Scotland/Gelukkeg Kerstfeest!

Happy holidays everyone! I'm back from my sojourn to Scotland, land of tartan and thisle. Wencke, Paula and I spent three days in Glasgow, flying from Brussels, Belguim. Our flight there was precariously close to being cancelled on account of snow storms, but the wind gods were on our side and so we landed more or less on schedule at Glasgow Prestwick Airport. The tagline of which is "Pure Dead Brilliant". Which, printed in a loopy, bright purple scrawl, it is.

The first day we spent wandering the streets of central Glasgow, spending most of the morning in a gloriously large bookstore... which sold English-language books... I could barely tear myself away from the pages of a few travel books, so I bought them. I had to eat a little less that evening to compensate for the extra money I spent on books! Not the first or last time the I will have chosen books over food. No regrets, though. We capped off our day with a meal at a pub just down the street from our hotel, burgers and a pint of Scottish Christmas ale! I felt very at home right about then, and the beer was great.

Day two was more of a culture day, during which we walked the campus of the University of Glasgow, with its science department housed in a huge, beautiful piece of Gothic architecture. Lord Kelvin, discoverer of Absolute Zero among various other things, is the on campus despite his demise some hundred years ago. We visited the Kelvingrove Museum, which appears to be a natural history museum but prove to be much more! It had everything from a stuffed elephant to meteors to world culture exhibits, mummies, an Impressionist collection, and a Salvador Dali painting which, the longer you looked at, the less you understood it. I wanted to be like Claudia and Jamie in The Mixed-Up Files... sleep in the museum for a few weeks until I knew everytihng that was there. One day :) That evening we saw the local off-Broadway show of Beauty and The Beast, which was fantastic because I haven't seen the movie since I was seven or so... I think we all really enjoyed it. We took the train back to the airport the following morning, far too soon for me but I'm pretty sure it won't be the last time I find myself on Scottish soil.

Christmas in Holland was lovely, even if Borne is a little scanty with the sno w.. there is a small snowman putting up a brave fight in the garden across the street, I hope he gets to see the new year. I spent Christmas day with my family, staying cozy inside with our tree and lovely presents (mostly books - my kind of people!). Today, though, we ventured out and had brunch at the home of Paula's sister (Margo, who came for Thanksgiving). Paula's other sister and her family also came, as well as her mother. Mean (it's an old Dutch name) has been in and out of the hospital for a few months now so I was glad she was able to come and spend time with the family. Brunch was great, I got to meet 2 more of my cousins, including Imke's brother Robert. Imke herself is in South Africa now, and is heading to Thailand soon... I can't blame her seeking out a place with more sun! Although I have to say the afternoon today was beautiful.
I have to say the holidays haven't really felt quite like normal... obviously. I didn't expect it to be such a mellow experience. I wasn't nearly as homesick as I was prepared to be! Still, it's funny knowing that Christmas has come and gone, and now I have only six months left here. The time is starting to go faster already, I'm a little bewildered. I'll just have to move a little faster and put up a fight :) happy new year everyone!


Here are the promised photos from Thanksgiving...

Ton, Imke and Margo

Speaking of photos, I got tired of overwhelming my facebook page with all of my pictures so I moved them all to a Flickr page, which you can look at here.



And so another winter begins - my seventeenth and first without any sign of snow! I underestimated my attachment to arctic temperatures. The lawns here are still vibrant green, although the trees are mostly bare and it's dusky and chilly when I bring my bike out of the old green shed in the morning. Still, on the 20 minute ride all I need on the coldest of mornings is a pair of mittens and maybe a scarf (and not a heavy one) to keep warm. It's a bit strange and every time I walk out the door I brace myself for the biting cold... but then I realize that I live in Holland now, not Alaska, and it's 35 degrees (2 degrees C) at the least. To ease my withdrawl I made a bunch of paper snowflakes one afternoon and pinned them all over the living room. I spent that same weekend making pumpkin pie and collecting holiday music. It's sort of like nesting, but christmas-themed and without the baby names.
Thanksgiving was better than I could have hoped! Thursday evening I caught a series of trains to Gronau, Germany with a warm apple pie tagging along. My fellow American Lauren and I made Thanksgiving dinner for us and her host family at their home in Gronau - a Dutch family living 20 kilometers or so over the German border. They managed to find a turkey (not as common here) and we had zoete aardapplen (sweet potatoes) aardapplen puree (mashed potatoes) sperzeabonen (green beans) en pompoen (pumpkin). It was very cozy and fun, even without the snow :)
I was lucky enough to have yet another Thanksgiving on Saturday night, this time with my own host family. Paula and I courageously tackled our roasted chickens (free-range, natuurlijk) and a plethora of other dishes. Paula's sister, brother-in-law, and niece Imke showed up with pecan pie for dessert, which was so good that Paula sneakily slipped the (meager) remains into the fridge before handing back the pan. Goodie for us!

I do have some nice pictures which I haven't uploaded to my laptop yet. I'll post them once I get around to doing that! Happy holidays.