Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas in London

Well, I'm in London now, settled into Muswell Hill for the Christmas season. What a term it has been!
I'm staying with friends Jim and Amber here, along with their adorable two year old son Caleb. This morning we were talking about creation, and said "In the beginning, God created...?" to which Caleb replied "Boogers!"
I think there has to be some way to work this into my dissertation.

We also walked around Highgate woods and learned the difference between holly, ivy and oak leaves. "Ivy climbs trees like...?" "Monkeys!"

Also, I have been having to review my dinosaur names because of a new bucket of toys: dimetrodon and parasaurolophus don't roll off the tongue like they used to!

Merry Christmas all!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Things I heard in Exeter

Things I heard walking home from the University:
-the squeal of brakes and click clack of wheels as a train pulled into St. David's station
-the call of swans as they glide along the river
-church bells in the distance ringing out vespers
-fiddle music emerging from a window and the clomping of feet doing Scottish dancing
-a whistle from the conductor as another train takes off

OK, so what I heard in Exeter is not a real update. The basic story is that I am doing really well, and settling in, and looking forward to Christmas in London.

Many thanks to all who have sent letters, cards, packages, e-mails and prayers. You have sustained me more than you know, and I am so thankful!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Remember, Remember....

To update one's blog! Sorry, I've been absent of late!

Tonight was bonfire night, which normally means fireworks. But in the village of Ottery St. Mary's it means lighting barrels full of tar on fire, hoisting them up onto one's back, and then running around the village through tightly packed crowds. It is hard to believe that much awesome can happen in one place!

Plus, they had the largest bonfire I have ever seen. I don't have a clue how any building in that village is insured against fire. See pictures here.

In other news, settling in is going well. I am really enjoying it in many ways, though I am so far from home.
Yesterday I was at Tesco's buying groceries. I always try to be kind to cashiers and waitresses, and engage them in a little conversation. This particular woman had apparently been waiting all day for someone to ask how she was doing, and she launched into a long and enthusiastic narrative. Unfortunately, I couldn't understand a thing she was saying!! She was going so fast, and using so much slang, and had such a strong accent! So there I was, looking (I'm sure) very earnest, and trying to smile warmly and nod appropriately and sympathetically while the terror of having no idea what I was agreeing to grew behind my eyes. That was the second time that day that I had no idea what the person I was talking to was saying. The other time, it was important that I understood, and I had to ask three times before I caught the meaning!
I mentioned this ongoing issue to someone, and their response was "Yes, it seems so funny and old-fashioned to us the way you speak so slowly." Thanks, guy. That really helps the confidence.

Work is going well, things are picking up, and I'm starting to get to know my way around town. Next weekend I will be in London. Looking forward to it!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Pictures Up

For those of you who wanted pictures, the photos from my walk about the neighbourhood today have been uploaded here:

Thought for the day: If I don't understand the terminology you are using because we use a different name in Canada, saying it slower and louder will not actually help. Please think of a synonym and try again.

Non-bitter thought for the day: I love public foot paths.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

First day of exploration

I went to the University today and discovered that while many things are new, bureaucracies everywhere are just the same. So, I played the old "I'm sorry, I can't help you at this building, but if you walk across the campus to this other building they may be able to help you there" game, until it got tiring. Luckily, I am almost done! In favour of my day running around, I am trying to register almost two weeks before everyone else is, so there are no line ups anywhere.

After that, I took a trip into town to try and find a bicycle. After three different bike shops, I found one that sells used bikes. But they are fresh out, and will get back to me by the weekend.

Also, I passed a fancy dress shop, but apparently that means costumes, and not fancy dresses.

I forgot to take my camera with me, so no pictures today. Hopefully tomorrow! Other than that, things are great.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Leaving London

I've had a great week here in London, and head off to Maidenhead tonight to go to Exeter (via a day in Bristol) tomorrow.
It was really interesting this week... London was not the place I had expected. I didn't see the evidence of the riots, people were super helpful and friendly, and Muswell Hill feels nothing like a huge cosmopolitan city. It has gorgeous woods nearby, with ancient oak trees and beautiful paths. And then, the mailman came by the other day with a package for our next door neighbours... but they were not home, so the mailman delivered it to our house instead, with a note left to the neighbours that it was here. Not what I expected... but awesome.
All in all, this has been a great interlude. Now, off to Exeter!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Linnean Society

*Written the day before yesterday*

So, I went to the Linnean Society today. For a meeting. Yup, that is the same meeting where Darwin and Wallace first presented the idea of evolution to the world on July 1, 1858. It is also a place where Darwin and Wallace stare down at you from now-famous portraits.
The meeting was really interesting for a lot of reasons. Here are just some of them:
-I've almost always talked about science and the pursuit of science from a Christian perspective. It was fascinating, and a bit somber, to hear high level discussion about the purpose of science with no higher metanarrative to appeal to for common ground. This really stunted discussion in ways that were totally alien to me. Actually, even in fairly common ways, there were problems that were unfamiliar. For example, a big deal was made by several people about the necessity of not creating a huge distinction between organism and environment, because both are part of a bigger system. They kept saying how even the word "environment" was problematic because it excludes the observer (us) from it as well. In my head, I was thinking, "In a Christian context, we just call the whole thing 'the Creation' and are done with it. Totally not a problem."
-At one point in the meeting, the moderator asked "Is there anyone here who does not agree with the basic theory of evolution?" and absolute silence prevailed. Afterward, a young German scholar, knowing I was a theologian said "Why didn't you speak up?" I ended up on a familiar topic (being a Christian and accepting evolution) from a completely different side than I am used to!
-I also realized I just don't know a lot of about science itself. A day full of unknown terms and graphs of impressive but also impregnable data left me quite exhausted. I really AM a theologian, apparently. Apparently, my questions are theology questions too.
-Victorians knew how to build awesome buildings. Apparently, we have forgotten. And if we had gates like these to go through on the way to learning, we might be more impressed with it.

*Written today*
Yesterday, I went through the British Museum, which was as awesome as always. I am amazed, though, that the best museum in the world can also manage to have the very worst gift shop. OK, so there is one cool gift shop, but everything in there was over 100 pounds, and that was not helpful! But the "average joe" one was not cool.
I also met a Canadian woman, identified by her MEC bag. That felt good.
This is a great country though, and I am really enjoying being here!

I think I am starting to settle in here too. At the very least, I am starting to look instinctively to my right when I am crossing the street. Apparently, all those months in Thailand of training have not gone entirely to waste, since it took me at least a month and a half to get used to the change of direction there!
Tomorrow, I begin the journey out to Exeter, so keep thinking of me, as I finally finish this "transition period" that I count as starting July 28th when I left for Chicago!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Well, I'm here now. Most of me does not believe I am here for real, but then, I am only in London and not out to Exeter yet, so there is a valid sense of "not being here for real." Either way, it is very nice to have come and found Jim, the long-time Anglican studies chaplain at Regent, who just arrived to start on his PhD about a month ago. He and his wife and 2 year-old son are hosting me in North London (Muswell Hill) which is really nice.

I went to get a converter plug for my computer yesterday, and definitely managed to get the wrong one. So, I finally have power for my computer, and thus also for my iPod, which is great.

Also, my one pair of jeans ripped on the plane. I knew they were going, but figured that simply replacing them in Edmonton was too easy. I said to myself "Self, it will be a good excursion for you to shop in England." I didn't expect to have to do it on the first day though! So, with some direction from Amber, I found a bunch of thirft shops, and managed to get a great pair of jeans for cheap (£7) and they were even hemmed to the right length, which NEVER happens. So that was quite a gift.

Today I am just hanging around the neighbourhood. Tomorrow, I will head out on a proper downtown London adventure. I am trying to decide between the British museum and a walk around the downtown core. I'm guessing the museum will win out... but we shall see!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The best conversation ever...

Person #1: Do you know what is absolutely amazing?
Me: No. What?
Person #1: Cell phones! It is amazing that I can pick up the phone and call my sister across the world in like 3 seconds! Amazing! In fact, it is the power of God! And do you know, people don't understand that! The power of God! There is no way human technology could do something that fast!
Me: Yeah, it is pretty cool. Although, I believe the radio waves and electricity move at the speed of light, so there really is more than enough time for the signal to go around the world...
Person #1: No way! It is the power of God! No humans could do that!!
Me: Well, I suppose I would say that God has put regularities in the world that could account for cell phones... That is the power of God...
Person #1: No way! No way human technology can account for that! Do you know what else?
Me: No...
Person #1: Airplanes! People say airplanes fly by... metaphysics... and stuff... but it is the power of God! And people just don't understand that! Nobody could make one fly by itself.

At this point I'm standing in absolute awe of this person... unsure if I can hold back the laughter that is slowly killing me inside.

Me: So, what about birds? Birds fly naturally.
Person #1: Birds! Birds are light! Airplanes weigh thousands of pounds! There is just no way... and people don't understand this!
Me: Umm... OK.
Person #1: Have you met "Person #2"?
Me: No. Hi, Person #2! How are you?
Person #2: Good, I guess.
Person #1: Now, Person #2 needs a wife! (to me:) Are you married?
Me: Umm, nope.
Person #1: Ah, well if it is the Lord's will for you to be single you better get used to it, OK? No point fighting with God.
Me: Ummm... OK.

Person #1: Do you know your strength is?
Me: Nope.
Person #1: You really love the Lord. That should be a strength of every Christian, but it really is for you. I know that you are unsure about this whole PhD thing, but you are not supposed to worry about it. God will take care of it, and of you.
Me: Umm... OK.
Person #1: Bye!