Over the frozen sea

Crossing the brilliant sea of white clouds reflecting the sun, the clouds parted after some hours and out of the steady, solid blue of the Atlantic came this: sea ice.

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IMG_9393(Click photos to enlarge.)

Can you determine what is land, what is sea, and what it ice? Look closely enough and you can even see the cracks in the ice floes…

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These last three are in reverse order than when I took them in order to demonstrate how we flew along the delta of a frozen river, somewhere in New Brunswick, I think.

What beauty, what stark contrasts, what chill runs through my bones when I consider such thing as a frozen sea. I knew it existed of course, but had never seen it with my own eyes. I wonder what it would be like to walk along the ice, to live in such a forbidding place such as this. I was reminded of the folk song Frobisher Bay, here sung by the St Andrews Madrigal Group:

CHORUS:
Cold is the arctic sea
Far are your arms from me
Long will this winter be
Frozen in Frobisher Bay
Frozen in Frobisher Bay

“One more whale,” our captain cried
“One more whale and we’ll beat the ice.”
But the winter star was in the sky
The seas were rough the winds were high.
CHORUS.

Deep were the crashing waves
That tore our whaler’s mast away
Dark are these sunless days
Waiting for the ice to break.
CHORUS.

Strange is a whaler’s fate
To be saved from the raging waves
Only to waste away
Frozen in this lonely grave.
CHORUS.

World Traveller

A friend of mine said it was “hardly hyperbole to say that [I’ve] been everywhere in Europe”. I was curious to see how true this claim was, so I found an interactive world map. For good measure, I did one for the U.S. too.

U.S.A.: I’ve lived in four states and have been to 29 states total.

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Looks like I need to do a road trip across the northern U.S. to get the rest of those states!

The world: I’ve lived in 3 countries and have been to 17 countries total.

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There are 50 countries in Europe and I have been to 14 of them. We can safely say that I have been to most of Western Europe. I want to visit northern, central, and eastern Europe, too, though! I wonder when?

And well, let’s not get started on the continents I haven’t even stepped onto yet. My new passport has extra pages in it and I intend to use them!

Lugano

During choir tour, we had one day off as a free day. Some people went to Lake Como nearby, others stayed in Lodi, and some went to Milan. F. and I went with F.’s dad to Lugano, a town and lake in Italian Switzerland.

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It was low key. We went to Lugano, had lunch, found a spot next to the lake, and hung out. We swam a little bit but the water was really cold and got deep very quickly. We read some, and I fell asleep. We didn’t have time to go up one of the mountains in a cable car, but that’s okay. I got what I wanted: to relax.

Delayed trains got us back to Lodi at nearly midnight. We were worried about getting back into the boarding school, as there were only four keys for the twenty of us and neither F. nor I had one. But we needn’t have worried, as there was a group from our choir still having drinks in the piazza.

Since they were going to stay out a bit longer, F. and I went back to where we had heard some dance music. It was an open air club, full of teenagers, with a bar and a DJ — only, no one was dancing! But we didn’t care. Despite being nearly twice the age as most of the other patrons, we chose a corner of the square and danced. Freestyle, discofox, a bit of ceilidhing, and other steps F. taught me. Afterwards, we discovered that the choir had followed us there and were watching us, but it didn’t matter — we enjoyed ourselves, and probably had the most fun out of everyone there!

Choir Tour: Lodi

IMG_8720Renaissance Singers hadn’t gone on tour for years, but we went in 2013 to Lombardia in Italy. We were based in Lodi, staying in a Catholic boarding school, and had concerts in Lodi, Milan, and Crema. During these six days we rehearsed our repertoire, sang in concerts and in Mass, and wandered the streets, eating lots of pizza, drinking Prosecco, and simply enjoying ourselves.

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The school we stayed in had its own church, San Francesco. We held our rehearsals there and one of our concerts. How can I say how beautiful it was? It was just stunning.

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Our rooms were basic, but homely enough. I enjoyed having an en suite bathroom and a balcony. I would sit on the balcony in the mornings, brushing my hair to dry, watching the swallows and listening to the bells. The bells ringing out across the city were one of my favourite things about Lodi. I could never tell the time by them, or what was going on, because there were so many and at odd times. But they were melodic and lovely.

The view from my window.

The view from my window.

Lodi was far enough from Milan to not be touristy at all. That is another thing I appreciated about where we were staying. I was so proud of myself and F. when we were able to buy allergy medicine, paracetamol, and contact solution (preservative free!) by speaking a mix of Spanish, Italian, and English, and when I was able to order a salad with the vegetables I wanted and ‘sine tonno’ — no tuna!

I for one wasn’t expecting to get as much publicity as we have. Not only did we make Italian television, but you can also watch our first concert in full on Youtube. (If you don’t want to watch the video, and miss hearing our lovely voices, you can still see pictures from our first concert here.) Our first concert was at Università Cattolica in Milan – it wasn’t our best, but it’s still pretty good. Our absolute BEST concert was held in San Francesco church in Lodi. It was amazing. I remember cameras recording that one as well, so I hope the video is uploaded soon!

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Whirlwind holiday

My holiday in the U.S. was a month long, but spent in four states. Below are a few highlights from my whirlwind holiday:

San Antonio, TX
Sunny and warm (20s C/80s F) and Christmas with my parents. I got to see old friends from my home church, high school, and the Fun Day Group.

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Charleston, SC
A cross-country drive took us to spend second Christmas with my brother and his family and I met my youngest niece and nephew.

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Prosperity, SC
Then my parents and I spent a couple of days in the serenity of the Old House.

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McKinney, TX
Another cross-country drive took me back to Texas, where I watched lots of Star Trek and lost three games of Scrabble to Kelly.

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Ft Worth, TX
Then a couple of days spent with Megan, where her young neighbours had fun playing with my hair.

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Oklahoma City, OK
I took the train north to Oklahoma, where I hung out with Felicity and Thomas, and Felicity sewed a lining onto the hat I crocheted at Kelly’s.

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Los Angeles, CA
A jet plane took me to California, where I spent my last few days in the States with Sarah and David and my buddy little Isaac.

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As you can see, it was busy but very fun trip. I stocked up on lots of sunlight, Mexican food, and root beer, and had a very good time catching up with friends and family.

Eat your vegetables

Since being in the States for the past three weeks, I’ve eaten out a lot — Saltgrass Steakhouse, Alamo Cafe, Cracker Barrel (2x), Ruby Tuesday, Rising High Cafe, Olive Garden, El Fenix, La Madeline, Panera Bread (2x), Cattleman’s — and I have noticed something about their menus. Only two of these fine establishments featured little “V’s” to indicate vegetarian options: Rising High Cafe and Panera Bread. What a difference from restaurants in the UK where you can usually find at least one option that is vegetarian if not vegan (even if it is always risotto).

Instead, those other restaurants (the steakhouses excluded) had other symbols in their menus to indicate low-calorie or low-fat or even “healthy heart” options. But I am somewhat confused why none of these restaurants, save the two soup, salad, and sandwich lunch cafes would offer meals for vegetarians. Most of these are chain restaurants — and I mean, really? Olive Garden, an Italian restaurant, doesn’t offer any meat-free pasta dish?

I’m not vegetarian, but I do eat a mostly vegetarian diet at home. Partly because meat is expensive, I just prefer vegetables, think that it’s a healthier lifestyle, and because my boyfriend is vegetarian. I’m used to eating meat maybe once a week and this meat-heavy diet the past three and a half weeks is feeling very heavy indeed. I’ve found myself ordering only sides, asking for chicken or prosciutto to be left off the salad, ordering broccoli and cheddar soup only to be annoyed that it had bacon in that wasn’t in the description.

I am still baffled that these restaurants would go through the trouble to mark “healthy” or “low calorie” entrees and forget that purely vegetarian meals might be the healthiest and lowest calorie options of all! And those people who are trying to lose weight or feel healthy by choosing the “healthy” but still meat-heavy options might need to revisit the adage to “Eat your vegetables”.

Granted, I know I have one of those frames and metabolisms that sheds pounds more quickly than it can gain them, but I will be glad to get back into being once more mostly-vegetarian and live in a country that accommodates such eating choices.

#chestnutfail

Lola and I had observed several Polish people in the parks in Warsaw gathering chestnuts. Curious, and feeling adventurous, we decided to experiment.

So I climbed a tree, shaking a couple of the branches to rain down chestnuts to the ground, where Lola gathered them up.

 

Later, we looked up how to roast them. When Lola pulled them out of the oven, I set to peeling them. Then popped one of them into my mouth… and spat it out again. They were incredibly bitter. We decided that maybe roasting chestnuts wasn’t for us after all…

(More about Poland when I’m back in Scotland and have uploaded my own photos, instead of cheekily using Lola’s!)