A Travellerspoint blog

A New Year and a (not) so snowy Atlanta?

26 °F

Happy New Year everyone! If you’re in Atlanta right now, you know we ALMOST experienced our 3rd Atlanta Snowpocalypse (if you want a laugh, watch this episode of the Daily Show from the last Snowpocalypse in 2014: http://www.cc.com/video-clips/ht297f/the-daily-show-with-jon-stewart-south-parked). Despite the career highlight of these weathermen/women, the lack of snow disappointed small children all over the greater Atlanta area. But if you’re in a colder part of the country, you might be living it up sledding, having a grand ole’ time.

Speaking of grand ole’ times, I had a great semester back at St. Andrews. I worked hard, travelled frequently, and reunited with old friends. Thanks to my roommates (flat mates, whatever you want to call them), I’m now not a complete embarrassment as a cook. I have a handful of meals on reserve, covering most of the food pyramid, but then again, I think the First Lady updated the nutritional standard to a “food plate."

From the start, my goal this semester was to see, and do, and go. And I was lucky to be able to do so. I tasted foods I’d never heard of, nor could pronounce. I had a friend from high school visit me, and look forward to a few more in the spring. And I got a few poems in the process. I want to describe one particular trip at the end of the semester. Because I finished my exams early, I had a couple days before my flight back to America. So, a friend and I decided we’d trek through the highlands in December. Bertie, one of my close friends and housemates, marked the map below. We started in a small town in the Cairngorms National Park (the largest National Park in the UK), on December 9th and hiked forty miles in 2.5 days to another small town, before returning to St. Andrews. We saw three other people the entire time. We’d wake up at 9 a.m., and hike until 3:00 p.m., set up camp, and eat quickly because the sun set at 3:30 p.m. Then, there were two restless nights of sleep because in spite of our great efforts to nook our tent in some dip in the hills, the wind would slap against the tent all night, waking us up each time. But, I’ve seen the real Scotland now, and couldn’t be happier. I know it would be easy to never actually go, but I don’t know if I will ever witness a landscape more serene, or countryside as beautiful as those rolling hills.

In October, I turned 21 years old, never again to be a child in any sense of the word. But to be honest, I don’t feel any wiser, necessarily smarter, or more important. I only have a weird feeling when I say “twenty-one” out loud. I am twenty-one years old. What’s even stranger is the fact that Jack is 24, supposedly in the prime of his young adulthood, and Benjamin is rounding the bases at 19. If you haven’t seen Patrick lately, now 13 and a teenager, he is starting to develop a personality challenging the authority of his older brothers … just how we trained him. On the bright side of health, every single member of the immediate Myer family is home, mobile, and relatively healthy, which is a grand improvement from last year. However, we are deeply saddened with the passing of Patricia Ownby, my grandmother, a few days ago. She lived a long, wonderful life, giving so much joy to us all, and she will be missed dearly by her children, and grandchildren so. Please keep us in your prayers.

In the New Year, I am still enjoying the break, I’ve shadowed a bit, played piano, read books, seen friends, and written poetry. In fact, I truly believe that I’ll look back on these Christmas breaks as some of the happiest times of my life. It’s a beautiful lull in the year for us lucky enough to be in college. Long enough to do something, but not long enough for others to expect you to do anything for the betterment of your future. And I treasure these times. Jack and I are going to Dr. John on January 19th, one of the giants of Blues piano and I couldn’t be more excited. My favorite book I’ve read this break is a poetry collection called The Trouble with Poetry (2005) by Billy Collins. Collins was the US Poet Laureate from 2001-2003, and the NY state poet from 2004-2006. It’s incredibly accessible, hilarious, and magnificent.

I don’t have any particular “New Year’s resolution” per se, I’m just trying to keep improving to be my own better self, and I intend to thoroughly enjoy my final semester in Scotland.

Love always,
Peter

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Posted by PeterMyer 13:27 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Round 3, Here We Go

sunny 70 °F

Hey everyone,

I’m here in Toronto, sleep deprived, but excited nonetheless until my plane leaves for St. Andrews where I’ll start my third year (yikes). It’s been a fantastic summer. In fact, I don’t think it could have been better.

My terrapin turtle research on Hunting Island was a success. It was hot, sweaty, hard work, but we gathered some substantial data that will contribute toward a soon-to-be published paper! If you’d like the specifics on that research, see here - (http://ccsummerresearch.blogs.wm.edu/author/petermyer/). I was fortunate enough to get to play piano at First Presbyterian Church in Beaufort. I received a very positive reaction, especially since I don’t think the congregation was accustomed to the type of blues performance I gave.

I was home for about a weekend, and I don’t know why this particular return home felt like this, but for some reason all these memories from high school returned in a flush (all good). It’s just weird to revisit those old feelings of tracing my way to school, or passing by old landmarks after time’s gone by. Speaking of time, it frightens me slightly to think that I’m a junior in college. Where's the time going? And how do I slow it down? I’ve always cherished where I’ve been, and anticipated where I’m going with great enthusiasm … and at the same time, I want to live in everything that is going on right here and now to the fullest. I don’t want to miss anything, because these are supposed to be the best years of my life.

This time going to Scotland is different. So will my return to William and Mary be different. There isn’t the anxiety of making new friends in an entirely new place anymore. I’ve now gone to Scotland, and I’ll be living in a house (flat, whatever you want call it), with four of my closest friends from my freshman dorm. I’m very excited for this. It will be the first time I’ll be cooking for myself, in our own place, and that excites me. I’m excited to finalize my classes, I’m excited to see how people have changed (or not), I’m excited to travel, and I’m excited to embrace everything that this year will bring. We have to write the equivalent of a senior thesis or senior capstone project and I think I’m going to write mine on something that has to do with the thawing renewed relationship between the US and Cuba after 50 years of silence. Anyway, I was turning over in my head what I’d like to accomplish this year, perhaps in terms of goals, and I haven’t formed concrete answers to that yet, but I have a start:

Friendships: There are few opportunities, I’m slowly becoming more and more aware, when you’ll have this much free time to simply get to know your friends; spend time with them, have good times, laugh etc. It would be too easy to kind of waft through life, going to class, and running through the motions. It takes conscious, deliberate, and consistent effort to find meaning in those relationships in a way that can turn them into life-long friends. And I’d like to do that … an ambitious feat I know.

Music and Writing: In this past year, I’ve caught the fire. Writing poems, and banging on that piano have given me so much joy, provided so much clarity when life gets busy and stressful, and has continued to be a source of inspiration for me. I try and play piano in a way that comes from the heart, and write exactly what I feel because my God, on that rare occasion that it happens, there’s nothing that comes close to touching that feeling. It’s about pushing myself in every way I can to become the best I can. With that, I really believe some great stuff can come out of it. What? I’m not so sure yet.

Travel: Ah yes, the most beautiful activity in the world. I already have plans for camping around Scotland, and visiting friends’ relatives houses on the weekends. I’m going to try and travel as much (and as cheaply) as I can this year. Who knows when I’ll be back, and I’m going to get my mileage out of this year.

Re-emphasis on Pushing Myself: Whether it be my radio show, academics, or anything else for that matter, I find I’m most happy when I’m doing the most, accomplishing the best, and pushing through the tiredness that sometimes sets in. I try and give myself every reason to be my own best self, in the hope that I’ll be able to look back on this year and say, “I did my best, and you can’t ask for much more than that.”

I’d also like to learn how to cook.

So there are some very broad goals that I’ve just kind of thought through. Again, I know they aren’t very concrete, but I feel like the days will make them more clear.

Benjamin started his first day as a Wofford Terrier yesterday, Jack has started his Teaching Assistant Position at GA State as part of his masters program, Patrick’s now in 7th grade, as bright as ever, and mom and dad are doing all they can to keep our crazy ship afloat.

Well, that’s all for now. I’ll check back in soon.

Love always,
Peter

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Posted by PeterMyer 08:13 Archived in Scotland Comments (3)

It's Half Time

sunny 82 °F

Hey everyone,

To start, I'd like to apologize once again for not checking in more frequently, but everything just gets so busy and certain things slip my mind.

William and Mary was good to me. This semester was an exciting time for me. I've been fortunate with my Radio Show, starting with Former Atlanta Mayor, UN Diplomat, and leader in the Civil Rights movement, Andrew Young. Then, through a series of emails and being at the right place and right time, I was able to interview former Secretary of Defense, President of Texas A&M, President of the Boy Scouts of America, Bob Gates who was very surprised to start an interview with my telling him my dad also graduated from Wichita High School East, two years after he did. Most recently I've interviewed the founder of the St. Andrews/William and Mary Joint Degree program and will shortly travel up to Athens, GA to interview Stephen Corey, the head editor of the GA Review, and our topic will be poetry. To listen to any of those interviews check it out here: https://soundcloud.com/peter-myer

Apropos of poetry, I've been writing a decent amount of poetry and have talked to a few publishers about publishing, so hopefully in the next year or so I'll have any or all of my poems published somewhere. As always I've been keeping up my piano and plan on recording some this summer in the studio with a bunch of friends... and hopefully I'll be able to share that with you later in the summer. I've really been into the Blues lately, specifically Ray Charles, Champion Jack Dupree, and Oscar Peterson. If you haven't heard my recordings from Christmas - Ivories, check it out: https://soundcloud.com/peter-myer-259967084

I've decided to return to St. Andrews for my third year, and then return to William and Mary for my senior year for a few reasons: first of all, all of my friends I've started with in the program and going back for their third year, and I wanted to be in sequence with them. Also, I think that the senior year festivities at William and Mary, especially with the fraternity, are not to be missed. It's interesting, there seems to be a common trend with those who start the program at St. Andrews tend to go back and forth each year and those who begin at William and Mary tend to start there, spend two consecutive years at St. Andrews, and then finish at William and Mary. I guess that American collegiate experience of the final year is a rare time, and no one wants to miss out. During spring break I visited my friends in St. Andrews and stayed with them (and saw the house in which I'll be living), and I couldn't be more excited to live with four of my closest friends. I also want to be in the states during my senior year because any graduate school details would be much more difficult to deal with in terms of communication and availability when 5 hours time difference and 3000 miles gets in the way.

At times, the academics were so demanding, I could hardly stand it. Grinding seemed to be on repeat, with little room for breathing, but dad says that although that may be true, there is always an end in sight.

Beta (my fraternity) went to Virginia Beach for formal, and even though it was too cold to get in the water, I had an absolute blast. It was exactly that same time in April of last year when I thought to myself "Man, I really love it here, and all the people" and I feel the same way this April. But I have a return to look forward to.

My summer plans are as follows. Well, I returned in time for Benjamin's graduation, and he'll be attending Wofford College with a partial scholarship and I couldn't be more proud. Jack has also finished his certificate for GIS, at Ga State, and has been accepted into a two year masters program for geology at Ga State. In addition to that being paid for, he's been offered a teaching assistants position, only offered to a third of the accepted applicants. He's doing big things as always. But after Ben's graduation, Edward Vear, Michael Henley and I journeyed to Yosemite National Park for one of the most incredible weeks of my life, hiking in the Sierra that inspired John Muir when writing My First Summer in the Sierra. We had to obtain a wilderness permit 26 weeks in advance for a couple of reasons. First of all, the national park system doesn't want to overpopulate the parks, so 80% of all those who hike in Yosemite must obtain these wilderness permits while the remaining 20% are reserved for walk ups. Also, the wilderness permits allows the park staff to keep track of those who hit the trails with specific entry and exit dates.

We arrived on Sunday May 16th, stayed with a friend of mine in San Francisco, who very kindly picked us up from the airport. We got to the park after a series of Amtrak trains, and bus lines, where we then picked up our bear canisters, and hit the trail.

To start, we each had 50 lb bags, but little did we know that scaling over 5 miles up the mist trail would be our first day.... Let's just say we struggled. Our two goals for the first day were to arrive at the campsite before dark and before it rained... And we failed with both. But we were happy to be there when we arrived at Little Yosemite Valley, quickly set up, and promptly passed out, as a day's worth of travel always does.

Then we made it up to the perfect campsite at an intersection between halfdome and clouds rest canyon. We had a perfect view and there were hardly any people. We later found out that we came at the perfect time because as the days went on, more people came, and the returning campers said we picked the best week because after Memorial Day, the people just come piling in and you can hardly move, so we considered ourselves lucky.

By day it was hot, and by night it was cold, but never too severe for either extreme. One day we went to halfdome, another day we went to clouds rest (all these pictures below), and then we returned via the John Muir trail. Hands down, one of the best experiences of my life.

Now that I've returned, I'll be taking 8 weeks of chemistry at KSU, a few days a week, and working when and where I can. I was then fortunate enough to obtain a William and Mary grant in collaboration with William and Mary professor Dr. Chambers to conduct 6 weeks of ecology research on Hunting Island State Park, SC. I'll give a brief summary. Terrapin turtles are subject to and continually threatened by drowning in both commercial and recreational crab traps. Dr. Chambers' lab has developed what's called a BRD (Bycatch Reduction Device), which is fitted onto the four openings of the crab pots with the hope of excluding the most turtles while not interfering with blue crab entry, in an effort to save the most turtles and not hurt fishing business. The SC department of natural resources has also developed their own BRD, measuring 2" x 3.67," much smaller than the 2" x 6" Virginia version. Thus, my role is to use both the Virginia and South Carolina BRDs in South Carolina waters while Dr. Chambers' lab performs the exact same experiment in Virginia waters to see which one works better (i.e. excluding most Terrapins but not blue crab). We hypothesize that while yes the South Carolina version will indeed prevent turtle entry, they are so small that they will also prevent blue crab entry. But I guess this reciprocal transplant experiment while show us which one works best. I'll be staked out there in the marsh for six weeks and hopefully a meaningful, publishable paper will come from the experiment. But more importantly, hopefully this scientific community will reach a consensus on how to best protect the terps. I'll be right on the coast, on an island where we used to have a home, so hopefully I'll be able to contribute well to a place that carries so many of my cherished memories.

If you want to follow the details of this experiment, here's the link for that blog: http://ccsummerresearch.blogs.wm.edu/2016/04/09/terrapin-turtle-ecology-research-hunting-island-state-park-sc/

Also, PSA: if anyone knows anyone in that Beaufort area that needs a house sitter, please put me in contact with them. Accommodation is something that I'm still working out.

After that, I'll be heading to St. Andrews in the middle of September to commence my third year, and my first semester in the "honours level," or so they call at St. Andrews.

Anyhow, that's all for now. I'll check in soon, I hope everyone is well, and much love.

In earnest,
Peter

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Posted by PeterMyer 14:57 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Welcome to the College of William and Mary

A New Beginning

overcast 73 °F

The College of William and Mary, I have arrived.

Hello to all! I hope everyone taking the time to read this had a wonderful summer, and that you are transitioning into the new school year with ease. Where shall I start? It has been difficult to find the time to simply sit down and write this. You all know me and know that I tend to naturally fall into the trap of being busy. But, what a fantastic place. The College (so they call it) is beautiful. I arrived around the 20th of August to greet a new roommate, Nico, who is from Miami (Key Biscayne) and lives in Northern Virginia (NOVA). We get along very well, and have already become close friends.

Orientation differs greatly from that of St. Andrews. There was no shortage of mandatory meetings, many that didn’t necessarily pertain to me as I was part of the Transfer Orientation group, but the OA (Orientation Aids) were extremely welcoming and made that experience a bit more bearable.

The College is rich with the history of our founding fathers, the beauty of red brick and extensive forestry, and the humidity of Atlanta... I had a few immediate responses to my placement back into the US. First of all, the food is MUCH better, which is interesting because most students see the WM meal plan as mediocre at best, whereas for me, between the variety and more importantly the availability, this American cuisine couldn’t get much better.

Another immediate response was that I felt I’d transported back to high school. Not in a negative sense, just simply because I’m in more classes, more times a week, with more assessments. Within each of those classes the grading criteria is divided into participation, quizzes, postings, midterms, and it seems that no exam carries more than 30% in weight. The positives about St. Andrews were that throughout the semester, there would be one to two big assignments that held a lot of weight and then almost all of my exams would carry more than 60% of entire course weight. So, St. Andrews was positive in that sense that more free time was allowed on any given day, but the negative was that when it was time for assessments, it was high pressure, and there was no room for bad days. Here, although I’m in class more, there is more room to recover from a potentially bad day. The professors here are incredibly interesting, dedicated, and of course intelligent. One of the other immediate differences I noticed was the difference in words… cheers, mate, posh, cheeky are all but nonexistent in the American vernacular. It’s been a lot of fun explaining all the various terms and phrases to my new friends.

Convocation was full of festivities and excitement. Virginia Supreme Court Justice, Bill Mims ’79 was our annual convocation speaker. The weeks have been busy with class, I’m continuing my radio show (I’m very excited to be interviewing the President of the College of William and Mary, Taylor Reveley in about a week – check out my podcast page at https://soundcloud.com/peter-myer), my jazz piano lessons, IR (international Relations Club), Linguistics Club, Bird Club, and various others. I more than anything, miss my friends from St. Andrews. Appealing to that friendship void, I’ve also rushed, and accepted a bid from the fraternity, Beta Theta Pi. I spent a lot of time meeting a bunch of different fraternities, but ultimately found that I fit in best with the guys in Beta (shout out to Uncle Joe and Ross Waters). I’m starting to train for my 5th marathon, but have yet to choose one. I’ll probably be running it near February.

Since I’ve been here, I took a trip to Virginia Beach with a friend of mine as well as visiting numerous friends at the University of Virginia for the UVA vs WM football game. William and Mary was far closer to victory than I would have ever anticipated.

I think college is a time to learn, reflect, grow, explore, and define the person you want to become: A place to figure out what excites you. Having come back to an American collegiate system, I unfortunately, can’t help but notice the general student aura that is racing, anxious, and overstressed. This is not native to William and Mary, but rather a culture that we have created. I think among some of the things I’ve really learned from St. Andrews is to take a step back to figure out what excites me to the extent that I can enjoy college while working smarter, not harder – a balance that I know we all struggle to perfect.

I’m extremely happy to be at this incredible university, and I feel grateful for the opportunity to pursue an education, a self, and an experience similar to few.

I’ll leave you with a list of things I’ve learned in the past year. It’s important to record these kinds of things – they help measure growth.

1. I’ve learned how to not let the little things bother me… as I did in high school… to do so now would mean perpetual stress

2. I’ve learned how to learn… in an academic sense… to apply knowledge that I’ve learned as opposed to memorization

3. My two perfect working conditions include (I’m a big advocate for the right working environment) 1) weather close to 72 degrees, crisp, with a slight breeze or 2) anywhere near water

4. I’ve learned to make sure to do the things I love… to do the things that excite me

5. Travel is truly an invaluable gift… to see a many people, a many places. It’s the most important thing I will ever do. An encounter with the unfamiliar can teach us how to to rethink the familiar way we’ve always done things... to rethink what we thought we knew so well about the world – this is important because it is exactly this type of reevaluation of our actions and how we conduct ourselves that indicate growth… maybe we don’t do things perfectly all the time, but traveling allows us to think comparatively. Travel allows us to develop a personality to which we are comfortable – to figure out definitely, but not statically, what type of person we are, and the one we work to become.

6. I guess I’m becoming an adult because I’ve developed an affinity for black coffee

7. I’ve learned to appreciate my parents more – love you both.

I hope everyone is doing well, and I’ll check in soon. Life is too short not to be excited on a daily basis.

Find that place where you are happy… a place where pain is absent from the body and trouble in the soul.

Always the best,
Peter

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See the itinerary of this trip, and details about each destination.

Posted by PeterMyer 15:33 Archived in USA Comments (1)

A Sense of An Ending

Moving Forward

overcast 50 °F

A Sense of an Ending

This past Thursday I completed my exams, and thus marked a close to my freshman (1st year as they call it here) at St. Andrews. It feels a little weird. It's difficult for me to find proper words to describe the experience this year. It's been incredible.

After spring break, my time was largely consumed by work and studying in preparation for exams but if I were to describe this experience in whole, it would be an adventure.

Adventure Part 1: People:
It's all about the people. The friends that I have made here, have more than anything, marked my experience. As I am leaving for the College of William and Mary, which I am sure will be incredible and exciting, however, the most difficult part will be leaving my friends. I will carry a unique part of each of them with me wherever I go. The week before exam revising commenced, my close group of friends made the collective decision to throw me a surprise leaving party and take this wonderful photo below. We, as humans, tend to gravitate to those who are similar to us, sharing common interest, ideas, perspectives, but I don't think that's true necessarily. My friends' nationalities include, Swedish, English, Irish, Italian, German, Scottish, Bermudan, Croatian, and American, all with unique takes on the world. We celebrate these differences in our friendship. So rule one of life from freshman year - surround yourself with good people because bad company corrupts good people.

Part 2: Growth:
If I look back exactly a year ago today, which was the day I graduated form high school, I have grown more in this first year of college than I did throughout my high school career. Besides traditional intellectual and responsibility growth that comes along with leaving for college, there is a growth in the sense of learning to combat individual challenges ranging from dealing with the bureaucracies within the school to get an event proved, to dealing with being so far away from those close to you back home and simply missing Chick Fil A. But this international travel, this international perspective has most importantly improved my personal growth. Certain beliefs have been cemented based off experiences had this year, priorities have changed with a changing perspective, my appreciation for what I have and what I will become has increased, and I can say that I am glad I decided to spend my first year of college 3,500 miles from my home in Atlanta to a town of 10,000 in Scotland. It is a year that I not only will carry with me for the rest of my life, but nothing that anyone can take away.

Part 3: Happiness
It may sound cliché, trite, or over emphasized, but I think many of us forget to pursue our own individual happiness. I made a conscious effort this year to perform academically excellent, but never forgetting to take every opportunity to be content. Our collegiate experiences are all too short as a whole and to not enjoy the little things, the sunrises at 5 am after a night out with all my friends, or taking that extra beach walk, or heading to the pub with the boys, or traveling, or for me playing the piano, and hiking around St. Andrews, to not enjoy the little things would be a waste. I've learned to appreciate the beauty in whatever surrounding I reside in, I chose to pursue activities that I truly enjoyed, and again, most importantly, I surrounded myself with people that make me laugh, challenge me, and are always looking to have a good time. This time of maximum freedom with minimum responsiblity is not a time to be wasted.

Part 4: Moving Forward
I suppose a sense of an ending is nice. It will be nice to be missed by my friends, but I will miss them and, sure there are some days that I think "Why would I ever want to start all over again when I have had such a good experience here." But most of the time, I am beyond excited to enter a new environment - the American collegiate experience. Time of discomfort is time that fosters the most growth. I very much look forward to William and Mary. I will meet new people, and experience entirely different social and academic scenes.

I think I will continue this blog as I head to William and Mary, I don't see why not.

Anyhow, I will be spending the next week enjoying time with my friends before I head home. What a year.

This summer will be filled with it's own adventures and I will be spending most of it in Atlanta, so please call me and we'll get something to eat.

I like to characterize my year in Scotland in a way I think John Steinbeck put it best:
“There is something about it [travel and individual exploration] that opens no door to words. But it stays with you afterward, and, more than that, things you didn’t know you saw come back to you after you have left.” – Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck

Take Care,
Peter

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Posted by PeterMyer 04:57 Archived in Scotland Comments (3)

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