Saturday, August 14, 2010


15,645 words

28 illustrations

95 pages

in other words...

The dissertation is finished!

I don't think it has hit me yet (the brain still feels numb today), but I'm pretty sure it will one of these days.

To make up for slacking off from blogging these last few weeks, I wanted to post some pictures and videos from our latest adventures. Steve flew back to the States a few days ago, but we definitely made the most of the last week we had together in Scotland. We managed to cross just about everything off our to-do list before he left, which included the following:

#1 - Eat Haggis

Awww....the haggis. I promise we took pictures to document the event for future posterity, but unfortunately, they are on Steve's camera in the U.S. so I had to pull this picture off the internet. Steve's plate looked basically the same, only his haggis came in a tower - haggis on top with the neeps (turnips) and tatties (mashed potatoes) below. I have to say, despite knowing what is in haggis, it's actually pretty good. Tastes like chicken! Haha - not even close. More like ground beef, with some extra zest.

#2 - Visit Mary King's Close

What is a close, you ask? They are all the narrow streets that run perpendicular to the High Street. Back in the day they were small, steep, overcrowded, and basically wretched. I'm glad we live in Edinburgh in the 21st century rather than the 17th. Yikes. Mary King's Close is the most famous of the closes and it's a tour of "Underground Edinburgh" - the street and buildings are literally underground as newer buildings continued to be stacked on top of one another over the last couple centuries. The tour was really cool, but unfortunately you can't take pictures. The picture above is courtesy of the gift shop. We thought they were pretty funny. Even gingerbread men look good in kilts.

#3 - Attend the Highland Games

Aren't they adorable? It was really fun to watch all the dancers, but the wee ones are especially cute. They're getting ready to start the Sword dance.

Live musicians accompany the dancers here in Scotland. I think I experienced that only one time in four years of competition. These guys were as fun to watch as the dancers.

Sitting in the stands listening to the pipe bands compete.

Welcome to the heavyweight competition. Check out those crazy boots. I suppose I, too, would want some assistance to remain grounded if I was chucking a hammer around with ridiculous amounts of force.

They saved the best for last - the caber toss! This poor guy could never get the caber to flip all the way over. He came really close a couple times and even though it didn't work out for him I still thought it was pretty cool to watch a man run across a field balancing what is basically a gigantic tree trunk and then throw it as hard as he can. It's slightly nerve-wracking though when these guys are running toward you with the caber - that thing is huge and it looks like it will smash you if the guy holding it doesn't throw it soon enough.

#4 - Climb Arthur's Seat

A view from the top of Arthur's Seat. I'm so glad we finally made it. We planned many hikes, but rain always got in the way of those plans.

The secret's out - I've got a massive crush on this kid.

We soaked up the gorgeous views on the way down.

#5 - Attend the Edinburgh Military Tattoo

The show starts with a bang at 9:00 pm. The smoke is from the seven cannons that are fired just before the performance begins. Seeing the torches lit and hearing the canons fire reminded me of how majestic this place can be. For much of the year, it's just a large fortress, but during the Military Tattoo, it's a spectacular castle.

The pipe bands in a saltire

The Citadel Military College representing the U.S.A. They did a lovely job entertaining the crowd, if I do say so myself.

The light displays on the castle were awesome. This is the New Zealand crew - a smashing combination of bagpipes, a marching band, and Maori dancers.

Near the end of the performance with the mass bands coming together for the big finale.

There were some additional things on our to-do list, but all of the above are 100% Scottish events - things that scream Scotland that we wanted to take part in since this has been home for a year. Funny how we did all of it in the last two weeks or so, but the way I look at it, we just saved the best for last.

The Military Tattoo was the best. Can't describe it in words, but it was brilliant. It was the perfect end to this grand Scottish adventure. I've come to discover - particularly as I was sitting in front of Edinburgh castle and reflecting on the last year - that Texan pride has got nothing on Scottish pride. When I got called to serve a mission in San Antonio, a friend of mine who was serving in Texas at the time told me to prepare myself for Texan pride. "It seeps into your blood," she said. And that's true. However, Scottish pride is in the bones. I'm pretty sure I would get sick of "Deep in the Heart of Texas" after hearing it more than twice, but I never get tired of hearing "Highland Cathedral" played on the bagpipes. I've really come to love this place and it was fun to attend the biggest highlight of the international festival that takes over Edinburgh every August.

The fact that my dissertation is finished hasn't hit me yet, but the fact that I'm leaving Scotland in three days certainly has. It's bittersweet, really. I think I'm safe speaking for both Steve and myself when I say that this year has been the best year of our lives. That being said, it's a very strange feeling to know that it will come to an end in a matter of days. Of course we'll have many more fun adventures in Ohio and elsewhere, but this year, in particular, being newlyweds and living in Scotland has been incredible. I remember last year right around this time when my Stake President asked if I had any concerns about getting married. "Well," I said, "to be honest, I'm a little nervous about getting married, moving to a foreign country, and starting graduate school all at the same time. I hope I'm not biting off more than I can chew." He chuckled, paused for a moment, and then told me that everything would turn out okay and to just enjoy it all. And that's just what we've done. Each of those things has turned out way better than okay, and it will always be fun to look back and think of everything we've experienced this year.

And to each of you, many thanks for taking part in this adventure - we're so glad you've come along vicariously (and not-so-vicariously for those of you we got to see over here in person).

We're excited to see where the Ohio chapter takes us.

Pretty sure it's going to be epic.

Here are some videos from the Tattoo for your viewing pleasure: