The Scottish Saltire

The Scottish Saltire

Friday, January 30, 2009

Progress Report

Oh my gosh. I can't believe it's been a week since I've blogged. The past week has just zoomed by. I'm half way through the CELTA course already. It's been a lot of work so far but very interesting and I'm learning oodles.

We have about three and a half hours of what's called Input each morning. In other words we are students. We are being taught how to teach. We learn about the different types of learners, the most effective ways to teach writing, speaking, reading and listening skills to English language learners and a whole host of other teaching techniques that we will need to make us competent teachers. In the afternoon we teach. Our students know that we are trainees and realize that our instruction won't be perfect but at the same time they are language students and we are expected to actually be productive in our role as teachers when we are at the front of the room. We each teach twice a week and we observe each other teaching on the days when we are not "on". Between lunch and the actual teaching sessions we spend time with one of the program tutors reviewing the lessons that were taught the previous day and preparing for the next day's lessons. On top of all of this we have several hours of work each evening that includes creating our lesson plans and working on written assignments required for successful completion of the CELTA course.

At the half way point I'd saying I'm doing nicely. I feel good about what I'm expected to be able to do after 2 weeks in the program. I actually got an Above the Standard grade for the grammar lesson I taught to a class of advanced learners on Wednesday. A grade of Above the Standard is a pretty big deal in our little microcosm of a world. And on a grammar lesson, to boot! The monster in the closet for all of us.

On that note, I need to get back to work.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Scotland's Bard

Tomorrow is the 250th anniversary of the birth of Scotland's favorite son. Robert Burns was a poet and a lyricist.

'Rabbie' Burns wrote in his native Scots but he also wrote in English. It was in English that he wrote some of his most biting social and political commentary.

The 19th-century scholar and educationalist J S Blackie summed up Burns's importance to Scotland and the Scots with the words:

'When Scotland forgets Burns, then history will forget Scotland.'

You may think you don't know who he is but I'll bet you've sung one of his songs many times in your life. He is widely credited for the version of Auld Lang Syne that we sing each year.

Here are the words (with a translation at the end) so you can sing out next year while everyone else sort of mumbles through it!

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!

And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp,
And surely I'll be mine,
And we'll tak a cup o kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou'd the gowans fine,
But we've wander'd monie a weary fit,
Sin auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl'd in the burn
Frae morning sun till dine,
But seas between us braid hae roar'd
Sin auld lang syne.

And there's a hand my trusty fiere,
And gie's a hand o thine,
And we'll tak a right guid-willie waught,
For auld lang syne


auld lang syne - times gone by
be - pay for
braes - hills
braid - broad
burn - stream
dine - dinner time
fiere - friend
fit - foot
gowans - daisies
guid-willie waught - goodwill drink
monie - many
morning sun - noon
paidl't - paddled
pint-stowp - pint tankard
pou'd - pulled
twa - two

And then there was also his famous...

Address To A Haggis

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the pudding-race!
Aboon them a' yet tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o'a grace
As lang's my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin was help to mend a mill
In time o'need,
While thro' your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An' cut you up wi' ready sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin', rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an' strive:
Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Bethankit! hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad make her spew
Wi' perfect sconner,
Looks down wi' sneering, scornfu' view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckles as wither'd rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash;
His nieve a nit;
Thro' blody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll mak it whissle;
An' legs an' arms, an' hands will sned,
Like taps o' trissle.

Ye Pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o' fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu' prayer
Gie her a haggis!

Here's to you Rabbie!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

No Time, No Time

I'm in Berlin doing the CELTA teacher training course. It's really intensive but fun. We have classes all day and then about 4 hours each evening of prep for the next day. We started teaching actual students on the second day. Today is our 4th day and I'm teaching a lesson today on phrases that one would use to describe a community. Things like crime rate, cosmopolitan, good infrastructure, pollution, nightlife.

So there won't be much time to blog for a few weeks. I'll try not to let my blog sit completely dormant but there probably won't be much activity here until I finish the course on the 13th of Feb.

Friday, January 9, 2009

This is Lucy!!

Thanks to Bert for this...

A (eucalyptus scented) Blast From The Past

One of the many nice things about being back in Germany is that it allows me to reach back and touch a few things that have, for so long, been only memories.
The first time I was here, Nena introduced me to the Miesenbacher Sauna, which was just up the street from where we lived as neighbors. It was a cozy little neighborhoody place run by a very nice couple named Peter and Doris Clemens. In addition to the sauna with lockers and showers there was a steam room, a pool, sunbeds, a cozy little breakroom with things to eat and drink, massage, a private patio and even a quiet room where you could just curl up and nap. Everything was done in the buff, except the breakroom and napping. Nena and I became once a week regulars at our neighborhood sauna (I don't think we ever saw any other Americans there). It was so relaxing and especially wonderful on cold winter evenings. Peter and Doris were very friendly and knew all the regulars by name. Over the years Nena and I have lamented the loss of our 'sauna evenings'.

Yesterday Nikki and I packed our towels and shower shoes and hopped on the train for another little excursion down memory lane. She had heard about the sauna for so many years as a kid and was looking forward to actually experiencing it for herself. I wondered if it would be the same and if Peter or Doris would remember Nena and me from 20 years ago.

It was the same and Peter did remember us! He said he recognised my voice first and then commented that I didn't wear glasses back then (as I do now). He remembered "Nena's pretty brown eyes". I guess when you work around a bunch of naked people every day you learn to concentrate on faces. I introduced Nikki and we talked with Peter for a bit more before I showed her around. Then it was time to get naked and just relax. We spent about 5 hours there. We got massages. We went from the hot sauna to the back yard (in the snow!), back to the sauna, to the cold water bath, to the breakroom, to the foot soaking chairs, to the sunbeds, back to the breakroom... We chatted with the other ladies in the sauna and in the breakroom. We talked with Peter a lot throughout the evening, too. It was like I'd only been gone a few months instead of 15 years. Sadly, the ping pong table is gone from the patio (I remember a few wicked games of naked ping pong with Nena) but so much is just like it was before. Going to the sauna has always been one of my fondest memories of day to day life in Germany and it was wonderful to be able to bring that memory to life again. The only thing missing was Nena.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Grandpa Bill

...that's what my kids called him.

Bill Moran married their grandmother in 1981. Michael was 15 months old and the girls were 3 months old. Bill may not have been their natural grandfather but he was Grandpa, just the same. Not just to my kids but to all of Ruth's 16 grandchildren, most of whom weren't even born before Bill and Ruth got married. In fact, I had only met my mother-in-law once before Bill came into her life. The second time I met her was when she came to California to help for a week or so when we brought the twins home from the hospital. She and Bill had only been dating for a few months and she glowed like a schoolgirl when she talked about him. She had found love. Three months later, on Valentine's Day, they flew to Las Vegas to get married.

They would have celebrated their 28th wedding anniversary next month but Bill died on Saturday. I can't imagine what Ruth will do now. We certainly can't say that the house and property will be too much for her to keep up by herself. Maybe for any other 77 year old woman but this is Ruth we're talking about (She's like the Bionic Woman except that all her parts are still natural). I can't imagine her living anywhere but there but I can't imagine her there without Bill. They crafted their little piece of paradise together. As I write this, though, it's clear to me what Ruth will do. She'll stay where she is. That's her home. It holds her memories of Bill and their life together.

What do you say when someone you love dies of a heart attack? He went quickly? He was at home? He lived a full life? It's all crap. He shouldn't have died. We loved him. The best thing I can say is that I'm glad we were there for Christmas. And that, as we all were leaving and Bill and I were saying goodbye, I turned back for a second hug and a second "I love you".

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Funny AND Scottish...part II

The video isn't very good but the content is priceless...

Take that, late night hosts who need a script to be funny!

I Almost Peed Myself...

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The End of A Very Eventful Year

2008 was certainly a year of change for me. This time last year I was in the middle of dismantling my life in Tucson, preparing for a roadtrip across the country, spending a few months with family in Pittsburgh and then my big move to Scotland in the fall. Aside from a little cancer scare and surgery in the spring, most of the year went well. My house sold in July, I did some fabulous traveling over the summer and got to know my cousin Paul in Virginia. Unfortunately, my dad's house didn't sell in time to settle the estate before I was to begin school in Sptember at The University of the Highlands and Islands in Inverness. My plan was and still is to use my inheritance to pay for my schooling. But it became clear that my dream of moving to Scotland and starting a degree in Scottish History was not going to happen in 2008 so I got a deferment from UHI and decided to move back to Germany until I could get to Scotland. Lucy and I arrived the first part of October. I love Germany and it's wonderful to be close to Nikki again but I still dream of the day when I touch down in Edinburgh, headed for my new life in the Highlands.

I just got back on Tuesday from Christmas in Colorado. We had a great time. I got to Ruth and Bill's on the 15th and the kids were all suppose to arrive on Saturday the 20th. Michael was the only one who actually made it in as planned, despite the snow storm that hit Seattle. Shauna wasn't so lucky. Her flight on the same day and at the same time, was canceled and she spent the weekend doing the quintessential holiday airport dance going from counter to counter, spending the night in a hotel next to the airport because she was afraid that if she went home she would never make it back, going from counter to counter again the next day, taking a flight to anywhere that would get her out of Seattle, staying in another hotel, and finally making it to Denver on Monday. By the time she arrived in Gypsum that night she was glassy eyed and very happy to see family. Nikki and Bert had arrived the day before from their roadtrip through the Southwest so we were finally all together.

The next week was spent hanging around the house, hiking through the snow, going to Vail and then to the Martins' for Christmas Eve, the Martins coming to Gypsum on Christmas Day and shopping in Glenwood Springs the day before we left. Ruth fed us mountains of food, I did mountains of dishes, we talked economics and politics with Bill and played with the new puppy. Nikki and Bert went showshoeing, and we went to the Glenwood Pool. It's the world's largest naturally heated outdoor swimming pool. The water comes from the underground mineral hot springs and they actually have to cool it down before it reaches the pool. It's a bit nippy when you first walk out of the poolhouse in a swimsuit into temps below freezing and you have to be careful that your bare feet don't slip on the ice as you scamper to the pool. But once you're in! Aaahhh!!!

There were lots of hugs and kisses and a few tears on Sunday. Michael flew back to Seattle, I returned to Germany and Shauna, Nikki and Bert flew to Wisconsin for more Christmasing with Wade, Sarah and the little sisters. And Steve! He wasn't able to join us in Colorado (something about spending Christmas with his own mom...?) but he flew from Michigan to spend this week in Green Bay.

I got a nice surprise on the way home, though. I flew from Denver to Washington D.C. where I had to change planes. When I handed my boarding pass to the gate person in D.C. the scanner beeped. "Oh," said the man, " so you're the lucky one." My reaction was to think, Oh god, what?. "New seat assignment" he said and handed me a new boarding pass. I got bumped up to Business Class! You know, get on the plane and turn left instead of right. OMG! It's like a whole 'nother world. Drinks before take off, a hook for your coat, individual linen tablecloths, appetizer, then salad, then entree, then dessert. I could put my legs straight out in front of me and not touch the next seatback with my toes. When I wanted to sleep my seat back reclined almost all the way down. And I had an adjustable footrest! That was great 'cause you know how my feet don't always reach the floor. This way they didn't have to just dangle, which gets very uncomfortable. There wasn't even anyone sitting next to me so I could put all my crap in the seat instead of trying to shove it under the seat in front of me, which I couldn't reach anyway!

Alas, all good things must end. We landed in Frankfurt...without my bag. It was chillin' in Atlanta. The bad news was that it had all my stuff in it. The good news was that I didn't have to schlepp it home (it was considerably heavier on the way back). The airline delivered it to me last night with everything intact, including the tequila.

As soon as I got home the first thing I had to do was to go pick up Lucy. When I got her home I could see the change in her. She's lost weight since I left and she's even more unsteady on her feet than before. She ate a bit of dry foot at first but then nothing. She was interested in my food though so I coaxed her with some canned kitty food. She liked that. I'm not sure what's going to happen. I hate to think that we may be getting near the end. I don't know. Maybe I'm just being melodramatic.

Anyway, I hope this new year brings you all health and much happiness.