January 31, 2014

having fun isn't hard...

...when you've got a library card!

A couple days ago Wayne and I signed up for some library cards. We love libraries. We especially love libraries that are over one hundred years old that have marble staircases that echo with your footfalls as you climb the four flights up to the reference room, where the 25 foot-high ceilings are held up on every side by Beauty & the Beast-esque bookshelves, complete with wee spiral staircases and wrought iron balconies and skinny ladders that move along a track. Libraries where the scent of history and politics and theology and news and mystery and tales with knotted-up plots and exhale-with-relief endings drift past you from between pages and hardback covers and magazine racks. 

This pretty much sums up our library here in Edinburgh. The nearest branch of the Edinburgh library happens to be the Central Library, right in the middle of Old Town. The library's construction and contents was made possible by the tremendous generosity of William Carnegie of Carnegie Hall fame, and it's a beauty.

While seated at the information desk signing my name on the back of a card in black ink, I briefly wondered in how many places at how many different libraries I'll sign up for in my lifetime -- I've gathered quite a collection already. I also wondered whether the catchy tune of Arthur's "Having Fun Isn't Hard (When You've Got a Library Card!)" would trot through my head every single time I slip a new plastic card into my wallet. 

I'd perform that in a flash mob, without a doubt.... although we'd probably get kicked out of the library. Sorry patrons. 

{this post written in June 2013}

January 27, 2014

week seven.

Well kids, here's where things get tricky. I really should limit myself to posting three pictures, because without any rules, I might post about nine dozen for week seven.

Because during week seven, we were in Rome. And in Vienna. And in the Netherlands. And I took more than three pictures that week, oddly enough.

I'll keep it short and sweet, and maybe if I'm feeling up to it I'll write a separate post on each city. I'm a moody sort of blogger, you know.

This is good picture to describe our stay in Rome. It summarizes our three days there well -- it was ridonkulous hot (Edinburgh made us soft) and we were in really old buildings for most of the time and the humidity made my hair dumb. Also at this point we had been up since 3:30 AM in order to catch our flight so I think we were going a little stir-crazy. Nothing like losing your sanity while wandering around the Colosseum.

Hi my name is Suzanne and I love Vienna so much that when our plane was swooping over the city there may or may not have been a little forming of some tears of happiness in my eyes. And then I had this weird goofy perpetual smile on my face for the whole two days that we were there. How can you NOT smile when you're standing in Volksgarten surrounded by dour old Viennese people and eating Manner cookies?

Here is Wayne on a very Dutch patio. This is evident by the copious amounts of flowers and shrubs. There are bikes everywhere. There is coffee and cookies being prepared just inside the kitchen for like the seventh coffee break of the day. We visited my Dutch rellies and it was lovely and we felt just like we were at home. 

I'll spend more time on these trips later! :)

January 23, 2014

a lochside concert.

As earlier mentioned, one of our Scottish adventures included a four-day trip up to the Highlands -- specifically the Isle of Skye, an island off the west coast of Scotland, marked with rolling green mountains, gleaming blue lochs, and tiny villages built around quiet harbours. It's a strange place -- about as out in the Scottish sticks as you're going to get (although folk on the Orkney Islands may argue with that statement). Single-lane roads weave around the towering mountains, sheep are everywhere, and ruinous heaps of 500-year-old castles are heavy with Scottish myth and folklore. It's a surreal place. We lost track of the number of times we said, "Is this place actually real?"

We stood on seaside cliffs with wild winds whipping redness into our cheeks, on stoney beaches where drying seaweed crunched under our shoes, beside mountain-fed streams of cold clear water, on ancient bridges made of rough-hewn rock dug from hillsides. We passed through crumbling archways and traced our fingers over centuries-old engravings cut into the walls of fortresses once occupied by fierce warriors and beloved kings and queens who battled for Scotland's independence. 

The culture is beautiful, too -- we constantly ran into people with accents we couldn't understand in the least, people who had lived their whole lives on this remote edge of the earth, whose veins ran heavy with Highland blood and whose hands hung weathered by wind and rain and fishing and farming; people who love their land with such a deep passion that the thought of leaving doesn't even remotely exist.

We spent one night in a small harbour village on a loch -- we had a room in a bunkhouse that was nestled down tightly into a little crevice between the beach and the local pub. As the sun was going down we watched from a creaky balcony as a canoe paddled its way out into the middle of the loch, and once centred, the three men inside pulled up the paddles and produced fiddles and drums, giving us a lovely lakeside concert of fiddle tunes and drumming and much raucous laughter that echoed off the surrounding hills. Wayne and I just looked at each other with these big grins, both thinking how ridiculously stereotypical and entertaining the whole thing was. 

Fifteen minutes later, the midges were out and we just about lost our minds with their insane buzzing and biting so we went inside. Evil midges. Not everything about the Highlands is all fluffy and lovely. Die, midges, die. 

{This post written in June 2013}

January 20, 2014

week six.

Week six was business as usual for us -- research, reading, writing, drawing, laundry, groceries, ho hum. We were also shocked to discover that our sojourn in Edinburgh was almost half over! 

There were still, of course, the daily exploratory walks. There's always something new to find... 

Check out that glorious sun! Scotland is oft described as a cloudy, dismal chunk of the UK. Our summer there was completely not that. We were told, however, that we had chosen the best summer to come to Scotland in a decade... they hadn't had sun/warmth like this in ages! And by warmth I mean a daily high of 18-20 degrees celsius. 

They wouldn't last in west Michigan heat. Yikes. 

A nice view of Waverly Station. That big bridge there is North Bridge. It connects Old Town (left) to New Town (right... but not really pictured). We lived in Old Town, a five minute walk from the bridge. 

Spent a morning wandering around Calton Hill, home to many old monuments, including this lovely old pile of rocks know as "Edinburgh's Disgrace". It's actually really The National Monument, but they ran out of money so construction was halted in 1829, and it was never finished. Oops.

You can get some pretty intense pictures on it, though! Pretty cool view of Leith in the background.

Um, hmm. 

Very Star Wars-esque. 

Remember how I was only ever going to post three photos of the week? Funny. I tried, though. Really. 

January 09, 2014

how to stretch your cafe drinks.

As a disclaimer: please remember while reading this that we're students (well, one of us anyway... and the other is unemployed) and have very limited spending money.

When you really want to get your quid's worth of cafe time and substance, a really good strategy is to befriend the older American tourist couple who sits down next to you, have a good chat, and when they leave, casually sort of adopt the two teapots they've left on the table that are still mostly full of really lovely hot Earl Grey tea. Then, consume with as little guilt and weirdness as possible.

Yes, we did this. No, we aren't ashamed.

{This post written in June 2013}

January 06, 2014

week five.

More Scottish photos for your viewing pleasure -- all these taken during our fifth week in town.

There is a hill in Edinburgh called The Mound -- aptly named, I'd say. Perched on top of this hill is New College -- the place that theology/divinity students at the Uni of Edinburgh call home. Wayne spent a good deal of time in the library here. We met some American visitors at our church and spent an afternoon giving them the grand tour of downtown Edinburgh -- how strange to turn so swiftly from  newcomers in a city to hosts!
Feeling adventurous one day so popped over to the Royal Botanic Gardens for a stroll and a sit. Free entry, lubbly jubbly.

Had ourselves a rainy day in Edinburgh this week so we found a cafe to get a change of scenery and set to work. As you can see from the mother's day card, I managed to find myself a handy dandy print shop -- located pretty much right across the street from our flat, thankyouverymuch. A friendly bunch of employees there -- though they were plenty confused as to why I would be printing mother's day cards in June. Confessed that though I was a tad late (more like a MONTH late), I knew my mom and mom-in-law would still appreciate the gesture. They said my family must be quite forgiving seeing as I was more than three months late. I said no, I'm only ONE month late. We argued for a moment and I doubted my sanity before coming to realize that Mother's Day in the UK takes place in March.

After that we all got along swimmingly. One of the guys who worked there told me about his dream to illustrate comics. I told him he should do it. He said he would if I would sell my cards. I said I'd try, maybe. Jolly good friends, him and I.

Not much to say here. Just a wonderfully wonderful North Bridge sunset. 

And now, looking in the opposite direction down South Bridge -- the red carpet being rolled out for the stars coming to attend the closing night gala of the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Tonight's film: Not Another Happy Ending. No, we didn't attend -- just hung out the window with our chins in our hands watching supposedly famous beings waltz up the steps in glittery dresses. Quite fun.

No, contrary to appearance, I am not stabbing a small child in the eye with a paintbrush. And yes, the child does have eyes in real life but the smudging is due to my weak efforts to create anonymity in this photo. I don't know who this child is, but I figured I should be a responsible blogger and not post photos of other people's children without permission. So, what we have here is a faceless child being face-painted by Suzanne in unbelievably cold June weather.

The Craigmillar Festival Fun Day -- an event that our church in Niddrie helps put on (with the aid of other local organizations) every summer -- is a big old neighbourhood party meant to get the community out for an afternoon of fun. Apparently the summer before this ended up being a total washout -- rain and rain and rain -- so everyone was quite pleased with the balmy 8 degree temperatures and brisk breeze.

Have you ever face-painted for four hours straight in 8 degree weather? I digress.

This festival presents a wonderful opportunity to speak with families in the area and to let them know about Niddrie Community Church, the programs they offer, and most importantly, the Gospel. Being perfectly honest here, I did not do any gospel-sharing while smearing face paint all over those blessed childrens' faces. Us three artists at the table were busily churning through a massive queue of eight-year-olds who would ask for these obscure cartoon characters to be painted on their faces (who on EARTH is Peppa Pig and why is she so popular? Be reminded that I am not British and as such have no knowledge of British cartoon characters).

These children fascinated me. Many of them were seen earlier throwing objects and swearing at an inebriated old woman while at the festival. They often run wildly around the neighbourhood, and stopped me at the church doors on more than one occasion to tell me raunchy jokes.

But as soon as they were in that chair, they'd shrink back from my paintbrush and look up at me with uncertainty in their eyes and when I asked "Well, what shall we paint on your face today?" they'd answer in an almost-unheard whisper,

"A love-heart, please."

These children -- these misbehaved and wild children -- made me think of that story in the Bible where the disciples try to shoo the kids away from Jesus, and Jesus tells them to leave the little ones alone, because the kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these. If the kids in that story had been polite, clean, sweet children, chances are that they a) wouldn't have been running around the streets in the first place and b) wouldn't have made the disciples so uncomfortable as to try and send them away. Really, I don't know -- maybe they were well-behaved kids. But after our stint in Edinburgh, I now imagine them with the faces of the kids from Niddrie -- a little bit flushed from zooming around on their bikes all day, cheeks smeared with orange after their latest drink of Irn-Bru, checking over their shoulder to make sure no one's coming after them. And Jesus, being God, loving these children because they are His children, welcoming them to Himself, showing them that He is the Way and the Truth and the Life.

Pretty neat way to end week five. However I will say that I hope never to have such cold and wet and pink and blue and red and green fingers ever ever ever again.