« November 2005 | Main | January 2006 »

December 2005 Archives

December 31, 2005

Looking Forward

January 1st has traditionally been a day for looking back, at least amongst my circle of friends back in Edmonton, so I'll leave that till then. Today, I'll look forward to 2006 instead.

And I am looking forward to it. I have so many things planned for the new year, some of them mentioned on here, some of them not.

2006 will be the year I go to Australia (and I'm so excited about it!), the year my best friend gets married to a lovely woman, the year I start working towards my Masters Degree (the scenic route, you understand... always have to do things the hard way, I do).

2006 will be full of friends - I've got friends coming across to live here in March, my mom is coming to visit, my friends Mel and Cody are going to be coming to visit (hopefully!), I'll be doing a whirlwind tour of B.C. and Alberta in the summer, and I'm secretly hoping a sudden windfall will mean I can bring Tom and Carla for a few weeks. I'm hoping to hook up with Phil in Singapore during my trip to Austalia, and maybe a few other people I've met there through the magic of the internet.

2006 is the year I turn 30.

I'm a bit floored by that last bit... how did that happen? Aren't I 21 and still trying to figure out my life? Or 17 and terribly confused about what the next step is? It feels like I did this all backwards, this moving around, this seeing the world. But then I remember that I'm doing it on my own terms, and not doing it as a 'thing to do' instead of going to school. I'm doing this because now, at this stage, I can't imagine a life where I'm not.

I remember, back when I was 19, spending a summer working in Jasper, one of the cities in the Rocky Mountains. While there, I met this exciting and entrancing woman. Older (probably my age now, if I think about it), having spent most of her adult life traveling from country to country, picking up random degrees (she was working on her Masters) and working in hotels and the like as a cleaner in order to support herself while she did it. She spoke many languages, had an entrancing accent, and was generally so fascinating to me.

I think I know what I want to be when I grow up. Or don't grow up, as the case many be.

I think I'm supposed to be anxious about turning 30 and I'm not. (I have a friend who's the same age as I am, and informed me that she's going to start lying about her age from now on... I can't imagine doing that.) I'm more excited about it than anything else. I have big plans for my 30th Birthday Party that I haven't quite gotten into here because I need to sit down and plot that out a bit. (Note to friends and family: I want a 30th Birthday Party, or two, or maybe three... one for each decade? *laugh*)

I just keep thinking that this will be another year of adventure... and I can't wait.

December 30, 2005

Tomorrow is Only A Day Away!

Ah, tomorrow! Hogmany!

Apparently my plans are like this:

Myles is coming over, and we will drink the beer they make in Edinburgh, and eat haggis and tatties and neeps. We are having some debate about who will do the cooking, but he's providing the food.

Then, we will nip on out to the Street Party. Apparently we should be there early if we want to be sure to get in. I'm okay with being early. More time to be silly and fun, and think about whiskey.

Eventually, we will see fireworks, and be silly.

Afterwards, we've been invited to a party at Lucy's place, which I'm disgustingly excited about.

Then, it's off to bed for a few short hours before we jump into the Firth of Fourth, in Fife, on the First.

I'm counting down!

December 29, 2005

Things I Did Not Do In London

Things I Did Not Do In London (but probably wanted to), a list, by jo

1. Just sit all day in Heathrow airport and people watch. Dear god, that place is big, and full of fun and interesting people to watch. I did do a bit of that, though, while waiting for my cheap daypass on the Underground to start up.

2. Just sit all day on the Underground or Tube or whatever you want to call it. I toyed with the idea of playing a very strange game of Mornington Crescent with myself, or maybe just getting all giddy whenever the train went through some place mentioned in Neverwhere, but I managed to hold off on that.

3. Feed the pigeons in Trafalgar Square. Because they "are a nuisance and cause damage the square". *sigh* No recreating Mary Poppins for me this year.

4. See the Elgin Marbles. And damn it, I'm bitter! I totally should have made myself somehow be able to pass through space and time properly enough to make it see the Marbles. Oh well, guess they aren't going anywhere....

5. See a play/musical/any theatrical work whatsoever. But I probably could have pulled it off with less work than it would have taken to see the Marbles.

Other than that, I'm tired and happy and wired and excited and want to go again, tomorrow. Or now. Or something. It was *outstanding*, and I had a wonderful time.

But I am curious about one thing:

Why am I living in a country where "It will get as low as -7 tonight" made the freaking BBC news?

December 28, 2005

London Bridge

So, tomorrow is London Day, and I'm really excited! I know, 1 day is not enough time to see London. One day might not even be enough time to do a few things in London, but I'm really excited. It's entirely possible I'll spend the whole day in wide-eyed contemplation of the buildings, muttering to myself about how excited I am to be in London. Because I am such a touristy girl that way. *grin*

One of the things I find strange and wonderful about living in the UK is the museums. The vast majority of them are free, on theory (so I understand) that the collections belong to the people, so everyone should be able to see them. Quite a far stretch from Canada, where some museums are vastly overpriced for what you see. (Sorry, sorry, Bitter Girl here about Museums, just ignore me.)

But, yeah, I will hit at least one museum, I'm going to try and take one of the London Walks that people keep recommending to me, might cave and hit Harrod's just to say I've been, and will be hitting the Museum of the London Underground just because... well... because I'm a Neverwhere fangirl, actually. Well, and because I'm fascinated by Ghost Stations, which I suspect will be mentioned in the Underground Museum. (Ghost Stations: Abandoned metro or underground or tube or LRT or whatever stations. Saw one when I was in Paris and have been fascinated by the idea ever since. But I am odd that way.)

The big thing I must remember to do is pack a lunch. If there's one thing I've learned about going on daytrips, or even weekend trips, is bring your own food. I can sit in Trafalgar square and eat homemade bread and apple butter, and thus save myself some cash. I'll probably end up catching coffee in some cunning little coffee place, but I hate paying as much as you do for lunch in places like London, or Linlithgow, or Cardiff or anyplace else I've gone. I took some lunches with me when I was wandering around Glastonbury and the like, and it made a difference both cost-wise and energy-wise.

The only thing I'm dreading about tomorrow is the 4 a.m. wakeup call to make it to the airport for my flight. I think I'll sleep on the plane.

PS: If anyone wants postcards from London, chances are I will have purchased about 200 of them, and will be happy to pop them into the mail for you. Just drop me an email with your snail mail!

December 26, 2005

Boxed In

I'm used to a typical Canadian Boxing Day. I used to work in The Really Big Mall (The Biggest Mall, in fact: West Edmonton Mall), and I still have bad times when I think about working there Boxing Day. In Canada, it's a traditional major sales day, with stores slashing their Christmas prices by huge amounts. Rampaging hordes of tense shoppers go through every major store, and people are angry, out of sorts, and generally miserable.

Even when I got out of working at the Big Mall of Doom and starting working at the Big Nameless Wireless Company, I had the same sorts of problems. People were angry and tense, so they'd call in, and have major meltdowns about everything they could. The same people that could be reasonable any other day of the year would be freaking out on Boxing Day.

I was dreading going out today, but Margery needed to catch her plane. I figured it would be just the same.

I was pleasantly surprised.

Admittedly: there were people out and about, there were sales, and the mall looked busy. But not packed. Not insane. And when I walked home along the Royal Mile, almost all of the stores were empty, if not closed outright. Some of them were having major sales, but no one was really busy, and it was pleasant.

Maybe Scotland spends Boxing Day still enjoying family and friends? What a novel concept. I could really grow to like this country

December 25, 2005

Hark Hear the Bells

I'm living in a country where they play bells at midnight on Christmas Eve.

I'm not sure if they do that back in Canada. I've never lived close enough to a church, and I can't recall the only midnight service I've been to. It was beautiful, and moving, and at the same time very isolating.

It's odd, celebrating the holidays someplace else. Add to it that I'm not Christian, but I did go to Church last night, and everything was a bit off-kilter for me to begin with. But much to my shock, they don't sing the same carols over here.

No, that's not right. They do sing them, but differently.

They translate the Germam of Silent Night to Still the Night, and the words have the same meaning to them, but are different. I can see how the translations are similar, but it was so strange.

Then there was singing Oh Little Town of Bethleham, my Christmas favorite since I learned to play it on the piano as a wee lass. The parts of the song that mean so much to me are completely different here: the tune was something I had never heard before, and I found it impossible to sing along to.

Fall On Your KneesOther songs were different, too. One was a "Scottish Paraphrase", again the same music, but words that had changed enough to confuse. I think that was our While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night, or here: While Humble Shepherds Watched Their Flocks.

Oh, and they spell Noel: Nowell.

Only two songs were exactly as I recalled them: Oh come, all Ye Faithful, and Joy To the World.

The service, though, was lovely, and being in a candlelit church built in the 1400s was a very powerful experience for me. The organ at the front of the church was massive: it took up the entire front of it, with pipes at least 7' high. The choir was beautiful, in the loft above our heads. Everything was lovely.

Just... different.

December 24, 2005

Counting Down to Christmas

In a flurry of insanity, I went out today to finish buying things for my Christmas dinner.

Note to self: Next year, don't do that.

Oh, it worked out fine. I have turkey (!), and stuffing and dressing and salad and eggs and milk and cranberries (!) and all sorts of wonderful things.

I am also panicking like a mad woman. And I'm only preparing Christmas dinner for three. Can you imagine me with more?

I was trying to remember earlier if my mother had ever panicked over Christmas meals. She may well have, but I can't remember her ever doing so. I just remember always perfectly prepared meals. Maybe mom never panicked because she knew she was a great cook. Maybe she kept her panicking to private.

Or maybe this is just further proof that I sprung, fully formed, from my father's head after a really bad headache.

This is not, in fact, the first Christmas dinner I've made. I was thinking about that today, too. That one, we had a frozen chicken, and I had completely miscalcuated how long it would take for that damned thing to thaw and cook. Everyone was so good about it, though, no one even gave me the slightest bit of hard time, even though we didn't have Christmas dinner till midnight. I think at one point the menfolk (there were two of them, three of us womenfolk, and a newborn) went out to forage for food, and came back with lots of candy and slurpees to keep everyone going till the chicken was ready.

Ah, good memories. The best thing to have for Christmas.

Who needs perfection?

December 23, 2005

One of Those Days

I had one of those days today. You know, the ones where you feel all happy and cheerful and giggly and do fun things, just because you can.

This was my afternoon, in pictures.

A Sign of the Times I made a beeline for the German market immediately after getting off the bus. Work ended at noon today, so I had plenty of time to finally see this place during the day. It wasn't as packed as it has been when I've gone past on weekends, and I'm glad I made it out. Lots of people spending money, having fun, and riding the various rides that come with the Edinburgh Christmas Experience.

One Stop Santa Shop There are lots of cunning little shops that set up. I realize now that I failed to take a photo I should have, of one of the hat stores, but we'll go with what we have. The shops range from this, and places that specialize in Christmas decorations, to a place that sells rock crystal lamps, and another one that sells pirate ship cutouts for your wall - they really dance. The shops are a lot of fun, and although I'm certain that the staff is bored to tears by this point, they're all very friendly.

Mulling I stopped for two things along the way: Crepes (of course) and mulled wine. Last time I was here, I had a glass of mulled apple wine, and it was okay. The stuff I had today, though, was wonderful. Served in little cups with a lemon floating inside, it tastes just like I think mulled wine should taste. I made some of it myself this Christmas, so I was really impressed with this stuff.

Mulled The cups are pretty cute, too.

The hilight, though, for me was a bit later. I poked around in a few more of the shops, and made my way gradually towards the hat shop near the end. I've been looking for something cute for a while, but everything I tried on just looked silly on my head. But today, I hit the mother load. The reason to wait:

Continue reading "One of Those Days" »

December 22, 2005

Melrose Abbey

I'm going to Melrose Abbey tomorrow. I've got a few days off work (starting at noon today, and yay! for that) and I'm rather determined to fill them up with much stuff and things and enjoyment. Bloody-minded determination tends to get me through where angels fear to tread, and all that.

What's amusing is why I'm going to Melrose Abbey. See, when I was off in Kelso, specifically at Floors Castle, I noticed a painting there of a ruined abbey. I thought at first it was Lindisfarne, or maybe even the fallen abbey in Kelso itself, but taking a closer look, I realized it wasn't. I stared at it for a while, but there were no clues to this beautiful, romantic looking site. I finally caved and bought a guidebook just so I could look up that particular painting.

It is, of course, of Melrose Abbey.

Now that Margery's up, I have an excuse to go out there and see it with her, so that's what we're doing tomorrow.

I really do just let whim dictate my daytrips, don't I?

December 21, 2005


Just to take a break from navel-gazing about Christmas and Winter and how *woe* they are not the same here as they are back home, I wanted to tell you all a secret.

It's a very well kept secret, but I think one that needs to be revealed to the world.

Frankly: moving to another country does not automagickly make all your problems disappear.

This may not be a new concept to some of you, but the number of times I email someone, or chat with them over ICQ, or whatever, and am talking about *something* that bothers me (I don't hear from some people enough, I don't have any iced tea, I wish it would snow, whatever), I'm told the following:

But... you're in Edinburgh! That shouldn't matter!

And to those people I merrily say: Bullshit.

Living in Scotland does not make me exempt from feeling left out of things back in Edmonton. Do you think I didn't want to go to various birthday parties? That I don't wish I was going to the Wake? That I don't miss various things we used to do? Of course I do! And if you moved overseas to some place "exotic" (more on this later), you would, too.

Yes, I'm having grand adventures, and so are a lot of the other expats I read. But it doesn't mean we don't miss home. It doesn't mean we don't still have issues with things back home.

This is not another sermon that you'll read about how Living Overseas Is Not A Way To Solve Your Problems. This is... don't think that your friends/loved ones/blogging buddies suddenly don't have issues because they get to see a castle every day.

And the other thing I'd like people to remember: Where you are living right now is exotic to someone. Yes, even Saskatchewan. The number of times I've mentioned "I'm Canadian" to someone to have the excited response of "Oh my god, really? I've got distant cousins living there someplace! Do you know the Roberts Family from... from... the place in the middle, it's so flat?" Trust me, your home is exotic and exciting to someone.

I'm asked quite often why I'd want to come to Edinburgh. See, to them... it's so dull.

December 20, 2005

Not a Bleak Midwinter

The last few weeks, it's been really hard for me to enjoy things. I think that's been fairly obvious, and I think the cause is that I've been too inwardly focused. Thinking about the future and pondering the past, or losing myself into well-crafted works of fiction. I tend to forget the present.

Yesterday, I reminded myself to not do that. The commute is beautiful, for all that it's long, and I forget to enjoy it when I'm wrapped up in a book.

The Castle is always silhouetted against the morning sky, dark and sinister. Sometimes there are lights on within, like flashing eyes looking out over the city. I go past it several times a day, and sometimes I forget it's there.

I pass St John's Cathedral, and the lights are always on there, flashing pink and purple through the stained glass. I love the churches here, so beautiful. I know, intellectually, that there are probably better uses for money than building huge churches, but I think they bring one closer to faith.

Edinburgh is made up of odd views, odd stores, things that make the whole city odd. Most of the buildings are brown, from age and the colour of the stone, from corrosion over time, so bright signs stand out sharply on my commute. Places like Xander's, in purple, or Baloo, in pink. Marilyn Rose has decadent red curtains in the window, and looks like the type of place where the pillows are very comfortable and there are no price tags.

Flashes of Christmas here and there. Yesterday was the first time I listened to an hour of Christmas music, at a restaurant. Old favorites I haven't heard in a long time, and thus I enjoyed them all the more. The way that every street isn't covered in bright garlands and tacky lights makes every decorated Christmas tree along the route more beautiful and unexpected.

Faith seems to have been such a strong part of the past here. I pass former churches that are now theathers, schools, libraries, bars. There's a place not too far from here that's called Holy Corner, because there are four churches, one at each corner. I wonder why, but no one can really tell me. Edinburgh has so many stories that I think the natives forget because they have no reason to remember.

I love the view from my window. Arthur's Seat and the Castle.

There is still green grass, and the snow never seems to fly, but despite all this, my midwinter will not be bleak, as long as I remember to look up.

Snow Day Front Door View

December 18, 2005

I'm Dreaming...

At the risk of sounding horrible, it's the idea of spending Christmas at home with my parents that strikes me as odd. I hadn't done it for years, and did it two or three years ago and it was wonderful and fun, like a vacation from life. All those old Christmas decorations I remembered from being a kid, my stocking with my name, mom's home cooking, and the surreal experiencing of it actually snowing in BC.

You'd think to hear me talk about it that they were still living where I grew up. But we moved a lot as a child, and I think they had one house in Ottawa that I never even saw. This latest move, the one I really believe is the last one, has them happily tucked away in Nanaimo. My mother does home improvement projects while my father putters in the garden, and they take my demon cat on 'play dates'.

When I think about spending Christmas far away from 'home', I don't think about childhood Christmases where I always got a madarin orange at the bottom of my stocking. I think about Christmases where snow was a requirement and the Christmas lights twinkled from too many windows. I remember the way my mom always makes me fruit cake (which I love) and sugar cookies (which never taste right unless she uses the same cookie cutters) and mails them off to me. And these two Christmases I've now spent overseas... that's what I miss.

It's not been far away from home, or not spending Christmas with friends and loved ones. I've always been blessed in my friends, and have always been able to make some connection with them, no matter where I am. But I miss the tastes that make Christmas, I miss the way the snow crunches under your feet.

This year, I'm trying out new things. I'm baking my own sugar cookies which taste and look nothing like mom's. I'm going to make a goose, I think, and have home made cranberry sauce. I'm making my 'home' out of different tastes and flavours. I'm not trying to replace what Christmas is back in Canada, or even in Nanaimo, or Sherwood Park, or Hinton. I'm just trying something new, and accepting that nothing I can do will recreate that time I woke up to find a huge box that contained every single published Star Trek novel in it. You can't go back, you can only go forward.

And I think that's really the key to surviving a major holiday living overseas: don't try and make it like it was at home, because it won't. Try and make your own tastes, your own experiences. Your own sugar cookies, as it were.

Or, when your parents get you an Amazon.co.uk gift certificate for Christmas, try and get them to deliver everything at once, so there's a really big box of cook books instead. Like Star Trek, only different. (It's a really big box. I'm so excited!)

On Boredom

Being that I handle boredom about as well as your average 4-year-old, I've been trying to fill up my time between Christmas and when I go back to work in early January. It's exciting, becuase there is a lot of things to do at this time of year here (so unlike Edmonton, where there is nothing to do but shop).

So far, my exciting schedule looks a bit like this:

December 27th: Take Margery back to the aiport in Glasgow. Wave lots.
December 28th: Go to Glasgow again (maybe) to meet up with someone to do some skating.
December 29th: Day trip to London
December 30th: There's some Hogmany lead up stuff I want to do.
December 31st: Hogmany, which will involve having Myles come over to make Haggis. There is also a party I've been invited to after Hogmany. Must remember not to eat the brownies. I suspect the less said about that, the better.
January 1st: Something involving jumping into the Firth of Fourth. Must try and get that finalized.

Wow, I've got more figured out than I thought....

I still have to entertain myself till January 4th, though, which is when school starts up again.


December 17, 2005


But first: Carnival VII is all about Christmas. Hosted by Phil again this week, the topic is up on the expat blog.

This is a request to people who knew back when I was in China and, you know... being all angsty and thoughtful and stuff. (I spent way too much time in China pondering the nature of faith, frankly. Does everyone who travels alone do that?) I'm wondering if you could possibly track down any postcards I sent you (should you still have them) and either photocopy the back of them or scan them and email them to me? If you're in Edmonton, I have a Mule who will be in Edmonton and will be able to pick them up for me on or around the Wake in January.

I am putting things together for a project a friend of mine is doing, and I recall writing some stuff on those postcards that will help... but damned if I can remember what they were. (I do specifically remember one that I sent to Star, but most of those postcards are a bit hazy.)


December 16, 2005


I keep forgetting that despite being called the United Kingdom, this place has four different countries in it, and four distinct cultures as well.

Yesterday, while wearing my Hogmanay hat, I chatted with one of the women working in the cafeteria.

"Bit early for a Hogmanay hat, isn't it?"

"Well, I got it with my ticket, and I'm so excited, and I want to wear it lots!" It's blue, with a cross on it, like the Scottish flag, with Hogmany 2006 on it. It's horribly tacky and too small to actually keep any part of my head warm. I love it.

"Ah, you're Canadian, are you?" she asked, smiling. Most people don't assume I'm Canadian, they guess I'm American. I was oddly flattered.

"Yeah, I'm just here for the year, so I'm really excited about what will likely be my only Hogmanay in Edinburgh. I've got tickets to the street party, and I'm so looking forward to the fireworks, and I'm jumping into the Firth of Forth, and anything else I can think of to cram into the four days."

"It's interesting," she said. "They do things so differently here than back home. I'm from England, and there Christmas is the big deal. There's nothing big like that for New Years."

I'll admit to being a bit boggled - England starts about an hour away from here, how different could it be? You can drive the length of the entire country in less time than it would take to drive the length of Alberta. My flight to London is going to take less time than your average flight to Vancouver. It feels like the whole country should be one little community of happiness, you know? Everyone the same because they all live so close.

Of course, sometimes 'neighbour' means "person I'd most like to see under the ground instead of on it."

It's just little things, really. The different ways of celebrating holidays, different bank notes, different accents. My Scottish notes are carefully scrutinized in Wales, but English notes are fine up here. The accents are different, in ways I'm just now beginning to hear. Word choices that are "English" now sound off to my ear, since I'm so used to hearing things in "Scottish".

I don't know where I got the idea that everyone here would be one big harmonious melting pot of sameness. It's not like seeing Toronto is anything like seeing Edmonton. I think we get these ideas when we think about different countries, different continents. We use them for shorthand in movies, in books, in stories. European = Cultured (and I keep forgetting that living in Scotland, I'm living in Europe). British = Stodgy. Scottish = Earthy. American = Brash. Canadian = Dull, but Nice.

It's just easier, isn't it? We can picture places in our head, people them with stereotypes, and tell ourselves from that if we'd like them, hate them, feel indifferent. "Oh, I don't want to go to France, all Frenchmen are unwashed and rude."

I'm rewriting the stereotypes in my head, trying to fit things in differently. I'm glad I get the chance to - not too long ago I was sitting at home wondering, thinking, dreaming, but not planning or doing anything about it.

Hogmany in Edinburgh. This is the place to do it, isn't it?

December 15, 2005


Going to London on the 29th for the day.

Still not quite sure what I'm going to do with myself. My coworkers keep giving me ideas. I keep saying "I'll just look around in awe lots, then go home."

I missed the *really* cheap fares home because I put off booking the ticket too long. Oh well, I got the super cheap fare there, and a good cheap fare back. As long as you don't factor in the taxes. The actual cost of the tickets return is 20 pounds. Not bad for an adventure, all things considered.

In related news, I just received my bright shiney new credit card.

London won't know what hit it.

December 14, 2005

Christmas Shocked

That's it, I surrender. I completely surrender, I am totally culture shocked. I'm going to sit in a corner and gibber now.

It's all because I wanted to make something nice for people. I've been doing a flurry of baking: bread, cookies, crepes, multiple pies, truffles, apple butter, whatever struck my fancy. I even made the infamous egg nog (which tastes surprisingly good, after you add nutmeg). But, buying things for baking has been a bigger hassle than you can imagine. I tracked down chocolate chips (finally), managed to get some good spices, and even found someone who will sneak off to the Big Big Store On the Outskirts of Town and buy me a big bag of flour.

But no molasses. Which makes it hard to make gingerbread cookies. Really really hard. Silly me, I had the cunning idea of just asking someone where it was, incase I'd forgotten how molasses looked or something.

"What's molasses?"

I really thought they were joking. They weren't.

So, after that brief breakdown in the store ("How do you not have molasses? And chocolate chips in big bags? And big bags of flour? God, why am I living in the land where no one bakes?" - all said in my head), I picked up what I cound find (why can I find pineapple flavoured cottage cheese, but cream cheese is a problem?) and went home to do some baking. The truffles, by the way, were a big hit, as were the giraffe shaped cookies.

The big batch of culture shock came later, though. Myles and I were walking home, and for some reason the subject of candy canes came up.

"What's a Candy Cane?" he said, all innocent like.

"You're kidding."

"No, I'm not kidding. What's a candy cane?"

"I-- I-- I----"

I spent the better part of a 30 minute bus ride trying to explain this to him, occasionally saying "What do you mean, you don't have candy canes?" in a slightly more histerical tone each time.

I started adding things up in my head: I hadn't seen candy canes in the stores. I hadn't heard any Christmas music. None of the apartments in the area are tackily decked out with Christmas lights. There's no snow.

I think Scotland cancelled Christmas.

This is about the point in my mental breakdown that I go wander into the kitchen and have another rum ball.

ETA: By the way, a nice lady on the bus earlier this week assured me that molasses is treacle, but since I'm now in a state of horrified culture shock, I'm not sure this can help.

December 12, 2005

London Calling

So, it's like this:

I'm free as a lark for the two weeks that the school is closed, and although I have plans for part of that (being that Christmas and Hogmanay are in the middle), I've got nutin' for the rest of the time. Even my usual gaming is on haitus until January, which leaves me with a hunk of spare time. And as we all know, I handle boredom about as well as your average four year old.

So, I was fooling around on the net, checking cheap air fares, and I found amazingly cheap flights to London. Cheaper than cheap. I would spend more money on caffeine for the flight cheap.

I got to thinking: Why not go to London for a couple of days of the holiday?

I did come up with several reasons not to, of course. I have friends coming across in March that want to go to London, and I was kinda saving it for when the get here. I should really be saving up my pennies for my get-away trip in January. I might have a miserable time. I don't know, there are always reason. I'm good that.

So, I leave it up to you. Should I go to London? And if I do... what should I do there? I mean, will going to see Big Ben by myself mean I won't enjoy it when my friends come over? Should I avoid the Crown Jewels at all costs? What are some funky and fun things that either you've done in London, or would love to do? I open my planning to you.

Should Anna go to London for 2 days at the end of December?
Only if the tickets there and back really are 2 pounds plus taxes
Ticky boxes


Free polls from Pollhost.com

December 11, 2005

Food, Glorious Food

My favorite part about China was the food. Oh my, the food... it is indescribably good. (I think what my least favorite part about the UK is also the food, but we'll leave that for another day.) I would go out to restaurants and just randomly point at things, and everything they brought me was good. (Although eventually one of the places translated part of their menu into English for me, which I thought was very nice, and prevented me from eating anymore pigs ear by accident.)

But it's not just the food that's different, it's the way people eat. I wouldn't be an oddity just for going out as a big white girl in China. I'd be an oddity because, more often than not, I'd be eating alone. Usually, groups go out to restaurants. Big groups. Fun groups. Loud and boisterous, with the round-a-bout on the table so everyone could try all the dishes without reaching over and passing things. Food was an experience to be shared, laughed at, talked through, enjoyed. It was such a social occasion that meals could last for hours, and it was marvelous.

I remember taking some of my students out for a meal and getting put in one the back rooms. These students, usually so quiet, came to life that day. We laughed and talked for hours... probably far longer than I should have had them out, but they were advanced students, and it was fun. We had so much tea that I thought I would vibrate on the way home, and they delighted in trying to tell me what things were in English. We ate and ate, and then ate some more.

But the best meal memory is my last night in China. I'd been getting very down the last few weeks, and finally started to perk up again in Shanghai. Through those sorts of connections that just happen when you're staying in hostels, I hooked up with two guys from the UK, a couple from Australia, a man from Finland, and a girl from the US. As a group, we did all sorts of things - got drunk and stayed up till the wee hours of the morning, sitting on the bund and singing folk songs while Chinese people did tai chi, going out shopping through Nanjing Don Lu, and then we went out and had one of those loud, boisterious, never-ending meals.

I remember it so well... the food, the laughing, the comparing stories, the talking... it was the first time I really felt that sense of belonging while I was there. We were all there as expats, all there having fun, and all there to enjoy ourselves.

That's the part I hold with me. I remember all the group meals I had like that fondly, and when I think back on China, I remember that feeling of being part of something fun and full of life.

Escher Paintings: Now in 3-D

I think Scotland is full of Escher paintings brought to life.

Right now, I'm working at a University, and the exact campus I'm on used to be a Sanatarium for very rich people. It's beautiful... when I finally get committed, I'd like to get committed someplace where I can see both the castle and Arthur's Seat from my crazy window.

But, as one of the profs said: It makes a lovely Sanatarium. It makes a lousy place to teach.

The other day, I was trying to get from the place I was working at to the office of the Principal. Fiona even drew me a map, because it's actually that complicated. Armed with my map and a lengthy set of directions, I set off.

Now, I'm trying to get to the fourth floor. There are apparently multiple fourth floors in the main building, or so I assume being that I found an elevator (not to be confused with either of the later elevators that come into this story) and pushed "4", thinking Fiona was being a bit obsessive giving me such detailed directions. Then, of course, I got to the fourth floor... and there was only one room on it, and I had to go up a series of stairs to get to it, and above that room was the sixth floor.

So I went back down to the third floor, kinda, and walked along the hallway until I found a sign to an entirely different fourth floor, with different rooms in it, and followed those. I passed another elevator, and then looked out the window and noticed I was below ground.

I climbed up to the top of the stairs and somehow ended up in another fourth floor that seemed higher than the previous one, and at the end of a very long hallway (how big is this place, anyway?) I found the office I was looking for, grabbed the five pieces of paper I was sent for, and tried to find my way back.

This may have been more effective if I had left a trail of breadcrumbs or rocks or written little arrows on the floorboards with lipstick or something.

I went down hallways completely different than the ones that I went up, went down some stairs to end up higher than I was before, and eventually ended up outside, but at a completely different place than I had entered the building.

At least I knew where my office was from there.

I headed back up, and assured myself that, in fact, I had not been gone for a year and a day, and everyone still knew who I was, and I was not abducted by fairies for fun.

Pauline says it's that way to prevent people from escaping (that is, the committed people, not the students, although your opinion may differ).

You and I of course know the truth: It's because Scotland was founded by the Little People, and they're all about trickery. For all I know, I could go back tomorrow and it would be completely different.

I would just chalk it up to being a quirk of the campus I was on, but there are so many other buildings in Edinburgh just like that. You can't get a map of the building I was in, and I can't imagine a map of Teviot, which is a similiar building (with turrets!) at the University of Edinburgh.

I'm telling ya... they're just different here.

PS: I just burned myself on chocolate chips. Good news: I finally found chocolate chips! Bad news: It really hurts! Oh well. Chocolate chip cookies for everyone!

December 10, 2005

A Random Collection of Reflections on the UK

I had this discussion the other day, which completely confused me:

Alison: So we sent him to bed without any tea.
Me: When you say tea... do you mean like supper?
Alison: Yes, it's that meal in the evening... Breakfast, lunch, and tea.
Me: Uh-huh...
Pauline: Don't worry, Anna, it's a very English thing. The Scottish don't say that.

Which was ironically followed later in the day by hearing two boys with very thick Scottish accents talking about how they don't need their tea that night, so who cares if their parents are mad at them.

Sometimes I think Scottish people just blame every odd thing on the English to confuse me.

I learned this week that someone being "on the pull" is sorta, but not really, like being on the prowl. (There I go, defining slang with different slang again. I teach English gud.) It seems to have differen conotations depending, but refers to someone going out clubbing with the intention of a one-night stand. I think. Slang is a tricky thing, after all.

Unrelated to that, I'm confuddled at grocery shopping in the UK. I suppose it's a big cultural difference, but when I think "spaghetti", I do not think "ethnic food". So I'm forever going around in circles in the grocery stores here trying to find it. On the other hand, their "ethnic food" section seems to be much broader than the one at the store back home.

I'd kill for a good egg nog right now. Since they apparently don't do that here (unless I want to go to Starbucks, which I don't, because of the whole HaidaBucks mess), I have decided to make my own. If I never update my blog again, it's because I died of food-poisoning. And it's all Scotland's fault.

And I finally found chocolate chips and a place with a decent selection of flours. (I had a conversation once that went like this: Me: Do you carry any speciality flours? Clerk: Do you mean ones that come in vases or ones that come in pots? Me: I think I'm in the wrong place.) I still can't find a bag larger than 2 kilos, but I've contented myself with the idea that if I did, I'd have to carry a bag that's larger than 2 kilos, and that might be problematic.

(And every day I ask myself: why do I live in the land where no one cooks?)

Today I spent some time on the phone with a call center in Ireland. I must move to Ireland next... the accents are just lovely.

In an effort to remind myself that it was the afternoon, and not late evening, and I should enjoy my time spent at home today, I opened my window wide and took in the glorious rain. It still looked like evening. Ah well. I still got lots of baking done.

And to end this on a completely random note: Did you know that the " and the @ keys are reversed here from back in North America? It throws me when I get home to my laptop, and it usually takes me a few hours to go back to the "proper" way of typing.

December 9, 2005


First, if for some reason you thought I was clever and had sorted out the Expat Carnival yesterday, you were wrong... I got my dates way mixed up, and it *is* at Sheepdip this week, as the below entry now points. Sorry for any confusion, and a hattip to the wonderful Phil for getting things sorted with a nifty topic. Yay!

But, enough about that.

I am counting down with excitement to this year's Hogmany celebration. My street party passes (for my and my lovely date) arrived a few days ago, along with "wollen hats" or "beanies" or "bonnets" or whatever they call toques in this country. They're very tacky either way, and I love mine to pieces. I'm wearing it right now, as I type this, in solidarity with my snow-bound friends back in Edmonton. And I'll be nice and not mention that the grass is still a vivid green here.

I'm really excited about it, in this way that is viewed mostly with bemusement amongst my friends here. Most of them have no interest, haven't been in years, if they've been at all. They don't see why a huge celebration in Edinburgh would be of any interest to me. What they don't understand is that I'm all excited about being able to do something in December without it being a deep freeze.

Plus, you know, I haven't done anything for New Years Eve in years. Last year, I worked. The year before, I was in China. Year before that, I worked. Year before that, I spent it in a gaming store playing a minitures game. Year before that, I worked. And probably worked the year before that, too. So, being able to go out and party and listen to loud music and be crazy, followed by a huge fireworks display? Oh yeah, I'm there.

Somewhere over the past week I've agreed to go do a polar dip on January 1st. (This is being arranged by my lovely date.) I don't quite know what I was thinking, but I guess I'm jumping into the Firth of Forth. I haven't quite figured out what a firth is (they tell me it's an estuary, but who believes that?), let alone what a Forth is, but I'm sure someone will tell me. Plus, I'm jumping into it, which will be fun. I hope.

I think I'm trying to cram a lot into that time period, so if anyone else in Scotland has suggestions on what I can do between December 27th and January 4th to make sure I don't spend time moping about not going back to Edmonton for the Wake, that would be great. I'm determined to have a very good, very big time.

(For people thinking they are unaware of some strange Canadian holiday, you aren't. The Wake is a party held every year on January 1st at my friend Raven's place. It's to put the old year to rest, and it's a lot of fun. There is much yummy food, many good friends, and lots of antics, none of which sound nearly as interesting when you describe them, so I won't. Trust me, it's the most fun you can have sober, and probably a lot more fun than things I've done drunk.)

As for the whole Christmas-y thing, I still haven't heard any carols or songs being played in the stores. Well, that's not entirely true. When I was buying stamps, I did hear that stupid "Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time" song briefly, but then it went away, and I was happy. I'm apparently going into all the wrong stores (or all the right ones, depending on your point of view), and even last night when I popped into a tacky touristy Scottish shop, they were playing "Brown Girl In the Rain". Not very Christmas-y at all. As it stands, I think I heard more Christmas music in China.

Oh well, I'm making up for it with lots of Christmas baking.

And, my last thought about Christmas and/or Hogmanay today is that I must get back to the German Market soon. I finally found a use for Vanilla Sugar, and now I have to go buy some. Because that's the way it works, right? You see something nifty you want, so you come up with a reason to purchase it, right?

Carnival 6 at Sheepdip!

Carnival 6 is over at Sheepdip this week!

Note: Any expat can contribute a post and get linked. Don't feel obligated to respond to every Carnival! But, the more repsonses, the funner it will be!

Note 2: We are now listed on Blog Carnival, specifically here.

December 6, 2005


I was planning some post about the differences between December in Edmonton and December in Edinburgh, but I got distracted by the colourful umbrellas.

And that's the thing... in Edmonton, umbrellas as a whole are dull and black and drab. Here, a dull umbrella is unusual. Yesterday, waiting for the bus, I was passed by bright blues, a fuschia one, and one that was clear with raindrops on the plastic. My chicken umbrella does not stand out here.

The one I covet, though, is the one I saw a little kid with the other day. It's a froggie one where the eyes pop up on the top. Oh, I want... too bad it's morally wrong to rob small children of things, because I haven't seen one to buy yet.

Not that I don't love my chicken umbrella. It has a special power, you see. If I remember to bring it, it doesn't rain. The days I don't have it? Pouring down in buckets.

December 5, 2005


Today is SinterKlaas, which is a Dutch holiday that I had never heard of previous to last year. This year I was gently informed I was celebrating it by having chocolate letters expressed mailed to me so they'd get here in time for the holiday. I love my friends, they're the most fun.

So, as I said, it's a Dutch holiday, and people keep trying to explain it to me as something other than "an excuse to eat chocolate letters", and this is what I've gotten out of it:

Every year, on the last of the spice ships, SinterKlaas and his friend, Black Peter, come to the Netherlands. There, they go from house to house, looking for bad children. The good children they leave this yummy cookie (which I couldn't get at the German market, but I got the other type of cookie instead) called "Peeping Newton". (That's how I say it. I'm not Dutch, I don't know what it is. Peeping Newtons.) The bad children are stuffed into Black Peter's sack, and taken far far away to be turned into the next year's batch of Peeping Newton.

It is such a disturbing little story, I can't tell you how much I enjoy it. I demand to be told it again and again and again. There's something about the idea of little wooden shoed children being turned into cookies that appeals to my dark sense of humour.

So, Happy SinterKlaas! May you get lots of Peeping Newton, chocolate letters, and specula (the other cookie, which I also don't know how to spell. Maybe it's made out of bad parents?).

Carnival V: Making a List

A short and sweet entry into this week's Carnival of Expats, where we focused on what we did before we left, and how we'd do it differently.

Phil, preparing for Yet Another International Move, advised on what to take with you:

I'm packed up my apartment to relocate from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. It me took 20 minutes. This is my 4th move overseas and I've got it down to fine art. There is only one tip to know.



Whereas I talk about how incredibly unorganized I was when leaving the country, both times. And how *this time* I'll be better prepared. Honest.

La la la, everything is fine, I'll just get my passport sorted out. La la la, I really should spend more time planning this. La la la, oh my, I just accepted a job in China and have two weeks to get everything sorted out.

*insert blind panic here*

{Anna Overseas}

And Don talks about not having enough time to have sorted everyting out, despite having planned to move for months before buying his ticket.

If I had to name a few key points which I would have wanted to do differently it would have been time, better arranging of details like bills, more time, and yet more time.

{Ponderings from Afar}

Thanks to everyone who particpated this week! I'd like to remind everyone that next week, Phil takes over hosting for the next month over at Sheepdip, but the main blog over at Carnival of Expats will continue to be updated with the topics and the results.

Have a great week!

December 4, 2005

Let Me Pet Your Hen, Luv

I think I would smack any Canadian who called me 'hen'. But I find it amusing when British people do it.

"Hey, hen, how's it going?" I get greeted on the bus every weekday morning by Myles, a friend of mine who is currently sharing my bus ride to work.

"Is there anything else I can get you, luv?" asks the nice man with the East Indian accent at the newstand where I get my daily dose of caffeine.

"Watch where you're going, pet!" I'm reminded on a regular basis, as I tend to walk into things when reading and walking down the street at the same time. It's said with bemusement, so I keep forgetting to stop doing it.

For a while I thought this was amusing, because of course no one says anything of the sort in Canada. Then I noticed I was writing things like "dear", "sweetheart", and "sweetness" in various emails to people, and stopped being so smug about it.

It just *sounds* different. So quaint and wonderful and British. There's nothing terribly Canadian about calling someone "dear", but if you call them "pet", you're easily identifiable as from the UK.

Before, During, After

I hate planning. Hate. *hate* But then, when I make plans, I hate for them to be changed. Really hate.

So, the whole idea of going overseas was thought about a lot, plotted a lot, but not really planned. It was more organic than that. Thus, it was much less organized than it should have been.

The first adventure went something like this:

La la la, everything is fine, I'll just get my passport sorted out. La la la, I really should spend more time planning this. La la la, oh my, I just accepted a job in China and have two weeks to get everything sorted out.

*insert blind panic here*

So, I left Edmonton at midnight on the Absolute Longest Bus Ride You Can Take to Calgary, which is where the nearest Chinese consulate was, paid them a huge sum of money to give me a Visa, then hopped the express back and worked that evening. I ran around like crazy trying to get Kris' name on the paperwork with the apartment so that there wouldn't be any issues with him paying the rent. I stressed out over getting his name on the bank account so he could have cheques with which to pay that rent, as for some reason he didn't have a bank account. I then sprung a sudden ending on both games I was running at the time (to no one's satisfaction, but damn, I was leaving the country!), said the most frustrating and hurried good-byes to everyone, and got very worked up on the plane because I had lied to most of the people in my life about when I'd be coming back. "Six months!" I had said, cheerfully, after deciding I wouldn't be back for a year.

(I left after nine months. I lasted three after Paul left, but by that point I just couldn't handle living in Jiangyan anymore. Luckily, I spent a long weekend in Shanghai, and that cleared my head enough to speak very positively about my experiences in China, but that last month I was there was horrible.)

Somewhere in there I think I might have paid most of my bills. Maybe.

You'd think, having done it all before and had plenty of time for regrets, I'd be able to do it all again with a bit more clear thinking, but no, not really.

Me Before Going to Scotland:

La la la, I like the idea of living in the UK, I bet it's lots of fun. La la la, I should get a Visa worked out. La la la, I wonder how expensive it is to live there, and how hard it will be to find a job. Oh, look a seat sale on flights to Glasgow... Now I have two weeks before I leave again.

*blind panic*

I had things a little bit better planned this time. There was nothing to wrap up, and I contacted the people I wanted to see and say good-bye to well enough in advance that there was a Firefly marathon (of sorts) and much eating of bread. I spent time with people, said good-bye, and did less fretting. On the other hand, I also left a huge mess for other people to deal with, and had a panic attack about my poor cat when I was on the way to the airport and suddenly didn't have enough money to pay for his cat carrier. (I have always been, and continue to be, blessed in my friends.) I actually got to spend time with my parents and friends in BC this time, which probably contributed to my being much calmer on the flight to Glasgow than I was on the one to Tokyo.

So, if I were to do it all again (or being asked by someone else how to do it all), I'd really suggest this:

1. Make a list.
Check it twice.
And again, because you probably forgot something.

Make it as anal-retentive as you can, because near the end you'll be incapable of thinking about what the next step is. I packed my bags in the wee hours of the morning, in the middle of my friend's living room, and ended up in Victoria leaving a bunch of stuff behind and having to buy more things.

2. Go over this list carefully, and figure out what you can ask other people to do. Also, figure out what you can do well in advance. I got my Working Holiday Visa for Scotland sorted out a few weeks before I needed it, because I could. It made getting the plane ticket much easier. (Which, of course, led to the blind panic.)

3. Say good-bye to your friends in a way that's meaningful to you. I don't hear as much as I may wish from people in Edmonton (which is not a complaint - I'd hear from everyone I care about daily in the alternate universe where things run according to my whims, so don't worry about it), but I cherish the memories of that party, and of going out for ice cream with everyone, and the trip to the Muttart. I don't feel cheated at all, and I hope they don't, either. Life is busy, and although people are likely thinking of you, that doesn't always translate into emails, postcards, or letters.

4. Make certain you've got some time to relax. Breakdowns on airplanes because you haven't slept in 36 hours and you just realized that you forgot to get someone's address are horrible. For all that you've got a lot to do in a limited amount of time, no one is going to die because you didn't do something.

5. Check over that list again. Did you remember any vacinations? You'll need to set up that appointment *well* in advance. Do you need a visa? Unlike Megatokyo, I doubt you can play a game of Mortal Kombat to get into the country.

The actual mechanics of getting into the country are easy enough to find, and I recommend you take a very good look at them from the moment you start thinking about the idea until you get on the plane. They vary, they change (the fact that I can only work in the UK for 12 months instead of 24 changed when I was still thinking of getting my visa, and boy am I ever bitter), and they are incredibly important.

6. Find other people who have done it, and talk to them.

I wish I had done this *before* going to China. I had chatted with Scarecrow a bit about Japan, but it was a lot different.

So, yeah, here I am, running up to my move to Australia. (Running up makes it sound like it's soon. September is my projected leave date, but we'll see what happens. I'm fickle, and there's this whole teaching-gig to consider.) I'm predicting two weeks of blind panic, no matter how much useful advice I can give or get before then.

The Future!

I've been quiet the last few days because I've been contemplating my future, which sounds far more melodramatic than it actually is.

I would like to thank everyone who contacted me with advice about it, though. It's been very kind, and I do appreciate it. I didn't quite mean the post about having too many choices (again!) to be quite as ... hmm... I guess I'll stick with melodramatic as it was. (It did, however, lead to a phone call from Edmonton. Dear Person Who Called Me From Edmonton Giving Me A Hard Time About Being Melodramatic On My Blog: I love you. Call more often. *smile*)

Basically, it's like this: I could teach. I could skip going around the world and being the Wild and Crazy Canadian Chick, take a year long post-graduate degree here, and be in the classroom making gobs and gobs of money in Scotland. I could settle down here and see the rest of the world on vacations. Or, you know, I could take that pretty little post graduate certificate and teach in other places in the world. Or, you know, I could continue on my current plan, get my Masters sorted out in about 5 years, and go on to teach at the University level. Or, you know, I could go back to China and make a happy little career messing up my tones in Mandarin. Or, you know, something else.

I do know I want to end up in the classroom one day. (Somewhere right now, my father has just woken up with an incredibly desire to say "I told you so." He's been pushing me to go into teaching for years, and I've resisted with all of my 12-year-old stuborness.) I plot how I'd teach lessons, force my friends to read long-winded essays about What's Wrong With Classrooms Today, follow the blogs of various university profs with obsessiveness. I know what I want, I just don't know how I want to get there quite yet.

Luckily, despite my initial reading, I realise I have at least until January to figure it out. I thought when I made that post that I only had until December 1st to decide, but since I have no desire to teach elementary school, I have longer. So, I will think about it, and bake many good things, and discuss it way too much over Christmas with Margery, who is teaching right now.

I just wish some days that having Too Many Choices wouldn't so completely paralyse me with indecision. I'd blame my parents, but really, there's two of them, and I'd get confused over if I should blame them both together or individually, and then there'd be that whole cornacopia of choices then again. So, I won't.

December 1, 2005

Carnival of Expats 5!

Carnival of Expats 5 is about to beging!

If you're curious as to what a Carnival of blogging is, check out my rather muddled explanation.

This week's topic: More practical than some in the past, but something I think a lot of people who are planning on being expats themselves would find useful. Tell us about what things you did in terms or preparation before you left to become an expat... and what would you do differently, knowing what you do now.

(I'll admit, it's selfishness on my part: I would have killed for this information when I was planning on going to China.)

I look forward to reading varied responses on Monday!

Note: Any expat can contribute a post and get linked. Don't feel obligated to respond to every Carnival! But, the more repsonses, the funner it will be!

Note 2: A reminder that Phil has graciously agreed to do a month of hosting starting December 16. If you think you're up to a month of hosting in January, let me know!

Note 3: We are now listed on Bog Carnival, specifically here.

Note 4: We have also been invited to list on Word of Blog, but they want a logo, and I cannot draw. Any takers?

You've Got Mail!

I had home-made apple pie for breakfast this morning. I am now determined that the rest of my day will go equally well. (Plus, I am determined to brag: I made excellent apple pie last night, including the piecrust. I am, in fact, amazing. *smile*)

This week and last week have both been very postal-oriented for me. It's been a lot of fun. I signed up for two groups: PostCrossing and Inlingua Penpals, both fun ways of getting postcards from around the world. Postcards make me happy! I've sent out quite a few, and already gotten one back, so all is right in my world.

I also got a Christmas card in the mail from Australia! (Thanks, Jezz!) Which was especially fun because it left Australia on November 28th to arrive here on November 29th. I know, the time difference, but it's not like the card would have teleported! Considering that a postcard I sent a friend from France took over a month and a half to get to Canada....

Speaking of Christmas cards, I got an email from Edmonton telling me that at least one I sent arrived. This probably means I should finish up and mail the rest, but that would require less baking of apple pies and more remembering to write Christmas cards. So, we'll see. It's on the list, and the weekend is coming.

I also got my chocolate letter in the mail this week. My friend Margery (who is coming across for Christmas - yay!) sent a chocolate letter for Sinterklaas, which I still know very little about except that I get chocolate letters. She keeps trying to explain it to me, but I get distracted by "So... cookies?"

I'm very easily distracted by cookies.

Speaking of being distracted, despite apple pie thoughts to the contrary (that was a very yummy pie), I'm still a bit bleary eyed this morning. Topic for the expat carnival will be up once I'm certain I can write it in a complete sentence, without bringing up postcards or pie.

About December 2005

This page contains all entries posted to Anna Overseas in December 2005. They are listed from oldest to newest.

November 2005 is the previous archive.

January 2006 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.