TCK

Exploring Scotland

Edinburgh 1980

I am currently planning a trip to Eastern Scotland. It reminds me of the time I went backpacking in Scotland 40 years ago. I’m sure much has changed and my experience will be different. Here is a look back.

My cousin was studying in London that summer and I managed to talk her brother into going to Scotland with me. I flew in and spent a couple of days with her before her brother arrived. We didn’t really have a plan but just jumped on the next train to Edinburgh. Across from us was a family from Santa Barbara, California. The wife was British but hadn’t been back to the U.K. in 17 years. The man seemed bored to death and kept wanting to talk but didn’t have much to say. He was a carpenter. The guy sitting next to me was from the San Fernando Valley and very serious, no personality or sense of humor. Toward the end of the trip we got lucky and a Scotsman sat down across from me. When he found that we really didn’t know where we were going he started hauling out maps and planned an entire trip for us in the western islands. He told us about good places to go and it was great!  He was a really nice guy. Half the fun of travel is the people you meet.

Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness

From Edinburgh we took the train to Inverness. We couldn’t get into the youth hostel so we ended up in a bed and breakfast. The owner served us tea between 9:30 and 10 pm so we met the other person who was staying there, too. He was a teacher from Hong Kong. He spent his days taking organized tours. The following day we took the bus to Drumnadrochit and walked from there to Urquhart Castle right on the Loch Ness. There wasn’t much left of the castle because it was blown up to keep the Jacobites from staying there (long story). I did not see the Loch Ness monster. Big disappointment (haha).

Back in Inverness, we went to the Old Market Inn Pub and had a few beers. One drunk Scotsman sort of latched on to us. He mainly just wanted to talk – anybody would have done but we were willing to listen. He was interesting for a while giving us some Scottish history and his very strong opinions. After a while somebody got up with a guitar and started singing folk music, which we quite enjoyed.

From Inverness, we took the bus through the mountains past glass still lakes and beautiful forests to Fort William. The youth hostel was at the foot of the highest mountain in the U.K., Ben Nevis (4,400 ft.). A New Zealander latched onto us at the youth hostel, which was a good thing because he had dishes and silverware. We were totally unprepared. I think he was homesick. We ended up taking him into town and waving goodbye at the bus station like he was our son going off to war. Poor guy. We spent a couple of days relaxing and soaking up the beautiful countryside before heading out to the west coast.

Iona Abbey

We were lucky, it rained very little that summer. The only problem we had was on the Isle of Skye. The public transport was rather meager so we were trying to hitchhike but got nowhere and, of course, it started to rain and we got soaked. Back on the mainland, we worked our way down the west coast. We spent several days in Oban and took ferries to Mull and Iona. And finally found our way to Glasgow. I fell in love with Scotland and decided I wanted to go back and tour the upper peninsula on a motorcycle …actually on the back of a motorcycle.

Downtown Chester

On the way back to London, we stopped in the old Roman town of Chester on the Welsh border, and at Stonehenge and Salisbury. It was market day in Salisbury and there were people everywhere, crowding the streets, too many people. I was tired by then. Youth hostels are cheap but you don’t get much sleep. The woman above me had snored all night. Still, I was able to enjoy Salisbury Cathedral, finished in 1258 and an impressive Gothic building. We listened to the music at evensong. By that time, I was exhausted.

We took the boat from Great Yarmouth to the Hook of Holland and a train on to The Hague, the Netherlands. We got off at the wrong station and had to walk forever but finally managed to hook up with my parents and ended up staying in their new, empty apartment.

(excerpt from Expat Alien my global adventures)

This time the plan is to go to Dundee and Aberdeen. Any tips?

Random Friday Thoughts

It’s Friday. Another week slipped by. I found a website that is unfortunately no longer active but it is still accessible. It is called TCK Town Magazine. It has five years’ worth of TCK stories. They are well written and engaging.  And if you are a TCK you will definitely relate. 

It is hard for me to think about being in the middle of a draught when I am surrounded by 10,000 plus lakes but there you have it. We have been in a draught. And now it has rained twice this week. Everybody is very happy. I’m happy because it has cooled down a lot. 

I came across a book called The New Russian Poets 1953-68. My house is full of such things. I usually ignore them but I saw this one and I didn’t ever remember seeing it before so I picked it up just to take a look. I actually found a poem I liked by Yevgeny Vinokurov: 

And In A World 

And in a world, where all is frontier, 
All merely boundary and barrier, 
You are, fathomless infinity, 
At least a consolation. 
…There’s a gleam of blue that shines 
Through a crack in the barn wall – 
Here already is your witness: that 
Not everything is so plain and flat. 

Sitting next to it on the shelf was The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. I had never seen it before either. It looks like something I would enjoy. I’m going to put it aside for a read later. 

Shifting gears… I recently came across a postcard of a tour my family took in Tokyo. My brother told me we were in Tokyo twice and took tours each time. I dug around and found some more Tokyo photos. It is clear we were different ages. He also gave me a pin he had that the tour group gave out. I looked up the JTB company and it is still going strong.

This first group must have been from 1959.

These two photos are from 1962. You can see that it says “Pigeon Bus Tours”. Hato is “pigeon” in Japanese and stands for peace. These bus tours started in 1949, and have been very successful showing close to a million tourists around each year.

Happy Friday.

Birthday Week

Looks like six??

I usually post something on Sundays but yesterday was my birthday so I took the day off. I had a nice lunch with my father and then just lounged around. I took my car in for an oil change this morning and walking home it felt like fall. Crisp and cool. Strange weather for August. I’m sure it will change again. Climate change is very strange.

So my toilet stopped working. Well, it runs constantly which is not good. But whoever designed my bathroom was pretty much nuts. They put this counter top right over the toilet so you can’t access the tank. Plus they put in this pressurized mechanism that is all encased in plastic so you really can’t access it. Not to mention the fact that it is a hideous green color. I’ve had to get somebody to take out the counter top and install a new sink and toilet. So I ordered a new sink and it was too small for the cabinet I have so I am going to have a new cabinet as well. It is kind of snowballing. I tried to find a contractor but I ended up with the building maintenance guy because the contractor I talked to who sounded so positive and gave me so much hope, totally disappeared on me. Why are contractors such elusive characters?

I am completely obsessed and overcome with my upcoming retirement. I am constantly planning what I am going to do “once I retire”. Somehow don’t think it is too healthy. Be here now …. and all that. But there you have it. I’m constantly planning and replanning and rearranging all the trips I want to take. And all the projects I have. “Oh, I can do that once I retire”. “I will have time to clean out that closet once I retire”. Totally nuts. So what do I do instead of cleaning out that closet? I let dust accumulate on everything and lie on my couch watching “Brokenwood Mysteries” on Acorn.

Of course I do have to go to work in the meantime…

Anyway, have a good week! Maybe something cool and interesting will happen. (My constant dream.)

Duluth, Minnesota

Duluth is about a two and a half hour drive north of the Twin Cities. We had hoped it would be cooler up there but on the day we left, the temperature was the same as it was in St Paul — over 90 degrees F. 

Just outside Duluth there is a large rest stop with a spectacular overlook. There is also a sculpture by David von Schlegell done in 1976 called The Gate. Von Schlegell was from St. Louis, Missouri. His father was an American Impressionist painter, William von Schegell. The plaque says: 

The Stainless steel sculpture functions as a metaphor, tying the horizontal lines of the land and Lake Superior, which are both very visible from this location, together at the point of intersection with the City of Duluth. The Gate serves to recognize the importance of Duluth, as not only a gateway to Minnesota’s north shore, but also to the world through the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway that extends 3700 kilometers (2300 miles) east to the Atlantic Ocean.

On the way into town we stopped at the Duluth Grill located a 118 S. 27th Ave. W. The restaurant is open daily from 8 am to 3 pm and serves fresh, local, organic food. Their salads and sandwiches were delicious. Plus they serve breakfast all day.

Our next stop was to check into our hotel right on the lake. We stayed at the Canal Park Lodge at 250 Canal Park Drive. It was very comfortable and the view was spectacular. Breakfast was included. 

The first day I walked along the shore all the way to the lighthouse and back. It was kind of a mistake since it was so hot but I did get to see the bridge go up and got a close up view of the light house.

The Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge was completed in 1905, and was upgraded in 1929. In 1973 it went on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the most photographed sites in Minnesota. In the busy seasons, it averages 26 lifts a day and operates 24 hours a day. It has a clearance of 180 feet when completely raised and is very similar to a bridge in Rouen, France. They are the only two of their kind in the world.

A couple of big ships had just gone out when we arrived but I was lucky enough to see the bridge go up to let the tug boat back in.

Another important bridge is the one that connects Duluth, Minnesota with Superior, Wisconsin. The John A. Blatnik Bridge is 7,975 feet (2,431 m) long and rises up nearly 120 feet (37 m) above the St. Louis River which is a tributary of Lake Superior. The bridge was completed in 1971 but has been widened and strengthened since then.

Week in Review

Happy Bastille Day (yesterday)! The French stormed the Bastille on July 14, 1789. It was the spark that started the French Revolution. Ten years later it ended in a coup with Napoleon at the helm as “First Consul”. They were able to end feudalism, kill their king, come up with the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, draft a new constitution, but in the end they could not agree on how to rule and those in power fought between themselves to the point where the military stepped in. Napoleon went on to conquer most of Europe. Today Bastille Day is celebrated in France and around the world as National Festival Day to symbolize harmony. I find that a little confusing but hey, it’s an excuse to each yummy French food.

I watched the first couple of episodes about Patagonia on CNN this week – “Patagonia: Life on the Edge of the World”. What I have seen so far is animal conservation. They are concentrating on species native to the land who are being threatened by the changing environment and humans in general. It is good to know that there are a lot of people out there doing good things to help our planet. I don’t think we hear enough about those things. It is a six part series. You can learn more about it here.

The new version of Jane Austin’s “Persuasion” just came out on Netflix. It did not get a favorable review in the New York Times so I am a bit mixed about it. I will probably watch it since it is one of my favorites. My favorite version is the one from 1997 with Fiona Shaw, Amanda Root, and Ciaran Hinds.

In the news – arrrgghhh. Seems like so many horrible things are happening right now it is hard to take it in. I lived in Russia during both of the Chechen wars and the one thing I remember vividly was the mass killings of civilians and children. What is happening in Ukraine is nothing new.

I made a pretty good casserole last night. The prep was a bit time consuming but it came out yummy.

Chicken Pesto Casserole

Boil 3 medium russet potatoes for about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Two chicken breasts, cubed (I cut them up and cooked them with some shallots and garlic, basil, tarragon, and a little bit of chili powder)
I made a pesto with about a cup of frozen spinach, half cup of sun dried tomatoes, and a small jar of artichoke hearts. (Whizzed in the food processor)
Then I made a white sauce with salt, pepper, basil, tarragon, a little garlic powder. (2 tbsp. butter, 2 tbsp flour, 2 cups milk.)

I added the pesto into the white sauce to combine.
I peeled and thinly sliced the potatoes.

I greased a pyrex baking dish with avocado oil and placed a layer of potatoes in the bottom. Then covered the potatoes with half the pesto mixture, then all the chicken, then another layer of pesto, and topped it off with a mixture of cheeses (about a cup). I used parmesan and a Mexican mix.

Throw it in the oven at 350 degrees F for about 35 minutes. I made everything but the white sauce the day before.

I’m heading to Duluth and a spot right on Lake Superior next week. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Week in Review

Hastings, MN

Did you see it now costs $200 per day above and beyond the regular expenses of accommodation, transportation, guides to visit Bhutan? Will make for a pricey trip. Although I guess you no longer have to go with a guided tour. It is on my bucket list. Have you been there?

I heard a song on the radio the other day that I really liked. It was by Orville Peck. I think he sounds like a cross between Roy Orbison and Jonny Cash. But some say he is reminiscent of Elvis. Anyway, I bought his second album, Bronco. He has kind of a cowboy theme. Orville Peck is an alias/persona for Daniel Pitout. He is South African but left when he was 15 and moved to London and then to Canada. His voice is amazing. 

My internet is out. I love the way you have to go onto the internet to find out if the internet is out. Luckily my cell service was working so I could go on the internet on my phone to my internet service provider’s website for it to tell me the internet is out. Now I have to wait for them to text me to let me know it is working again. I wonder if I will really actually get a text. (I did!) Life is full of surprises. Actually life was much simpler before the internet. It was one less thing to worry about. When it first appeared, I wondered what anybody would do with it. Why would people need something that just looked things up? I suppose it is like any new thing. Once you get used to it you wonder how you ever lived without it. I look things up every five minutes now. 

A young TCK (third culture kid) has written a book about the trials and tribulations of being a TCT (Third Culture Teen), something she apparently coined. I listened to a podcast of her being interviewed. She is Korean and lived in China and other places and went to college in the USA. Interesting that she mostly went to American Schools when she was growing up and identified with Americans and thought she knew about American culture even though she never lived there but when she actually got to the USA, she was clueless. It sounds like a pretty common problem to me, whether you are Korean or American (TCK). Anyway her book is called The Third Culture Teen, In Between Cultures, In Between Life Stages by Jiwon Lee (on Amazon).

Buh-bye to Boris (Johnson). I will miss his hairdo….

Speaking of music… I watched a good documentary on Amazon Prime about Los Tigres Del Norte. Four brothers left their home in Sinaloa, Mexico after their father was shot in the spine. They could not afford an operation so they needed to earn money for the family. They were playing in restaurants wherever they could and in Mexicali they ran into a man who took them to San Jose, California and introduced them to a record distributor. They seemed to have very good luck as well as being talented. Their style is “norteño” music and their lyrics are about the immigrant, the workers, the down trodden. Later they also wrote about the drug traffickers and the movers of contraband. Their concerts could last for six hours or more. They have released 50 albums and received five Grammy awards. They are still going strong and plan to keep going as long as they are able. They are all naturalized US citizens now.

When I went to San Francisco in May, we walked all through Chinatown and I bought some gifts for my great niece and nephew. I went over to their house last night for dinner and to give them their presents. I was greeted by the four year old boy who was very excited about an episode of the dragon cartoon they were watching. So I enjoyed a couple of episodes of dragon adventures. When I was getting ready to leave he told me he wanted to draw me a picture. This is now displayed on my refrigerator. I think it is quite beautiful.

The Trials of Air Travel

I have been reading lately about all the airline travel problems people are having. Long delays, cancellations, missed events, long lines. It looks pretty bad, but then I read an article today that compared what was happening now to pre-pandemic numbers and they aren’t far off. There have always been travel uncertainties. I was looking through some old writing of mine and found this from 1997. I was living in Moscow, Russia at the time. My two year old child and I were on home leave in Minnesota and we were flying back to Moscow via Amsterdam. Noah is my son, Nicholas my husband who was in Moscow.

“So we got on the plane and at first they said they had to offload some luggage and it would be about 15 minutes. Then they said they couldn’t start one of the engines automatically so they would have to try it manually. Then it didn’t work manually so they would have to fix that. They never knew for sure what the problem was or how long it would take. Noah fell asleep about an hour into it and slept until we got into the air. After they they fixed the engine, the computer program had to be re-entered with the new times so that took a bit longer and then finally we were off, three hours late.

Noah finally fell asleep about an hour before we landed in Amsterdam. I guess I have blocked it out because I don’t remember most of it or how I entertained him but we survived somehow and when we got off, a woman across the aisle said that my child was such a good traveler!! I didn’t know how to respond to that.

Our connecting flight was just leaving when we arrived in Amsterdam so I went to the transit desk and they told me they would have to put me on the next flight out which was the Aeroflot at 12:45 pm. I said I didn’t want to fly Aeroflot and she said she understood completely and I should go talk to the people at the ticket counter. So I went there and they told me that all the flights to Moscow that day eventually connected to Aeroflot so if I wanted to go that day, I didn’t have a choice. They told me I could refuse to go and I assume they would have put me up for the night but then I didn’t know what would happen to my luggage so I decided to just go. the 12:45 flight was fully booked in Tourist Class so they put us in Business Class and as the KLM guy was giving me my ticket he said – Well, at least it is Business Class, whatever that means…. I said I would find out. They also gave me a free three minute phone call to Moscow so I let Nicholas know when to meet us.

There was a couple with two small children also waiting for the flight to Moscow and I found out they had been on my flight out of Minneapolis. It turns out that they were just moving to Moscow and it was their first time. I thought, what an introduction for her… She won’t forget this trip for a while. I gave her my phone number and she promised to call me. The world is small.

Well, Business Class on Aeroflot is a real treat. The only difference between it and Tourist Class is that there is leg room and you get to use the First Class toilet. Tourist Class has six seats across with no leg room, Business Class has six seats across with leg room, and First Class has four seats across with leg room. All the seats are the same size. Noah slept the whole way and I slept through most of it so can’t comment on the service except the beverage choices were Sprite, Coke or mineral water. The landing reminded me of the UTA pilots in Africa. We would dive, then go up, then drop, then dive again. Noah thought it was great fun.

After we landed and arrived at the gate the announcement was made that in fairness to everybody the Tourist Class passengers would exit first and the Business Class and First Class people would remain in their seats until everybody else had exited. We sat there and watched as all the people in Tourist Class filed past us. Unbelievable.

Luckily my bags showed up right away and Nicholas was there waiting.”

I have survived many such sagas. Some worse than others. But it hasn’t stopped me so far…

First World Problems

South Sudan, Photo by Moussa Idrissi on Pexels.com

I have a friend who complains about her life and all its frustrations and then ends with “It’s a first world problem”.

My dermatologist told me to buy a specific type of sunscreen. I had to go to three stores and finally found something that was on the list. A lot of shelves needed re-stocking. It’s a first world problem.

My TV stopped working and I had to do all kinds of research on the internet to find one that had the best reviews. And then it was out of stock. First world problem.

People in the USA take so much for granted. Women fought for a long time to get the freedoms they had and then they became complacent. Or did they? I recently read an article by Mary Pipher – “How I Build a Good Day When I’m Full of Despair at the World”. She is a clinical psychologist and author. In the article she states: As we are pummeled with daily traumatic information, more and more of us shut down emotionally. I can hear the flatness in the newscasters’ voices, see the stress in my friends’ faces and sense it in the tension of the workers at my sister’s nursing home. We are not apathetic; we are overwhelmed. Our symptoms resemble those of combat fatigue.

I know what she means. We are overloaded with information we can’t process. We can’t do anything about. We volunteer, we donate money, we despair. But I never feel like I really accomplish anything or make any kind of significant impact. My despair is for others. My life is ok. I have what I need. I can turn off the news. I can have drinks with friends. I can visit my state parks. I can easily shut it all out.

But it seeps in. They overturn Roe v. Wade. An earthquake in Afghanistan kills 1,000 people. The war in Ukraine rages on. Eighteen people found dead in a truck after being smuggled across the border in Texas. Guns guns guns. The only good thing that happened this week was Cassidy Hutchinson.

The worst thing I saw was a newscast about the famine in Southern Sudan. The people are starving because they are not getting their usual grain from Ukraine. My father always told me there were no food shortages in the world, only politics. He would know since he spent his whole life trying to feed people. So even though Southern Sudan is not part of the “first world”, it really is a first world problem. Or it should be. Why is Ukraine their only source of food? Why should they starve to death because Putin is an idiot?

I always hope that recent events will motivate people to care about what is happening in the world but there are always those who see things differently. Those who do not think women should have a voice. Those who think guns are good for all. Those who don’t want people of color anywhere near them. Is it political too? Lack of education? Greed? Hopelessness?

There a plenty of days when all I do is quote Gertrude….

There ain’t no answer.
There ain’t going to be an answer.
There never has been an answer.
That’s the answer.
Gertrude Stein

And there are days when I hope she is wrong…