Friday, September 28, 2012

Holding Down the Fort

 While Dad is away... time for some girl bonding time.  Oh yes... that means yoga in the mornings with Mom.
 Rebekah loves pulling out her own teeth.  Basically, I blame her Taiwanese teachers for pulling out one with a tissue, making my daughter think this is cool, and now she wants to pull all of them out.
 Kinu, pretending to be a couch caterpillar.  I can sense some tummy tickling coming up...!
 Xian building with some mega blocks... she prefers the smaller ones but sometimes the old ones are tough to give up.
 Rebekah and her awesome white blanket.  Once we forgot it in a hotel and paid a driver $50 US to drive it to us over 100 miles away.  It was either that or face my daughter's wrath.
 This picture was taken in the early summer of 2012, my Mom had sent a world map through the mail and we picked it up and the girls carried it back from the post office.  Nice one, Grandma!
Basically, it's not easy holding down the fort while I'm gone.  But pancakes sure help, don't they?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Casabianca, by Felicia Hemans and Searching for the Perfect Hat in Scotland

“The boy stood on the burning deck
Whence all but he had fled;
The flame that lit the battle's wreck
Shone round him o'er the dead.” -Casabianca, by Felicia Hemans

Today I went looking for the perfect hat.
“Yet beautiful and bright he stood,
As born to rule the storm;
A creature of heroic blood,
A proud, though child-like form.” -Casabiance, by Felicia Hemans

There are hats all around us.  This old lady is wearing the fluffy hood.
“The flames rolled on–he would not go
Without his Father's word;
That father, faint in death below,
His voice no longer heard.” -Casabiance, by Felicia Hemans

This Hobo's wearing the Stinky Stocking Cap.
“He called aloud–'say, Father, say
If yet my task is done?'
He knew not that the chieftain lay
Unconscious of his son.” -Casabiance, by Felicia Hemans

This shepherd is wearing a crushed bowler with a feather.  (Lost your flock, eh?)
“'Speak, father!' once again he cried,
'If I may yet be gone!'
And but the booming shots replied,
And fast the flames rolled on.” -Casabiance, by Felicia Hemans

The man on the bike is wearing the English Driver's Cap also known as a Windsor.  His hairless friend is opting out of head gear.
“Upon his brow he felt their breath,
And in his waving hair,
And looked from that lone post of death
In still yet brave despair.” -Casabiance, by Felicia Hemans

These young lads are wearing Balmorals, the traditional Scottish cap for boys.
“And shouted but once more aloud,
'My father! must I stay?'
While o'er him fast, through sail and shroud,
The wreathing fires made way.” -Casabiance, by Felicia Hemans

As for this piper next to Edinburgh Castle's One O'clock Gun, nobody was asking about his hat, they all wanted to know what was under his kilt.
“They wrapt the ship in splendour wild,
They caught the flag on high,
And streamed above the gallant child,
Like banners in the sky.” -Casabiance, by Felicia Hemans

This tour guide looking quite dapper was holding a Tam O' Shanter... which is a traditional Scottish cap... but where did it go?
“There came a burst of thunder sound–
The boy–oh! where was he?
Ask of the winds that far around
With fragments strewed the sea!” -Casabiance, by Felicia Hemans

Oh ho!  Now this Lady in Waiting has donned what is known as a "Boss" which is a decorative caul of netting and linen covering the thick coils of plaited hair.  Medieval women thought bosses all the rage.  Chaucer even mentions them in his Legend of a Good Woman:  "A frette of goold sche hadde next hyre her." (Yeah... Total Chaucer Reference!!)
“With mast, and helm, and pennon fair,
That well had borne their part–
But the noblest thing which perished there
Was that young faithful heart.” -Casabiance, by Felicia Hemans

Yeah... I paid 2 Euros for this picture thinking this spinster was weaving, like her sign said, to teach poor children.  Later I found her passed out drunk in the park.
Casabianca was a thirteen year old son of the Admiral of the Orient, who remained at his post in the Battle of the Nile after the ship had taken fire and all the guns abandoned.

This lovely fellow had donned a Cricket's Cap, quite popular in this neck of the woods.
I love these old poems about brave boys, but really, it’s knowing the beauty of people all around us. I was thinking of this poem today as I walked up and down Princess Street in Edinburgh looking for the perfect hat and noticing all the brave and funny faces instead. Of course, I didn’t find it. I figure the perfect hat will just have to come to me.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Altnaharrie Inn Ullapool Scotland

Want to leave the world behind?  Step out onto the shores of Loch Broom and watch the sailboats sail away into a horizon where blue sea and sky merge seamlessly.
Now, if you're really lucky, you'll find a room at the Altnaharrie Inn, in Ullapool with the 17th century sheep drover's inn (breathtaking) and views that will stop your heart.
The town of Ullapool itself could not be more quaint.  The long boardwalk right up against the Loch... time just slows down.  In fact, you forget about it all together.
Somedays, all you want is to be pampered.  You want to just get off the road and have an amazing home cooked meal with four star service and at the end, you close your eyes and just drift away... such was Ullapool.

Secrets in the Stones of Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle lies atop an extinct volcano formed eons ago… still, this place is alive and well with stories and secrets of the living and dead that are buried within her stones.
During the 11th century, it was known as the “Castle of the Maidens” because of a tribe in the Firth of Forth who kept virgins there.  (And rightly so... I mean, where else you going to keep a bunch of virgins?)
Edinburgh Castle is also one of the more haunted places in Scotland. Headless drummers, wraiths of French prisoners from the Seven Years War, a phantom piper, even some colonial prisoners from the American Revolutionary War (how’d they get there?) There is even a ghost dog running around from the dog cemetery.
Edinburgh Castle has been besieged many times, in one instance, a cannon ball fired from huge gun “Mons Meg” in 1158 to celebrate the marriage of Mary Queen of Scots, was later found two miles away at Wardie Muir in the Royal Gardens. (Heads!)
Then there’s everybody’s favorite damsel in distress… Mary Queen of Scots… who married Henry Stuart in a small room in the palace of Edinburgh Castle…then married one of his executioners … then fled to England where Queen Lizzie locked her up in a tower for the rest of her life. No Prince Charming for you Mary! Years later the bones of an infant were found in the walls clothed in a blanket with the insignia “J”. It was believed Mary’s son had been stillborn, buried there, and the child that was later known as her “son” was a surrogate. (Seriously, why is there not a fantastic Mary Queen of Scots Hollywood movie?)
There is also the yarn of twenty-one pirates captures in Argyll on the ship Eagle and thrown into the castle dungeons. They had all sailed with the infamous scalawag Bartholomew ‘Black Bart’ Roberts, and all were hanged by the neck on the gibbet of Leith Sands.
Another cool story is of a prison break in 1811 in which 49 prisoners of war escaped after breaking a hole in the south wall. If you venture down into the catacombs and the dungeons, I don’t know how those guys survived. What a wretched place. I’d be digging out too.
In the 1830’s St. Margaret’s Chapel was “rediscovered” (Margaret was probably thinking… I was never lost in the first place) after it had been turned into a store room. Now it offers lovely little windows and peaceful mediation to visitors. (Yeah right… there’s a million people jammed in here)
In the War Memorial there is a stain glass window with a horseman from the Revelation in the Bible, on his cloak is a swastika (that’s right, suck on that Nazis!)  Above pictures is the "One-O'clock Gun," which a Royal Scot soldier comes out everyday and shakes the walls with it's roar.  Later that afternoon I was about a mile away chatting up this bar maid in the pub... but she hadn't heard a thing.  Hmmm?
BUT… I think my favorite story of Edinburgh Castle has to do with all around super hero, Sir Walter Scott… novelist, crime fighters, historian, lawyer, teacher, duelist, linguist and all around creepy looking sharp-dressed albino… who in 1818 was given permission to search the halls and closets and walls for the official CROWN of Freakin’ Scotland! It had been hiding somewhere on the grounds for over one hundred years. Scot found it after breaking open some floor boards (Total original Indian Jones move) and put it on public display today.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Dear Reader: September 22, 2012

First of all, I just wanted to say Thank You to all those who have written me recently asking if I am okay.  Yes, I know you’ve seen the reports of the US Embassy burning in Yemen and the four killed at the consulate in Benghazi, and also the widespread violent religious protests in Cairo.  Although I am close to these places and feel a mounting tension here, be rest assured that I am safe.  There have only been minor scares, children throwing rocks and a couple of armed guards trying to board our bus, but for the most part it’s been stress free.  Even the camels agree.

Due to current contractual obligations with my employer who monitors websites and censorship issues of the country I am residing, I am unable to fully write about the people I have spoken to or things I have seen here.   Therefore, an endless parade of blogs on AWESOME ENGLAND and the FORTHCOMING BORENO TRAVEL STORIES!  It was a fun packed summer, like most of you had, and I'm still re-living it.

I hope you will continue checking in to see how the adventure is going.  I plan a full report when I am able.  I wish you all the absolute best!

Friday, September 21, 2012

My Girls Trip to Korea, Autumn 2012

SungJoo took the girls to Korea last week for a little family visit.  Just look at these silly kids!

Kinu is growing like weeds... that's NuNu, the White Bunny.

Apparently somebody has been reading a lot of Scholastic Clifford the Red Dog books over Skype... Hmmm, I wonder who?
Out in Haeundae Beach in the early Autumn sun, Rebekah found a seashell.  No...it was not another loose tooth.
That's a pretty cute group, I'd say!  Cruising the streets of Busan.  Good job, Mom!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Apses and Anam Charas, the "God Box" of St. Cuthbert Church in Edinburgh

 One of the hidden treasures of Edinburgh is the tiny Parish Church of St. Cuthbert just below Princess Street next to the enormous green grass park below Waverly Station.

 This is a cool place to just sneak out of the hustle and bustle of the park concerts and sprinting double-decker buses, and surging tourist crowds and just relax before heading up to the Royal Mile and Edinburgh Castle.
 Tradition tells us that the Celtic missionary, Cuthbert, preached from this spot in the 7th century and established this church here... although the building has been moved several times.
 At one point, many of the stones were on the shores of the Nor'loch way out in the countryside and were moved here in 1760.
 One of the cool things I liked about this church was that the congregation didn't want anything fancy to worship in... just a "God Box" or plain building... and so Hippolyte Blanc (ridiculously awesome name) did most of the renovations, but did allow Tiffanys of New York to come in and construct one of the stained glass windows.... this one of David facing Goliath with a sling (one of only five Tiffany windows in all of Britain).
 Another cool feature is the Apse and the ceiling, which depicts an exalted Christ with angels.  It's just stunning, but also so simple.  It's amazing to think how this was common place five hundred years ago but to build it today would take such diligent study and knowledge.
 Another cool area of Cuthbert Church is the Anam Chara, which is a small place set aside for serious contemplation and prayer.  Anam Chara is Celtic for "soul friend," and is a place to sit and remember loved ones.  What a cool idea!
As someone who grew up in churches, from dank cement Sunday School basements smelling of Play-doh and metal folding chairs to giant sanctuaries with felted cushions lined in wooden pews and choirs in robes, to being squeezed onto sofas and shag carpets of living room Bible studies or the solemnity of private prayer rooms with sanitized multicultural alters, I can truly appreciate these old European churches where the emphasis was on private contemplation.  I got that today at Cuthbert Church, in a little God Box tucked away in the trees.

Stop It, Edinburgh!

Oh... Edinburgh, let me sing of your beauty...This beautiful Scottish City has four major sections: The Royal Mile which towers above the city, Castle Rock, with its amazing shops, pubs, churches and collection of weirdos, Princess Street with fashionable selections and upscale boutiques, and Old Town with charm and touches of old world cool.
There are a lot of famous people who came from Edinburgh, including David Hume, Robert Louis Stevenson, and original bad ass Sir Walter Scott.  Also Sean Connery, who was knighted at the Palace of Hollyrood in 2,000 (originally Mr. Bond refused the ceremony until Scotland's independence was recognized).  Oh, and something about a J.K. Rowling wrote some books in the coffee shops here, but I'd never heard of her.
Of course, running next to Princess Street is the National Gallery. While I was there the Munch and Van Gogh's were in town.  Not "The Scream" though...that was just bought for a record sum.  Alas... moving on.
Apparently centuries ago there was a terrible sewage problem in the city which had the nickname "Auld Reekie"  The smell is gone, but the medieval feel still remains.
My favorite place in Edinburgh is Old Town which runs south from the Castle and the Royal Mile to the two areas known as Grassmarket and Cowgate.
Old Town is known for its narrow wynds (lanes) and funny little staircases rising up into the shadows.
But I also found delish the Haggis and Haddock, along with turnip porridge and local venison.
Here's some of the funny food lingo:
Black Pudding:  Blood Sausage
Bridie:  Meat and Potato Pie
Clapshot:  Mashed Turnips
Irn-Bru:  Local Orange Soft Drink
Ploughman's Lunch:  Roll, Cheese, Sausage
Sultanas:  Yellow Raisins
Haggis:  Sheep Innards
Kippers:  Smoked Herrings
The Olympics were just about to start and the city was also in a frenzy.

So what's a poor boy to do but find a little spot all his own and read up on the city he's been exploring for days. Edinburgh, you really shouldn't have. You're just showing off.