28 September, 2009

Busy Bee: Business as Usual

Hello, all! Sorry this post is lacking in punctuality--it should not lack in fun!

Actually, that's not true, as I haven't done anything incredibly exciting...at least by normal people's standards. I've had a blast.

I'll work backwards, since that's easier for whatever reason:

Monday 28th (today): I had my first class today! And only one! And it starts at 3! And it's the Arthur in Medieval Welsh and Gaelic Literature class! From the description the teacher gave, it's everything I hoped it would be: texts in translation (there was a small fear that I might have had to have Gaelic Language experience...yikes!), my old pal Geoffrey of Monmouth will show up, and I get to choose my essay topic--I think something about the Orkney Gang is in order (though only 2,000 words is kinda scary for someone of my gregarious ilk).

Sunday: Went to a different church this time, this one called the COC or Christian Outreach Center. Another very beautiful service, very different from what I'm used to back home, but nice. Almost had an emergency leaving my hair straightener on in my locked room, but it turned out I was just being paranoid. It was good, however, I left right after the service because this enabled me to get back in time for...

Roleplaying Society!! I joined a Sunday afternoon game of Serenity and might also hop on a Sunday evening game of Mutants and Masterminds if I can find someone to walk back with me in the dark. But, then, considering it's dark at 4 in the middle of winter and I'd be walking home in the dark then anyway, I don't see why I'm worried. May have issues with weekend trips cutting into gaming time, but it's a large group so I think it'll be okay if I miss a few times. But only a few (how sad is this? I want to game more than I want to explore Scotland!).

And a quick note on sexual dimorphism--I guess that's what I'll call it--anyway there's more of it here. There was, first, a hugely disproportionate number of men to women at the Roleplaying Society--which was fine by me, but a little startling. In a group of easily 40 gamers only about seven were girls. Weird. Again, fine by me: more smelly socially awkward males all to myself...oh, wait.

Also, one of the guys in the Christian Union was startled by my saying "dude" the way all of you who know me have heard me say it--think the Bud Light commercials. He had never heard a girl say "dude" before. I found that odd. I could be taking a few instances and blowing them way out of proportion, but that's my perception so far. Nothing bad or anything, just different, the gender division thing.

Saturday: The trip to Castle Fraser was cancelled :( so I spent the morning kicking around my dorm before going out with Julia (German room mate) to look for books. No luck with mine, but she was able to grab a few. I need to get on amazon.com. Then we parted ways and I totally got lost trying to look for the local Staples, but a nice old lady directed me back to the right path. (Curse the lack of grid structure!!!) Anyway, after this I didn't want to go out again, but the CU (Christian Union) folks dragged me out to a very wonderful exciting service with music and a very good guest speaker whose name I forget. It was a nice service, however, and great fellowship. The CU folks are a good group.

Thursday and Friday were just wrapping up Fresher's Week with Scottish Culture day (free whisky, tatties and Irn Bru? I'm so down!) and more international student meeting stuff. Friday night was the official CU meeting--they meet on Fridays regularly for worship, fellowship, and meeting stuff. Like I said, great group of people.

The weather: so the spell broke on Sunday, where the sunshine that made me disbelieve the rumors I had heard about Scotland being cold were confirmed. Although it hasn't even been truly cold yet--just overcast so far. Luck holding...

Followed are some pictures around the campus and of me christening the kitchen with green chile stew! Mm! Mm! (Julia tried some and performed admirably despite the heat!)

Oh, also, some exciting news: Eddie Izzard is coming to Aberdeen November 4th! This should make my year.

Hope this finds you well and happy!

Love,
Megan

Green chile stew = happy Megan!


random pretty butterfly today!

felt guilty about my lack of webcam, so photographed myself to prove I'm still alive and whole!

this was the neat stage of the service the CU took me to!

impossibly pretty sunset--sorry the quality is so bad...made me miss home!

Seaton Park...the one I walk through every day to get to class!

gravestones outside St. Machar's Cathedral (also on my walk to class!)

24 September, 2009

Clubs! (with nails in)

...Just kidding. For those of you who got it.

I am referring of course to the many societies available at the University of Aberdeen that I was unable to keep myself from joining! Here they are, in all their glory:

The Celtic Society! They have regular jam sessions where members hang out a pub and play instruments/sing Celtic and/or Gaelic songs. They also hold Ceilidhs and occasional Pub Quiz nights.

The Whisky Society! Membership gets me whisky discounts in addition to tasting sessions and occasional trips to distilleries!

The Christian Union! Just a great group of people--they've held free lunches + talks all day this week, and the first meeting is also a Pudding Night! They offer Bible studies and general fellowships, in addition to getting new kids like me settled with local churches!

The International Society! This is where I'll get to do all the touristy stuff I absolutely have to do while I'm here. Aside from international food days and movie days (which I probably won't attend too often), they have such Day trips planned as Loch Ness, Carbisdale Castle/Scottish North Coast, Glasgow, St. Andrews/Glamis Castle, Edinburgh (already done that one!), Borders (Rosslyn Chapel, Melrose Abbey, Hadrian's Wall), Stirling, and Glenfiddich Whisky Distillery/Castle (more whisky!). Not to mention more Ceilidhs!

And, of course... The Roleplaying Society! Naturally I had to find my people in Scotland as well. Don't worry: geeks are the same everywhere (okay, so these ones might be more abnormally pale than the average gamer). They hold most gaming sessions on Sunday, which, if I find a church that gets out at a decent hour, will work great, or I'll have to find a game during the week to join. Dungeons and Dragons!!!

This should keep me busy. The events will occasionally conflict, but as multiple societies offer many of the same events (ceilidhs, whisky) as well as some I'm not really interested in (foreign films? really?) I should do fine.

I'm only taking three classes. How hard can it be?

...

(That was supposed to be semi-ironic. I've heard that the British university system is harder than ours, but I just don't see how... Anyway, my grades don't transfer as grades, so I only have to come back with a pass! Yes!)

Anyway, my week has been a good one. It has been sunny/approaching hot every day. Apparently it's warmer here than in Albuquerque, so I'm soaking it up now. (I did a great job only bringing winter boots, of course...)

Haven't yet settled into the kitchen, as the grocery store is a bit further than I want to walk with groceries, so I've been living off of sandwiches of various kinds. I will reform this weekend.

Also, I don't remember if I mentioned this, but it's worth saying again: I now have a Skype phone. It is really handy, because it means that I can contact anyone who is on Skype at any time--like walking to class, standing in line at the store, standing at the castle gates--so that means more of you should get Skype!! As long as I'm in cell phone service range, I will appear online and you can call me anytime for free! You won't be able to see me, of course, but that's little change from my currently broken webcam! :(

Oh! A quick change to my schedule. Instead of the CE 1028 class as previously posted--which, while a cool topic, is a freshman-level course and I am way beyond sick of anyone under the age of 20--thanks, Fresher's Week--I will be taking the much more up-my-alley course listed below. I hope you all are as thrilled as I am!

HI 3074: WAR AND SOCIETY IN THE LATER MIDDLE AGES

Course Co-ordinator: Dr A Macdonald

This course seeks to investigate the impact of war on society in the medieval west between c1300 and c1450. Those were years when warfare was frequent and its impact profoundly altered the societies of western Europe. Emphasis will be placed on the experience of war in Scotland, England, France, Spain and Ireland, although not exclusively on those areas. The course will seek to explore the impact of war physically and mentally on the people who had to endure it. Cultural developments, concepts of national identity and collective mentalities will be explored, as well as more conventional societal developments.

Not a true military history class like I kind of want it to be, but it should be interesting nevertheless--and at least people will be (roughly) my age in it!

Let's see...I really think that's about it. I haven't taken many good pictures lately, so I'll have to gyp y'all on that one today. I hope this post finds you all in a place of perfect health and happiness!

God bless,
Megan

23 September, 2009

Videos!

I've taken a few crappy videos with my small camera which I still owe you folks!

This is a folk band (don't know the name) playing at the Sandy Bells Pub we went to after the Ceilidh in Edinburgh!
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This is my getting Lindsay to photograph me on Arthur's Seat. It's a hilarious candid moment (but please pardon my language!).

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This is the piper/drum corps for Aberdeen: (sorry one of the vids is sideways! I didn't think of that when I filmed it!)

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22 September, 2009

My Classes!

HELLO, EVERYONE! THE FOLLOWING IS A LIST OF THE CLASSES I'M TAKING THIS SEMESTER ("TERM"): I'M EXCITED--Y'ALL SHOULD BE, TOO!


CE 2027

ARTHUR IN MEDIEVAL WELSH AND GAELIC LITERATURE

CREDIT POINTS 15

Course Co-ordinator: Dr A O'Leary

The legend of King Arthur has captured people's imagination from the Middle Ages right up to the present day. This course provides an introduction to the origin and development of that legend. We will examine the literature and pseudo-history of Arthur among the Celtic-speaking peoples, and in particular the emergence and growth of motifs which have had an enduring impact on European fiction and film. A weekly lecture will provide a literary and historical overview; in tutorials students will analyse and debate individual themes and sources in more detail.


HI 2012

POWER AND PIETY: MEDIEVAL EUROPE, 1100-1500

CREDIT POINTS 30

Course Co-ordinator: Dr M-L Ehrenschwendtner

Between 1100 and 1500 western Europe was undergoing fundamental transformations: new technical, economic and political challenges, fresh developments in religious and intellectual life and catastrophes like wars, diseases and climate change fundamentally shaped European societies for centuries to come. This course offers a thematic survey of medieval western societies with lectures and tutorials focussing on religion, kingship and warfare, economy and environment, cultural renaissances and intellectual novelties, the emergence of national states and identities and the discovery of new worlds.


CE 1028

ROMANS, CELTS, DRUIDS, AND WARRIORS

CREDIT POINTS 20

Course Co-ordinator: Dr C DownhamPre-requisite(s): None.

This course will provide an inter-disciplinary study of the Celtic-speaking peoples from prehistory to the early Middle Ages. We will explore the origins and spread of Celtic language and culture, the subsequent marginalisation of the Celts in Roman literature; pre-historic archaeology; pagan beliefs; conversion to Christianity; the role of women; heroic literature; the cult of warriors; and finally, popular representations of the Celts in modern literature and thought.

21 September, 2009

Aberdeen!!

Well, my first few days in the city that is to be my home for the next nine months have been quite the roller-coaster ride, in every imaginable manner.

First: weather. Apparently I lead a charmed life, because as of yet I have not experienced any truly horrible weather yet. But, this is Scotland, where you truly do get four seasons in one day. But sunglasses, an umbrella, and two jackets is more than I'm willing to carry.

...Mainly because everywhere you want to get around here, you walk. That's not even just a freshman or university thing, I don't think--everyone basically just walks. Everywhere.

My dorm/flat is situated on the top of a hill--hence "Hillhead"--about 20 minutes from the University of Aberdeen. The walk is beautiful now, as I walk through a perfectly manicured English Garden (part of a huge park called Seaton Park), the hauntingly beautiful St Machar's Cathedral, before meandering down a cobble-stoned, granite-lined, one-way street called The Chanonry (or Don Street if it's after dark)...but I imagine in winter all I'll want is a car.

Everything else--grocery stores, pubs, clubs, malls, the train station--are within walking distance...if you consider an hour's trek "walking distance." Since the bus fare is one pound 50 pence, I have come to consider a lot of things "walking distance." Church, for example: an hour away.

I attended a lovely service at The City Church somewhere at the center of town. The Christian Union here has put on a lot of wonderful services (general meaning here) for Freshers week so far, including "Church Walks" where groups of students will walk us dorm kids down to all the various churches. I think I'll try out a few places before deciding which one is right for me (though I'm not picky so long as Jesus is there). I plan on trying out a Roman Catholic and Scottish Episcopalian and Church of Scotland while I'm here, too (mainly because these have the older, nicer buildings).

The Christian Union is putting on lunches + talks/sermons all day this week, which are fabulous for feeding you inside and out. I'm also going with them this Saturday to visit Fraser Castle!!! I'm quite excited!

But I think I am getting ahead of myself:

Lindsay and I took the train up to Aberdeen on Saturday morning, where we were greeted and taken to the university by Aberdeen Student Association members (that was fantastic, as it saved us cab fare and stress). Checking into my flat was no problem, after which we did some exploring. Only after getting thoroughly lost (I still get lost on an intermittent basis) did we find the University (and only after I went with the church group did I learn the real shortcut).

I'm not quite sure what to make of Aberdeen so far--it's people and it's culture, I mean--obviously the city itself is beautiful (yes, even in the rain!). Everything shuts down on Sunday. I don't know whether I've encountered that anywhere before. The people are absolutely friendly, but perhaps not actively so. The city is small (250,000) but big enough to be a pain to walk. Streets are either bustling or completely empty. It's complicated.

Oh, and I've decided I hate freshmen. More than I ever have before because I've never had to deal with them before. I'm not rooming with any true freshman (one exchange student, a few who have skipped a few years before going to university), but there are freshers close enough to be obnoxious at night when my old bones are trying to rest. I've never felt like such a boring person in my life.

A full day tomorrow that begins at 9:30 AM with a brisk walk down to campus to register with a Doc (yay free health care I'm not paying for!), meet with my advisor (and get my classes!!!!!), register with the uni, get my ID card, and see if I can squeeze in a Teir 4 Visa Info meeting. Yay. The fun stuff is Wednesday: Society's Fayre (Roleplaying? Malt Whisky? Gilbert & Sullivan? Christian Union? History? Scottish Dance?) and, of course, the obligatory Ceilidh!

Thanks for sticking with me, and I hope this post finds you all happy and well!

--Megan






18 September, 2009

Arthur's Seat, Ceilidh and Last Day in Edinburgh!

Some fantastic adventures my last few days in Edinburgh!

We climbed up Arthur's Seat--that's the name of the beautiful hill I keep photographing just outside Lindsay's dorm room--which was fun and, of course, gorgeous!

As if that wasn't physically demanding enough, that evening we went to a huge Ceilidh for Fresher's Week. It was tons of fun--I danced for most of it, though you wouldn't know that by the pictures because I can't photograph myself! About 3/4 of the way through I went upstairs to the balcony and took pictures of Lindsay and Sam and a random hot guy in a kilt. We also met some new friends, Owen and Luke, who we danced with most of the night.

But the buck does not stop here!

We went to another "old man pub"--that's what the local uni kids call the pubs that aren't trendy--my kind of place--called Sandy Bells, where we met a nice old man called Gordon who is going back to uni to study history. Trying to watch my pennies, I was definitely "designated walker" on the way back!!

We've had some adventures with stupid college kids, too: fire alarms in the middle of the night, twice in a row! I am so not functioning on an adequate amount of sleep.

Also, today we wandered around downtown Edinburgh, where we all bought Skype phones! So long as there are no sneaky scams, this means we can call/receive calls from Skype users no matter where we are! Also, we can call each other for free (very important!) and have 50 emergency minutes for local numbers! Again, my Skype ID is megan.abrahamson, and skype is easy to install. I don't currently have a working webcam, but I can still talk to anyone!

Tomorrow, it's off to Aberdeen, so I can be nervous/excited all over again! May not get another post from me for a while, as I will be moving in! Do not fear, however, for the more I am not blogging, the more fun adventures I am having!

Love!

(PS: Pictures to come when I have more time!!)

16 September, 2009

Castle and Museum -- boo yea!

Our itinerary today seemed impossibly long, but we managed it all!

After breakfast, Lindsay and Sam had to go to the Society Fair for all the clubs and organizations for Edinburgh University—and I had to tag along. Not “had too,” really, because it was actually a lot of fun: there were more than a few clubs I wanted to join, so I hope they have similar things in Aberdeen, or at least that they let me attend some of their functions! Most clubs require fees for membership, unfortunately (totally foreign to me), so it makes you really pick and choose which ones you want to join.

This took most of the morning, after which Sam had some function to go to during which Lindsay and I sat at The Elephant House with coffee and a brownie to await her return. After this break, it was more walking: to the National Scottish Museum!

It’s a fabulous museum, and absolutely free to get in! We walked through the natural history section, prehistoric Celts, Romans, Vikings, medieval and Renaissance. Of course my camera battery, with all the pictures I was taking, dropped out on my right before we got to the medieval section, so I failed to get a picture of this—not kidding—eight-foot sword. I know no one will believe me until I get a picture, but museum entrance is free, so I’ll be back! One of the tour guide/museum helpers there gave us a talk through prehistoric man, and he had one of the thickest accents we have encountered yet. He was really old and sweet, and I think I understood most of what he said. But it doesn’t help that the people with thicker accents don’t even talk loud. (Whoever makes fun of Americans for speaking loudly and slowly and clearly to foreigners is a moron, and has clearly never been a foreigner. It’s not condescending: it totally helps.)

After the museum (and a quick stop for more batteries!) we walked to Edinburgh Castle! It was gorgeous. Lindsay and I both bought the year membership, which was only 17 pounds more than one day’s entrance fee, and we get to return for free to not only Edinburgh Castle whenever we wish, but also almost any other castle in Scotland (and ½ off of the others)! You can see from the pictures that the castle was amazing! It has four or five museum exhibits, including the crown jewels and—my favorite—a carving on a door in the Edinburgh prison from an American Revolution POW who drew a ship flying the American flag! Don’t Tread On Me! Yeah!

This doesn’t include a few stopoffs errands such as the bookstore (where I saw Terry Pratchett books, but my camera’s battery had died so I couldn’t take pictures—bring extra suitcases, Nate and Bethy!) and the dollar-store so Sam could (try to) return some curtains she had bought for her dorm room.

By the time I got back to Lindsay’s dorm around 7pm, we were all bushed! Sleep might be all that’s on the agenda for tonight…

Love & prayers to you all,

Megan

PS: Oh! Something random and funny that I’ve picked up on here that y’all might find diverting:

Okay, seriously, the driving on the left side of the road screws with people’s brains. When walking down the street, if you meet someone walking toward you, they naturally veer to the left. Me, wanting to go the right direction, end up running into them!




























































this last picture is the American POW's carving...it's a ship, with the US flag sorta sticking out the left side.