What are we talking about today?

I'll get back to theme days once I find a groove of posting regularly. In the meantime, most of my posts are about some variation of books, bikes, buses, or Broadway. Plus bits about writing, nonprofits, and grief from time to time.

This blog is mostly lighthearted and pretty silly. It's not about the terrible things happening in the world, but please know that I'm not ignoring those things. I just generally don't write about them here.

27 September 2006

Day Six: Wednesday

Wednesday was the only day it really rained, but since we live in a dry and barren land, we were actually quite delighted to walk in the rain. Nothing really exciting happened on Wednesday. We went to the city centre to buy some souveniers we had promised to people. In a whirl of true Scottishness, we also visited Borders and Pizza Hut. Exciting, eh?

14 September 2006

Day Five: Tuesday

Our plan on Tuesday was to go to IKEA, firstly to get an idea of what things cost so we can estimate our required one-time support, secondly because we don't have IKEA in Lubbock and I like to go there when I have a chance. After consulting the public transport routes and trying to work out where and when to get the bus, we changed our minds. It was far too much trouble, when we weren't intending on actually buying anything, and the more so because you can check prices online.

So we went instead to Rouken Glen park. I'd only been there once before, but it is quite lovely. It's large, with a burn (creek) running through it, and at one point there is a very nice waterfall. Also it has a few stretches of grass for dogs to run around in, a duck pond (some swans in there as well), a walled garden, and of course, one or two play parks for children. So I decided that my husband needed to see it. We had a very nice walk, having to skirt the mud here and there. Unfortunately, we have no pictures, because we forgot to take the camera along.

On Tuesday evening we went to see Caroline. Keely and I lived with Caroline for a while, as did quite a few other aim girls through the years. So, really, there isn't a lot she doesn't know about my personality and penchant for dropping or walking into things. She served us a traditional Scottish meal of mince and tatties, finished off by a chocolate cake that was fantastically good.

The house group also meets at Caroline's house on Tuesday evening, giving us a chance to fellowship and discuss the Bible with more of our brothers and sisters.

Day Four: Monday

On Monday, we embarked upon a grand adventure through the wilds of Scotland. Okay, not really. We went hill walking. Now, before someone asks, one hill walks by driving to a hill and then walking around on it, usually up to the top and then down again. Not just any hill, mind you, there are hills specifically designated for hill walks. So if you're just walking along the street and it happens to go uphill, sorry, you aren't hill walking.

Okay, now that we have that cleared up... Charlie asked us on Sunday if we'd like to go on a hill walk, and since we had, indeed, planned on doing so, we were happy to agree to go along. I have no idea what the place we went to is called, because I didn't write it down or anything. And it wasn't a hard climb, but for us who live in a very flat city, it was strenuous enough. We had a very nice view of Loch Lomond as we went up, and we have bunches of pictures of it, although since Photobucket is not cooperating at the moment, I haven't posted any of them. It was a cloudy day with just a bit of sprinkling rain now and then, but it looked beautiful with the sun almost shining through in one direction, and darker clouds on the other end of the sky. I hadn't been hill walking in six years, so I'd forgotten the feeling of going up a path-- you think the next turning leads to the top, only to get round it and seen an even higher bit of hill above you. It's actually quite funny in that way, because you wonder how the higher bit of the hill was hiding.

The trip to and from the hill was not so nice for me. I have never done well on the Scottish roads, winding round as they do, not to mention the continual up and down. I didn't take any carsickness medicine, which admittedly was a mistake, but on the other hand I didn't want to be drowsy while climbing. So I took pictures for the first part of the journey, but had to keep my eyes closed after a while. Coming back was even worse-- I felt ill almost right away. This is why trains are my preferred method of travel around Scotland, because the track builders kept the twists and turns to a minimum and it's more or less a straight shot to anywhere-- at least, it feels like it, which is the important part.

Monday evening we visited with Richard and Sharon and their daughters. Along the way to the house, we were reminded of one of Castlemilk's biggest problems-- children with nothing to do. In this instance they were teens, actually. There was a group of them standing outside, making cheeky comments about everyone who went by, and in between amusing themselves by throwing pebbles at people's windows. I don't know what the solution to this problem is, but I hope one can be found. Or at least tried.

13 September 2006

Day Three: Sunday

Sunday was absolutely wonderful. It has long been my favourite day of the week, although I admit that being a part of a church of 1000+ in Texas does not give Sunday quite the same quality that it once had for me. It's hard to get round to everyone and have a nice conversation when there are such huge crowds to navigate, plus you have everyone hurrying out to get a seat at a restaurant. (Remember when people went home to have Sunday dinner? No? Ask your grandparents about what it was like.)

So I had high expectations of what my Sunday in Glasgow would be like. And, of course, I wasn't disappointed. The congregation in Castlemilk has breakfast together before class begins, which is enjoyable, and also gave us plenty of time to catch up with everyone-- what we've been doing and that sort of thing. I had sat down next to Dawn, but what with more people coming through the door every couple of minutes, there was a lot of up-and-down, and-- most people will be surprised to hear this-- lots of hugging. That's right, me, hugging people. It was brilliant.

The service was excellent as always, and I was feeling unexpectedly teary (not that I actually shed any tears) at my happiness to be here. Afterwards we went home (ah! there's that word again!) for Sunday dinner. The afternoon went by entirely too quickly, though, mostly because in order to get to East Kilbride for evening services we had to get the bus at 3:40, since it only runs once an hour. Apparently, not a lot of people go between East Kilbride and Glasgow on Sundays.

So we got the bus at the bottom of the hill, right next to the church building actually, and headed on our way. I was quite amazed at how many buildings there are between here and there, because there used to be a lot more open fields. Progess, I suppose. We arrived at the East Kilbride centre well before the time we were meant to meet Cathy, so we walked through it for a few minutes.

Now when I lived here, this mall was still quite new, and it was being billed as "The only 5-star mall in Scotland." I have no idea, still, what that means. But it is a large and very nice shopping centre, complete with ice rink and cinema. And apparently they've added on to it; Cathy took us through the new part as we went out, since that's they way out. And there's a quite large car park outside as well.

The congregation West Mains meets in a rented hall not far from the shopping centre, so it was a nice wee walk. Cathy got us all caught up on people I hadn't heard from since I left, pretty much. And it was totally worth all that travelling around and early leaving once we got there. I love these people so much, and it was brilliant seeing them again.

I was feeling welled again during the service, so it's a good thing it ended when it did. Another reason I love Scottish people is that they can all talk at least as fast as me, so the catching up was an easy matter. :) It was brilliant to be able to talk to everyone for a while, with the promise of more nattering next Sunday.

Day Two: Saturday

Okay, time to catch up before I forget everything we've done.

Saturday morning we got off to a bit of a slow start, much to the annoyance of the nice people at Central Station, who wanted us off their train. We only got off five minutes late, at 7:35. Still, those five minutes were more than enough to miss Dawn, who had come to collect us at 7:15.

So we walked through the city centre to the bus stop to get to Castlemilk, getting ourselves into an amusing (for us) situation as we stopped to phone to let Dawn know we would be arriving soon. Instead, we spoke to Daniel, who said Dawn was in the city centre as well. So he phoned Dawn's mobile, while we stood at the bus stop and watched the buses go by.

It turned out that Dawn, having not found us at Central station at 7:15, had decided that we must have already headed to her house, so that's where she was on her way back to when she got Daniel's call. So she got off her bus, on to another, and went back to the city centre, where we saw her 20 minutes later.

So after such an amusing beginning, the rest of the day was remarkably calm. We went back into the city centre after getting cleaned up and had lunch (Actually, Chad had an all day breakfast, which involves a lot of dead pig and grease, while I had a baked potato with chicken curry. It was wonderful.). After a wee wander about, we headed for home because we needed to do the shopping. So we stopped at Asda.

Now when I first arrived here as an aim student, eight years ago, the Americans who were already here were all mourning the lack of Wal-Mart in this country. Not being a fan myself, I was perfectly happy with that state of affairs. However, the current aim students have no such complaint, since Asda was bought out by Wal-Mart many years ago. While it does not have quite the Wal-Mart aura inside, Asda is open 24 hours (just the thing for your Scot who can't sleep and has no car), and does have a lot of stuff at reasonable prices. And since it still has "Asda" printed in rather large letters on the outside, I can't bring myself to dislike it. If they ever change the sign, that will be a different matter altogether.

And that was our Saturday! Nothing exciting, just life the way I lived it when I was here.

11 September 2006

Day One: Friday

We landed, went through customs (and I was frightened out of my wits by a customs official who I'm almost sure is the same person I had to go through 8 years ago-- thankfully we went to someone else this time around), and were launched into London.

So it seems that there is no good time of day to go through Victoria station. It was getting close to noon, but the queues to all the ticket counters were enormous. However, the London underground system is quite well set up-- there was a large map which we consulted, decided what kind of all day ticket we needed, and were able to buy it from a kiosk with no problems. Next obstacle: getting ourselves, and our luggage, to Euston station.

As I said, it was completely packed, and people were crushed together quite tightly, and we were certainly not the only ones with luggage on the underground. We managed it though, got to Euston, checked our luggage into the luggage holding place, leaving us unhindered to wander about.

The first thing we saw once we were out the door was a Krispy Kreme, next door to a Starbucks. It's things like that which make international travel worthwhile. :) Unfortunatly, we have no picture.

Seriously, we didn't go into anything, even though we had planned to do, because the exchange rate is horrible and everywhere is quite expensive. We did see the Houses of Parliment, Big Ben, Westminister Abbey, Downing Street (that's where the Prime Minister lives), Trafalgar Square, St. Paul's, Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Picadilly Circus-- all the touristy places, in other words. And do remember that we were doing all this walking about while half-dead with jet lag and lack of sleep (neither of us slept well on the plane). I've posted all our pictures here.

Also I had a very funny moment in a loo, in which a woman spoke to me, not in English, so I answered her in Spanish. I only spoke to her in Spanish because: 1. I had already spoken to her in English, and she didn't understand, and 2. What she said to me sounded like a romance language of some sort, so I decided to take the chance that she would understand Spanish. Well, after I spoke to her, she said "Okay," and we went on our merry way. On our way out of the restaurant, I spotted her again, along with a crowd of people, who were all speaking very distinct German. Oh, well.

So at the end of the day, we headed back to Euston station, collected our luggage, printed out our train tickets, and waited for our train to appear on the board. This is the much-anticipated sleeper train that everyone was so excited about. It was actually quite nice, and we really enjoyed it.

To begin with, it had been a nice break to hear English accents (along with who knows how many other languages) all day, since we are generally surrounded by Texan drawl (my apologies to the Texans who read this). However, all the people we met on the train had very distinct Scottish accents, which was such a relief to hear. I really felt like I was going home at that point.

We went to bed, because we were completly shattered, but I wasn't asleep yet when the train pulled out. The first little bit of the was there was a lot of lurching about and rails screeching, so I began to doubt that I could sleep on the train. Well, I was wrong. Thank goodness. I fell asleep shortly afterwards, only woke up once or twice that I could remember, and the next thing I knew the nice woman was waking us up with tea and a snack, because it was Saturday morning and we had arrived in Glasgow.


Okay, so we'll start from the beginning. Thursday afternoon we headed for the airport, after last-minute packing, a run (well, cycle) to Burger King, watering the plants, closing the windows, turning the AC way up, and opening the blinds just enough to let in sunlight so we don't come home to a plant graveyard.

Nothing of any note whatsoever happened at the Lubbock airport. We didn't even have a very long wait, although we did get a bit bored:

The real fun started when we landed in Houston. We arrived 20 minutes early, which is in itself pretty impressive. Except for one thing: There was no gate available for us. And, unfortunately, it took 25 minutes for a gate to be ready. Then, when we managed to get to what turned out to be a square of tarmac, it took another 5 minutes to get the shuttle bus to us. So our 20 minute early arrival turned into a 10 minute late one, in terms of us actually being in the terminal.

We had a fast layover anyway, only 40 minutes, now down to 30. We went up to the monorail to get to our gate, to find out it was having problems as well. So there goes another 5 minutes. At this point I am holding a very nervous conversation with my watch about how much time we have, while Chad is totally calm, cool and collected. Our terminal was the last stop on the monorail, and as things go, our gate was the furthest one at the other end of the terminal building. (I used to really like the Houston airport, but trust me, a lot of that fondness is now gone.) So we race up to the gate at 6:44, essentially waving our passports and shouting, "We're here!" Fortunately, the door of the airplane wasn't shut yet, and they hadn't yet removed our bags from the cargo hold, so the people at the gate told us, "Run!" as they phoned down to the plane to wait a few more seconds before shutting us out. So we did.

I'd also just like to say at this point that the Continental airlines people who got us on the plane were all wonderful, except for the one man at the end of the jetway who asked (thinking, I suppose, that he was funny) "Did you take the long way around?" At that point, I was not in the mood for wit, and this wasn't it anyway, so I snapped back, "It was the airplane and the monorail, not us!" I didn't add "so shut up!" although I certainly wanted to. We got a few glowers from other passengers as we got on, which I ignored since we were technically taking off at our correct time anyway. We got our seats, shooed off a woman who had decided this was her row, since no one was sitting there, and settled down. Fortunately, we each had our own video screen, which went a long way toward making me feel a resurgence of loyalty toward Continental.

So the flight was pretty uneventful-- thank goodness! Also, the food was great. IMO, British Airways has the best airline food, but Continental is almost even with them. At a very distant third (and by very distant, think me running a marathon against an Olympian athelete) is American. Bringing up the rear, and falling in behind school lunches, mystery meat in hole-in-the-wall red-light restaurants, and road kill you scraped up and cooked, is Sabena. I've never had worse food in my life than when I flew with them. In fact, I think they may be out of business now, and I would guess that's because their loyal customers all got food poisoning at some point.

Coming soon... Friday: Day One

10 September 2006

It's 21:55... do you know where your children are?

So we've now been in the UK for three days, and are quite enjoying ourselves. I will (I hope) be posting more photos tomorrow, but in the meantime, here are our obligatory Trafalgar Square photos with the lions (and I don't even want to tell you how I got up there):

07 September 2006

So long, farewell, I can't spell the rest of the words...

I'm updating now, because I don't know if I'll get a chance this afternoon. We're leaving today! We fly out at 4:30 PM. So right now I'm wide awake (very early) in the hopes I will be able to sleep on the plane. Tomorrow we're spending the entire day sightseeing in London, and I have a feeling that Westminister Abbey is best viewed while awake, and not sleepwalking, so I really, really want to sleep on the plane. Prayers for a safe journey will be appreciated!

06 September 2006

Goo-be-gone! (Please!)

Well, this week I haven't quite been the giddy-bouncing around-driving everyone crazy bundle of energy that you might expect, being as we're leaving for Scotland tomorrow. Well, London, technically. And that's because my leg (the one that had a blood clot three years ago) has been bothering me with similar symptoms, and I was worried that I had developed blood clot #2, days before leaving the country.

So I went to my doctor yesterday, who I suppose was happy to see me (at least, that's what she said). I was quite gratified when she told me I'm doing everything right (never heard that before!), but she had to order a doppler, which is basically an ultrasound on my leg. So I had to go to the hospital to let someone slather my leg in goo, while looking at the nice picture on the screen. Good news: no blood clot. Bad news: My leg will just do this from time to time, to keep my life interesting. And she didn't even let me see the picture, although since this is my fourth doppler, it's not like I don't know what she was looking at.

So we get to go on our trip (some of the girls at work had some dire predictions in that department) with no hindrances. And, also, I get to ride my bike to work today and tomorrow, which I had been sad about missing out on. The more exercise I get (especially on the day of the trip), the better I sleep. I'm really hoping to be able to sleep on the plane this time around, although I admit it will be a first if I do. And speaking of which, I need to go to the library to get a book to read before I leave. Wow, I have a lot to do in the next 30 hours.

We finally bought a digital camera!