Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Burns WEEK

Once a year, Scots celebrate the life of Scottish poet, Robbie Burns, who was born in 1759. He wrote romantic poetry and is the author of the song, “Auld Lang Syne”.  Burn’s day is January 25th, but on the 23rd, Jim’s school held a Burns’ supper. We had decided to go earlier, and then at the start of the week, Cara was asked to participate. She got to be the Poosie Nancie! 

She wore a white bonnet and apron over her tartan dress and carried in the haggis, following along behind the piper. Let me tell you, the haggis was HUGE! It was on a big silver platter that they had been warming in the oven and fortunately had mashed tatties (potatoes) around the edges of the tray so the haggis didn’t slip off.

The home EC class at Kirkcaldy high school was in charge of the food and did a wonderful job. One of the teachers gave the address to the haggis and several older students sat at the head table and read poems and told about Robbie Burns. There was more piping and a chorus who sang traditional songs. We thoroughly enjoyed the evening, and yes, Jim & I like haggis (and both the kids tried it again!)

Saturday brought another Burns’ celebration, this time hosted by the Scottish Teachers Exchange Club. The Scotland exchange teachers are very fortunate that there is such a strong group to welcome us and who hold almost monthly events in different parts of the country in order to share more of their culture with us. They are all previous exchange teachers to either the US, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand, so they know what the experience is like.

The dinner was held just down the road at Gillian’s house. We had a houseful of teachers from the US, Canada and newly arrived Australians with their families. We enjoyed a meal of haggis, neeps, and tatties and lots of talking to others about their experiences so far. After dinner, we had a time to do some of the traditional Burns day activities, and Jim was nice enough to give the Toast to the Lassies. We fortunately had a previous toast to work from as well as adding our own twist to it, as you can see here:

Toast to the Lassies 2013

Once more the time of year returns
For us to honour Robert Burns
The ploughman lad who wrote in verse,
Which now folk round the world rehearse.

Our honoured Bard, if he were here
Would be two hundred and fifty-four this year.
What would he make of modern days,
And all our energy-consuming ways,

Folk travelling round the world in planes
And cars and powered ships and trains?
His Scotia now an oil-rich land
(The money nicked by Eng-er-land).

Of Canada he might have heard,
But not as we now know the word.
And he was a youth of seventeenBefore the USA was seen.

As for Australia, Captain Cook
Had still not even been to look!
And crossing the wide Tasman o’er
Maoris still ruled Aotearoa.

The British Empire’s come and gone.
From it the Commonwealth was born.
And thanks to it, we here are gathered,
The children Empire’s links have fathered.

But what would Robbie make of CFE
I dinnae ken, don’t ask me
A school inspection from HMI
I just wish they’d pass me by

No matter.   Robbie would approve
Of every year a treasure trove
Of new exchangees, mostly women.
He’d think he’d died and gone to heaven!

For each lass he met became his own  -
He didnae lack testosterone!
With fifteen bairns from several women  -
No wonder he died at 37!

This New Year has brought us plenty:
Today we number over twenty.
Now filled with haggis, neeps and tatties
Let’s turn attention to our lassies.

First let us head our shores beyond
To greet those from across the Pond.
Our North American seasoned vets
Who’ve seen how cold our winter gets!

First up –  a group of Yanks
Leaving behind huge petrol tanks
From sea to shining sea they arrive
Where on the other side they drive

We have Stacy, Christy, Nicole and Niki
Teaching the ABC’s is tricky
All day the kids they want to blether
O’re here in the land of Heather

Australians  -  now then, where to start?
They really are a race apart!
Condemned to living upside-down
Their body-clocks turned all around

Amanda, Lyn, Anne-Marie and Jenni
We’re fortunate to have so many
Escaping Oz’s summer heat
You’ll find some cool upon Arthur’s Seat

Now Tracey’s from the Great White North
Transitioning to the Firth of Forth
From the rainy city the weather’s unique
But in Scotland it’s just dreich

She shops at Tesco after five
It’s the only place in Alloa that’s still alive.
It’s fab to have her here today
Don’t you think so, eh?

Tis another group we have to shout
To our wee bonnie lassies running bout
Things will be different over here
But they’ll easily adapt never fear

And now to home of Irn Bru,
We have Trisha, Joyce, and Tracy too,
With Angela present to complete my summing,
Plus any others I didn’t know were coming!

But Gillian is not forgotten
To do so would be simply rotten!
She merits thanks and praise the most
Our generous and gracious host.

Today we stand, here in praise,
So join me lads, let your voices raise.
Prepare to toast, fill up your glasses,
Join me now, to our bonnie lasses.

To the Lasses.

To top off our afternoon of festivities, we had our own Highland Games! This included tug of war, a relay race, a caber toss, and and Irn Bru slide!
Carter tossing the caber!
Throw it, Cara!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Newcastle Weekend

After a Friday of 1+ inches of snow, we headed south in our car to the city of Newcastle Upon Tyne, England. Our football loving family was going to see a match between Newcastle United and Reading. Because we were unsure if the most direct route on smaller roads would be easily drivable, we decided to take the somewhat longer route via Glasgow and the motorway.

We arrived in Newcastle and checked into our hotel which had a nice view of the river & several bridges! We decided to take a walk along the quayside & played in the snow, sometimes I think our kids could play forever in the snow! The football match started at 3 pm, so we walked the mile from our hotel & followed the crowds. Newcastle has a small Chinatown section which was kind of interesting!

Our seats were the sixth row from the field, directly behind the center of the goal on the north side of the stadium. Unfortunately the majority of the action and all of the goals happened at the other end both halves, but we still enjoyed an English Premier League match even though Newcastle ended up losing 1-2.

Cara is not much into watching a game, but kept herself entertained catching and eating the intermittent sleet that fell much of the game. The one big difference I noticed about the game is that beer is only allowed in the common areas, not in the seats, so we didn’t have to worry about any beer showers this match!

After the game was over, we were pretty cold from 2+ hours of freezing temperatures, so we found a TGI Fridays for dinner and enjoyed some good old American food (plus we figured a pub after a game might not be a great choice with kids).

Sunday morning we went out and enjoyed walking around a quiet, snow-covered city. There wasn’t much open, but Carter enjoyed throwing snowballs at all of us during our walk. 
Snowball fight at the old city walls!

We ended up at the Quayside market with some fresh scones and mini donuts that were made as we waited! We also ended up going to a mall when it opened, because Carter was wanting to add another Football scarf to his collection. Fortunately they had just what he wanted at a good price!

We left Newcastle without finding anywhere we wanted to eat, but were lucky enough to find an inn about 30 minutes north of Newcastle. They had the traditional Sunday roasts with Yorkshire pudding which we quite enjoyed. 
Great spot for a Sunday dinner
Our drive back home was on the “shorter” route, and although it was still snowing and sleeting occasionally, the roads weren’t a problem. The views of snow covered fields, rock walls, and evergreens were absolutely gorgeous. We stopped at the England/Scotland border & Carter found a snow drift that came all the way up to his knees!

On the spur of the moment we stopped at the Abbey in Jedburgh. We got to go in an tour it covered in snow, how beautiful.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Hike in the Highlands

Cool railroad bridge seen along our drive to a Saturday hike

Happy hikers before it got too steep.  Out in the distance is Loch Tay.

The Pielow's in the Scottish Highlands.

Carter says "hurry up"
Cool kid and a cool view!!!
The climb the mountain was VERY steep so we did not quite make it to the top, but the views from the hike were brilliant.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

English is NOT my Second Language

I am an EINMSL parent (English is NOT my Second Language). At my school in Gibsonville, North Carolina, we are fortunate enough to have an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher for half a week. She meets with children to help them gain English language skills as well as communicating with parents for teachers, translating, etc.

Here in Scotland, English is the native language, so I should obviously understand everything sent home, right? Wrong. Even though I am educated, speak the same language, and am an educator, I still have a difficult time. We had an evening early in the year called a Beetle Drive. You could buy tickets in advance or at the door. Since I didn’t know what this was, we showed up & bought tickets at the door, and then had to learn a game consisting of rolling dice, drawing beetle body parts and winning prizes.

My son’s school had a parent council night early in the year & we were invited in a blanket invitation. Well, it wasn’t what we thought, which was a night to meet PTA members and learn what was planned for the year. Instead it was a meeting to approve PTA board members & to be considered a part of the council if you attended the next meeting – not quite what we anticipated.

Just before the Christmas Holidays, my daughter’s school had a Christmas Fair. The information sent home said they were collecting Tombola prize donations. I even tried Googling this, but didn’t figure it out until we watched it. Basically you pay for a Tombola number (kinda like bingo) and it gets you some kind of prize. There were all kinds of prizes small and big, including bottles of wine!

Basically, this all goes to say that a language AND cultural barrier that is experienced by parents and students is huge. As a grown up, it is often intimidating to go and ask what in the world this information that was sent home means. Imagine if you also didn’t have the language skills because you were too new to the country…

This is just one tiny thing that I will take back with me to the US to help make me a better teacher! So when I return, if I explain some things too much at school, this is why.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A visit to York

With Jim’s parents visiting us this Christmas season, we decided to take an overnight trip to York, England. We had been to York during our fall holidays, and liked the city so much, we thought it would be a nice place to go back and see more of. We arrived via train at 10:30 am, took a short walk to our hotel & left our luggage. Then we headed to a bakery for lunch (sausage rolls and pork pie) and on to the Jorvik Viking Centre. Since Cara studied Vikings in her class this year, she especially enjoyed this visit. There was a ride that took us through a recreated settlement with recreated smells!

Since the day had turned slightly sunny, we continued walking through the pedestrian streets all the way to the York Minster. We didn’t go inside but took some good pictures of the outside. We headed back to our hotel via a walk on the old town walls.

After a few hours of resting our feet, we headed back out and (after much walking) found a pub for dinner. I am constantly amazed at the number of places that close early & aren’t open in the evenings! After putting our kids to bed, Jim and I took another evening stroll & saw the city all lit up and went to the York Tap, named the “Best Cask Beer Pub in the Great British Pub Awards 2012”.

On Saturday, we walked once again through the drizzle to York Minster (huge cathedral) for a morning tour. The stained glass windows were numerous and undergoing refurbishment. The size of the cathedral was enormous, almost as big as Westminster or St. Paul’s in London! It was also decorated for Christmas with lit trees, a nativity and a giant advent candle wreath suspended from the ceiling.

For lunch, Jim & Carter headed to McDonald’s(Carter) and a street vendor(Jim), while Bob, Virginia, Cara & I went to Betty’s Cafe & Tea Shop. Betty’s is an institution which has been in York since 1936. We ordered two afternoon teas to share. I always thought that “high tea” was the same as “fancy tea”, however high seems to mean “main” and is a full or main meal of the day. Afternoon tea is what American’s usually think of with the tea tray. It had sandwiches on the bottom plate, a scone with butter and strawberry preserves on the second, and the top plate with handmade miniature cakes, ours included a fresh fruit tart, a chocolate frosted cake, and a pink macaron. A macaron is a meringue based sandwich cookie (no coconut involved like the macaroons in the US). We also shared a nice pot of tea with real sugar cubes and fresh lemonade for Cara!!

After browsing the market stalls in downtown York, we headed to the National train museum and took in a few demonstrations that we missed our first visit in Oct, while Nana & Grampa rested their feet and watched little kids go by. We enjoyed a refreshment at a pub while waiting to catch our afternoon train home.

The Christmas Season

The Christmas season is upon us here in Scotland and we have been blessed with our first visitors from the United States.  Nana and Grandpa Pielow are here for 3 weeks to see the grandkids (and Scotland).  They arrived on Sunday the 16th of December and are staying until the 8th of January.  Even though they were a bit tired from the overnight flight from the States, we still managed to keep them awake for most of the day.  We only allowed them a wee nap so that their bodies could get adjusted to the time change.  Carter took Grandpa for a walk into town so they could get fish and chips from Alari’s but it was closed so they went to a pub and the rest of us met them there for dinner.

They got here over a week before Christmas and while school was still in session, because they wanted to be around to help Carter celebrate his 12th birthday on the 18th.  We had chicken legs and rice for supper and then opened presents and ate chocolate cake. 

Stacy took my parents to Sterling Castle one day and they had a good time exploring the grounds and learning more about Scottish history.  Stacy also enjoyed it more this time since she felt she did not have to entertain and keep track of two kids.

The last day of the 2nd term was the Friday before Christmas.  The kids and I only had classes for half of the day and then school was dismissed for 2 weeks.  The last week was really tough because the kids did not want to work and there were not any tests or exams to hold over their heads.  I don’t know if it is because there are more school days (185), or if it is the somewhat traditional schedule of 53 minute long classes meeting at least 4 times a week, or if it that the Scottish curriculum is not as cluttered with topics to cover, but it definitely feels like there is more time to get lessons taught here in Scotland.  It seemed as though every teacher at the school was doing some type of Christmas activity or just showing a movie.   By the end of the week, I was just like the rest.

Virginia and I took the train into Edinburgh to do a little shopping and visit the popular German Christmas Market.  We tried the fresh made crepes (sugar and lemon for Stacy, and cheesy mushroom for Virginia), pretzels and roasted chestnuts from the stalls. I really enjoyed the visit because the crowds were pretty non-existent compared to our last visit. We even made it up to several shops along the Royal Mile before headed home on the train. Our train ride was a little exciting, because I realized, just as our train was leaving the station, that we probably weren’t on the correct one! Fortunately, we were able to disembark in Inverkeithing (a town on the way home), change to the next train that arrived in 7 minutes, and make it the rest of the way home.

The next day we celebrated Bob & Virginia (Jim’s parents) 50th Anniversary with lunch Garvock House, which is just down the street.

We drove north to Blair Castle, and had a lovely guided tour with lunch following in Pitlochry.

The town of St. Andrews was visited in order to visit the beach where the opening Chariots of Fire race scene was filmed.

We all went to Dunfermline Abbey on Christmas Eve and attended the Christmas Christingle service, which was a perfect service with kids. It was really neat to be in such a historic location on Christmas Eve!

We drove to Rosslyn Chapel which is just a little southwest of Edinburgh and not even an hour drive from our house. This was featured in Dan Brown’s Davinci Code book/movie. We enjoyed a great talk from a guide about all the funny things that fans have said were true about the Chapel.

We took two cars along the Fife Coastal Walk. We stopped in the picturesque towns of Pittenweem, Anstruther (for fish and chips), and Crail, where we walked along the coast and stopped at the local pottery.