Monday, December 27, 2010

Ninth Word: Beer

Beer: OldE. beor, a word of much-disputed and ambiguous origin, but probably a 6c. W.Ger. monastic borrowing of Vulgar Latin. biber "a drink, beverage" (from L. infinitive bibere "to drink;"  Another suggestion is that it comes from P.Gmc. *beuwoz-, from *beuwo- "barley." The native Germanic word for the beverage was the one that yielded ale (q.v.).

Alex and I spent his birthday weekend in Belgium. That's where the trouble starts.

We took the "bus to the airport," which is not the same as the "airport bus." It was rush hour and we thought the bus only took half an hour to get to the airport. Wrong. It took us two hours. We missed our flight. We were so depressed. We actually took the correct "airport bus" home. I told my parents the story and they generously offered to loan us the money to buy a flight out the next morning. We accepted and took all the necessary precautions to make our flight on time the next day. Except, I set my alarm for pm instead of am. I woke up at 4am and just happened to check my clock: 15 minutes until we needed to catch the airport bus (a 5-7minute walk away). No showers, no breakfast, nothing. Just up and out the door. We caught the bus with some minutes to spare and from this point on everything is smooth sailing (until we try to get home).

fyi: we went on this trip specifically to enjoy and learn about the Belgian beer tradition. And for the chocolate. And the Christmas markets. And I suppose the waffles too.

Alex and I arrived in Brussels around 9:30am and caught a train up to Bruges where we would spend the first two days of our trip. Bruges is exactly the kind of Christmas postcard town you want to be in around the holidays. Charming. But, of course, it was raining. When I stepped out of the train station I noticed two things immediately: the rain smelled like a sewer but the air smelled like chocolate. Also, we were not going to get by with our English. Hardly anyone spoke it. Bruges is in the Flemish region so that made it even more difficult. The neighborhood around our hostel was pretty quiet except that on every other building or so were speakers blasting out Christmas music. I guess they take Christmas seriously in these parts.

Bruges is called the "Venice of the North" because of the canals criss-crossing throughout the city. We explored as much as we could without getting too wet. We went into the Church of our Lady where we got to see Michelangelo's "Madonna and Child" sculpture. We wanted a respite from the cold (the church wasn't heated) so we found a tea shop nearby and got coffee :) They gave us Belgian chocolates on the side. We went to de Halve Maan brewery afterwards and had a tour of their facility. It was very informative and interesting. And the best part, of course, was the free beer we got at the end.

Bruges is atrociously expensive. It took us a while to find a restaurant that served anything under 20 euros. We found a cozy place on the Groet Markt (grand market) and then went out to a tiny locals pub. I mean, NO tourists come to this place. We stuck out, but had a lot of fun. Alex and I drank some wonderful beers and played lots of backgammon.

The next day, we walked along the main waterway in order to bring our luggage to the lockers at the train station. I posed for pictures by a few of the windmills lining the canal. We enjoyed the bright sunshine and newly fallen snow. After storing our backpacks, we went to the Groet Markt again and walked around the Christmas market. We got a bratwurst and a Belgian waffle. They stuff the waffles with sugar. I mean, it's like a waffle and sugar sandwich. But they are really yummy. Belgium is also credited with the invention of French fries and there are fry shops all over the place. I was not too impressed. They taste like McDonald's fries. Nothing to get your panties in a bunch about. We climbed up the belfry overlooking the square and got some lovely views of the town. We did a lot more exploring and eventually found our way to Jerusalemkirk, a church that is a copy of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem (now destroyed). It was cool.  We were also so cold and tired that we headed back to the train station and went to Brussels.

In Brussels, we had the same problem of no one speaking English. We went to Chinese for dinner and everything was in French. We just ordered and hoped for the best! We walked around the Grand Place where there was a huge Christmas market and hordes of tourists. We had a drink at an Irish pub that was recommended to us but then decided to just go back to our hotel and relax watching French game shows on TV.

Al's birthday. We took the tram to an awesome flea market in the morning. Alex found a guitar he really wanted to buy, but of course, how would we get it home? After taking several pictures and looking at all the crazy stuff, we went to the Museum of Instruments. There were so many instruments I didn't even know existed! It was really cool to see them, but we also had headphones that allowed us to listed to examples of the instruments too. Afterwards, we headed toward Cantillon Brewery. Alex can fill you in on the details. This tour was fun too. We got to try some very different beers.

We went back up to Old Town to Delirium Taphouse, a three-story bar that holds a Guinness World Record for most bottled beers (over 2,500!). We had lots of fun trying new beers and talking about our favorites. On this whole trip neither of us had the same beer twice. We missed so many of our friends while we were hanging out at Delirium but we had a fabulous time. Dinner was hard to find. We didn't want to be in a touristy area but there really weren't many other restaurants around. We settled on a small Italian place for Al's birthday dinner and it was surprisingly delicious.

We did a walking tour of the European Union buildings since Brussels is considered the capital of the EU. We walked through a really cool neighborhood that kind of reminded me of Chicago. Then we found our way to the European Commission, which was a really boring but humongous building. and then walked down toward a big and beautiful park. We found ourselves at the European Parliament, which was another boring building, but hey, now we can say we've seen them. By this time, we were so cold we wanted to get inside so we took the metro to a really cool neighborhood that happened to have a farmer's market going on. I bought a Belgian waffle again and we sat for a long time in a coffee shop. That night, we went to dinner near the old town and went to a few more pubs. We got to try so many delicious Belgian beers on our trip and see two wonderful cities.

Trying to get home the next day was a nightmare. We got up at 6am to get to the airport in the south only to arrive and find our flight had been canceled. We could either get a refund or reschedule our flight for Thursday (it was Monday)! So we got a refund and found a really expensive flight out for the next day at the airport in the north. After about an hour and a half by train (we missed a connecting train) we got to the airport and hunkered down for the next twenty-four hours. When you decide to sleep in an airport because you've spent all your money on a new flight home, your sense of perspective gets thrown off. Pizza Hut becomes a luxury. Your pickiness about where to sleep becomes tinged with irony. Personal hygiene goes out the window. I had about 4 or 5 salami and gouda sandwiches during these 24 hours (we bought meat and cheese at the grocery store). Tiredness and exhaustion overcame us and we settled down in a Quick Burger fast-food restaurant, one on each side of a booth. The Red Cross had given us each a wool blanket. So many travelers were stranded because the airport had run out of de-icing fluid for the planes. The next day we managed to fly up to Southampton, England only to find the flight we thought we missed from being delayed an hour had actually been canceled. So again, we waited, this time for five hours, before we boarded a plane to Edinburgh. We finally made it home after 40 hours. (oh, and I contracted influenza and have been on the couch for the past four days)

Good trip, good beers, great time with Alex. We are never travelling to a northern country in the winter again. Too cold, too many travel delays. But it was worth it. We had a great time.

Say What?

Bruges is in the Flemish region, and they speak Flemish, yet the word we use for the city is French ("Bruges"). The locals call it "Brugge," the Flemish word.

Brussels is in the French region, they speak French, yet the word we use for the city is Flemish ("Brussel"). The locals call it "Bruxelles," the French word.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Eighth Word: Decorate

decorate: early 15c., from Latin decoratus, pp. of decorare "to decorate, adorn, embellish, beautify," from decus (gen. decoris) "an ornament," from Proto-Indo European base *dek- "to receive, be suitable" (see decent)

Monday was too Christmas-y to fill with homework and responsibility. So, with the snow falling gently on the castle out our window, Alex and I set out to decorate our flat for Christmas. The previous tenants had left several red and gold ornaments, some colored lights, and a small (fake) tree. By small I mean one foot tall. We thought it would suffice until we actually took the tree out of the closet and set it on the table. No good. You could barely see it, let alone decorate it. The people before us must not have been filled with enough Christmas cheer or something, because I would not be able to stare at that weenie tree for the next month. 

Alex and I braved the cold and wind to head to...Pound-Saver. Yes, it's like a Dollar Store back home. I have never been Christmas tree shopping at a store before (let alone a Pound-Saver/Dollar Store). Luckily, we found a nice four-footer, grabbed some extra lights and headed back to put our tree together. For comparison:

So many things wrong with that last paragraph. I have a very pure heart when it comes to chopping down a real tree from nature. Give me the sawdust, the snow, the sap and pokey needles! Give me a tree that is too tall and wide when you finally get it indoors! Give me precious minutes wasted to nudge the tree back and forth and get it perfectly vertical! It's a team effort. Not a one man job. Well:

I made Alex help anyway. 

We had a delightful afternoon of hanging ornaments and lights and listening to Christmas music. Unfortunately, the ornaments that were here already didn't come with hooks, so we improvised by using paper clips, rubber bands, and string. I collaged a star for the top. 

So our house was all set up and I had to head to class. We were both excited for me to come home so we could sit in the glow of our tree that night with warm mugs of tea and some leftover truffles from Thanksgiving. With my luck, this day wasn't going to stay so magical. When I came home, the power had gone out. It seemed everyone else had power though so we called the emergency line at Scottish Power and only got a machine. We laugh that everyone is freaking out about the snow but places have lost power and the snow hasn't stopped yet. Anyway, our whole block eventually ran out of power (we could see candles in everyone's windows) and had to wait two hours (as promised by Scottish Power) to get our power back on. So we did not enjoy our Christmas tree (which we couldn't even see), did not enjoy warm mugs of tea (our appliances are electric) and suffered in the cold and dark. Everyone got power back at the two hour mark except us! What a night! We didn't get power back until 10pm (a 6 hour outage). 

Well, we were able to enjoy our little four-foot fake tree finally and we have been enjoying it ever since. I have never put up a tree before December before but you should see the snow and the castle! I can't avoid the magic and cheer they give off! A small fake tree may not be what I'm used to but I'm loving it. And in the words of Charlie Brown, "It's not such a bad little tree."

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Seventh Word: Thank

thank: O.E. ├żancian "to give thanks," from Proto-Germanic *thankojan, from *thankoz "thought, gratitude," from PIE base *tong- "to think, feel.

I'm writing this post as I eat some Thanksgiving left-overs and look out at our snow-covered castle. For anyone who knows me, these left-overs would not be on my list of favorite foods (greenbean casserole, sweet potato casserole, haggis) but the comfort and nostalgia they bring (besides the haggis, I guess) are what make these Thanksgiving foods an exception.

Alex and I hosted seven other people for dinner and two others joined us for dessert. We managed to fit eleven people into this tiny flat! Much to my surprise, the dinner went by with out any significant disaster. Ok, we broke the bowl all the mashed potatoes were in, the turkey was done an hour before all the guests arrived, and Alex forgot to take out the giblets :) But everything tasted so good! Here's a basic rundown of the foodstuffs:

-a 9-10lb turkey, not dry and very delicious
-mashed potatoes and gravy
-excellent green bean casserole
-sweet potato casserole
-corn pudding

We were blessed with a diversity of cultures at our meal: American (Jason's from Mississippi which is definitely a different culture than ours up north), Scottish, English, and Belgian. Our Scottish landlords' son brought some haggis. It was so tasty! It went perfectly will all the other flavors we had. If we can find some good stuff in the US it might make an appearance at next year's feast (beware, families!). For dessert, I made a pumpkin pie, Jason brought chess pie, which as far as I can tell is like a butter tart, and pecan pie (we had trouble deciding how to pronounce "pecan." pee-can, pee-canpee-cahn, or pih-cahn).

Our Belgian friend made delicious truffles, and Sydney (an American) brought marshmallows, graham crackers, and Hershey's chocolate. Our British friends brought whisky to add to black tea (apparently a typical Christmas drink where they are from...not even the Scots had heard of it). Every non-American there was given a s'more to eat :) I think they liked them. I know they thought they were ridiculous and messy. Also, none of them believed us about why they are called s'mores!

We played a few rounds of Telephone Pictionary and Balderdash (remember, we're in a Linguistics program!), which was full of raucous hilarity. And the best part of the evening? SNOW! It was the first snowfall of the season and they were beautiful fluffy flakes! I went out to the roof right below us and made a snow angel :) It was magical:

The best part is that the snow is still here! (I'll admit, I listened to Christmas music this morning.) And we're supposed to get more tonight.

Thanksgiving is such a great holiday, especially for the food, but last night, five cultures came together and shared food traditions and stories of holiday feasts and I think we all felt pretty thankful for being together. Most of us were displaced from our families back home and it felt good to be a part of a family again. Alex and I missed our families, of course, but our family over here is pretty cool too. 

My "Say What?" in this post comes from an interesting cultural difference that was mentioned last night:

We were all talking about childhood memories and Alex brought up "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." Ben, who is from England, noted that Brits must be more cautious about tv violence than Americans because when he was growing up it was called "Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sixth Word: Dessert

dessert: c.1600, from M.Fr. dessert (mid-16c.) "last course," lit. "removal of what has been served," from desservir "clear the table," lit. "un-serve," from des- "remove, undo"

You will get the joke once I've told my stories. 

I grew up making Christmas cookies with my mom every December. There were at least five or six kinds. When you're a kid, you like the "cut-out cookies"; sugar cookies that you get to decorate with frostings of various colors and myriad kinds of sprinkles. You laugh when your sister shows you her one-eyed snowman or at the Santa who's only "wearing" undergarments. Snow-top cookies, Russian tea cakes, spritz, magic cookie bars, peanut-butter kisses. Cookies. 

Last year was my first year to attempt the Christmas cookie spree solo (Al and I had a place of our own then, remember?). All went well...I guess the snow-tops were a little hard...and I didn't add enough sugar. In my defense, the oven we had was a ruthless monster that gobbled up your fare as soon as you stopped paying attention. Running roughly 50 degrees hotter than the dial was set at, one had to keep a keen eye the little morsels lest they turn black. That doesn't explain the sugar though...

Something I can't blame on the oven, is something many of you have heard me tell of before. Alex's dad and I both love pie. So for one of our birthdays (can't remember), I decided to bake a cherry pie. My mom cans cherries every summer and I noticed that we had a jar of them in our pantry. I also had a few left over in the freezer. As I'm stirring the cherries on the stove, I add in the frozen ones and notice that they are a much brighter red than the ones that I was stirring. I figured it was either because they were frozen or that they were two different kinds of cherries. The mixture took a long time to thicken up and wasn't even that thick in the end. I poured them into my pie crust, made the top crust look all pretty, and carefully placed the pie into the oven. I watched that thing like a hawk. I was not going to bring a burnt pie to this party. Let me tell you, it looked beautiful. I carried it so carefully on my lap in the car and then into the Masons' house. 

I cut into the beauty after all the candles had been blown out and stuff oozed everywhere. Actually, "ooze" implies some form of coagulation. The thing was a mess. I cut Alex and me slices and we bit in. The flavor was pretty good. The crust was too, but...we kept crunching down on something every bite. Did the cherries still have their pits? It was so weird. I've never had a cherry pie crunch before. Realization dawned on Alex's face sure as the sun does each morning. The previous week he had gone to pick concord grapes at his friend's house and put a can of them in our pantry!

Well, to make a long year short, that was pretty much the end of my mess with baking. Then Edinburgh came. New country, new oven. Ok, nothing beats the grape pie story, but US-metric conversions aren't easy as pie (if you know what I mean). To sum up, milliliters and grams are NOT the same thing. Yes, you need to invest in a scale. No, you can't just eyeball it. I have ended up with several, paper-thin, mushy cookies (oh yea, add baking soda!).  So making cookies one day, the consistency of the dough was completely wrong because we didn't understand that 250g (1c) of butter and 300ml (probably less than 200g (2/3c)) of flour would make a soggy batch of cookies.  We had to add almost a half bag more of flour. But they turned out well. It was a big accomplishment figuring out that one :) 

So now, I'm sitting here smelling the wafting aroma of cinnamon and treacle (molasses, to you folk) as our cookies bake away in our perfectly-on-temperature-although-it's-in-Celsius oven. mmm...I can just taste them. 

Say What?

squidgy: squishy (although, to me it sounds a little denser than something squishy). Alex says, squidgy can also be "soft" as in a "squidgy neck pillow." See:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fifth Word: Companion

Companion: c.1300, from O.Fr. compagnon "fellow, mate, friend, partner" (12c.), from L.L. companionem (nom. companio), lit. "bread fellow, messmate," from L. com- "with" (see com-) +panis "bread." Found first in 6c. Frankish Lex Salica, and probably a translation of a Germanic word (cf. Gothic gahlaiba "messmate," from hlaib "loaf of bread"). 

Perhaps fittingly, Alex makes delicious cheese scones and we frequently eat them together. I guess he makes a good "companion." Hardy-har. 

This past Saturday was Alex's and my first anniversary. We celebrated our companionship by sleeping in late, going to the farmer's market near our flat, eating a yummy Italian lunch and going to the National Gallery for the Impressionist Gardens exhibit. While standing in line for tickets a women was leaving with her family and asked Alex and me if we wanted two free tickets that she had! We told her it was our anniversary so it was a great gift. We saved 20 pounds! The exhibit was nice but crowded since it was the last weekend it was showing. Saturday night we went to The Grain Store restaurant, courtesy of my family, for delicious food and wine. I got venison saddle and Alex got rump and shoulder of lamb. 

Sunday, we took a morning train up to Inverness, about a 4 hour ride north. The fall colors were beautiful! The train passed through valleys and gorges with a river running beside for most of the trip. The further north we got, the more barren the land became. Scotland had been clear-cut for timber earlier in its history and because of the short days and eroded soil regrowth was basically non-existent. The bleak and barren landscape was beautiful in a sad sort of way. 

Inverness was not what I expected. I expected a metropolis sort of city...much more commercialized and modern (don't know why I thought this). Inverness was a charming little town with a great river running through. We took pleasant walks along the banks with the fall-colored trees guiding us on. We missed the bus to Loch Ness but Inverness was cute enough to occupy our day. It was wonderful just being outside and feeling fall. 

As this post's theme is "companion," I'd  like to give a special shout-out to my sister, Sarah, who has found her companion in life, Mike. Congrats on your engagement!

Say What?

gorgeous: used to describe tasty food. So far, I haven't heard it used to describe anything other than food.

Pictures from this week:

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fourth Word: Meander

Meander: 1570s (n.) "confusion, intricacies," from L. meander, from Gk. Maiandros, name of a river in Phrygia, noted for its winding course. The verb meaning "to flow in a winding course" (of rivers) is attested from 1610s

A beautiful day, no classes, and several bus routes to the coast made for an intriguing adventure today. I can't say it was "successful," but we went somewhere we've never been. Leith is a port city on the Firth of Forth easily seen from any of the tall hills or monuments in Edinburgh. It's only about a 25 minute bus ride but might not be worth the fare. Evidently, Alex and I walked the wrong direction after getting off the bus. The water was pretty but it was only a busy road and some row houses. Not much to see. We walked along the water for a while until we decided to just get on another bus in the other direction. We walked a bit around Leith when we finally got into town but it wasn't that great so we left and took a bus to Calton Hill. We had fabulous sunny views of Arthur's Seat and the Salisbury Crags from Calton Hill. We also got a splash of fall color from the trees as we climbed to the top.

Apart from that little adventure, classes have occupied my time. They're really nothing to write home about, but here I am doing it anyways. I guess my intro classes feel like intro classes (really basic stuff...unless you count Semantics, which is pretty much logic and equations (and confusion!) all the time)). I am enjoying Middle English and Reading Old English very much. I have at least one translation per night, and it's cool to actually be able to read (somewhat) this ancient form of English. Other than that, I don't have any homework. To be honest, I don't feel like I'm getting my money's worth yet, but I suppose we do need to get everyone on the same page before all the specialized classes.

I am increasingly interested in Phonology (the study of speech sounds in a language) and perhaps using that to a historical end. After taking Old English though, I don't think I could handle morphology (which had been my other interest. It's the study of word formation, endings and inflections of nouns and verbs...ugh).

Alex has been working a few "trial shifts" at some restaurants nearby and will, hopefully, be deciding on a job this week. He also has an audition for RENT tomorrow...I'll let you know how that goes. Alright, I've decided to add a portion to my blog called "Say What?" dedicated to a particular silly thing the Brits/Scots say that is totally weird/different to us (no offense!).These will be examples we've actually heard used.

Say What?

Bob's your uncle (sometimes elaborately Robert's your father's brother) is a commonly used expression mainly in Britain, Ireland and Commonwealth nations. Typically, someone says it to conclude a set of simple instructions to mean, "and there you have it," or "you're all set." For example, "To make a ham sandwich, just put a piece of ham between two slices of buttered bread, and Bob's your uncle." (-wikipedia)

Week 3 Pictures:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Third word: Haggis

Haggis: early 15c., now chiefly Scottish, but common in M.E., perhaps from O.Fr. agace meaning "magpie," on analogy of the odds and ends the bird collects

Alex and I have been tourists more than I thought. While swimming through all the red tape and bureaucracy of -well, living, I guess- I hadn't thought much had happened since we moved here. However, things have been happening little by little. So, to keep up with our bureaucratic matters: we got a phone today! Not two, but one, because I "haven't been living in the UK long enough to establish a credit record" so TalkMobile won't allow me to purchase two phone lines. But one phone is not none, thank goodness. Also, Alex's computer is fixed and we should be getting internet tomorrow (yay!). Oh, and we got our cost of living check that I deposited in our fully functional bank account! Things are coming together!

Our adventures started with haggis. We went to Greyfriars Bobby's Bar for dinner one night and Al got haggis. Before I talk about haggis, a little background info on Greyfriars Bobby, the dog. He was so loyal that when his master died he laid on the grave for 14 years until he himself they say. Anyway, haggis. It's actually not that bad. It usually consists of heart, lung, kidney, rusk (?) and is mixed with oats and onions. Basically, it tasted like meatloaf-good meatloaf (Mom, your meatloaf tastes like haggis...heehee).

Last week we also toured the Palace of Holyroodhouse ('rood' being the ol' fashioned way of saying 'cross'). We got to see bed chambers and sitting rooms, the dining room etc. I don't think the Queen uses these rooms much. We only got to tour the second floor. We got to see Mary, Queen of Scots' bed chamber and where Rizzio, her personal secretary, was stabbed like 18 times by her husband and bled to death in front of her. The gardens and abbey ruins were awesome. I took a picture of Al standing exactly where the Queen and Pope were standing in the picture I took of them. That was cool. We also got to turn our tickets in to annual passes, so if anyone comes to visit Alex and I can go for free!

You can go a little stir-crazy living in a busy city and I really needed to get out. So, last Saturday, Alex and I took a bus to Stirling, a town comparable to Edinburgh in layout but a lot smaller. It's only about 30 miles away. We climbed up the streets of the old town to reach the castle which, like Edinburgh Castle, is situated at the top of  a volcanic rock formation. Alex and I paid 26 pounds each for free access to all the castles in Scotland (basically if you go to two castles you've paid for it)! The views were amazing (I prooooomise pictures soon). We got to see the foothills of the northern highlands in one direction and the lower hills of the southern highlands in another direction. Sterling Castle had a panoramic view of the whole valley and was certainly advantageously situated. Nearby is where William Wallace fought and defeated the English. Mary, Queen of Scots spent most of her early childhood in this castle but was born in nearby Linlithgow.

We walked to the royal gardens, which have long been deserted, to see the castle from below. It was a beautiful day with little wind and a bright sky. The leaves were beginning to turn as well. Also, we got to go to Primark. For those of you who know, this is God's gift to the shopaholic. Cheap(!!!), stylish clothes. It was awesome.

 I'll write my next blog about my classes, which are in their second week now. The odds and ends are slowly coming together and maybe life will soon be a bit more normal. For now, we are settling in, figuring it out, and having some fun.

Pictures of Week 1:
Pictures of Week 2:

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Second Word: Move

move: late 13c., from Anglo-Fr. movir (O.Fr. moveir), from L. movere "move, set in motion" (pp. motus, freq. motare),

Edinburgh greeted us with blowing wind and whipping rain. We didn't care. If that was the price to pay for fresh air (not the stale kind they provide you with on airplanes), then we paid. We've been here a week, and since then, we've had only light drizzles.

Our apartment is compact but just the right size for us. Two good sized bedrooms, a living/dining/kitchen room, and a bathroom no bigger than the one we had in the US (which was quite small). Alex and I had our first "breakdown" of respecting the local culture and trying to fit in when we went grocery shopping the night we arrived and saw this:

We died laughing right there in the store over the fact that we could buy orange juice with "juicy bits" (aka "pulp"). If you didn't want "juicy bits" you could get "smooth". We felt bad, but what can you do?

The week continued with several business items to attend to. I registered for classes, and just to impress you, here are my courses for the two semesters:

Sem 1
Intros to Phonology, Semantics, Syntax, and Language Research (4 different classes)
Middle English

Sem 2
Diachronic Linguistics
English Word Formation
Medieval Dialectology

The stressors of home apparently followed us to Edinburgh. We can't get internet in our flat until we have a phone number, but we can't get cell phones until we have a bank account. The bank account is going to take five days to process. And, still, my computer is at HP for a third time being "fixed".

Alex and I did have time to be tourists this week though. We climbed up Arthur's Seat, a dormant volcano right in the middle of the city. It's about an hour climb and the scenery is beautiful! For those of you who didn't know, the Pope's only papal visit this year was to Scotland and happened to be the same day we were climbing Arthur's Seat. The Palace of Holyroodhouse, where the Queen stays when she visits, is at the base. Since the Queen is Duchess of Edinburgh, she met the Pope at the Palace. We happened to be about 300 feet up the hill and could see over the Palace walls. We saw the Queen come out on a red carpet with the Pope, and then we saw their motorcade leave the Palace on their way around the city and eventually to Glasgow. Both times I've been to Edinburgh now the Queen has been here too.

I promise pictures as soon as we get our own internet. We like it so far and there are many things to occupy our time. We are getting our bearings and finding the city very walkable.

I start classes on Monday and the adventures will continue. Though the cogs of our adventure (phones, bank account, internet, computer) are a bit rusty, we have set in motion a new life and it's moving along whether we are ready or not.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

First Word: Adventure

Adventure: the original meaning was "to arrive," in Latin, but in Middle English it took a turn through "risk/danger" (a trial of one's chances), and "perilous undertaking" (early 14c.), and thence to "a novel or exciting incident" (1570).

It seems a great adventure must always start with a great misadventure. This is a story about my great adventure. But I must begin with my great misadventures in order to give perspective to what someone will put up with to get where they want to go.

These musings began while I was on the phone with tech support for the second time (45 minutes each!), after my three-month-old laptop had already been sent in, repaired, and sent back. So much trouble caused by such a stupid little problem: beeps. I seriously wear a name tag that says: Hello, my name is Julia, and my computer beeps (no, seriously, I don't). But it is really annoying just sitting there and then beep! Randomly, all the time, some of the time, never. Grrr! I don't know why it beeps (and apparently tech support doesn't either). They decided it must be the keyboard and replaced it but to no avail. Too bad they don't get credit for trying.

Somehow, a move to Edinburgh, Scotland couldn't be complete without several bumps (or beeps, as the case may be) along the way. In the good ol' days of fleeing the religious intolerance of England, emigration to the New World encompassed braving the perils of a raging sea, contracting whatever illness inflicted a shipmate, weeks of travel, and upon arrival, no one to greet you and help you on your way. A sense of the unknown was a fog that hovered throughout the journey, but as we all know, the hunger for a better world overpowered the longing to turn around.

Modern-day perils aren't nearly as foreboding (nor as exciting). For example, computer beeps. Also, government legislation that slows down the financial aid process thereby severely reducing the amount of time in which to apply for a visa, get it processed, and finally returned before you leave in 8 days! Whew! And still we must wait because if we don't get our visas, we don't fly because the UK Boarder Agency has our passports that they will paste our visas into. We pay the money to change the flight, cancel the hostel until we get the visas, and then just wait. AND, I can't register as a student at the University until I can give the school a photocopy of my visa! Oh, and there was also the camera repair, the packing, the lack of motivation to pack, the spackling, the computer getting sent back a second time, getting my cavity filled, getting Alex's five cavities filled, and the power going out twice for several hours today.

This may seem like complaining (it is complaining!), but it's my misadventure and I'm entitled. To be fair, it's Alex's misadventure too. I don't know if that makes it any better though. We have 8 days of misadventure left and then on to the adventure...provided we get our visas in time. So I guess that my hunger for a "new world" is what is holding all this together. You can put up with a lot when adventure comes calling. Our "perilous undertaking" is soon to be a "novel and exciting incident"! On to Edinburgh!