Sunday, July 28, 2013

Cara's top 10 year in review

CARA’S THINGS TO DO IN EUROPE (this was my list of top 10 things I wanted to do & what I saw)

1. Ride a gondola in Venice
I got to do this on my birthday. It was fun but also hot and short.

2. See Stonehenge
I thought it was interesting, but short and mom and dad were moving too fast for me to listen to my audio guide.

3. See the Eiffel Tower
I liked the Eiffel tower a lot and saw cool things from the top.

4. See the Arc De Triomphe
I went to the top by walking up a lot of stairs. From the top I looked over the sides at the roads.

5. See the Roman Coliseum
They used to have fights with animals there.

6. Go to the big toy store in London (and get something)
Hamley’s was REALLY big.  I got a build-a-bear bunny, a tatty teddy watch and a tatty teddy character

7. See the Northern Lights
We didn’t see this.

8. Go to the Louvre
This was an art museum. I saw the Mona Lisa, other paintings, and statues.

9.  Go to the Edinburgh zoo
My favorite things were the pandas and penguins.

10. Go to Deep Sea World

We saw the sharks and seals getting fed

Jim's End of the Year

As this year abroad comes to a close, I feel like I ought to have experienced this magical “Ah-ha” moment where I completely understand the whole exchange teacher process and have this brilliant plan or idea to take back to my school in North Carolina.  However I don’t feel like I have had that one moment and I have come to realize that this year living in Scotland, traveling with my family, and teaching in a completely different school setting has been my moment.

Teaching at Kirkcaldy High School has been challenging but a great experience.  While kids are kids everywhere, many KHS kids have a home background that does not truly support education and that has been a challenge.  Throw in other facts such as students cannot fail, teaching both middle and high school age students, and an education system that is almost completely foreign to me, it is a wonder I survived.  I had terrific support from all of the maths teachers, especially Department Chair, Sharon Hamilton. I feel quite confident I was asking daily questions all year long and I am sure she thought I was a pest or at least not worth the hassle.  Thank you Sharon!!!  As to what I will take back to my school, I honestly do not know until the situation appears where I can utilize my newfound knowledge and experiences and meld them into something that will work at home.  I can say that I have learned to do much more lesson preparation using the computer, data projector, and even a smart board.  Imagine that from the guy using the overhead projector during the 2011-12 school year.

Carter and Cara have been able to go places and see things that most Americans will never ever see and I hope they remember the great times we spent together.   Stacy has been able to have a year’s sabbatical from school and instead be a stay at home mom and full time travel agent.  She has done an outstanding job of planning our trips and keeping the family strong and there is no one else that I would have wanted to share this year with than her.

I have lived my dream of living in a country that embraces football, seeing several Premier League games, and listening to TV and radio shows that talk about it all of the time.  I think fish & chips, bangers & mash, and even haggis, neeps , tatties are great meals, especially with a pint or two of cask ales.  I was extremely proud when Andy Murray won Wimbledon, because he is a Scot.  It may seem a bit strange, but I really see myself as part Scottish and I will truly miss the identity of being Scottish, even though I am an American and have this really cool accent (at least many of the students said that).   When we arrived back in Scotland from our trips to other countries, it truly felt as if I was coming home and I will miss that.  How will I adjust to being back in North Carolina, I cannot say for sure.  All I can honestly say is that I will do it the same way that I did in Scotland, which was take it one day at time (and look forward to holidays and football matches).

Carter's Favorite things about this year

Now that I've been back home for a while, I have looked back at my top 10 favorites of the whole trip.

1. Barcelona: This was really cool, partly because I could hear/see Spanish and see it, partly because it had a similar climate to the USA.

2. Walking to school: I always loved walking to school, especially with my friends in the snow. (Barefoot, uphill both ways)

3. The climate: I especially liked the climate (not the weather, but the temperature) because it was cool, though not cold.

4. London: London is awesome. It is almost like a small New York City, and London has almost any shop that you can think of!

5. Being able to walk everywhere: Being 15 minutes walk to the town center was very convenient. That meant that if you needed to pick up something quick from the grocery store, you only had to walk 20 minutes round trip.

6. Having friends just around the block: I had a tight group of friends that I walked with to school every day and they lived on the street just above me.

7. Soccer games: you could kind of say the UK is kinda soccer crazy (no offense). We had a decent team 10 minutes walk down the road that dad and I used to go see play. They recently got demoted to a lower league, but "Come on ye Pars!"

8. Edinburgh: Edinburgh is a nice little city, and though I think it has too much historical stuff there, it also has some neat surprises that might just be around the corner like Oink restaurant, where they roast a whole pig each day!

9. Aberdour: Aberdour is a small seaside town on the coast of the Firth of Forth. It has a nice little beach and an awesome playground!

10. Fish & Chips: I personally think that fish and chips (fries) is the best British meal. My favorite is Alari's fish and chip shop, which is in Dunfermline! 

Stacy's End of the Year

Things I will miss:
Views from and of Dunfermline

Walking in to town (and to school, the store, etc)

Different flowers blooming almost all the time

Rock Walls

Bathroom stalls that offer full coverage
  (sorry, no pics:-)


Funny signs

Guys in kilts



Having time to bake or cook new things

Afternoon Tea

Things I’m looking forward to coming home:
Food – I have a restaurant and food list a mile long of things we miss

New clothes (old things that I totally forgot I had in my closet)
Wearing sandals & flip flops
Re-connecting with family and friends

Carrying on the tradition of visiting some place new (at least once a month).

Saturday, July 20, 2013

School's out for Summer - Days 14 & 15

Day 14

Today we drove to Beaming Living History Museum which is near Newcastle. This is mostly outdoors, with relocated old buildings and well as some newer re-creations of what life was like long ago in the area. They had a variety of areas such as farm & farmhouse, village, town, train station, etc.
in the classroom - Uh Oh!
You could walk into most buildings as see it furnished with some areas having re-enactors. 
Cara's luggage valet at the train station
We spent a nice leisurely day walking and exploring and even riding trams to the different areas, as it was spread out in a big loop. Carter even ran in to a high school friend from Dunfermline!
trying to figure out this school yard game
Day 15

On our last day of vacation, we drove north to our last stop, Alnwick (pron Annick) Castle. We were very impressed with what great condition everything was in and the re-enactors here were really good at giving information and getting the kids involved. The castle was part of the filming set for the first two Harry Potter movies, and we took a short tour of these locations. But the best part was starting the day with broomstick flying lessons. 

We were taken into the area where they filmed HP having his first broomstick lesson. Our two teachers were quite amusing and had us in giggles the whole time. As you can see, they were successful in teaching most of us to fly :-D

Having a go at flying!
There was also a kids courtyard area with a ton of fun activities, called the Knight’s Quest. We got to dress up in costumes,

fight with swords, Cara even tried her had at making an illuminated manuscript illustration!

After  our visit to Alnwick, we hit the road back to Dunfermline with a last stop at the Scotland border. It was a good ending to a wonderful summer holiday trip.

Friday, July 12, 2013

School's out for Summer! Day 12 & 13

Day 12

This morning we went to Dover castle.  It was built during the reign of Henry the 2nd back in the early 1100’s. The castle grounds are quite extensive but not all of it was included in the original design.  Over the years it has been added to since it is in an important location in relation to France.   There is a huge underground tunnel complex that was first started in the late 1700’s and then extended during WW II.  

It was from these underground tunnels that the British withdrawal from Dunkirk was coordinated.  We got to take a guided tour of the underground casements and get an idea of what it was like for the troops retreating from France and the others living underground.  The actual castle was also very interesting since a great deal of work had been done to recreate the rooms as they would have been during Henry II time.
Poppies growing wild in field near Stonehenge
Next we drove a couple of hours over to Stonehenge, which really is a big pile of rocks in the middle of a field.  I am not saying that in a bad way because I was really expecting there to be a huge commercialized community surrounding this extremely ancient site.  I was pleasantly surprised that there was not much around the site and I think that made the experience of seeing it much better. 
It is hard to imagine the time and effort that people put into moving and arranging these rocks with primitive tools and equipment some 5000 years ago; how did they do it?

Day 13
Christ Church
On Thursday we were anticipating a visit to the Warner Bros. Studios where some of the filming of the Harry Potter movies took place. Because our visit wasn’t until 2 pm, we stopped off in Oxford and visited Christ Church. Oxford is a famous University town in England, and Christ Church’s great hall inspired the Great Hall dining room in the Harry Potter movies. The grounds and buildings were beautiful, and you could see where the inspiration for several sets in the movies came from.
Dining hall at Christ Church
Great Hall at HP Studios

Next we drove to the Harry Potter studios which are located just outside of London. We enjoyed walking through two huge sound stages recreating many settings from the movies.

There was also a ton of items actually used in the movies such as costumes
and props. Carter & Cara had passports with items to find in different locations and stamps for their passports as well. We enjoyed searching for golden snitches, driving the Weasley’s car (and getting our pictures taken), drinking butterbeer and taking LOTS of pictures.

Cara, Carter & I have been reading & re-reading the books this last month, and are now ready to watch the entire movie series when we get home.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

School's out for Summer! Day 11 London to Dover

Day 11

On Tuesday we went to the London Eye. When we went to London the last time I thought it was scary. 

When we got to the top, it wasn’t actually that high. We saw St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Gherkin, the Shard, and Big Ben. We were very please that Cara would go on it, because in the past, she’s been somewhat scared of heights, but I guess talking about it all year made it manageable.

We returned via train to pick up our car that we had left at the airport and encountered quite a delay at the station in London. Next we headed to Dover. When we tried to visit Dover Castle, the person selling tickets said that it could take 4 to 5 hours to see everything, and since it would be open less than 2 hour, we might want to come back the next day. So with a little change in plans, we headed just up the road to the White Cliffs of Dover.

Emerging from the car to start our hike to the cliffs, it was nice to find a cool, refreshing breeze was blowing along the coast. It was a beautiful day with lots of blue sky, aqua water and a busy harbor with ferries heading toward France and other points.

Jim and I celebrated our 19th anniversary at a nearby pub with the kids. What a wonderful 19 years it’s been, and as one of my friends asked, “What’s Jim going to do to top this next year?!”