers, you name it they had it. Alcohol is a big part of Scottish culture (unfortunately, there's a high rate of alcoholism as well). I'm guessing there's no such thing as open container and drunk in public laws?

At midnight a lone bagpiper played a song from the top of the castle (the building to the right of my parents) and then there was a fireworks show. We went back to our house afterward to finish an exciting game of Scrabble (I won, by a lot). My parents had a great time, and I'm looking forward to next year!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Twin Chickens?

I cracked an egg today to make brownies (found a mix at Costco, hallelujah! brownies aren't common and mixes typically aren't found in grocery stores here. But Costco is pretty much like being in America. I also found real, plain, corn tortilla chips for the first time!) and there were two yolks in it!

Does that mean it would have been twins? I was slightly sad that that egg turned into my brownies instead of cute twin chicks. But the brownies were delicious, so I wasn't sad for long.

What's up with these Scottish eggs?

Friday, January 04, 2008

Milk & Bread! Milk & Bread!

Anyone from Richmond knows what the title refers to. Any hint of a flurry and people mob grocery stores, clearing out the shelves, for fear that they'd be stuck inside for a month. (Leah, this phrase always brings to mind an image of you yelling it at the top of your lungs; it makes me laugh!)

Driving back from the airport in Edinburgh to Dornoch was quite an adventure. It usually takes about 3.5 hours; tonight it was a 7 hour trip. It snowed like crazy yesterday and today. The roads weren't bad until we were about an hour into the drive. At some moments it was a complete Whiteout. There was nowhere to stop, so we just crept along at a snails pace. The creeping ended we came to a standstill behind a line of cars.

There we sat for two hours while our little Clio shook in the wind. The highway people used their snow gates to close the A9 (the road we were on) since it was so dangerous, and then came to our rescue hours later with some snow plows. I'd never been so excited to see heavy machinery since up until that point, we thought we'd be spending the night in our car!

Goodbye Parents!

My parents are somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean at this moment. We had an awesome time with them. It felt so normal for them to be here, yet it was hard to believe they were actually with us in Scotland.

So many times I've wanted to share these Scottish experiences with people from home, and now I've had the chance to. It's exciting to know they can visualize where we live, what we do, and the people we interact with. I want that for all of you, so come visit!

Later I'll post some photos of some of the things we did when my parents were here, we saw some great stuff.