Claudia: class, flatmates & the weather

October 5, 2010

Here’s the skinny on my classes for the rest of the semester:

1) Archaeology of Scotland: Sounds really interesting. Includes a field trip. However, I was a little disappointed to find out that all of the cool Roman stuff happens second semester, when I shall, sadly, be back in the US of A. Nevertheless, our course organizer was pretty cool, and today’s lecturer showed up and taught class in a leather motorcycle jacket. We’re starting off with a study of Scotland’s post-glacial environment, so I zoned out a little as I am quite familiar with the basic information our lecturer was giving us on the retreat of glaciers after the last ice age, techniques for learning about past environments (ice cores, pollen analysis), and the Gulf Stream’s influence on the climate of Great Britain. Hooray, geology, issues in the environment, and meteorology for teaching me things I can feel smart knowing in my life now! The only bother about this class is going to be the large number of essays (okay, mini-essays) that we have to write after each tutorial, plus a museum project, plus a final. At least I know that it’s going to be interesting, so the writing should not be too much of a pain.

2) Scotland and Orality: I think this is going to be my favorite class. Our course organizer (almost nobody is called a professor in these parts) is delightfully Scottish, and the material is extremely interesting. In just two classes we listened to clips of “diddling,” rap from the late 80’s, and a passionate Southern preacher. Diddling is a sort of singing where, well, you diddle. Instead of singing words, you sing a melody using syllables generally similar to “diddley do.” I thought it was pretty sweet. Maybe I should take it up as a hobby for myself, though I guess you still need to be able to carry a tune to diddle. I need to make time to peruse as background reading (Oh no, I am voluntarily doing unnecessary reading? Is the world coming to an end?!). I’m so excited for the opportunity to learn about and actually do some fieldwork later in the semester. Interesting tidbit about this class: only six people of the 40 or so in the lecture are not visiting students. Weird, right?

3) The City of Rome: This is my token actual-progress-towards-a-degree class. I had been hoping to take Early Vergil and get some Latin language out of the way, but it was not in the cards. I couldn’t take Cicero the Advocate and Scotland and Orality, so naturally, I picked Scotland and Orality. If you know me in a Latin-related context, you probably know my contempt for our dear friend Cicero. So, the normal organizer of this class, Lucy Grig, is on maternity leave, which is too bad, because I guess that Dr. Nicholson knows her in some capacity. I am sort of worried that the class is maybe a little too archaeologically focused for somebody who lacks any archaeological experience, such as myself, to be able to enjoy it. In any case, I will make the best of this class since the material is so interesting. I am sort of nervous for when it will be my turn to lead a seminar. I haven’t had to do anything like that at Minnesota, and I am quite worried that I will come up short. I do not even know what my assigned topic will be yet, so I will cross that bridge when I come to it.

So, there you have it, my schedule in all its glory (and no class on Fridays!). I also have no class Wednesdays and a lot of free time every other day, but I am pretty much spending it in the way most students here seem to spend their time: in the library. There is so much reading that needs to be done for all of my classes. I had to take a break before I fell asleep in a textbook about Roman archaeology, so naturally I decided to blog.

The other day, I was talking to my roommate, Kaisa, who is from Ukraine, and we discussed our backgrounds. Up until now, I had barely spoken three words to Kaisa, who pretty much keeps to herself in her room (we can’t really keep our doors open, so it’s easy to stay in your room). Caroline, Katherine, and I spend a lot of time talking in the kitchen, and I feel like I’ve gotten to know them pretty well, and they are both really fun (though, in entirely different ways). We’re planning to start cooking weekly “family” meals in the flat, which is going to be fun. But, I digress…back to Kaisa: it turns out that though she came from the Ukraine, her family is Bulgarian, and she regrets having not been able to communicate very well with her great grandmother, who didn’t speak any Russian at all. She shared some of this amazing sheep’s cheese from her grandparents farm, and it was sooo delicious. She explained that very nearly everybody in Bulgaria as well as in the Ukraine has sheep and makes their own version of this cheese, and she doesn’t know what she’s going to do when she runs out of her supply.

We talked about going to the places we are from, and how you feel something, even if you’re not in the particular town in which your ancestors lived. She went to Bulgaria this summer, and I went to Sweden, and it was cool to talk about connecting with our cultures. We both had this feeling in our respective destinations, of coming home, even though neither of us can understand the language of those countries. We also talked about how much we both want to learn more about our ancestry and collect the family stories. Since her ancestors moved around a lot and crossed borders, there is a lot of documentation, so they’ve been able to construct a pretty good family tree. For all of the times I have become interested in genealogy, I feel like I know almost nothing about anybody in my family before my grandparents. I’ve heard so many family stories, but I can’t piece them together and keep track of the cast of characters or anything. This conversation reminded me that I probably owe a lot of people letters from Edinburgh, so I’ll try to get around to that relatively soon.

On to Scotland and its rain. Somehow, the city seems almost more beautiful in the rain, though. The old buildings fit right into the grey of the sky, and Arthur’s Seat looming on the horizon under steel-colored clouds is such a striking image that I kind of stop and gape for a minute or two nearly every time I look in that direction. The other day, there was still sunlight even with the big dark clouds over Arthur’s Seat, and it was one of the most fantastic vistas I have experienced in my young life. I wished that I had my film camera with me. Actually, I could have even gone for my silly digital point-and-shoot, which had run out of battery earlier in the day. I still need to climb Arthur’s Seat, but I just don’t want to get caught in bad weather on the way up. Obviously, I should do it sooner rather than later, since the further towards winter we get, the less likely I am to be comfortable. Naturally, we’ll climb up on 5 Nov, no matter what the weather, so that we can see all of the fireworks and bonfires over the city for Guy Fawkes’ Day!

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