Friday, November 30, 2012

What it was was football

One of the things about going to live in Scotland for a year was that I would get the chance to be fully immersed in a football (soccer) culture.  If you know me, you know that I have a huge passion for the beautiful game, having played it, watched it, and coached it for over 35 years.  Football rules here in Scotland; it is the lead story on any media that revolves around sport and it is the topic of discussion when you put more than two males together.  As I drive to school, I listen to TalkSport which is a radio station that does essentially what the name implies, yet 80% of the talk is football.  On TV, I have Sky Sports News (the ESPN News equivalent) and again the coverage on it is overwhelmingly football.

I am also greatly enjoying the opportunity to play on a regular basis and Friday is my football day.  Every Friday, I play during my 50 minute lunch period.  A group of 5 to 10 staff members will play in the gymnasium for about 20-25 minutes, followed by a quick shower, and finish the teaching day.  Twenty-five minutes does not sound like much, but with small sided games indoors, the pace is very quick and everyone gets winded quickly.  It is quite fun and I have enjoyed the time getting to know other staff members besides the members of the Maths department.   

Also on Friday, I play with a group of men that my exchange partner Graeme Cromb used to play with.  They usually gather at Queen Anne’s high school (sometimes other places depending on the number of participants) on a turf field.  Each week, Craig (the organizer) sends out texts to see who is going to play, people reply, and then the teams get set.  We usually play 8 v8, but the sides have been larger and smaller.  The ages of players range from the early 20’s to mid 50’s but that is just a guess.  The talent level is quite good with most of the players’ touches on the ball and moves being better than mine.  I am able to compensate some with my hustle and my “box to box” mentality, but playing here has definitely reminded me that my skills on the ball are lacking.  Some games I leave the pitch feeling like I am this stupid American that just picked up the game and other times I feel like I have contributed extremely well, but I would not trade the fun playing at all.  By the time I return to the house after the Friday evening game I am knackered (very tired), but I continue to do it every chance I get.

Last night, I went to left the house to play and the weather was typically Scottish for winter.  There was a light rain and the temperature was around 34°.  As we played, the temperature dropped some and it started snowing but it did not accumulate and we just played on.  I was a little cold at first but once I got running around, I hardly noticed the cold even though I was wearing a long underwear top with a t-shirt over that as well as playing in shorts.  It probably helped that I played quite well last night, scoring a couple of goals and getting a couple of assists.

All in all, I love being immersed in a football culture and for me personally, it is one of the highlights of the year abroad.

Monday, November 26, 2012


This Saturday was fun! On Saturday, we went on a hike up in Blairgowrie, Scotland. It was a six kilometer (about four mile) hike. Good thing I walk three miles every day, because I would've never walked that in America!

For the first third of the hike, we walked along a river that joins up with the river Tay. There were some cool parts to that river like a waterfall,
a cool overlook , and a bridge with cool ice crystals on it.

For the second part of the walk, we walked along a gravel farm road and saw some sheep.

Apparently, the noises we were making to get the sheep to come towards us sounded like wolf noises to them. Then a woman with puppies came along and the puppies jumped on me. Cara and I had fun jumping on frozen puddles on the ground and also picking the ice up, throwing it, and breaking it. I actually found a piece of ice that was a lowercase Y! Then we walked another mile through town.

We had lunch at a cafe called 31. I had some good Mac and Chips there. I hope we can go to Blairgowrie again soon because I had fun there!

Friday, November 16, 2012


On Halloween, first we greeted a bunch trick-or-treaters (dad was at school and Carter was out with his friends) then mom and I watched TV.  Soon Carter and his friends came to our house.  They came in and had hot chocolate and pizza. Next they went upstairs to his room to play.  After a while his friends left and dad came back.  Finally I got dressed and we left.  This year I was a witch.
People really liked my poem (in Scotland we have to tell jokes and stuff to get treats).  If we don’t we get tricks.  One guy even gave me two for my poem.  We went to like seven or eight houses then went back home (it was because it was really late and dark).  We even trick-or-treated at our house because Carter got more candy than me. Candy in Scotland is called sweeties, my favorites were a Cadbury variety, I also got some coins. Then we greeted a couple more trick-or-treaters.  Next I went to bed.
Here is the poem I wrote:
A blood-curdling, frightening witch riding on her broom
a vicious, spooky ghost bringing people doom,
3 angry pumpkins rolling down a hill,
a hairy, drooling werewolf giving me a chill,
lots of happy children walking down the street,
I walked up to a house and asked for a treat.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Rugby game

We went to a rugby game this weekend with Scotland playing against New Zealand, the All Blacks. Rugby is kind of like American football, except that you don't have to stop play every 5 seconds. It is very rough, because you don't have many (if any) pads or a helmet on. To score points, you have to score a tri, worth 5 points. After that, you get an extra kick, worth 2 points. This is different from football because in football, you kick from straight on from the goalposts, while in rugby you kick from about the same distance, but from the sideline! You can also kick from the sidelines another time (I don't know when or why) and score 3 points, kind of like a field goal. Another thing different about rugby is that you can only pass the ball backwards to a player. The only way you can get the ball forward is to kick it forward to a teammate or on a throw in (yes, they have throw ins).

The people that we went with were a PE coach and some kids from Dad's school. I admit that I didn't really look out the window at the Edinburgh sights that much because I was listening to my iPod. Then again, you get pretty bored if you're stuck in traffic for half an hour and you're looking at the same thing for a while. When we got there, we found our seats and then went looking for some food. We found some, but we had to wait in line for about 15 minutes (yes, fish and chips are that popular here) and then went back to our seats and waited for the game to start. Before the game, since it was Remembrance Sunday for WWI, we had a moment of silence to remember those who had died serving their countries in combat. It started and ended with a cannon shot. That was kind of cool because you could see the cannon shot before you heard it.

Then the game started with New Zealand scoring first with the score 0-3. A few minutes later, Scotland came back and scored a tri and an extra kick leaving the score 7-3 the rest of the half was a blur with New Zealand scoring a bunch of tri's, extra kicks, and field goals. Scotland scored one more field goal in the first half, but that didn't make up for much. The score at half-time was something like 24-10.

During half time, there were team GB Olympians out walking around the field. I got to hi-5 almost all of them, even Chris Hoy, Britain's all time olympic gold medalist! The second half was pretty much the same with Scotland scoring 2 tri's and a few field goals. The only thing that could have been a little better was if the action was spread out more because in the first half, New Zealand dominated and in the second half, Scotland (kind of) dominated and we were on the other end of the field from the action.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Scotland - weeks 12-14

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been so long since we wrote a blog post! Carter has the next 2 days off school and Cara has one day off (teacher workdays), so I’m hoping to encourage them to write a little (maybe they’ll tell GG about Halloween!)
So, to catch you up, on Sunday, October 28th, we were going on a drive along the coast toward Anstruther, which has an award winning Fish and Chips Shop. As we were driving we told the kids what the plans were, and they asked if we couldn’t head to the town of Dundee and visit the science center instead. Being fantastic parents, we said why not & didn’t take the turn toward Anstruther, but went north to Dundee. We arrived without a picnic lunch, since we had intended to eat fish and chips, so instead we hunted down a KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) because we’ve been wondering what it tastes like over here. Since I know you’re dying to find out, it tastes quite good, isn’t quite the same flavor as in the States, and you cannot get biscuits, HOWEVER the chips (fries) were some of the best we’ve had so far.
Carter's Manga morph from Sci Centre

Since I hadn’t planned on going to the science center, I was a little apprehensive that it might not be that great, but it turned out to be based on the 5 senses and quite nice. It kept us busy on a somewhat drizzly Scotland day & we really enjoyed it!
Cara's Manga morph

October 30th Cara had a Halloween Disco at her school, sponsored by the parent council. She got dressed up in her colorful witch costume, we dropped her off at her school for an hour & she had a great time dancing with her friends. The next day, of course, was Halloween, which is celebrated, but a little different in Scotland.
our little witch

The following weekend we went to Loch Lomond which is about an hour west of us. In Scotland, a loch is a lake (it’s also pronounced with a German CH at the end of loch). I had wanted to go to the Scottish Wool Centre since another Fulbright teacher shared her experience. I knew that they were supposed to do sheep shearing in the summertime, and we would miss that, but we had been told that there were sheepdogs rounding up the sheep a couple times a day.
feeding the ponies apple slices

Unfortunately, we found out after arriving that that too had stopped the previous month (a little disappointing). Instead, we headed into the shop & browsed their sweaters, tweed, and food items. Jim ended up getting a Harris Tweed flat cap while Cara convinced us to get some shortbread sheep that were quite tasty!
Jim in a flat cap (just in case you wondered what that was)

We then headed to the town of Balloch, which is on the southern tip of Loch Lomond. We took a walk around the edge of the loch & enjoyed the views of water and fall colors. You won't see any pics of this, because I forgot all our cameras and was stuck with my ipod for pics which isn't that great:-)

at the Anstruther harbour

On Sunday, Nov 4th, we headed toward the coast to Anstruther and Crail, little fishing villages. The weather was much nicer, and we enjoyed a delicious fish and chips lunch at Anstruther Fish and Chips shop (with even tastier chips/fries).
award winning fish n chips!
We walked around the harbor area and then headed to the very tip of the Firth of Forth (river mouth) to the town of Crail. There is an extensive walking trail (Fife Coastal Path – 82 mi), which connects a lot of the seaside towns and has amazing views.

We started out at a coastal playground for the kids and then walked to the harbor. Carter & I loved the sign of the car falling into the harbor!

The very next day, Monday, was Guy Fawkes day. In the UK, this is often celebrated with bonfires and fireworks. Here in Dunfermline, we walked to the local park, The Glen, and watched a lovely fireworks display set to music. It was only about 20 minutes long, but had a ton of fireworks and some unusual ones we hadn’t ever seen before.

This last weekend, we headed to St. Andrews. On the way, we stopped at the Scottish Deer Centre. The centre has several fields with about 14 different kinds of deer, some native to the UK and some from other countries. There were reindeer, wolves, birds of prey and sheep.

We enjoyed a ranger walk & talk, bought deer feed & got dirty, slobbery hands in return, and took some great pics. My ultimate moment was when I was bent down near a fence & trying to be helpful by flicking feed that had fallen outside the fence, which the deer were struggling to reach. In return, one of the deer (quite a big one) licked my hair – Ugh! Fortunately Jim had brought a hand towel, so I was able to get mostly clean!

After the deer centre, we headed on to St. Andrews, ate lunch at a pub, visited the Castle, and ran into a couple other exchange teachers from Canada, whom we had already met. It was nice getting to visit with others with the same experiences.

So far we have really enjoyed our time in Scotland. I have absolutely LOVED having a year off from work. You would think that I would be bored & have nothing to do, but this hasn’t been the case yet. My typical day starts by awaking sometime in the 6 am hour, catching up on news from home on Yahoo & Facebook, and then eating breakfast & helping the kids get ready for school. They both have become quite independent & usually fix their own lunches to take to school! After walking Cara to school (Carter has been walking himself the 1.5 miles one way for about 2 months or so), I usually come home, do 2-3 loads of laundry, wash dishes, and clean. For fun, I plan our next trip(s), finding good rates at hotels & transport.

Wednesdays I usually bake a loaf of French bread and breakfast rolls. For the last month, I have been volunteering at the kids schools. One day a week, I go to Carter’s school & help out in the library for most of the day, and another day I go to Cara’s school and help out in a first grade classroom. It’s going to be quite a transition coming back to NC & getting into a regular work schedule, but I am missing my coworkers & students & have loved being at the kids’ schools & interacting with kids again!