Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Stateside - 1.5 months in

So I've now been Stateside for about a month and a half.  Most of my time has been spent in Vermont with my parents, but I've also been to PA twice and am now visiting folks in Colorado.  The first time in PA was for a family reunion, the second was at the beginning of August for a "re-entry retreat."  

I've seen a lot of family and friends since being back and have started making progress on "what's next" for me (e.g. Nursing School at EMU in Harrisonburg in January), but it still feels a bit like an extended vacation since I haven't really settled down yet.  Staying with my parents just feels like an extended stop-over before going to Virginia.

All in all I haven't had a huge amount of time to sit and reflect on the last couple of years spent in the UK, but I'm ok with that for the moment.  It's hard to try and synthesise the last three years into something concrete and manageable.  It takes time.  A lot of the people at re-entry retreat had been back anywhere from 8 to 12 months before attending.  I was there after being back for a month.  Only a few more had been back for a shorter amount of time than me, but the vast majority seemed to have been back for at least a couple of months.  In retrospect I think waiting at least 3 to 6 months is better so you've been in US culture for a little while as opposed to hardly at all.

While there are certainly a lot of things I could mention, the most striking aspect for me is with travel.  Cars, cars, everywhere and extremely necessary (outside of major US cities) to get anywhere in a reasonable amount of time.  Related to travel I've noticed my "gut reaction" isn't attuned to the US at all anymore.  I see traffic coming from the left, but I still expect it to come from the right.  As I'm crossing the street I can see traffic coming from the right (after I'm halfway across the road), but I still expect to get broadsided from the left.  Even the paint in the road doesn't give me the same reaction.  Yellow lines are typically on the side of the road in the UK, while white is the dividing line in the middle (if there is a line) dotted white lines to me make me think traffic could be going both directions, when in fact it's not.  Turning across traffic and in and out of side streets also gives me second thoughts.  I'll get use to it again, but it will take some time...or a few close calls.

A few pictures from the last month or so... 

My Parents yard from the left side - chicken coop in the middle

View from the deck

Right side of yard

Fenway Park!!!

View from the Green Monster

My dad in the middle of a bite

What we were standing under

Down off the Monster

Area we stood again

Sunrise the next morning

Views in Colorado up at Royal Arch

Same shot, two times, one gets the distance, the other close

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Last post from UK

My last couple of weeks have been probably as tiring as I've had since my assignment in the UK started nearly three years ago.  I went up to Birmingham to visit Barbara and Darrell (LMC host couple) after they moved up to the new Birmingham Menno House.  While I was there we walked into Birmingham, had some good meals, and also got to witness the "handing over of the keys" to the new Director's house (yet to be named) once it was officially sold.  Kinda neat to at least see the new era of Mennonite witness in the UK starting up in Birmingham, even though the whole sale of the London Mennonite Centre wasn't particularly fun to live through at times.  I was lucky to have visited them as they're now incredibly busy trying to get the place where it needs to be before much renovation is done.

Barbara and Darrell in front of the new Menno House

Birmingham has more canals than Venice (much more spread out though)

My last course, which was just north of London in Hemel Hempstead went really well.  On the Thursday all of the associate trainers whom I've worked with over the years came down and we had a little evening meal at a local pub.  Great chance to say some goodbyes to them.

In the past week or two I went with Lois down to London Bridge/Tower Bridge/Shard area at night and got some unique shots.  London's skyline will never be the same once it's fully completed.

The Shard...currently the tallest building in Europe, but is still dwarfed by other buildings around the world

London Bridge

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

Walking across Tower Bridge

The Shard

Tower Bridge at a distance

London Bridge

London Bridge w/a double decker bus crossing

The Shard

Tomorrow I'll make the long trek back to the States.  Three checked bags, each just under the weight limit (hopefully, we'll see what the airline scales say), 1 carry-on, and 1 handbag.  7 hr 50 minute flight to Philly, then a 4 hour car ride to Roaring Branch, PA for a family reunion.  Then back to VT for a little while.  I'll miss London, the United Kingdom, and all the people who've made it a special place for me.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Isle of Arran

Wow, what a trip.  As my last major holiday before heading back to the States I decided to go back to Scotland.  A few months ago I was trying to think about what places I'd really like to see or places I'd want to go back to...Scotland came up at the top of my list.  Specifically the Isle of Skye, but it's a long journey there from London...Granted it would be longer still from the States.  In looking at a long-distance walking book one picture jumped out at me.  When I looked where it was I was like "hey!! that's doable!!!"  Arran was only a rain journey to Glasgow, then another rail journey to a harbour town and a ferry ride to the Isle.  Easily done by my standards.  So I booked it and had about 3 full days (2 half days and 2 full days) to enjoy the Isle of Arran.  Took my bike up (free of charge) as well so I could cycle around the Isle as well as hike to my heart's content.

My favourite picture (maybe, too many to really count)

Turns out I got to visit Arran on its (probably) hottest 3-4 day stretch of the year.  As in, warmest place in the UK, upwards of 30 degrees Celsius, which feels pipping hot for the UK.  Combine that with the daylight hours of Scotland at this time a year and you've got a great combination.

When I arrived late afternoon I almost immediately set off from my B&B hiking to the neighbouring town (around 3 miles away).  I wanted to see as much of the Isle as possible.  After having a meal and a beer I strolled back feeling like I had loosened my legs up enough for the next day's long hike.  When I told the B&B guy what I planned on doing (it was ambitious I'll admit) he said I wouldn't be able to...little did he know he was dealing with a Moyer...100% stubbornness at times.  My plan was to hike the 4 tallest peaks of Arran in a single day.  Probably around 16-18 miles depending on how many times I got lost on the trails.  The peaks weren't THAT high...only around 2,600-2,800 ft or so, but when you're starting at sea level and go up and down 500-1000 ft between each one it adds up.  Not to mention some of the trails were about as sketchy as I've ever been on.  One was like being on a beach at 2,000 ft only at an angle you wished you weren't standing at!!!  I had been warned that a rugged 31 yr old local had been found dead after slipping in the same area and plummeting down the cliff.  Wasn't found for three days.  Combine those factors with the lack of water on the mts and the hot temps (especially hot since it's been 10-12 degrees Celsius lately in London) I was looking at a challenging day.  In the end I completed my day in just under 9 hours.  The next set of pictures are a few selections from that day.


Looking at the Isle of Arran

Holy Isle

Goatfell - the highest peak.  B&B proprietor said it was 3 hours up 2 hours down...I made it up in just under 2 hours.

The path up

Looking westward off Goatfell

Brodick in the background

Looking north at North Goatfell

Northward again

The path up...

"The Saddle" aka beach of death at 2,000 ft

Looking up the Saddle

My path up Cir Mhor - pretty much straight up (or at least it felt that way)

View from Cir Mhor

Looking at Caisteal Abhail

View south

Another Southern view

Natural arch near Beinn Tarsuinn

View from Beinn Tarsuinn

View from either Beinn Tarsuinn or Beinn Nuis, can't remember which

View up the valley

My next day consisted of cycling around the Isle on the perimeter road.  About 55 miles the whole way round.  Partway around I took a detour and walked out a couple of miles to some stone circles that dated back to 3500 to 5000 BC or something like that.  Older than the pyramids.

Lots of coastline

Standing Stone

More standing stones

Yet more

Sheep for my mom

That doesn't look steep, but it was a LONG hill...took a while, esp in the heat of the day

I got in mid-afternoon and decided I'd take a stroll to the next town for a meal via the coast path.  This was probably 6-7 miles, but I can't say for sure.  A lot steeper in places than I expected, but well worth it.  I took the shorter path home.


After my hike along the coast path

Coast path

Following morning I rode the bus around 1/3 of the Isle to some waterfalls and ancient tomb site.  Glenashdale Falls and the Giant's Grave.  Pretty places.  You can see the clouds on the mountains and the lack of viability.  This was what I expected when I came.  I got really really really lucky.  Often you can't see 10 ft in front of you, but I got two picture perfect clear days.  One of my best trips for sure (so hard to rank them though).

Glenashdale Falls

Giant's Grave (honestly I didn't write my was another Sam)

Cloudy morning

Looking toward Goatfell

Bye bye...