25 November 2013

Departure Looms

One week from today at this time I'll be in the skies somewhere above the Atlantic Ocean.

I'm still not ready to leave my beloved Netherlands :( 

For the next week I'll be eating nothing but cheese :D

24 November 2013

Getting Tattooed in Edinburgh - Sundays in My City

I am not talking about the ink-on-skin kind of tattoo.  I'm talking about the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.  I urge you to check out some of the youtube videos (I highly recommend this one although we didn't see any pure drumming corps like this super amazingness) of tattoo performances because they're amazing!

I wanted a short history of the tattoo to give you here but Wikipedia gave me so much really interesting information (information that I didn't know before going to the tattoo) that I'm going to share it with you.

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is an annual series of Military tattoos performed by British Armed Forces, Commonwealth and International military bands and display teams on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle in the Scottish capital, Edinburgh.
The word "Tattoo," is derived from "Doe den tap toe", or just "tap toe" ("toe" is pronounced "too"), the Dutch for "Last orders". Translated literally, it means: "close the (beer) tap". The term "Tap-toe" was first encountered by the British Army when stationed in Flanders during the War of the Austrian Succession.
The British adopted the practice and it became a signal, played by a regiment's Corps of Drums or Pipes and Drums each night to tavern owners to turn off the taps of their ale kegs so that the soldiers would retire to their billeted lodgings at a reasonable hour. With the establishment of modern barracks and full Military bands later in the 18th century, the term Tattoo was used to describe not only the last duty call of the day, but also a ceremonial form of evening entertainment performed by Military musicians.
Although the first Tattoo in Edinburgh, entitled "Something About a Soldier", took place at the Ross Bandstand at Princes Street Gardens in 1949, the first official Edinburgh Military Tattoo began in 1950 with just eight items in the programme. It drew some 6000 spectators seated in simple bench and scaffold structures around the north, south and east sides of the Edinburgh Castle esplanade. In 1952, the capacity of the stands was increased to accommodate a nightly audience of 7700, allowing 160,000 to watch live performances each year.
Now, on average, just over 217,000 people see the Tattoo live on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle each year, and it has sold out in advance for the last decade. 30% of the audience are from Scotland and 35% from the rest of the United Kingdom. The remaining 35% of the audience consists of 70,000 visitors from overseas.

Words simply can't do justice and the pictures don't either but here are just a few from the show we saw. The theme of this year's show was The 4 Seasons and different Corps told stories from their home country related to that theme.
My sister, brother and me at the Castle grounds before the show.

A light show on the castle walls helps tell the story.

Be it tattoos or drums or drumming while getting tattooed there's always adventure to be found over at Unknown Mami.

Unknown Mami

17 November 2013

Exploring the World - Sundays in My City

I'm back from Ghana!  I took a bunch of random stuff to give away as gifts (visitors bringing gifts (a gift can be something so small as a bar of soap or a loaf of bread) is part of the Ghanaian culture).  Some of the things were Dutch t-shirts or tea, some were used shoes and clothes and some were trinkets bought at one of those "everything here is cheap" stores.  One of the trinkets I bought was a little globe/pencil sharpener.  I gave it to the family with whom I lived while I did my 9-week training.  They could find Africa but that's as far as their geography took them.  They couldn't find Ghana. The kids played with it for a minute or two but the adults spent quite a while reading off different places. It made me wish I'd brought a world map since the globe was pretty tiny and they were so interested.

I have a LOT of pictures from my trip but these are my favorite.

The hands of my homestay father (closest) and mother exploring the globe.
I just love seeing their two hands exploring together. They are really great parents to have on the other side of the world! When I randomly show up 5 years later (they have no idea I'm coming), they always welcome me back as if I'd never left.

They were captivated for a while pronouncing names of places they've never heard of and finding places they had.

 For more world explorations check out the rest of the SIMC posts over at Unknown Mami.

Unknown Mami

15 November 2013

Giving the Help I'd Hoped to Receive

When I set off for Ghana 2 weeks ago I had 4 pieces of luggage. The only other time I've traveled with so much stuff was when the dogs and I relocated from the US to the Netherlands.  I had the big black box that my student has on his head in the post below, a duffel bag, a small rolling case (the only piece of luggage containing my things) and another bag filled with old shoes and other stuff I was giving away (everything but the small rolling case was filled with stuff to give away).  My bag was the only thing with wheels.  I was taking the train to the airport in Amsterdam and train stations (except for the train station in the airport) don't have luggage carts so I had to get to the correct platform with all that stuff. A friend drove me to the train station but it's under construction and she couldn't park and help me.  I thought sure someone would see me struggling and offer assistance (Dutch people are generally very friendly and helpful). No one did.

Fast forward to several hours later after I'd finally managed to get my bags all checked and get myself through immigration and there I was buying a sandwich and a drink. As I was putting the sandwich into my bag I heard the guy behind me say, "Oh, you only take euro?"  I turned to look and he was trying to buy a small bag of potato chips but he only had British pounds.  I quickly fished the correct coins out of my pocket and gave them to the cashier.  The man protested but I insisted. Then he tried to give me the pounds.  I just smiled and wished him a safe flight.  He stood there, mouth agape, astonished look on his face and simply said, "Wow...you're so nice!"  That made my day! 

I had expected to be able to rely on the kindness of strangers that morning.  But how could I expect that if I wasn't willing to be that kind stranger myself?  I walked to my gate with a big smile on my face. 

What have you done lately to make a stranger's day?