What are we talking about today?

I'm on hiatus (in case you hadn't guessed). Sorry! I miss you guys.

22 October 2006

Big news!

I am here to announce, after 18 months (almost to the day) of being pedestrian/cyclists, WE HAVE A CAR!!! It is the most bizarre feeling, to be honest-- I keep thinking it's only loaned to us and we'll have to give it back, nope, it belongs to us! And I was going to take a picture of it to post on here, but I thought that was the height of sadness. However, I'm sure that thought will pass soon (hehe) and then I'll take the picture.

The only snag in the works is: until yesterday, I had never driven a standard in my life. And the new car is, as it happens, a standard. I phoned my father earlier today to tell him it's all his fault that I'm having to learn how to drive all over again 16 years after actually learning to drive (and 12 years after getting my license-- we lived in the country, that's the way it is, get over it). He didn't seem to mind that I'm blaming him for having to talk myself through something as basic as driving to the store. :) I'm sure I'll get better with practise-- if I don't, then I'm sure I'll continue to annoy the other drivers in Lubbock, few of whom can drive well anyway.

Also, we're moving in 10 days!

14 October 2006

How exciting can Lubbock be, anyway?

Well, we've been back for a little while now, obviously. Turns out my posts about Scotland did not generate much interest, so from that I've deduced that 1. My friends are not interested in Scotland. or 2. Karla is the only friend who cares about me.

So, now that I know who loves me and who doesn't, here's a quick catchup on what we've been doing since we've been back:

My first day back at work was extremely unfun. I actually started crying within minutes of walking in the door, which I think really unnerved my supervisor, and pretty much everyone else, apparently, from their reactions. I am normally not particularly emotional, nor do I tend to be very affectionate toward others, so my poor supervisor was totally at a loss. She asked me, "Do you need a hug?" to which I answered, "No, I'm fine." But since I couldn't stop crying right away, she asked a couple of seconds later, "Are you sure you don't need a hug?" So I told her, "Well, you can hug me if it will make you feel better." She assured me that it would, so not only was I crying, but I was also hugged, which did not go very far toward making me happy to be there. My favourites were the people who came by to tell me "Welcome back," and didn't stop there, but went on to say, "Are you glad to be back?" I settled for telling them, "No," instead of adding "Go away!"

Anyway... a couple of Saturdays ago Chad and I participated in the Race for the Cure, and if there's anyone left in America who doesn't know what that is, you can click here to find out about it. Chad intended to run, but I wanted to walk, since I hadn't done any sort of training for it, but then the people I had planned to walk with decided they wanted to run, too. So I ended up walking with a girl who had been making conversation with us at the start line. We finished almost dead last, but I suppose someone had to be last...

That same Saturday we went with some friends from church to the corn maize, which is a few miles northwest of Lubbock. Every year, these people cut a maze in their corn field, and then other people come out to wander round in it. We ended up going in after dark, which apparently adds a whole new dimension to wandering round in a cornfield. But since I've never done it during the daytime, I have no basis for comparison. Anyway, we had lots of fun, then afterwards Chad decided to try the climbing wall that had just been set up, so he couldn't move his arms for three days. :)

Since then, the excitement in our life has been kept to a minimum! We are going to a marriage retreat with other couples from church at the end of this month, and then we are moving to a new apartment the day after that. Everyone we know has been expressing their sympathy at us moving, but we actually don't mind it much, so it all works out.

07 October 2006

Headed home: Tuesday

I woke up from an extraordinarily uncomfortable sleep to find we were in London. Chad and I had taken the overnight bus, hence the reason sleep was so uncomfortable. We were in the upper deck of the coach (first time I had run across that combination), so we had a nice view of the London streets as we went through them, on our way to Victoria station.
We had breakfast in the train station, bought a final round of chocolates, and took the train to Gatwick. We were really early for our flight, so we had plenty of time to read the paper, or in Chad's case, to solve the Sudoku puzzles in the paper. It did take a long time to get through security, but we had expected that. The Gatwick airport is set up with a huge waiting area, surrounded by corridors to the various gates, with shops all around the sides. Passengers wait here until their flight shows up on the screen, then they go to their gates and wait. In some ways, I like it better than the system at, say, DFW or Houston, because all the shops are together in the spot you are waiting in, anyway, and there's no need to trek halfway across the airport from your gate just to find the McDonalds you were looking for.
So the flight back to Houston was 10 hours long, which I was not expecting-- apparently it's longer because of the jetstreams or something. Whatever it was, it was longer going back than coming, but it wasn't bad. The flight was actually quite empty, the flight attendents were fantastic, and the inflight entertainment kept me pretty well entertained.
Once through customs in Houston, when were were waiting for our flight to Lubbock, I was plagued by my age-old problem; my brain can only handle one accent at once. With my ears still ringing with Scottish, and English, accents, I had a hard time understanding the Americans around me. It's not so much that they sounded strange (although they did), it's just that I was expecting their words to sound differently. In any case, I did my best to shut them out. We got our flight back, a cab home, and I went straight to bed.

Day Eleven: Monday

Our last day in Glasgow! We went into the city centre with Pauline for a couple of hours. We had some last-minute souvenier buying to do, as well as getting some cookies, and generally hanging about with Pauline. I bought an enormous tea mug to use as work, because every morning I had been scrounging through the cupboards to get the largest mug available. Not a problem now. It turned out the cashier in the tourist centre was from Buenos Aires, and we didn't get the exact details of how she ended up in Glasgow, except that she had been working in Germany at one point, but liked Scotland much better. Well, of course. :)
So we finished up our trip with a final natter with Dawn, Anne Louise, and Daniel, over some really nice Indian. We were all packed up and ready to go when John came to get us in his race car at 9. They dropped us off at Buchanan Bus Station, and we were away.

Day Ten: Sunday

Sunday was a normal church day again, and I was reminded for a second time why I fell in love with Glasgow in the first place. You can find a friendly group of people anywhere, of course, but Glaswegians have something special that most other people don't. I can't quite put my finger on it or describe it, but I love these people, and I love this place.
On Sunday evening we went to West Mains again, saw the current aim students for a second time, and I was glad to see how much they like Scotland, as well. After church that evening, we went back to George and Jean's house. I've been in their house quite a few times, but their daughter gave me a tour anyway-- she really just wanted me to see her room, but pointed out all the other rooms for me as well. I taught Carla in Sunday school years ago, when she was a little girl, and it was fantastic to see what a lovely young lady she has become. Not that I ever had any doubt that would be the case. :)
So we had another natter with George and Jean, Sheena, who was there as well, and one of the aim students who also came round. Some old pictures were trotted out as well, and I wondered again, Was I really that skinny?

Day Nine: Saturday

On Saturday, after a nice lie-in for everyone, we went to Edinburgh with Dawn. After our usual catching the bus and trekking through the city centre, we bought our train tickets at Queens Street station and boarded right away, because we were just in time to catch the next train. The train journey to Edinburgh (and it's pronounced (Ed-in-burr-ah, not Ed-in-burg) is just under an hour, and it's quite a nice one. I really, really like the British rail system. The buses may be cheaper, but the trains are brilliant.
We started off by having a walk round the shops, and were rewarded for our trouble by coming across an international market-- I don't know if it is a regular thing or just a special occasion, but it was cool. They were handing out samples of various sweets (and real food as well), quite a lot of jewelry was up for sale, and my pal Dawn was brilliant enough to buy me a new bag. It's fantastic, this little bag, and perfect to carry while cycling, because it's shaped more or less like a messenger bag, just smaller.
As we headed back toward the royal mile, Dawn needed to go into a shop and buy an extra layer-- she was wearing a t-shirt and a jacket, and it was a bit chilly that day, so she was getting cold. So into a shop we went, had a look round, and she found exactly what she was looking for. On our way to the castle, we happened across a bagpipe player (not that he was hard to find) and got a couple of pictures and a bit of video of him playing the national anthem. The Scottish national anthem, that is, not ours.
The street that leads from the train station to the royal mile gets you to about the half-way point, so we decided to walk up it to the castle, then back down all the way to the Houses of Parliament, and then back to our starting point. This is a street, again, that I've been up and down numerous times, but there is always something else to see. This time around Dawn pointed out to us the national court-- I forget what it's properly called, but it's the highest court in Scotland. Tourist shops are also in abundance in the royal mile, and if we had wanted to do we could have bought everything we could imagine with a tartan or Scottish flag printed on it.
As we walked along, I was telling Dawn about the time that Keely, Nancy, and I got our photo taken with William Wallace on the royal mile, then we rounded the bend and there he was. I had thought before that he was part of the Edinburgh festival, but apparently he's out at other times, as well. Tourists-- and probably some locals, too-- get their pictures taken with him, and the money he collects goes to charity. As we passed by, Dawn commented that he's better looking than Mel Gibson (which he certainly is), which he naturally overheard. His answer was, "I'm grumpier, though, hen." He said something else as well, I don't remember what, but Dawn told me that he may not have known which of us had spoken if I hadn't answered her. Of course, with such a strong difference in our accents, there was no chance of him thinking it was me after that. Anyway, the whole episode was very funny, and it was quite enjoyable to see him out there again-- apparently he's been doing this for years.
So we finally made it up to the castle, which still had bleachers set up in the parking lot for the Edinburgh Tattoo (an annual bagpipe and drum display). We didn't go in, partly because we've all been in before, and partly because it has gotten rather pricey.
So back down the mile we went (it's actually more like a royal mile and half, these days, but that doesn't sound as nice), past all the various shops, bagpipe players, and street theatre performers, until we arrived at the Houses of Parliament. The Scottish parliament building has only been in existence for a few years, and has been a source of much controversy about the cost of building it. And while it is a nice building, on the outside it is certainly odd-looking. The inside is very nice, and the debating chamber especially is lovely, but I don't think its aesthetic qualities go very far towards reconciling most Scots to its cost.
After all that sightseeing and picture-taking, it was time to head back to Glasgow. We were going to the movies that evening in the city centre, so first we stopped off for some Chinese, since we had been walking all day. The movie theatre itself is brilliant-- I don't know how many stories it is, but unlike most American multiplexes I've seen, it is a multistorey building, with several screens on each floor, and stack ot escalators to get you to the correct one. There is also a glass elevator on the side of the building, which adds a whole new dimension of excitement to the moviegoing experience. The movie itself was not that great, but the theatre was brilliant.
After the movie was over, we got the bus back to Castlemilk. At least, that's where the bus was supposed to go. We were about halfway there when someone-- presumably children-- threw a rock or something at the bus, shattering four windows-- three downstairs and one upstairs. The poor driver had just come on for his shift as well, and he was quite panicked. As it was, everyone had to get off the bus, he had to call the police, speak to onlookers, and look after the one girl who was injured. So we went up to the next bus stop, since we were not needed at that moment, and ended up getting a taxi home. And so ended an otherwise nice day.

Day Eight: Friday

On Friday morning, Chad informed me that he was not interested in sightseeing-- apparently I pushed him to his limit by taking him to two old buildings in one day. So instead we visited a couple of parks.
To begin with, we walked down to King's Park. I've spent tons of time in this little park, since it was in close proximity to both of the houses I lived in while I was in Scotland. Since there were 2-4 people living in our houses at various times, it was a good place to go when I needed to escape from roommates-- or if I just needed some quiet time. Also there's a house in the centre, occupied by some very lucky people indeed who get to live in a park. How cool is that?
So after a few minutes of wandering, and examining the flower gardens, we decided that a really long walk was in order, so off we went to Queen's Park. I have no idea what the distance we actually walked that day was, nor even how much time it took us, I was too busy enjoying it. On the way we walked past Hamden Park, which is the Scottish national stadium.
Queen's Park is absolutely brilliant. It is quite large, and has attractions for just about everyone: bike trails, walking trails, two ponds, play parks, dog runs, etc. The main attraction for me, however, is the Viewpoint. There's a hill, more or less in the centre of the park, from which you can see most of the city. It's brilliant to stand up there on a clear day and look around, which is exactly what we did. There is also a very helpful information board that has a drawing of the skyline, and tells you exactly what you are looking at if you are facing any given direction. It's fantastic.
After admiring the city (and taking several pictures) we needed some chocolate (naturally). So we walked along to Somerfield, planning to buy some chocolate bars and some Cadbury mini-rolls.
We needed mini-rolls because, on Wednesday evening, we had brought some home with us to share. However, in the course of the evening and following morning, Chad ate about half of them himself, meaning that when Dawn got home Thursday evening, they were already gone. She teased Chad quite a bit about his chocolate-eating habits, so we decided to get some more to sit in the kitchen for when Dawn returned that evening. And that's what we did: after we got home, I arranged them in a Jenga-like stack on the kitchen counter, which did get a laugh from Dawn when she saw it.
Friday evening we went to Margaret's house for dinner. Dawn was also invited, as were John and Janet, so it a nice evening of nattering.

01 October 2006

Day Seven: Thursday

So on Thursday we went sightseeing. Despite having lived in Glasgow for two years, I still haven't seen all the city has to offer. So instead of going to the same spots that I've been to many times, we went to a couple of places that neither of us had been to before.
First we bought an all-day ticket on the underground. The Glasgow underground, unfortunately, is not the huge network that will take you everywhere that the London version is. It runs in a circle around the city centre, and the cars are all painted orange-- hence it being called "The Clockwork Orange" from time to time. (Haven't seen the movie, don't know if there's any kind of connection.) At our first stop, there was nothing in particular to see, it was just a part of Glasgow we had never been in. So we wandered up and down the street, and went into a couple of charity shops, just for fun.
Stop #2 was for the Tenement House. I have totally forgotten the woman's name who lived there, but after she died, the tenement she lived in was given to the National Trust, and they keep it as it looked at the turn of the century. It is two rooms and a kitchen, meaning there is a bedroom and sitting room. The kitchen and sitting room both have set-in beds at the side, covered by a curtain during the day. This is totally a normal arrangement in the old tenements in Glasgow-- you'll see a room and a kitchen, two rooms and a kitchen, or a single end-- meaning the inhabitants have a kitchen with the set-in bed, a bathroom, and that's it. To people used to the enourmous houses and flats in most of America, it initially sounds cramped, but once in one, you really don't feel like it's small. It's all very nicely arranged, and people generally don't fill their houses with possesions they have no space for. Also at the Tenement House, they have a nice exhibit explaining housing in Glasgow through the centuries.
After leaving Tenement House, we started to walk to the Cathedral, but since we really didn't know exactly where it was, we gave it up and went back to the underground, where we headed for stop #3-- Scotland Street School Museum.
The Scotland Street School was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and as such is a beautiful building. It first opened in 1906, and ran continuously until the 70s, when enrollment was so low there was no point to keeping it open any longer. Fortunately, it was not torn down, and it was opened as a museum of Scottish school life a few years later. This year the building is celebrating its centenary. The displays were really interesting, quite a lot of the school furniture is still there, and I finally learned how many shillings there are in a pound. (Twenty, if anyone was wondering.) Also we had a nice chat with one of the guides-- Glaswegians, and in particular Glaswegians whose job it is to showcase their city-- are very gracious to anyone who shows an interest in their city. And such was the case at the Scotland Street School.
That was all we had time for in the city centre, although we found out later that had we gone to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery we might have seen the Queen, who was also in Glasgow that day.

On the way home, we stopped off to see a friend of mine who I had been trying to see all week. She was on holiday from work, but fortunately for us hadn't gone anywhere, so we were able to catch her at home. It was a short visit however, because we were going to Charlie and Ann's for dinner and another beautiful example of Scottish hospitality.

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