A Second Journey: Freezing Fridays and Saint Andrews Saturday

Friday was our day off for the week. I got up late (like 9:30!) and spent the day exploring Airdrie a bit with some of my team mates. We went to the grocery store, and had lunch at Greggs. Greg’s is a wonderful land of beautiful breads and flakey pastries. There is this incredible British invention called the “pasty” which involves a flakey pastry outside with a meat or other savory filling. Think pigs in the blanket, but completely enclosed, much more delicious inside, and puffier pastry. It’s also incredibly cheap, which suits we college kids on the mission team just fine. They also have a variety of sweet breads, so I got myself a chocolate donut in honor of national donut day back home in the states. Greg’s is always a good choice… always.
Anyway, we then wondered about the town, stopping in on a charity shop (thrift store), music store, and pet shop. I got to play a rosewood whistle, which was gorgeous, and tried to play a low D tin whistle, but discovered my hands are much too small. I could just barely manage a low G, but I’m afraid anything lower might be beyond my whistling capabilities. I also troubled the shop owner to tune one of his violins for me, and I tried to remember how to play that instrument, as it’s been probably years now since I’v touched my viola.
My favorite part was the pet store. My intention was to pop in to see if there was something I could get to bring back to Oleta, but I found myself spending 20 minutes petting the shop owner’s giant, fluffy, and awfully sweet bernese mountain dog. He nearly pushed me over he as leaning on me so, and I definitely just wanted to stay there and hug him all day. I did explain to the owner that I was going through serious dog withdrawal, and thankfully he understood. He even offered to get me a chair so that I could sit there and pet him all day. I’m not going to lie, I was legitimately tempted to take him up on it, but I restrained myself. Eventually, I managed to pull myself away, and actually took a look at the things on the shelves. The selection wasn’t vast, but there was a collection of collars, so I purchased a red tartan collar for Oleta. I wasn’t sure of the size, but the owner gave me his address and number, and said he would send a different size for free if it turned out not to fit when I got home. I think it will fit just fine, but that was very kind of him.
In the evening, a couple from the Airdrie church drove the team and some of the CY (youth group) to the final Edinburgh mission night. Peter discussed the elder brother from the story of the prodigal son, and tied all three of the characters together. He emphasized the elder brother’s pride, his hatred toward his younger brother, and the disrespect, even disdain he shows his father. His attitude drives a rift between himself and his family members, and we do not know whether he responds to his father’s plea for him to humble himself and return to the celebration for his younger brother’s salvation. We do know that if the elder brother were to repent and return to the family, the celebration surely would increase ten fold.
The service was followed up by tea, coffee, and biscuits (as usual in Edinburgh), until the team and CY headed back to the van. On the way back, we stopped at the Firth of Fourth for a walk on the beach, though Emma L and I mostly clung to each other and shivered, as it was absolutely freezing!
Saturday was similar to Friday in the whether, though a tad bit sunnier. It was our reformation tour through Saint Andrews. At the beach there, which we visited for lunch before starting the tour, the wind was blowing so strongly that I could recline in it without falling backward. The tide was also coming in quite quickly, which is why about 53 seconds after I found the edge of the water, I realized I was actually standing in about an inch of the stuff. Surprisingly, my feet did not get wet at all. Kudos to you, my dear old leather walking shoes.
Sand was another question all together. I had to dump it out of my shoes when I got home later, and the wind kicked it all up, which meant that as we attempted to return to the bus, our mouths and ears and hair and every other part of us was graced with a film of white grit. We are still finding sand everywhere.
Anyway, it was a wonderful tour, the details of which I may recount at a later date, as I really need to get y’all caught up so that we can talk about this week!

Scotland Trip: The First Week

If you think I fell off the face of the Earth, you would be right, because Scotland is out of this world!

Okay, so bad joke aside, it really is lovely here—I have met so, so many great people, and been some really beautiful and fascinating places.  Still, contrary to my assertion in my opening statement, Scotland is a REAL place, with REAL problems, especially spiritual ones.  When you’re tucked away in normal life in semi-rural America, it’s easy to think of foreign countries like Scotland as somehow separate from the everyday human experience, a far away land of music, legends and fairy tails: bagpipes, harps, fiddles, and selkies.  Of course, it isn’t.  The reality is that Scotland, like us in America, and like the rest of the world, is full of broken, God-Hating individuals that need reconciliation with their creator, which can only be found in Jesus Christ.  So, that said…

Our first Monday and Tuesday here were designated to our reformation tour through Saint Andrews and Edinburgh, getting to know the sights and history of the Scottish protestant reformation.  Until I can get all the details, suffice it to say that it was a dark and bloody time, and nearly all of the stories we heard involved imprisonment, torture, hanging, shooting, decapitating, disemboweling, burning at the stake, etc, on some level.  I liked both cities greatly, though they are very different.  Saint Andrews, with a population of only around 18,000, is really more of a town, especially when university students are on break for the summer.  It is known to many as the home of golf, and is famous for a movie, “Chariots of Fire”, that filmed a race on a stretch of it’s sandy seashore.  In classic touristy fashion, a couple members of our group ran the beech, singing the theme all the way.  In classic Shea fashion, I knew nothing about this movie, and so spent the time restraining Oleta from going after other dogs on the beech, or rolling in the sand, or dashing into the ocean and dragging me with her.  It was a delightful day to be on the beech.  Despite the chilly breeze that came off the water, the sun was bright and warm, and I didn’t exactly blame Oleta for wanting to go for a swim.

Edinburgh, on the other hand, is a thriving metropolis of nearly 500 thousand.  It feels much more like New York or Nashville, always bustling with plenty pedestrians and vehicles, full of shops and restaurants and tourist traps, and complete even with street performers, from drummers to fiddlers to bagpipers in kilts.  Edinburgh is actually built on and around several dormant volcanoes, which we were able to see quite clearly from the top of the Edinburgh castle, which I will detail in a later post. 

So, needless to say, those two days were awesome—a wonderful opportunity to get to know Scotland a bit better, and to get acquainted with our new family here in Airdrie.  We also got to taste two of Scotland’s most famous, or possibly infamous, foods: haggis and IRN – Bru.  The latter we tasted on the beech in Saint Andrews, curtesy of one of our newfound friends, who will remain nameless for curtesy’s sake.  Anyway, it is an orange, or so I am told, fizzy drink, soda rather, that to my American taste buds tastes just like bubble gum in liquid form, which is why I’m also convinced that it’s pink, not orange.  Either way, it’s basically pure sugar.  I think an entire bottle might kill me, but maybe I’ll try it before I leave.  What’s life without a little risk?

We tried haggis at a restaurant in Edinburgh Tuesday afternoon.  I wasn’t too sure I wanted to try it, but Patrick was already passing over a fork full before I could decline.  Much to my surprise, it was actually quite good, sort of like a sausage, but mushier.  I’m not sure if that made it sound appetizing, but I enjoyed it anyway.

Tuesday night we attended our first MET (mutual encouragement time), which is essentially a bible study.  They have been studying Esther, and were on the middle section where Haman is planning for Mordecai, and the Jews’, demise, and his plans are foiled when the King, seemingly by chance, recognizes that Mordecai once saved the King’s life, and deserves to be honored.  It was a fascinating discussion, and a true testament to the way God can use even the littlest things in our lives to carry out his plans.

We spent Wednesday mostly at the church, discussing the upcoming schedule, starting preparations for school presentations the following week, reading a book by Donald Whitney called, “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life”, which has proved incredibly edifying, and attending a second MET.  Thursday and Friday followed in much the same fashion, with a third MET on Thursday.   Friday evening we participated in Kids club, ages 3-10.  The children played games, had a snack, and I read them a story about Jesus, and his interaction with children, the point being that Jesus desires a relationship with all of us, whether young or old, and that we are to depend on God like children depend on their parents.  We had a short discussion, then they cut out and colored paper dolls, that represented the children listening to Jesus.  The kids were rowdy, but adorable, and for the most part LOVED Oleta.  I think they may be asking their poor parents for a dog for weeks to come.  Last night, at one of the METs, someone from the congregation told me that a little boy said to her the other day, “Is the lady with the dog ever coming back to the church?”

“I don’t know.” she answered, “Why? Did you like her?  Do you want to see her again?”

“No.” he replied, “I just want to see the dog.”

The nature of being a guide dog user I’m afraid… constantly overlooked in favor of the dog.  Ah well… keeps me humble.  Haha.

Friday night we also attended the CY (covenant youth) meeting, where we gave our testimonies and hung out with the young people for a while.  Thankfully no one got injured this time, and by that I mean, no one threw mobile phones at my head. 🙂

Saturday began leaflet distribution in Edinburgh.  That is an entire adventure unto itself, so I will pick up there in the next post.  I am glad to have finally caught somewhat up with y’all!  There is still last week to recount, but here’s to more frequent updates in the future!