Saturday, December 14, 2013

Scotland v. USA Soccer Match

A few weeks back my friends and I headed up to Glasgow on a Friday to watch the Scotland versus USA International Friendly football (read: soccer) match at Hampden Park stadium. I was excited to go and see my first professional football match especially since people in the UK really take their football seriously. My friend Marston prepared for the game and bought American flags for Jake and I to cheer on our compatriots. Since none of my Scottish or English friends accompanied us on this excursion; it was to be an American weekend. Jake, Marston and I met up with the rest of our American friends in Glasgow and at the stadium and we all sat together down on field level; we are all in the Butler study abroad program. We ended up having a great time cheering on the good old USA and enjoyed the match even though it resulted in a 0-0 tie. Plus, we got recorded outside the stadium for their sports broadcast clip of fans!
 When we arrived at the stadium I was a bit weary to wear our flags. You see I've grown up in Southern California, sat in the cheap seats at a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game and I know of the bad things that can happen to an opposing fan; therefore, I wasn't too keen on standing out in Glasgow, a city, which I have many the time heard referred to as the butt of jokes, especially about stabbings. Nonetheless, when at the stadium we all proudly donned our flags, after judging our surroundings. In the end, we even made a Scottish friend (he is next to me) and were only heckled by 8 year olds who were flying their Scottish colors. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Edinburgh Annual Polo Tournament

Hello there!

The weekend of November 22nd to 24th I competed for Edinburgh's Beginner A team in the Edinburgh Annual Polo Tournament hosted at Dalmahoy Estate. The tournament included beginner (anyone who has played for less than one year), novice, intermediate and open classes.

The tournament was configured in a round-robin fashion so that my team ended up playing St. Andrews, Newcastle, Edinburgh B, and Royal College of Surgeons from Dublin, Ireland, over the course of the weekend.

On an unusually crisp and icy Friday morning the fun began, or at least it was supposed to. Upon arrival at the yard we found out that our scheduled match against St. Andrews was to be delayed in order to let the frozen and slick arena deice. In the meantime my teammates and I stayed warm in the viewing room, ran and slide across the frozen ice, talked strategy and practiced our shots on the wooden horse. It's pretty much the same concept as hitting off a tee in baseball. At noon with the sun already becoming low in the sky--the days are short this time of the year-- the tournament and the much anticipated chukkas began. We had two matches on Friday and then two on Sunday.

The weekend was a great success!
I had a wonderful time playing polo with my teammates and hanging out with all of the Edinburgh and other university players that were there over the weekend. The dinner and social organized by our committee members was lots of fun and a great chance to socialize and recap the days events. Who doesn't reveling in the glory of a game well played. My team went 4-0 during the course of the weekend and won our division! There was an award ceremony for the tournament and we received really snazzy Argentinean polo shirts from a sponsor as a prize. I didn't know that there were prizes in polo at the beginning but now that I do I am completely sold--as if I wasn't already. Who doesn't like prizes?  At the ceremony at the end of the tournament I was lucky enough to be awarded the Most Improved Player award for my performance during the chukkas. I really appreciate the honor. The recognition was great and would have been enough, but to top it off, the award came with a custom designed and tailored shirt from a company in London. Like I said, who doesn't like prizes?  I'll be sure to have help picking out the shirt and taking measurements when I get home. I may have learned to play polo but custom designed shirts seem to be on a whole different level of sophistication to me.

Pictures will be sure to come once I order them from the photographer!

My teammates Holly and Hannah accepting our prize.

Accepting my Most Improved Award from the Committee.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Eclectic Happenings in Edinburgh

I discovered the New College on the Mound while searching for books for a research paper on the affects of industrialization and urbanization on religion in Scotland, c.1750-1830 . This site is home to the University Divinity School and their library, which saved me as the main library had already loaned out the books I needed. My experience in the library reminded me of Dan Brown's Angels and Demons: as it was dimly lit; no one was in the lower recesses where I had to go; a majority of the books were over a hundred years old with many looking older with ornate gold and leather bindings;  you moved from level to level by a narrow and dark stairwell; you had to press a buzzer to leave; and you entered and exited the library through a colossal wooden door reminiscent of a medieval castle.

 Luckily, the fate of the Vatican City didn't rest on how quickly I could find the books I needed.
Below, is one of the locked rooms, containing what I'll call manuscripts, in the vaults.

Monday, September 23, 2013

First Week of School

My first week of school in Edinburgh is complete! Class went smoothly and was relatively interesting for being introductory and syllabus oriented. 

                                                                (First day of school)


In the coming week tutorials will begin and add a discussion based element to my courses. I've attempted to immerse myself in the culture with my studies: Modern Scottish History, Celtic Civilisation (yes, they spell it with an S here), and Comparing Scottish Devolution. I lucked out with all of my course lectures being within a twelve-minute walk of my accommodation; still it's no North Quad to Kravis. It seems walking takes up a good portion of my day, whether I’m going to class, the grocery store, or anywhere else in the city. I've yet to brave the bus system as I haven't had the need. Plus, I enjoy a good walk.

While walking back from an IFSA-Butler (study abroad program) reunion dinner my friends and I decided to stop in on the Edinburgh University Hillwalking Club info session. The Hillwalking Club organizes day and weekend hiking trips to the beautiful and rugged Highlands of Scotland, providing transportation, knowledge of the area and some gear to students. In doing so they enable students to affordably visit and recreate in areas that would otherwise be difficult to access. There was a trip planned for the weekend so my friends and I decided to do it. It was too good of an opportunity to pass up!

On Saturday morning at 6:00 A.M. I walked to the meeting point for the club charter bus.... Within a couple of hours, after passing by the famed Loch Lomond, cue

 Loch Lomond- John McDermott (Includes interpretative information and thoughts about the Loch),

those of us who chose the more adventurous day hike were dropped off at a separate location near the village of Arrochar to begin our hillwalking!

And there I stood walking through a cloud on top of a Munro (a Scottish mountain) in the Highlands!

And then we went back down.

And then back up through the clouds!

 To the top of our next Munro! ( After this break of course)

And some more walking.

Where we reached the top of our second Munro!

And then we headed to meet up with the rest of the club at the pub in Arrochar.

It was a great day full of good fun and lots of walking! We bagged 2 Munros, went 19 km, and ascended 4,500 feet.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

It's Morning in America

It’s morning in America.

Here I am, thousands of miles away at University in Scotland and I think of how blessed I am to be an American. Don’t get me wrong-- I’ve been enjoying every minute of Edinburgh’s Fresher Welcome Week for new students. Exploring the sites, going to traditional Ceilidh Scottish dances, seeing comedians and British bands, and tinkering with my course schedule have kept me busy, but today is for reflection and prayer. September 11, 2001, is a day that altered the course of all Americans’ lives.

Today, on September 11, 2013, I walk the streets of Edinburgh among people of all nationalities. Many of whom do not understand the meaning of this somber day to America. The United Kingdom comprised of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, lacks a strong sense of UK pride, excluding events like the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Rarely, will a U—K chant erupt out of the blue to echo down a corridor as will a resounding U-S-A in the States. A comedian chided the other night that Americans’ are known for cheering. And indeed we have reason to cheer. We come from the greatest country in the world, regardless of what some think. Where with hard work, diligence, and ingenuity one can make something of their life. In America the government is meant to serve the people, as it is the people who hold the real power. It is not meant to go the other way.

On the streets of many UK cities it is common to see signs stating that CCTV (Closed Circuit Television) is in use, and is always watching you. The British have made a deal with their government: privacy for security. As American’s we are guaranteed our Bill of Rights to prevent an obtrusive government from making the people into servile citizens; this is something we must never forget nor allow to be infringed upon. Our Bill of Rights is aimed at preserving our way of life, but today we live in a world where even these bastions of freedom appear not to be foolproof.

We founded our government due to a failing in our mother country’s governance. Our Founding Fathers instilled political and community activism into the essence of our being. We are not a people to give in to the evil of the world. We are unlike any other nation in the world.

Today, we remember the loss of Americans that occurred twelve years ago. And the bravery, self-sacrifice, and spirit that occurred in its’ wake.

 We are a marked people. People in the UK say they can recognize an American by the smile they wear on their countenance. I say this is a badge of honor. We are optimists. We are a unique people from a special place; we are a treasure of the world.

Wherever you are, take a moment to honor those lost on that day of terror. And do not forget.

God Bless

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Ridley: A Good Northern Name

"Ridley: A good northern name,"Mr. Henderson warmly said as my family showed him our English Heritage card we had bought to see the numerous historical sights across England on our way to Scotland. Mr. Henderson, the man who worked at the visitor checkpoint continued, "sheep stealers, bandits, and raiders--the lot; Reivers." "Poets, presidents, prime ministers and the first man on the moon," he added. "I'm one too; a Henderson," he stated, as he proceeded to shake each one of our hands with a wide grin and hearty laugh. "Pleased to meet you and welcome to Housesteads Roman Fort-- Hadrian's Wall!"

It was fitting that, we of Border Reiver descent, met along Hadrian’s Wall in the heart of the Borderlands. A place steeped in a rich and exciting history. The Wall once marked the extent of the Roman Empire and was erected to keep the warring Picts at bay. Later it was a no-man’s land of sorts between the competing Kingdoms of Scotland and England.

One can thank the Border Reivers for the English words 'blackmail' and 'bereaved'. The Reivers were a people who inhabited the areas now known as Northumberland and Cumbria in England and the Scottish borderlands. Living in a politically volatile geographical location between the warring nations of Scotland and England, warring armies who took what they could get to provision their regiments often passed through the borderlands. A poor location for farming, especially when provisions could be taken in a moments notice by invading armies, the Reivers took to ranching. This enabled them to more readily relocate and hide their source of livelihood when a gluttonous army approached. An industrious people, always looking to maximize the worth of their land, Reivers more famously took to 'reiving'. 'Reive' is an early English word for 'to rob'. This lawlessness enabled Reivers to subsidize their incomes and make up for what could be lost to the next march of plundering troops. Unfortunately, it also led to a decline in tourism. The Reivers continued this style of life from the late 13th to 17th century, sometimes receiving the favor of the seemingly ever at war nations while at other times their draconian anger. The families and clans that made up the Border Reivers became renowned for their strong family ties and individualistic nature; Reivers acted in the name of their kin, not for their distant and abstract nation.

The Border Reivers legacy of ‘reiving’ came to an end in 1603 when James VI of Scotland became James I of England and united the warring kingdoms thereby stabilizing the borderlands. Sir Walter Scott immortalized the bloody times of the Border Reiver history in his “Border Ballads”.

The spirit of the Border Reivers as an individualistic, canny, and resilient people has lived on.

Today, I, a descendant of the Reivers, will explore the city of Edinburgh in Scotland 400 years after inhabitants may have known the threat of an agile Border Reiver horsemen. It is within this storied city, complete with a castle and the remains of a fortified city wall, that I will study for a time at the University of Edinburgh. 

Maybe they should have left the old city wall standing?

At the front gate and guard house to Ridley Hall

A Different Perspective of Hardian's Wall

A Feat of Engineering

Family and Clan Names in the Borderlands