Sunday, December 29, 2013

Au revoir, Kelsey!

I'm putting Kelsey on a train back to London tonight...and saying good-bye to ten glorious days of rejuvenation (read: a delightful abundance of "Doctor Who" and Christmas-y cheer).

The Edinburgh Christmas Markets are gorgeous...and about to shut down. Time to buy a few last presents for people I'm going to see in Istanbul for the AMENDS Conference.

Mostly, though...seriously time to write three legal essays. Here we go, folks. Into the void I head. To legalise, and beyond!!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

I am having a fantastic Christmas in Scotland surrounded by beloved friends. And it's wonderful - but not what I'm usually doing!

So, to all of you: Happy Christmas! A greeting from me to you, whoever you are out there, with all my love. :)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Carol Service

My Edinburgh church choir led a Carol Service tonight. Thursday's rehearsal and today's service were fun exercises in sightreading. There are many British carols that I've simply never heard before ("Adam lay y'bounden", anyone?). And the "classic" carols are often to different tunes than an American learns. 
About a month ago, George asked us if there were any requests. I mentioned "Oh Holy Night", so he very sweetly ordered an arrangement by Rutter and we sang it as the intro. And thus ended the things Becca knew. 
I was expecting many of the confusing moments. I was not, however, expecting different words and rhythms on "Silent Night". It was very exciting. 
But we made it! And candles were lit, and all was well. :)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

"Ramblings" Reflections

I vlogged for what is scheduled as the last "Ramblings" episode of the year today, with a reflection of what "Ramblings" has done for me and best wishes for everyone's holiday season!

Happy Christmas from Scotland, and a very merry New Year!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas break!

After a whopping four days in the office for my new job, it is now Christmas break. I am officially done through 13 January, when classes start again. 
Mates are coming to stay at Rebecca's Rooms of Requirement for Christmas. We are going to have a fantastic time with Edinburgh Christmas and Hogmanay festivities. 
At some point, I need to write three essays...
And I'm leaving for the AMENDS Sunmit in Turkey on New Year's Day, for which I have some prep to do. But for the most's all carols and bells from here, folks!

Sunday, December 15, 2013


This afternoon, my church choir did a few excerpts from Handel's "Messiah" as a benefit for a village in South Africa the community has a relationship with. 
It is always a joy to sing "Hallelujah Chorus", of course. It's been a while since I sung any part of it without an orchestra. We were very intimate with only a piano...and it was really incredibly lovely. A different kind of music than you make with booming timpani and whatnot, but no less lovely. 
It is not snowing in Edinburgh, but between "For Unto Us a Child is Born" and the fact that I'm going to a German Advent Tea this afternoon, I am considering it Yuletide!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Rambling into work...

To celebrate my first day on the job, today's "Ramblings" goes on and on about the academic review and publications process, and how articles are usually closed to the public without major costs. I'm working to make more of Edinburgh faculty research available freely online. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Hungary Games

I know, I know. That's a terrible pun. I'm sorry; Spencer kept using it. 

Return flights from London to Budapest for 55 quid are hard to turn down when you're out of classes and have a mate you can stay with for a week. 

Highlights of our time:
-Strawberry hot chocolate. (Deliciousness.)
-Sulfuric baths. Do come take the waters, darling. Don't we feel so healthy?
-A day trip to Vienna. (Because Europe is wonderful like that.)
-Candy floss and hot apple cider at the Christmas markets. 
-Gorgeous architecture. 

I am now in the Budapest Airport heading home. My first day of work is Thursday. Back to "real" life we go!

Friday, December 6, 2013


have arrived in Europe proper. Budapest is most definitely non-English. :)
I'm visiting Spencer, a mate from undergrad who came up to visit me in Edinburgh a month ago. He's finishing up his masters here in Hungary through an exchange programme with the University of Toronto. 
Thursday, Spencer had to take the GRE and his final class. So I had a very (necessarily) lazy day at the flat catching up on emails. 
He and I both have looming PhD application deadlines, so we are doing a "cafe crawl" through Pest's neatest coffee joints and forcing each other to write. 
I'm also getting a wee bit of tourism in there, never fear! Basilica, baths, and tours of the Jewish quarter are on our agenda! And Saturday we are bopping over to Vienna.

In the meantime, I'm enjoying strawberry hot chocolate. :)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Norwich yet again!

Since I was in London for the Marshall Thanksgiving, I popped over to Norwich to meet with Mark about a conference we’re planning around water and power in May 2014. And, of course, to see everyone’s favourite mini maestro!
I got to pick up Iorwerth from Little People’s Monday, and got a delightfully large hug. This evening, we had a lovely round of wand/animal/flashlight/marker with mummy and Aunt Nina.
And, of course, some Merchants of Spice, which I’m now happily eating on the train.
It’s back to London to board a plane for Budapest! 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Marshall Thanksgiving Dinner

Each year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Marshall Scholars gather in London for a giant (80+ people) Thanksgiving potluck. Turkey, potatoes, and cranberries, oh my!

We had grand fun. I am most definitely ready for some sleep, into London Thursday night and have been running around since with massive loads of shopping for the dinner, a Friday night meeting about retreats, and a Sunday brunch.

We got to light menorah for Thanksgivukkah in addition to stuffing our faces. Grand fun all around!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Becca has a job!

I know what you're thinking...exactly what Becca needs!
I've been contemplating an Edinburgh job for a while, casually keeping my eyes open without hunting too hard. It's nice but not imperative to supplement the Marshall stipend. More than that, though, it's a really great way to become more fully integrated in the uni. I've really enjoyed working in higher education admin in various roles at my previous universities: in the GenCen (women's studies department) at Michigan State and International Office at the University of East Anglia. 
I've just been offered a job as a "Publications Assistant" for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. They are doing a major push to make more of their faculty's research open access - available to the public without paying for academic journal subscriptions. I'll be encouraging faculty to make their articles open access and working on document uploading, search parameter consistency, etc. Lots of happy, Type A paperwork to do!
I start that when I get back from Budapest. (Oh, yes. I'm going to Budapest. Because 55 pound return from London=why not!? Also, Spencer -mate from undergrad - is there.)

Happy Thanksgivukkah!

For the first time since 1888, the first day of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving are on the same Gregorian date. How delightful! Food! Lights! Family!

I celebrated last night with a Christmas party with my LLM cohort...since many of us are leaving this weekend.

I leave for London this evening for the Marshall-wide turkey shindig, which this year is going to also involve dreidels and a menorah-lighting, because why not?!

See the latest episode of "Ramblings"...discussing Hanukkah and Thanksgiving in front of a Christmas tree.


I have an amazing vivid memory of writing and publishing this blog post. But apparently I didn't. Sorry, folks.

Last Friday, I jetted away from bonny Scotland to Amsterdam!
...I was not doing what many people think of as weekend mini-breaks to the Netherlands. (Though it was very clear that some of the folks on my plane were.)

My mate Ally got married in September. I was supposed to be her maid of honor...and very distinctly wasn't because the UKBA still had my passport for visa processing and I couldn't leave the country.
But...enter the beauty of multi-national families! Josh is Dutch, with extensive and close family in Holland. They went to visit their Dutch family as a honeymoon of sorts, and also had a second wedding ceremony/blessing at their family's church there.

It was really lovely to see Ally again and meet her family. Also a joy, of course, to have a good excuse to see the Netherlands! Her family lives in Harderwijk, a small city smack dab in the middle of the country. Lovely train rides to and from the airport, a really cute town centre, and adorable Dutch children in festive hats and shoes, since Sinterklaas comes on 5 December!!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Christmas is Coming!

I know, I know, it's too early!

Except I live in a country without there isn't actually a major holiday between Halloween and Christmas. And that pushes things up a bit.

And then there's the fact that classes end for Term 1 on 29 most people who are heading home will be leaving that weekend. Thus, if we want to do course Christmas parties, they have to happen now-ish!

So Christmas has come to Rebecca's Rooms of Requirement. There are trees, and snowflakes, and lights, and candles galore. And it is beautiful!

Not sure we're going to get actual snow...

I had just a few people over last night for a gift exchange, as a lot of folks had to bail at the last minute. But next week I'm having a social for the full International Law cohort, and I'm setting up a "White Elephant" exchange. The “White Elephant” Gift Exchange is a North American holiday party tradition. Everyone is asked to bring one small wrapped gift (<5 GBP). During the social, attendees will take turns unwrapping a gift. People have the option to open a new gift or “steal” an already unwrapped gift. The point of this is entertainment and laughs over which gifts become popular and who steals from whom.

We did a mini version last night. Naveed got chopsticks, and a 5-minute lecture from me and Becca (the other of my best English mates is also named Becca) about how he should learn to actually use them. Other Becca left with a snuggly lion companion (stuffed, not real - I didn't do an actual "white elephant" problematic gift) she has dubbed Aeb. And I have a lovely box of chocolates!

Monday, November 18, 2013

PhD/DPhil...thoughts, world?

I promised recently on “Ramblings with Rebecca” that we are going to do a Latin Week – introducing and defining some of the legal phrases I’ve stumbled upon. They will probably have nothing to do with each other or have any kind of relevance, really…just fun concepts that have become everyday language in my life.
In the meantime, though, I am writing up proposals for my PhD…and so today’s “Ramblings” episode was a fairly personal ramble of “HELP! WHAT AM I DOING?!?”
I am currently debating:
-Institution. Where should I go? Current top three are Cambridge, King’s College London, and Oxford.
-Topic. Food, water, environmental resources, justice, Middle East. That’s the general idea, but there are a *lot* of potential topics in there, and I do need a very specific set of research questions.
-Advisor. Probably the single greatest impact on my PhD/DPhil experience is the faculty member who will most directly oversee me.
-Discipline. Anthropology, international relations, public policy, development, human geography. So many options. Name that social science! This is probably more a question of going with whichever department my chosen advisor is in.

As of right now, I am planning to apply:
-PhD, Human Geography, Cambridge, where I would focus on food security issues.
-PhD, Human Geography, King’s College London, where I would focus on virtual water, hegemony, trade relations, and local actions vs. macro discourses.
-DPhil, Public Policy, Oxford, where I would focus on how national policies can better harness environmental resources as peace and regional cooperative mechanisms.

Any thoughts on any of this would be greatly appreciated, as I am still massively wrestling with all of the above…

Friday, November 15, 2013

AMENDS Reunion!

I came into London this weekend to meet with potential PhD advisor and catch up with some mates. And the timing was delightful...because I enjoyed a mini AMENDS Reunion! My roommate from the Stanford conference in April is visiting London with her family this week. 
Ghadeer and I met for coffee and swapped stories about how our initiatives are progressing. 
This evening, one of the Marshall Scholars from a few years ago who was a delegate at AMENDS' Inaugural Summit is able to join the current Marshall crew for drinks. 
Two in one day, lucky me! Both Ghadeer and Brian will be in Istanbul in January, when we will see many more of the crew. Full family reunion coming up. :)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


I had forgotten how much fun bowling could be till a coursemate organised a night out for us. I just completed my second evening's bowl in Edinburgh, and a grand time was had by all.
I purposefully invited a hodgepodge of folks who didn't know each other too well from across courses and disciplines. The eight of us represented five different degree programmes and five different countries (Australia, Germany, Greece, UK, US).
I will just casually mention that I beat the Brit in my lane all three games (to the tune of mutual and contradicting taunts such as "Go, England" and "Boo, the English!").
This is not to say I actually have any skill. I don't think I got above 150 in any of the games...but I did definitely break 100 for a couple of them!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Good-bye, Sunshine!

We had three days of insanely gorgeous weather. It coincided with the visit of a favourite colleague from Michigan State's GenCen. We got in a lot of fantastic hiking and walking and around Edinburgh and barely did any indoor tourist stuff.
And then...this morning. Airport dropoff rather early...and it's been pouring. Ironic, since both of the people visiting me have been nicknamed "Sunshine" by others. 
"Please don't take my sunshine away!"
(Enjoy your flight, Sunny.)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Remembrance Day

We're "remember, remember"-ing the 5th of November. However, the 11th of November is also a big day for our memories in the UK and other Commonwealth countries: It's a version of the US' Memorial Day.
Remembrance Day is celebrated on the 11th; churches around the UK tend to focus the nearest Sunday on services dedicated to remembering and honouring victims of war. Our service this morning began ten minutes early so the full church could be in silence, along with many other churches across the world, "at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month" - when the Armistice with Germany went into effect, ending the hostilities of World War I.
Red poppies, flowers on graves, crosses in public gardens, etc. are all very common for a week or two on either side of Remembrance Day. This morning also saw a large Pipers' Processional on the Royal Mile with even more folks than usual in kilts. I believe a lot of army pipers were about.
Also at church: Scouts in their uniforms! 'Twas delightful to see the Girl Guides and Boy Guides all about.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Remember, remember

It's the 5th of November!

But what on earth are we celebrating, or commemorating, or remembering, or whatever?

On this day when Britains are celebrating...or mourning...or remembering the

  • torture and execution of traitors/Catholic freedom fighters, and/or 
  • the successful foiling of an assassination plot,
I encourage all Americans to go vote.

And remember that the winners write history.

And remember that I don't encourage assassination and think there are many better ways to work for justice.

But there are probably also better ways to commemorate the capture and death of a hurting man who felt he was fighting for religious freedom than to burn his effigy.

That being said...I'm totally going to watch fireworks tonight.

Check out Ramblings for an episode on the story of Guy Fawkes.

Friday, November 1, 2013


Spencer is a much better and more dutiful correspondent than I. I have utterly failed to send more than two postcards since moving to Edinburgh; he managed to send off four in four days. 
So, you know, guilt trip...
Let me know if you would like a postcard. If only because it comes complete with an adorable thistle stamp if I go to the right post office. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Computing Committee Meeting

I made a rare Wednesday visit to Old College today to sit as the postgraduate taught representative on the School of Law's Computing Committtee. Debating virtual learning environments, printer problems, etc. All grand fun.
Perhaps more interestingly, I got to meet my landlady's husband, who runs the website for the School. Grand fellow. I will be having both of them over for dinner in a few weeks - always interesting to host people who lived in your home for 17 years once upon a time!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Spencer Visits the Rooms of Requirement

A mate from undergrad came to visit this weekend. Spencer is currently studying in Budapest. Cheap flights to be had - thank you, Europe!
On Saturday, one of my Norwich mates who drove me up to Edinburgh when I moved was in town. We toured about the Royal Mile a bit with her, showed off my law school and favourite coffee shop, and went up Calton Hill - the home of several really cool monuments and observatories.
Sunday, we had a grand time trekking up Arthur's Seat in some fairly insane wind and rain. We were thoroughly soaked by the time we came down, but the sky managed some clear views while we were at the top, and it was well worth it. We also went to karaoke at Frankenstein's Bar - great ambiance. Spencer sang in the "State of Fifths" a capella group with was so lovely to hear him sing again. The DJ was seriously impressed by his "Walking in Memphis".

Friday, October 25, 2013

Fare thee well, Norwich!

I have completed a lovely four days in Norwich and Cambridge. While I did not manage to give a lecture on the hydro cycle on Monday thanks to the train drama, I did manage to have several dinners and breakfasts with close friends, a really good meeting around the Marshall service project, and great conversation and feedback on my virtual hydro-hegemony work from my dissertation. 
Now, heading back to Edinburgh. I'm sitting in the Peterborough rail station once again...though this time, we are this far (mostly) on time. Known on wood!!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

DRD Communities Map

As part of getting to know each other, my Dorm Room Diplomacy Group has created a communities map. Stars symbolize our citizenship. Places our families come from are indicated by diamonds, and our extended families and friends are shown with circles.

When we "unveiled" this map in one of our hangouts, there was a lot of excitement. We found shared circles of friends we never would have expected, learned about holidays and roommates, and heard stories of family histories.

Together, all these relationships create a picture that is "freakishly global". And, thanks to the friendships we are building in our weekly Google+ Hangouts (which have already included lovingly teasing blond jokes, debates on whether "Harry Potter" or "Lord of the Rings" is better, and discussions on the unavailability of Kindles in Malaysia), it is clear these ten differently colored communities are quickly becoming one giant network.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Train Update

The bad news: I am currently stranded on a train without electricity north of Peterborough, almost certainly missing the lecture I'm supposed to be giving at UEA.
The good news: It is significantly less of a very bad thing when this happens to trains than to planes.

The bad news: We don't have running water in the toilets.
The good news: This Girl Scout is prepared! My first aid kit, including hand sanitiser, has made me popular in my coach.

The bad news: We are clearly going to be stuck for a while, because they've started giving out free bottles of water.
The good news: We have water!

The bad news: We are stuck until the "recovery locomotive" arrives, and even when it gets here, there will need to be a lot of assessment work and time-consuming maneuvering to actually make something happen.
The good news: There's a recovery locomotive on its way! (A recovery locomotive! I feel like I'm in an episode of "Thomas the Tank Engine"...)

The bad news: Our recovery locomotive has apparently become lost. 
The good news: Such things lead to really great statements from British transport officials. "We sent an engineer out fifteen minutes ago to walk the locomotive in; however, it hasn't shown up yet. We're not sure where it is."

Reading Week

It's reading week for the University of Edinburgh - no classes for a week midterm. Many courses have essays and assignments due just after. Since I only have one essay per term per course, it's basically just a week off as far as I'm concerned.
So, naturally, I scheduled more classes for myself...
I'm currently on a train heading to Norwich to give a few lectures at UEA this week on my work on the hydro cycle and virtual hydro-hegemony. Nothing says vacation like a Power Point with trade relationship data!! :)
I'm also going to have a few days in Cambridge to meet with Marshalls on service project, a joint paper, and Thanksgiving planning. 
And, of course, lots of reuniting with Norwich mates. 

This is all dependent on actually getting there. At the moment, it does not look like I'm actually going to make the first of my scheduled lectures...the train I'm on is currently at a standstill with no electricry because the lines are down...and it seems we are the ones who fried the lines. Stranded north of Peterborough and missing the connection to Norwich I was supposed to make. The presentation was co with our artist, so hopefully she'll happily go on without me. I will sit here with a dying phone and no electricity! Grand fun. (The public transit system in the UK really is fantastic, and this does not usually happen. Only, apparently, when I'm supposed to be giving lectures and have tight timing turnarounds...)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Oh, what a day...

Things that happened today in the life of Rebecca:
  • I got to see Malala Yousafzai in action - and also two of her friends from Pakistan, Kainat Riaz and Shazia Ramzan, who were on the bus with her and now go to school in south Wales. (By the way, my university gave Malala an honorary Master of Arts...)
  • I sat directly behind Sir Tim O'Shea, the Principal of my university, and an alumnus of ours...Gordon Brown.
  • The former President of Ghana, His Excellency John Agyekum Kufuor, chastised me for not spending more time in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • I took Zainab Bangura, the UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, to the airport.
  • I also had lunch with all of the above people.
Don't ever let anyone tell you grad school can't be epic.