Friday, 28 November 2008

Reflections on My Computer Crash

Computers are like untrustworthy lovers.

At first, your computer will be there for you whenever you turn to it. It will spend all hours of the day with you. You will see the world through its eyes. Life is easy and accessible in these early days.

Then, it will become a little cranky. "It's just not wearing its best face for me because we are so comfortable with each other now," you will tell yourself. Watch out. This is a lie.

Before you know it, your computer will mercilessly abandon you. You will come home to it one day and it just simply won't be there anymore. No contact details left. Gone. Without a trace.

But this is not all, because computers are malicious. It will take with it everything you cherish, your most valued possessions: all your family photos, crucial documents, everything you've saved.

I write this in the wake of my grief, after having recently been thus abandoned. Take it from me: Never trust a computer.

Thursday, 27 November 2008


As this is such an appropriate time to reflect on the things we are grateful for, allow me to kick-off the thanks-giving. (Sorry, I get to beat all of you in America to this with a six hour head start!).

Call it minor, but today I am so grateful for the canned pumpkin from the States I had stashed away in my pantry for a year! I was able to make pumpkin pie because of it. When you are far from home, sometimes it is really is the little things... A can of pumpkin, which I probably paid sixty-four cents for, can make the difference between a blue, homesick Grumblegiving and a happy, nostalgic Thanksgiving.

Trying to do Thanksgiving in a country that neither celebrates it nor carries the staple items needed for a Thanksgiving feast is a somewhat dislocating experience! At least, it reminds me that I am dislocated- not home. It is so funny the way Americans network here for those rarities like corn bread for stuffing, Turkey bags, those crunchy little fried onion things for green bean casserole, and, as you know by now, canned pumpkin! A black market Walmart would make a killing here. I have found one store in Edinburgh that sells some of the American basics. I blew a gasket the first time I went in to Lupe Pintos and saw Nabisco graham crackers, white marshmallows, Jiffy cornbread mix, corn tortillas, and, yes, canned pumpkin! I happily paid four pounds (then equivalent to eight dollars!) for a jar of chipotle salsa; though, I have to admit I was pretty annoyed when I saw on the back that it was made in Houston, Texas. (I'm hearing that old Pace Picante Sauce commercial in my head right now: "Made in New York city!") I paid eight dollars for a jar of salsa from Texas that probably costs one-fifty there!

Chad and I will be celebrating with another American family, the Thornberrys. I hope you share the day with some people you love as well.

I'll let you know how my pumpkin pie tastes!

Take a moment to share with us a few things you are thankful for. Your comments will post here for the readers to see.

Monday, 10 November 2008

A Few More Anecdotes on the Gales

Well, as you may have realized already, the poem below is about our bike trip to the office this morning in the infamous Scottish gales. For those of you who go to the Oaks, picture the Red Oak winds on crack. It's insanity. I posted that little video to the left to show you what some high force gales look like.

Chad thought I should tell you a few funny stories about our experiences in the gales to give you a feel for what these winds are like. I have several:

1. Last winter, Chad thought it'd be fun to go on a long ride to the ocean on the outskirts of Edinburgh. On this bike trip, we had the pleasure of riding through almost every miserable British weather condition imaginable: rain, sleet, snow, and gale winds. I was ticked, to say it politely. When we finally did get to the ocean, the winds were blowing so hard that we literally could not pedal ourselves into it any further. We were stuck. I imagined that movie from the 90s (?) about the storm chasers. We turned around to escape this torment and ride back home, but when we did so, we found we did not even have to pedal! The wind pushed us along. That is the only pleasant thing I can say about the journey that day.

2. A couple weeks ago, riding to the office again, I turned down a street in the city center where tall buildings line each side of the road, a situation that creates a wind tunnel. Thank God there was no oncoming traffic because I was forced into the oncoming lane! I could hardly get off my bike.

3. Chad's boss told him a story about a girl he saw get blown over on her bike by the gales. She actually chipped her tooth on the car she fell into. Steam is coming off my head just thinking about how I would feel it that happened to me!

Grrr... I'm getting angry writing on this topic! Let's stick to the amnesiac romanticization of the gales in my poem!

Cycling to Work, November 1o

She fought the gales
Riding valiantly on her metallic steed
Shield slung across her back
She did not hide her face
She pressed in
With courage
Towards her destination
The wind like the arms of a giant
Pushing her backwards, sideways
But she had to go forward
Until she arrived, safely
Where she would spend the day
Using the best of reason
In an effort to conquer riddles of intellect
Knowing full well that none of us will ever conquer the seasons

The wind humbles us
I ponder this with reverence
While outside the fortress of my window
I listen to nature's defiance
Against humanity's Napoleonic complex

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Al Anon

Left standing drenched and helpless again
In the wake of your violent, unpredictable waves
Slapping vengefully against the shore
The borderland where I can approach you, but go no further

Yesterday, I was sailing upon the water’s smooth surface
But today the sky is stormy, grey, silent
Except for the sound of your waves, beating down on top of each other
As if you were in a war against yourself
As if you hope to destroy yourself

I know not how to love you,
How to trust you,
Or even how to know you
You bear extremes within your nature
That have no regard for those who share this planet with you
I’m beginning to grow numb after so many cold, wet nights of being submerged in the tidal waves of your outbursts
I wonder at the invisible sources that agitate the dark expanse below your surface
The forces that conjure up the unforgiving fierceness of your rage

Long ago, Jesus spoke and the ocean storms subsided
I pray today that miracle will be repeated

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

International Adoption

In the past week, I've inadvertently stumbled upon two separate sources which have reminded me why I want so badly to adopt a child from another (low-income) country. Why am I telling you this? Maybe to simply share with you what drives me (and Chad) to do this; though, I must admit, before I knew the facts or started researching into this the desire was there. I can only explain it as something it seems God wants Chad and me to do.

Consider the following facts:
"The average under-5 mortality rate (possibly the best indicator of overall child welfare) in the low-income countries is 20 times what it is in the high-income countries. It is not uncommon in the poor countries to find rates of under-5 malnutrition of 30 per cent to 40 per cent--though it can be as high as 84 per cent (in Bangladesh) or 63 per cent (in India), which together account for about one in six of the world's population" (Charles R. Beitz, "Social and Cosmopolitan Liberalism," International Affairs 75.3 (1999): 515-29.)

Secondly, I share with you a short video of the adoption story of University of Georgia football coach March Richt and his family.

I look forward, with you, until the time comes.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Fall happenings

Hello, all! I have not written in some time and thought I'd update you just a little on what's going on in my (cold and already-winter) world of Edinburgh.

A little update from the academic front:
1. I have just declined a position as an English tutor next semester. This was a very difficult decision, which I was advised a great deal on by my current two supervisors as well as my mentor from the States, Wendy. Here, the post-grad students conduct tutorials; they are not "TA's," or teacher's assistants, as they are back home. The position earns a nominal amount of pay and is sought after more for the teaching experience it furnishes one's CV with. For several reasons, including the poor translation of tutor back home, I have declined because I must stay focused on my own research. If I take a fourth year to finish, I will cost me over 9,000 pounds. That's right. A lot of money no matter what the exchange rate is doing by then!

2. I got an office of my own on campus, finally! Well, it's not my own, my own. I will share it with another PhD student, an American girl whom I adore, and who is also a Christian doing an English degree. Obviously, we have a lot in common, and she is a sight for sore eyes in ways I cannot articulate briefly.

3. Chad is hacking away - - maybe I should say crafting away, hacking sounds so clumsy and messy! - - at a paper summarizing the debate about evolution in scientific theory. Next, he is excited to start a paper on what he hopes will become his MA thesis, the life of the mind in the charismatic church. He is happy with his progress and looking forward to graduating next winter!

On a more personal level:
1. We are counting down the weeks until we get to come home for Christmas break! Let me be honest: I've been counting down the days since September!

2. We went to our first ceilidh Friday night (ceilidh is a Scottish dance). It was so much fun, we ourselves even joined in the dancing, a rare sight! I have a short video of one of the dances on my Facebook page if you want to see it for yourself!

Until we speak again, happy trick-or-treating. And happy voting. May the best team win...

All our love,
Kim & Chad

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

John Stuart Mill

I am reading Kwame Anthony Appiah's Ethics of Identity. Appiah is a philosopher here exploring the relationship between individuality and ethics. Particularly, he has evoked the topic of "ethical flourishing," defining that as, in my paraphrase, living the best life one can lead.

His whole first chapter is on John Stuart Mill. There's a quote of of Mill's which I must duplicate here. This was written in a letter to his friend, David Barclay:

"'There is only one plain rule of life eternally binding...try thyself unweariedly till thou findest the highest thing thou art capable of doing, faculties and outward circumstances being both duly considered, and then DO IT.'"

How can I expound on this without taking away from it? I believe it stands on its own...


September marks our one-year anniversary in Edinburgh—one-year away from home, one-year into my PhD, and, for Chad, one-year sabbatical (of sorts) from vocational ministry. The actual date when we arrived in Scotland last year was September fifth. Why is this coming nearer to October? Since the beginning of this month, I have been wracking my brain in reflection, only to find that sometimes brains don’t work like mirrors, or photographs, or whatever functional image reflection is intended to suggest! Sometimes they're too submerged in the soil of the present moment, like a seed or like youthfulness. I’ve been pondering and praying about what I’ve learned this past year, how I’ve changed, and what lies ahead in our time here. I intended to produce something firm—like a list—but, alas, at this stage, that proved an impossible task. I’m too embedded in the present-ness of this all to see clearly enough. Some argue that memory is always unreliably faulty. I would say that it is often far more helpful for perspective than the now.

Take heart, though. All is not lost! For there are yet things to be said in this commemorative month. For one, I am hopeful. While hope may not be one of the nine fruits of the Spirit, its sweetness in my life now is only attributable to the fruit of God’s continued nurturing of me through his Spirit and my loved ones. Last year was dominated by homesickness for me. What is homesickness but a sense of loss? A sense of being separated. Of being in a place that doesn’t fit quite right, like borrowing shoes that are too big, and so one is constantly reminded that they are not yours. This is a feeling far from hope. Of course, there were moments when hope came bursting through the slate gray that characterizes Britain's sky…most of the year (just read the recent articles on the Vitamin D deficiency in people here due to lack of sunshine! You all will remember the, how can I describe it but an altar-building, moment when I came home from Christmas, contemplating throwing in the towel, only to find a letter at my flat awarding me a scholarship which covered the rest of my tuition? That generated some hope.

Skype, that many-splendored thing, gave me moments of peace, if not hope, in the midst of my separation-anxiety. In contrast, my precious grandmother, “Namaw,” has described to me the years they spent in Germany when my Grandfather was in the Navy and my dad and aunt were in their early teens. I imagine the distance from home and family was more severely experienced without today’s instantaneous and affordable access to those back home through email and Skype. Though I’ve realized that any kind of writing to people back home temporarily collapses distance – words taking on the power to defy space – because when I write to someone, when my thoughts are completely focused on him or her, I feel like we are together. I imagine my grandmother wrote many letters on her typewriter.

I have more hope in the goodness of people because of a person. I've learned my husband has a heart of gold. Of course, I already knew this, but I know it now in a more profound and further experienced way since being here. You all know that in some ways, being here is a sacrifice for him. I need only mention the word Starbucks! Yes, he loves this city. Who wouldn’t? Yes, he loves being in this culture, which has offered both of us such a different perspective. (This is a highly educated, actively secularized, densely international place.) He loves being around so many students at work, where he gets to exercise all of this philosophy and theology, apologetics, he is learning in his schooling. Being out of vocational ministry also affects one’s personal relationship with Jesus. Let’s describe it as analogous to going camping- getting back to our roots. It’s been good for him and us in numerous ways. Still, he works at Starbucks full-time. Not something he had aspired to as a young lad (thought I'd throw in some Scottish for ya'll Texans). But he has never—not once—complained about it, something I don't think he could say of me if the tables were turned. I would have been complaining, clamorously. Instead, he is my biggest supporter every time we have our routine conversation (always evoked by me) on the topic "what-the-heck-am-I-doing-here-and-why-didn't-I-choose-a-career-that-required-less-school?!@#$." He believes in this more than I do sometimes…and in those moments it keeps me going.

Okay, enough of the mushy stuff already! Looking forward, I am on track to finish in another two years, September 2010. This is very good. Most students take four years, but it is supposed to take three. I only have funding for three. Furthermore, I am making new friends: Ashli, Kirralee, Beth, Kristen. Names attached to featureless faces for you, but know that they are the features of life for me! Also, Chad has recently been moved up to supervisor at the Bucks and has been doing some webpage upkeep for a company that pays him 25 pounds/hour. While work is scarce for the latter, it still pays well, and Chad is learning new skills.

In closing, you may be wondering about how Chad’s family fared during Hurricane Ike. None of their homes were water damaged. There were smaller issues. But all are well. Most are home.